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Sen. Joe Manchin is Interviewed about State of Presidential Race; Zelenskyy: 'Success Forward Will Depend on U.S. Aid'; Cold Front in West, Heat Ramps Up in Central & Eastern U.S. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Monday, February 26. Right now on CNN THIS MORNING.

Donald Trump with all the momentum heading into Michigan, while Nikki Haley gets dropped by one of her top donors.

Fertility clinics halting IVF treatments after Alabama's Supreme Court declared frozen embryos are people. Republicans now dealing with the fallout.

And --


JIMMY STEWART, ACTOR: Why don't you tell people the truth for a change?


HUNT: CNN THIS MORNING comes to Washington. Senator Joe Manchin joins us live in studio for our inaugural voyage.

All right, a live look at our nation's capital at 6 a.m. here on the East Coast. Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's great to be with you this morning.

Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump won more than 60 percent of the vote in South Carolina, beating Nikki Haley in her home state. Still, that means nearly 40 percent of Republicans in that conservative Southern state did not vote for Trump.

Haley made clear this weekend that she won't drop out of the race when so many voters on -- let's be honest, they're on both sides of the aisle -- they're not happy with their choices for president.

Haley herself, even sounding at times like a third-party candidate.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not giving up this fight when a majority of Americans disapprove of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. We can't afford four more years of Biden's failures or Trump's lack of focus.


HUNT: All right. Joining me now is another politician who is worried about polarization and partisanship in our country, so much so that he considered pursuing his own third-party presidential run: Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia.

Senator, thanks so much for being here.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): It's always good to be with you, and an inaugural kickoff. Again, we make this a ritual here.

HUNT: We have done this before. I'm happy.

MANCHIN: I'm so proud of you.

HUNT: Thank you. And thank you very much for coming in.

You are heading to Michigan right after we have this conversation.


HUNT: And you had been on this listening tour as you were deciding what to do about your own -- whether or not you were going to run.


HUNT: You said you're not going to, but it does sound like you're kind of still on a little bit of a listening tour.

MANCHIN: Kasie, the listening tours is really finding out where the majority of Americans are. And that's in the middle. Fifty-five to 60 percent of Americans consider themselves center-left, center-right. The call to centrist part of America.

They feel like they're homeless and helpless. They don't know which way to go. They're pushed either left, far left or far right. They don't want to go there. So some of them are going to sit out. Some are going to take the plunge and basically not be real happy about it, but they'll do it.

So we're just talking to them to find out how do we bring the candidates back? How do we bring the parties back to represent all of America, not just the extremes?

HUNT: Do you think President Biden is too extreme?

MANCHIN: I think he went too far left, and I've told him that. And I've been very clear. It's not the Joe Biden that basically ran in 2020 and told us on how to bring it back. He does. He was a very centrist senator when he was there center-left, but he was centrist.

And it looks like they just grabbed me. That part of the extreme party grabbed him, pulled him left, and he's been over there. We'd like to bring him back. HUNT: What does he need to do to get your endorsement?

MANCHIN: Well, I think we'll just see what happens at the end here, and we're going to get to the end pretty quick. Super Tuesday is going to show you what you actually have.

HUNT: Right.

MANCHIN: How are you able to bring them back to their -- to where we have -- I mean you look at the problems that we're facing right now at the border.

HUNT: Right.

MANCHIN: OK, too long and we need to get the border fixed.

And I've said this. If they can't come together in Washington, if politics is stopping us from doing the right thing and securing our border, then he has to do a national emergency. It's a crisis.

HUNT: You want them to declare a national emergency?

MANCHIN: I think he asked to. I mean, I really truly believe that. If they're going to play games, the purity test is not going to work.

And the purity test is in the House, they've always believed if you have to 218 of one or the other. So 218 Republicans, you had to have 218 votes by Republicans only, or by Democrats only, whoever was in the majority, to get anything passed.

Those days are gone. You have to build coalitions. And that's how it used to work. It used to work as coalitions. And I would like to see that again. And I think that hopefully, we'll move in that direction.

HUNT: If it's Biden versus Trump in November, who are you going to vote for?

MANCHIN: Well, at that time there you know, you're going -- I know who I can't vote for, and I've said that very, very --


HUNT: You can't vote for Trump is what you said.

MANCHIN: I said I love my country.

HUNT: So does that mean you will vote for Biden?

MANCHIN: Well, I would do everything I can to make sure they come back. I think that basically they need to know where we're going to win from. If he's going to win, he's got to win by attracting more of the center. That's center-left, center-right. People that feel homeless, that's who we're talking to.

They want that person, they want their representative, they want their president to come back and represent all of America. And that's where you make your decisions.

Most people run their life from the center. They don't run your life from extremes. Businesses don't succeed from the extremes. Nothing seems to work except for politics.

And in politics, only in Washington. Governors, the National Governors Association, you can't tell Democrat from Republican. They have the same problems, trying to help each other.

I thought when I came to Washington, this is the big leagues. Maybe they will show me how to do it even better. Well, looked like I was going into the little leagues, because it's basically pick your side, fight for your side, don't worry about compromise.

This country works on cooperation. It works on compromise.

HUNT: So you're leaving the Senate, right? And there are fewer and fewer -- let's be real -- leaders in the Senate. Certainly, you mentioned the House of Representatives, who -- who occupy that space in the center.

Is there any way you would run for Senate as somebody -- something other than a Democrat?

MANCHIN: I have no intentions are running. I was very clear in what I've said. And I've been here.

I've come to the conclusion I think there should be term limits. There really should be term limits for our country.

HUNT: But you're never going to run? You're not going to run as an independent? You're not going to run as a Republican?

MANCHIN: I have no intentions whatsoever of doing that. And I've said this. The reason is I've done everything I could, and I've been here 14 years. I'm not going to -- I'm not seeing the changes that need to be made here.

We had some very, very productive years, and we've done things when it was 50/50. You know why? No one could blame the other side. Everybody had to work together, if you want to get something done.

And we had started with the five "D's" and five "R's," our moderate group, and we started doing things. We had some great --

HUNT: Gangs -- hang out with a lot of gangs. Not so many gangs in here.

MANCHIN: One seventeen, we had the 117th Congress will go down as one of the most productive.

The 118th, which were in right now, will go down as the least productive Congress in the history of the United States of America. That's a sad scenario.

HUNT: Let me bring you back to Michigan for a second, because President Biden is under pressure from Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to -- for -- She's asked voters, Democrats in Michigan to vote -- to say uncommitted, right, in the primary there. What do you think Michigan voters should do?

MANCHIN: That's voting -- to ask any -- ask any group of people, we have a crisis going on around the world. The world's in upheaval right now. And they're asking that we believe we should or she believes that we should be putting pressure on --

HUNT: Israel.

MANCHIN: -- Israel, Israel for the ceasefire. OK? And I believe the president's been very clear. And what I've seen, how he's handled this has been very good, from saying that, you know, we'll do everything we can for humanitarian pauses.

But there has to be willingness on both sides to come together and want to sit down. So to have a ceasefire when the other side is only going to reload, have no intentions. If they want a ceasefire, then release all the hostages.

If Hamas releases the hostages, then they have a reason to ask for a ceasefire and sit down and try to negotiate, but not until then. And I don't think in reality, that's going to happen.

So asking for people not to vote and put pressure on an unreasonable request isn't -- is not in the cards right now.

HUNT: The other political story in Michigan, of course, is the Senate race. Mike Rogers, Republican in that race. Elissa Slotkin expected as the Democrat -- likely Democratic nominee. What do you think would be the best outcome for the country?

MANCHIN: I think you have two quality candidates right here. Michigan has -- has a quality slate. Let's put it that way. And I know them both. They're both friends of mine. I wish them well. These are --

HUNT: Are you going to support the Democrat in the race?

MANCHIN: These are two -- these are two good people. We're going to see what -- what elevates and what comes out of this and support the best person.

HUNT: Are you considering supporting the Republican in this race?

MANCHIN: I have no problem supporting Republicans anywhere in this country that have put their country before their party. That basically, I have no problem with Democrats either. I'm more the center here.

HUNT: You're not saying you're going to back the Democrat for sure in the Michigan Senate race.

MANCHIN: In any races. Forget, not just Michigan. Anyway, we're looking to basically have people representing the centrist part. The center-right, center-left, that part of the country that makes all the decisions how you run your life. They're not being represented. As you said, we don't have many gangs more.

The gangs we had before were people who were like-minded. We didn't worry about, are you a Democrat or Republican? We have a problem. We have infrastructure problems. We had CHIPs (ph) problems. We had basically supply chain problems.

Now, we have a tremendous problem, I think, with the debt of the nation. No one's taking that seriously at all. Mitt Romney and I've been working very diligently on a fiscal accountability act.

HUNT: Yes.

MANCHIN: Trying to get our finances back in order in America to make sure that we can pay our bills and be strong.

HUNT: So all of this said, I mean, the presidential race is still ongoing. Nikki Haley is still in the Republican race. You have said you're not ready to say that you are going to endorse or vote for Joe Biden. Do you think Nikki Haley would be a better president than Joe Biden?


MANCHIN: Well, I'm not going to say who would be a better president. I know that -- that Nikki Haley is in the fight. And I think she's done a tremendous job so far, and she's holding your ground. And she's speaking truth to power and not afraid to go head-to-head with Donald Trump. And we'll just see what ends up. So --

HUNT: Is she in a better place for you, considering your statements about being in the center? Is she in a better place than Joe Biden is ideologically?

MANCHIN: Well, she's in a better place looking at what we have right now and where everyone's been pushed to. She's trying to find that middle, to where if the middle has some strength and power, to where it can be supportive.

A lot of people in America believe that -- that we want to see our leader to be center, centrist, if you will. They can take a center- left or center-right. They can't take an extreme.

If extreme's being pushed on them, they'll be looking somewhere else. We have to see what really turns out (ph).

HUNT: Should she run as a third-party candidate?

MANCHIN: I think she's going to be a very strong -- she's attractive for a third-party. Let's put it that way. Very attractive from that standpoint. I don't know where she's going to go. I really don't.

I don't know Nikki that well. I've met her a time or two, but I just don't know her well enough to say and try to speak for her, but I think she feels comfortable where she's at. I think she's very comfortable when she speaks. I watch her and listen. It doesn't change. And that's the beauty about it. A person that believes in their heart

what they're doing is the right thing to be done for our country. You don't have to worry about just -- just say what's on your mind and don't change your story because of what if your audience might be different. You're trying to play, play to them.

Politicians so many times try to morph into what the audience wants rather than who they are. I think she's done a good job of finding out who she is and where she's at.

The country right now has got to find its footing here. We've got to be part of the world order. And I think the country and the world depends on us tremendously for leadership. And that's what we're looking for. And you can't have a divided Congress and fighting among itself and not coming together in a crisis.

Ukraine's a crisis. I support Ukraine. I hope all I know, and I hope all Congress friends and that Brian Fitzpatrick and Jared Golden, what they're doing, I think, is tremendous. I support their effort. I look forward to working with them.

HUNT: All right. Senator Joe Manchin, West Virginia. Senator, grateful to have you.

MANCHIN: Good to be with you. Good to be with you. I'm so proud of you. Very happy for you.

HUNT: Thank you for getting up early. You're very sweet. Thank you very much.

All right. Up next here, federal officials reveal new information about the suspect accused of killing a nursing student in Georgia.

Plus, Texas Governor Greg Abbott weighs in on Alabama's IVF ruling.

And desperately needed funding for Ukraine. How President Biden aims to try and get that, up next.



HUNT: All right. Tomorrow, President Biden will convene the top four congressional leaders at the White House to try to ratchet up pressure for additional funding for Ukraine.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, marks the second anniversary of Russia's invasion by sitting down with CNN's Kaitlan Collins and stressing just how important U.S. aid will be.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Success forward will depend on U.S. aid. Yes. Not defending, not only defending line, because if you defend, just defend, you give possibility Russia push you. Yes, small steps back, but any -- anyway, you -- we will add this steps back.

Small one. But when you step back, you lose people. We will lose people.


HUNT: All right. Joining us now is CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, who is live for us in Ukraine.

Nick, good morning to you. President Zelenskyy also says that millions could die without U.S. aid. What is Ukraine's plan if this doesn't come through?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look, in short, they have to have one, but whatever plan they have is catastrophically not as good as Plan A, which is if that $60 billion is finally approved by a Republican-led Congress.

Essentially Ukraine is going to have to dig deep, use more drones, potentially cheap types of attack drone that they can replace artillery strikes with. They're going to have to rely more on European partners, who simply don't have the kind of financial and military resources that the United States does.

And they may also, at some point, have to be more strategic about which fights they pick along the front line.

Without that U.S. aid, the picture here for Ukraine is exceptionally bleak. We have heard a lot of rhetoric from European leaders about how they will be able to continue pushing in ammunition funding.

But it is more words than they're actually able to match with sheer military materiel.

And so Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his speech yesterday, his press conference, really trying to straddle a line where it makes it clear how bitterly bleak the situation is for Ukraine on the frontline without U.S. military assistance. But also suggesting, of course, those troops in the front lines and also civilians across the country, to not dent their morale by saying without that U.S. military assistance, they could still potentially have a chance.

He also gave us for the first time, I think, the official number of Ukrainian military deaths since the start of this full-scale invasion of 31,000. That is less than some Western military analysts have suggested. And it's also about a fifth or sixth of what he said Russia has had inflicted upon it during this war, as well.

And so we also heard, too, in that press conference, the tiniest glimmer of the possibility of diplomacy. It's a unilateral plan that Ukraine, its allies, would put forward, essentially telling Russia, here's a plan for peace if you want it. Russia is likely to refuse it.

But I found it interesting that he used that platform to talk about negotiations, not something we've heard of for a while, but really quite a troubling plea from Ukraine. They need that U.S. money. HUNT: Yes, interesting indeed that he was willing to talk about it. Nick Paton Walsh for us. Nick, thank you very much.

And this just in. Aids to Alexei Navalny say he was supposed to be part of a prisoner exchange before his death on February 16.

One of Navalny's closest advisers said on social media, quote, "In early February, Putin was offered to exchange Vadim Krasikov, a killer and an FSB officer who is serving a sentence for murder in Berlin, for two American citizens and Alexei Navalny."

CNN hasn't been independently able to verify those claims.

All right. Happening today, the ex-FBI informant indicted for lying about the Bidens heads back to court.

Plus, the impact of Donald Trump's legal headwinds as he notches another primary victory. That's ahead.


MICHAEL CHE, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Donald Trump announced he is selling limited-edition gold sneakers for $400. You can check them out on the feet of the guy getting dragged off your flight.




HUNT: All right, 22 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning round- up.

The suspect accused of killing an Augusta University student is an undocumented migrant from Venezuela. He faces murder and kidnapping charges after Laken Hope Riley's body was found on campus last week.

The FBI informant who lied about the Bidens' business dealings will be in a Los Angeles courtroom today for a detention hearing. Alexander Smirnov remains in custody after the judge raised concerns about his lawyers trying to help him flee the country.

AT&T giving a $5 credit to customers who were affected by a widespread outage that lasted 12 hours last week. Officials say the outage was caused by a network expansion error.

I don't know. I was definitely frustrated to the tune to way more than five bucks when my phone didn't work for six hours that morning, but I guess we'll take it.

All right. Now, weather. A cold front in the West brings snow and wind to the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies today, while the Midwest braces for a severe storm threat. Hundreds of heat records might get tied or broken across the Central and Eastern U.S. over the next several days.

Our weatherman van Dam joins us with all of it. Derek, good morning. What do we got today?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning. And you know what comes with the heat comes the potential for fire weather. And unfortunately, with an advancing cold front, it's going to pick up the winds across the front range and into the Plains.

This is the scene yesterday coming out of Colorado Springs. Look at the smoke blanketing the horizon. Some pop-up fires within this location. We have an elevated risk, as well as a critical fire danger across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandle. So keep an eye on that.

The winds will be the big story here going forward. Could gust as high as 60 to 70 miles per hour, especially across some of those higher elevations. And with a cold front moving through, snow will fall in the mountains, and then that reduces the visibilities, as well.


Now, we won't see snowfall East of the Rockies, because that's where were going to be setting hundreds of temperature records, high temperature records going forward.

And I want to draw your attention to Dallas/Fort Worth today: 95 degrees. It is still February, folks. That is temperatures we would typically see at the end of May.

So very summer-like heat. That is driving North. A big cooldown. This is the clash of the spring season here, right? So by Wednesday, we'll only be in the 50s. So big difference.

That's the cold front that's going to bring the snowfall to the Rockies. Remember, reduced visibilities, with the winds picking up.

And then just check this out. The severe weather potential across Chicago and into the Midwest for tomorrow. Keep an eye on the sky. Tornadoes are possible -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right, our weatherman van Dam. Derek, thank you very much.

VAN DAM: Have a great day. OK.

HUNT: All right, ahead here, Texas Governor Greg Abbott weighs in on the controversial IVF ruling in Alabama. And CNN's Dana Bash joins us right here in studio to tell us all about her conversation with the governor.