Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Trump Closes in to Clinching Republican Nomination As He Trounces Nikki Haley in South Carolina; Network Founded By Koch Brothers Says it will Stop Funding Nikki Haley's Campaign; Central and Eastern U.S. Braces for Massive Heat Wave. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, ANCHOR, EARLY START: It's Monday, February 26th, right now, on CNN this morning, Donald Trump closer to clinching the Republican nomination, cruising into Michigan with momentum and a message of unity ahead of Tuesday's primary.

Nikki Haley trounced on her home turf, then finding out one of her biggest financial backers is cutting her off. And a critical test for President Biden, will Michigan voters punish him for his handling of the war in Gaza? All right, it is 5:00 a.m. here in Washington.

You are looking live at Capitol Hill on this Monday morning. Good morning, everyone, I'm Kasie Hunt, it's wonderful to be with you. On the eve of the Michigan primary, Donald Trump is dominating and Nikki Haley is soldiering on as her future in the nomination fight becomes increasingly grim.

Trump, riding a wave of momentum after trouncing Haley by 20 points in her home state of South Carolina. His Republican Party continuing to fall in line, the number two Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota endorsing him over the weekend.

Nikki Haley's campaign meanwhile says that they raised a million dollars after her Saturday night's speech. But the big money starting to dry up, one of her biggest backers, the Koch Brothers announcing they're cutting off funding for her campaign. Haley says she's staying in at least until Super Tuesday, warning that Trump is divisive and a loser in the general election. The former president, of course, does not see it that way.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now.

NIKKI HALEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run for -- huge numbers of voters in our Republican primaries, who were saying they want an alternative.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: The Michigan primary is also going to tell us a lot about

President Biden's prospects that, that state features a large Arab- American population. And Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has been calling on voters to cast their ballots as uncommitted in the Democratic Primary to protest the president's handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

All right, let's bring in Sophia Cai, she's national politics reporter for "Axios", and she joins us now. Sophia, good morning, it's wonderful to have you here. Look, I want to start with where things stand with Nikki Haley and Donald Trump in the wake of that really bruising loss.

Now, she does though, keep talking about 40 percent, right? Forty percent of Republicans who backed her in her home state -- Donald Trump trying to say, hey, the Republican Party is unified. He stood up on that stage with most of, you know, South Carolina's elected officials behind him, certainly that's the image that it painted.

But the reality here also highlights some of the struggles that Trump is going to have in the suburbs in particular, when we get to the general election. What were your takeaways from what we saw in South Carolina?

SOPHIA CAI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: Yes, absolutely. The suburbs are the places that Donald Trump is really going to have to show that he's strong, particularly in places like Pennsylvania and a lot of these battleground states. I mean, Nikki Haley is staying in. She lost the suburbs actually to Donald Trump. But, you know --

HUNT: Sure, but there were the places where look, if you look at the -- if you actually were to look at the map of South Carolina --

CAI: Yes --

HUNT: You're going to see that the place that she did the best are -- it's suburban Charleston, quite frankly, outside Columbia, the kinds of areas where Donald Trump may have trouble against President Biden in a general election, except we'd be talking about places like Arizona, the suburbs of Phoenix, Atlanta, the suburbs of Georgia, et cetera.

CAI: Yes, exactly. I mean, most of the voters that Trump is going to have to really work on is those college-educated voters, is those voters who believe correctly that Biden won the 2020 election. And so, those are the voters that Trump is going to have to bring into his coalition. That's going to be his toughest battle in November.

HUNT: Yes, for sure. So, let's talk about Haley's path forward here. She's obviously going on to Michigan. There's a Super PAC that's supporting her, that's, you know, bought half a million dollars or reserved half a million dollars worth of time in Michigan. They say they're going to be with her all the way, but the Koch network has said, you know --

CAI: Yes --

HUNT: What? We're going to spend our money elsewhere. We're going to look at Senate and House campaigns. What does that mean for her?

CAI: It means that she's lost a really big resource that she's relied on. They've spent $31 million on her. They've helped her get out to vote. You know, they spent money on advertising, on making phone calls for her.


She's lost that really big resource. And I think along the way, they've known that it was an uphill battle. They've known that, you know, Trump could likely be the nominee, and now, what they're doing is that they're focusing their money on the Senate races, the House races, races that they say are going to be harder now that Trump will likely be the nominee.

HUNT: Right, well, I mean, and of course, we're looking ahead to Super Tuesday. And if she's going to stay in, fine, but that's the kind of place where you really need --

CAI: Yes --

HUNT: A network like the Koch network, right? If you -- they actually do have the -- and you can see, you got them on the screen here, just kind of what the path looks like forward for her, you need organization if you're trying to fight all the way across the map, you need a lot more money -- there's a primary in California. I mean, that alone is so incredibly --

CAI: Yes --

HUNT: Expensive. Let's talk about Michigan for a second. And interestingly, well, there's two things going on in the Republican side first of all. There -- you are really seeing kind of the division in the Republican Party, right? I mean, there's quite literally two people claiming to be the true chair of the Republican Party --

CAI: Yes --

HUNT: In that state. And the way that they're going to award delegates is kind of a mess to the point where, you know, it's hard to say what we might learn in Michigan on the Republican side --

CAI: Yes --

HUNT: What's your take?

CAI: Yes, I mean, I think, you know, with the Republican side, I mean, it's one of 15 states. It's a state where, you know, the Trump folks have already argued they're going to win most of the delegates. And on the Democratic side, that's where the focus will really be because Trump -- I'm sorry, Biden will still pretty easily win that primary.

But there's this uncommitted effort for voters who are protesting Biden's actions on the Israel-Palestine war to come out and vote uncommitted. And we have at least one congresswoman who is backing that effort, Rashida Tlaib that we've talked about.

And we have Governor Whitmer saying that she really doesn't know what will happen in Michigan, and that is where we have our eyes on.

HUNT: Yes, it's a pretty key test for Governor Whitmer, who of course, has a bright future, possibly in presidential politics at some point. But that Rashida Tlaib actually, you know, made a video, is publicly urging --

CAI: Yes --

HUNT: People, the mayor of Dearborn, coming out and causing some concern for the Biden campaign as well, definitely interesting to watch. Sophia Cai of "Axios", Sophia, thanks very much for kicking us off today. All right, ahead here, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and a defenseless Europe.

A scenario that could become reality sooner rather than later. Plus, Virginia couple missing and feared dead after their yacht was allegedly hijacked in Grenada. And next, a developing story in the Middle East. A shakeup inside the Palestinian Authority.



HUNT: Welcome back. A developing story overnight. The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and his government resigning. CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now live from Tel Aviv with this. Nic, good morning to you. Was this move expected? Why did this happen?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, not entirely unexpected, and it would have been foreshadowed perhaps for the past week or so, remembering back in January when Secretary of State Antony Blinken came here, one of the things that he called for was meaningful reform within the Palestinian Authority.

And actually, before he left, said he did have commitment from the Palestinian Authority for that reform. That could be what we're beginning to see here. Why does it matter? Why is it important? Well, the Prime Minister who's just resigned, Mohammad Shtayyeh has said that it's important for the Palestinians to form a government of national unity, a government that is made up, not of different factions, but of competencies of people that are competent to fill the roles.

And all of this is important because the United States has been championing the cause and the path forward for an independent Palestinian state. And one of the prerequisites for that is to find a Palestinian governing body authority that can actually take on not just the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is right now, but Gaza, as well.

And it comes as well at a significant week when Russia has invited all the Palestinian factions from Gaza, from the West Bank, from all around the region to meet in Moscow. So, this will give them an opportunity to hammer out that national unity position. Is this going to mean massive fundamental change in the short term? No.

But it also underscores how unpopular the Palestinian Authority president is right now in the West Bank. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a very well trusted and respected pollster in the West Bank, who said the Palestinian Authority president has a disapproval rating of 92 percent, and that reflects across the whole Palestinian Authority.

HUNT: Yes, really difficult to kind of claim any authority if that many of your people don't trust you, tell pollsters they don't trust you. Nic Robertson in Tel Aviv. Thank you very much for that. All right, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that 31,000 of his soldiers have been killed since the Russian invasion began two years ago.

He also says that Moscow is preparing for another major offensive, but Ukraine faces diminishing weapons and ammunition supplies as Congress struggles to pass critical aid for Kyiv. And then, there's this foreboding economist cover. They show it this way. Putin is eyeing Europe, Donald Trump identifiable just by his hair, has his back turned.

And they write this, "Russia is becoming more dangerous. America is less reliable and Europe remains unprepared. The problem is simply put, but the scale of the solution is hard to comprehend."


This of course, nine months before an election that could put Donald Trump back in the Oval Office. CNN's Max Foster is joining us now live from London. Max, good morning to you. This really kind of captures so much of the kind of existential questions that are facing Europe directly, but also really, the entire architecture of the post-world war Pax Americana really. What do you see in -- you know, as we are hitting the two-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're now questioning, aren't we? America's role in the world. What role does America want in the world? Is it going to be a global policeman standing up for democracy and freedom? It's -- you know, there's traditional sentiments, or is it going to withdraw from the world and focus much more on problems back at home, which obviously will play much better running out to the election.

The reality is, you know, these meetings around Ukraine money and Washington are existential for many parts of the world because without that money, Ukraine won't be able to win the war. I think that's the analysis you get from any expert that speaks to this.

If Ukraine can't win the war, how far will Russia carry on into Ukraine? Does it carry on beyond Ukraine. And you know, that -- where the economist is making here is that Europe is unprepared to fill in that gap. It can't, it's not a cohesive group, it's a selection of different nations who have their own tensions.

It can't stir up into that global policeman role, can't even probably defend Ukraine against Russia because it's not coordinated enough. It doesn't have enough resource to put in there. So, it is existential, and it's all coming -- you know, it really starts in Washington, this conversation right now.

HUNT: Right. Well, I mean, it's -- and even the argument that Europe just wouldn't even have the capacity to defend itself. In many cases, the defense capabilities in many countries have withered away because there's been so much protection from the Americans.

Max, I want to show you the -- what the National Security adviser Jake Sullivan had to say over the weekend that, he said that he talks to the House Speaker Mike Johnson, and he claims Mike Johnson says he wants to do something about Ukraine, but here was his warning. Watch Sullivan.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: History is watching whether Speaker Johnson will put that bill on the floor. If he does, it will pass, will get Ukraine what it needs for Ukraine to succeed. If he doesn't, then we will not be able to give Ukraine the tools required for it to stand up to Russia, and Putin will be the major beneficiary of that.


HUNT: So, history is watching he says. I mean, Max, I think the reality here, you know, at the Capitol just down the road from where I'm sitting right now is that Republicans are so divided that there is no clear path forward for this, and the stakes as Sullivan has said -- I mean, I think the other phrase he used at one point on the Sunday show was, hey, he could bend history right now. But Johnson is a pretty small figure in the face of this.

FOSTER: But he's sort of extending the -- you know, what we're just talking about there, wasn't he? So, if America and Europe can't hold back Russia, for example, this really speaks to, you know, the world order if the West is divided on the House(ph) response or it becomes more insula, it does create a vacuum which Russia and, you know, in the background, China could step into.

So, then you end up in the situation about who is the global policeman. And if Russia and China work together, other big powers, then it does change the whole dynamic of how global power operates. And you know, the elephant in the room is, you know, if Russia is allowed to take Ukraine, does that make China more likely to go towards Taiwan?

And that's where you have that -- you know we've talked about before that, you know, the dreaded U.S. versus China tension, which you really --

HUNT: Yes --

FOSTER: Don't want exacerbating on any level.

HUNT: Indeed, all right, Max Foster for us in London. Max, thanks very much, I'll see you tomorrow.

FOSTER: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right, just ahead here, President Biden summoning the top four congressional leaders to the White House with a government shutdown -- oh, remember, those just around the corner! Plus, just revealed the man behind the fake AI-generated Joe Biden robocalls.



HUNT: All right, 22 minutes past the hour, time for your morning round up. A Virginia couple is feared dead after prison escapees allegedly hijacked their yacht in Grenada. Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry were spending the Winter cruising the eastern Caribbean after taking their yacht from Virginia to Antigua.

An inmate who attacked a deputy with pepper spray and escaped from custody after being treated at a hospital is on the loose in Louisiana. Fifty one-year-old Leon Ruffin was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. And a political consultant paid by Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips primary campaign against President Biden admits he was behind the robocall that used a fake AI- generated voice of President Biden urging New Hampshire voters to stay home on primary day.

All right, a cold front in the west brings snow and wind to the Pacific northwest and Rockies today, while the Midwest braces for a severe storm threat. Our weatherman Van Dam is tracking all of it for us. Derek, good morning to you. It's also going to be -- my phone says 64 degrees in February here in Washington --


HUNT: But a lot of extremes today --

VAN DAM: Enjoy -- how about 90 -- how about 95 degrees in Dallas, Fort Worth today? That is temperatures we would feel like in the middle of May, Summer heat for them, this is really, truly the clash of two seasons, Winter to the northwest, Summer and Spring across the nation's eastern two-thirds.

And this clash is going to create all kinds of wild weather. So, from snow squalls across the Pacific northwest as this cold front drops south, it will bring several inches, if not feet of snow to the Colorado Rockies.


Winter storm warnings just outside of Denver, Salt Lake City, stretching east of Seattle, and a lot of wind energy with this as well. So, with wind and with dry conditions in advance of this cold front, we get the potential at least for fire weather. So, look out for critical fire dangers across the plains. Strong winds, dry air, a lot of warm temperatures -- in fact, yesterday in Colorado Springs, we saw a wildfire about 150 acres burning in this general region. But nonetheless, this is not what we want to see heading into the first few days of this kind of Spring- like weather pattern, that is kind of an ominous sign of things to come.

Now, here's a look at the cold front that is going to move eastward. So, this clash of seasons that is going to bring a severe weather threat tomorrow across the Midwest, including Chicago. You've got to keep an eye to the sky. I want to highlight this damaging winds, large hail, and even a few tornadoes extending all the way into southern Michigan southward towards Indianapolis and St. Louis.

So, a very active weather pattern with record warmth, very Spring-like temperatures. You mentioned that, Kasie, in the middle 60s for you in D.C., even warmer in other places too. So, very abnormal weather.

HUNT: Pretty wild, but at least, I'll be able to get --

VAN DAM: Yes --

HUNT: The kids outside this afternoon, right?

VAN DAM: Love your new studio by the way --

HUNT: Thank you --

VAN DAM: It looks great --

HUNT: And thanks for continuing to be a part of the mornings, I'm really grateful to have you --

VAN DAM: Glad to be here --

HUNT: Our weatherman, Van Dam Derek, I'll see you tomorrow.

VAN DAM: All right.

HUNT: All right, up next here. Nikki Haley's campaign taking a major financial hit. Her next move if she's forced to drop out. Plus, President Biden's plan to pressure Congress over aid for Ukraine. It's all on the line as a government shutdown looms.