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CNN International: Michigan Getting Ready to Hold Primaries on Tuesday; Haley Campaigns After Loss in Home State of South Carolina; House Democrat Urges Protest Vote Against Biden; White House Pushing for Passage of Ukraine Aid Bill; Central and Easter U.S. Could Fac Record-Breaking Heat; Talks to Resume on Release of Hostages, Pause of Fighting in Gaza. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 04:00   ET




NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at those first early states, they can say Donald Trump won. I give him that, but he didn't get 40 percent of the vote of the primary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're heading to Michigan, we're heading to Super Tuesday, we've got the money, we've got the candidates with the talent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's on a pathway to win these other states, win Super Tuesday, and be able to have the nomination clinched by the middle part of March.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: To understand it is to come to the front line to see what's going on, to speak with the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our security, it's our security in Europe, it's our leadership in the world that is making the world a better place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the song says, we love Jagen, and Jagen loves us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CHILD: He means love to me.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world and the United States. I'm Max Foster.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Bianca Nobilo. It is Monday, February the 26th, 9 a.m. here in London, 4 a.m. in the U.S. state of Michigan, where in just over 24 hours Nikki Haley will face Donald Trump once again in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

President Joe Biden also faces a test there to see whether a crucial voting bloc remains behind him. More on that in a moment.

FOSTER: First, though, on the Republican side, Haley's stop in Michigan follows a crushing defeat in her home state of South Carolina. She lost by 20 percentage points, but the near 40 percent of votes she received was enough for her to remain in the race.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at those first early states. They can say Donald Trump won. I give him that.

But he as a Republican incumbent didn't get 40 percent of the vote of the primary. He's not going to get the 40 percent if he is not willing to change and do something that acknowledges the 40 percent. And why should the 40 percent have to cave to him?


NOBILO: In her Carolina concession speech, Haley vowed to fight on through Super Tuesday. That's when a third of all Republican delegates are up for grabs in primaries and caucuses across the country. Wherever she campaigns from now on, it will be without the financial backing of one of the most influential conservative networks in the United States.

FOSTER: Americans for Prosperity is associated with billionaire Charles Koch. In an email to its staff obtained by CNN, the group's CEO said it will no longer spend money on Haley, instead focusing on key Senate and House races. The statement says that while it supports her efforts, quote, given the challenges in the primary states ahead, we don't believe any outside group can make a material difference to widen her path to victory.

But not everyone sees this as a knockout blow to Haley's campaign.


RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I am not troubled because I know that grassroots support is still there. And she will still have big corporate donors who will still come to her, and they will not back away as yet. So I think this is a much ado about quite frankly, nothing as yet.

KATON DAWSON, FORMER CHAIRMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY: We picked up our luggage. We're heading to Michigan. We're heading to Super Tuesday. We've got the money. We've got the candidates with the talent. And we're excited about it, but it's cautious.

But again, there are some real issues with a Republican Party that is a tad bit dysfunctional at the moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOSTER: Well, Trump, on the other hand, is gaining momentum after his South Carolina win. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, says his fellow Republicans are lining up behind the former president like never before.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): You can see the trajectory that President Trump is on. And after defeating Nikki Haley so badly in South Carolina, he's on a pathway to win these other states, win Super Tuesday and be able to have the nomination clenched by the middle part of March.

Listen, the party is far more unified behind President Trump at this particular time than has been in any other race that he's had.



NOBILO: The second highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate is also now endorsing Trump. Just last month, South Dakota Senator John Thune told CNN that he's always been worried about Trump's viability in a general election. Now his office tells CNN that he's backing him as well.

Meantime, Democrats are holding their own primary in Michigan on Tuesday, and it's likely to show President Biden how deep anger runs over U.S.'s support for Israel.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, we're to say in my state, Joe Biden, abandon now.

CROWD CHANTS: Joe Biden, Abandon Now.


FOSTER: The battleground state is home to one of the largest Arab and Muslim populations in the U.S. There's been outrage over the U.S.'s support for Israel and its war with Hamas and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and her other Michigan leaders are calling on voters to voice their protests at the ballot box.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): It is also important to create a voting bloc, something that is a bullhorn to say enough is enough. We don't want a country that supports wars and bombs and destruction. If you want us to be louder, then come here and vote uncommitted.


NOBILO: But state Governor Gretchen Whitman tells CNN's Dana Bash that's a dangerous strategy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRETCHIN WHITMER (D-MI): Any vote that's not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term.

A second Trump term would be devastating, not just on fundamental rights, not just on our democracy here at home, but also when it comes to foreign policy. This was a man who promoted a Muslim ban.

This is, I think, a very high stakes moment. I am encouraging people to cast an affirmative vote for President Biden. I understand the pain that people are feeling, and I'll continue to work to build bridges with folks in all of these communities because they're all important to me. They're all important to Michigan. And I know they're all important to President Biden as well.


FOSTER: Well, do stay with CNN for coverage throughout the day on Tuesday when the primaries begin.

$60 billion that Ukraine needs to keep fighting Russia is at stake tomorrow when President Biden sits down with congressional leaders and tries to break through the Republican resistance that's holding that money up in the House.

NOBILO: This comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is warning that Moscow could attempt a new offensive in a matter of months as the war enters its third year. In a rare admission, Zelenskyy said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the war against Russia -- though CNN can't independently verify those numbers, of course.

FOSTER: A former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine explains why U.S. aid to Ukraine is so important.


WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Ukraine can't win without this support. They know and they have said that this support on the artillery, on the air defense is so crucial to them to be able to hold off the Russians. You've already reported that the Russians are moving on this thing. And why? Because the Ukrainians have to scaled back already on their artillery. It's our security. It's our security in Europe. It's our leadership in the world that is making the world a better place. And that's what's at stake in this thing. I'm sure President Biden will make this case.


NOBILO: And as the White House pushes for actions, Zelenskyy is expressing his frustration over the stalled aid in a one-on-one interview with CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Senator J.D. Vance, who was in Munich at the security conference, but didn't meet with you, he said that even if you got the $60 billion in aid, it is not going to fundamentally change the reality on the battlefield. What's your response to that?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I'm not sure that he understands what's going on here. And we don't need any rhetoric from people who are not deeply in the, you know, in the war. So to understand it is to come to the front line, to see what's going on, to speak with the people, then to go to civilians to understand what will be with them, and then what will be with them without this support. And he will understand that millions of people have been killed, will be killed.

COLLINS: So he doesn't understand it?

ZELENSKYY: Because he doesn't understand it. Of course, God bless you don't have the war on your territory.


FOSTER: The national security officials are calling on House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring the Senate's Ukraine aid package to the floor for a vote. CNN White House reporter Priscilla Alvarez has that.


PRISILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House is ratcheting up pressure on House Republicans to pass $60 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, saying that the country faces a dire situation and is running low on ammunition. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan taking it a step further on Sunday and calling on House Speaker Mike Johnson to take it up and take it up immediately.

JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, the reality is that Putin gains every day that Ukraine does not get the resources it needs, and Ukraine suffers. And there is a strong bipartisan majority in the House standing ready to pass this bill if it comes to the floor. And that decision rests on the shoulders of one person and history is watching.


Whether Speaker Johnson will put that bill on the floor. If he does, it will pass. We'll get Ukraine what it needs for Ukraine to succeed. If he doesn't, then we will not be able to give Ukraine the tools required for it to stand up to Russia. And Putin will be the major beneficiary of that.

ALVAREZ: Now, the White House asked for the $60 billion in additional aid last year. And since then, President Biden has repeatedly framed this as not only support for Ukraine, but also imperative for U.S. national security.

And in recent days, White House officials have linked losses on the battlefield in Ukraine to congressional inaction, with President Biden warning that it is not out of the question for this to continue to happen if that aid isn't given to Ukraine.

Of course, the White House is limited in what it can do, meaning that they are going to continue this pressure for the days to come. In the interim, though, the president in private conversations with U.S. allies reaffirming U.S. support for Ukraine.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, the White House.


NOBILO: CNN's Clare Sebastian is following developments and she joins us here live in London. Clare, talk to us about the significance right now at this stage in the war of this aid still hanging in the balance, especially as Russia's economy is now on a mobilized war footing. I think spending levels are around 40 percent on military, which is like back to late Soviet kind of spending.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's only what they're saying openly on paper. That's if you include their spending on national security, which frankly, I think you should, given that that's all part of the war effort.

This is something that Ukraine's defense minister brought up on Sunday. He said, not only are we up against, you know, this country that's spending all this money that's militarized its entire economy, but 50 percent of aid deliveries are arriving late. And if you think about sort of war planning, gaming out attacks, even sort of planning how to defend, that is a significant impact on Ukraine on the front lines.

I think, look, the situation speaks for itself. Overnight, they had another attack involving seven missiles, 14 drones. The Air Force was only able to shoot down three of those missiles, nine drones.

Russia apparently dropped glide bombs, which are dropped from planes on the region of Sumy, which is up in the north near the border that killed two people. According to the administration there, glide bombs can evade Ukrainian air defenses. So they're up against an evolving Russia that's been learning from these two years of war, and the diminishing, frankly, of Western weapons.

I spoke to a Ukrainian MP last week who handles the deliveries of aid into the country. She said, a few months ago, Ukraine was firing some 5-6,000 artillery shells, Russia, by the way, 30-40,000. Now they're down to, she said, less than 2,000 a day.

And in many cases, these are not even 155-millimeter artillery shells, which are the sort of NATO standard, but mortars that are going up against this barrage coming from Russia. So Ukraine is digging in on the front lines. It's having to sort of plan to defend rather than attack.

As you said, Zelenskyy is now warning of a new Russian offensive coming, he said, sometime in late May. So it's a really critical moment. That's why you see, I think, this sort of stepped-up rhetoric coming from the Ukrainian president. NOBILO: And Zelenskyy has chosen this moment to publicly share his tally of Ukrainian casualties of soldiers at 31,000. Usually, that's a very closely guarded secret to the extent that that can never really be measured in the time of war. Why would he do that now? It's very callous to put it like this, but what would be the advantage or disadvantage of him sharing that information?

SEBASTIAN: So I think it's probably a message both to the Ukrainian people and obviously to Congress. I mean, to the Ukrainian people, the situation now in the country is that you just can't ignore it. He did this sort of on paper, the way he presented it was a counter to Russian disinformation. He said, you know, it's 31,000, not what Russia has said 300,000 or 150,000.

But I think if Ukraine doesn't get real with its people, if the president doesn't sort of start to be honest about this, then he's going to be the one accused of disinformation. The graveyards are filling up, everyone knows someone in Ukraine. So I think it's partly that, but also, again, a message to Congress that Ukraine isn't invincible.

There are, you know, the narrative for a long time was that Ukraine has, you know, so much bravery, so much grit, so much ingenuity that it's managed to push back the second biggest army in the world. We're not saying that's not the situation we're in anymore. And I think, you know, he's balancing that message with the continuing message of resilience for Ukraine.

NOBILO: Clare Sebastian, thank you.

Russians in London have been marking Saturday's two-year anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by denouncing Vladimir Putin.


CROWD CHANTING: Putin stop the war. Putin stop the war. Putin stop the war.


FOSTER: Around 250 people marched outside the Moscow embassy on Sunday, demanding Russian troops leave Ukraine and calling the Russian president's war a genocide.

NOBILO: It was a bold display of free speech against a leader who was ruthless in crushing dissent. One protester explains why they march.


DIMITRII MOSCOVSKII, PROTESTER WITH RUSSIAN DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY: I can see many, many people behind me who joined us today.


Most of them are Russians who oppose the Putin's regime, who have been opposing it for a long time. Some of them have been personally repressed in Russia. I myself was. So I think that's a really important thing to do, a really important thing to continue speaking up against the war.


FOSTER: Protesters also honored Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in an Arctic prison 10 days ago now.

NOBILO: It's still winter in the U.S., but much of the country sure won't feel like it in the days ahead.

FOSTER: Yes, nearly 400 heat records, both high and low temperatures, could be tied or broken across the central and eastern U.S. today through to Wednesday. CNN meteorologist Elisa Raffa has a look at the forecast.


ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Our winter risk and a spring-like winter, continues as we start out the workweek. Look at the high temperatures forecasted for Monday.

70s from Kansas City down to Atlanta. 80s across Oklahoma. Even high temperatures climbing into the low 90s across parts of Texas.

This is so warm for February that we're looking at more than 345 records getting tied or broken over the next couple of days. That's for daytime highs and overnight lows. That in Dallas, Texas, you could be looking at a high temperature of 91 degrees on Monday, which would break a record set back in 1917 and sits well above average, 30 to 35 degrees above average.

We keep that warm air in place in the central plains on Monday, temperatures 25 to 30 degrees above average. That warm air continues to slide east by Tuesday, temperatures well above average, even from D.C. up towards Boston.

We do find some colder air coming in behind this by Wednesday. That's behind a front. I mean, look at the drop-off in temperatures. St. Louis has highs in the 80s on Tuesday. You drop 40 degrees with highs in the 40s by Wednesday. Oklahoma City, another huge drop-off too with your highs in the 50s by the middle of the week.

Here's a look at the showers and storms that could come with this front. That heat could fuel a severe threat. We're looking at some damaging winds, a few tornadoes, and large hail possible, mainly Tuesday evening and overnight in that red-shaded area over parts of the Midwest. That front then slides east, bringing that rain for much of the east coast by Wednesday and then exiting on Thursday.

A lot of these rain totals will be locally heavy depending on where some of those stronger storms set up, so we'll have to watch out for that. Notice the white on the backside of this. That's where we could have some snow showers in the Great Lakes.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NOBILO: Still to come, we'll have the latest on negotiators trying to secure the release of all hostages from Gaza and bring about a pause in fighting.

FOSTER: Plus, an American couple disappears during a sailing trip through the Caribbean. Their boat was found, but they were not on it.

NOBILO: And weeks after a non-binary teenager dies in Oklahoma, one of the state's Republican lawmakers has harsh words for the LGBTQ community. Details ahead.



FOSTER: A disturbing scene outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on Sunday, where an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force set himself on fire, according to the Air Force and local authorities.

NOBILO: In a video of the incident obtained and reviewed by CNN, the man gives his name and says, quote, I will no longer be complicit in genocide before self-immolating. Police say he was taken to hospital and remains in critical condition. The embassy says no staff members were injured.

The overall death toll in Gaza since the October 7th attacks on Israel is up to almost 30,000 people, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health, with at least 86 Palestinians killed in Israeli military operations over the weekend. Those figures don't distinguish between combatants and civilians.

FOSTER: CNN obtained new video showing the aftermath of those operations. A once prosperous neighborhood in Gaza City now reduced to rubble. The IDF says two of its soldiers were killed in the fighting on Saturday, bringing the total number of Israeli troops killed in Gaza to 239.

The IDF has also confirmed the death of another Israeli hostage. The military says 19-year-old soldier Oz Daniel was killed on October 7th, the day Hamas attacked Israel and his body was taken into Gaza.

NOBILO: Until now, he had been listed among the hostages thought to be alive. The IDF has posthumously promoted Daniel from corporal to sergeant. His death brings the total number of dead hostages now to 30.

The Israeli military has also presented a plan for evacuating civilians from the areas of fighting in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says the IDF presented the war cabinet with an upcoming operational plan.

FOSTER: But it doesn't specifically mention the southern Gaza City of Rafah, where Israel has been planning a potential ground offensive. This comes as talks are expected to resume in Qatar today to try to secure the release of more hostages in Gaza in exchange for a pause in the fighting. Journalist Elliott Gotkine joins us. Let's start with those hostage talks then, because you're describing how there does appear still to be some momentum behind them.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: There does. We had these talks in Paris on Friday and Saturday, and we had Jake Sullivan of the National Security Council coming after saying there's an understanding on the contours of a potential deal had been reached. So now it seems that in Doha, they're going to be trying to deal with the thornier issues to try to deal with those details and come to some kind of compromise.

Now, up until these talks, the sticking point, at least so far as Israel was concerned, was Hamas's demands that there be a complete cessation of hostilities and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners, demands that Prime Minister Netanyahu described as delusional.

So the hope now is that perhaps they are inching towards some kind of compromise, which, as you say, would lead to the freeing of some, but probably not all of those Israeli hostages, more than just around about 100 believed to still be alive and being held in captivity in the Gaza Strip after being kidnapped on October the 7th, in exchange for the freeing of Palestinian prisoners. And of course, the all- important humanitarian pause of around about six weeks. And of course, at the same time as that, a surge in humanitarian aid to go where it's desperately needed.

FOSTER: And in terms of the Palestinian Authority, what's the latest situation there in terms of leadership?


GOTKINE: So we heard just this morning that the Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted his resignation, along with that of his entire government, to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Now, he still needs to offer his resignation in person, that still needs to be accepted. But this is seen to be perhaps one step towards the revitalization, the reconstitution of the Palestinian Authority to enable it to be palatable to the Americans, and perhaps less unpalatable to the Israelis, for taking control of the Gaza Strip the day after this war.

Now, he will probably be asked to stay on as a caretaker Prime Minister, and there's no indication that whoever replaces him will be any different. And of course, the real change for the Palestinian Authority, at least it won't be seen as changing to any serious degree until such time as Mahmoud Abbas is no longer president. He, of course, is in now the 19th year of a four-year term.

He's widely reviled among Palestinians. He's widely seen as being corrupt as well. So I think for the Palestinian Authority to be seen to be really changing, that Mahmoud Abbas would probably be expected to go as well.

FOSTER: OK, Elliott, thank you so much. Now, still to come, outrage grows over the killing of a university

student in the U.S. state of Georgia, as we hear from the estranged wife of the murder suspect.

NOBILO: Plus, the streets of Sao Paulo turn into a sea of yellow in a show of support for the former Brazilian president accused of trying to stage a coup.