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CNN This Morning

Former President Trump Draws Controversy by Stating He Would Encourage Russia to Invade NATO Allies Who Haven't Met Defense Spending Obligations; Trump Legal Team Asking for Access to Evidence on Classified Documents Case; Robert F. Kennedy Runs Ad Supporting His Presidential Run during Super Bowl; Israeli Forces Rescue Two Hostages in Southern Gaza; NATO Chief: Trump's Remarks Puts US Soldiers at Risk; Musk Denies Russia Using Starlink Satellites for Internet. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 12, 2024 - 08:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. So glad you're with us. It's a pivotal week for Donald Trump and his legal cases. There is a high-stakes hearing today in his classified documents case. What Trump's legal team wants to see and what the special counsel wants to keep secret.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And abandoning allies. Trump says he'd encourage Russia to attack NATO countries that don't pay their bills. Why world leaders say it puts American troops at risk.

HARLOW: An extension threat. A new study reveals how humans are threatening the lives of migratory animals.

This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.

Here's where we begin. This just in. We are now expecting Donald Trump to attend a closed door hearing next hour in Florida in his classified documents case. This could impact whether Trump goes to trial before the November election. Today Trump is also facing a major deadline if he wants to appeal the ruling that he does not have immunity from prosecution as president.

And down in Georgia, there is an important hearing as Trump tries to throw Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis off his election subversion case.

MATTINGLY: At the same time, the world is reacting to Trump's comment that he would encourage Russia to attack NAO allies that don't pay their fair share.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The presidents of big countries stood up and said, well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn't pay, you're delinquent? He said, yes, let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them do whatever the hell they want. You've got to pay.


MATTINGLY: Just again for clarity, there's not like a pot of money that you drop money into. It's percent of GDP for defense spending. We continue to explain that.

Kristen Holmes, though, is live for us in Fort Pierce, Florida. Kristen, a busy day for the legal cases, the legal side of things. You just reported, I think it's still out on the wire, that we're expecting him to be there in person.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Phil. So we are expecting him to be there with the usual caveats that I get from his senior advisers that he could change his mind at the last minute. Until he's actually in the car, we should not totally guarantee that he's going to be there. But he did want to go. We are expecting him there.

And today's hearing is behind closed doors, so it's likely we won't see Donald Trump at all. And it's all about access to evidence. Remember, at the heart of this case is classified documents. Donald Trump and his team want access to classified evidence that perhaps the prosecution and intelligence agencies don't want them to have access to. So that is something we are keeping a close eye on. We'll definitely look for a readout there.

But that's not at the only legal case in the spotlight. As you mentioned, last week a D.C. appeals court ruled that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes committed while he was president. Today is that deadline for his team, and we expect them to do this, to appeal to the Supreme Court to actually try block that ruling in an attempt to delay the case even further, delay the case from going to trial.

And there's still more. In Georgia, as you mentioned, a judge there is holding a hearing later today about whether or not Fani Willis, the district attorney there, and her team can be subpoenaed at a hearing later in the week because defendants are alleging that Fani Willis had an inappropriate relationship with a top deputy that is causing issues that she should be disqualified from the case. So those are the legal cases that are laid out today, a big day for Donald Trump.

HARLOW: I wonder, also, what you're hearing given what he said about NATO and the United States' role and responsibility, not to mention what he thinks Russia should do over the weekend. What are you hearing from the team, because there's a lot of fallout around him for that, no?

HOLMES: Poppy, there is a lot of fallout, but not within his team. His team is saying they stand by his statements, that if you look at what he did when he was president, it was a time of peace, that no one was going to war, there were no invasions.

But the other thing I really want to point out is that the strong man rhetoric is something that Donald Trump likes and so do his supporters, this idea that he tells people they have to pay up, they have to do this, America comes first.


So part of this is still a campaign strategy. Yes, he's out there. Yes, we're hearing a lot of pushback, not just from Democrats and Republicans but also from world leaders. But when it comes to supporters and what he's trying to do to get votes, that's something they like hearing.

MATTINGLY: Kristen Holmes, another busy day on the trail and courthouses. We appreciate it.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator, former Trump White House communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin. Thanks so much for coming in. I think the NATO issue is fascinating for me because it's almost perfect for Trump. Most people don't understand how it actually works. They don't understand how it's positively benefitted them over the course of their lives or their day-to-day life. And he can say things that piss off the exact people he wants upset.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Exactly. And by the way, our allies are listening, though, who do understand what it means. So just to remind folks at home, Afghanistan, for example, was a NATO-led mission. Iraq at points was a NATO-led operation. After 9/11, our NATO allies under Article Five came to our defense. It's a collective defense organization, I would argue the most successful in history.

And by the way, it started to deter Russia. So now where we are is a point where he's basically signaling if Russia were to attack at NATO ally like Poland, for example, where we have U.S. troops stationed, he wouldn't necessarily come to their defense. It's a remarkable statement, but it shouldn't be surprising. This was something that he toyed with when he was in the White House. John Bolton was spoken to this as well. He truly didn't understand the importance and the power and deterrence of NATO, and he talked about withdrawing from it many times.

So we can't just take it as dismissive rhetoric. It is an actual a profound statement that he made on the campaign trail this week, and I hope that the Biden folks actually use that and push back and explain why this is so important, especially in this moment with what is happening with Ukraine.

HARLOW: He seemed to go further, too, than he has before by waying, by the way, Russia, if they don't pay up, the door's open for you to --

GRIFFIN: And just to speak in very specific terms, that's talking about like World War III at that point. If you're talking about opening the door for Russia to go into Poland, Moldova, anywhere else, that becomes our third world war.

HARLOW: You were busy on Twitter for the weekend. You had a lot to respond to. Trump's attack on Nikki Haley's husband, do we have that? Can we play that for people? He's serving the country, and yet this is what Trump said about him.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Where's her husband? Oh, he's away. He's away. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? Where is he? He's gone.


HARLOW: Remind people where he is and why Trump did that.

GRIFFIN: He is serving in Africom right now in a counterterrorism operation as a member of the National Guard. And it's just a despicable statement. And it echoes things that he's done in the past, going after John McCain, going after service members and Gold Star families. When I worked for Vice President, one of the main issues he and his wife tried to champion was supporting families of servicemembers. And it's just remarkable that he can say this about a popular former two-term governor and former U.N. ambassador's husband, and not a single prominent Republican other than Chris Sununu said a damn thing about it.

This is -- the party is just lining up behind him. We're going to just keep making excuses for his terrible behavior, his dangerous rhetoric, him basically saying Russia can invade NATO allies, and this is what we're doing. We're repeating everything from 2020 that we should have learned already and haven't learned a thing.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you about something we all saw during the Super Bowl last night, not Trump's tweet about the music moderation act, which is like the thirstiest tweet I have ever see, or whatever.

HARLOW: He wants Taylor Swift to like him so badly.

MATTINGLY: Or Truth post. It's just so bad, he wants her to -- that's really lame.


MATTINGLY: No, it the RFK ad, which, look, first off, his entire family has disowned him and it. He has apologized to his family on X for the ad, which is penned right above his apology to his family on X. Let's watch some of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy for me.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kennedy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want a man for president who's seasoned

through and through a man who's old enough to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And young enough to do


MATTINGLY: The reason why I stopped and was frozen watching it, because one, it's very effective. Two, name I.D. is critical for him, and the nostalgia for his family everything for. And three, he's still polling in double digits around the country.

GRIFFIN: The RFK factor doesn't get enough attention. And I do think a big part is the name I.D. There's a nostalgia. There's a brand there. There's a love for that family. But everything he stands for is counter to the Kennedy family. And what I thought was actually surprising is Maria Shriver even retweeted a statement from one of the family members. And she's largely stayed quiet on this and chosen to allow other family members to speak. The Kennedy family wants nothing to do with what he stands for. This is a man who spreads conspiracy theories. He is a reckless candidate.

The one think I would say is this -- I think that he very likely takes more voters if staying in the race from the Trump side of the ticket than from Biden because he's really leaning into some of these more right wing conspiracy theories.


MATTINGLY: Yes, it's a big question, but that ad doesn't mention any of this stuff. And nobody has seen what the other family members are saying. Is it an effective ad?

GRIFFIN: If he were to pivot to ads like this and a little less --

MATTINGLY: A $7 million, it was a Super PAC, a $7 million buy at a prime spot in the Super Bowl --

GRIFFIN: If you're looking for a Biden offramp and you're not paying attention, you could see folks going there.

MATTINGLY: You make a great point. You probably don't pay enough attention to it. We need to start paying attention to it. Alyssa Farah Griffin, as always, thank you.

MATTINGLY: New images of the hostages rescued from Gaza in a daring Israeli mission. They're reunited with their family this morning, and we have new information on how they were saved.

HARLOW: And Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, he is hospitalized again this morning in critical care. What we know now about his condition next.


MATTINGLY: New details this morning on the rescue mission in Gaza to save two Israeli hostages kidnapped on October 7th. The Israeli Defense Forces pulled off the rescue overnight under the cover of heavy airstrikes in Rafah. The Hamas run Health Ministry says 67 people were killed. Sixty-year-old Fernando Simon Marman and 70-year- old Louis Har are said to be in good condition. The military says soldiers found the hostages on the second floor of the building and used their own bodies to protect them.

Hours before, on Sunday President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for the first time in weeks and discussed efforts to secure the release of all hostages. That call comes as the U.S. has warned Israel that any ground assault in Rafah must include a, quote, credible safety plan to protect the 1 million refugees sheltering there. Netanyahu says they can head back north.



JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: There is an estimated 1.4 million people in that area right now. And as the German foreign minister said --


KARL: They can't -- they can't they can't just disappear. Where are they supposed to go?

NETANYAHU: No, the areas that we've cleared north of Rafah, plenty of areas there. But we're 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. It's part of Hamas' effort to keep them in harm's way. But we've so far succeeded, and we're going to succeed again.


MATTINGLY: Joining us now, CNN political and foreign policy analyst, Barak Ravid. He is also political and foreign policy reporter for AXIOS.

Barak, I want to get to the hostage rescue in a moment, but to start there with the prime minister's interview yesterday with Jonathan Karl. US officials believe they have been cavalier about these things.

The frustration that I've picked up that I know you've reported extensively on over the course of the last couple of weeks, inside the White House, there is a belief that there is just not enough attention paid to these issues. And the US concerns about them are too often dismissed. What's next here?

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Well, I think that one of the things that I heard from US officials yesterday after the call between Netanyahu and Biden is that the White House is totally aware that at the moment, it's not that tomorrow Israel is going to operate in Rafah, and maybe not even next week or the week after.

But what they are concerned is that even if, as Netanyahu says, Israel will try to evacuate the population, some of it was displaced for, I don't know how many times -- two, three, sometimes four times, maybe that's what US officials say, it's not even possible to do that, even if you have the best intentions in the world, and that's the concern, because it's not a simple thing to move more than a million people from one place to another anywhere in the world, in Gaza, especially.

MATTINGLY: Barak, you have led everyone in terms of coverage of the hostage negotiations, whether or not they're real, whether they're progressing, whether they're falling apart. I believe there's going to be a very important meeting on Tuesday, the latest of several meetings that have occurred over the course of the last several weeks. Where do things stand right now?

RAVID: Well, it stands with this strange situation where it's clear to everybody that tomorrow, an Israeli delegation is going to come to Cairo in order to meet CIA Director Bill Burns and the Prime Minister of Qatar and the Egyptian intelligence chief, but Netanyahu still hasn't signed off on it.

So we are all waiting for this signing that the delegation can go. President Biden told Netanyahu yesterday in their call, listen, you know, don't shut the door to these negotiations even if you feel that the gaps are wide. Send your people to Cairo. Let's try and move forward.

I think that, you know, Netanyahu is going to send them, it's very clear. But still, the question is, when those people meet in Cairo, you know, they talk among themselves, they can agree among themselves. But at the end of the day, if Hamas is not there, as it is at the moment, we're not going to have a deal.

MATTINGLY: You have some incredible behind-the-scenes reporting on the operation last night to rescue two hostages. Just for people who are waking up this morning learning about this, what stood out to you about that operation, and what it might mean for what happens next.

RAVID: What stood out to me is that first, you know, we thought for many, many weeks and months, even that the hostages are all in the tunnels, and therefore it's impossible to extract them in a military operation. But obviously what happened in recent weeks, with the IDF expanding its operation southern cities like Khan Younis, Hamas apparently moved some of the hostages to houses of families in Rafah, and this is what opened up the operational opportunity to do such a special operation.

And the soldiers who are coming from the IDF Navy SEALs and Shin Bet Special Forces and the Israeli Police Counterterrorism Unit, they all get to this house in the middle of the night, 1:49 AM local time, put an explosive charge on the door, blow up the door, surprise the three Hamas guards inside, killed them within minutes.

But then the problem only starts because then you need to get those people and get them to the helicopter that will take them out of Gaza. And then there's, you know, extensive firefight in the area. Israel bombs in Rafah, more than 60 Palestinians are killed according to Palestinian sources in Rafah.

So the drama wasn't the actual, you know, getting into the apartment, getting them. The drama was getting them out of Gaza.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it was a remarkable ad very complex operation, remarkable reporting by you as well.

Barak Ravid, we always appreciate it. Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Let's discuss with our chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, so glad you're with us.

I want everyone to listen to this exchange between Bibi Netanyahu and Jonathan Karl at ABC. This was yesterday. Here it is.



KARL: How many of the 132 hostages do you think are still alive?

NETANYAHU: I think enough to warrant the kind of efforts that we're doing and we are going to try to do our best to get all of those who are alive back.

I'm not sure that anybody can put themselves in the position of the families, but neither can the families put themselves in the position of the decision makers. These are two separate things.


HARLOW: Christiane, I wonder what that indicated to you, given the amount of criticism he has faced from families within Israel waiting for their loved ones.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Poppy, this is going to be an amazing extraction for those families who have really put the case of their families and the hostages front and center throughout these last four months.

And, it is interesting to note that these are the first two civilian Israelis who have been rescued by the Israeli counterterrorism forces.

Barak Ravid laid out a very clear news about exactly the kinds of forces who went in to get them. This wasn't about you know, sort of a massive land counteroffensive or ground operation. They had intelligence. They went in on a counterterror expedition, and they got their guys out. So that is really important.

The only previous hostage that has been released by Israel was military, a soldier very early on. The others were all due to negotiations. You remember, at the end of November, more than a hundred Israeli

hostages were released by Hamas. So that I think is super important to know.

The other thing is, of course, Netanyahu in his press conference after meeting with Secretary of State Blinken, late last week, he essentially publicly in any event, to his own people in Hebrew, dissed, if I could use that word, the United States pressure not to do what President Biden has asked him not to do and that is going on an unprepared ground offensive without taking due course for civilian life.

And as you know, even the release of these two elderly gentlemen hostages came at the cost of now nearly a hundred Palestinian lives, according to Palestinian health authorities.

So it's a big, big issue. And you know, President Biden has called the Israeli operation over the top and that there needs to be some kind of targeted, targeted actions plus, the Biden administration is trying to urge as you heard, negotiations, and that's very important, too.

HARLOW: Yes, important to follow, though, if there are any changes in terms of US actual support for Israel after the words from Biden saying it's over the top.

Christiane, while you're here, I need your take on Trump over the weekend and what he said about NATO and sort of the door he opened for Russia, and the reaction of world leaders to that that you're hearing.

AMANPOUR: You know, Poppy, it is insane. I mean, it literally is insane. In one sentence, President Trump turned the entire post war, you know, transatlantic security doctrine on its head. He actually, after that, whatever you want to call it propaganda coup for Putin, saying that he was going to go for full defeat, or only negotiate on his terms over Ukraine, to then say that if he was president, he would not just, you know, not come to the defense of NATO allies, but would encourage Putin to do whatever the hell he likes.

You know, it's almost unbelievable. It's an insanity to say that because that is the existential crisis that the world faces right now. The post-World War Two, you know, global security operation is based on America, and its 30 other NATO allies defending each other and coming to each other's rescue, and protecting and preserving democracy and security in the West.

And Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general said, you know, whoever is president of the United States will be required to keep up its Article V of NATO commitments. I mean, it's just really so huge. That sentence itself is so huge.

HARLOW: It is and Stoltenberg saying look, that would risk American and European soldiers on the ground as well. You know, he chooses his words very carefully. So as --


HARLOW: Go ahead, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: No, just saying yes, he does choose it very carefully and one of the things that Zelenskyy has said for months is that you need to send us the weapons so that we're doing the fighting against your mortal enemy, not your sons and daughters, and I think that's very critical, while this Senate, Congress thing is stuck. The idea of sending weapons to Ukraine is not charity, it is to protect American and NATO sons and daughters and to prevent Putin having his will and nobody doubts that if Putin wins on his terms in Ukraine, that will not be the end of his appetite.

HARLOW: Christiane Amanpour, thank you, from London.


MATTINGLY: Well, also this morning, Elon Musk says that claims of Russia's military using his satellite internet service, Starlink are false.

Ukraine's intelligence service says it intercepted communications that prove Russia is using Starlink terminals to access the internet in the occupied Donetsk region.

Starlink is operated by SpaceX, which denies doing any business with Moscow. And this morning, the Kremlin says it has not used Starlink in any way. Ukraine have used Starlink since Russia invaded the country.

Well, the clash of Republican leaders, Senator Mitch McConnell breaking with Donald Trump to advance a bill for aid to Israel and Ukraine.

HARLOW: And a woman wearing a trench coat opening fire inside of Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston and she had a child with her. What we're learning about this shooting, ahead.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I can't remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday, but as I've said all week long, we are going to keep working on this bill until the job is done.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I know it's become quite fashionable in some circles to disregard the global interest we have as a global power.

We must reject the dimmest and most short sighted views of our obligations and grapple instead with actual problems.


MATTINGLY: That was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell speaking as lawmakers worked through the weekend on a major foreign aid emergency package. At $95 billion, the aid bill would include aid for Ukraine and Israel,

and it cleared a major hurdle in the chamber over the weekend. Lawmakers including 18 Republicans voted to advance it and it is a clear sign, the GOP support for the measure has continued to be steady and even grown in recent days.

But even if the Senate passes the bill, and it is all but certain it will, its fate in the House, very uncertain as many Republicans stand strong in their opposition to more Ukraine aid.