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Biden Calls Foul Over Language In Report; Aid Group Warns Rafah Could Become "Zone Of Bloodshed"; Taylor Swift Performing In Tokyo Before Flying To Las Vegas; Israel, Ukraine Aid Package Moves Slowly In Congress; Pakistan Foreign Ministry Calls Elections Peaceful And Successful; Happy Lunar New Year. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 10, 2024 - 04:00   ET






Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, the Biden administration tries to contain the fallout from the special counsel's report. What they're saying about the U.S. President's mental fitness.

Fears that Rafah could become a zone of bloodshed and destruction as Israel's prime minister tells the military to plan for a mass evacuation in the area where thousands have fled.

And we'll take you live to Tokyo, where Taylor Swift is kicking off her final concert before dashing back to the U.S. and the Super Bowl.


COREN: We begin this hour focused on Washington, where the White House is crying foul and pushing back on language used in a new report on the president's handling of classified information.

It's that charges against Joe Biden were not warranted but also sparked controversy for suggesting age and lack of mental fitness caused him to forget some details during his interviews with special counsel Robert Hur.

White House lawyers say some of the language used in the report violated Justice Department rules. CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz has more on the controversy.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden today hosting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss Ukraine. Biden ignoring questions about special counsel Robert Hur's explosive report one day after teeing off. JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I've seen the headlines since the report was released about my willful retention of documents. This needs assertion is not only misleading, they're just plain wrong.

SAENZ: Instead today, it was Vice President Kamala Harris who came out slamming the special counsel, suggesting politics was involved.

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated, gratuitous.

We should expect that there would be a higher level of integrity than what we saw.

SAENZ: Biden's aides noting the president fully cooperated with the investigation, including two days of interviews in the opening days of the Israel-Hamas War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wanted to make sure he had everything he needed and he didn't want to throw up roadblocks.

SAENZ: Special counsel's investigation ending without criminal charges. But Hur's assessment of Biden as a, quote, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory putting the 81-year-old president's age in the spotlight.

BIDEN: I am well-meaning and I'm an elderly man and I know what the hell I'm doing.

SAENZ: The president fiery in the face of reporters' questions last night.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, for months, when we're asked about your age, you would respond with the words, watch me. Many American people have been watching and they have expressed concerns about your age.

BIDEN: That is your judgment.

I'm the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.

SAENZ: Hur's report highlighting a chief issue voters raise about the president. A recent NBC News poll found three in four voters have major or moderate concerns about whether he's fit to serve a second term.

REP. MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): Yes. OK. We know President Biden is old, OK?

Yes but it doesn't sound like breaking news to me.

SAENZ: It comes amid a string of verbal slip-UPS, including Thursday, when Biden mixed up the leaders of Egypt and Mexico.

BIDEN: Initially, the president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in.

SAENZ: Hur's report striking a personal nerve with Biden after saying the president couldn't remember when his son, Beau Biden, died from cancer.

BIDEN: How in the hell dare he raise that?

SAENZ: In private, Biden's fury even more direct, telling a group of Democratic lawmakers, quote, how would I effing forget that?


COREN: In that report we heard briefly from Ian Sams of the White House counsel's office. And here is more from Sams pushing back on how the report portrayed President Biden.



IAN SAMS, SPOKESPERSON, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE: I dispute that the characterizations about his memory that were in the report are accurate because they're not. And I think the president spoke very clearly about how he -- his mind was on other things.

I mean, he was dealing with a huge international crisis of great global consequence. And, you know, he was trying his best to answer questions in this interview because he wanted to be fully cooperative.


COREN: But the president's stamina does seem to be a concern for some. In a recent CNN poll, 46 percent of Democrats say their biggest concern about Mr. Biden as a candidate is his age.

Another CNN poll finds while 53 percent of Americans feel Donald Trump has the sharpness to serve as president, only a quarter felt the same about Mr. Biden.

Helen Lewis is a staff writer with "The Atlantic" and joins us via Skype.

Good to have you with us.

"Well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory and had diminished faculties in advancing age."

How damning was this assessment by the special counsel?

HELEN LEWIS, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think it was more damning. On the surface, it seemed kindly. It wasn't an obvious, full-throated partisan attack. It was something you might say about a beloved relative, who's a little bit past it these days.

But this is not how the Biden team received this. They think this is a partisan attack, a Trump-appointed special prosecutor, who couldn't find actual evidence of criminality and decided to go to the court of public opinion instead and therefore find a different, more damaging effect in electoral terms.

COREN: Yes. Hur was there to determine whether or not Biden had committed a criminal offense, not whether or not the president is senile.

Why extend beyond his remit if it's not politically motivated?

LEWIS: The rationale for including the judgment on Biden's memory was the idea, if you put him in front of a jury, they would find the same thing Hur found, the idea of the well-meaning, kindly man.

And they would probably not convict him of a crime in which you have to show intent, that he deliberately took documents and deliberately broke the classification. So there was a rationale for including this in the report.

It's the Biden team felt this went way beyond what was necessary and into punching a bruise, I think is how we would describe it in politics. We already know, as you reported, that a really substantial majority of Americans have got concerns about Biden's age. Some of them have concerns about Donald Trump's age but actually slightly fewer.

I think, as I wrote in "The Atlantic," there is this incredible bronzed energy that Donald Trump gives off. He often makes verbal slips but he seems incredibly energetic with it. And Biden's problem I think is that he can often seem sluggish.

And that's difficult because that is something I think people associate perhaps with older relatives, who are maybe still sharp in faculties but can't handle the schedule they used to. That maybe is the concern that lots of people have about re-electing Joe Biden.

COREN: Maybe it's the bronzer and the fake tan that Trump is constantly wearing.

Trump has made plenty of gaffes. He's mixed up people and places. Why don't we have a listen to Donald Trump and some of his faux pas?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: All of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it. All of it. Because of lots of things, like Nikki Haley is in charge of security.

Viktor Orban, anybody hear of him?

He's probably like one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world. And he's the leader of -- right?

He's the leader of Turkiye.


COREN: Right, the leader of Turkiye. I don't think so.

So why is age a factor for Biden and not for Donald Trump?

LEWIS: Well, I think there's two things there. As you said, the bronzed vigor of Donald Trump is different in demeanor from Joe Biden. And I think fundamentally there are a lot more downsides to obviously talk about.

And I think this is what the Democratic Party are quite angry about. Trump is facing multiple indictments.

He is under scrutiny for everything from removing classified documents, the charge that they couldn't make stick to Joe Biden, to rigging the election results, to perhaps being involved in an insurrection in the form of the January 6th raid on the Capitol.

You know, there's a lot on the charge sheet against him. And I think there is a feeling that, in some bizarre way, he's profiting from that and there's lots to say about the reasons you might not vote for Donald Trump.

President Biden, you might have concerns about how he's handled the economy or legislation that he's passed. But there aren't such obvious kind of screaming headlines about him. So I think this one issue has kind of come to stand in for all of people's concerns about him.

COREN: So how does Joe Biden and his team turn this around, considering that public opinion has so much to do with perception?

LEWIS: I think they have to do something really brave, which is put him out there a lot and deal with the fact that he will make some slipups. I think any of us who ever do live television will tell you, we don't speak perfectly all the time.


It is simply impossible to remember every country in the world, every leader who's lived constantly in real time. I think they need get over that. They need to get over the sense that they are hiding him away because they're worried.

In that lack of information, that's when worries grow. That's when conspiracy theories spring up.

So for example, you know, Biden has given fewer press conferences than any president since Ronald Reagan. He doesn't sit down for long form interview. He hasn't sat down with "The New York Times." He needs to get out there and make the case.

Up until the point when he confused Egypt to Mexico, he was doing very well in the press conference. He was vigorously rebutting the charges against him. He ended another three press conferences, maybe the individual slips and trips wouldn't be so obvious, wouldn't be the thing that everybody remembers.

But the White House had been pursuing risk aversion. They don't want to give ammunition to the opposition. And I think what we saw is the limits of that strategy.

COREN: Helen Lewis, joining us from London, great to get your insights and analysis. Thank you so much.

LEWIS: Thank you.


COREN: Israel's plan to push its ground offensive into Rafah has won a group warning the area could become a zone of bloodshed and destruction. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the military to plan an evacuation of people in Rafah which is as far south as you can go in Gaza.

The United Nations estimates more than half of Gaza's population is crammed in there now, 1.3 million people. Before the war, Rafah's population was around 250,000. Most people there now have been displaced from other parts of Gaza.

The aid group Norwegian Refugee Council says it's possible that people won't be able to escape fighting in Rafah. Some Palestinians there tell CNN they have nowhere else to go.

CNN's Nada Bashir has more live from Cairo on what is happening in Gaza.

Where are people supposed to flee to?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, we've been here with the Israeli military for weeks, ordering civilians to move south. Now some 1.3 million are concentrated, living many of them in these sprawling tent cities on this border city. Many of them pushed right up against that border into Egypt.

This is also vital gateway for aid and the warnings that we are hearing not only from people on the ground but also from international aid agencies, from the United Nations, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief yesterday, is that there is simply nowhere safe left for Palestinians to live in Gaza to flee to. There is nowhere else for them to turn.

What we've seen in Rafah over the last couple of weeks is continued aerial bombardment of the border city. Of course these warnings around a possible ground operation has sparked fears over the potential impact this will have on civilian life.

Take a look at this report. A warning to our viewers, some of the footage featured is distressing.


BASHIR (voice over): There are simply no words, this grandfather cradling the body of his 7-year-old granddaughter, Ataf (ph), beside the shallow grave, where she will soon be buried.

I told her mother that Ataf (ph) is now above, in heaven, Ahmed (ph) says, with her aunt, her cousin and her grandmother, who are all waiting for her. You see, we have many martyrs in our family.

Ahmed says his family had been taking shelter in a school in Khan Younis when an airstrike hit. It took hours, he says, to reach the nearest hospital still able to treat little Ataf (ph), but it was too late.

Across Gaza, more than 10,000 children have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Many more left orphaned or facing life-changing injuries.

In the central city of Deir al-Balah, the airstrikes are near daily. Those who survive left to dig through the rubble with their bare hands in search of their loved ones.

Meanwhile in Rafah, once deemed a safe zone, UNICEF estimates that there are now more than 600,000 children among the over a million people in the area, many taking shelter in these sprawling tent cities.

The southern city has for weeks come under relentless airstrikes by the Israeli military who say they are targeting Hamas.


But now a looming ground operation is stoking fears that Rafah could become, as one aid group has described it, a zone of bloodshed.

If by some misfortune there's an invasion of Rafah, two-thirds of the population will die, Gabr (ph) says. We can't get out of Rafah. We have no other alternative.

Israel says it is now calling for a mass evacuation of civilians in the southern city ahead of a planned ground offensive. But it is almost impossible to fathom where else these civilians can turn to.

But Rafah has not only become a vital lifeline for the displaced, it is also a crucial gateway for humanitarian aid crossing over from Egypt, and many in the international community are now sounding alarm bells over Israel's warning.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: And I am especially alarmed by reports that the Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety.

BASHIR: The U.S. State Department has warned that it cannot support an Israeli military operation in Rafah without serious planning for civilians there, with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday describing Israel's actions in Gaza as, quote, over the top.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already dismissed a proposal from Hamas for a prolonged truce, which would see a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and a gradual release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Netanyahu, who described the proposal as delusional, has vowed to push ahead until a, quote, complete victory over Hamas is achieved, leaving little hope for diplomacy as negotiations continue. And little hope for what lies ahead in Gaza.


BASHIR: While he hasn't dismissed that counterproposal, there are diplomatic efforts ongoing. We've seen a Hamas delegation in Cairo, holding talks with officials here.

Now we are learning from two sources familiar with the matter telling CNN that the CIA's director is expected to travel to Cairo for further talks. One adding that the Qatari prime minister as well as the leader of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency may also be in attendance.

So clearly there are still diplomatic efforts underway. But a lot of focus and concern centered around the situation facing civilians in Rafah.

COREN: Nada, I believe that you're receiving details about a young Palestinian girl found dead in a car after it came under Israeli fire last month.

What more can you tell us?

BASHIR: Look, Anna, little Hind is 5 years old. Her whereabouts and condition unknown really. Just under two weeks, she had been traveling in a car with relatives at the end of January, attempting to flee northern Gaza.

There's been mounting concern over her situation. Now our colleagues have spoken to her grandfather confirming that she was killed.

Of course, this comes as devastating news to her loved ones, to family members, also to many across the globe who have been closely watching this story, waiting for news of Hind's condition.

As I mentioned, she had been traveling in a vehicle with her relatives attempting to flee northern Gaza when the car came under fire. We heard the audio recording of her teenage cousin who was pleading for help, pleading for a rescue, saying they have been surrounded by tanks.

You could hear gunfire around them before they lost contact and the phone line went dead. It's believed Hind's six relatives were killed. They stayed on the line with her for three hours as they dispatched a military team to rescue her before they lost contact with Hind.

And the group fearing, of course, the worst. We did hear yesterday from Hind's mother. She spoke to our colleagues on the ground, speaking of her hope for confirmation or to see more on her death. Listen to this message from her mother.


WISSAM HAMADA, HIND RAJAB'S MOTHER (through translator): If only my daughter would return to me. I just hope she is OK. Like any mother, I only want the best for her. I want her to have the best and nicest things in the world.

I don't leave the house without taking her belongings with me. I bring her clothes and things and hope that, at any moment, I will see my daughter in front of me.


BASHIR: In addition to confirmation that Hind has been killed, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society says its two emergency crew members were killed.


They believe they were deliberately targeted by the Israeli military. They say they have provided coordinates to the Israeli military as part of that rescue effort and say they had also come under fire. CNN has reached out to the Israeli military. They say they are looking into the incident. Of course, this is devastating and tragic news for many.

COREN: Yes, I can't believe -- can't imagine the heartache that that mother must be going through. Nada Bashir, joining us from Cairo, thank you for the update.

Stay with CNN. Much more after the break.




COREN: NFL fans and players are getting ready for Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday in what's expected to be a close game between two rivals. The Kansas City Chiefs are looking to win their third championship in five years, cementing their status as a modern dynasty.

Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes has made a name for himself as one of the best play callers in the league in recent years.

Meanwhile, the 49ers are out for revenge, having lost to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl four years ago. Two years ago, quarterback Brock Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant, the very last pick in the NFL draft.


Now after rising from third string to starter, he's hoping to carry his MVP level season all the way to the top.

Perhaps no one's trip to Sunday's big game in Las Vegas is getting more attention than Taylor Swift's. The pop superstar is in Tokyo right now, closing out the Japan leg of her blockbuster Eras tour. After the show, she's expected to catch a trans-Pacific flight and arrive in Las Vegas in time to watch her NFL boyfriend, Travis Kelce, take the field.

CNN's Hanako Montgomery has more from Tokyo.

Set the scene for us.

HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were here on Wednesday night, when Taylor Swift first kicked off the Asia leg of her tour. And let me tell you, tonight, we saw far more American football jerseys.

I don't think that is a coincidence. Thousands of fans behind me are enjoying Swift's concert in Tokyo. She is performing a soldout concert. For many of them, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see their favorite pop star.

But many are wondering whether Swift will make it back in time by Super Bowl Sunday to see her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, of course, who plays for the Kansas City Chiefs. Now people we spoke to are convinced that she is going to make it by kickoff.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 100 percent. And the Chiefs to win.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) they're going to win.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need a whole like on the field trophy and breaks.






MONTGOMERY: Now we know that Swift, who has been to 12 football games this past season, has been credited with boosting NFL viewership to record levels because more of her fans are now watching. But it's not just about the audience that she commands.

It's also the fact that she's getting more and more women to watch the game. Overall during the 2023 regular season, female viewership was up 9 percent compared to last year. One game in October saw viewership among teenage girls go up 53 percent, according to Nielsen fast national data.

Now companies are also taking note. Makeup brands like Elf and L'Oreal next professional are running ads in the Super Bowl for the very first time on Sunday. Why?

Because they're betting that Swift's young and female fans will be in the crowds and on the couch watching that game, Anna.

COREN: Yes, I heard ads like 30-second ads going for $7 million. So it's big business. Hanako Montgomery, many thanks.

A bill for additional military aid for Ukraine isn't making much progress in U.S. Congress. Ahead, what's holding back the legislation that would send desperately needed support to Kyiv.

Plus some Ukrainians want their family members back from the front lines just as the country works to recruit more troops.





COREN: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren, live from Hong Kong. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

The White House is in damage control mode and pushing back on language used in a new report on President Biden's handling of classified information.

While the report said no charges were warranted, it sparked controversy for suggesting that age and lack of mental fitness caused Mr. Biden to forget some details during his interviews with special counsel Robert Hur.

The vice president says her boss was focused on an international crisis, pointing out that the interviews took place just after the October 7th attacks in Israel.


KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: October 7, Israel experienced a horrific attack. And I will tell you, we got the calls, the president and myself, in the hours after that occurred. It was an intense moment for the commander in chief of the United States of America.

And I was in almost every meeting with the president in the hours and days that followed.


COREN: Harris and other Democrats fired back at the special counsel. The president turned his attention to foreign policy. Mr. Biden and German chancellor Olaf Scholz held talks at the White House on the situation in Gaza and the urgent need to support Ukraine. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: I think it is necessary that we do all our best to support Ukraine and to give them the chance to defend their country. So I'm very happy that, in Europe, we make now decisions to move the necessary financial support to the budget.

Also that Germany was ready to increase its support with weapon delivery. And hopefully the Congress will -- the House will follow you and make a decision on giving the necessary support.

Because without the support of the United States and without the support of the European states, Ukraine have not a chance to defend its own country.


COREN: But security assistance for Ukraine and Israel is still being held up in Congress. CNN's Melanie Zanona has more on that from Capitol Hill.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A package to provide aid for Israel and Ukraine is moving through the Senate but slowly. Right now the Senate is scheduled to take its next procedural vote on Sunday, which means final passage would not occur until sometime next week.

And the reason for this prolonged process is because any single senator has the power to drag things out. And right now, there are some Republicans who are demanding amendment votes related to the southern border.

As you might remember, there was a bipartisan deal to secure the southern border that initially was going to be attached to aid for Israel and Ukraine. But Republicans rejected it once former president Donald Trump came out in opposition.

So right now there is still an attempt by Republicans to get some type of amendment votes on the border. That has been a top priority for the GOP. Right now, Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, says he's working to find an agreement.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope our Republican colleagues can work with us to reach an agreement on amendments so we can move this process along.


ZANONA: This package is expected to eventually pass through the Senate. In previous votes, we have seen enough Republicans sign on to this measure.

[04:35:00] Of course they need 60 votes for anything to proceed and pass in the Senate. It's a much larger question in the House, where speaker Mike Johnson has not said how he would handle Israel and Ukraine aid. And he is facing a lot of opposition within his Republican ranks to additional Ukraine aid -- Melanie Zanona, Capitol Hill, CNN.


COREN: At least seven people are dead, including three children, after a Russian drone attack on Ukraine's second largest city. Well, that's according to Ukrainian officials, who say the attack in Kharkiv also caused large fires Friday night; 15 residential buildings reportedly burned to the ground, forcing dozens of people to evacuate.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is pressing ahead with his military shakeup. He appointed a new chief of the general staff on Friday. The second change to military leadership in as many days.

It comes after the firing of a top commander general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. His replacement hit the ground running on his first full day on the job. And he spoke with the military chiefs of key allies and announced his priorities, including a focus on military drones and other new technologies.

In addition to new military hardware, Ukraine's army also needs manpower. Lawmakers are considering a new mobilization bill that would allow for more troops to be called up. It's a hot-button issue for Ukrainians. Fred Pleitgen explains why.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The explosions are dangerously close as the drone team from the 92nd assault brigade set up their bird, attach the bombs and head off into battle.

While drone technology is often seen as the realm of tech savvy youngsters, one of the pilots here is over 50.

"One way or another, everyone should serve," he says. "It is our duty to defend our land, our families, our motherland. If you do not want to fight, what kind of citizen are you?"

Ukraine is badly outgunned by the Russians but the reality is they're also outmanned. Unable to recruit enough soldiers willing to join the military, especially younger ones. Decimated and exhausted, Ukraine's top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, has called for a new mobilization drive, maybe including up to 0.5 million people.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is unconvinced. And sources tell CNN he has informed Zaluzhnyi he'll be fired with differences over troop numbers a key reason why. Mobilization is unpopular and in front of Ukraine's parliament, some are protesting for their spouses to be de- mobilized.

Antonina (ph) says her husband is too old to be serving this long.

"My husband is 43 years old," she says. "It is difficult for him to endure all this time on the ground, jumping from shells and performing all those tasks at the front line. And there are many people like him."

"I'm here for my dad to come back," her son says.

But on the front lines, like in this rocket launching unit, some say they need more people to give those who've been in combat, nearly nonstop, a breather. The commander of this launcher is 59. In Ukraine, people can only be drafted until they're 60.

"All of Ukraine is at war and each and every man who thinks he lives in Ukraine must go through it," he says. "It's irreversible. People here are tired."

Ukraine's parliament is working on a law to make mobilization more appealing and possibly allow soldiers to exit the military after three years. But back at the drone unit, they don't believe the talk.

"There should be no illusions," he says. Also, among soldiers whom politicians have given hope that there will be demobilization, there will not be any -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


COREN: Independents pulled off a surprising victory in Pakistan's election as the country faces allegations of voter fraud. We'll have a live report after the break.

And deadly clashes after a mosque and Islamic school are demolished. The latest coming up.





COREN: A small plane crashed onto Interstate 75 near Naples, Florida, Friday afternoon, killing two of the five people on board. A witness told CNN the plane clipped the top of a pickup truck before slamming into a concrete wall and bursting into flames.

The driver of the pickup truck was able to walk away from the crash. Motorists tried to help. The aircraft exploded a minute later. Shortly before the crash, the pilot told air traffic controllers the plane had lost both engines. There's currently no update on the condition of the three survivors in the plane.

Pakistan's foreign ministry is defending the integrity of the nation's elections, saying they were held peacefully and successfully, even as a slow vote count and allegations of vote rigging have sparked violent protests.


COREN (voice-over): The U.S., the U.K. and the European Union have expressed concerns about Pakistan's election after Thursday's vote. Independent candidates backed by jailed ex-leader Imran Khan claimed a surprise victory, the plurality of seats in the assembly but not enough to form a majority government on their own.


COREN: Joining us now is CNN's Sophia Saifi in Islamabad.

With Khan's candidates weighing votes as independents and allegations of vote rigging, how would any result be accepted by the people?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: There's a lot of rage among young voters, who showed up to vote for the independent candidates affiliated with Imran Khan.

There is a lot of anger at the fact that results didn't come out until more than -- I mean, there hasn't been an official final tally by the election commission of Pakistan released even now more than 40 hours after polls closed on Thursday.

There was no response at all on Thursday until at least 5 o'clock in the morning the next day when the initial seats started being announced. At the moment, there are over 100, according to the Pakistani (INAUDIBLE) south, Imran Khan's party, of candidates who are going to be going to the courts to protest the results.

There's also talks of a coalition government forming between the PMLN, Nawaz Sharif's party, as well as the BPB, the party of (INAUDIBLE), the three major parties. A lot of confusion as to who is going to be the next prime minister of the country.

It could very well, be Nawaz Sharif again for a historic fourth term. But a lot of analysts we spoke to in the leadup to this election anticipated that Nawaz Sharif would be the one winning an outright majority in this election.


And that has not been the case.

COREN: And Imran Khan, the most popular politician in Pakistan, is behind bars, facing years in prison.

Have we heard from him?

And what does this potentially mean for him?

SAIFI: So it's very interesting. He has been behind bars since August. We had reported on multiple convictions that he received within a week in the leadup to the election. There was an AI video released as for a statement from Khan, released from -- sent out to his supporters that he sent to his lawyers.

And in that AI video he spoke about praising his supporters. He spoke about praising the youth. He said they have to be strong now to protect their victory, the votes they have made. It's a time to celebrate.

Sharif had also come out and made a speech to his supporters, saying that they have the majority -- they don't have the majority but they are the largest party in the country. So a lot of confusion about whether Khan would be released on the many bails that he has received in the past.

But that has not been the case. There has been a lot of crackdown on these independent candidates. The only reason that they stood as independents because they lost their popular electoral symbol.

So there's a lot of interest in what is going to happen next. And we have to wait and see until the actual official results come out by the election commission of Pakistan.

COREN: Fascinating that there is no result as yet. And fascinating, too, that the statewide crackdown on Khan and his supporters has not silenced them. Sophia, we know that you are keeping well and truly across the story. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

Well, in northern India, six people are dead, hundreds are injured after violent clashes between security forces and residents following the demolition of a mosque and Islamic school. Vedika Sud has the latest from New Delhi.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: India's northern state of Haldwani (ph) is under curfew after violence broke out on Thursday following a controversial government demolition drive. Tensions flared when state officials moved to clear a mosque and a religious school.

According to state authorities, both buildings were being demolished for being constructed illegally on government land. The state has issued shoot aside orders to control the situation.

Videos of the aftermath show damage to both property and vehicles. State authorities say action was taken after a judge hearing the dispute recessed without a final hearing in the matter.

They say authorities decided to proceed with the demolition since there were no explicit instructions from the judge to preserve the structure. A district magistrate has also blamed protesters for the ensuing violence.

Local Muslims who spoke to CNN said many feared further action could be taken against them by the state government. Now on Wednesday, Amnesty International called on the Indian government to stop what it called "widespread, unlawful demolitions" of Muslims' homes, businesses and places of worship -- Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


COREN: Just ahead, the Lunar New Year has arrived. What experts predict for some high-profile movers and shakers.





COREN: Welcome back.

A four-member crew splashed down off the coast of Florida on Friday, wrapping up their trip to the International Space Station. That was the latest mission led by private companies that offer commercial trips to space.

This flight was operated by SpaceX and a Texas-based startup, Axiom, that offers trips to anyone who can pay. It included astronauts from Italy, Sweden and the first person from Turkiye ever to fly in space. None paid for the trip themselves. It was covered by governments or space agencies.

With the arrival of the new moon, the Lunar New Year has officially begun. It's a time to celebrate the Year of the Dragon and to predict what fortunes may or may not lie in the coming months. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has more now from Hong Kong.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICE-OVER): It's a time of raucous joy with festive parades and massive firework displays. This year, the Lunar New Year falls on February the 10th. That's when we enter the Year of the Dragon.

Most know the basics, the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle is represented by 12 different animals. Your animal is determined by your year of birth. When a new Lunar New Year approaches, some consult a feng shui master to find out what lies ahead.

STOUT: Let's look at the destiny --


STOUT: -- of Taylor Swift. She was born of the Year of the Snake.

What does the Year of the Dragon hold for her?

LO: When we look at her birthday, she is born on the day of fire and she is born in mean time. That is, December 13 is winter. Winter fire is quite weak. So that was who needs the support of wood. So that's why the last few years of wood actually brings her good luck.

STOUT: She has had some very good last few years. LO: That's why.

STOUT: but what about the next year?

LO: Continue to have good luck in the next few years.

STOUT: The Swifties would love hearing that. OK. Now also born the Year of the Snake is the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

LO: He is a strong fire person. He is also like Taylor Swift. But he is born in summer. So that's why his fire is strong. So when fire is strong, it likes earth because fire fulfills earth. Earth is the outlet for the fire to take action.


That's why actually the Dragon year is good year for a strong fire person.

STOUT: 2024 is a big U.S. election here.

So I got to ask you about U.S. President Joe Biden --

LO: Yes. Yes.

STOUT: -- about his challenger Donald Trump --

LO: Yes.

STOUT: -- about his challenger Nikki Haley.

LO: Donald Trump is a strong earth person. There is earth person born in summer already supported with a lot of fire. So therefore, he doesn't like more fire. Unfortunately, the coming year, we have strong fire coming up. So therefore, it doesn't support him in his luck.

Nikki Haley is a strong metal lady. She has good luck. Fire means power to her. So therefore, she is running for the president and hoping to get the power. But she has a lot of competition.

Joe Biden is a weak fire person. Weak fire person likes wood and fire. Joe Biden's not so good year is actually just passed, 2023. And then, comparing with the Donald Trump, I think Joe Biden seems to be in better luck.

STOUT (voice-over): And if you're a Dragon in a dragon year --

LO: The Dragon (INAUDIBLE) the Dragon itself. So usually, that's not an auspicious year for you.

STOUT (voice-over): So be prepared for a few bumps. But no, you're not alone. There are a number of famous Dragons out there and their fortunes may vary -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


COREN: I want to know if Kristie got a reading and what he told Kristie Lu Stout. We'll have to find out.

That wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. I'll be back with more news in just a moment. Thank you so much for your company.