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CNN This Morning

Biden Criticizes House Lawmakers For Taking 2-Week Break During Aid Discussions; U.S. Threaten To Veto New Gaza Ceasefire Resolution At U.N. Security Council; Biden Blames "Congressional Inaction For Ukraine's Withdrawal From Avdiivka; Navalny's Death Comes As Putin Runs For 5th Term In Office; TX Gov. Announces Plans To Build 80-Acre Base In Eagle Pass; Gov. Abbott Vows Not To Back Down In Legal Battle With Federal Govt; 2024 U.S. Election; As Next Round Of State Primaries Approaches, Trump Is In Michigan And Haley Is In South Carolina; "Beast Of The Southeast" Bus Tour Started By Nikki Haley; At A Michigan Rally, Trump Lashes Out At Judge's Roughly $355M Verdict; Haley Blasts Trump For his Legal Problems And For Not Criticizing Putin; Manchin Declares He Won't Run For Presidency; 1 Day After $355M Verdict, Trump Introduces New "Trump Sneakers"; "The Unites States V. Donald J. Trump" Airs Sunday At 8PM ET; Palestinian Refugees Caught In Gaza Airstrikes; Israel-Hamas War; Israeli Hospital Raid Arrested 70 Medical Personnel, According To Gaza MOH; Deadly Home Explosion In Sterling Virginia; Fireman Dies And 13 Hurt After House Explodes In Virginia; Racehorse Headbangs To Heavy Metal Music. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired February 18, 2024 - 07:00   ET




MAC MCCLUNG, 2023 & 2024 SLAM DUNK CHAMPION: I don't know really. I don't think that's for me to judge. I just kind of go with the flow and have fun with. I do it because I love it.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, Mac, a little disappointed there, even though, you know, he did pretty good, 50 -- perfect 50 points to win in that final dunk, that two-time champion. Don't be disappointed, Mac.

And as for that normal three-point contest, it was Dame Time. Once again, Damian Lillard coming through in the clutch, making his last shot to be Trae Young in the finals. He's the first back to back camp we've had since Jason Kapono back in 2008.

And guys, now for the big game tonight, going back to its roots. We're going to have the Eastern Conference versus the Western Conference. The past six years, the team captains have been drafted into teams, but all the players we talked to this week say they're thrilled to be going back to the traditional format. Here's hoping we get a competitive game.

AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST: That was so cool. I wish Shaq participate in that three-point contest. VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I love that floor.

WALKER: There would have been a huge gap between him and Sabrina.

BLACKWELL: Oh, I love that floor. I hope they keep that.

WALKER: It is very nice.

All right, good to see you, Andy. Thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: Next hour starts now.

BLACKWELL: Good morning to you. Rise and shine. Welcome to CNN This Morning. It is Sunday, February 18th. I'm Victor Blackwell.

WALKER: And I'm Amara Walker. Thank you so much for being with us.

Here's what we're watching for you this morning.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to fight until we get them the ammunition they need and the capacity they need to defend themselves.


WALKER: President Biden doubles down on his commitment to get much needed aid to Ukraine and lays blame for the delay at Congress. What he said to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a phone call yesterday.

BLACKWELL: Well, there's now been the busing of migrants to Democratic-led cities and the razor wire. Well, now Texas Governor Greg Abbott is building a National Guard base. We'll talk about the legality and the escalation of the feud with the Biden administration.

WALKER: Donald Trump hit the campaign trail for the first time since being ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties in the New York civil fraud trial and he did not hold back. His response to the ruling and how he is now raising money as the fines add up.

BLACKWELL: Some firefighters are in hospitals this morning after a house in Virginia exploded with them inside. What investigators are saying about a possible cause.

This morning there are new developments as the U.S. is struggling to develop a plan to help Ukraine. President Biden says that he's confident the U.S. will send more aid, although plans are stalled on Capitol Hill and the House is on a two-week break.

WALKER: But as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reminded everyone on the international stage, war does not take a break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Please, everyone, remember that dictators do not go on vacation. Hatred knows no pause. Enemy artillery does not fall silent due to procedural issues.


WALKER: Biden himself also criticizing Congress.

CNN's Camila DeChalus joining us now from Delaware. Hi there, Camila. What else did the president say from Rehoboth Beach?

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Biden did not hold back in expressing his frustration with Congress's inability to pass funding to provide to Ukraine at this point in time. And he really stressed that time is of the essence, especially in light of the recent developments of how the Ukrainian military had to just retreat from one of its key battleground cities, receding it to Russia because it was low on ammunition.

Take a quick listen to what Biden had to say yesterday.


BIDEN: Look, the Ukrainian people fought so bravely and heroically. They've put so much on the line. And the idea that now, when they're running out of ammunition, we'd walk away, I find it absurd. I find it unethical. I find it just contrary to everything we are as a country.


DECHALUS: Now, Biden has made it clear that he wants Congress and lawmakers to immediately come back from the recess and pass legislation now.

BLACKWELL: So the president is blaming Congress for this most recent loss from -- by Ukraine. What did he tell President Zelenskyy?

DECHALUS: That's right, Victor. He held a call with Zelenskyy. And on that call, he -- even though he's casting blame on Congress, he expressed that he's confident that lawmakers will pass this necessary aid to Ukraine.

Now, it's also important to note that Vice President Kamala Harris met with Zelenskyy in person in Germany. And when they met with them, Harris and Biden White House officials tell us that they really just reassured Ukraine and the Ukrainian president that the U.S. still stands by them and that they're going to be unwavering in their support of Ukraine and its fight against Russia.

Victor, Amara?


BLACKWELL: Camila DeChalus traveling with the president, thanks so much. New this morning, the U.S. is warning that it will veto any resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza if it comes up for a vote in the U.N. Security Council. Algeria has proposed such a resolution.

U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement that the U.S. is already working on a deal between Israel and Hamas that would bring a release of hostages and a pause in fighting for at least six weeks. Now, she also said that the proposed resolution would not achieve the same outcome, so the U.S. will not support it.

WALKER: Also new this morning, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister announced that Russia has invited Hamas and all Palestinian factions to meet in Moscow. The Prime Minister says the Fatah political faction is still trying to unify with Hamas, but only if they meet certain prerequisites. If all sides agree to the terms, the meeting would take place on February 26th.

All right, joining us now is Bill Browder, he's the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, which was the investment adviser to the largest foreign investment fund in Russia until 2005. He's also the author of "Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice."

Bill, welcome, and thank you for your time. And you're also quite well known for successfully lobbying the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian lawmakers in the death of that Russian lawyer who exposed fraud in Russia.

First off, I know you were a friend of Navalny and my condolences to you. I know that you believe the death of Navalny is Putin is trying to send a specific message, and it has to do with the upcoming presidential elections.

BILL BROWDER, FOUNDER AND CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Yes. So Putin is really on the ropes right now. He's lost 400,000 soldiers. There's another 600,000 wounded. He's lost another million men who have left the country. And he's coming up with the presidential election, and it's not an easy time to be a dictator that nobody likes and and make no mistake.

The Russian people are no longer -- he's not won their hearts and minds. He's trying to keep them repressed. And here, he had this guy, Alexei Navalny, who is a very popular opposition candidate in jail and still tweeting from jail, making statements from jail or encouraging his followers from jail to oppose Putin.

And Putin is so scared that he finally took the move that he's been thinking about for a long time, which is to kill Alexei Navalny. And it's clear to me, and it's clear to everybody who knows Putin, that this was a political murder of the most important opposition politician in the country.

WALKER: You know, I wonder what your thoughts are and your personal reflections on these images that we've been seeing out of Moscow of, you know, dozens of people showing their signs, displaying their signs of sympathy with flowers at these makeshift memorials. I mean, they're obviously displays a sympathy, but also a sign of protest to do that because these are people who are risking arrest as we see there.

And according to a human rights group, we understand there have been more than 400 people detained across Russia. But when you see these images and Navalny having been your friend, how does it make you feel?

BROWDER: Well, I -- first of all, I feel absolutely heartbroken and terrible that Navalny was killed. It's just a shock that I'm -- I can't even internalize yet. It's so awful. When I see these images, I see that for every person that's out there showing their face on the street and risking arrest, there's probably a thousand or 10,000 who are sitting back home, too scared to say anything but feeling the same thing.

Alexei Navalny was the hope of Russia. He was the one who wanted democracy. He was the one who wanted the kleptocracy that the criminals who stole all the money in the Putin regime, he wanted them out so that the Russian people could live a normal not impoverished life.

And so, the fact that he was -- he had such a good program, such a good attitude towards what should be happening, and the fact that he was killed, is really just the most horrible thing, not just for his family, not just for his friends, but for all the people of Russia.

WALKER: You know, Navalny no matter what Putin says about him or not actually, you know, he was quite influential on social media. His videos exposing corruption garnered millions of views online. Do you think his legacy will continue to cause problems for Putin?

BROWDER: I'm sure it will. In my mind, Alexei Navalny is the -- he -- I should actually say, he wanted to be the Nelson Mandela of Russia. Now he's ended up being the Martin Luther King of Russia.


In this case, it's not about changing race relations, but changing criminal relations. And in other words, is a criminal regime right now, which is destroying the country. He was the leader to try to end the criminal regime. He's been killed as a martyr.

And I think that his murder, his death will be a turning point in terms of how people think about Putin inside Russia and how people think about what Putin is doing. And it may not happen today, it may not happen next week, but his murder will be a major historical point in the ugly current history of Russia.

WALKER: I do want to ask you about some takeaways from the Munich Security Conference as it wraps up today. But just quickly, have you had recent correspondence with Navalny in past years or in recent years?

BROWDER: Not since he's been in jail, I haven't. But he was somebody that we were very close to. He was one of the key people in Russia when my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered, who came to fight for justice for Sergei Magnitsky. And we worked with him very closely in a number of different situations where he also took great risk helping us. And so he's forever in my heart. His murder is truly the most brazen evil thing that I've seen in a long time.

And here at the Munich Security Conference, it's the whole conference is in shock and you can kind of feel it, its visceral feeling in the air here at how upset everybody is about this murder.

WALKER: I do want to ask you what the main takeaways have been because the Munich Security Conference is a place where you have world leaders and diplomats who convene to talk about the most pressing international security challenges. And so what has been, I guess, the unifying resolve when it comes to Russia?

BROWDER: Well, I think that here, everybody is trying to figure out how to help Ukraine defeat Russia. There's a unanimous position here that Ukraine needs more weapons. They need more funding. There's a lot of frustration about the congressional hold up of the $63 billion.

There's a lot of discussion here about the frozen $300 billion of Russian central bank reserves and how we get that money confiscated and going to Ukraine. And finally, there's a lot of discussion here, and particularly why I'm here, is to discuss trying to save the lives and to free the other political prisoners.

And specifically a man named Vladimir Kara-Murza, who's serving a 25- year sentence in Russia for, quote, "treason" because he stood up to Putin. He's also in solitary confinement in Siberia. And I'm desperately afraid of what the Russians will do to him after they killed Alexei Navalny.

WALKER: All right. Bill Browder, we're going to leave it there. Thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, Donald Trump adds to the list of dubious and debunked claims in the first campaign rally since that $355 million judgment against him.

Plus, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is planning to add to his controversial border policies the new facility he's proposing for a border town.

And cyclists in Washington State fought off one cougar and pinned down another while out on a ride. Why wildlife officials say the cougars may have attacked.



BLACKWELL: The state of Texas has clashed with the Biden administration over border security is taking another turn.

WALKER: Governor Greg Abbott announced new plans to build an 80-acre base camp for National Guard soldiers in Eagle Pass. This comes as the legal fight intensifies over whether Texas even has the right to enforce U.S. southern border with Mexico.

CNN's Camila Bernal has the details.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amara, Victor, this is just the latest in this contentious feud between the state of Texas and the Biden administration over federal immigration policy and how things should be handled at the border. The base will house up to 1,800 Texas National Guard members, but it could expand to 2,300 if there is a surge of migrants.

Now, the governor is calling it a military base to amass a large army in a very strategic area, but it's also an 80-acre base that appears to be in direct defiance of federal border control. Now, according to Abbott, the base will help them consolidate and it will give them that flexibility and that speed because of its proximity to the border.

He also highlighted the ability it will give them to expand razor wire in the area, something that has already been a huge point of contention between the two sides. Here is what Governor Abbott said.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Our goal is to make sure that we expand the effectiveness of that razor wire to more areas along this border. Having the soldiers located right here, right by the river that they're going to have the ability to more quickly be able to construct that razor wire barrier. And this will reduce the travel time and costs of current living conditions.


BERNAL: Now, last year, Texas officials sued the Biden administration for cutting razor wire at the border. But last month, the Supreme Court ruled that Border Patrol agents could remove that razor wire while the state's legal challenge plays out.

And it's not just the razor wire and Border Patrol's access to the border that is playing out in court. The legality of Texas's decision to implement a series of buoys on its river border with Mexico is still in question. And appeals court is set to reconsider an earlier court's ruling declaring the barriers illegal.


And Abbott continues to send migrants from the border to Democrat- controlled cities across the U.S., which of course has been at the center of this showdown between the state of Texas and the federal government. The administration has said that this is a federal issue, but Abbott is showing with this latest announcement of a new base that he really just is not backing down.

Amara, Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right. Thanks so much, Camila.

CNN National Security Analyst and former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, Juliette Kayyem is with us now. So, Camila just said a -- this is a federal issue.


BLACKWELL: The enforcement of border laws and immigration laws is exclusively a federal responsibility. I wonder if you put this in the category of the posturing that we've seen from Greg Abbott before now, or is this something more?

KAYYEM: Well, this is more of the same, and it's all unconstitutional. I mean, to make it clear, the Constitution, as the Supreme Court ruled last month, makes it abundantly clear that essentially border security or the security of our nation is a federal function. The states can support it.

They can't create their own immigration or foreign policy, which is essentially what Governor Abbott is doing by restricting the movement of federal officials. I think people don't quite understand that. He's like basically saying, well, the feds can't come here as if he were a sovereign state.

And one way to think about this outside of the politics of this divided nation is imagine a liberal governor in California deciding to open up all the borders in California, right, with Mexico. We would not tolerate that. That would be also viewed as an unlawful assertion of state rights.

So here's how I view what Abbott is doing. It is posturing, it is expensive, it is a waste of time, but it is a way for him to change the narrative from law, which he's losing in every court case to, well, I'm tougher than the Biden administration.

He -- Texas has also -- you know, we got to go there. Texas has a big Senate election coming up this year and it looks like Republican can -- Republican Senator Ted Cruz is struggling a bit. And all of this is just for show, dangerous, inhumane in the way of functioning.

BLACKWELL: Yes. The Eagle Pass -- and we had elected official from Eagle Pass there, the state officials have taken over Shelby Park, which is along the border, and they're not allowing federal authorities, border patrol --


BLACKWELL: -- to get to that area. And there is this fear of a standoff that at some point may come between the state officials, the state -- the Texas National Guard and the federal officials. Does this make that more likely that there will be some standoff?

KAYYEM: Much more so. So this Eagle Pass construction that Abbott is talking about is essentially to formalize, institutionalized his unlawful policy. So how I think about it is it makes it more dangerous for migrants. We've had some deaths that probably could have been saved by Texas officials and federal officials were not there.

It makes it more dangerous for Texas National Guard members, not simply because of a potential stand up, but they are not trained in this. Their mission is ill defined and Texas Tribune has been reporting about the increase, even in suicides of Texas National Guard members. Because, you know, you don't just deploy people who -- this is their part time job for an indefinite period of time for a mission that's nebulous.

And then, of course, it increases the danger to our federal officials because whether it's a standoff or more likely a mistake, right. You know, you think someone's a migrant. It's actually a law enforcement official. This is where mistakes get made when there's no clear command and all Abbott is doing is muddying it.

And I have to say, unlawfully, the Supreme Court has rules. I mean, this is -- we're not quite, I mean, yeas, in some ways I think we're not quite capturing like, the Supreme Court has said stand down and he refuses.

BLACKWELL: Yes. When you say, and I think that probably put into context and clarity for a lot of people, imagine if Governor Newsom had decided -- that we're going to let everybody in California who wants to come through, doors open, just come this way, there would be outrage across this country in some communities because it's not the governor's responsibility to open the back door for the country for people to come through because he decides to do it.


Let me talk about what, I guess, the governor did not talk much about here. And that's the cost, the financial impact --


BLACKWELL: -- again, recapping what will be built, individual rooms for 1,800 up to 2,300 potentially. A gym, dining facility, health facility, laundry. Abbott was asked about the financial impact. He said it'll be minimal when you compare it to booking hotel rooms. What do you think about that?

KAYYEM: I'm only smiling because anyone who's dealt with military construction, whatever number comes in at first multiplied by 10. And I don't mean that facetiously. It is -- these are not cheap constructions. These are -- this is as envisioned, essentially a little town where a National Guard members come in, they are going to live. It has to be built up. It has to have security. It has to have facilities. It has to have staff itself who make the place run, bring food, bring laundry, whatever else you need.

And for a mission that has already been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, this -- Abbott is not telling the truth to his citizens about the cost, about the mission, and as importantly, and this matters a lot to me and to many, this essentially abuse of the National Guard and why they became members of the Texas National Guard.

They're there for a either a state mission, a hurricane, ice storm, whatever else, or to support the federal government under their authority. This nebulous thing that they're being put under who's in charge, what's the mission, what's their rules of engagement make it more dangerous for them. And this is something that the people of Texas ought to know.

BLACKWELL: Juliette Kayyem, thanks so much.

WALKER: Still ahead, just one day after a massive judgment against him, former President Trump launching a new venture, a branded line of shoes. Of course, the color is gold. We have more on the rollout of the Never Surrender High-Tops sneakers.



WALKER: Up next, in the 2024 primaries, South Carolina and Michigan. And you guessed it, that's exactly where Donald Trump and Nikki Haley are spending their time lately. Nikki Haley is going right now in beast mode in South Carolina as she embarks on her self-dubbed "Beast of the Southeast" bus tour across her home state.

BLACKWELL: "Beast of the Southeast" is the name of that, huh? As for Trump, he aired some old and some new legal grievances. He ripped into the $355 million fine the judge who found him liable for business fraud just handed down to him. This is Trump last night in Michigan.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We will have no higher priority than ending the weaponization of this horrible legal system that has developed around us. It's a horrible, horrible thing that's taking place. You talk about democracy. This is a real threat to democracy. This judge is a lunatic. And if you've ever watched him, and the Attorney General may be worse. May be worse.

You ever watch her? I will get Donald Trump -- her campaign, I will get Donald Trump. I promise, I will get him. She knows nothing about me.


WALKER: Let's discuss this now with Luke Broadwater, Congressional Correspondent for "The New York Times." Luke, it's great to see you. Good morning.


WALKER: So, let's talk a little bit about Michigan and how important the state is for Trump. He lost Michigan in 2020 to Biden. He won it in 26 -- 2016 over Hillary Clinton. How are things looking for Trump in a potential matchup between him and Biden in that state?

BROADWATER: Right. Well, Trump has been doing better in the polls than he had four years ago, and that's pretty much across the board in the battleground state. So, obviously, Michigan is a very important state. It's a swing state. The Biden folks, the Biden campaign is expecting Joe Biden to surge in the polls more once it's settled. That Donald Trump is the candidate that he's facing. And there's more of a head- to-head match as we go into the general election.

But yes, I mean -- you know, those Midwest states are really the key to victory here. And, you know, you can't overstate how important Michigan is.

WALKER: Yes, and Nikki Haley, as we mentioned, is on that "Beast of the Southeast" bus tour, through her home state of South Carolina, and of course she's amping up her attacks against Trump. Listen to what she had to say yesterday.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents. Now, we know Navalny is another one that he has killed. Why isn't Trump saying anything about it? He had a lot to say in Conway. But what does he say about Navalny now?


WALKER: Look, is Nikki Haley gaining any momentum in South Carolina?

BROADWATER: Well, she really needs South Carolina. If she doesn't at least come very close to Trump in South Carolina, it's hard to see how she can continue with this campaign. That's her home state, and she really needs a strong showing there. But what we are seeing is, unlike a few months ago, when Nikki Haley and almost every other Republican was afraid to take Donald Trump on directly, she has started to do that.

First hitting him much harder about his mental slip ups, where he's making mistakes about who different people are and what happened when, and showing his age. And then also here, on what I think a lot of at least a good portion of the Republican base will view as weakness against Vladimir Putin.

Now, there's a growing nativist sentiment in the Republican Party, but there still is a segment that wants to see tough Reagan-esque foreign policy and they don't like the idea of siding with Putin.


And so, she's trying to capitalize and galvanize that portion of the party.

WALKER: I do want to turn to your reporting, the -- that Senator Joe Manchin announced that he will not be running for the White House in that third-party bid. Tell us more about what the implications are for his future and also for the Democrats in the Senate.

BROADWATER: Right. Well, I think Democrats supporting Joe Biden nationally breathed a sigh of relief. There was this lingering question about the No Labels Party and whether they would rise up a third-party candidate. The leading person to do that was Joe Manchin, and he ruled that out just a couple days ago. So, that gives them a sigh of relief.

That said, Joe Manchin has said he's not running for Senate, which hurts Democrats chances of keeping the Senate. Now, what we know from our reporting is Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, has been urging Manchin to switch to independent and run as an independent in West Virginia, still giving them a chance to keep a Republican out of that seat. It seems unlikely that Manchin will do that at this point based on his public statements, but I think some Democrats are still holding out hope of a Manchin run in West Virginia.

WALKER: Is there any reason to hold out hope as it seems like President Biden is doing on any aid to Ukraine and Congress doing something about it after this two-week break?

BROADWATER: Yes, I think so. I mean, look, Speaker Johnson has been against the Ukraine aid without a really tough border policy accompanying it. There are some negotiations going on among the moderates in the Senate and the House.

But really, what it may come down to is this procedure called a discharge petition in which of -- most of the Democrats in the House, along with some hawks in the -- on the Republican Party can get together and draft the Senate bill onto the floor and get it to a vote. That will -- that's a very lengthy maneuver that will probably can't work until March. But I would bet that that may be where we awesomely end up with trying to get aid to Ukraine.

WALKER: All right. Luke Broadwater, thank you so much.

Now, before heading to Michigan, Trump was in Philadelphia at Sneaker Con promoting new sneakers. Bold, gold, and tough is exactly how his $399 a pair kicks aptly named the Never Surrender High Top. They're being described as on that new website right now, and they sold out fast last night as Trump continues to monopolize off merchandise related to his legal woes.

Now, the witty response from the White House coming from Biden's campaign spokesperson, Michael Tyler, quote, Donald Trump showing up to hawk bootleg Off-Whites is the closest he will get to any Air Force Ones ever again for the rest of his life.

BLACKWELL: He's selling sneakers, does he own any?

WALKER: That's a good question.

BLACKWELL: I've never seen the man outside of this. Maybe occasionally in a golf situation, but I don't know. He's now selling gold shoes (INAUDIBLE).

WALKER: You might wear them though because they are gold.

BLACKWELL: No, I won't.

Tonight, Laura Coates examines the case of the United States versus Donald J. Trump. What exactly are the charges and how strong is the evidence? "The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper" tonight at 8:00 p.m. on CNN.

Still to come, refugees in Gaza hope to find safety in a neighborhood that ended up being another target of Israeli airstrikes. The latest in a live report next.



BLACKWELL: We're just getting this into CNN, the Gaza Ministry of Health says that about 70 healthcare workers were arrested in an Israeli raid on Nasser Hospital. This is the largest medical facility in Gaza that was still functional, and according to the World Health Organization, it is no longer able to treat patients after Israeli forces carried out a raid there.

WALKER: And the death toll from the latest Israeli airstrikes in central Gaza rose to at least 68 people according to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. The strikes hit multiple neighborhoods that are part of the enclave. And Israel says, its forces successfully struck Hamas targets in the area and killed more than 10 Hamas militants.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond joining us now from Tel Aviv. Jeremy, Israel has ramped up its activity in Gaza this weekend. What are you learning?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Israeli forces, as far as we know, are still operating inside of Nasser Hospital, where they have been carrying out a raid. Searching for, what they say, are the bodies of dead hostages acting on credible intelligence that they say that Israeli hostages had been held there in the past, and that the bodies of dead Israeli hostages may still be held there.

But until now, they have yet to actually find any of the bodies of those hostages. Their search effectively coming up empty on that front. What they say that they have found is weapons at the hospital, although there was no indication from what the Israeli military has told us that they were being actively fired upon from that hospital in the last recent days.


Now, Gaza's Ministry of Health says that the result of this operation by the Israeli military has left that hospital completely out of service. What does that actually mean in practice? It means that Gaza's second largest hospital is no longer able to handle cases requiring critical care. The Gaza Ministry of Health says there are about 25 medical staff remaining. Electricity has been cut off to the complex. And in addition to that, 70 healthcare workers, they say, have been arrested.

Now, beyond the operations at Nasser Hospital, we have also seen a weekend of heavy Israeli airstrikes, not only in Southern Gaza, including in Rafah, where health authorities there say at least 13 people were killed, but also in Central Gaza. We have seen casualties rushing into that hospital, both the dead and the wounded. According to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Central Gaza, 68 people at least have died. According to that hospital, the Israeli military, for its part, says that they killed 10 -- at least 10 Hamas militants in Central Gaza and more in Southern Gaza as well. So, these military operations very much continuing with, of course, the prospect of a rough -- of an offensive in the southern -- southernmost city of Rafah very much still looming.

WALKER: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thank you for your reporting.

Still to come, new details about a deadly home explosion in Northern Virginia, what we're learning about the efforts to put out this flame.



WALKER: Authorities in Washington State say a young cougar has been euthanized after attacking a group of bikers. The group reported the animal stalked them along a creek before pouncing. A 60-year-old woman suffered minor injuries. Now, the King County Sheriff's Office says the other mountain bikers managed to pin the cougar down with a bike until authority showed up. A second cougar then ran into the woods.

BLACKWELL: Teams are investigating this morning why a home in Sterling, Virginia suddenly exploded. A firefighter was killed, 13 others were injured. First responders arrived there at the house Friday night after a 9-1-1 call to check a gas leak from a 500-gallon underground propane tank on the side of the house.

WALKER: Video of the aftermath shows the severity of the devastating blast with a huge plume of smoke coming from the leveled home and debris scattered into the street.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following the story for us. Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara and Victor, local fire officials have been offering updates to Friday's deadly explosion, saying that this is the worst kind of call that firefighters would respond to. It initially came in as a call of a smell of gas on Friday evening at a home in Sterling, Virginia, which is not far from Washington's Dulles Airport.

Crews -- they're able to locate a 500-gallon underground propane tank that they say was leaking. So, they called a hazmat team and it was shortly after that, that what's being described as a catastrophic explosion happened. When you look at these pictures, they really tell you everything you need to know about the sheer intensity of the explosion with smoke scene billowing from the flattened home.

We know one firefighter was killed in the incident. Officials identifying him as 45-year-old Trevor Brown from the Sterling Volunteer Fire Department. His death being described as devastating not just to his family, but really the community in general. About -- at least a dozen others were injured. Two civilians who were inside the home, the rest of them, firefighters who are expected to survive from their injuries.

The cause of this is still under the -- under investigation, though, officials are hoping to reassure the community, saying that there is no -- no more threats to the actual community, that this was an isolated incident. Amara, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Polo, thank you.

Basketball star Brittney Griner made an appearance at her alma mater, Baylor University, ahead of the school retiring her jersey.


BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA PLAYER: I'm home. Let's do it.


BLACKWELL: Griner's number 42 will be retired today when the Bears host Texas Tech in Waco. The two-time Olympic gold medalist played four seasons with the Bears before she headed to the Phoenix Mercury in 2013 where she won an NBA title -- a WNBA title the following year.

WALKER: Still to come, the Supreme Court could soon rule on Trump's effort to stall his federal election subversion case. What is at stake with the former president's legal gamble?



BLACKWELL: A Canadian Quarter Horse named Pretty is getting some attention, not for racing, but for her love of heavy metal music.

WALKER: Videos of the mare's headbanging to bands like Rage Against the Machine have now gone viral.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has more on this special horse.


AUTUMN PURDY, PRETTY'S GROOM: Come on. Party time.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How does this Canadian race horse named Pretty party? She's a headbanger but only to certain songs.

PURDY: Metal was her, like, go-to headbanging music and she loves it.

MOOS (voice-over): Her groom, Autumn Purdy, noticed the heavier the metal music, the more the horse would headbang.

PURDY: Yes, I looked at my barn manager and said, do you see what she's doing? We turned the music off, she stops.

MOOS (voice-over): At Bogar Farms in Ontario, they tested country music, she turned her butt to it. But her appetite for metal was obvious.

MOOS: She feels like she's sort of on beat.

PURDY: She always is. It's incredible. No matter what song we play, slow jams, she's slow. Heavy songs, she's going with the beat.

MOOS (voice-over): Sometimes she gets overexcited. Her online fans call her a rocking horse. Her favorite band so far seems to be Slipknot. We had to cut the dirty lyrics, but seven-year-old Pretty isn't offended. Her groom plans to post weekly music reviews with ratings based on head banging intensity or lack thereof.

She feels like a cross between "BoJack" of cartoon fame and "Mr. Ed" --


MOOS (voice-over): -- the talking horse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A horse is a horse, of course, of course.

MOOS (voice-over): If this horse could sing, she would probably sing herself hoarse.

Jeanne Moos. CNN. New York.


WALKER: OK. Here's a skeptic of me, is she really enjoying the music or is she -- I don't know, overstimulated?

BLACKWELL: I -- that could be both.

WALKER: Right?

BLACKWELL: I mean, you could really, you know, that type of music can get people going, I guess.

WALKER: Well, but she's on beat.

BLACKWELL: She is on beat.