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Ukrainian Town Of Avdiivka Is Now Under Russian Control; Growing Outrage Over Death Of Putin Critic Alexei Navalny; Trump Bashes "Lunatic" Judge In NY Civil Fraud Trail; Haley Slams Trump In Wake Of Navalny Death; Israel Hostage Coordinator: Hamas Demands "Delusional"; Tech Companies Take Aim At Deceptive AI In Elections. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 18, 2024 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada, and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN Newsroom.

President Biden slams Congress for going on vacation as U.S. aid to Ukraine remains in limbo. He tells the Ukrainian leader their battlefield struggles are because of inaction in Washington.

Plus, the U.S. threatens to veto a new Gaza ceasefire resolution at the U.N. Security Council. We'll have a live report on the reaction coming in.

And tech giants join forces to battle the potential misuse of artificial intelligence. We'll look at how they plan to keep elections safe and secure.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN Newsroom with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: President Biden is blaming Republicans in the U.S. Congress for the fall of a strategic Ukrainian town in the Donetsk region. We're told that's the message he delivered to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy when the two leaders spoke by phone on Saturday.

Biden also says he's not confident Ukraine can hold other towns as long as Republicans block some $60 billion in new military aid for Ukraine. Here he is.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Look, the Ukrainian people have fought so bravely and heroically, they've put so much on the line and the idea that now, when they're running out of ammunition, we'd walk away -- I find it absurd. I find it unethical. I find it just contrary to everything we are as a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER: House Republicans say the Senate's foreign aid bill is dead on arrival as they head into a two-week break. House Speaker Mike Johnson says he has no plans to bring the bill to the floor.

Biden is also speaking out about the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Officials at this prison say Navalny died Friday. There's been no word on the cause of his death.

President Biden says he has no doubt that Vladimir Putin is to blame. Here he is.


BIDEN: But the fact of the matter is, Putin is responsible. Whether he ordered it, he's responsible for the circumstances they put that man in. And he is -- it's a reflection of who he is. And it just cannot be tolerated.


BRUNHUBER: More than 400 people have been detained across Russia while attending vigils or demonstrations supporting Navalny. Those numbers come from OVD-Info and Independent Russian Human Rights Group. It's not clear how many of those people have been released.

Well, CNN has a team of reporters across all the latest developments this morning. We start with Priscilla Alvarez out of Washington.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Joe Biden on Saturday underscoring the stakes of getting additional funds to Ukraine following a phone call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy earlier in the day. This as Ukraine has had to withdraw from one of its towns, seating ground to Russia because Ukraine is low on ammunition. Something that President Biden tied directly to congressional inaction here in Washington.

Now, this scenario of Ukraine having to withdraw because they are low on ammunition has been a top concern for U.S. officials and something they have warned about if additional aid is not urgently sent to Ukraine. And the President indicating on Saturday that he is not confident that other towns won't fall if that aid isn't sent to Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How confident are you that there isn't another city that falls right after this, that Congress --

BIDEN: I'm not. I'm not. No one can be. Look, the Ukrainian people have fought so bravely and heroically, they've put so much on the line and the idea that now, when they're running out of ammunition, we'd walk away -- I find it absurd. I find it unethical.

ALVAREZ: Now, the funds that the President is referring to here are ones that date back to October when the White House and a broad national security supplemental request asked for $60 billion in additional funding to send to Ukraine.

Now, that funding has been stalled amid infighting in Congress, but it did make some progress in the Senate when the Senate passed a foreign aid package earlier in the week that includes those $60 billion for Ukraine.

The House has gone on recess for two weeks, and House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that he doesn't have any plans to put this package on the floor, leaving all of these funds uncertain.


In the meantime, the President and the Vice President are trying to reassure allies that they will stand by Ukraine and they will not see ground to Russia. All of it made all the more difficult without that additional funding sent to Ukraine.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: So as we mentioned earlier, the Russian Defense Minister says his forces have taken control of the eastern Ukrainian, City of Avdiivka. Ukraine's forces there were greatly outnumbered and had suffered daily assaults since October.

Clare Sebastian joins me now from London. So Claire, just take us through the latest on the fall of Avdiivka, and its importance here?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kim, this is not a big town. This is a town of some 29 square kilometers, a pre-war population of just over 30,000. So even smaller than Bakhmut, which of course we saw fall in the spring, but in a war where the front lines have barely moved really over the course of the last sort of six to nine months.

This does matter. Russia is going to bank this as a victory. We've seen Putin now congratulating the commander-in-charge. For Ukraine, they are painting this in several ways. One, a decision of course taken by the new commander-in-chief to save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers. The commander of the 3rd Assault Brigade, the deputy commander, saying that this was to come back and strike even harder. So they are saying that they are pulling back and are going to be able to regroup and strike even harder.

President Zelenskyy saying that in fact, one of the tasks of depleting the Russian army was fulfilled. He claims that Russian losses outnumber Ukrainian losses in Avdiivka seven to one. But even so with all that, it is revealing. This is not just about a lack of ammunition and weapons as President Biden and President Zelenskyy have said, this is about manpower.

We saw that Russia's tactic as it evolved over the course of these months of fighting in Avdiivka was very similar to Bakhmut, which is sending these waves of infantry groups, this kind of meat grinder tactic. And when it comes to manpower, Ukraine is also on the back foot. They

have many aging soldiers who've been on the front lines now for the best part of two years. They're struggling to find a way to mobilize more.

And meanwhile, Russia has found ways to bring more men to the front line. So I think, look, Russia will be able to bank this victory coming just a week or so before the second anniversary of the invasion. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Clare, you point out that it's not just about the lack of ammunition but the Biden administration is still trying to link the Ukrainian withdrawal in Avdiivka and the stalled funding in Congress. So take us through those comments and put them in context for us.

SEBASTIAN: Yeah, Kim, President Biden very explicit about this, blaming congressional inaction for the withdrawal in Avdiivka. Look, Ukraine has been on the back foot when it comes to ammunition four months now. And I think this is part of what's playing out on the ground in Avdiivka.

And Biden is trying to leverage this to try to spur congressional action. Not only this, by the way, but he's also said that he hopes the death of Alexei Navalny will try -- will expose to Congress the ills of the Putin regime and will spur action when it comes to arming Ukraine and preventing a Russian victory there.

Will it work? I think that is, you know, still a big question. Congress is now on a two-week break, something that President Biden has roundly criticized when it comes back. It's still unclear as to whether House Speaker Mike Johnson response -- who by the way, holds the key essentially to this, will even bring this to the floor for a vote.

But that bill that the Senate has passed, we can show you the breakdown here, overwhelmingly tilted towards aid for Ukraine. So this is extremely important. And it's not just about the U.S., of course, even though it's been by far the biggest backer of Ukraine's military.

Europe is struggling to actually allocate the commitments that it's made, the gap between what it's committed and what it's actually able to send is growing according to research, if the U.S. is unable to pass that legislation, Europe will have to step up even faster, very unclear at this point if they're able to do that.

So again, this really puts the wind in President Putin's sails as he heads towards certain re-election next month for his fifth term. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much Clare Sebastian in London.

Now, we have more now on those vigils around the world for the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. As Michael Holmes reports, authorities in Russia responded with a heavy hand to the public tributes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An act of remembrance or a show of defiance. According to a Russian human rights group, Russian police have detained hundreds of people across the country for attending vigils and rallies following the death of Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny.

His supporters laying flowers at makeshift memorials in cities from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was very important for me to take some action because I was very shocked by what happened. And I understood the only thing I could do was come here today.

HOLMES: Authorities have warned the public not to hold unsanctioned gatherings after Navalny's death. But still, people are showing up, mostly under the watchful eye of police. A sign saying Putin is Navalny's killer getting some extra attention.

Other gatherings are more tense, with videos showing police scuffling with protesters, carrying some away by their arms and legs and hauling them into waiting police vans.

One woman in Yekaterinburg said she was stopped before she even got near one memorial site.

NADEZHDA, YEKATERINBURG RESIDENT (through translator): No, I couldn't lay the flowers. I had to throw the flowers in front of them. The police gave me 10 seconds to turn around and leave.

HOLMES: The grief spreading outside of Russia as well, with tributes and rallies for Navalny held across Europe. In London, flowers and candles piled up outside the Russian embassy. One former Russian resident says he's watched Navalny's struggles with the Russian government from afar and thinks his death will continue to empower people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even despite the fact that he, let's say, lost his battle as of now, I think that in the end will emerge this kind of triumphant.

HOLMES: A message echoed by Navalny's own spokesperson, who says Navalny, who once led mass anti-government protests himself in Russia, wouldn't want people to stay silent.

KIRA YARMYSH, SPOKESWOMAN FOR ALEXEI NAVALNY: We all know what to do. It was what Alexei told all of us, that we have to keep fighting, and this is how -- this is what helps us to cope with what is going on.

HOLMES: Michael Holmes, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: And joining me now is Nigel Gould-Davies, Senior Fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He also served in the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where his roles included serving as Head of the Economics Department in Moscow and Ambassador to Belarus.

Thank you so much for being here with us. So I want to start with this. The fact that Russian authorities refused to hand over Navalny's body, what does that suggest to you?

NIGEL GOULD-DAVIES, SENIOR FELLOW, RUSSIA AND EURASIA: Yes, refusing to hand it over in apparent violation of their own rules about when this has to be done. Clearly, they're hiding something. What are they hiding exactly? It may be that their official version of his death is not the real one. We can certainly have no confidence in its veracity. So maybe the body would reveal marks of inhumane treatment of the horrific truth about how he really died.

It's also a sign, I think, of contempt for the family and for all who support and have sympathy for Navalny that they're behaving this way. It may be, too, that they're trying to delay for as long as possible the funeral that would be held for Navalny, which would be a natural focal point for opposition. But clearly they're hiding something.

BRUNHUBER: So, as has been widely discussed, now, the timing of his death seems critical here in relation to next month's elections in Russia. How do you think Navalny could have influenced those, even from prison?

GOULD-DAVIES: Yes. I mean, to be clear, the outcome of the election in a system as controlled as Russia is a foregone conclusion. Putin will be deemed to have won the election and they are neither free nor fair.

But what's remarkable, I think, is the view of the authorities that even a captive voice like Navalny's that could from prison still carry and make his unique talent as a communicator known to the wider community. How much of a threat that continued to be.

So I don't think they wanted that voice getting out, mocking in his, again, uniquely effective way, the process of the election. But I think another aspect of this is the Kremlin's thinking about what would happen after the elections.

There's a lot of speculation that Putin, once the stuff of the elections, out of the way, might seek to impose a new mobilization of Russian society to force a larger proportion of his population to fight in his war of aggression against Ukraine. We know that will be unpopular. It was unpopular when he did it last time. Putin ordered that last time in September '22.

Navalny's voice would have been a very unwelcome part of the information space in Russia. So I think for that reason, too. They just wanted to kill him.


And let's recall, even in Soviet times, even in Soviet times, after the death of Stalin, it was exceptionally rare for dissidents to actually be killed in prison. They were sent to prison far away in inhospitable conditions. They were kept there, usually alive. So this killing of a captive voice, I think, testifies to the brutality, the vindictiveness, but also the insecurity of this regime.

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. So looking forward, the question now is, how will the international community respond? But it seems as if almost all of the levers have been pressed in terms of sanctions as a response to the war in Ukraine. So what other pressure points are left here?

GOULD-DAVIES: You're absolutely right. Ultimately, the most important reaction at this point is the international one, because this killing of Navalny was a signal not only to Russian society, from the Russian state, but to the international community. So it's imperative that they respond effectively.

I think there are two things that can be done quite quickly and without great difficulty. The first is for the United States and specifically for Congress just to sort out this new aid bill for Ukraine. If the killing of Navalny as well as the Russian seizure of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka isn't enough to do that, it's hard to know what will. That issue really has to get sorted out. It shouldn't be difficult. There are moral and strategic reasons for doing so, no excuse for not doing so.

The second thing that should be done, this is for the E.U. rather, the United States. It really needs to go ahead and bite the bullet of seizing Russian central bank assets that have been frozen in European jurisdictions since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

At that time, the collective decision was taken. OK, Russia, you have these sovereign assets in our financial systems. We're going to freeze them. You can't get them back. The question ever since has been, what do we do with these things? They're just sitting there doing nothing. Russia can't get them, but they're not being put to use. The obvious strategic solution is take that money, give it to Ukraine, help it in its war effort. Most of that money lies in Europe. The E.U. has been too timid so far in grasping that opportunity. It's time for Brussels to move.

BRUNHUBER: We'll see if either of those two come to pass, we'll have to leave it there. Nigel Gould-Davies, thank you so much for being here with us. Really appreciate it.

All right. Still ahead, Donald Trump hits the campaign trail and lashes out at the legal system as he's slapped with his latest multimillion-dollar judgment. And Nikki Haley gets personal on the campaign trail. Now she is slamming Donald Trump.

Plus, waterlogged parts of the Golden State are getting ready for more rain and potential flooding in the coming days. We'll have that story and more ahead. Stay with us.


[05:22:16] BRUNHUBER: Trump hit the campaign trail again just one day after his latest legal and financial setbacks. As of Friday, the 2024 Republican frontrunner has been slapped with roughly $438 million dollars in judgments over the past four weeks. CNN's Steve Contorno reports from Michigan.


STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Appearing in Michigan on Saturday night, Donald Trump wasted little time addressing the $355 million ruling against him on Friday. Shortly after taking this stage, he went on an extended attack of the judge overseeing the case, the attorney general in New York, and the American justice system at large.

TRUMP: We will have no higher priority than ending the weaponization of this horrible legal system that has developed around us. It's a horrible, horrible thing that's taking place. You talk about democracy. This is a real threat to democracy.

This judge is a lunatic. And if you've ever watched him, and the attorney general may be worse, may be worse, you ever watch her, I will get Donald Trump, her campaign, I will get Donald Trump. I promise I will get him. She knows nothing about me.

CONTORNO: The events of this week will serve as a preview of sorts to what we can expect in the coming months as Donald Trump attempts to balance his campaign calendar with his court schedule. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on Saturday said that that will become a distraction in this race.

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's going to be in court in March and April. He's going to be in a different court in April and May. He himself has said he's going to be spending more time in a courtroom than he is on the election trail. How do you win an election that way? You can't win an election if you're spending more time in court than you are on the campaign trail. You just can't do it.

CONTORNO: Trump's appearance Saturday night in Michigan is likely to be his last before the state holds its primary on February 27th, but he is expected to be here quite often in the coming months. Michigan is one of the top battlegrounds for the 2024 election.

Steve Contorno, CNN, Waterford Township, Michigan.


BRUNHUBER: Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley is slamming Donald Trump on his silence over the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Haley has said, quote, "He's siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents. Now, we know Navalny is another one that he has killed, why isn't Trump saying anything about it. And Haley went on to eviscerate Trump. Here she is.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump is siding with a madman who's made no bones about the fact that he wants to destroy America. And he took the side of Putin over our allies who stood with us after 9/11.


When he did that, he put our allies in danger. He put our military men and women serving over there in danger. And he emboldened Putin.


BRUNHUBER: One down and two to go in California, where another storm is set to pummel the state this week after Saturday's downpour. More than 38 million Californians are under flood watches. The back-to-back storms will raise the risk of flooding and mudslides.

Evacuation warnings were issued for parts of Santa Barbara County on Saturday. But rain isn't the only headache. Winter storm warnings are in effect for the Sierra Nevadas and southern Cascades. The highest peaks could see snow of up to 4 feet.

All right, Kansas City now. Children's Mercy Hospital says the last patient treated after the Super Bowl parade shootings has been released. The hospital had received 12 patients after the shooting, one of whom was an adult.

Gunfire broke out at the Super Bowl parade on Wednesday, killing 43- year-old Lisa Lopez-Galvan, and injuring 22 others.

Law enforcement officials tell CNN, they believe the shooting wasn't a response to the Super Bowl celebration, but a result of a personal dispute. Missouri court officials expect more charges to follow in the ongoing investigation.

In the meantime, donors including Taylor Swift, Chiefs team members and the NFL have made sizable contributions to support the victims and violence prevention.

All right coming up, refugees in Gaza hope to find safety in a neighborhood that ended up being another target of Israeli strikes. We'll have latest and a live report next.

Plus, Israeli protesters say their government is more focused on winning a war than on releasing hostages from Gaza. We'll look at the state of negotiations in a CNN exclusive interview, ahead. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada, and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN Newsroom. Washington's ambassador to the U.N. says the United States will veto a

new ceasefire resolution on Gaza if it comes to a vote. Algeria submitted a proposal to the Security Council two weeks ago calling for an immediate ceasefire and large-scale humanitarian relief for the enclave. This comes as Israel is planning for a ground invasion of Rafah. The population there in Gaza's southernmost city has ballooned to some 1.5 million people as Palestinians seek refuge from the war. Now, Israel's Prime Minister says they need to move again, claiming there's, quote, "a lot of space north of Rafah for people to go.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces are launching strikes in Rafah already and in central Gaza, killing at least 81 people so far.

All right, Elliott Gotkine joins me now from London. So, Elliott, as I said, the Biden administration threatened to veto a Gaza ceasefire resolution at the U.N. Security Council. So what's been the reaction and what impact might this have on negotiations and possibly the war?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN JOURNALIST: Kim, I don't think there's any great surprise that the U.S. is saying that it would veto this resolution as is. It has vetoed previous U.N. security resolutions that have called for a unilateral ceasefire, but for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

And the main reason is that it goes against the U.S.' position, which is that it supports Israel's objective, if not the way that it's doing it. But certainly supports the objective and the goal of destroying Hamas.

And, at the same time, doesn't want to see hostage negotiations as poorly as they are going, according to the Qataris, doesn't want to see those negotiations being torpedoed, specifically the U.S.' envoy to the United Nations saying, we believe the deal, this is the hostage deal that's been mooted, represents the best opportunity to reunite all hostages with their families and enable a prolonged pause in fighting, adding that for that reason the United States does not support action on this draft resolution should it come up for a vote as drafted, it will not be adopted.

And the U.S., as I say, supporting Israel's goal of destroying Hamas. And it's interesting now that it seems to be on a different page for the Qataris. The Qataris saying that there should not be, that a hostage deal shouldn't be required in order for there to be a ceasefire and that a ceasefire should happen even without one.

And, of course, in the meantime, Israel is also hoping that its mooted ground operation in Rafah will put further pressure on Hamas to moderate its demands, which Israel has derided as being delusional in terms of the quantity of Palestinian prisoners that it wants freed in exchange for the release of the 100 hostages abducted as part of its massacre of October the 7th. And also the severity of the sentences that some of those Palestinian prisoners are serving.

So Israel hoping to put more pressure on Hamas to moderate its demands, and the U.S. also wanting to put more pressure on Hamas to come to the table to do a deal that would see this six-week pause in fighting come into effect and a hostage deal that sees the release of the 100-plus hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners taking place.

And it feels that this resolution, if anything, would reduce the pressure on Hamas to do so. Of course, the other thing to watch for here is the impact domestically. President Biden coming under a lot of pressure from within his own Democratic Party and also from voters, particularly younger voters, Arab-American voters, who do not support the U.S.' stance, and perhaps they will be even less inclined to support Biden in the wake of any vetoing of this resolution. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right, Elliott Gotkine, in London, thanks so much. So as Elliott just mentioned, many Israeli officials say that Hamas' demands for a hostage deal are unreasonable. So on Saturday CNN's Alex Marquardt spoke about that with Gal Hirsch, Israel's Coordinator for the captives and the missing.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: What is your understanding right now of where the negotiations stand for a hostage deal?

GAL HIRSCH, ISRAEL'S COORDINATOR FOR THE CAPTIVES AND THE MISSING: Well, we want a deal very much. And we know we need to pay prices. But Hamas demands are disconnected from reality, delusional. And we hope very much that they will come much closer to the zone of potential agreement.

MARQUARDT: Prime Minister Netanyahu has also called the Hamas proposal delusional. What specifically about what they are asking for is just completely out of bounds for Israel?

HIRSCH: Actually, all their response was far, far away from reality, and they know that. And my concern is, who's in the other side of negotiations? Whom are we negotiating with? We want to deal very much. But in the other side, we need a proof that there is someone that can deliver.


MARQUARDT: Are you implying that those Hamas officials are not in touch with the Hamas leaders who are actually on the ground in Gaza?

HIRSCH: I very much want to see proof and such a proof can be, for example, show us that the medical support that was sent to hostages has arrived to its destination. This is very important because it will show us that there is someone there that can really deliver and release our hostages.

MARQUARDT: Are you willing to release a large number of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom have carried out attacks in Israel who have life sentences? Are you willing to release them?

HIRSCH: We showed that we are ready to pay prices. We showed that. We mean that. But we want to see that in the other side, there is a reliable address, someone that can release our hostages and can deliver.

MARQUARDT: Hamas wants to see an end to the war. Israel does not want to end this war because there is still work to be done, Netanyahu says, to dismantle Hamas. How do you close that gap in order to get these hostages home?

HIRSCH: Well, we showed in the last deal we've made that we are ready to stop warfare. It doesn't mean stopping the war.

MARQUARDT: Not permanently, though.

HIRSCH: It doesn't mean stopping the war. But we are ready to stop warfare. That's a lot. Because breaking the momentum of maneuvering, it's a big price. It's a big price.

MARQUARDT: The other ticking clock is the potential offensive by Israel into Rafah. This is something that the Prime Minister has talked about. Do you believe that a deal can be agreed to before that offensive?

HIRSCH: Well, Rafah is next, of course, because in Rafah there are many hostages and many, many terror groups. Actually, Hamas is still there.

So, we do not want to cause collateral damage. Rafah has many, many people there that Hamas use right now as human shields. We are doing our best, everything we can, everything is possible to avoid collateral damage, but Rafah must be next because we must release our hostages.

MARQUARDT: So, standing here today, how optimistic are you that that deal can be reached?

HIRSCH: Well, I believe that Hamas needs ceasefire. I think that Hamas wants much bigger humanitarian support to his own people. I believe that deal can be made because we are ready to pay prices but it must be closer to zone of potential agreement. Right now, this is not the situation.


BRUNHUBER: All right, still ahead here on CNN Newsroom, tech giants are joining forces to battle deep fake political content created with AI. We'll look at the threat and how it can be stopped when we come back. Please stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Tech giants say they're working together to take down harmful artificial intelligence or deep fakes in politics around the world. In a rare show of unity, companies like OpenAI, Google, Microsoft and TikTok will collaborate in detecting misleading content.

More than a dozen tech firms pledged on Friday to locate and counter deceptive election AI content like political candidate deep fakes. The tech leaders also say they'll collaborate on educational campaigns for the public and they promise to be transparent with their efforts.

All right, joining me now from Boston via Skype is Noah Giansiracusa. He's a Math Sciences Professor for Bentley University and the author of the book, "How Algorithms Create and Prevent Fake News." Thanks so much for being here with us this early.

So listen, there have already been plenty of nefarious AI efforts to undermine the election. I've seen, you know, Trump and Biden, the robocalls for instance. I mean, describe, you know, what you've seen and what stood out to you so far?

NOAH GIANSIRACUSA, MATH SCIENCES PROFESSOR, BENTLEY UNIVERSITY: Yeah, I think the Robocall one is a really good example because I think one of the things that has stood out is there's a lot of attention on text, right? We've all played with ChatGPT. And very recently just the last couple days there's been a lot of attention on creating video. OpenAI released this really cool looking tool that creates these synthetic videos.

But I think the one we really have to worry about, I mean, it's all of those, but it's the audio that's going to be so convincing. Because when we watch a video, you can still kind of see the glitches and the imperfections, but the audio is just, it's so hard to tell what's real and what's fake. And we always used to hear hot mic incidents with politicians and, you know, a lot of scandals came about that way. But now you can just create a hot mic incident that was totally fabricated and is very convincing.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, that's right. You bring up a good point. We always think of these visual efforts, but AI can also be used to write letters to politicians around issues and potential bills, for instance, which are impossible to distinguish from letters from real constituents. I mean, the ways that it can be used to wreak havoc seem almost infinite.

GIANSIRACUSA: Well, when you think about writing, I think the issue is you could write anything by hand, right? So what's the difference if AI does it? The difference is the scale. You can mass produce millions of things. You can customize it. Instead of sending one email a thousand times or a million times, you can send a million different emails. So it's not that any particular item is, you know, new that we couldn't do before. It's that there's going to be so many different variations of things. And it's just a matter of time before one tricks someone or goes viral. So it's really the scale that scares us.

BRUNHUBER: That's exactly right. All right, so as I mentioned in the opening, the tech companies acknowledge the problem and they say they're going to do something about it. Here's the CEO of OpenAI.


SAM ALTMAN, CEO, OPENAI: I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong, and we want to be vocal about that. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening, but we try to be very clear eyed about what the downside case is and the work that we have to do.


BRUNHUBER: All right, they say they're going to do the work. But you've said that you're skeptical about their incentives to act, especially in an election year. Why is that?

GIANSIRACUSA: Well, because as you said, it's incentives, right? I mean, if you can make a lot of money and there's just so much money going into AI right now, so that was Sam Altman speaking. And just recently he mentioned that he's trying to raise seven trillion dollars for some AI ventures. I mean, that's a huge fraction of the world GDP. There's just so much money flowing into AI, so much hype. I think it's just impossible to resist the temptation. And a lot of corporations have to, you know, maximize shareholder revenue.

So it's not -- we can't just trust that they're going to do the right thing out of the goodness of their heart. We have to really look at the cold, hard incentives and the bottom line is money.


BRUNHUBER: Yeah, unfortunately true. So we've outlined how this could be a huge threat. Could it also help prevent disinformation and be used to make elections, you know, safer and more fair?

GIANSIRACUSA: It's going to do a lot of good things. I think there'll be a lot of progress in science. There'll be a lot of positive applications of AI for sure. When it comes to the election specifically, I don't see as many positives. I think there, it's more going to be -- we're going to be playing a lot of defense for a lot of threats. Just because AI is a lot better at producing things than detecting things at the moment.

That said, we do detect a lot of bad content and fake things with AI. But just like when you play with ChatGPT and it kind of makes things up, AI is really good in the aggregate, but in any particular instance, it's kind of guessing and you can never really fully trust it. So if you just send it a video or, you know, try to deal with phishing attacks on emails, it's never really sure what it's dealing with. And that makes it harder to use for defense as opposed to offense.

BRUNHUBER: All right, we don't have a lot of time, so I'm going to try and get two questions into one here. We talk about AI regulations. Efforts have been more successful in Europe than they have been here in the U.S. But what would actually help, given the bad actors or states like Russia maybe behind it, and wouldn't adhere to any regulations. And then also, you know, for those of us, you know, consuming this stuff, what advice would you give us, the voters, basically going into 2024?

GIANSIRACUSA: I mean, regulation is a great but very hard question. I think we're trying to figure that out in real time. Nobody really knows the answer. But I think some basic principles like transparency, right? We don't know if we should ban certain AI technology, if it should be open source or closed source. These are hard things to figure out. But the more we know about what's going on, the more we're aware of the data that goes into these, how they work. I think that transparency goes a long way. It doesn't solve the problems, but it helps.

As far as users, I do think a lot of it is just we have to revamp our media education. We have to be more aware of what can be true and what can't to look for defects in AI products, you know, look for images and videos that look funny.

But I think, unfortunately, the best answer is we just have to really go back to trusting institutions like journalism. When the media says something is fake, we have to really recognize that that's probably true and not just spread things virally and think that everything's a conspiracy.

BRUNHUBER: Your advice, watch more CNN. I like it.

GIANSIRACUSA: Let's all do that.

BRUNHUBER: Noah Giansiracusa, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for being with us.


BRUNHUBER: All right, still ahead here on CNN Newsroom, the eyes of the basketball world focused on Indiana this weekend as the NBA's best gathered for the all-star game. CNN Sports Andy Scholes joins me live to break it all down. That's coming up. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Basketball's all-star weekend, got a new wrinkle this season with the first ever NBA-WNBA challenge, and it delivered the drama. CNN Sports Anchor Andy Scholes joins me live from Indianapolis. So Andy, I was right about the eventual winner, but a lot of drama there. What was the atmosphere like leading up to that moment?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Oh, Kim, I can't wait to tell you what, it's all anyone really could talk about here in Indianapolis yesterday. Who was going to win this first of its kind competition between Steph Curry and Sabrina Ionescu? You know, they decided that this was going to be a great idea, you know, weeks ago. And I tell you what, it certainly lived up to the hype.

So the idea came about because Sabrina just an incredible performance at the WNBA All-Star Game over the summer. She scored 37 points in one round, which was a record. And she would end up going first last night here in Indianapolis and she came out on fire. She cleared the first rack. She would go on to finish with a great score of 26.

But she was going up against the best shooter of all time. And Steph Curry, and Steph would get hot late in this competition, end up winning 29 to 26. And both saying afterwards the competition was just a great success. And I asked Steph if he was feeling the pressure after Sabrina's great round.


STEPH CURRY, 10X NBA ALL-STAR: It added a lot of pressure for sure and just wanted to, you know, get off to a good start, settle in, thankfully, you know, made enough to get over the top. But that was perfect, the way, the great entertainment, great shooting.

SABRINA IONESCU, 2X WNBA ALL-STAR: I think it's going to show a lot of young kids out there, a lot of people who might have not believed or even watched women's sports that were able to go out there and put on a show. And so it was really exciting to finally be able to do this. And like Steph said, it happened perfectly.


SCHOLES: Now, in the dunk contest, 25-year -old Mac McClung, who's playing in the G League right now, trying to repeat as champion, and he once again put on a show. Mac jumping over Shaq, who was wearing Mac's high school jersey to win the contest, beating Jaylen Brown in the finals.

And he's the fifth back-to-back champ ever. And I caught up with Mac on the court right afterwards.


SCHOLES: All right, Mac, how does it feel to be back-to-back slam dunk champion?

MAC MCCLUNG, 2023 & 2024 SLAM DUNK CHAMPION: Man, it's incredible. I really feel like I could have done a lot better job ahead. Some dunks, I didn't execute right, but I'm super grateful to be right here and compete against these incredible dunkers.

SCHOLES: He jumped over Shaq to win it. How nervous you got to be to jump over a human as massive as Shaq?

MCCLUNG: Man, he looked at me and said, don't miss this dunk. I was like, I can't miss it. Now, he told me not to miss. And he had my high school jersey on, which was really cool of him do that.

SCHOLES: Yeah. Some people say, you know, anyone could win one dunk competition. You now have one, two, do you think that really cements yourself as one of the best dunkers of all time?

SCHOLES: I don't know, really, I don't think that's for me to judge. I just kind of go with the flow and have fun with it. I do it because I love it.

SCHOLES: Yeah, and despite another great performance, you know, you got to tell Mac was a little disappointed in himself, but back-to-back champs, he should be quite proud. As for the normal three-point competition, it was Dame Time once again. Damian Lillard coming through in the clutch, making his final shot to beat Trae Young in the finals. He's the first back-to-back champ in the three-point contest since Jason Kapono back in 2008.


And the home crowd here in Indianapolis getting plenty to cheer about is the Indiana Pacers team of Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin, Myles Turner. They ended up winning the skills competition. So Indianapolis certainly proud of their Pacers.

And Kim, the all-star game tonight right here on this court. It's going back to its roots. It's going to be the eastern conference versus the western conference. And you know, I talked to a bunch of the all-stars here this week, they say they greatly prefer this format. They're glad it's going back to the traditional way here, hoping we get a real competitive game here tonight.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Great to see you there, Andy Scholes. Thanks so much.

Well, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is back in Texas this weekend at her jersey retirement. Let's have a look.




BRUNHUBER: Griner's number 42 jersey will be officially honored and retired by Baylor University in the Bears game against the Texas Tech team in the coming hours. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, played for the Bears for four seasons before heading to the Phoenix Mercury in 2013.

She won a WNBA title with the Mercury the next year, and Griner, of course, spent 10 months behind bars in Russia on drug charges before being released in a prisoner swap.

All right, that wraps this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For viewers in North America, "CNN This Morning" is next. For the rest of the world, it's "Culinary Journeys."