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CNN This Morning

Biden Criticizes House Lawmakers For Taking 2-Week Break During Aid Discussions; Trump Rails Against Judge In New York Civil Trail During Campaign Rally; Supreme Court Weighing Trump's Request To Pause January 6 Trial; Israeli Soldiers Document Their Offensive in Gaza on Social Media; Millions under Flood Watches in California this Week; "Franklin" Gets Seat at the Table in New Apple TV Plus Show. Aired 8- 9a ET

Aired February 18, 2024 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: There could be both.


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

WALKER: Well, she's on beat.

BLACKWELL: She's on beat, which means that she's listening to the music.

WALKER: She is.

BLACKWELL: It's not -- it doesn't feel like an annoyance if she's staying on beat.

All right. We've analyzed it enough.

WALKER: Stick around. The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING WEEKEND starts now


WALKER: Good morning, everyone.

Welcome to CNN this morning. It is Sunday, February 18th. I'm Amara Walker.

BLACKWELL: Have they tried to hip hop though?

WALKER: I wish they're going to say that, you know?

BLACKWELL: Maybe, you know, just --

WALKER: Maybe he'll start shaking his backside, backside, right?

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

Here's what were watching for you this morning.


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


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

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. Of course, his response and how he's raising money as the fines add up.

BLACKWELL: The Supreme Court is expected to rule any day now on Donald Trump's request to delay the start of the election subversion trial brought by special counsel Jack Smith. The factors the court that could play into the judges, justices decision.

WALKER: Evacuation orders have been issued for parts of California and millions are under flood warnings as a statement braces for days of storms. We have your forecast.

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

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


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.


BLACKWELL: And President Biden is calling out members of Congress.

CNN's Camila DeChalus joins us now from Delaware where she's traveling with the president.

Camila tell us more about what the president said there in Rehoboth Beach.

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Victor and Amara. President Biden did not hold back, expressing his frustration with

Congress over its inability to pass additional funding to go to Ukraine at this pivotal time. And he really stressed that time is of the essence, especially in light other recent developments of how Ukraine had a pull back its military from one of its key battleground cities, ceding it to Russia because it was low on ammunition.

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


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


DECHALUS: Now, Biden has made no secret that he wants Congress and lawmakers to come back from their recess, immediately pass legislation to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

WALKER: And, Camila, President Biden also blaming Congress -- Congress's inaction for one of Ukraine's biggest losses in months. What did he tell Zelenskyy?

DECHALUS: That's right. He had a call with Zelenskyy and in this phone call, he said that he just really express that he's confident in Congress's ability to pass legislation. Now, Vice President Kamala Harris also met with Zelenskyy in person in Germany and White House officials just say that Harris and Biden really tried to use these efforts, these meetings with Zelenskyy to just reassure the president that they are confident that the U.S. will stand behind them and that there are uncommitted -- they're committed, and their unwavering and their support with Ukraine and its fight against Russia -- Victor, Amara.

WALKER: Camila DeChalus, thank you very much.

Flowers that were laid in honor of Alexey Navalny in Moscow were removed overnight by groups -- unidentified people, excuse me, after Navalny's death in a Russian prison was reported on Friday.

BLACKWELL: Videos from Russian social media show people stuffing the flowers that were laid for Navalny into trash bags.

A Russian police presence has increased significantly in cities. They're trying to prevent anyone from laying more tributes to President Vladimir Putin's opponent.


CNN's Matthew Chance is in St. Petersburg

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: While the authorities here in Russia are now removing any trace of the makeshift memorials to Alexey Navalny. There have been appearing across the country since his unexplained death in a Russian prison. Videos on Russian social media show plain clothes, sometimes hooded men, clearing flowers and photographs from public monuments often stuffing them into bin bags.

There's now also a heavy police presence, I can tell you here in some Petersburg, to prevent anyone laying more tributes to the late opposition leader. But many Russians are shocked and angry across the country. Rights groups say hundreds of people have now been detained for publicly paying their respects to Alexey Navalny, please taking mourners away by force in a clear message that even this kind of dissent in Russia, the laying of flowers, the public expressions of sympathy for Alexey Navalny, well, that won't be tolerated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I feel very sorry for him and for our country. The country is suffering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Even if you just walk with flowers on the city streets, you're instantly seen as carrying a political message and feel the judgment of people.

CHANCE: Well, there's also growing concern now at the whereabouts of Alexey Navalny's body. His mother, Lyudmila, traveling to the remote polar town in northern Russia to try and recover her son. But she's apparently been told his body will only be handed over for burial once another postmortem has been completed.

Members of Navalny's anti-corruption campaign, which is, of course, banned here in Russia, now accusing Russia of hiding his body, and, of course, hiding the real cause of his sudden death in Russian custody.

Matthew Chance, CNN, St. Petersburg.


BLACKWELL: Also new this morning, the U.S. is warning that it will veto any resolution calling for humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza if it comes up for a vote in the U.N. Security Council.

Algeria has proposed resolution, and now 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 went on to say that the proposed resolution would not achieve the same outcome. So the U.S. will not support it.

WALKER: 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 trying to unify with Hamas, but only if they meet certain prerequisites, if all sides agreed to the terms the meeting would take place on February 26.

BLACKWELL: Now, joining us now is CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier. Kimberly.

Good morning to you.

Let's start with this loss of Avdiivka and the Russian now complete control of that city. We know that the Ukrainians need ammunition. They need artillery, rounds so they are at a disadvantage here.

Does the, I guess, a taking of the city now suggests the inverse about Russia that they are now. Oh, have overcome many of those challenges that we saw in the first year. The first 18 months of this war?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Victor, the Russians do seem to have secured their supply lines in terms of materiel, the weapons that they need to prosecute this war. They've made deals with North Korea with China for non-lethal aid, with North Korea for lethal aid. And they've also ramped to up their own manufacturing supply lines.

Plus, you have to remember, it's a numbers game and Russia is four times the population of Ukraine. So as Ukrainian commanders say on the ground in the town that they've just retreated from, they were outnumbered. One commander estimated it was about seven to one. And the general now in charge of the Ukrainian army, he was last in charge of Bakhmut, and he'd been criticized for sacrificing too many Ukrainian troops lives to hold a piece of ground that had been utterly destroyed.

This time, he's decided to pull out, save lives, and also ration ammunition. Even the White House has said, the Ukrainians know that while they have enough ammunition, right now, they're looking at an insecure supply line and they've got to keep their powder dry literally for holding onto more crucial parts of the country.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, the two questions of that more crucial parts. Does Avdiivka give the Russians some outsized strategic positionings?


It doesn't have some exponential strategic value.

DOZIER: Look, it's a small town, but it does make it easier for them to continue to resupply the Donbas, which is one of the areas that they've held for a long time, some of the populated parts of the Donbas.

So, it is a strategic loss in that way, even though it had mostly been decimated by constant artillery fire from both sides. This is become a matter of retreating and keeping what you need to keep and basically preserving your troops and your weaponry for a larger fight another day. Ukraine has had a manpower problem, and the Ukrainian president has said he needs to possibly call up as many as a half-million new troops, but he doesn't know where he's going to get the money to pay for that, much less, the ammunition for them to fire.

BLACKWELL: Speaking of money to pay and ammunition to fire, I want to read a line or two from the White House readout of the call between President Biden and President Zelenskyy, in which they say Ukraine's military was forced to withdraw from Avdiivka after Ukrainian soldiers had to ration ammunition due to dwindling supplies as a result of congressional inaction resulting in Russia's first notable gain in months.

There were Ukrainian gains and losses when the money was flowing, when the aide was flipped so when do you see a direct correlation, a causal relationship between the fight in Congress and this loss of Avdiivka?

DOZIER: Well, on the ground and Ukraine, there was already a big hit to morale when the counter offensive of the spring didn't achieve what President Zelenskyy and others had promised it might achieve a major capture of territory driving the Russians back. Instead, it's mostly resulted in static lines and the Russians remain dug in in many of the areas that Ukraine hoped to seize.

So that was a gut punch for many Ukrainians and now on top of that, to hear that, while yes, Germany, France, the E.U. have secured and promised aid, their biggest funder, the us, looks shaky and you pile on top of that former President Trump's comments that he would let NATO countries get attacked by Russia if they didn't invest the full 2 percent of their GDP and their own defense sorry to get granular, but is that granular?

All of this combines to make up a picture that means Ukrainians feel abandoned. And that's contributing to their sense of why keep fighting, except the fact that they know what Moscow does when it wins they've seen it in places where atrocities have occurred. So they have to keep fighting, but they're feeling more and more abandoned by the West.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, the former president phrases it is if the countries don't pay and you put it in the right context, so we don't mind some granularity when it's a fact check.

Kimberly Dozier, thanks so much.

WALKER: Much more ahead on CNN THIS MORNING. Former President Trump is back on the campaign trail, on the heels of a $355 million fine and he has once again going after the judge.

Plus, Israeli soldiers document their military offensive in real time, how they're using social media to highlight the IDF's activity.

And one down, one to go. California braces for another series of storms. We'll tell you when and where you can expect the latest round.



BLACKWELL: Three days after the mass shooting at the Chiefs Super Bowl parade in Kansas City that ended with one death and the wounding of 20 more, people gathered to mourn and rally for gun violence prevention. A lot of people who spoke at the gathering demanded meaningful gun reform that and they change it enough is enough. The mayor of Kansas City also addressed the crowd and reflected on

Wednesday's tragic events. He said, he never thought that he and his family would be running for their lives that day.

WALKER: Today marks one week since the deadly shooting at Pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston. Osteen announced they will hold special services this morning for a time of healing and restoration of a seven-year-old son of the shooter who was also shot in the incident, is still in the hospital. According to the grandmother, he lost a part of his frontal lobe during two surgeries earlier this week, and no one can determine whether he has significant brain injury.

BLACKWELL: Japan has successfully launched its flagship H3 space rocket happened Saturday, a year after their first attempt to launch, the rocket failed. The H3 lifted off at 9:22 a.m. local time successfully reached a small satellite into orbit the successful launch marks a second straight win for the Japan aerospace exploration agency after its lunar lander achieved pinpoint touchdown last month, made Japan the fifth nation to put a spacecraft on the moons surface.

This morning, some key takeaways from Donald Trumps latest speech and Michigan. First, he knows that winning the battleground state would be critical to winning the White House. And second, he's fired up and fed up with the judge who just find him $355 million.

WALKER: And Trump railed against the case in his first rally since the ruling, at one point, calling the judge are, quote, lunatic.


CNN's Steve Contorno was there.


STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Victor and Amara, if there was any question whether Donald Trump would address the $355 million ruling against him on Frida -- well, he answered that very early on his speech on Saturday night. Speaking to a crowd in Michigan when after the judge who will presided over the case, the attorney general in New York and attack the American justice system at large.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will have no higher priority than ending the weaponization of this horrible legal system that is developed around us. It's a horrible, horrible thing that's taking place. You talk about democracy. This is a real threat to democracy and restoring fair equal, and impartial justice in America, we have to have that because we don't have that now.

The decision yesterday in New York, you may have read about it, crooked, judge, crooked judge. He's a crooked judge, by a radical left-wing judge was a lawless and unconstitutional atrocity that sets fire to our laws like no one has ever seen in this country before. That happens in banana republics. It doesn't happen in this country. The case is a complete and total sham. CONTORNO: Now the events of this week will serve as just a taste of

what we can expect in the coming months as Donald Trump balances is court schedule with his campaign calendar, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says that this will be a distraction for him and for Republicans trying to win back the White House.

Trump's visit to Michigan is likely to be as last before the state holds its primary on February 27. However, he is going to be here quite a bit because Michigan is key battleground in 2024 -- Victor and Amara.


BLACKWELL: All right, Steve, thanks so much.

The former president has made his final pitch to Supreme Court justices in an effort to pause a trial over federal election subversion in charges. We'll talk about what the court has to consider.



WALKER: This week, a major Supreme Court decision is expected as former president Trump looks to get the election subversion trial brought by special counsel Jack Smith, delayed and of course, ultimately dropped.

Now, Trump argues, quote, without immunity from criminal prosecution, the presidency, as we know it will cease to exist.

Jack Smith argues this: The public interest in a prompt trial is at its zenith, whereas here a former president is charged with conspiring to subvert the electoral process so that he could remain in office.

With me now is former Manhattan prosecutor, Jeremy Saland.

Good to see you. Good morning.


WALKER: Before we dig into both side's arguments, let's first talk about what could happen with the Supreme Court. Walk us through some scenarios.

SALAND: So the Supreme Court could just deny this and then it just proceeds and goes back down as the circuit court said, it would end up going back down to the district court before Judge Chutkan.

So what we have now at this emergency petition or application, and that would be a five-judge who need to say, hey, time-out, pause, but were going to do going forward and all in for needed to hear the case. So ultimately, the Supreme Court hears it or they don't. And if they don't, it goes back down. And as we know from the circuit court, circuit court said, if you come to us and challenge it with the en banc, or basically the entire panel, 11 judges, that's not going to stop this from moving forward. So it's going to go back to the district court. That's where we are looking at now.

WALKER: So, but there -- this is high-stakes because there's an impact on the timing of these trials if they -- if the Supreme Court takes it up, right, versus it being kicked back down to the appellate court?

SALAND: Absolutely. I mean, you could have a quick turnaround and we know look, we have with the ballot access issue that how quickly that moved up to the supreme quarters going to go forward. So it can be quick but quick as a relative term, if they expedite this, then we can potentially still, meaning day this report, if they decide to hear it, then this case can still be heard so before the election. But if not, this can take months and months. And what would happen, you could bump this case out too far. So it really is an issue of timing. Its so critical if the January 6 case is going to be heard or not.

WALKER: So Trump's argument is interesting to say, the least. I mean they're basically saying that they're concerned about the rights of voters who won't be able to hear Trump's message out on the campaign trail if he's on trial.

Your thoughts on that?

SALAND: That's simply not the case. Certainly, I think he's already said at least for the state case in Manhattan, the hush money case, hoping they are during the day and at night, he would go out and he would go to where we need to go to two campaigns.

But this is not about First Amendment right? If Donald Trump, this is about democracy, this is about whether or not the former president was able to do what he did that circumvented our entire system of law and order and the passing of the photonic you will. So, this is so much bigger than whether or not he campaigned during the day to say that its for lack better term up ending the presidency as we know it, he personally is doing that with his actions period, the end.

So this case has to be decided either in an expeditious manner by the Supreme Court or go back down to Judge Chutkan.

WALKER: Yeah. And tell us more about what Jack Smith is arguing because he's saying this is in the public's interests for this to wrap up quickly.

SALAND: Absolutely, and it's worth noting, too, that he is so eager to move this forward. He actually submitted his response a quick manner and had previously asked the Supreme Court to hear this instead of the appellate court.

But his argument is just that yes, there certainly this First Amendment right. You should hear from people who are running for office, but you cannot store when she elect someone to sit in that position who undermine the foundation of the transfer of power, and if democracy and our voting system.

So he's really pushing this. This is a critical and essential piece of American governance, and that's his point in heart -- in part, pardon me, if not in full, that is his point. So he's really going a great job articulating why and to really push on the Supreme Court to move this forward.


WALKER: I mean, the Supreme Court is now juggling two politically fraught and really consequential matters, right, involving the front runner for the Republican nomination.

Do you have a sense or a prediction on which way this Supreme Court might go. Even just listening in to the oral arguments from the Section 3 14th Amendment case where it seems like the justices there were, you know, leaning towards a more technical, narrow decision.

SALAND: Yes. I think that -- I wouldn't be surprised -- I think most of them would agree that Trump ultimately gets on all the -- all the ballots, that it doesn't come out the way that Colorado wants, for example.

Though, I would tend to think in the immunity matter that's right now before -- or potentially before the court if they consider it. I think that the court sends it back down and says, I'm sorry, were not going to give you this blanket immunity you think you deserve that you're not entitled to.

So I think one goes for Trump, one doesn't go for Trump.

WALKER: All right. We will check back with you and see if you are right, Jeremy Saland. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Lies, corruption, bribery, prostitution in the new "CNN ORIGINAL SERIES: UNITED STATES OF SCANDALS", CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper dives into some of the most sensational political controversies and talks to some of the most infamous political figures of the modern era to dissect the truth from the spin.

Here's a taste.



Where are the weapons of mass destruction?

How do you view your time as governor.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: I had 2,896 days in prison to ask myself a thousand questions including that. TAPPER: For 30 or so years I have shined a bright light on the inner workings of American political power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It never occurred to him that extorting a hospital might harm people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I engaged in a consensual affair with another man.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: How did you end up with a sex tape of John Edwards and Rielle Hunter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Days that you don't call and find some (INAUDIBLE)


TAPPER: You can't write this stuff.

Looking back, I can't help but feel that we were all so quick to embrace the headline that we may have forgotten to dig a little deeper.

This guy who was a crusader against human sex trafficking is actually --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did someone at the White House blow the cover of a CIA operative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is horrifying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's still in danger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The South Carolina governor's missing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

MARK SANFORD, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: The bottom line is this. I've been unfaithful to my wife.

TAPPER: Why do we keep ending up here? I never truly understand it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've always been on the reporting side of things. Welcome to the hell we all have to live in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to get a therapist after having an interview with Jake Tapper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back-to-back premieres tonight at 9:00 CNN.




BLACKWELL: This morning the Israeli government has unanimously rejected the recognition of a Palestinian state.

WALKER: In the meantime, the Gaza ministry of health says about 70 health care workers were arrested in an Israeli raid on Nasser hospital. That's according to the World Health Organization and the hospital is no longer able to treat patients following that raid.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond joining us now from Tel-Aviv. Jeremy, journalist access to Gaza has been limited, but we're also seeing videos on social media of Israeli soldiers documenting what's going on.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I mean, the destruction in Gaza has been unprecedented and because of social media, it's being documented in real time not only by Palestinian civilians and journalists, but also by Israeli soldiers themselves. They've been documenting themselves, destroying civilian structures they say Hamas was operating out of. But our producer, Mick Reever (ph), spent hours going through Israeli soldiers' TikTok and Instagram videos showing how these soldiers are opening up the Israeli military to widespread criticism and also accusations of war crimes.


DIAMOND: This is a how-to video on how to blow up a mosque in Gaza. Format is Internet fluent. The content is very real -- filmed, edited and posted on Instagram by an Israeli soldier.

It's one of dozens reviewed by CNN. For many in 2024, social media is everyday life. Israeli soldiers are no different, except they're fighting Israel's largest and most brutal war in decades.

In video after video after video soldiers documented destruction of Gaza and rejoice. They filmed detonations to use as wedding invitations. Among them are would be comedians whose video satirizing the war showed the devastation in Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the university. The IDF helped them. It became the Open University.

AVNER GVARYAHU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BREAKING THE SILENCE: Soldiers have always documented themselves. It could be in journals, it could be with, you know, taking pictures.


DIAMOND: Avner Gvaryahu served in the IDF during the Second Intifada. He leads the group, Breaking the Silence, which encourages soldiers to speak out about the realities of occupation.

GVARYAHU: Even if we do find, you know, the why we went to this war important, significant and necessary, we have to ask ourselves how we're conducting ourselves in wartime. DIAMOND: The videos often end up on the social media channels of

right-wing political commentators. They boast to the Israeli public of the tactics used to defend them.

The IDF told CNN that it has acted and continues to act to identify unusual cases that deviate from what is expected of IDF soldiers. Those cases will be arbitrated and significant command measures will be taken against the soldiers involved.

Images from Gaza of Israel's war injured are rare on Israeli television but they're there on TikTok.

ERAN HELPERIN, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM: The overarching theme is that, you know, we're here, we're going to win, we're powerful enough. And they think that what these soldiers are doing all these clips that we see on social media is part of an attempt to regain a sense of agency, regain a sense of power, regain, you know, the sense of positive self-image, the way we talk about ourselves before October 7th.

DIAMOND: At times, they openly defy their military's message about protecting civilians. And film themselves destroying civilian shops.

Israel is under increasing scrutiny over the war in Gaza. These videos may well be adding fuel to that criticism.


DIAMOND: Meanwhile the Israeli military this weekend continuing to conduct heavy strikes in southern and central Gaza. The death toll in central Gaza has now risen to at least 68 according to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

And this comes as those negotiations over a potential cease-fire deal and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas appears to be at a standstill. Last night the Israeli prime minister, once again calling Hamas' demands delusional, saying that Hamas has not changed its negotiating position by even a millimeter or a nanometer, is what he said last night.

And he said that there's no reason until Hamas changes its position for Israel to return to the negotiating table. Instead, he says that the Israeli military is going to focus on what is coming next, which he says is a ground offensive in Rafah.

Victor, Amara.

WALKER: What a report, Jeremy Diamond. Thank you for bringing that to us.

Still ahead, a rescue in Russia will show you how crews managed to save dozens of people who were trapped on a giant floating piece of ice.

And be sure to stay with CNN for "STATE OF THE UNION" at the top of the hour. This morning, Jake Tapper will be joined by former congresswoman Liz Cheney and Senator Tim Scott. That's at the top of the hour right here on CNN.



BLACKWELL: Rescue operations are happening right now in eastern Russia. A large sheet of ice broke off and stranded dozens of fishermen.

Now, if you look here, officials say that they've been rescuing people since early this morning so far 75 had been pulled to safety.

It's not uncommon for people to be trapped in this icy environment. And this area we're talking about is a 620-mile-long strip of land located in Russia's far east. This is just north of Japan.

WALKER: Wow, what a rescue though.

BLACKWELL: And still going on there.

The second of two storms expected to bring heavy rain to the west this week is coming as millions in California are preparing for even more flooding and mudslides in a state that is already water-logged.

WALKER: That's the concern. It's already saturated in many parts. Emergency officials issued evacuation warnings for parts of Santa Barbara County just ahead of the system.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is tracking it from the CNN Weather Center. Karen, what do they need to know?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Amara and Victor -- yes, we have mere hours before the weather really begins to deteriorate across the California coast. Not just there, but also into Oregon and Washington but more pronounced across coastal sections of California because this is the second storm in a series of two.

The first one moved onshore and we saw a little bit of rainfall right around the San Francisco Bay Area. Generally speaking, just tenths of an inch of rainfall for most areas.

This next one is going to linger. So for the next 24 to 72 hours. Heavy rainfall, high winds, and heavy snowfall across the Sierra Nevada. Now a lot of folks are probably planning events to take place as we head into what will be a day off for President's Day.

But it looks like it could be a washout for just about everyone across the entire state. For San Francisco already has seen almost 11 inches of rainfall since the beginning of the year. Typically for the year, they see 23 inches or so. There could be an additional two to five inches of rainfall.

The ground is absolutely saturated, but not just there. You go down towards the coast, towards Santa Cruz, Salinas and then towards Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, you're expecting some pretty heavy rainfall. I mentioned Santa Barbara, particularly because there are evacuations

already in place for some residents, right around the Mission Hills area also of the Sycamore region. But San Luis Obispo and extending down towards Oxnard heavy rainfall in the mountains -- Amara and Victor between two and five feet of snowfall could be driven by 80 maybe 90 mile-per-hour winds expected.




BLACKWELL: All right. Karen Maginnis for us. Thanks so much

Up next he is one of the most beloved members of the "Peanuts" gang. And now Franklin, the only brother on the team, is the star of the show.


BLACKWELL: After more than 50 years, a classic comic strip character is finally getting his seat at the table.

Franklin, from the iconic "Peanuts" cartoon has a new special on Apple TV plus. "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin" tells the story of how he met Charlie Brown, Linus, and the rest of his friends after moving to a new town.


BLACKWELL: Joining me now, one of the co-writers of the special, cartoonist and creator of "Jumpstart", Robb Armstrong. He's also the author of the book, "Fearless: A Cartoonist's Guide to Life" and "Honor Roll: A Jumpstart Treasury".

Rob, Welcome to you. Where do I start?


BLACKWELL: Good morning. Charles Schulz told the interviewer once that he never did much with Franklin because he didn't grow up as a little black boy.

You did. And you have brought us this story. What do we learn this time around?

ARMSTRONG: We rarely see Franklin being himself and kind of an outside extra character. We 0finally see the way he relates to the "Peanuts" cast and it's not easy for him. They're a little bit eccentric.


ARMSTRONG: There's the behavior of Lucy and Linus. Charlie Brown, he discovers is kind of an outsider within that group and they have a kinship that is formed out of them both being outliers. And they discover a lot about each other and it allowed -- finally, allowed the fans of a Franklin to discover him.

BLACKWELL: And I am one and I've done a lot of reading, prepping for this conversation, excited about it. I read that you just so people know how close you are to Franklin's character. Franklin's last name is also Armstrong. Tell me about that.

ARMSTRONG: That is not a coincidence. I met Sparky Schulz -- Charles Schulz the creator of "Peanuts" very early in my career. I was only syndicated doing "Jumpstart" for not even a whole year, but I had a chance to sit in front of this guy who inspired me to become a cartoonist in the first place.

And it was really amazing because he took a liking to me immediately and talked about "Peanuts" and "Jumpstart" in the same breath. You talk about how great the characters were in "Jumpstart".

And about four years into our friendship, we had gone to dinner a few times and he was not my best friend, but he was a huge fan of my work. And we went to a few conferences with the industry and we talked about how to develop characters.

And then one day he called me about four years into our friendship and said that Franklin had no last name. And I had never thought about it, but it bothered him. He said it's not fair to the character because the other characters in "Peanuts" have first names and last names.

And then I was blown away when suddenly he said, I want to give Franklin your last name. How would you feel about that. I felt honored by it. But honestly, I told him, wow, what an honor. But it was -- as if I wasn't worthy of it or ready for it.


ARMSTRONG: It was a little bit daunting, to be honest with you. So I didn't talk about it. I didn't tell anyone about that.

He had done a video straight to DVD movie called during the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown. And in that video you could hear Franklin Armstrong's name.

I honestly didn't know how to react to it. I just felt, wow, what's happening right now.

BLACKWELL: It must have been an amazing honor to know him, had the connection to the character and now co-write this special that features Franklin.

Let's play a clip of it, and then we'll get into the elephant in the room, him being the only brother in the gang. Let's watch it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was it, a new town.

One thing was for sure there was a lack of variety in this place.


BLACKWELL: Now I don't know if he's talking because they're all white kids or because they're all seemingly eating vanilla ice cream.

But this is a question that has been with me and a lot of people for a while. Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Franklin is sitting on one side of the table by himself in a beach chair when everybody else is sitting in other places.

I understand you take a new swing at this. What should we expect.

ARMSTRONG: Well, that scene was an accidental thing. No one meant harm by doing that years ago, but it caused harm and people felt slighted, insulted. When the Internet was invented, of course that scene went viral.

And that scene is where this whole project began. We all wanted to address it. And finally deal directly with it. So it was very gratifying to write that scene and work backward from this from -- this moment to something that really touched people and got them to understand how human Franklin is and how much like Franklin we all are. We all want acceptance. We all want a seat at the table.


ARMSTRONG: And I felt a direct relationship with him for the first time. I felt exactly like Franklin.

This character wants what I want it and yes, it's just very powerful.

BLACKWELL: All right. Robb Armstrong, I've enjoyed the conversation. I'm looking forward to watching this "Snoopy Presents: Welcome Home, Franklin".

Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us.

ARMSTRONG: It's a pleasure being here. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you so much. I mean, the story really Franklin becoming a member of the "Peanuts" gang, there was a teacher who wrote Charles Schulz and said, will you please introduce black characters? T

his was in the months after the assassination of Dr. King, and that is when Franklin showed up.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning.