Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Avdiivka Falls To Russia; Nikki Hale Criticizes Trump Over Navalny's Death; Liz Cheney Calls On Congress To Act On Ukraine Aid; Russia; Hundreds Of Arrests Made In Russia For Paying Respect To Navalny. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 18, 2024 - 17:00   ET




ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I think there's truth to that, but did I do anything other than that standard that every other person in politics does, from President Biden on down? I did the same as them and nothing worse.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And as you can see, his defiance has not dimmed at all in the years since his conviction. We're going to have more of my conversation with Governor Blagojevich and a fresh look at the political crime spree, so-called, that he went on in office tonight on "United States of Scandal" at 9 p.m. on CNN. Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, thanks, Jake. We'll be looking forward to that.

And thank you, everyone, for joining me this weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "CNN Newsroom" continues with Jim Acosta right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You're live in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. Tonight, startling images out of the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, illustrating in stark terms what could be the reality of America failing to continue aid to the war-torn country.

In this new video released by the Russian government, soldiers are seen raising the Russian flag over that key city after Ukrainian forces were forced to withdraw.

This comes as authorities have reportedly detained hundreds of people across Russia for paying their respects to Alexey Navalny, the prominent critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Look at how police -- take a look at this, how police shoved this detained man's face into the snow simply for paying his respects to Navalny.

And while leaders of democracies around the world are mourning Navalny's death, former President Donald Trump remains silent. Trump has not spoken about Navalny publicly since the opposition leader's death. When CNN asked his campaign for a response, aides pointed to a Truth Social post in which he made no mention of the Russian opposition leader, bashed Joe Biden and claimed that America is no longer respected. That silence has his last remaining GOP challenger questioning whether he thinks it's cool to kill political opponents.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's actually pretty amazing that he, not only after making those comments, that he would encourage Putin to invade NATO, but the fact that he won't acknowledge anything with Navalny, either he sides with Putin and thinks it's cool that that Putin killed one of his political opponents or he just doesn't think it's that big of a deal. Either one of those is concerning. Either one of those is a problem.


ACOSTA: As Haley points out, Navalny's death came just days after the former president effectively gave Putin the green light to invade U.S. allies that don't spend enough money on defense.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.


ACOSTA: Here in Washington, there is no sign that lawmakers are close to any kind of a deal that would send more military aid to Ukraine. While President Biden has said arming Ukraine would be the best way to punish Putin, House Republicans are sitting on their hands, yielding the pressure from Trump, who has demanded that aid to Kyiv come in the form of loans as Ukrainian soldiers run out of ammunition and as Putin tightens his grip over Russia.

Let's discuss that and more now with senior political commentators David Axelrod and Scott Jennings. Scott, you're here with me in the studio. Let me start with you. What do you think about what we just heard from Nikki Haley?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think she is speaking for a portion of the Republican Party that remembers the old line of thinking as it relates to our posture versus Russia. And she's running against someone who represents, you know, the new line of thinking here. And you know, her side's losing right now.

I mean, that's the bottom line. I mean, I think the reality is for Trump, he probably thinks he's going to win the election. So, criticizing Putin now doesn't do him any good. And number two, maybe he doesn't think it's a big deal, honestly, that an opposition leader in another country died. He's never expressed all that much of a care about what goes on internally in some of these other places. So, I'm not sure we should expect him to start now.

ACOSTA: David, there's another Republican speaking out, former Congresswoman Liz Cheney. She's urging the House Speaker Mike Johnson to call the House back from its recess to work on getting aid to Ukraine. Here's what she said this morning.


LIZ CHENEY, FORMER WYOMING CONGRESSWOMAN: Mike Johnson ought to search deep in his conscience, understanding exactly what's happening, the slaughter that's happening in Ukraine today, the extent to which the Ukrainians are on the front lines in this battle for freedom. And history will look back at this moment and ask, what did Mike Johnson do?


ACOSTA: David, is Trump effectively the speaker of the House right now?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it seems that way. The fact that Johnson can't make a move without him is pretty clear. Listen, Jim, this whole weekend has been really portentous and, you know, disturbing. You know, first Navalny is murdered.


Then the Russians overrun Ukraine in a key city because the Ukrainians don't have the ammunition they need, because Trump has told the U.S. Congress not to move forward on aid to Ukraine. And what is he doing during all of this? He's selling sneakers in Pennsylvania. I mean, the whole thing is just so outrageous and dangerous for the world.

You know, I think that Scott is very correct in his analysis that the Republican Party is split. But the fact is that this isn't just -- we have to step out of our analyst's role here for a second and just note the stakes here and what it would mean if Putin were to overrun Ukraine and if Ukraine failed because Trump had bridled the U.S. Congress from doing what a majority of members of Congress want to do, what 70 members of the U.S. Senate have said they want to do. It's really an extraordinary moment.

And it's outrageous that the House is out right now, that they're taking a two-week vacation rather than acting at this moment in history. It's really -- this is quite a moment here, Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, and also at a moment when in recent days, Donald Trump has been saying to NATO countries, you know, if you don't meet your common obligation, Putin should be able to do whatever he wants. Does this make Republicans privately uncomfortable? I know there's a public face they've got to put out there or else they're going to get clubbed over the head by Donald Trump. But I have to think that this is unnerving to a good deal of Republicans privately.

JENNINGS: Oh, I don't know what to do about this. Absolutely. I mean, I think there's a great many Republicans, especially Republican elected officials who've spent most of their career trying to set up the United States to be the counterbalance to Russia and other, you know, bad actors around the world.

And I think internally, privately, they must be thinking, well, I've worked my whole life on this and now we're taking a different posture. It must make them extremely uncomfortable. I know that it does. And then you do have some Republicans who, especially in the U.S. Senate, who did step out and do the right thing on trying to put the United States in the position of defending our Ukrainian allies against the Russians.

This debate, we've always had isolationists in our party. It's just that that particular strain of foreign policy thinking is ascendant right now because the most likely person to be our presidential nominee apparently believes in it.

ACOSTA: Is there a deficit of courage, though, to take on Trump and say, no, it is wrong to tell Vladimir Putin he can do whatever he wants. It is wrong to not speak out when Alexey Navalny dies.

JENNINGS: Yeah, I think I think some people believe in the isolationism and I take them at their word. I mean, we've always had people who have believed in a withdrawn America that have found themselves in the Republican Party. But I also think there are other people who know better and who do very little about it or nothing about it because they just don't want to deal with the hassle of being on the wrong side of the person that is going to be our nominee, especially during a primary when look, Haley has no chance. It's not like they're standing up for someone who has a fighting chance to be the nominee, so.

ACOSTA: The Ukrainians, they're dying. They're yielding ground because they're running out of ammo.

JENNINGS: I agree with you. I mean, I think David and I and I agree with him. But look, we're on this -- we're on the same position here. The United States should support the Ukrainians. Russia running wild through Europe with little resistance because we can't find enough artillery to fight them off. This is a great deal for the United States.

We're degrading the military of our biggest adversary. And not a single troop is in harm's way. And most of the money we're spending is going to be spent right here in the United States. I mean, there's a great argument for it. But the people who believe otherwise right now do find themselves in a strong position because their chosen nominee is the person who is the most influential Republican in the country on policy and politics.

ACOSTA: And David --

AXELROD: Jim, we should -- we should --

ACOSTA: Go ahead.

AXELROD: Well, I just want to recall the fact that when Putin rolled into Ukraine, Donald Trump's first reaction was to call it genius. If you can snatch another country, why not? And then over the weekend, he -- the only thing that we've heard from him on the subject was on his Truth Social site, he retweeted an article that basically repeated the Kremlin talking points about Alexey Navalny and, you know, that he had been convicted of fraud and he, you know, all -- that just te party line stuff.

Putin has to be just gleeful with the assistance that he's getting from Trump here. And the fact that Trump has such control over the process here that he is literally handcuffing the Ukrainians while the Russians move forward. This is really, you know -- I don't disagree with the word that Scott has said. His analysis is very, very on point.


But it still shocks the senses to see a guy who was president of the United States and might be again, who is willing to be a party to this kind of stuff.

ACOSTA: And David, I mean, just to follow up on that, we heard the president yesterday, you know, blasting House Republicans for leaving town and not passing this bill to fund the Ukrainian military. And, you know, should the president take the ball and run with this? Go after the Republicans on (inaudible), go after the Republicans on the border. That was another one where Trump, you know, put out the bat signal and they backed down.

AXELROD: A hundred percent. Listen, I think that this is -- the president and every one of his surrogates should be flooding the zone on this. These guys walked away from the most conservative border bill that we've seen in decades, painstakingly negotiated by Republicans, Democrats and independents in the United States Senate over months.

The president endorsed it. They walk away from it and now they have the temerity to suggest that they're not going to move forward on aid to Ukraine and Israel because they don't have a border bill. I mean, it's just -- every single Democratic voice should be raised right now because this is truly outrageous and irresponsible and if this is what Donald Trump and the Republicans are offering America, America really needs to hear about it loud and clear.

ACOSTA: Yeah, Scott, last word. I mean, Mike Johnson has said in the past that the United States is not going to leave the Ukrainians in the lurch.


ACOSTA: What should he say when he comes back from this recess?

JENNINGS: Well, I think -- I wish he would say I want it all. I want to help Ukrainians. I want to help Israel. I want to secure the border. I mean, I don't know why we can't get greedy here as Republicans and portray ourselves as a party that wants to do everything that is a national priority instead of nothing that is a national priority, which is what we're doing right now.

So, I hope they take two weeks, think it through and come back and realize that the Republicans are in a position here to show the American people they can govern and they can be responsible governing partners here, even when we don't obviously control two of the three legs of the stool. And so, if they do that, I think the elections will be better this year if they are intransigent and they won't do that. It will not bode well in the fall, because I do think above all, the American people just most often look at Washington and say, why can't you guys just get stuff done, solve the problems? And when people are getting blamed for not doing that, it usually means something bad at the ballot box.

ACOSTA: All right, David and Scott, thanks, guys, very much. Much appreciated. All right, coming up, my next guest, a Russian activist has been loudly confronting Vladimir Putin for years with her voice and her music today. Her group paid tribute to Alexey Navalny. That's next.



ACOSTA: Grief and turmoil in Russia tonight. A human rights group says hundreds of people have been detained all across the country while mourning Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Alexey Navalny in Moscow earlier today. The U.S. and British ambassadors to Russia laid flowers in his memory. The U.S. embassy calling him an inspiration. And as the world mourns his death, Navalny's wife, Yulia, shared this heart wrenching photo of the two of them together with the caption. I love you.

She gave a powerful speech to world leaders in Munich on Friday, saying Putin must be held responsible for her husband's death. And CNN chief global affairs correspondent Matthew Chance joins us live from Moscow. Matthew, what more are you learning?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there's been thousands of people across Russia that have been turning out to pay their respects to Alexey Navalny, that prominent opposition leader who was pronounced dead on Friday at a penal colony in Russia's far north. Thousands of people, despite the fact, remember that it's essentially against the law in this country to protest or to show dissent in this way. And that's reflected in the amount of people that were detained by the authorities.

Hundreds of people, as many as 400, according to one rights monitoring group, detained just for simply sort of laying flowers or carrying flowers or sort of offering sympathy for this late prominent opposition leader. And that gives you a real indication of just how intolerant the Russian state has become to any kind of dissent whatsoever.

There have been these sorts of quite violent arrests. You can see some of the images there of police dragging people through the snow away from these makeshift memorials that have been set up across towns and villages across Russia.

There's also demands now increasingly to know where Alexey Navalny's body is, because it's not clear. Alexey Navalny's mother, Lyudmila (ph), has travelled to the far north penal colony or a town close by to it where she was hoping to recover the body of her son so the family could bury him, but the morgue was closed. She was told the body wasn't there and only subsequently have the Russian authorities said, look, we're not going to give the body back to the family until we've done a postmortem. And that's prompted obviously a lot of suspicion about the motives for that. Alexey Navalny's supporters saying, look, I mean, this is about the Kremlin hiding the body and hiding the real reason, the real cause that he suddenly dropped dead late last week. Jim?

ACOSTA: And what happens to his organization, his movement, Matthew?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, without a charismatic figure at its head in the way that Alexey Navalny was, it's hard to see how it will continue in the same way.


I mean, you have to say it's already been banned in Russia. Its leaders and most of its activists have had to leave the country or they're in prison themselves. And so, it's not as effective on the ground in Russia as it once was.

Having said that, look, I mean, the real power of this organization was that it touched a real nerve in Russian society in the sense that it focused on official corruption. Anybody that lives in Russia or knows it, knows that corruption is a part of everyday life and it angers ordinary people.

It's how Alexey Navalny got millions of Russians to watch his highly produced investigations into official corruption, because it's something that, you know, a lot of people across the sort of political divide in this country actually focus on. And I think probably that means there is still room for an anti-corruption campaigning organization like the one he led. But of course, without Navalny, it's just not going to be as potent.

ACOSTA: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you very much. Over in Germany, a fearless protest against Vladimir Putin wearing bright pink ski masks and carrying a massive sign with the word murderers printed on it, the activist group Pussy Riot took to the streets of Berlin and protest following Navalny's death.

Here to discuss all of this is a Russian activist and co-founder of Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikova. And Nadya, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it. Tell us about today's rally, what Navalny's death means to you personally. It must be just very difficult to process all of this.

NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA, RUSSIAN ACTIVIST AND PUSSY RIOT CO-FOUNDER: It is very difficult. I feel like we're all in the stage of denial yet. And the authorities are not helping us with not giving the body to the relatives. So, I still hope that Navalny is just chilling somewhere on a yacht. But the reality is -- the reality is much more gloom. He's actually murdered.

And it's not it's not this. He did not just die. It's a murder. And it was very important for us to stress it. And that's why we came today to the Russian embassy in Berlin with this one simple word, murderers. I believe that with Navalny's death, responsibility, newer behavior, responsibility was born.

A lot of people say that with Navalny's death, our hope died. But I think to me, it feels a lot like if my parents died. Luckily, they're still alive, but I think that's what a child feels when their parents died or older sibling. You feel like there is no one here to fix your mess. And it's only up to you if you're going to succeed or fail.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And Nadya, we've seen these reports of hundreds of people being detained across Russia. We've seen these brutal arrests of people just trying to go out and remember Alexey Navalny. You yourself were sentenced to two years of imprisonment for simply doing what you do and just simply singing a song. What happens to the opposition movement in Russia now?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: It's being eliminated, destroyed, thrown in prison wagons and eliminated one by one. It's extremely dangerous and I commend the courage of every single person who shows up on the street in Russia today. Putin's job is to make Russia look homogenous. He wants everyone to believe that all Russians support Putin. They support the war.

Every single act of protest, no matter how small or big it is, breaks this homogenous picture. That's why every single protester is potentially a threat to Vladimir Putin's illusion, which -- and his regime is based on this illusion.

ACOSTA: And just one day before his death, Navalny was inside a Russian court laughing and or he appeared on video before Russian court, laughing and joking with the judge. Let's watch a little bit of that and talk about it on the other side.


ALEXEY NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translation): Your Honor, I am waiting and I will send you my bank account number so that you could warm it up a little from your huge salary of a federal judge, because my money is running dry and because of the decision you took, it will end even sooner. So, do transfer Alexander Alexandrovich. You too, please have the whole prison chip in. Bye.


ACOSTA: Nadya, what does this video say to you about Navalny and the way he just connected with the Russian people and with people around the world with his charisma?


I mean, he was such a charismatic figure. I mean, I can't imagine what he's been going through and to be able to laugh and joke with the judge in this manner. And at the same time, it -- correct me if I'm wrong. It says to me that this was something that Putin envied and was jealous of and wanted to snuff out essentially. TOLOKONNIKOVA: Sense of humor is a terribly powerful tool and there is

no one like Navalny, really. He led with joy, laughter, charisma and deep sense of self-irony. And it really helps.

ACOSTA: And, you know, the CNN film "Navalny," which I'm sure you're familiar with, he talked about going back to Russia despite all of the risks. And, you know, he was asked what would happen if he was killed. Were he to go back? I want to play for our viewers a little bit of what he said.


NAVALNY (through translation): My message for the situation when I'm killed is very simple, not give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong.


ACOSTA: Nadya, is that message resonating with the Russian people? Does that -- can that message continue inside Russia or does Putin have such a grip around the country that even these small messages of hope just don't really have much of a chance right now?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: I think there's always a chance with a dictatorship served highly unpredictable. People are not expressing their honest opinion. A lot of it is speculating if people support Putin, if they don't really.

Well, when I was in jail myself, some of our prison guards told me call us, here's my number. Call me when you're going to have real revolution. I'm going to join you and we're going to be on the same side of barricades. But they want to show their opinion before they know that they actually can achieve some results. So, we need to see some momentum.

And this momentum can come from anywhere. Really, we saw -- I'm not a supporter of Prigozhin by no means, but the last year he almost did a successful military coup in Russia and it came literally out of nowhere.

ACOSTA: That's right. And we all saw it with our own eyes. I mean, how close he came to taking some kind of a shot at Putin. Finally, Nadya, I just wanted to ask you, do you still have hope for your country?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: I always have hope. Yeah, I think it's my job, if you wish, as a political activist to have vision, to have a version of the future that I want to present to myself first and believe in it and to other people and make them believe in it. I think Russia could be a normal, prosperous European country where the biggest value is human life and human happiness.

And I saw Russia being on track of becoming this country. My childhood happened in the 90s and the 90s were very different. They were challenging in their own ways, but we had we had a lot of liberties that Putin took away from us. And it was done by a very specific power, a very specific person with his cronies. And since it was done by a man, it can be undone by other people.

ACOSTA: You're absolutely right, Nadya. I'm old enough to remember the Berlin Wall coming down and the Cold War coming to an end. And that that era of promise that existed in Russia during the 90s, it did seem like Russia was moving in a new direction. And it just goes to show you sometimes history, it can go backwards for a country. And Nadya Tolokonnikova, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. Very inspiring words from you. Thanks again for your time.


ACOSTA: All the best to you. As we go to break. Here is U2's Bono paying tribute to Alexey Navalny last night in Las Vegas. You want to take a look at this. Take a look.


BONO, LEAD SINGER OF U2: For these people, freedom is the most important word in the world, so important that Ukrainians are fighting and dying for it.


And so important that Alexey Navalny chose to give his up. Apparently, Putin would never ever say his name. So, I thought tonight, people who believe in freedom, we must say his name.


Not just remember it, but say it. Alexey Navalny. Alexey Navalny.

CROWD: Alexey Navalny.

HEWSON: Alexey Navalny.

CROWD: Alexey Navalny.



ACOSTA: U.S. military says it conducted multiple assault defense strikes against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen, including the first American attack against an unmanned underwater vessel used by the rebels.


CNN's Katie Bo Lillis is here with the latest. Katie Bo, how significant is this development? I mean, it's incredible that they have this kind of technology.

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, Jim. So, what we know from the U.S. military at this point is that they carried out five strikes on Houthi targets in Houthi-controlled Yemen to include three anti-ship cruise missiles, one surface naval drone, and this underwater drone, this sort of submarine drone. But we don't --


LILLIS: -- have a lot of details about it at this point. That's all that U.S. Central Command has told us right now. So, what we don't know is how sophisticated is this technology, how many of them do the Houthis have, and what's the specific threat that we think that that poses to both commercial and military shipping in the Red Sea.

The U.S. military did say that they selected these targets because they posed an imminent threat to naval and commercial or to -- I should say navy and commercial shipping in the region.

But this is just the latest in a string of U.S. strikes against Houthi targets. The Houthis, of course, being this Iranian-backed group that controls vast swaths of Yemen that has for months carried out dozens now of attacks on both commercial ships and naval forces, they say, in solidarity with the Palestinian cause in Gaza.

Of course, massive disruptions to the international economy, major shipping companies having to suspend some of their transit through the Suez Canal, some of their ships around the southern tip of Africa.

ACOSTA: Right.

LILLIS: Much longer trip, very expensive. So, the big question now, Jim, is, does -- do these strikes -- do these strikes have any impact on sort of deterring future Houthi attacks? And at this point, that question is at best unanswered.

The U.S. Intelligence Community doesn't really have a great sense of how the -- how great -- how deep the Houthi military capacity is. We know that they are being resupplied by Iran. But in terms of how much capacity they have to keep going with this, that's a sort of a big open question. But what we do know is that the Houthi leaders have said that they have no intention of stopping these attacks until Israel is out of Gaza.


LILLIS: We also know that the pace of these attacks has largely continued.

ACOSTA: Very interesting. All right, well, appreciate you coming in both days --


-- this weekend. But a very fascinating development in the Middle East. Our Katie Bo Lillis, thank you very much for that.

What would a second Trump term look like? He is already laying out some breadcrumbs, more than breadcrumbs, about his upcoming plans. Ahead, we're talking with a former Trump administration official who has written a new book warning about the potential dangers of Trump returning to the Oval Office. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ACOSTA: Earlier today, a possible vice-presidential candidate for former President Donald Trump, Senator Tim Scott, would not say whether he would have certified the 2020 election results had he been vice president at the time. Here's what he had to say.


UNKNOWN: What do you believe, senator, is the role of a vice president on the day of congressional certification?

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Well, here's what I'm not going to do, answer questions that are hypothetical about the past. The one thing we know about the future is that the former president, fortunately, he'll be successful in 2024. He won't be facing that situation again. The Constitution is very clear.

UNKNOWN: And you stand by your decision?

SCOTT: This is -- this is the -- of course, I do. There's not a question that we're going to ask and then have answered about the past. I'm not changing my position.


ACOSTA: Joining me now is Miles Taylor. His latest book is "Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump." Miles, let's jump right into this. What did you think when you heard Tim Scott saying that?

MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AT DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Look, this is not the Tim Scott, Jim, that I think most of us knew in Washington.

I remember working with his office and thinking very much that behind the scenes, Tim Scott shared the view of a lot of Republicans that Donald Trump was unhinged and he had an inclination toward illegality, and certainly, Tim Scott was saying to contemporaries around the time of the transition in 2020 how chaotic it was getting.

And now we have a Tim Scott that is seemingly backpedaling on his morals as part of an audition, potentially for the vice presidency. I think, Jim, this sort of encapsulates that contagious -- the very, very contagious cowardice we are seeing spread through the Republican Party, and I worry it's the type of thing that could get Donald Trump reelected, is that ignoring what happened in the past and that anti- constitutional behavior that got Donald Trump out of office in the first place.

ACOSTA: I mean, it sounds like -- I mean, Elise Stefanik, Senator J.D. Vance, they both have said they would not have certified the 2020 election results had they been Trump's vice president at the time. It sounds like this is going to be a prerequisite almost as Donald Trump is looking at a vice presidential running mate.

TAYLOR: Well, Jim, and even beyond that. I mean, if you looked at J.D. Vance's comments on the Sunday shows the other week, he went well beyond avoiding certification in the election to suggesting that the president of the United States can disregard the Supreme Court.

I mean, this is the level that it's getting to among these folks who are trying to ingratiate themselves with Donald Trump. They're trying to claim that entire constitutional guardrails would no longer exist should he decide that he doesn't want them to exist.

And the example of J.D. Vance being on TV is not just a one off. This is the type of rhetoric you're hearing throughout the Republican Party, that if the Supreme Court allegedly makes an illegitimate decision, the president can just ignore it.


These are the things Donald Trump wanted in a second term. He wanted allies who agreed with him, that he could just ignore the courts if they ruled against him.

And mark my words, this is something we saw in the first term him wanting to do. At one point, he told us to send a bill to Congress to -- quote -- "get rid of the judges." He wanted to get rid of courts that ruled against him. That was ultimately shut down by his White House counsel's office. But these will be the types of things Trump will try to do in a second term, and he will have allies standing by him in Congress.

ACOSTA: You know, Miles, one of the things that Trump is doing out on the campaign trail, he's just turning reality ups or attempting to turn reality upside down. I want to get your reaction to something that Trump said last night about President Biden being a threat to democracy.


TRUMP: It's a new category of crime where they go and they beat up police officers. You've seen that. They go and they stab people, hurt people, shoot people, because Joe Biden allowed this to happen. We will call it from now on Biden migrant crime. Okay? It's migrant crime. What are we going to do about it? We're going to have the largest deportation effort in the history of our country.


We have no choice. Joe Biden and the fascists that control him are a threat to democracy. They're a threat to democracy. Now, he's not smart enough to know that, but he's got people that control. The guy can't even walk off a platform.


ACOSTA: And Miles, I mean, the earlier part of that clip, he was talking about his mass deportation program. We can talk about that in a second. But the way he was going after Biden and calling him a threat to democracy there at the end, I mean, obviously, he's trying to flip the script on the sitting president, the current president.

TAYLOR: Well, he absolutely is, Jim. And -- but I will say that that language throughout, Donald Trump is showing you already what his Trojan horse to tyrannical behavior is going to look like. He's seeding this narrative of incompetence that has allowed our country to be overrun by crime.

And in other speeches recently on the campaign trail, Jim, as you know, he has talked about deploying the United States military on domestic soil to enforce U.S. law.

This is pretty scary stuff and it's something that this past week, I actually ran through with a group of national security officials in a war game, we ran a war game, it was a bipartisan group of officials looking at what could happen on day one and in week one of the Trump presidency, and I will tell you, those scenarios did not play out well and it focused on immigration and the dramatic actions Trump would be expected to take on day one and how that could potentially spiral into much worse actions domestically.

And a reaction from groups that give Trump in his mind the justification to crack down even harder on political dissent, I will tell you, it got very ugly, and the war game ended with Trump invoking the Insurrection Act, deploying the U.S. military on U.S. soil, and not a person in that war game felt like it was over the top. If anything, we were worried that the game itself wasn't as dramatic as the reality would be.

And keep in mind, Stephen Miller had once told me, day one of a second Trump administration will be a shock and awe blitz.

ACOSTA: Yeah, I mean, and something else that is shock -- that could be shocking to the political system in November of this year -- I mean, there's also this threat that has been posed by A.I. I know that, Miles, this is something that you've been working on, artificial intelligence and how it could potentially be a threat to American democracy. There have been several hearings on this up on Capitol Hill. How do you see it?

TAYLOR: Well, Jim, we saw a few weeks ago deep fakes of President Joe Biden spreading throughout New Hampshire as robocalls and it didn't have an enormous effect. But what it was to a lot of us was a shot across the bow. A lot of experts are worried about these tools being manipulated by political extremists and foreign adversaries going into 2024.

Now, the robocall solution is something that the FCC has already ruled against. It's now illegal to go out there and do deep fake A.I. robocalls. But the efforts that we work with at our think tank, the Future U.S., predict that by this November, there will be the technical capability for folks to do interactive phone calls with voters pretending to be --

ACOSTA: Wow. TAYLOR: -- someone else where the A.I. fully interacts with them. That's the type of thing we're facing. What we need to do is back election officials and give them the tools to respond. And so that's something that we're encouraging folks to get together to do in the tech sector and civil society, support election officials so they have the tools to identify these threats.

ACOSTA: All right, Miles Taylor, I have a feeling we're going to be continuing that conversation in the weeks to come. But in the meantime, Miles, thank you very much. Really appreciate the time. And --

TAYLOR: Thanks, Jim. Congrats on the last show.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks so much. Not the very last, but maybe this -- just this weekend.


All right. And a quick programming --

TAYLOR: Just weekend.

ACOSTA: -- note tonight, Jake Tapper unpacks the most outrageous of political scandals in his new CNN Original Series, "United States of Scandal." It premieres tonight at 9:00 on CNN.


ACOSTA: Just moments ago, officials in Minnesota revealed more about a domestic violence call near Minneapolis that turned deadly for two police officers and a firefighter. CNN's Camila Bernal has the latest developments. Camila, officials just held a press conference. What more are you learning?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim. Yeah, that press conference, just heartbreaking, where officials said that these were three heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.


And really, the one thing they want is for people to remember them, to pray for their families. And so, I do want to start with just naming the two officers and the firefighter. Officer Paul Elmstrand, 27 years old, Officer Matthew Ruge, also just 27 years old, and the paramedic firefighter, Adam Finseth, 40 years old.

Authorities said that this started at about 1:50 in the morning when they received a call for a domestic dispute. They said that this man who was inside the home barricaded himself with a family. There were seven children inside that home, ages two to 15. And according to officials, the officers negotiated for quite some time until at some point that suspect opened fire.

Officials are saying he had multiple guns and saying he had a large amount of ammunition, saying that that suspect fired from different locations in the home. They said at least one officer died inside of the home. But they're still trying to figure out exactly what happened here after the gunfire began. Again, this is a community that is now grieving and asking for those prayers. Here is what the city manager had to say.


GREGG LINDBERG, CITY MANAGER, BURNSVILLE, MN: Words can't express how hard today has been. We know that people want and need information, and that's our role in providing good government and good service to the community. We want to also make sure that we take good care of our team, the people who serve this community day in and day out.


BERNAL: Now, the seven children are safe, there is no threat to the community, but this investigation remains ongoing, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Our thoughts go out to those families of those first responders as well. They are heroes. Camila Bernal, thank you very much. Much more straight ahead.