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CNN International: U.S To Unveil New Sanctions Against Russia; UK Sanctions Officers Of Penal Colony Where Navalny Died; Biden Calls Putin "Crazy SOB" At Fundraiser. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 08:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, and this is the CNN Newsroom.

Straight ahead, U.S. President Joe Biden lashes out at Russian leader Vladimir Putin as the United States prepares to unveil new sanctions over Alexei Navalny's death. Plus, a deadly shooting in the West Bank, one day before crucial new talks over the fate of Israeli hostages are expected to get underway. And two incidents at sea raising tensions between China and Taiwan again. We're live in Beijing with the very latest details.

The Kremlin is accusing the U.S. President of acting like a Hollywood cowboy after Joe Biden used some colorful language to describe Vladimir Putin. It happened at a fundraising event in San Francisco on Wednesday when Mr. Biden referred to his Russian counterpart as a "crazy S.O.B." while he was warning about the threat of nuclear conflict. The U.S. President also criticized Donald Trump for comparing himself to the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Mr. Biden called his predecessor's comments astounding. It all comes as the U.S. is preparing to unveil a new round of sanctions against Russia for Navalny's death and the full scale invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, we're learning new details about the dual U.S.-Russian citizen arrested in Russia on treason charges. Her California employer says she was accused of donating just over $51 to a Ukrainian charity in the U.S.

All right. A lot to get to this morning. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is joining me right now live from Berlin. So, Fred, let's tackle the U.S. sanctions that are being threatened. What more do we know about them? Might it even have any impact?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, National Security Council, Fredricka, says those sanctions are going to be announced on Friday. And I think there is two interesting things about them. First of all, of course, the White House says that they are going to have an effect on the Russians, even though, of course, we know that so far the sanctions that have been levied against Russia, not just by the United States, but, of course, many of the U.S.'s allies as well have really not stopped the Russian war machine from functioning at a very high level in Ukraine, and also really haven't stopped the Russian economy very much either.

One of the interesting things about this new set of sanctions is that apparently they have been in the works for a while, because of course, while right now the White House is dealing with the death of Alexei Navalny and the fallout of that, we are also, of course, coming up on the two-year anniversary of Russia's full scale invasion of Ukraine. And so, therefore, the White House and the National Security Council, of course, were already working on a new set of sanctions that the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has set are very broad, far- reaching sanctions that he believes will hurt the Russians.

Now, the spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, he said last night that those sanctions have specifically been supplemented after the death of Alexei Navalny to be even tougher and even more far-reaching than the ones that the White House had already planned. So, certainly, the White House saying that they do have a lot in store for the Russians as far as those sanctions are concerned, and that they even added to that after the death of Alexei Navalny.

One of the other things that is also interesting is that the U.S.'s probably closest ally in all of this, United Kingdom, also sanctioned six individuals who were at the leadership of that penal colony called the Polar Wolf where Alexei Navalny was being kept, and of course also where he died, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. And then Fred, what about this Russian-American woman who has been detained in Russia? What more can you tell us about her, the circumstances of her detainment, etc.?

PLEITGEN: Yeah. The detainment and the circumstances certainly, all of this appears to have unfolded really in January and early February of this year. Ksenia Karelina apparently traveled to Russia on January 2. Now, the spa that she works in Beverly Hills in that statement that you mentioned earlier where they also said that she only donated about $50 to a Ukrainian charity. They say that she was in Yekaterinburg, which I would say is about two and a half hour flight east of Moscow to visit her 90-year-old grandmother. That's the reason why she was there.

Her boyfriend was on CNN last night, also said that she loved Russia and she obviously wanted to reconnect with her roots. She just become a U.S. citizen in 2021, of course, a dual national, and that's really is one of the problems that the U.S. is facing right now, trying to provide counselor support is that the Russians simply don't recognize dual citizenship.

It was quite interesting to read the Russian version of all of this as well, because as you noted, her former employer or her employer said that she donated about $50 to a Ukrainian charity.


The Russians are accusing her of donating to a group that they say is affiliated with what they call the Ukrainian regime that supplies what they call tactical medicine. It's unclear what exactly that is. But, allegedly, also bought weapons for the Ukrainian military as well. They also accuse her of making statements in support of Ukraine while in the United States in the past. Of course, her boyfriend also said she is absolutely an unpolitical person who he has not heard make any sort of statements of that nature, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: It's going to be a tenuous situation. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much in Berlin.

All right. Let's get more now on the comments from the U.S. President Joe Biden about Vladimir Putin.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is joining me live now from the White House. So, Arlette, very strong language coming from the President who of course is on the campaign trail for reelection. Are we starting to see this President speak more of his mind on the campaign trail and seeing it as an advantage?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, President Biden certainly has escalated his rhetoric, not just against former President Donald Trump, but also Russian President Vladimir Putin. The President, oftentimes, when he is speaking with donors at these off- camera private fundraisers speaks a little bit more freely, offering more unvarnished thoughts on a host of topics, and that is exactly what happened last night as he spoke to high-dollar donors in San Francisco.

The President in his remarks specifically called out Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling him a "crazy S.O.B." that guy, Putin and others. It comes as Biden has really vented and expressed this frustration following the death of Alexei Navalny who died while in prison in Russia. The President said he has laid the blame directly on Putin for Navalny's death. But, it also comes as we have increasingly heard former President Donald Trump make these comments embracing Russia. He, a few weeks ago, had suggested that Russia and Vladimir Putin do whatever the hell they want to NATO countries who are not meeting their financial obligations to the alliance.

Trump also has gone to great lengths not to condemn Putin for Navalny's death, instead, trying to argue that Trump is -- himself is facing political persecution at this time like Alexei Navalny has, a statement that's really not based in any fact. But, Biden took aim at Trump about that last night in the fundraiser, saying, "He is comparing himself to Navalny, and saying that because our country has become a communist country, he was persecuted, just like Navalny was persecuted. Where the hell does this come from? Biden went on to say, if I stood here 10 to 15 years ago and settle this, you'd all think I should be committed. It's astounding.

And it really comes as the President has embraced the use of the bully pulpit to push back on resistance from the former President and Republicans currently in the House. It comes as Republicans have so far blocked efforts to pass additional aid for Ukraine, something that they are doing at the former President's urging, and this provides Biden with an opportunity to draw this contrast with Trump heading into November's elections.

Now, as for that comment that the President made specifically about Putin, Russia did respond overnight. A spokesperson for the Kremlin is calling it a disgrace for the U.S. to engage in such language, and they added "Clearly, Mr. Biden is demonstrating behavior in the style of a Hollywood cowboy to cater to domestic political interests." But, I think the President has long argued that Putin has posed a threat to the world and that -- they've seen that start to play out even more in the wake of Navalny's death and as they continue their campaign against Russia -- against Ukraine, which is that war is about to hit the two-year mark on Saturday.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. That's pretty remarkable. All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much from the White House.

All right. One person was killed and six injured when gunmen opened fire on a highway in the occupied West Bank. Israeli police have identified three Bethlehem area residents as the shooters who targeted vehicles that were standing in traffic.

CNN's Nic Robertson has details from the scene of the attack.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This is the vehicle, the police say, the attackers arrived, and there were three of them. The traffic was all stopped in a traffic jam as people were coming up this main highway here into Jerusalem early in the morning. Three people, three attackers got out of this vehicle, according to the police. They dispersed into the traffic and started shooting. And if we come up here, you can just see one of the vehicles that was shot at, loaded up here and being ready to be taken away. The rear windscreen shot out. There are bullet casings on the floor over here. From where I'm standing, you can see blood on the ground where some of the victims were injured.


This main highway would have been really busy in the early hours of the day when the attack took place. At least one person killed so far, according to medical authorities, another woman seriously injured. As far as we know in the early part of the day, five people total shot, according to medical officials, and they say other people in a state of shock. Somebody else got heavy bruising as they were trying to escape the scene. But, what makes this particular attack different from some of the recent shootings we've seen is that there were three attackers arriving together and then assaulting people as they were stuck, stationary in their vehicles, trying to get to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv beyond to go to work.

Nic Robertson, CNN, in the occupied West Bank.


WHITFIELD: And amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, the CIA chief is expected to travel to Paris today. Sources say Bill Burns will take part in continuing negotiations over the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. He is expected to meet with officials from Egypt, Israel and Qatar. The Biden administration is working to secure a deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in March.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is standing by in Tel Aviv with the very latest. Jeremy, there have been a few rounds of talks that seemingly haven't led anywhere. What's different about tomorrow's planned meeting?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, generally when we see the CIA director traveling to one of these meetings, it's because we are at an inflection point. He has been a key negotiator in these hostage talks. He was a key negotiator in the talks that led up to that truce in late November and that led to a week-long pause in the fighting and the release of dozens of hostages. And so, we may be at another inflection point. And we're also getting signs from Israeli officials that things are moving in the right direction. Yesterday, Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, said that there were "initial signs that indicate the possibility of progress in these talks."

We know that there were negotiations yesterday in Cairo, Egypt, where a top advisor to President Biden, Brett McGurk, traveled there to meet with officials to talk about the next stages of these negotiations. But, there has been somewhat of an impasse over the last week or so as Hamas appeared to be unwilling to move from its counterproposal which sought to secure the release of more than around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in just the first phase of this deal, which was a complete non-starter for Israeli officials. And the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly saying that Hamas' counterproposal was "delusional", saying that he would not bow to those demands.

So, despite that impasse over the last week, it does appear that there may be signs of progress. But, there is no question that looming over all of this is the threats from Israeli officials to carry out a major military operation in the southernmost city of Rafah where about 1.5 million Palestinians are currently sheltering in a city that normally houses about 300,000 residents. Israeli officials making very clear that if there is not a deal by the start of Ramadan, which would start the second week of March, that that offensive will indeed move forward. So, a lot on the line, certainly, not only those 1.5 million people in Rafah, but also, of course, about 130 Israeli hostages remaining in Gaza. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv, thanks so much.

And CNN is keeping an eye on the rising tensions between China and Taiwan. Right now, we're hearing differing accounts over the deaths of two Chinese fishermen after their boat capsized last week. Beijing says Taiwan rammed the vessel. But, Taipei says the boat flipped over as it was making a sharp turn. And earlier this week, the Chinese Coast Guard boarded a tourist boat from Taiwan. We've got some video here as it's being escorted by Taiwan's Coast Guard. Well, it's pretty difficult to make out there. But, a Taiwanese official says this incident triggered what she calls panic among the public.

I want to bring in now CNN's to Marc Stewart live from Beijing. Good to see you, Marc. So, China is now accusing Taiwan of a cover-up after that Chinese boat capsized. How did all of this come about?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. The exact phrase that we're hearing from Chinese officials is that Taiwan is "covering up the truth". And the way these two narratives came about is because of a recent TV interview that one of the Chinese fishermen who was on board this boat, one of the survivors of this accident, he gave an interview, saying that Taiwan took its boat -- went toward its boat, actually rounded this boat, the fishing boat.


The Chinese fishing boat did not just overturn by accident. It was because of actions taken by Taiwan. Now, Taiwan had offered a different narrative, but is now saying that its boat, the Coast Guard boat, took a sharp turn and that's what caused it to overturn. So, we have these differing narratives, and that is now adding yet another level of tension in this already tense part of the world. China is saying that Taiwan needs to apologize for this. It needs to take action against the people who were involved with this. The Taiwanese government is saying, look, we're investigating this. We're not going to comment.

Well, this is an incident that's getting a lot of attention. This portion of water off the Kinmen islands, off of the coast of Taiwan, has been a frequent point of tension between these two nations. So, now we have this situation at hand. And for the moment, things are going to be quite elevated, Fredricka, until this is sorted out, just adding to this continued narrative of how these waterways are a source of struggle between China and Taiwan.

WHITFIELD: Right. So, Marc, this tension escalated just as U.S. lawmakers are visiting Taiwan. What is their mission?

STEWART: Right. Talk about timing. So, we have a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers led by U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher. They are spending about three days in Taiwan. We have seen these visits before by U.S. lawmakers, some more high profile than others. But, the message from this delegation to Taiwan, which has a new political leadership in transition, the message is that no matter what happens in the United States, no matter what happens with the United States presidential election, that the U.S. will always be showing its support. It will always have a friendship and a relationship with Taiwan.

It's a message that China, that Beijing, where I am here, does not take too kindly, and once again issued a statement saying to the United States, you need to respect the sovereignty of Taiwan. These kinds of visits are not helpful. For the moment, we have just seen the statement. But, as we have seen over the years, Fredricka, sometimes China does take some kind of action, perhaps more military patrols as we've seen in the past. But, for right now, it's just a conflict of words. But, this U.S. presence in Taiwan always strikes a chord, always strikes some tension with China.

WHITFIELD: Indeed. All right. Marc Stewart, keep us posted. Thanks so much. All right. Five people are dead after a cargo ship slammed into a

bridge in southern China. And as you can see in the video, the crash snapped the bridge in half. Unbelievable. Five vehicles on the bridge actually plunged below, with some falling into the water and others landing on that damaged cargo ship.

All right. Still to come, U.S. President Joe Biden is said to be considering new executive action to tackle illegal migration at the southern border. Why it's being compared to something Trump attempted to do when he was in office? Details, straight ahead. And Donald Trump's legal battles have reached the highest court in the land. Coming up, we'll look at how the U.S. Supreme Court could respond to his request for a stay of that appeals court ruling rejecting his immunity claims.




WHITFIELD: Sources say U.S. President Joe Biden is considering executive action to block migrants from seeking asylum if they crossed into the U.S. illegally. It's a move reminiscent of what former President Donald Trump attempted to do in 2018 before a federal appeals court blocked that proposal. Republicans have focused on Mr. Biden's handling of the border crisis which they view as one of his biggest political weaknesses heading into the November election. No final decision has been made on any new executive action. But, if it goes ahead, Mr. Biden will likely face intense backlash from immigration advocates.

Let's bring in CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. Priscilla, great to see you. So, what does this new executive action entail, and how does it compare to what Trump attempted to do?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, what White House officials are reviewing here is an authority that already exists in immigration law that gives the President discretion of who is eligible to enter the United States. In this context, it would limit who is able to seek asylum between ports of entry. They are for those who are crossing the border unlawfully. It's an extraordinary move. If the White House were to move forward with it, that would garner fierce pushback from both Democrats and immigrant advocates.

Now, an administration official tells me that they are evaluating multiple options, this being one of them, and that no final decision has been made. And in a statement, a White House spokesperson saying the following, "No executive action, no matter how aggressive, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional resources Congress can provide and that Republicans rejected. We continue to call on Speaker Johnson and House Republicans to pass the bipartisan deal to secure the border."

Of course, what the White House is referring to there is that Senate border bill that included some of the toughest border security measures in recent memory. That included an emergency authority that would have allowed the Homeland Security Secretary to shut down the border if certain triggers were met. And at the time and during these negotiations, President Biden said that he was open to shutting down the border, if given the authority. This action, if the White House moves forward with it, seems to be an extension of that that we still don't know all of the details.

And as he mentioned there, Fred, this is reminiscent of a measure that was taken under former President Donald Trump in 2018. Trump also issued a presidential proclamation using the same authority to try to block asylum entirely on the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, he was challenged in courts and eventually a federal appeals court said that this measure had to be blocked because it conflicted with asylum law. But, it is -- it speaks to the moment that we're in. President Biden is trying to turn the page on border security, seize on the issue going into November, and take on this political liability by potentially moving forward with an executive action that could anger his allies.

WHITFIELD: All right. Priscilla Alvarez, thanks so much.

All right. Republicans in Washington are pushing ahead with efforts to impeach Joe Biden even though their most compelling witness has been charged with lying to the FBI. Even the revelation that the witness was fed information by Russian intelligence agents has not dissuaded Republicans. Our Manu Raju has the story.



RAJU (voice-over): Republicans defiant in the face of a damning indictment, charging an FBI informant of making up a bribery scheme involving President Biden and his son Hunter, allegations central to the impeachment probe into Biden and his family's business dealings.

RAJU: But, your promotion of a bribery scheme was false.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Not at all. We're looking at the four facts I just gave you. Those facts are true.

RAJU: Was it right to promote a bribery scheme for the President based on that?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Today, we're asking questions to James Biden. So, we're going to ask him about some of his business relationships with the client.

RAJU: Was your brother involved in any of your business dealings?


RAJU (voice-over): Behind closed doors today, the President's brother James Biden told House investigators that the President never had any involvement in his business activities, all as the GOP is at risk of seeing support for the impeachment effort collapse in the House since they have yet to prove that Biden acted corruptly to assist his family.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I think it's time for Chairman Comer and the Republicans to fold up the circus tent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Smirnov, do you have anything to say?

RAJU (voice-over): After 43 year old Alexander Smirnov was arrested on charges of lying to the FBI and creating false records, he told the FBI that officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in the false Biden bribery allegations. And today, Special Counsel David Weiss asked the judge to keep Smirnov in jail as he awaits trial. Yet, it was Smirnov's allegations that Republicans ran with, citing an FBI form known as a 1023 that contained the unverified accusations.

KEVIN MCCARTHY, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Even a trusted FBI informant has alleged a bribe to the Biden family.

RAJU (voice-over): A key GOP chairman helping lead the probe even calling it a smoking gun.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): We already know the President took bribes from Burisma.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Those allegations are consistent with a pattern that we've seen in Romania and maybe some other countries.

RAJU (voice-over): And Chairman Jim Jordan indicating the informant's allegations were essential.

JORDAN: The most corroborating evidence we have is that 1023 form from this highly credible, confidential human source.

RAJU (voice-over): Today, Jordan downplayed that recent remark.

RAJU: You said the 1023 is the most corroborating piece of information you have.

JORDAN: It corroborates but it doesn't change those fundamental facts. So now --

RAJU: It's not true.

RAJU (voice-over): Republicans today criticizing the FBI and DoJ for previously calling Smirnov credible and paying him for information, as they circulated talking point saying the Biden probe has secured more evidence and was not reliant on Smirnov's testimony, even as they removed a reference to the informant in a letter sent to a witness.

RAJU: But, what evidence do you have a bribery scheme now?

REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): We got lots of evidence, yes.

RAJU (voice-over): Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WHITFIELD: All right. Still to come, the cost of losing in court. We will look at Donald Trump's effort to delay paying a huge fine.



WHITFIELD: All right. This just in with this breaking news. Thousands of people in the United States are experiencing mobile phone issues, unable to make calls, place texts, or access the internet. It's impacting several carriers. But, those with AT&T appear to be having the most trouble. AT&T is acknowledging the disruptions and says it's working urgently to restore all service.

CNN's John Miller joining me live now from New York. John, great to see you. So, is this something nefarious? How do you rule in or out cyberterrorism?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, too early to tell. Right now, what AT&T is telling some of its major emergency responder customers is they believe the issue is technical, not criminal in nature. But, we don't know what they would base that on since they don't exactly know what the issue is. We also see other carriers potentially being affected by this also, which changes really the question, if it's affecting one carrier, it could be a technical glitch within their system. But, if it's affecting multiple carriers, that could involve something more nefarious or atmospheric.

Right now, I talked to the NYPD, just as a kind of a level setter, how have their communications been. They're still getting calls into 911. But, they do say between 5:19 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., they noticed that their AT&T Police Department phones were not able to complete calls unless they were operating on the Wi-Fi system. So, they had this experience as well.

As we see, these trend lines and some of the trackers go up, we're also seeing America is waking up, which means more people are getting up engaging their phones, trying to make calls. So, a lot of people may have slept through this. But, the issue currently isn't fully resolved. I made a couple of calls to officials this morning to get information on this that weren't completed on my AT&T phone. So, I just switched to my desk phone and dialed their numbers, kind of old school.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. Thank goodness, for some of those analog phones, some of us still have, OK --

MILLER: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: -- for moments just like this. But, this really is potentially a very serious matter, because in the case of emergencies, although you said many 911 calls are working, in the case of a lot of family emergencies, company emergencies, people cannot communicate with one another. So, what would be the coordination right now between AT&T, Verizon, and other carriers? How are they talking things through to see if it's something atmospheric or something else?

MILLER: Well, a lot of things come together here, Fredricka. First of all, CISA, which is the critical infrastructure protection network of the Department of Homeland Security, that's the agency that's supposed to ensure the security of networks like the cellular telephone network, they'll be engaged. At the White House, you've got Jen Easterly and people like that on the critical infrastructure side who have to be calling together the FBI cyber team, the CISA people, the industry people to say, we need to know what's going on here. Why? Because 99.9 percent of the possibilities here is that this is some kind of technical issue that they're experiencing.

But, we also have to bear in mind, it was just a few weeks ago, I was at Fordham University with Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, General Nakasone, the head of the NSA, and they were talking about the years- long persistent efforts of countries like China, Russia, and others, to make their way in through careful covert hacking to critical infrastructure services across the country, the transport sector, energy sector, water and public works as well as communications. So, in the background, we always have to have this in mind --


MILLER: -- which is, is this a technical glitch, or did they pick the wee hours of the morning when most people would be asleep, to do a controlled probe by a state actor, a hostile foreign power to see what their ability to disable systems might be? Again, there is nothing to confirm that.


MILLER: There is nothing to indicate it. But, they don't have the counter indicator right now, either. So, everything is on the table.

WHITFIELD: Right, which is why that was really my first question, because I think that is top of mind with everyone. People have been paying attention to the chatter, to the conversations that people like you and other experts in intelligence have had about the potential and potential bad actors who might want to disrupt communications in this country and globally, for that matter.


So now, I wonder then to if this is also looked at as sort of a test to the global communications. This is kind of a test case now of what do you do. I mean, if it's nothing nefarious, that's wonderful and lovely, but there is a lot to be learned in this process. Isn't there?

MILLER: There is, Fredricka. And there are some key reminders here. I mean, AT&T is -- has a certain particularity to this subject, because AT&T is where FirstNet lives. What is FirstNet? FirstNet is the First Responder's Network. That means police, fire, rescue, public works, the things that have to work during crisis, communicate over FirstNet. What FirstNet does is it rides on the AT&T network, but it gives their calls priority when systems can be overloaded during a crisis, think of 911 or something like that. FirstNet is affected here because for FirstNet to work, the system has to work. If the AT&T's system is faltering or down, then FirstNet can falter with it.

There are other things like the GETS network. That's the federal version of this that is run by Homeland Security that gives priority calls to people from the White House, Homeland Security, the FBI. There is the WPS network which takes care of congressional leadership, people who may need to communicate during crisis. And how are these being affected?

So, at the end of this, when they have the answer, technical or nefarious, they're really going to have to go back through this and say, do we have the fallbacks, the contingency systems, the backups to the backups, the Plan C and D, in place that we need? And if this is a technical glitch, it's a vulnerability they're going to have to address. If it's a manmade caused thing, as you point out, it could be from a hostile foreign power, then they really have to look at what did they do? How do they do it? And how do you re-engineer against it?

WHITFIELD: And I don't want to impair and jeopardize security. That's for sure. But, quickly. So, this FirstNet, GETS network WPF network, I'm hearing these things for the first time, so I hope I got it right, all of these very critical networks, do they all have analog as backups?

MILLER: So, yes, they do.


MILLER: In the GETS network, they're assuming that your cellular systems may go down. So --

WHITFIELD: That's comforting.

MILLER: -- your cell phone will read your priority status by virtue of the phone, but you can get on any phone, a payphone, if anybody remembers what those are, and dial in your GETS code, and that will get you into the GETS network.

WHITFIELD: OK. John Miller, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And of course, we're going to continue to keep a close watch on this. We have you on a very short tether to keep us abreast on things and walk us through any developments because this clearly impacts millions, everyone who has a cell phone. Many people are -- their services interrupted today.

All right. Donald Trump is asking for more time to pay a huge $355 million penalty. The judge in Trump's New York civil fraud case ordered him to pay the fine last week. Trump's attorneys have sent a letter to the judge, asking for 30 more days to get Trump's business affairs in order before paying the fine. Meanwhile, Trump is waiting for a key ruling by nine other judges. The U.S. Supreme Court, it could decide at any time whether to hear Trump's appeal on his presidential immunity claim. If the high court takes the case, it could delay the federal trials against him for months.

All right. For some analysis of Trump's legal battles, let's bring in Misty Marris. She is a criminal defense attorney and a former staff attorney in the New York Attorney General's Office. Great to see you again, Misty. OK. So, the Trump team is asking for a little bit more time. They're asking this of the same judge where Trump on several occasions insulted that judge and his staff, and now the Trump team is asking a favor. What's the likelihood that he will get it?

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY & FMR NEW YORK STATE PROSECUTOR: Well, there is a couple of things happening at the same time. So, as you said, Fredricka, the court order was pretty clear and the judge was pretty clear, and there is this astronomical fine that Trump is being required to pay, which the judge clarified last week. Now, to pay that judgment, there has to be a judgment filed. So, basically what his defense attorneys are arguing is that there should be an extended period of time. The attorney general has proposed the judgment. They say payment within 30 days. That's the triggering document that would require payment. They're asking for an additional 30 days. So, they're basically making a counterproposal.

Now, that being said, I anticipate, I mean, it's almost certainly they're going to go to the appellate court, which is --



MARRIS: -- the higher court that review the ruling and ask them to pause the judge's order while the appeal is pending. So, you're basically asking the trial judge to do something, but the ultimate goal was to speak to the appellate court on that issue.

WHITFIELD: Right. And that was my question, because the Trump team has said, we're going to appeal this. So, I'm surprised that they haven't already, that they haven't filed that appeal already. So, is this effort asking for an extension of time really just another delay tactic while they get their other affairs in order to file the appeal? And then, now one would wonder, does one judge or court's decision upend the other in terms of with Judge Engoron if he says, OK, I'm going to go ahead and give you an extension? Yet, they turn around and file for an appeal, and the appellate court takes it. Does the appellate court have the upper hand? Does that make sense? That's my question.

MARRIS: Yeah. That makes so much sense, yeah --


MARRIS: -- because there is so much going on. The New York procedure is a little sticky this way. And this is the way it works in civil cases in New York. You ask the judge who made the decision for something but then you can also ask the appellate court, because they're the court that makes a determination about whether or not there are errors of law (ph). So, their strategy here, Fredricka, and here is what it is, they want to extend the time to pay under Judge Engoron's order --

WHITFIELD: Right. MARRIS: -- for this additional 30 days because they want to go to the appellate division and ask for them to actually pause on any payment until the appeal is decided. Now the appellate division usually doesn't pause entirely. But, they may only ask him to post bond on a fraction of the amount of money. So, that's where the strategy comes in, because the appellate division could say, you only have to put 20 percent of this in bond, whereas the trial judge is saying you have to pay the whole thing.


MARRIS: So, there is a strategy on the timing.

WHITFIELD: Why in the world would Judge Engoron want to give him an extension?

MARRIS: The only reason to give the extension would be based on the idea that there are -- the attorney general has proposed a judgment. There is a procedure in place where the other side can also propose a counter judgment. So, there is room for compromise there from a trial court perspective. But, Fredricka, he holds the power. So, he could say you have to post the money within the 30 days. He is well within his right to do so. But, there is a gray area there in judicial discretion.

WHITFIELD: Wow. It sounds like he is asking for compromise and kindness. This will be interesting. Misty Marris, thank you so much. Good to see you.

MARRIS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still to come, as we near two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukrainians pledge to keep on fighting despite setbacks. We'll have a full report from CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv when we come right back.




WHITFIELD: This Saturday marks two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, and despite being outmanned and outgunned, Ukraine's will to fight it stronger than ever, as CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports from Kyiv.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Snow falls softly on new recruits for the Ukrainian Army's Third Assault Brigade. Drill sergeants push them through their paces with urgent basic training for the trenches, urban warfare and assault maneuvers. Every woman and man counts now for a battle that seems to have returned to the dire days at the start. 28-year-old Serhii came back from Lithuania to serve two weeks ago despite his health.

AMANPOUR: What's wrong with you?

SERHII, UKRAINIAN ARMY RECRUIT: It's asthma. But, right now, we need to take our best man. And no matter what, I will serve my country until the victory.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The brigade says it is training professional fighters, not cannon fodder like Russia. Their soldiers helped evacuate survivors of the battle for Avdiivka where Russia has now raised its flag, but many of their wounded were left behind. Just watch this video call between a severely injured soldier Evan (ph) and his panic-stricken sister Katarina (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Everyone left, everyone retreated. They told us a car would pick us up. I have two broken legs, shrapnel in my back. I can't do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): Are you there alone or what?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Evan and his comrades never made it. Ukraine says there was a deal Russia would evacuate them and exchange prisoners. Instead, Russia released video of them dead. The brigade says they were shot.

These are desperate times in Ukraine's fight to survive. They need to replenish the ranks of the dead and injured. And even here at the Superhumans facility in the western city of Lviv, therapists and prosthetic specialists work around the clock giving these war amputees a second chance and even a return to the front lines.

25-year-old Anastasia Savka (ph) is an army sniper. She stepped on a landmine in November near this Zaporizhzhia front, and she tells me they are scattered there like snow drops in spring, like daisies in summary. We couldn't get out for a long time because we were under very heavy fire, she tells me. To be honest, we were ready to die there. The attacks was so close, and we were thinking this was the end.

Olga Rudneva is CEO of this center, which is supported by Ukrainian businessman and the American philanthropist Howard Buffett. 80 percent of the patients are military, many of the multiple amputees, and that's because, Olga says, the wounded cannot get out of the battle zone during the so-called golden hour to save their limbs.

OLGA RUDNEVA, CEO, SUPERHUMANS: People are advocated for 10 hours by comrades very often because the Russians are shelling our medics. So, by the time they arrive at stabilization point, we have to cut them high because of the tourniquets. So, that's why we have multiple amputations.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Not only are they outmanned, they are also outgunned. The gridlock in Congress over military aid is showing up at the front. And time is not their friend.

We reached Sergeant Mykola (ph), who is also serving now on the Zaporizhzhia regional front line. AMANPOUR: Do you have enough weapons? Do you have enough people? Do

you have enough ammunition? Of course we don't, he says. There is a catastrophic shortage of people. The same with weapons. There aren't enough shells for artillery and tanks or the tanks and artillery themselves. On a brief hiatus in the rear, they've had to buy their own mortar, small caliber just for self-defense. The problem is no ammunition.

Anastasia practices perfecting her balance, her endurance, regaining the strength to shoulder her weapons, and she wants to go back to the front. I think anything is possible, she says. But, whatever happens, we all need to fight this together because the enemy is advancing.

No one wants their children to still be fighting the war they and their parents have been fighting ever since Putin's first invasion a decade ago.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kyiv.


WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.




WHITFIELD: The lunar lander Odysseus is nearing its final approach to the moon. The craft would be the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon in more than 50 years.

CNN's Kristin Fisher explains the missions and many challenges.



KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days after lifting off from Florida, Odysseus is now barreling towards the moon, sending back spectacular pictures of Earth along the way, and is now hours away from the most perilous test yet for the robotic lunar lander, a soft or controlled landing on the surface of the Moon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And go for launch.

FISHER: Intuitive Machines is trying to pull off something no private company has done, and if successful, it will be the first time an American-made spacecraft has done it since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

STEVE ALTEMUS, CEO, INTUITIVE MACHINES: We are steely-eyed rocket scientists, but deep down, this is quite an emotional feeling to be here at this position. FISHER (voice-over): Just last month, a Pennsylvania company,

Astrobotic Technology, had its first lunar landing mission end in failure. And last year, the Japanese company ispace and the government of Russia both crashed landers into the moon. So, why is it so tough to repeat a feat that was first accomplished within half a century ago?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's one small step for man.

FISHER (voice-over): The biggest reason is also the most frustratingly terrestrial one, money, NASA's budget at the peak of the Apollo program was more than four percent of all U.S. government spending. Today, NASA's budget is one tenth the size, just 0.4 percent even as NASA attempts to return astronauts to the moon under the Artemis program. In an effort to save money, NASA is outsourcing robotic lunar landings to companies like Intuitive Machines for a fraction of what it cost in the 1960s and 1970s.

ALTEMUS: Do it for $100 million, when in the past it's been billions of dollars.

FISHER (voice-over): Then there is the purely technical challenge of landing a spacecraft in a specific spot, roughly a quarter of a million miles away.

DR. SCOTT PACE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SPACE POLICY INSTITUTE: Some people have likened it to hitting a golf ball in New York and having it go into a particular hole in one in LA.

FISHER (voice-over): The distance means there is also a time delay, roughly three seconds for signals from mission control rooms on Earth to get to the moon and back.

PAGE: A lot can go wrong in that time. So, when the vehicle is actually landing, it pretty much is on its own.


FISHER (voice-over): Finally, there is the experience factor, the loss of the Apollo-era expertise that no amount of new technology can make up for.

PAGE: Simply because somebody else did it in an earlier age doesn't mean that this generation or this organization can do it. These are people doing it for the first time. And there is no substitute for that experience.

ALTEMUS: We all collectively have to be resilient to failures, and we all have to be helping each other lift up and break down these barriers so that we can begin a lunar economy. That's what this is, a beginning of an emerging economy around the moon.

FISHER: So now, it all comes down to this. The landing is set for 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday. And one more thing I should note. This is also the first time that anyone is attempting to land on the south pole of the moon. Scientists say that that is where ice is, water. And for that reason, it's the place where NASA wants to land astronauts on the moon and so does China. So, potentially it is a very competitive spot.


Kristin Fisher, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: All right. And then, get this. For the first time in more than two decades. China is sending to new pandas to the United States. The San Diego Zoo tells CNN that it has reached a deal with Beijing to get to new giant pandas. It's unclear when they'll be sent. In November, the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. sent its pandas back to China, leaving the Atlanta Zoo as the only one in the U.S. with that popular animal. Well, China has long used what is called panda diplomacy as a way of showing friendship with foreign countries. So, yay. They will be back.

All right. Thank you so much for joining me here in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Connect the World with Becky Anderson is up next.