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Source: Arab American Community Leaders Postpone Meeting With Harris Amid Concerns; White House Memo Slams Republican Attacks on Biden's Age; $95B Aid Package For Israel And Ukraine Faces Critical Vote Today In The Senate; Tight Security In Place As Big Game Nears; Qatar & Saudi Arabia Warns Israel Against Rafah Incursion. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 11, 2024 - 08:00   ET





AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It is Sunday, February 11, also known as a Super Bowl Sunday.


WALKER: I'm Amara Walker.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Thanks for joining us.

We begin with a CNN exclusive this morning about the rift that is growing between the president and the Arab American community over the U.S. stance on a ceasefire in Gaza. Community members have postponed a meeting between the Vice President Kamala Harris and some leaders there. This comes after a meeting last week between senior administration officials and community leaders in Dearborn, Michigan. But some of those leaders said they walked away from the meeting unsatisfied.

I spoke with one of those leaders who attended the meeting was yesterday on "FIRST OF ALL".


ABRAHAM AIYASH (D), MICHIGAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We were very clear that we are committed to the same message we have been talking about for the last 124 days. So, we are here and we were consistent with our messages, very frank discussion. We did not mince words and we made it clear to the Biden administration that unless we saw policy change, there would not be any follow-up discussions as a result of the meeting that we had this week


BLACKWELL: Joining us now is White House reporter Camila DeChalus.

Camila, talk to us more about the reason given for putting off this meeting with the vice president.

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they said that there was a multitude of reasons of why they postpone this meeting. But one of the biggest ones was that they were scared of the backlash that they may receive with meeting for meeting with the Biden administration.

And also that they didn't want to be perceived as trying to speak for an entire community of the Arab American and Muslim communities in the U.S. Now, this just comes as cancellation of this meeting comes just after white -- senior White House officials met with Michigan leaders in the Arab American and Muslim community there.

And it just really signals how there's still this high tension between the Biden administration and Arab American and Muslim leaders that feel really frustrated by how the White House is not fully supporting a permanent ceasefire in Gaza at this point in time, Victor, Amara.

WALKER: So what does the Biden administration doing then to try to mend the relationship?

DECHALUS: Well, I think one of the biggest things that they've just made clear is the fact that they know that they are open to having open dialogue and communications with Arab American and Muslim leaders throughout the country. And they have expressed interests that they are interested in holding more conversations and conducting these type of meetings.

Now, I've even spoken to several Arab American and Muslim voters across the country and they say that they are really not satisfied with how the Biden administration is handling the Israel and Hamas conflict flight. And these leaders that they're calling to meet with have also said that while they're meeting with the Biden administration and open to having these conversations. They're also going to be pushing for them to support a permanent ceasefire at this time, Amara, Victor.

WALKER: All right. Camila DeChalus, thank you very much.

Well, it has been a busy weekend on the campaign trail as a rhetoric ramps up among the Republican and Democratic front runners, the White House released a memo Saturday citing various instances of people describing President Biden as sharp and alert as Republicans are piling on to a special counsel report calling his age and mental acuity into question.


Donald Trump tore into Biden's handling of classified documents in South Carolina Saturday.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Said he was a disaster mentally and he willfully stall gigantic numbers of classified documents, willful. But because of his condition mentally -- is this guy going to make it to the starting gate seriously?


BLACKWELL: And Nikki Haley handed out mental competency tests at a campaign stop in South Carolina.

CNN's Alayna Treene has more.


ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Amara and Victor, Donald Trump set foot in South Carolina on Saturday for the first time this year. And he delivered a clear message to his supporters, which is that Carolina is his to lose.

Now, Donald Trump and his team really have increasingly saw this state as a place where they would the fight final blow to Nikki Haley's campaign and that's in part because of his continued success in the polls. He's consistently had an overwhelming lead over Nikki Haley in recent months, but also because of the intensity they've seen and the ground and on Saturday, I can tell you the venue was packed. They had many people who were not able to get in because it hit capacity very early on. And I think that just gives you a sense of how they're viewing the energy from his supporters in the Palmetto State.

But despite that confidence from Donald Trump and his team, Trumps still ramped up his criticism of Nikki Haley on Saturday and he even went so far as to question the absence of her husband on the trail. Take a listen.

TRUMP: Where's her husband though? He's away. He's a way. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? Where is he? He's gone.

TREENE: Now, Victor and Amara, I do want to be very clear that Michael Haley, Nikki Haley's husband, is currently deployed in African. That's why you have not seen him appear alongside her on the trail.

But it's also worth pointing out that Melania Trump, the former first lady, has not been appearing at Donald Trump's campaign stops or, any of his court appearances thus far. We really have only saw her when she appeared alongside her husband when he launched his White House bid in 2022.

But, look, Donald Trump did not just go after Nikki Haley. He also really tested out some of his general election rhetoric against President Joe Biden. That included attacking his handling of the southern border as well as ramping up his criticism of the Justice Department's decision not to charge Biden over his handling of those documents while repeatedly questioning Biden's mental fitness.

Alayna Treene, CNN, Conway, South Carolina.


WALKER: Alayna, thank you very much.

The both Haleys responded to Trumps comments about Michael Haley's absence. Michael Haley posted a meme on X that said, quote, the difference between humans and animals, animals would never allow the dumbest ones to lead the pack. You can see a wolf there in the background of that tweet.

While Nikki Haley had this to say:


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don't deserve a drivers license, let alone being president of the United States.


WALKER: Now also on the campaign trail, former President Trump celebrated the failure of the bipartisan border security deal in the Senate, while in South Carolina Saturday.


TRUMP: We also had another massive victory that every conservative should celebrate. We crushed crooked Joe Biden's disastrous open borders bill.


BLACKWELL: And he might tank another bill as well. The Senate is working through the weekend to craft a foreign aid bill, but Trump has signaled that he will oppose that one, too.

WALKER: All right. Joining us now is CNN senior congressional correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY", Manu Raju.

Great to see you. Manu, good morning.


WALKER: So we saw there Trump boldly taking credit for sinking that bipartisan border bill and now he's taking aim at the foreign aid bill. We have seen just how powerful or how much control Trump has over Republicans in Congress.

So does that mean that this bill stands a chance at all?

RAJU: It'll be interesting dynamic here because we do expect the Senate to pass this measure. It is $95 billion includes aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, aid to Taiwan. It does not have new border policy measures because you're right, Donald Trump effectively tanked it. He urged Republicans to kill it, Senate Republicans killed it because House Republicans said they would not take it up. So now this does not have any border policy measures, but this aid package is moving through essentially, it's going to pass by the middle of this week and put the, bill in the lap of the speaker, the House, Mike Johnson, who has not yet said how he would deal with this.

Now, in the House, they've been confronting their own divisions. Just last week we saw an effort to impeach the Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, over the border collapse because of Republican leadership miscalculated the votes they would have on the House floor.


They expect to have the votes. Again, try later this week.

Now, that has caused a number of finger pointing in the ranks, including over the former speaker the House, Kevin McCarthy. He doesn't -- he's no longer a member of Congress, and that impacted their vote total. And we saw a back-and-forth play out among House Republicans over the last several days.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): It's really unfortunate that Kevin McCarthy quit.

RAJU: You kicked him out first.

GAETZ: No, no, I kicked him out of the speakership. I didn't kick him out of Congress.

Look, here are 434 other people that are willing to do the job of congressman without being the speaker. Kevin McCarthy was the only one who said if he couldn't be speaker, that he was going to leave and obviously if Kevin McCarthy had been here, that would have been helpful in the in the vote on the Mayorkas impeachment. Also have George Santos had been here.

RAJU: How much this has to do with just kicking out McCarthy to begin with?

REP. KEN CALVERT (R-CA): It wasn't helpful, let's put it that way. It was not a -- not a good day for Congress and wasn't good day for the country either.


RAJU: And then the narrowness of the new majority under speaker of the House, Kevin -- Mike Johnson is what's caused so many issues for him, including and trying to pass any legislation, but do expect this effort to impeach Mayorkas to happen again on Tuesday because they'll get one more vote when the House majority leader, Steve Scalise, who has been returned when -- recovering from cancer, will return. That's why they planned to push this through by the slimmest of margins to make Mayorkas as a second cabinet secretary in history to be impeached.

WALKER: What about the fallout that continues over the special counsel's report about Biden since memory? How are Democrats responding to it? RAJU: Well, some are defending him very aggressively. Some are

sidestepping the question altogether. Number of vulnerable Democrats that we have spoken to have made it clear, Amara, that they have no desire to really get in to this topic, knowing the how complicated this could be for them politically, but there is a debate among Democrats about how aggressively to target the special counsel, but you've seen the White House go after him pretty aggressively, guys.

WALKER: I mean, there's a difference between reality and perception though, right? Because reality is Trump is also elderly. His close to 80, he has had his gaffes of his own mixing up Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi recently. But, of course, Biden is facing this perception problem.

Tell us about what's on tap for "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY", Manu.

RAJU: Well, we have new reporting coming out this morning about the former speaker the House who I just mentioned, Kevin McCarthy. There were eight Republicans who voted for his ouster and they are now facing blowback in the rank, primary challenges, donors shutting their walls, we could dive deeper into that dynamic.

We also look into the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell and some blowback he is getting as he has supported that emergency foreign aid package and has gone that is caused him some blowback among members on the far-right of his own conference. Those Senate Republicans did have a very good week last week in their efforts to try to take back the majority.

And lastly, I also speak to the embattled Senator Robert Menendez, who's facing corruption charges. He was been recently revealed a confidential informant, taped his conversations and he responds to those revelations as well later this morning, guys.

WALKER: All right. Lots to look forward to. Manu Raju, thank you very much. Good to see you.

And you can catch much more with Manu later this morning. "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" begins at 11:00 right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: It is Super Bowl Sunday. It's finally here, live look here at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where thousands of fans will watch the Kansas City Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers coming up later today. The Chiefs' fourth Super Bowl appearance in five seasons. A win today could cement the status as a football dynasty.

And for the 49ers tonight, it's a chance to redeem themselves after losing to the Chiefs and the Super Bowl at LIV. This is back in 2020.

Now with thousands of fans and celebrities packing the stadium and so many more people in Vegas for the big game, security is understandably increased here.

CNN's Josh Campbell reports on the efforts to keep everybody safe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Amara, Super Bowl security preparations have been underway for months, hundreds of thousands of fans will be inside and outside Allegiant Stadium will be protected by this massive deployment of law enforcement officers. Some of the resources on site will include physical scanners for anyone going inside the stadium. They'll also have explosive detection K9s as well sensors, that essentially sniff the air for any type of chemical, biological, or nuclear type of threat.

That's all happening on the ground. In the air, there will be a temporary flight restriction instituted about an hour before takeoff that will be enforced by military fighter jets.

One area particular concern for law enforcement pertains to drones. Drone technology she is obviously very cheap to obtain. There are a number of ways that bad actors could cause harm using a drone. So the FBI and other agencies have brought in counter drone technology. It's really impressive knowledge. It allows officers to electronically take control of a drone, either drop it out of the sky or move it away from a populated area.


Authorities point out that anyone caught flying drone near that stadium faces potential prosecution as well as over $30,000 in fines.

Now right now, law enforcement says they haven't identified any specific threat that gives him concern, but they say that they will be ready.

CATHY LANIER, CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: There is no known specific or credible threats to the game or any events surrounding Super Bowl as always, you'll see an increased security presence not only around the stadium on game day, but also around all of our other events.

SPENCER EVANS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: We have FBI personnel stationed and our own emergency operations center. And at every joint command post and intelligence center operating throughout the Las Vegas Valley. We are monitoring and sharing every scrap of information that indicates a potential threat with all of our inner agency, law enforcement and appropriate private sector partners.

CAMPBELL: Now guys, the work of law enforcement doesn't end with the final score. They still have to safely get all of these people home. Were told by TSA that they will be ramping up the number of personnel at Harry Reid International Airport, every security screening checkpoint will be open for a period of about 48 hours.

Of course, we know that not everyone who leaves Las Vegas leaves a winner, so especially for the crestfallen fans on the losing team, TSA just making their exit a little bit smoother -- Victor, Amara.


BLACKWELL: Josh Campbell with the report for us. Thanks so much. Still ahead, a stark warning in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia vows

very serious repercussions for Israel if its stored this city of Rafah. We'll go live to the region.

WALKER: Plus, Democrats slam the Biden's special counsel report as politically motivated, but it's what some Democrats have said about the special counsel in the past that is raising eyebrows.

Also, are you someone who watches the big game just for the commercials? Big companies are spending a lot of money this year ahead. A preview at the star studded ads that are costing millions.



BLACKWELL: After Israel declared its intention to launch ground offensive in Rafah, Qatar rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed plans. Qatari authorities appealed to the U.N. Security Council, calling for intervention to avert what they deem as a potential genocide.

WALKER: Saudi Arabia and the UAE also voiced concerns about the potential Israeli military operation.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Tel Aviv tracking all of this.

Jeremy, what are you learning?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, amid widespread international concern about a potential Israeli military offensive in Rafah, the Israeli prime minister doubling down on those plans, vowing to carry out the next Israeli military ground offensive in that southernmost city of Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinians are currently estimated to be living. That's more than half of Gaza's population living in a city typically where 300,000 actually reside.

The Israeli prime minister saying that Hamas is ensconced in that city, that it is Hamas's last bastion effectively and that the only way to achieve what he has described as total victory over Hamas would be to carry out a military offensive there.

Now, at the same time, he is vowing that Israel will provide, quote, safe passage for the civilians in Rafah to move further north. But where exactly is not clear. Here's the Israeli prime minister when asked that question


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The areas that we've cleared north of Rafah, plenty of areas there, but we are working out a detailed plan to do so. And that's what we've done up to now. We're not -- we're not cavalier about this. This is part of our war effort to get civilians out of harm's way.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DIAMOND: But with so much widespread damage in most parts of Gaza, in particular, north of Rafah, it's very hard to imagine what conditions those 1.4 million people would be living in where exactly they would be moved, and the fact that the Israeli military has been preparing and considering a potential military offensive in Rafah. And yet does not seem to have a clear plan for what it will do with the civilians is raising enormous concerns.

The United States saying that they had as of late last week, had not yet seen evidence of serious planning for the civilian population in Rafah saying it would be a disaster if a military operation were to be carried out there without that kind of serious planning multiple Arab countries, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia warning of an imminent humanitarian disaster should that offensive be carried out with Saudi Arabia warning a very serious repercussions should Israel move forward with this operation.

A Hamas spokesman also today telling Al-Aqsa TV that in a military offensive in Rafah would amount to the, quote, destruction of negotiations that have been ongoing for weeks for a potential cease- fire and the release of Israeli hostages from Gaza. Those negotiations are very much still ongoing with a major summit expected in Cairo on Tuesday. Of course, the question is whether or not such a deal could forestall, could prevent such a military offensive, at least for the 1.4 million people in Russia. That's certainly the hope.

BLACKWELL: Jeremy Diamond for us in Tel Aviv, thank you, Jeremy.

Still ahead: Democrats are slamming special counsel Robert Hur's report into President Biden's handling of classified documents, but they initially cheered his appointment, not too long ago. We'll talk about what changed.



BLACKWELL: Democratic leaders are now railing against the special counsel who investigated President Biden's handling of classified documents.

Robert Hur, found that while the president did mishandle top secret files, he did not pursue charges because he said a jury would look at the president as an elderly man with a poor memory. And Democrats are calling Robert Hur's report gratuitous and politically motivated.

Joining me now, former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin, and associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and CNN contributor, Leah Wright Rigueur.

Welcome to both of you.

Leah, let me start with you these Democrats who are criticizing him now were just lauding him just a few years ago.

I'll start here with senators from Maryland, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, when he left the U.S. attorneys office in Maryland, said of Robert Hur: Rob upheld the finest traditions of the office and the U.S. Department of Justice and faithfully follow the facts and the law.

Congressman Raskin, just last year said he was a trustworthy lawyer who will get to the bottom of it.

Here's Raskin now.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): If I were the president, I'd be very frustrated too, because most of that report was just a partisan hit job, completely editorializing about the president.


Remember, the special counsel's role is just to determine whether or not there's proper cause to go forward with prosecution. And he said that no criminal charges were indicated and there should be no prosecution. That should have been the end of it.


BLACKWELL: Tune change. Is it this inconvenient contradiction or what else do you see here?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I actually think it's a reflection of how Democrats went into the appointment of Hur from the very beginning, which is that if you notice the larger context of those earlier comments, which were, you know, effusive and many, they were within the context of praising Hur for being a bipartisan choice. So there was a lot of emphasis on Hur being a very good lawyer who also happened to be a Republican and also happened to be a diehard Trumper or part of the MAGA world.

And this is something that Democrats tend to do over and over again, particularly in cases like this. They really emphasize the bipartisan nature of say in this case investigations as a way of saying, look, we're impartial. We're above it all.

When they go low, we go high, that kind of thing. So now the chickens are coming home to roost. The same person that you praised because you're trying to praise this kind of bipartisan framework has come out and said, you know, all of these things that you're now trying to recategorize and reclassify as partisan.

So it's all of those problems that come from being, I think, overly generous and trying to appear nonpartisan in the beginning that are now taking root. And now Democrats have to scramble and figure out how do they undermine the very thing that they once praised.

BLACKWELL: I will point out the Republicans in 2016 loved Jim Comey when he was so critical of then Secretary Clinton but then when he released the documents -- they didn't love him when he didn't charge her and then loved him when he talked about the emails before the election.

Michael Zeldin, let me come to you here. And just the concerns of what is revealed in this report. And of course there are concerns among Democrats about the lapses of memory and calling him an elderly man with a poor memory.

If it's all true, right, that the president did not remember when his son died, if the president could not remember when he was vice president -- don't we want to know that? Are we -- should we want to know that these challenges are happening?

We are so critical of Republicans from the Trump administration when they hold secrets about Trump and save them for their books. Should we be happy that we now have this in this report if it's true?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Not in the context of a special counsel's report. In the context of an election where people are out on the stump talking and being interviewed by reporters about politics, absolutely.

In the context of a special counsel report, the special counsel is supposed to make determinations about whether or not laws are violated.

I was a special counsel. I investigated George Herbert Walker Bush. We issued our report and our report said we found no basis for criminal responsibility.

Hur did the same. He said, we find no charges would be warranted. The biggest problem is this one sentence where he said were we to charge him, even though no charges were warranted, he would likely present himself to the jury as an elderly nice guy with a bad memory.

Hur has no idea how Biden would present himself to a jury so he's offering speculation and on the basis of that speculation he's concluding that charges aren't warranted.

That's not what his job is. His job is to say did he willfully possess? Did he willfully distribute? Can I obtain a conviction and sustain that conviction?

If I can't, then the case is done. We don't need him to editorialize about the mind of a prospective juror when he has no basis to offer that observation.

BLACKWELL: Leah, is this a wash? You know, when we talk about age and mental acuity. President Biden, former president Trump, they would both be octogenarians in a second term. We've seen the mistakes come from the former president as well.

Is one any better or worse for the candidate or the country than the other?

RIGUEUR: Well, let me explain why this moment is actually incredibly troubling. The problem isn't necessarily is Biden's memory good, is Donald Trump's memory good, are they too old or something like that. The problem is that it's reinforcing pre-existing stereotypes that

people held about the current president and that they don't hold about Donald Trump.


RIGUEUR: And so, you know, we've seen in the past the way in which -- the way in which reports like this can actually reinforce people's pre-existing beliefs.

People thought that Hillary Clinton was too elderly and that she was too sick and then she fell in this kind of interesting moment and it exploded, right? People took that to heart.

Also, the Comey report which was released RIGHT before the 2016 election. These things had influence on the report. So I think here why it matters is because people have pre-existing views about Joe Biden and his age.

And so Hur is calling into that and buying into that. So the best thing that can actually happen right now is for somebody like Joe Biden to combat those stereotypes and those rumors through his actual appearance.

And he's already started doing that by trying to show that he is actually more kind of together than this report would say. It also matters, I think, for him to make the argument -- for him to make an argument about what he is capable of doing in terms of wisdom and experience.

It's the same thing that Trump has tried to do and it's really the same thing that Democrats should do in order for him to be back on track.

BLACKWELL: Michael, let me ask you about the releasing of the transcripts of the interview with the president. The House Oversight Committee is demanding the special counsel's office release those. The White House has said that it's not off the table.

Just from a legal perspective, not politically here, on the law, on precedent, on DOJ norms do you think it should be released?

ZELDIN: Well, if it contains classified information, then it can't really be released.

BLACKWELL: Redacting that.

ZELDIN: Hur was asking Biden -- well, if Biden was being asked let's talk about this document or this process and it's classified, then they can't release the documents.

If it's not classified information, if it's just the process, then perhaps that's up to the Justice Department to determine whether they want to release that stuff. They did release a lot of interviews in January 6th and otherwise. Mueller did a lot of interviews, but didn't release them. So really I

think Victor, the problem that we have is that the special counsel has initiated this conversation and that's not what he should have done.

This should have been initiated on the campaign trail. And we saw this, you know, what Leah says about Democrats, I don't know, but it was true with Republicans as well.

When Mueller said in his report if I could have said that the president, talking about Trump, didn't commit a crime, I would have said so. Now there was outrage by Republicans. Mueller was beloved by Republicans.

He issued this equivocal statement that if he didn't commit a crime I would have said so but I can't say so. Essentially accusing him of committing a crime without saying so.


ZELDIN: That was terrible. And Republicans properly criticized them. And so I think Democrats are proper to criticize Hur for this gratuitous statement about what is in the mind of a perspective juror.

We're now in this conversation about what does Joe Biden need to do to talk about his mental acuity because a special prosecutor has been raising these issues. That's not what he should have done. That was his mistake.

BLACKWELL: All right. Michael, Leah -- thank you both. We'll be right back.



BLACKWELL: Six people have died in a helicopter crash in California's Mojave Desert this weekend. They include Nigerian Banking executive Herbert Wigwe, his wife and their eldest son. Nigeria's Access Bank has confirmed the death and an official described the CEO as a colossus in the country's financial sector.

Officials say the former chair of the Nigerian Stock Exchange was killed and we should note that the Access Bank has been a long-time sponsor for several shows on CNN.

WALKER: The reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in Tennessee now stands at $100,000. The Blount County sheriff's office is working to track 42-year-old down Kenneth Dehart.

He's wanted on multiple charges including first degree murder after Deputy Kenneth McGowan was shot and killed during a traffic stop Thursday. A second deputy was injured after returning fire. Dehart's brother was also arrested. He's accused of helping the suspect after the shooting. He's being held on a $1 million bond.

BLACKWELL: Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin says that he will not seek re-election just days after he refused to impeach Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas. Gallagher is facing fierce criticism for bucking his party's vote and is the latest Republican to announce an exit from Congress.

House speaker Mike Johnson had hoped to oust Mayorkas to punish the Biden administration over its the handling of the migrant crisis at the southern border.

WALKER: Up next, some watch the Super Bowl for the game, others watch for the commercials. And well, we will be watching for the halftime show, I've got to say. We will preview one of the biggest days in sports and entertainment.

And make sure you tune in on Tuesday, CNN will have live coverage on the election to replace former Congressman George Santos. Will the slim Republican majority shrink even further in the House? How will the result shape November's election?

"SPECIAL ELECTION NIGHT" starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.



BLACKWELL: If you are making guacamole, there is great news when it comes to stocking up on those avocados.

WALKER: They are usually so expensive. Well, thanks to good weather and believe or not a lack of interference from Mexican cartels, avocados are not only in good supply but yes, they are cheaper.

CNN's Gustavo Valdes has more.


GUSTAVO VALDES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sliced, diced or smashed, any way you cut it, the avocado has become a staple of the American diet. And every year an essential snack at many Super Bowl parties.

Most of this creamy fruit satisfying the cravings of football fans in the U.S. comes from trees like this in southern Mexico, the main producer of avocados in the world. Exports to its northern neighbor hits $2.8 billion in 2021.

Nideli (ph) says that they want to make as much money as they can so they work for as long as they are allowed. She says that in the weeks prior to the Super Bowl, that means 12-hour shifts in this warehouse in the state of Michoacan.


"We see a 25 to 30 percent increase during the season," says Edgar Bustos, director of Boka Food. He says the avocados must arrive in the states for distribution about two weeks before the event to ensure they are ripe in time for kickoff.

He says this year there was a jump in demand for avocados in the U.S. but that doesn't mean that fans will be paying more for the guacamole.

He explains that the weather cooperated for the current bumper crop which will keep prices down. And they also avoided problems with the drug cartels that operate in the region.

In 2022, the United States temporarily suspended imports of avocados from Mexico after a USDA inspector working in the avocado warehouses received a threatening phone call.

Reduced production of avocados in California due to weather is also fueling demand for the Mexican fruit. And the industry is ready to meet the increased demand because the Mexican government extended the region where avocados can be grown for export.

Bustos says that for Super Bowl weekend Mexico sends about 100,000 metric tons of avocados ensuring that regardless of the colors on the field during the Super Bowl there will be green in your party bowl.

Gustavo Valdes, CNN -- Atlanta.


BLACKWELL: More than 110 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl tonight and of course the halftime show with R&B superstar Usher.

WALKER: And it's not just the halftime show or Taylor Swift in attendance that's driving the ratings. Many are excited about the commercials.

Is that Jason Momoa?


WALKER: Oh, wow.

BLACKWELL: He put a little shoulder into it.


FRANCE: That was that grab. So the whole thing about that -- I'm sorry. Did you introduce me?


FRANCE: Jumped right into it.

WALKER: Entertainment reporter. I'm sorry because Jason Momoa does something to me where I can't even focus.

Lisa France, our entertainment reporter is here. Ok. So back to Jason Momoa.

FRANCE: Momoa.


FRANCE: Please and thank you.

Yes. So the whole thing is a T-Mobile Home Internet commercial and they're playing off of "Flash Dance". So at the of that commercial you see Jennifer Beal, the star of "Flash Dance". That's why they pulled Zach Brad's (ph) shirt down to give a little off the shoulder.

But yes, she suggests that next time Jason Momoa should do that whole little skit with his shirt off.


FRANCE Yes, please.

Yes, please.

BLACKWELL: T-Mobile has an ad as well that's getting a lot of attention. Let's play a little of that. Was that the T-Mobile ad?

FRANCE: That was the T-Mobile ad.

BLACKWELL: Ok. So let's go to Uber Eats ad. Let's play the Uber Eats ad.


VICTORIA BECKHAM, SINGER: So David and I are going to be in a little commercial.



D. BECKHAM: Be honest.

V. BECKHAM: Ok. It's a big commercial.

D. BECKHAM: Tell them what it's doing.

V. BECKHAM: David, I'm trying.

D. BECKHAM: No, tell them what it's doing.

V. BECKHAM: Ok. It's during the big baseball game.

D. BECKHAM: Super big baseball game.

V. BECKHAM: Or was it the hockey bowl?

D. BECKHAM: Hockey. Hockey bowl.


WALKER: I love it. That's obviously reference to the documentary.

FRANCE: The documentary, right. When he kept telling her to be honest about what she was talking about. Be honest, Victor, you wanted us to show that T-Mobile ad again. I say, just where your mind was.

BLACKWELL: I mean, if there's an opportunity.


FRANCE: But Uber Eats is genius to do that because so many top people were talking about it. That became a meme moment from their documentary. So they did that.

And they also, for Uber Eats they have Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer reuniting. And that purpose of the whole ad as to say that, you know, when you remember something, you have to forget something. So the joke in that is she forgets that they worked together for ten years.


FRANCE: So It's pretty cute. It's a pretty cute ad.

WALKER: What's the other one elf? In elf we trust. So we're going to see Meghan Markle?

FRANCE: No, we're not going to see Meghan Markle. That's the thing. People wanted to see Meghan Markle because it involved some of the "Suits" actors. It's pretty funny. Yes, I love it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His boss was overspending on beauty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's wasting company funds on overpriced --


FRANCE: Right. So there you have Judge Judy, of course, and they're in beauty court. And those are some of the "Suits" stars. People want to see Meghan Markle back with her "Suits" co-stars so badly.

And so when it was announced that this commercial was happening, people like, yes, maybe Meghan Markle is going to be there. But she wasn't. But Gina Torres was there with the (INAUDIBLE) face and looking flawless in that makeup.

BLACKWELL: So we absolutely want to see Usher.

FRANCE: Absolutely, we do.

BLACKWELL: Halftime show.



BLACKWELL: What is on the set list? What do you think?

FRANCE: So there's a lot of debate. Like If you go on social media, everybody has their theories. Reportedly he's gotten them to give him two additional minutes. So instead of 13, it's going to be 15.

So I mean I want to see everybody and all of the things. That's another thing, the people are hotly debating. Who's going to show up as his special guest because he's had so many collaborators.

So reportedly Alicia Keys was seen rehearsing with him. So that means we'll get my boo.

BLACKWELL: Ok, good.

FRANCE: People want Beyonce so badly it's ridiculous because they did "Love in the Clubs" part 2. Justin Bieber, potentially. Of course, he has to do "Yeah".

BLACKWELL: Yes. I would love to see "Caught Up", if he can do that.

Lisa France, thanks so much.

FRANCE: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We'll be right back.



WALKER: King Charles has appeared in public for the first time since his cancer diagnosis. He attended church this morning alongside Queen Camilla in Sandringham where the royal family owns a country estate.

BLACKWELL: Buckingham Palace announced Monday that the 75-year-old royal will be stepping back from public duties while he undergoes treatment for an undisclosed type of cancer.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning.


Have a great Super Bowl Sunday.