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Supreme Court Justice Seem Poised to Side with Trump; Special Prosecutor Not to Press Charges Against Biden; Deepening Concern for Rafah Amid Threat of Israeli Offensive; Zelenskyy Fires Popular Military Chief; Trump Wins Nevada Caucuses, in Which Haley Didn't Compete; Tucker Carlson Lobs Softballs During Putin Interview. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 00:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Mental acuity. A special counsel said a jury may have trouble finding an elderly man with memory issues guilty. The president appeared visibly annoyed by that, telling reporters, quote, "I know what the hell I'm doing."



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their task was to make a decision about whether to move forward with charges in this case. That's their decision to make. That's the counsel's decision to make. That's his job. And they decided not to move forward for any extraneous commentary. They don't know what they're talking about. It has no place in this report.

The bottom line is, the matter is now closed. I'm going to continue what I've always focused on: my job of being president of the United States of America


VAUSE: Donald Trump is also outraged, but his anger comes from the special counsel's decision not to move forward with charges against President Biden, calling it a two-tiered system of justice and selective prosecution.

Trump is facing obstruction charges over his alleged mishandling of classified documents. And the special counsel's report pointed out that -- the many differences in the Biden and Trump cases.

Meantime, the former president is another step closer to securing the Republican nomination for president. CNN is projecting Trump will win the Nevada caucuses, taking all 26 delegates.

The vote was organized by the pro-Trump state Republican Party. Nikki Haley refused to take part, and it was not sanctioned by the GOP.

Meantime, Trump appears poised for a big win at the U.S. Supreme Court. The official ruling is likely weeks away, but based on the questions, the justices seem inclined to overturn Colorado Supreme Court's decision to disqualify Trump from running for office, due to his role in the insurrection on Capitol Hill, despite spending very little time analyzing Trump's actions on January 6.

CNN's Paula Reid explains.


PAULA REID, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In one of the most anticipated Supreme Court cases of the year, the justices signaling they will side with Donald Trump on the question of whether he's eligible for the 2024 ballot.

The former president did not attend Thursday's arguments. Most justices didn't address his role in the January 6 insurrection, instead, focusing on legal arguments around the 14th Amendment.

Trump's lawyer, Jonathan Mitchell, an experienced Supreme Court advocate, argued Trump isn't covered by the so-called insurrectionist ban.

JONATHAN MITCHELL, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: A ruling from this court that affirms the decision below, would not only violate term limits but take away the votes of potentially tens of millions of Americans.

REID (voice-over): And argued January 6 was not even an insurrection.

Only one justice asked about whether it was.

JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So the point is that a chaotic effort to overthrow the government is not an insurrection?

MITCHELL: This was a riot. It was not an insurrection.

REID (voice-over): Jason Murray argued for Colorado voters who won their case at the lower court.

JASON MURRAY, ATTORNEY: By engaging in insurrection against the Constitution. President Trump disqualified himself from public office. States have the power to ensure that their citizens' electoral votes are not wasted on a candidate who is constitutionally barred from holding office.

REID (voice-over): But the justices appeared much more skeptical. In an ominous sign, the chief justice said Murray's arguments were at war with history.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: That seems to be a position that is at -- at war with the whole thrust of the 14th Amendment and very ahistorical. The whole point of the 14th Amendment was to restrict state power.

REID (voice-over): And question the consequences of a ruling in favor of Colorado and other states, then following suit. ROBERTS: It'll come down to just a handful of states that are going to decide the presidential election. That's a pretty daunting consequence.

REID (voice-over): Even liberal Justice Elena Kagan, asked this.

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I think that the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to be president of the United States?

REID (voice-over): It was Murray's first time arguing before the high court, and he engaged in several contentious exchanges with the justices and even got a scolding from Justice Gorsuch, who he once clerked for.

JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, U.S. SUPREME COURT: No, no, we're talking about Section 3. Please don't change the hypothetical.

REID (voice-over): And even though the arguments seemed to go well for Trump, he still wanted the last word, addressing reporters outside Mar-a-Lago.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you take the person that's leading everywhere and say, hey, we're not going to let you run? You know, I think that's pretty tough to do, but I'm leaving it up to the Supreme Court.

REID: It's unclear when the justices will issue their opinion. They may want to provide voters with some confidence ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5. They'll know whoever they vote for will be on the ballot in the general election.

But really, it's probably going to take as long as it takes Chief Justice John Roberts to build consensus, to come up with a compromise that can garner bipartisan support.

This is a court that is under scrutiny for ethics and partisanship. So this is as much a test for the chief justice as it is for Donald Trump.


Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Well, for more now on both Biden and Trump's legal cases, we're joined by David Katz, former assistant U.S. attorney for Los Angeles.

Welcome back. It's been awhile.


VAUSE: OK. So for two hours, or just over, the focus was on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a Civil War-era amendment, the so-called Insurrection Clause, and whether a state like Colorado can enforce a ban as outlined in Section 3, on a non-state candidate, like a president.

Here's a little more now from Justice Elena Kagan.


KAGAN: This question of whether a former president is disqualified for insurrection to be president again, is -- just say it, it sounds awfully national to me.


VAUSE: And the justices still seem to be on the same page as Elena Kagan, that Congress should be making this decision, not a state. And there was no real divisions here along partisan lines. So what could that mean? What does that say to you in terms of how this ruling is likely to go?

KATZ: Well, I think that the Supreme Court is looking for an off-ramp so that they cannot affirm what the Colorado Supreme Court did. And that's, in a way, remarkable, because in our history, our elections have been decided by states and by state rules. Even the election for president is state-by-state with the state rules.

But it seems clear that the Supreme Court has decided that this would lead to chaos if they affirmed the Colorado Supreme Court.

Now, I don't believe that, because so far, the only states that seem to be going that way, after giving Trump due process, are Colorado and maybe Maine. And neither one of them is a Trump state.

But I do think that they're looking for an off-ramp. And the ironic thing is that Trump did very well in the Supreme Court argument, I think, by all the commentators' views. And yet, he had to be bellicose about it.

VAUSE: Well, that is his way. Unlike the Colorado Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court barely even considered whether or not Trump was actually involved in insurrection on January 6, in part because of this speech. Here's a clip. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I said peacefully and patriotically. The speech was called peacefully and patriotically, its peak -- peacefully and patriotically.


VAUSE: That's actually how he remembers it now. This is how it was four years ago.


TRUMP: We fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.


VAUSE: Peacefully and patriotically; fight like hell. Whether that's a memory issue or whether it's selective amnesia, who knows? But you know, what are the implications here if the Supreme Court actually upholds that Colorado ruling, which found he was involved in an insurrection that day?

KATZ: Well, John, I think there'll be at least one or several dissenters who will say what we all saw with our eyes and heard with our ears, that of course, Trump encouraged the insurrection. And once he saw how violent it was, and they were marauding the Capitol and looking to hang his vice president, he didn't tamp it down. In fact, Trump sent an incendiary message in the middle of it.

But I do think that the Supreme Court has decided as a group that they want an off-ramp. And I think that could be saying that he's not an officer, which is a remarkable constitutional interpretation. But that would be that, supposedly, the framers after the Civil War of the 14th Amendment meant an appointed officer.

Or they may say this only had to do with the primary, knowing that no case involving the general election will ever reach the Supreme Court before the election itself.

Or they'll say that it has to be decided by Congress.

But where in the 14th Amendment or in the Constitution does it say it has to be decided by Congress? The Due Process Clause doesn't have to be decided by Congress. You have equal protection without Congress passing a statute.

So in my view, this is farcical, but I do think it's the way the U.S. Supreme Court is going to go. And I think they're going to do it fairly soon. And I think they're going to put in a way that tamps down on all of these challenges across the country.

So Trump, I think, will be on the ballot in all 50 states for the general election.

VAUSE: Just very quickly, just -- you know, traditionally, the Supreme Court tends to shy away from any case which is politically charged. Or at the very least deliver a very narrow verdict.

KATZ: But they took this one. And the fact that they took this one when they could have just left the Colorado Supreme Court alone and say it was a matter of state law. Everybody thought that they took it in order to either greatly limit it or to overrule it.

So I think that that's -- that's just the way that that's going to go, John.

VAUSE: OK. Well, let's head over to the investigation into President Biden's mishandling of classified documents. Special prosecutor Robert Hur says Biden did willfully retain documents. He won't bring charges. And this is because he fears a jury would see Joe Biden as a well- meaning elderly man with a poor memory.

Listen to the reaction from Democrat Congressman Daniel Goldman, who was also the lead attorney in Trump's first impeachment. Here he is.


REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): I don't buy that that's a reason why he didn't prosecute. That's completely extraneous and unnecessary, delivered by a Republican trying to make a political statement that has no place in this special counsel's report.



VAUSE: So from your experience as someone who's looked at these reports being delivered as a -- you know, a decision on whether or not charges should move forward, is Congressman Goldman right?

KATZ: I think Congressman Goldman is right. I think that it was completely gratuitous by someone who wants -- he's a special prosecutor. And I think he made the right decision and the only decision. It would have been just really outlandish if he had gone after and tried to prosecute Biden.

And the things that he tried to -- the strands that he tried to grasp. I think don't really have much basis.

And I think that it was very smart of the president to come back and to attack forcefully, like the claim that he doesn't remember when his own son died. He was outraged to be asked that question. He thought it was so unnecessarily personal and filled them with remorse. And the fact that he paused or supposedly equivocated in the answer, I think people can understand that that was way too personal and out of line. And I think that the president wanted to say that.

But there's no comparison between Biden's keeping some of the records because his staff took them and put them in his garage, where they were never, you know, subject to anybody looking at them. They were never flaunted as Trump flaunted the records.

But you also have to remember that he cooperated completely with the investigation. He gave an interview. You'll remember that Trump always wanted to give an interview to Mueller, but he never seemed to get around to ever giving him an interview.

Biden sat down and gave an interview. And all he did was get smeared on account of it. But I think the public will see through this and see that Biden really cooperated.

Trump obstructed justice, kept them, refused to return them, and that there's no similarity between the two cases, John. And that's why Biden is not being prosecuted, and Trump is being prosecuted.

VAUSE: David, great to have you back. David Katz there for us in Los Angeles. Thank you.

KATZ: Thank you.

VAUSE: Northern Israel has been hit by a barrage of rockets fired from Lebanon by the militant group Hezbollah, which says the attack is in response to an Israeli drone strike on Thursday, which reportedly killed at least three people.

According to the Israeli military, a Hezbollah commander was targeted in his car in Southern Lebanon and was involved in recent rocket attacks on Northern Israel. Still no word from Hezbollah on whether one of its commanders was actually killed in the Israeli strike.

Two hospitals in Gaza have reportedly come under deadly attack by Israeli forces. A journalist at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City says an Israeli airstrike killed at least five people.

And to the South, doctors at the main medical complex in Khan Yunis say one of their colleagues was seriously wounded by an Israeli sniper when she was operating in the operating room.

The Palestinian Red Crescent adds that intense continuous gunfire is being heard around the Al-Amal (ph) hospital, also in Khan Yunis.

The IDF says it does not target medical facilities but will attack Hamas fighters wherever they are.

Even further South in Rafah, at least 14 people, including five children, have died in Israeli attacks on residential buildings, according to witnesses and local reports.

Rafah has come under heavy attack as the IDF shifts its operations to that city. U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday gave his sharpest public rebuke to date of Israel's military conduct in Gaza.

Here it is.


BIDEN: I'm of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza -- in the Gaza Strip has been over the top.


VAUSE: Officials with the Biden administration say they will not support an Israeli military offensive into Rafah without serious planning regarding the humanitarian impact on the overcrowded city, where conditions are already dire.

More than a million people have fled to Rafah to escape fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

The Norwegian Refugee Council warns that, if fighting escalates, it could turn Rafah into, quote, "a zone of bloodshed and destruction."

CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports on the growing concerns for the cities in Israel's crosshairs.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, after dismissing Hamas's latest counter proposal as delusional, the Israeli prime minister is vowing that Israeli forces will move into Rafah, the last bastion of Hamas, as he described it.

And of course, moving into Rafah, ground operation would have tremendous humanitarian implications. That city typically houses about 300,000 residents, but right now, it is home to about 1.3 million Palestinians, more than half of Gaza's entire population, as tent cities have sprung up around that city.

There are major concerns being raised right now about the potential for an Israeli ground offensive into that city, not only by humanitarian aid officials, U.N. officials, but also by Egypt and the United States.


A spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry saying that an Israeli ground offensive into that city would represent an enormous danger for the Palestinians, displaced Palestinians who are currently living there.

And I'm also told that the secretary of state, Tony Blinken, raised serious concerns with Israeli officials during his meetings while he was here in Tel Aviv about the potential for an Israeli ground offensive.

Secretary Blinken was actually briefed by the chief of staff of the Israeli military, General Herzi Halevi, on potential Israeli plans to conduct a ground offensive into that city of Rafah in the coming weeks.

And on Thursday, Vedant Patel, a spokesman for the State Department, saying that to conduct such an operation inside of Rafah without sufficient planning to mitigate the harm to civilians would be a, quote, "disaster," he said.

And he said that up until now, the State Department hasn't seen any evidence of serious planning by the Israeli military in order to mitigate that harm to civilians.

So major questions being raised about that offensive and about the harm that it would cause to civilians.

There's also, of course, a broader question about whether or not this planned Israeli offensive into Rafah, whether or not that may be a negotiating tactic.

These negotiations with Hamas, despite the Israeli prime minister dismissing Hamas's latest counter proposal, they are very much still ongoing. And there is a thought that the Israeli prime minister and other top Israeli officials may be telegraphing an offensive into Rafah in order to pressure Hamas to agree to a deal that is more favorable to Israeli terms.

But that, of course, remains to be seen. And in the meantime, people on the ground and Gaza, everyday Palestinians worried, confused, uncertain about what the future may hold.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.


VAUSE: Ukraine's military chief is out. And when we come back, why was he booted by the president in the middle of a war, when much of the country wants him to stay in that job.

Also ahead fired FOX News host Tucker Carlson goes one-on-one with Russia's Vladimir Putin. They discuss history and a lot of other stuff that almost puts you to sleep.

Back in a moment.


VAUSE: Ukraine's top general was fired Thursday, a move by President Zelenskyy which reportedly had been in the making since at least last week.

But General Valerii Zaluzhnyi is hugely popular. And his sacking has not been well received by frontline troops, who spoke with CNN. Brian Todd reports on the possible reasons for his dismissal.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine's wartime president makes his biggest military shakeups since Russia's full- scale invasion, almost two years ago.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy announces that his popular army chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, has been dismissed.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, we had a frank discussion about what needs to be changed in the army. Urgent changes.

TODD (voice-over): In a picture posted Thursday on X, Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi are all smiles.

EVELYN FARKAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE MCCAIN INSTITUTE: They want to put the best face on it for the world. And -- and Zaluzhnyi at the end of the day, wants Ukraine to win.

TODD (voice-over): Why is General Zaluzhnyi being pushed out now? Analysts say it could be a political move. Opinion polls in Ukraine show that Zaluzhnyi has much higher approval ratings than the president. And there's speculation that Zaluzhnyi could be a presidential candidate, which one expert says makes this a risky play by Zelenskyy.

HENRY HALE, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ZELENSKYY EFFECT": My fear, if I were in the Zelenskyy camp, would be that by firing Zaluzhnyi, you create potential political martyr, who also has the glow of a hero in the war.

TODD (voice-over): But experts also say Zelenskyy could simply be holding Zaluzhnyi to account for the fact that Ukraine's counteroffensive against Russian forces has failed to make significant gains.

Zaluzhnyi himself described the war as a stalemate in November say in "The Economist" magazine.

FARKAS: So I think Zelenskyy said, OK, man, you're calling this a stalemate. Well, you know, you're the guy responsible for bringing us to stalemate. So it -- maybe it accelerated some thinking he had already been having.

TODD (voice-over): Zaluzhnyi's replacement, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, Ukraine's land forces commander, who led the successful defense of the capital, Kyiv, when the Russians first pushed in.

Analysts say Syrskyi is not well-liked among many Ukrainian troops.

CHRISTOPHER MILLER, UKRAINE CORRESPONDENT, "THE FINANCIAL TIMES": He is viewed by many of Ukraine's rank-and-file military as a commander who does not value the lives of his soldiers.

There was the battle of Bakhmut that Russia waged for ten months during which time, Ukraine did not withdraw troops. Oleksandr Syrskyi demanded that his soldiers remain inside the city and hold it to the bitter end.

This move comes after Zelenskyy told an Italian media outlet he's considering a wider shakeup, replacing several Ukrainian leaders beyond just the military.

FARKAS: I think it might be just to kind of re-energize, reinvigorate, keep people on their toes, and you know, some of that could be, of course, political to consolidate, to remind people that he's the boss.

But I also think that it's -- they just have a very real human fatigue and probably a need for new ideas and new blood and new energy.

TODD: What are General Syrskyi's biggest and most immediate concerns as Ukraine enters the springtime phase of the war? Analysts say manpower and materiel. Ukraine has a shortage of troops and desperately needs more ammunition and weapons.

A lot of that, of course, is being held up in an aid package worth tens of billions of dollars that's stuck in the U.S. Congress.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Dozens of Ukrainian troops who fought in the brutal battle for

the city of Mariupol are finally coming back home. Moscow says about 100 prisoners from both sides were exchanged Thursday. Kyiv says most of its returning troops held out the besieged Azovstal steel plant for weeks before surrendering in May 2022.

President Zelenskyy says Ukraine is working to get every captured soldier back home.

The interview of Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted by right- wing media personality Tucker Carlson is out. During the one-on-one, the two discussed, among other things, Russia's detainment of American journalist Evan Gershkovich. "The Wall Street Journal" reporter was arrested almost a year ago, charged with spying.

A Russian court continues to extend his pretrial detention, but Putin says a deal could be made for the reporter's release.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are willing to solve it, but there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached.


VAUSE: Let's go to Las Vegas now, where Donald Trump has just won the caucuses there in Nevada, 26 delegates for him. Another crushing defeat, because Nikki Haley did not compete in this ballot campaigning. It was one-sided. And now there is Donald Trump on stage. Let's listen to what he has to say.

TRUMP: Anything over 80 we'll be happy with. I think it was 98 percent. I want to thank (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- incredible, right from the beginning. And new Governor Joe Lombardo. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: All right. There's a little bit of an audio issue in the room where Donald Trump is. We're going to take a quick break and wait for that to get resolved. We'll be back after this.


VAUSE: Let's go back now to Donald Trump, who is speaking in Las Vegas after winning the Nevada caucuses.

TRUMP: Strong. Very, very strong. But -- and it's so sad to see it. So all of the death that you've witnessed with Ukraine and Russia fighting. And again, what happened in Israel, all of the death and all of the destruction of cities and places that are ancient places, in a sense, ancient buildings being knocked down. You can never replace it. But all those people that died, most importantly, would have never happened.

And we're going to change it. We're going to change it around. We're going to get it back to normalcy. It can't continue like this. The world is exploding all over the world. We're not respected. We

were respected like never before just three years ago. We -- we are now a laughingstock all over the world. We're not respected even a little bit.

And you understand why. You understand why. You need leadership. And this country does not have leadership. It has no idea what's happening. It's lost its way. It's a failing nation. And we're not going to have a failing nation much longer.

I just want to really thank the great people of Nevada, because this was a turnout. I don't know if you know, you broke the all-time record. The all-time caucus record was broken.

And we kept waiting and waiting, because everybody's -- they're all flowing in from all parts of your state. They all want to be -- I said, well, wait. But I said, they'll certainly be very upset when they come here and everyone's -- and everyone's gone.

But this has been a tremendous thing. And, you know, if we win this state, we easily win the election in November. We have to win the election.

And you know, great countries --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!

TRUMP: Thank you. But great countries are all about a lot of things, but two things in particular. You have to have strong (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and you have to have free, fair, and honest elections.

And we don't have either. And we're going to have them back. We're going to have -- we had three years ago, we had the strongest border in the history of our country. We were doing great. And our economy was the best, and we built our military. So many things. And then you had the tragedy of the Afghanistan surrender. That was nothing less than a surrender.

And President Putin watched that, and he saw that, and he said, wow, this could be my chance to go with what I wanted to do.

They never would have never happened -- it would have never happened, but he went in and he did what we wanted to do.


But we -- we're going to bring the world back. We're going to bring the world back to normalcy. And this country is going to be the leader, and we're going to be also, at the same time, focused on a thing called America first. Right? I mean, peace through strength. A few terms that are great

descriptive. But this thing, there's no reason for this. I left and I see they're all over the Middle East. They're bombing again. I said I remember that before I came. Everyone was bombing. You don't have to bomb. We defeated ISIS radically.

And then we had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) borders. First in 72 years, first president.

I remember on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton. I don't use the word "Crooked" anymore. I use it -- I use that word for somebody else. I retired it.

That was a good night for Hillary. She was very happy with that. That was one of the best nights. I retired the name from Hillary and put it onto Joe. Crooked Joe.

But we have -- we have a country that has tremendous potential, but if anything bad happens in this next election, this election isn't won by us, we're not going to have a country anymore. We're not going to have a country.

So I appreciate the tremendous record that you set tonight. You set an all-time record, right? And I really want -- it was tremendous turnout. It was -- it was -- they had lines going back. And a sort of new -- who was doing it -- 98 percent. We wanted to get over 80. And we got 98.

And also, if you remember -- and last night, you know what happened last night, right? None of the above.

So I'd like to congratulate none of the above. I was one of those none of ever aboves. I was one of them. No, I saw. I watched that last night, and they won by 44 points, none of the above. So I want to congratulate.

But seriously, we have to get back. This was a great day. This was a great night. Our Supreme Court, hopefully, will be doing something in terms of helping our country and preserving democracy. We have to preserve our democracy.

And I think they had a very, very interesting day, and a very beautiful day, perhaps. I think it was really a very beautiful sight to watch. And it's the way it's supposed to be.

And hopefully, the decision will be a very important decision.

But there's never been anything like it. In the polls, we're leading everybody. We are right now -- Is there any way we can call the election for next Tuesday? That's all I want. I want to call the election for next Tuesday.

But we're going to -- we're going to make our country great again. We're going to make it great. We're going to make it greater than ever before. The enthusiasm and the turnout, Doug and I were talking. I don't think you've ever seen anything like it. Right? You were at various of the caucus sites, and he came -- they both came back, and they said, we've never seen anything like it. Would you like to say a few words?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.

TRUMP: Please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, President Trump. I just want to build on that. At the caucus sites that Catherine and I were at tonight, the lines were stringing around the block and those buildings people waiting out --

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to Donald Trump while he's been in Las Vegas, going through a number of different factors today, including his concerns that we're not respected across the world and talking about an all-time record being broken, he says, in terms of the caucus.

He also is asking for the election to be called for next Tuesday, believing that he would be successful there.

We've got a lot to chew over with our panel. In particular, here right now, I've got Daniel Dale with us here to fact check. Very important function on a day like this.

You also have Elliot Williams and also Jim Schultz.

There was this moment, Daniel. I'll turn to you on this question about turnout. Consistently a focus of Donald Trump, but he did actually have a quite a successful victory for a caucus that only, really, he was a contender in.

DANIEL DALE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did. I think he's still entitled to claim -- I mean, we don't have full results, but, you know, he is the only contender, in part because he's the dominant figure in the Republican Party. So from a factcheck perspective, if he wants to claim a record, I have no objection.

I should point out, though. I mean, he did kind of a softer version of his usual election denial. He said, we need free and fair elections in this country. We don't have them.

We have them. We have them. We had them in 2020. We had them before. And so, you know, in these magnanimous victory speeches, he tends not to say elections are rigged, you know. Rigged, and stolen, and so on.

But I think even the softer version needs to be called out when he says it.

COATES: I was really surprised. We were all sort of talking about how would he begin his speech. And we thought but maybe on President Joe Biden and special counsel, maybe the Supreme Court. He did not really address Biden at all so far we've heard that.


But he did talk about the Supreme Court. And Jim Elliot, he said, hopefully SCOTUS -- well, he didn't say SCOTUS. That's my acronym. Hopefully, the Supreme Court, he said, will have -- will rule the way it's supposed to be. He called it an interesting and beautiful day.

He didn't really go into the details of the 14th Amendment argument disqualifying him from the ballot out of Colorado. Does that surprise you?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Yes. Well, I thought he was going to lead with Biden. Right. I thought that's what he would leave with. But I think he led with the victory lap, which was a smart decision on his part, to get do the victory lap, hit the Supreme Court briefly and get off-stage. Not a bad strategy.

He's going to turn around and go negative tomorrow on Biden, I'm sure.

COATES: Oh, well, tomorrow is already here in some parts of the country.

SCHULTZ: That's right.

COATES: Not in Nevada quite yet. But Elliot, when you looked at that particular aspect of it, you know, some would look and because he -- he talked about Joe Biden, but only with respect to Hillary Clinton, saying he had changed the name from Crooked Hillary to now Crooked Joe.

That's where it really ended so far.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Which was odd to me, because that's potentially his opening. So we end -- and to be clear, he's probably not done speaking. He seemed to hand the microphone off to somebody else.

I mean, he made a reference in the context of the Supreme Court to talking about preserving or protecting democracy. It's a generic point. I -- frankly, it's not an unreasonable point if you believe, as the president [SIC] seems to, or at least his attorneys seem to believe, that their position in the Supreme Court today was for the good of American democracy and in line with the Constitution.

That's one of the rare points in which his hyperbole wasn't so out of line.

COATES: You know, interestingly enough, Daniel, there was a time when just a few weeks ago when you had the New Hampshire primary, for example.

VAUSE: Thanks to our colleagues at CNN, talking about the postgame, if you like, of the Donald Trump victory there in Nevada. We shall move on.

During those remarks he made in Las Vegas, Donald Trump mentioned the death and destruction in Ukraine, caused by the war with Russia. Tucker Carlson, the fired FOX News host, had a chance to challenge Vladimir Putin on the war, as well as attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. But he did not.

To Washington now and Jill Dougherty, a CNN contributor and former CNN bureau chief in Moscow, who has reported on Russia and Vladimir Putin for decades. Welcome back.


VAUSE: OK, so for two hours, or more than two hours, Putin schooled Carlson and his version of history; or it was hard to work out whether Carlson looked bored or confused throughout the interview.

Putin also repeated some old lies, like Russia did not start the war in Ukraine and was trying to stop it. And Putin kept trying to make this case that Ukrainians and Russians, well, they're all Russians. Here's the Russian president. Listen to this.


PUTIN (through translator): Suddenly the Ukrainian soldiers were screaming from there in Russian, perfect Russian, saying, Russians, do not surrender. And all of them perished. They still identify themselves as Russian.

What is happening is, to a certain extent, an element of a civil war.


VAUSE: What was your big picture takeaway on all this? And did Putin get what he want from the interview and what was that?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think let's start with what Putin wanted, at least I think what Putin wanted.

No. 1, it gave him an opening to talk to the American public. And that's really important, because he feels that the standard traditional media don't cover what he says. And here was a way directly to -- with a high-profile interview -- to get to the American public and, I would say, to probably influence the upcoming 2024 election.

Did he succeed on that? That's one purpose. I don't think so.

I mean, when -- if you look the interview, the way it started, it went on for a half an hour with a, you know, detailed history of Russia going back about 1,000 years. There was one point where Tucker Carlson looked a little confused. And I think the date was 1654, and we weren't through it yet.

So if Putin was trying to talk to the American public, they would be totally confused. You know, what was this history? It's important to Putin. VAUSE: A day earlier, Carlson explained why he was interviewing Putin. He claimed that Western media outlets, you know, are deceiving their audiences. Here he is. Listen to this.


TUCKER CARLSON, FIRED FOX NEWS HOST: Their (ph) media outlets are corrupt. They lie to their readers and viewers, and they do that mostly by omission.

For example, since the day the war in Ukraine began, American media outlets have spoken to scores of people from Ukraine. And they've done scores of interviews with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

But the interviews he's already done in the United States are not traditional interviews. They are fawning pep sessions that --


VAUSE: So if anyone knows what a fawning pep session with a world leader looks like, it's Tucker Carlson. He repeatedly failed to challenge Putin on pretty much anything, except for the jailed "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich. And that goes to Carlson's credit, in a way, because that did make news.


DOUGHERTY: It did. I think that was the only bit of news in it.

But look at the way he asked that question. You know, he said he's not a spy. He's a kid. You should release him.

Evan Gershkovich is not a kid. He's a journalist, and he's pretty experienced. So that was kind of a diss for Evan Gershkovich.

And then Tucker Carlson, in the same breath said to show your decency, a sign of your, Mr. Putin, your decency. I mean, that is fawning, to say how kind you are to release him. It was -- it was, well, it was the only moment I thought were there was any -- anything close to news.

VAUSE: Yes. A former Democrat presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is among the many critics of this interview, and also a critic of Tucker Carlson. Here she is.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: He's what's called a useful idiot. I mean, if you actually read translations of what's being said on Russian media, they make fun of them. I mean, he's like a puppy dog.


VAUSE: Carlson claimed he did the interview because Americans simply don't know what's really happening in Ukraine. And they still don't. Would the outcome from an interview with Putin been any different if an actual real journalist had done it?

DOUGHERTY: Oh, no question. In fact, it was done before the invasion in 2022 by, I believe, it was a German interviewer. And he actually challenged Putin. It has been done.

But there was -- I think, what was stunning about this to me was see how Putin really railroaded Tucker Carlson. I expected the reverse. I expected a lot of energy coming from Tucker Carlson, but -- and he never asked the questions that you would have to ask, you know, specifically about the war, the incessant bombing; taking Ukrainian children to Russia; the people who were arrested in Russia right now; the people who have left Russia because of the war. On and on, there are many, many questions that could have been asked, and they never were.

VAUSE: Yes. And I at this point, they never will be, it sounds like.

Jill, thank you for being with us. Really appreciate your insights and your time tonight. Thank you.

DOUGHERTY: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: And thank you for watching. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. WORLD SPORT starts after the break. And then my friend and colleague Michael Holmes will be in at the top of the hour with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Have a great weekend.