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Blinken: Ukraine Gains "In Jeopardy" Without More Aid; Video Shows Moments Crumbleys See Son After Shooting; Conspiracy Theories Flare Over Swift And Super Bowl. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 30, 2024 - 07:30   ET





Secretary of State Antony Blinken is urging Congress to approve more aid for Ukraine. Blinken met with the head of NATO in Washington yesterday and warned of emboldening Vladimir Putin and sending a quote "strong and wrong message to other U.S. adversaries."


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: To continue to ensure that Ukraine knows success and Russia knows strategic failure it is vital that Congress pass the supplemental budget request that the president has put before it. Without it, simply put, everything that Ukraine has achieved and that we've helped them achieve will be in jeopardy.


HARLOW: And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that message and noted that a Russian victory in Ukraine could embolden Iran, North Korea, and China.

While the battle for funding continues in Washington, the realities on the front line are stark and they are real.

Our Fred Pleitgen is live for us in Kyiv this morning. I have seen what our viewers are about to see from you and your team on the ground. And this war has not gotten as much attention, particularly since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out, but it is still very, very stark -- the reality on the ground.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you're absolutely right, Poppy. It's very stark and it's very intense still. And certainly, one of the things that we witnessed when we were on the ground in Eastern Ukraine where there is some battlefields that are actually inside some of the forests in that area.

And, you know, that's a totally different warzone than a lot of the things that we've seen on the ground here. It's a lot of direct assaults. It's a lot of tank assaults. And certainly, really tough battles as well. But there, like in so many other places, the biggest issue for the Ukrainians is a lack of ammunition that is getting worse by the day.

Here's what we witnessed.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): All-out warfare in unforgiving terrain. Forest battles in Eastern Ukraine mean facing a near-constant Russian onslaught. Vladimir Putin's army trying to break through Ukrainian defenses.

Dmytro is one of those holding them up.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "The situation is very active and very tense," he says, "because the enemy has much more equipment and manpower. Basically, every day they try to storm the positions."

A dead Russian soldier and a destroyed tank show just how close the Russians have come. It's a fight for survival and against the elements. The trench cold, wet, and soggy -- the only heat coming from candles the soldiers cower around, gathering strength to face overwhelming Russian firepower.

DMYTRO: (Speaking foreign language).

PLEITGEN (voice-over): "They shoot direct fire. Planes are flying. Basically, they have it all," he says.

DMYTRO: (Speaking foreign language).

PLEITGEN (voice-over): "But probably, the worst are tanks. When they fire, you don't even hear it. You hear an airplane when it comes over. With a tank, you're in God's hands."

Artillery fire another threat here as we found out when we came under fire trying to make it to the area.


PLEITGEN (on camera): This is, unfortunately, something that when we work here in the east of the country happens all too often. We were getting ready to film here and then all of a sudden, we heard what appeared to be outgoing artillery, but then a shell came in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred meters, guys -- 100 meters.

PLEITGEN (on camera): One hundred meters -- gotcha.

We're now trying to make our way out of here as safe as possible. That means we have to keep distance between our cars and we also, of course, have to keep moving the entire time to make sure that we can get out of here, hopefully, safely. PLEITGEN (voice-over): We believe a Russian drone spotted us and directed the artillery fire, but two can play that game.

Nazarly is a Ukrainian drone pilot. He guides Kyiv's artillery guns targeting Russian infantry but also armored assault formations, including main battle tanks. He says ammo shortages mean he has to be extremely precise.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "It's no secret we're starved of artillery shells," he says. "We try to work as efficiently and accurately as possible to hit the enemy's firepower." Trying to fight back any way they can on one of the toughest battlefields of this war.


PLEITGEN: It certainly is a really tough battlefield out there, Poppy. One of the things, however, that the soldiers on the ground told us -- and I think this is really important -- they say that by and large, they are still able to hold the line. They say that within just a couple of days they managed to destroy around 40 Russian tanks and armored vehicles on that battlefield alone. And this, despite the fact that they're taking constant artillery fire and a lot of bombs dropped from planes as well, Poppy.

HARLOW: Fred, thank you very much for the reporting.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Our next guest just published a piece in The Atlantic warning of the dire consequences of deserting Ukraine now, in this moment, writing, quote, " even deeper, broader shock wave would be triggered by the growing realization that the United States is not just an unreliable ally, but an unserious ally. A silly ally.


But right now, the actions of just a few congressional Republicans could help stop a series of bad decisions from morphing into a worse one. This is their chance to make America serious again. Do they have the courage to take it?"

Joining us now is Anne Applebaum, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and staff writer at The Atlantic.

Anne, it's a powerful piece but it's one that I was actually -- the first line was what struck me the most. You said -- you start off by saying "As I write this, I am in Warsaw." Warsaw is the location of two of President Biden's highest-profile speeches as it relates to this war in Ukraine. And in both speeches, he said the U.S. support would be there as long as it takes. That is now very much in question.

ANNE APPLEBAUM, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING HISTORIAN, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Absolutely. In the Warsaw speeches, he was very, very eloquent. He said we are here for the duration and we're here as the leadership of an international alliance. And there are a lot of members of that alliance who believed him. Sweden and Finland have joined NATO because they wanted to be part of that alliance.

Germany, Poland, Baltic states, and countries all across Europe have contributed weapons. They've contributed intelligence. They've contributed money. Actually, Europe has given more money than the U.S. has to this war.

But it's been the U.S. that has led the -- has led the struggle and has really symbolized and vocalized the need to push back against Russia and to put back -- push back, really, against the encroachment of autocracy into Europe and also against Russia's role in the broader world.

If the U.S. were to step back now because of a fight inside Congress that outsiders can't understand and were to say oh, sorry, because we have an issue about laws to do with the border and some Republicans don't want to change the laws because they're worried about how that will play in an election year, this will disappointment millions of people.

HARLOW: Anne, you write also in the piece many different bad choices led to this moment. And you obviously get into what this would do to embolden, obviously, China and our adversaries. But what was also striking to me is when you said basically, if we don't re-up funding we will convince millions of Europeans that we are untrustworthy.

What are the long-term consequences of that?

APPLEBAUM: So, the long-term consequences will be felt not just in Europe, I should say, they'll be felt in Asia. They'll be felt anywhere where there are people who are counting on U.S. support.

People look at the U.S. and they'll say right, the U.S. isn't going to come and help me. Well, maybe I better hedge. Maybe I shouldn't join the U.S. boycott of Iran. Maybe I should get closer to China or to Russia. Maybe I shouldn't cooperate with the U.S. in economics and in other areas. You know, people will start looking for different allies.

The U.S.-led coalition, which is political and military but also economic, will start to crumble.

MATTINGLY: Was there anything that this administration could have done to prevent his moment? I understand it's gotten wrapped up into an immigration debate, which is never a good thing for an outcome- based effort.

But it's also something where the Senate Republican leader is by far the most supportive of any of the Republicans on the Hill on this. The Republicans across the board on the Hill and the majorities in both chambers that would support this. And yet, they're in this quandary right now.

APPLEBAUM: So, I mean, you could start with the U.S. having gotten aid to Ukraine faster last year. We might be in a -- we might be in a different place right now. You could say the Biden administration should have come to an agreement about the border faster. Maybe that's all true.

But really, the original mistake was a small group of radical Republicans who for whatever reasons don't want to help Ukraine, blocking the Ukraine aid last summer and preventing it from going through as it should have done normally back in August or September.

And ultimately, that group is going to have to explain why, as you've just seen, the Ukrainians are running out of -- out of ammunition. What will happen if Ukraine has to pull back? What will be the fate of people in captured territory? I mean, that group of people is going to be responsible for an enormous amount of blood and damage.

HARLOW: You know, Anne, one thing that is striking though is it's not just that group of Republican lawmakers you're talking about. By just a small margin, though, the majority of Americans now don't, in our latest polling, support more funding for Ukraine. It's not -- it's close to 50-50 but it has certainly changed from when the war began.

Is there a more effective pitch the Biden administration could be giving to those people who are represented by those lawmakers as to why?

APPLEBAUM: So, first of all, the polling I've seen still shows pretty solid American supporting for Ukraine, and I did look at some in the last few days.

But, yes -- I mean, I think the message is Ukraine can win, Russia can lose, and we can help make it happen. We don't have to send Americans to fight there. We have a lot of allies who want to help us. We are not the only group supporting -- we are not the only country supporting Ukraine. We have many friends who are doing so, too. And with one -- with a concerted effort and with a -- with a -- with the energy and the stamina to last for the long term, we can win this war.


HARLOW: Anne Applebaum, I encourage everyone to read the piece. We're glad you're with us. Thank you.

APPLEBAUM: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, convicted killer Alex Murdaugh detained -- denied, I should say, a new trial in South Carolina. The details behind how the judge decided that.

MATTINGLY: And never-before-seen evidence coming to light in the trial of the Michigan high school shooter's mother. How the new footage plays into Jennifer Crumbley's defense. That's next.


HARLOW: A judge in South Carolina has ruled that disgraced attorney and convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh will not get a new trial. His legal team had alleged that the court clerk tampered with the jury because of a book deal about the case. The judge dismissed that motion yesterday, concluding the clerk may have made some foolish comments but not enough to warrant a new trial.

Murdaugh was found guilty last year of murdering his wife and young son back in 2021. Also, he pleaded guilty to millions in fraud and money laundering.

MATTINGLY: Well, never-before-seen evidence has emerged in the trial of Jennifer Crumbley. Her son, Ethan, is serving life in prison without parole for killing four students in a Michigan high school. The footage shows Jennifer and her husband seeing their son at the police station after the massacre.

HARLOW: Jennifer is facing charges of manslaughter and could be held accountable for her son's deadly actions.


Jean Casarez has been following this since the beginning for us and joins us now. As we talked about last time, this would be precedent- setting. Like, no parent has been held responsible for a murder their child has carried out before.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly. And let me set this up for you.

First of all, when the mass shooting happened at Oxford High School, James Crumbley actually got a text on his phone -- emergency alert -- active shooter. So he went to where all the parents were supposed to go in the parking lot of the supermarket but then decided I better go home and see if that gun is there. He goes home, the gun is gone. It's missing.

He calls up and he turns in his son to law enforcement authorities. He calls the sheriff's department.

And shortly after that, the parents, James and Jennifer, were asked to go to the sheriff's department. So they are there for a while and I think we have that video just with the investigators, and you can hear them talking a little bit. It's hard to understand. But Jennifer says he's never done anything bad before.

And then James starts talking about the math sheet. Remember, he was on the math sheet. He put bullets, blood everywhere -- my life is useless -- that morning. And she stops him. She says I think we need an attorney. And so, that's when it stopped. And I think it was because he was implicating his son with that drawing.

Then it comes to the point where they're going to go in to see their son who is handcuffed to a chair. Let's listen.



JAMES CRUMBLEY, FATHER OF ETHAN CRUMBLEY: I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. See ya. I love you. I love you. I love you.



CASAREZ: So I don't know if you can see there but James is sobbing. Jennifer obviously is emotional in her own way.

They didn't lie at all with anything that I can see that they said to law enforcement in that sheriff's department. So I think that goes toward the defense. This is prosecution evidence though.

MATTINGLY: Do we have any sense -- Jennifer has changed her mind and is now allowing 2,000 pages of Facebook messages between her and her husband to be used in court. Why?

CASAREZ: This could change the course of this trial. You know, I watched her in court yesterday. She was in charge of this. She made this decision.

So there's over 2,000 pages of Facebook Messenger between she and her husband. A lot of it was redacted. We don't know it was redacted but I can tell you what some rulings were. The judge ruled that it could not come into this trial: alcohol, marijuana use, or alleged infidelity.

Now, she may be opening the door to all of that but she wants it all out there. When she takes the stand she will respond to all of it. And she said that under oath yesterday in court that she wanted it to be unredacted.

MATTINGLY: Interesting turn. Please keep us posted.


MATTINGLY: Jean Casarez, thank you.

Well, the latest conspiracy theory making the rounds, Taylor Swift and the NFL linking up to get Joe Biden reelected. Pfizer is in there, too. We're going to break down all the claims next.




STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": The Taylor Swift Super Bowl isn't making everyone happy because right-wing dinguses like Vivek Ramaswamy are claiming this whole thing is a conspiracy, suggesting that the Super Bowl will be rigged for the Chiefs to set the stage for Taylor Swift's Biden endorsement. What? That's whack, Jack -- c'mon.


HARLOW: Sunglasses and all. Thank you for that.

If you go to the dark corners of the internet you can find a litany of off-the-wall conspiracy theories.

MATTINGLY: And the latest to gain traction surrounds the NFL, the White House, Taylor Swift, pharmaceutical companies -- all conspiracy to get President Biden reelected this fall. Except this theory isn't just rattling around on Newsmax or your uncle's Facebook page; it's actually literally being amplified by Fox News.


CHARLY ARNOLT, HOST, OUTKICK.COM: Now there's an online plea circulating that is begging people to become Niners fans for the next two weeks just so it doesn't raise Travis Kelce, AKA Mr. Pfizer's, star power along with, of course, Taylor Swift.

EMILY COMPAGNO, FOX NEWS CO-HOST, "OUTNUMBERED": That's persuadable power and this administration is locked dead set on harnessing that.

JEAN PIRRO, FOX NEWS CO-HOST, "THE FIVE": Yeah, but why alienate the -- your -- the -- your fans -- the Swifties? You know, they come across from every political ideology. Why put yourself in one area?

ARNOLT: Please don't believe everything Taylor Swift says. We're all begging you.


MATTINGLY: Joining us now to discuss is CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy. I'm chuckling but it's also kind of horrifying, but also kind of hilarious that they're trying to get a bunch of people to support the San Francisco team in alignment with Nancy Pelosi.

Can you explain what exactly is going on here?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: It's hard to explain because it's absurd. But the idea, generally speaking, is that the NFL is in cahoots with Taylor Swift in rigging the Super Bowl to set the stage for Taylor Swift then to endorse Joe Biden for the Democrats and the establishment, supposedly, to wield her star power against Donald Trump in the 2024 election.

Now, of course, this is absurd. It sounds absurd to the people in the -- you know, in reality. But we shouldn't dismiss it because there are a lot of people -- a not so insignificant amount of people who end up believing these ideas -- who view them as attractive.

Remember the QAnon conspiracy theory, for instance, which was equally as absurd if not more. A lot of people ended up believing that conspiracy theory because they're locked in this media universe which feeds them information that supports it.

And for people in the Fox News universe and really in other parts of the web, they're being told quite literally that there's a psychological operation happening in this country in plain sight involving Taylor Swift to rig the 2024 election. It sounds absurd but we shouldn't dismiss it because people do view these ideas as attractive. HARLOW: All is lost if Roger Goodell has to field the question on -- a serious question on this.

MATTINGLY: The Pentagon has fielded a question on this.

HARLOW: Right. I'm just saying -- OK.

DARCY: I mean, the thing about this is that it might be attractive to a few million people -- a sliver of the country. But you do wonder how politically advantageous it is to go to war with Taylor Swift. If you're Donald Trump, I don't think you want to go to war with Taylor Swift. She has a huge legion of fans. An army of supporters who far outweigh the crazies who end up believing this stuff.


And so it might be lucrative I think for some people in the right-wing media to feed their base this stuff. I'm not sure if you are someone like Donald Trump you really want to pit your campaign against the most powerful popstar on Earth.

MATTINGLY: Particularly not a national election, given her social media following.

The question I have -- I mean, beyond that, I thought Taylor Swift was ruining the Chiefs and ruining Travis Kelce. And now she's leading them to a Super Bowl because of this (INAUDIBLE).

The Pfizer connection -- can you explain that to people real quick because that keeps coming up?

DARCY: Right. So, Kelce participated in a Pfizer campaign and so now there's this idea that not only is Taylor Swift apparently controlled by shadow forces --



HARLOW: -- shot.

DARCY: He's part of the --


DARCY: -- campaign for COVID shots.

So the idea is not only is Taylor Swift under the control of these, I guess, sinister forces and the shadows, but also Kelce is being wielded by them to get people to do the smart thing and get a COVID vaccine. Of course, COVID vaccines are not popular in the right-wing media space.

And so, again, you have all these kind of conspiracy theories converging now to really sell this to a portion of Americans. MATTINGLY: Do you sit in your office, Oliver, with, like, a string board -- like, (INAUDIBLE) in Philadelphia where you're like pharma company, Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift, Elon, Vivek, and just connect it all -- or try to connect it all together?

DARCY: I don't but it seems like a lot of people in this universe do because they --


DARCY: Like this, like, weird conspiracy theory with all these -- I mean, it is --


DARCY: If you go down the rabbit hole it is very -- it is very strange.

MATTINGLY: That is an understatement. We appreciate you trying to explain it to us. I don't envy you having to try and figure it out. This is an actual thing.

Oliver Darcy -- thanks, bud -- appreciate it.

Well, new details this morning about how the drone attack in Jordan killed three U.S. servicemembers. The delicate balancing act for President Biden as he looks to respond. That's next.