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President Biden Slams House For Taking Break Without Ukraine Aid; Video Shows Russia Raising Its Flag In Ukrainian City Of Avdiivka; Trump Has Been Fined About $438 Million Over Past Four Weeks; Trump's First Criminal Trial To Start March 25th; Services Resume At Lakewood Church One Week After Shooting; Russian Police Shove Man's Head Into Snow At Navalny Memorial. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 18, 2024 - 19:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. Good evening.

Tonight sobering 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 of Ukraine. In this new video soldiers can be seen raising the Russian flag over that key city after Ukrainian forces were compelled to withdraw.

This comes as authorities have reportedly detained hundreds of people across Russia for honoring Alexey Navalny, the prominent critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Russian police, you can see this right here, shoving one man's face into the snow simply for trying to pay his respects to the fallen opposition leader.

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 Vladimir Putin. House Republicans are sitting on their hands yielding to 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 CNN political commentator, Republican strategist, Alice Stewart and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. They're also the co-host of the podcast "Hot Mics from Left to Right."

Alice, let me start with you. You know, Nikki Haley, she was going after Trump on all of this saying that his NATO comments that we've heard in recent days where he has said that Vladimir Putin and Russia can basically do whatever they want in Europe, if NATO countries aren't spending enough money on defense. She's been calling that chilling, but she seems to be out of step with the majority of her party on this one.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I mean, Jim, a lot of Republicans are really staying silent on much of this, simply because they do not want to face any criticism or backlash from Donald Trump. And look, with the comments he made about NATO and encouraging basically Putin, go ahead and do whatever the hell you want to do with NATO members who don't pay their money, that's absurd and it's dangerous and it's certainly uncalled for.

The part of -- the best part of NATO is not that it is a membership of a country club. It is -- and it's not out of benevolence. It is out of our own national security interests. And yes, just some of these countries not pay as much as they should or as much as they could, probably so, but we're all in this united, not for just our national security, but for the security of all of our allied countries. So to do anything other than to support those countries that have been there for us, specifically after 9/11 is certainly wrong.

And I'm really disappointed to hear that more Republicans aren't speaking out against him and his comments with regard to NATO, and basically giving a nod to Vladimir Putin.

ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, given him a lot. I mean a bear hug, a Russian bear hug, no less.

And Maria, we should note, let's put this up on screen to our viewers at home in case they are not aware of this. A recent Pew poll shows more than 70 percent of Americans actually view the war in Ukraine as important to U.S. interests. I would imagine that that is surprising to some folks here in Washington. The narrative seems to go counter to what this poll number shows.

Maria, does the president need to keep leaning into this? I mean, we saw him yesterday come out of mass. He walked right up to the cameras, obviously the White House wanted those cameras there because we got that pool video loud and clear, and he hammered Republicans in ways I haven't seen him this feisty in some time on an issue. He's taking this personally.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And to your question about, should he be leaning into this, he is leaning into this.


CARDONA: Not only because it's the right thing to do, but he feels very, very strongly about this. This goes to the core of who he is. This goes to the core of who this country is, Jim, and that's why I think I agree with Alice and I know that there are a lot of Republicans who actually are in such a state of embarrassment about what their party has become, about how Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave right now about what the MAGA Republicans are doing to this party.

And I think that that poll, it's -- I love that it was so high in terms of how Americans are seeing this, too. But I think that it's -- it doesn't surprise me all that much because they are seeing how important the connection is with what's going on over there and what's going on over here in terms of the frailty of democracy. And what they saw Donald Trump tried to do on January 6th, what they are seeing this election is about in terms of democracy here at home. And then seeing in real time what the person who wants the Oval Office

yet again in this country wants to do in terms of handing over Ukraine on a silver platter to Vladimir Putin, who has proven yet again that he is not just a dictator, but a murderer. I think it's abysmal.


ACOSTA: Yes, Alice, any chance that the House comes back from this recess that they're on right now and they might have a change of heart on this, or are they just under the thumb of Donald Trump who is sort of acting like the de facto speaker of the House right now?

STEWART: Jim, there's zero chance of that for all the reasons that we've stated. Former President Trump has made it quite clear that he's not going to stand up to Putin and even more so, we've seen the death just this week of Navalny, who is really one of the most fiercest critics of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump has remained silent on that. And many of Republicans are doing so as well.

And look, fortunately, we have some members of Congress who have spoken out about this. Bipartisan members have spoken out about this. And Mark Warner for one, a Democrat saying that he lived -- this points out more than ever that Vladimir Putin is a blood thirsty tyrant and he has blood on his hands for the death of Navalny. And unfortunately, we're not seeing more Republicans stand up and speak out in support of this hero. But they're not doing so because they do not want to come up crosshairs with Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: Yes. I do want to switch gears because we do need to talk about those campaign that's been unfolding over the last couple of days and something very interesting happened today, Maria. Tim Scott, who has been talked about as a potential running mate for Donald Trump. He refused to say whether he would have certified the results of the 2020 election if he were vice president.

Kind of in the same vein that we've heard from Elise Stefanik and J.D. Vance. They said that they would not have, but Tim Scott had a problem with that question this morning, couldn't answer. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 is answer questions that are hypothetical about the past. And 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you stand by your decision --

SCOTT: This is -- 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: Now this time around, I mean, Kamala Harris would preside over the counting of electoral votes on January 6th, 2025, but here you have a number of Republicans who are being talked about as potential vice presidential candidates who are not committing to just carrying out what is just a normal sort of performative function of the Congress and counting electoral votes.

CARDONA: You know --

ACOSTA: This used to be a kind of no-brainer thing that you just do like putting on your socks.


ACOSTA: We count electoral votes. Now we're going to inaugurate a president.

CARDONA: Absolutely. And it also goes into the bucket of things that we are attributing so much to these days, which is when we hear certain comments, we say how bone chilling it is. How many times have we used that word in terms of things that come out of Donald Trump's mouth or Republicans' mouth. I think this is bone-chilling because he could not even say -- and it's not a hypothetical.

He called it a hypothetical. He says he's not going to answer a hypothetical question. It's not a hypothetical because it already happened, and if he is chosen as VP, he will be put in that position. So to me, it just shows just what a stranglehold Donald Trump has over his party. And not only that, Jim, but what is so disgusting and shameful to me is that people who, in the past, like you said, would not have even thought about this and would have said, of course, that's the role of the vice president. Duh?

Today, they have either undergone a brainwashing or a clear ripping out of their spine, and they are listening to their dictator Donald Trump. It's the only thing that they care about. And these are people who do not deserve to have any kind of power. And this is going to be one of the key messages for Democrats going into the 2024 election.

ACOSTA: Yes. Alice, I mean, is this sort of a new litmus test here? Are you kind of a RINO now if you're not for overturning elections?

STEWART: Certainly. Look, one of the job descriptions of being vice president for Donald Trump is to do what Donald Trump wants and do what he asks whether or not it is in violation of the Constitution. And if anyone learned that it was Vice President Mike Pence. But the reality is, anyone who is going to vie for that job is not going to take a position that is contrary to Donald Trump.

But let me just say this. As we're talking about the comments he's made about Putin, about Russia, about Ukraine, about NATO, all of his legal issues, all of this concern about what he would require (INAUDIBLE) vice president.

Jim, I'm in New Hampshire. I've been here before, during and after the primary, and let me just tell you, in going around this state, I have not seen more Donald Trump signs or larger Donald Trump signs than I saw today. And what that tells me is that Republican voters in states like New Hampshire and across the country are coming out more for Donald Trump and larger for Donald Trump.


What not maybe in spite of all of these issues, but because of them, specifically these legal issues. So as much as there are concerns with what he's doing, Republican voters, at least in the primary, are standing up strong and firm for him. Whether or not that's going to be an issue in the general election remains to be seen, but he is certainly not losing support among primary voters. If nothing else, it's strengthened.

ACOSTA: Yes --

CARDONA: It's bone-chilling right there, Jim.

ACOSTA: Well, and Maria, I was going to ask you, I mean, that takes me to this next question which has seen and has some reporting on Kamala Harris, the vice president. She's been trying to have these conversations with prominent Democrats around Washington over the vice president's house and talk about, you know, is there a way to get through the Biden campaign information bubble as apparently she has described it according to our reporting.

What do you make of all that? Do you think that some fresh ideas, some fresh thinking, you know, what needs to happen inside the Biden campaign? Are you -- you're fine with just how things are being conducted right now? Because, as Alice was saying --


ACOSTA: There is a lot of energy. Republicans are coming home to Donald Trump.

CARDONA: Yes. Yes.

ACOSTA: There's just no mistaking that right now.

CARDONA: No. That's exactly right. Look, there are fresh ideas and fresh energy that is always needed on any campaign especially the campaign of an incumbent. We always know that the energy is mostly, especially early on, on the side of the opposition, and that's what we're seeing right now. But the other thing that we're seeing is that you have not seen I think in a long time a president and a vice president that are more in lockstep than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

And Kamala Harris is having all these meetings and she's doing it with the blessing of President Biden because --

ACOSTA: Have you been to one?

CARDONA: I have spoken to some people about it.


ACOSTA: OK. Good. Not to put you on the spot.

CARDONA: Right. But I think it's really important because she's talking to a lot of people who perhaps up until now have not felt heard, have not felt seen, and she I think has a unique ability to be speaking to the Democratic coalition that absolutely needs to be fully energized and needs to be fully mobilized in order for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to win again. And that is exactly what she's focused on, it's exactly what Joe Biden is focused on, and the campaign.

They are making sure that everything that they want to do moving forward, not just underscoring their huge accomplishments, but that our coalition and independents and Republicans who are sick of Donald Trump and who are -- get bone-chills every time they hear him speak.


CARDONA: That they understand how important the contrast is between the choice that they're going to have. Donald Trump, who is existential threat to our democracy, and Joe Biden, who wants to continue to deliver for the American people. And these meetings that Kamala Harris is having, she is underscoring all of that. She is gathering all of the information from that Democratic coalition.


CARDONA: To, yes, inject fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. And importantly, new ways of reaching out to all of these new voters. There's four million new potential Democratic voters that we're going to have in this election, Jim, and it is critically important for us to try in every single way possible to get to them so that Joe Biden is reinaugurated again in 2025.

ACOSTA: Well, I appreciate both of you being at this table every weekend, Alice and Maria. Thank you so much.

CARDONA: Yes, thank you, Jim. And we're so sad that this is going to be the end of this, but it's going to be the beginning of a new era for you so congratulations.

ACOSTA: Thank you, Maria.

STEWART: We're going to miss you on the weekends. Look forward to seeing you during the week, and congratulations.

ACOSTA: Thank you so much. All right. Well, we'll see you in the mornings, ladies. We appreciate the time.

CARDONA: There we go.

ACOSTA: Thanks a lot.

STEWART: Look forward to it.

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you. STEWART: You too.

ACOSTA: Coming up, is this the moment Putin has been waiting for in the war with Ukraine? The former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army joins me next. That's Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. And we'll talk about Ukraine, Russia, Navalny, all of that coming up in just a few moments.



ACOSTA: Tonight Ukraine is fighting to save parts of its territory as Russian forces claimed a major victory on the battlefield.

This is from the eastern town of Avdiivka showing Ukrainian troops fighting there. But that key city is now in the hands of Russia. With little manpower and low ammunition Ukraine's forces are now struggling to stave off Russian attacks on critical Ukrainian strongholds along its eastern front. President Biden warning Ukraine's sovereignty hangs in the balance of Congress does not approve more funding for Ukraine.

Here now to discuss is CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Army commanding general, Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, great to see you as always. What was your sense of the fall of this town? How significant is it? What does it tell us about what might be coming?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, you know, Jim, it was one of several places on the front in Ukraine that have had some tactical failures over the last couple of days. But I think it's tactical in nature. Ukrainian military is pulling back to better defensive positions. And they have seen some of the drama that has been ongoing with the Russian forces. Russia has also sustained a lot of defeats. They've had literally thousands of soldiers killed.

So it's just a repositioning on the tactical side. It does not contribute that much to the operational fight. But truthfully, as these tactical reversals on the frontline occur, we got to remember they're all tied and this is what you and I've been talking about since the very beginning.


They're all got tied to a damaging pause in the logistical support and flow of equipment and arms to the Ukrainian forces that U.S. and NATO is providing.

ACOSTA: And I want to get your take on what we've been witnessing in the streets of Russia this past weekend. Russian police rounding up people who were paying their respects to Putin critic Alexey Navalny. We share some of this video here, it is right here. I mean, this one man's face being shoved into the snow as they detain him.

And I'm just wondering, you know, I'm old enough to remember the fall of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall. What took place in the Soviet Union before all of that took place and this era of promise that emerged in Russia in the years after Gorbachev and Perestroika and Glasnost, and just the -- all of this promise that has been erased by Vladimir Putin. Does what we're seeing this weekend really echo the tactics we witnessed during the Soviet Union?

HERTLING: It absolutely does, Jim. And I'm reflecting back on those days, too. And in fact, I was on the East German-Westbrook-German border, on border patrol, the day that the wall came down.


HERTLING: And not only in Berlin, but throughout the border. And what we are seeing is a return to the oppression, the kinds of things that the Soviet Union used to have, a secretive state. It's always been there, but it is really going back to the days of the KGB and the darkest days of the Soviet Union. The population is being oppressed. They are fighting an illegal and ungainly war. The sanctions are having an effect. The economy is horrible in Russia right now.

So you're seeing the deterioration of a great country that had the potential to be better. But Mr. Putin has taken them down the toilet.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And I do want to show something to you and show to our viewers, apparently this just happened a little while ago. Trump tonight sharing an opinion piece on social media that compares him to Alexey Navalny which claims that there are parallels between the Biden administration targeting Trump and Putin poisoning and allegedly killing his main political opponent.

It's obviously preposterous. But this is the kind of upside-down world Orwellian garbage that is being shared by the former president.

HERTLING: Yes, it's despicable, Jim, and I saw the post. It only reflects what some of his followers, the cult-like worship that his followers are saying. Comparing him, Mr. Trump, to Alexey Navalny is just -- it is just -- you know, it boggles the common sense, the logic, and the reason that any human being would have.

You know, one of the things, Jim, when you talk to people about what they want in their leaders, the number one thing that normally comes up is that their leaders have integrity. I went to the military academy at West Point where we were taught a leader does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. We cannot tolerate the kinds of lies and the misdirection that Mr. Trump is displaying to the American people.

This is just ridiculous, putting himself in the kind of martyr position that Alexey Navalny was in, who is opposing a dictatorial regime and former President Trump saying he's a lot like Navalny because he's been tried on 91 criminal counts and several civil counts and been found guilty? Yes, it is time for us to stop tolerating this kind of individual and it's unfortunate to me that there seems to be a cult in many in the GOP that are following this.

And it's causing not only massive problems internally and domestically in the United States, but, as we've seen, and the charts you've shown all day long in terms of the number of people supporting the actions in Ukraine and getting arms back to Ukraine, over 80 percent who feel it's important, and to have the Congress of the United States not representing their people which they are supposed to be doing in voting for this aid, just to me from a military perspective, you're dealing in life and death in Ukraine right now. And this is unfortunately what the GOP is doing because they're following this cult-like figure.

ACOSTA: Well, and there's also a key difference, General Hertling. Alexey Navalny stood up to Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump does not.

All right. General Mark Hertling, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

Be right back.

HERTLING: And it's been a pleasure being on with you these last few years, Jim. Good luck in your new job.

ACOSTA: Thank you so much. A pleasure. We'll keep these conversations going, General, in the new time slot. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

HERTLING: You got it. Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: Former President Donald Trump continues to slam the $355 billion fine he now faces for fraudulently inflating the value of his properties.

Let's get right into the conversation with Norm Eisen and Shan Wu. Norm is a CNN legal analyst, former White House ethics czar. Shan is a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.

And, you know, the big question that I keep running up against when I talked to people about this is, I mean, Trump is known for not paying his bills, not paying people he owes money to and so on. Can he stiff the courts? Can he refused to pay?


ACOSTA: OK. He can't.


ACOSTA: At some point they will make him pay.

EISEN: Assuming he is a failure on appeal, as he will be. The judge has bullet-proofed this verdict. Donald Trump's political version of reality has hit the actual real world in the form of the legal system. He is going to have to pay not just this $355 million, but interest, and then post judgment interests on top of that. He's stuck.


ACOSTA: And Shan, there is going to be an independent monitor overseeing the business. I mean, he is really -- this is like a straitjacket. I mean, he is not going to like this.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, and for any business, actually, a monitor is kind of a pain to have because you can't move that easily with it, and I think this one has already previously picked up some issues with it, so they're going to be very constrained in what they can do.

ACOSTA: And Norm, you and I have talked about the criminal trial that is coming up. It looks like on March 25th, jury selection in the Alvin Bragg hush money case. How do you see this unfolding here in the coming days? I mean, this is going to come up pretty quickly.

EISEN: Jim, for viewers of your weekend show, they've known for months that the Alvin Bragg case was likely to go first and on that date, March 25th.


EISEN: I see that case as the second chapter in a three-act drama of fraud, an alleged fraud. The first act was the business fraud that Donald Trump was found to have committed. 2016, these hush money payments were electoral fraud.

In an extremely close election, he made these payments they could have swung the election for him.


EISEN: And then he got away it. He thought, oh, I can do as much alleged fraud as I want and we have one of the largest charge frauds in American history, fraud against the United States, 2020, so that is what's at stake, very important stakes for democracy.

If Donald Trump can get away with these kinds of alleged election crimes, it will be open season on our elections.

ACOSTA: And Shan, I mean, one of the things that we saw last night, Donald Trump had a rally last night. He was going after the judge in the civil fraud case. We have this Alvin Bragg case coming up on March 25th. Jack Smith presumably coming up after that.

Can he continue to just keep the attacking the judges and the prosecutors and everybody and just get away with it?

WU: Well, he is going to be under some constraints. I think judges have been reluctant to really bring down the hammer on him. Probably insulting judges, they are going to be fine with it, and maybe even insulting the lead prosecutors.

What they are worried about is witnesses, jury contamination, and maybe court staff as we saw with Engoron. And I just want to echo that, I think as Norm has been saying, we have long expected the Bragg case to go first, and in many ways, it is also a very streamlined case because the simple story behind it, it is the election interference, but the simple story has a lot of jury appeal, is he wanted to buy silence and that is going to come across very easily to those jurors.

ACOSTA: And that's the part of the case that is going to be easier for him to prove.

EISEN: And one of the most important passages in that big Judge Engoron opinion, he was so careful. He laid out all the facts, he applied the law. He pulled back his most legally vulnerable position, which was the corporate death penalty.

He says, okay, I am not canceling the business certificates. One of the most important portions, Page 43, he talks about the testimony of Michael Cohen. He goes through the ups and downs because Cohen is also very important for the 2016 election interference Alvin Bragg case and he ends up by saying, Michael Cohen told the truth.

Again, something we've talked about, he actually hasn't varied from his story since I first interviewed him for the first Trump impeachment.

So a second devastating blow seems to be headed Donald Trump's way starting March 25th.

ACOSTA: We have not heard the last of Michael Cohen, I don't think. Michael Cohen references in all of this.

Norman, Shan, thanks a lot.

Thanks for always coming in on these weekends. Much appreciated.

EISEN: Jim, we are going to miss being with you on a Sunday.

ACOSTA: That's right.

EISEN: But were going to see you every morning.

ACOSTA: Bright and early. Well, not that early.

WU: Well, not that early.

ACOSTA: Early for me. All right, guys. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Okay, all right, and just ahead, we are talking with two men embarking on a new tour to help Americans find common ground on all sorts of issues, including gun violence.

As gun violence impacts more and more of the US, we are going to talk about all of that next with two gentlemen you also recognize who have made many appearances on this show. That's next.

You're live on the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: Today, services resumed at Pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston after a shooting there one week ago left a seven- year-old boy injured. Worshippers, some wearing shirts with the words "Lakewood Strong" were greeted by a beefed up security presence.

Let's discuss this issue more now with former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois, and gun reform activist, Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting we never forget about.

Fred and Joe, always appreciate you. You have on the program, and they are teaming up, Joe and Fred to launch a new speaking tour called Two Dads Defending Democracy. It is a great idea.

But Fred, let me start with you first. Once again. I mean, this has been a horrendous week in America when it comes to gun violence. We talked about the church in Houston, the mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade.

It seems like every facet of American life now has been touched by mass gun violence.


Today is exactly six years since I buried my daughter and so it all does tie together, doesn't it? And it gets to why this relationship that I've developed with Joe matters so deeply to me because it doesn't need to move this way.

We don't have to accept what is happening in America right now as normal. We don't have to accept this normalization of violence, which is really happening right now in a political party as okay.


And we need to do everything possible to fight back to make sure we have the chance to continue the work to fix it.

Listen, I will just say this, last year, the Safer Communities Act legislation was passed. We are seeing evidence that it is, in fact, working and so what we want to be able to do is to continue the work, to do more, to save more lives.

Everything I do now for the next year is about the next election. Everything I do now for the next year is making sure people vote. That's how we fix this.

ACOSTA: And Fred, God bless you for coming on tonight. I mean, it just means so much to us and our hearts are with you always, always, always, always on this. And Joe, tell us about this speaking tour because I think what Fred is

getting at is so obvious and that obviously more has to be done on this issue.

But to some extent, people have to get to some sense of a common ground, and I know that sounds impossible, but -- or at least a place of decency to have a better discussion about this.

JOE WALSH, FORMER US REPRESENTATIVE: Jim, I don't believe and I know Fred agrees with me, I don't believe our democracy will stand, if we want to destroy the people we disagree with.

Look Fred and I, we have fought and beat each other up like cats and dogs a few years ago. We disagree on the issue of guns. Fred, God bless him and God bless you, my friend for coming on tonight. Fred is a huge gun safety activists. I'm a big gun rights guy. We disagree on most gun issues.

But, Jim, we got to know each other privately and found out we actually liked each other, and the more we spoke and just listened to each other. Instead, of yelling at each other and attacking each other on Twitter or TV, we kind of found some common ground.

We think America needs to do this no matter how -- what happens in November, America needs to learn to get along with the people we disagree with or we are sunk.

ACOSTA: And Fred, how is this going to work? Because you and I both talked about this a million times. I mean, the polls show you know, we are somewhere near 90 percent of Americans agree on background checks, a very large majority of Americans think that more needs to be done on assault weapons and ammunition and yet, I know Joe from your vantage point, maybe those are non-starters. I don't know. I haven't heard your particular position on those topics and in recent days.

Fred, if people are that opposed to one another on some of these issues, how do you get to that common ground? I mean, we have a cup of coffee and be nice to one another, but it is tough.

GUTTENBERG: You know what, Joe made the first step. Joe actually on something with Twitter acknowledged respecting a program that I was trying to start to get dads more involved with reducing gun violence and it led to us having a real in-person conversation, and since then, he had become a really, really close friend of mine.

And what I can tell you is that what we've learned about each other is in spite of the fact that he is a gun guy, Joe believes in things like background checks. Joe wants to strengthen background checks.

So what we learned is by talking, we agree there is a lot of stuff that we can agree on to reduce violence. I also -- I just want to say something else about this because he and I both agree also that everything about this issue and other issues that matter to America is all tied up in the next election.

ACOSTA: Yes. GUTTENBERG: Joe, I think, it was only a few days ago where I said to

you, we haven't even spoken about disagreements over guns in a long time because we've been so focused on what we agree on, which is the next election and the role of democracy and sustaining democracy so that he and I can actually continue this conversation about the best way to reduce gun violence and have the chance to do something about it.

ACOSTA: Yes, and Joe, last thought.

WALSH: Yes, Jim, I was just can say, Fred and I have learned to put our policy differences aside this election because we both believe Donald Trump is an existential threat to our democracy, and nothing is more important, I believe, we believe than that.

So policy doesn't matter right now. We've got to save our democracy.

ACOSTA: Yes, well, guys you've been great friends of me and this program and always appreciate the time.

Can't wait to see where the tour is going --

WALSH: Congratulations, Acosta. We are going to miss you on the weekends.


ACOSTA: Hey --

GUTTENBERG: Are we your last guest on Sunday night?

ACOSTA: Just about, just about. Absolutely save the best for last, so thank you so much and I can't wait to get out and see this tour. Looking forward to it. It's going to be great.

GUTTENBERG: Congrats, my friend.

WALSH: Congrats, Jim Acosta. Look forward to seeing you during the week.

ACOSTA: All right, Fred and Joe, thank you very much. God bless. Godspeed. We will talk to you soon.

We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: Tonight, we continue to see brave acts of defiance in Russia. A monitoring group says more than 350 people have been reportedly detained across Russia at various vigils and rallies supporting Alexey Navalny. This man had his face shoved in the snow just for a trying to remember the fallen dissident in Russia.

The US and its allies place responsibility for Navalny's death squarely at the feet of Vladimir Putin.

CNN's senior data reporter, Harry Enten joins us now to run the numbers.


Harry, very interesting question here. How do Americans see Putin and specifically Republicans?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, they see him as a war criminal. I mean, that is the bottom line here. You know, this is the poll from Quinnipiac last year. Is Vladimir Putin, a war criminal? Eighty percent of the American public says he is, including 76 percent of Republicans.

I know that Tucker Carlson was over there in Russia over the last week, you know, praising essentially the McDonald's and the subway system, but he is a real outlier here, Jim.

The fact of the matter is most Americans and most Republicans think that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, and the truth is, he doesn't in my opinion, leave much of a question about that.

ACOSTA: Absolutely not. And shifting to politics, Harry, next Saturday is the GOP primary in South Carolina. We are seeing a lot of different polls flying around, but it looks like Trump out in front decisively.

ENTEN: Yes, Jim. I don't think there is much of a question here. You know, we've got two polls there. CBS News, YouGov, Winthrop University. We've got a 35-point lead and a 36-point lead.

So the fact of the matter is, Donald Trump is well ahead out in South Carolina. He looks very likely to beat Nikki Haley in her home state, and I am not really sure, Jim, what state that Nikki Haley can actually win in because she may be down 35 points in South Carolina, she is down 60 points nationally -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Wow. And I take this, it is a slightly political question. We are kind of -- also kind of a fun question. A lot of the folks on the far-right have been going after Taylor Swift for being part of some cuckoo for-cocoa-puffs conspiracy to support Joe Biden.

I don't know where this comes from. Nobody has been able to fully explain it to me. Do we actually have numbers on this? What do Americans think of this?

ENTEN: You know, we do. You know, I love polls because they can ask anything.

Look, we've got conspiracy theory belief here. Eighteen percent believe in this crazy covert Swift operation to help Joe Biden out. To put this into context, 12 percent of Americans believe that the moon landing was fake, 10 percent of Americans believe the Earth is flat.

So slightly more Americans believed this cuckoo for-cocoa-puffs conspiracy theory, but the fact of the matter is, is it is well in line with other cuckoo for-cocoa-puffs conspiracy theories, 18 percent of Americans, you can get them pretty much to believe anything -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Yes, no kidding. And that is certainly one of the nuttier ones that I've heard in a long time.

And lastly, tomorrow is a federal holiday. There is a lot of confusion about what it actually is, Harry, perhaps you can help us out. It is Presidents Day, which I thought that was the weirdest holiday. But anyway, it is a holiday.

ENTEN: Is it Jim? Is it Presidents Day because in New York, it is Washington's Birthday observed.

ACOSTA: Very good. Okay.

ENTEN: In New Jersey, its Presidents Day without any apostrophes. In Maryland, it is Presidents' Day with an apostrophe at the end of the S, and in Nebraska, it is President's Day with the apostrophe after the T and before the S.

ACOSTA: Oh, interesting.

ENTEN: So I don't know what tomorrow is, Jim. I will merely say this, you know, in the last block, you did it as well. I just want to thank you for all the good times that we had on the weekends.

Good luck to you on the week, and maybe you can figure out this Presidents Day mystery once you become a week day anchor.

ACOSTA: I have trouble with the apostrophe as it is, and you had to start all of that, but Harry, thank you. That was very kind of you to say that. We always appreciate you bringing out the numbers and we will be doing it during the week.

So Harry, as always, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

ENTEN: I look forward to it, friend.

ACOSTA: All right, sounds good. And we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: In the new CNN Original Series, "United States of Scandals," chief Washington correspondent and CNN anchor, Jake Tapper dives into some of the most sensational controversies in American politics. Here is a preview.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are here to get your side of the story.

Where are the weapons of mass destruction?

How do you view your time as governor?

ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I had 2,896 days in prison to ask myself a thousand questions, including that.

TAPPER: For 30 or so years, I have shined a bright light on the inner workings of American political power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It never occurred to him that extorting a hospital might harm people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I engaged in a consensual affair with another man.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER: 360": How did you end up with a sex tape with John Edwards and Rielle Hunter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say get on the phone and find some pics.


TAPPER: You can't write this stuff.

Looking back, I can't help but feel that we were also quick to embrace the headline that we may have forgotten to dig little deeper.

This guy who is a crusader against human sex trafficking is actually --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did someone at the White House blow the cover of a CIA operative?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is horrifying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is still in danger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The South Carolina governor is missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom line is this, I've been unfaithful to my wife.

TAPPER: Why do we keep ending up here?

I never truly understand it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've always been on the reporting side of things. Welcome to the hell we all have to live in.

ANNOUNCER: United States of Scandal with Jake Tapper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to go to a therapist after having an interview with Jake Tapper.

ANNOUNCER: Back-to-back premieres tonight at nine on CNN.


ACOSTA: All right, that's the news reporting from Washington. I'm Jim Acosta.

A quick programming note. I'll be moving to weekdays at 10:00 AM starting on February 26th. That's a week from tomorrow. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, keep right on watching this program brought to you by the terrific team here. I am so thankful to all of them and thank you so much for spending part of your weekends with me these last few years.

I will see you soon and I am going to -- to Shan who brought this earlier to thank me for having him on the show. Thanks to Shan and everybody who came on this week. I had a lot of the regulars that we have on every weekend this weekend, and it was -- it meant a lot to me. Thanks so much for tuning in.

In the meantime, up next, it is "The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper" unpacking the federal election interference case against former President Donald Trump.

Again, thanks to all of you for watching on the weekends. Catch me in the mornings coming very soon right here on CNN.

Have a good night, everybody.