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Connect the World
20,000 killed in Gaza fighting; Hamas: No Hostage Talks Without Ceasefire; U.N. Security Council to Vote on Gaza Resolution; Starvation in Gaza; Interview with World Food Programme Senior Spokesperson Abeer Etefa; Deadly Shooting at Charles University in Prague; Venezuela-U.S. Prisoner Swap; Thousands of People Took to the Streets in Argentina to Protest; U.S. Supreme Court Faces Showdown with Donald Trump; Trump's Ban from Colorado Ballot; CNN Flies Over Iceland Eruption Zone; Warner Brothers Discovery and Paramount Bosses Discuss Possible Merger. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 21, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: All right. Welcome, everyone. It is 10:00 a.m. here in New York, where I am. I am Zain Asher. This is "Connect
Starvation, disease and the winter cold threaten the survival of some 2 million people who are displaced in Gaza.
Also, Israel wants to broker yet another deal to release its hostages from Gaza, but Hamas says no negotiations will go ahead without a "full
cessation" of aggression.
And the U.S. Supreme Court could decide the fate of Donald Trump and the 2024 election, but the former president is asking it to stay out of the
dispute over whether or not he is immune from prosecution.
All right. I want to start with a look at the human toll of the war in the Middle East, and let me tell you, it is chilling. The Palestinian Health
Ministry says that around 20,000 people, 20,000 people have been killed in Israel's two-and-a-half-month war on Hamas, most of them women and
children. Worth pointing out that CNN cannot yet independently verify those numbers.
In the meantime, though, a poll finds that 72 percent of more than 1,200 people interviewed in Gaza during last month's truce and also in the West
Bank as well, so that they actually thought that Hamas' decision to launch the October 7th attack on Israel was the correct decision.
The poll was taken by a Palestinian research group. However, the head of the group said, "No one should see this as support for any of the
atrocities that might have been committed by Hamas on that day.
Meantime, Hamas now says it will not discuss exchanging hostages for Palestinian prisoners while the war is going on. Let's bring in Jeremy
Diamond, who's standing by for us in Tel Aviv.
Jeremy, what is the latest in terms of what's happening with negotiations?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, there had been a lot of hope in recent days, Zain, that perhaps these negotiations were going to
move forward. So, once again, see the release of dozens of hostages, a week-long pause in the fighting and the entry of desperately needed aid
into the Gaza Strip. But it appears that, at least for now, that hope has been dashed.
Hamas this morning putting out a statement saying that they will not engage in negotiations over the release of hostages and the release of Palestinian
prisoners unless Israel first agrees to a pause in the fighting to give space to those negotiations. That is antithetical to the position of
Israel, which has vowed to press on with its military campaign in Gaza up until there is some kind of a deal to allow for a humanitarian pause in the
And this comes despite the fact that in recent days, Israel has put a new proposal on the table for the release of hostages and a pause in the
fighting. There have been a lot of activity, including the CIA director, the director of the Mossad, and Qatar's prime minister meeting in Warsaw
just a couple of days ago. Yesterday, also, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas' -- the head of Hamas, traveled to Cairo to meet with Egyptian
officials who have been key mediators, but it appears that, at least for now, there is no actual movement towards real negotiations beyond the
proposals that have been put forward amid Hamas' rejection of those.
ASHER: And, Jeremy, let's talk about the U.N. Security Council because they're supposed to vote on another resolution calling for humanitarian
ceasefire in Gaza. Of course, the U.S. has vetoed the last two resolutions. What are the chances at this point that this one's going to actually get
DIAMOND: We don't know yet. We know that there have been very, very intensive negotiations over the last several days. Clearly, the United
States trying to get the language to a place where they believe they could actually support it.
Just a few weeks ago, they vetoed a ceasefire resolution that came to the United Nations Security Council. They were the only country to veto that
resolution. The United Kingdom also abstained from it. But now, it appears that there is discussion about the language to perhaps talk about a
suspension of hostilities, something that the U.S. could potentially support.
And there's also a lot of wrangling over language that would call for establishing a monitoring mechanism created and run by the United Nations
in the Gaza Strip that is also, we're told, a point of contention in these negotiations.
We heard from the secretary of state yesterday very strongly indicating that the U.S. is trying to get to a place where they could actually support
this resolution. For now, we expect that this resolution could come for a vote today. But of course, that was the situation yesterday and the day
before as well. And we have seen as those votes have gotten delayed again and again.
So, key question as to whether or not it will come for a vote. And then in terms of what happens when -- if that resolution passes, it is a binding
resolution by the U.N. Security Council. But we know that in the past, whether it is Israel or other countries they -- if there is a resolution
targeting them and telling them to do or not to do something, those countries tend to ignore those resolutions.
And so, there's no real sense that Israel would necessarily abide by this, but it certainly would be a watermark in the mounting international
pressure that we have watched build over the last several weeks.
And also, of course, if the United States were to support it, even if they were to abstain and allow this resolution to pass, that would also be a
significant moment in U.S. Israel relations as well.
ASHER: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.
All right. I want to talk about what's happening in Gaza right now, because as this war stretches on, it's going on past the two and a half month --
the month mark rather, the daily struggle for survival is getting more and more difficult for civilians.
The World Food Programme says that half of the enclave's population, that's really 1 million people, is now starving. Millions finding enough food to
get through today -- the day is simply an impossible task. We know that aid is coming in very slowly, but there is not enough for desperate families.
CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For weeks, this is what we've seen of the war in Gaza. Israel's brutal military might pounding
neighborhoods into dust.
In central Gaza and Sderot, whole blocks reduced to rubble, seemingly deserted, unlivable.
But there's also this, the near surreal scenes this week in Sderot. The hustle and bustle of the street market. It's the story of every war, where
life doesn't stop, it goes on for those trying to survive.
But Gaza is like no other place. It's where more than 2 million are crammed into this tiny strip of land that now looks like it's been bombed back into
ages past, where those who've lost everything have nowhere left but the streets.
That's where Mutnas (ph) is building a clay oven, hoping people would pay him a shekel or two to use it, he says. Maybe then he'll have enough to buy
his children cheese or tomatoes.
Our lives are a million years behind. We live in sewage, Mutnas (ph) says. Every time it rains, the sewage overflows. It's cold, there's no food, no
water, no warm clothes.
Most here have escaped the bombs only to be trapped in this misery. Diseases and starvation, the U.N.'s warned, may soon kill more than those
bombs. Half the population it says are now starving. People going entire days without eating.
Om Ahmed (ph) says she collects a bit of flour from here and there to bake bread for her children.
We're all thrown into the streets, she says. They said go to the south. We came to the south to die slowly.
Human Rights Watch says Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. It's a war crime Israel denies and calls it a lie. It accuses Hamas of stealing
In the wake of October 7th, Israel's defense minister announced a siege of Gaza, "No electricity, no fuel, everything closed until all hostages were
returned." Some aid and water delivery resumed, but nowhere near enough. Much of the blockade remains in place, what rights groups call collective
Sometimes the lucky ones find more than lentils and bread for the hungry mouths they have to feed. This mother uses a pair of jeans for her fire to
boil some chicken wings and bones.
I'm using clothes and cardboard to make fire and cook, she says. The situation is disastrous, but I need to find a way for my children. We're in
the street because we have nowhere to shelter.
Fleeing the bombs scrounging for food, now the people of Gaza desperately wait for the moment they can try once again to live.
Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: And the World Food Programme is facing a lot of obstacles when it comes to trying to get aid into Gaza right now. One bit of good news though
is that it was actually able to get a convoy of aid originating in Jordan into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing through Israeli territory. It's
the first time that has actually happened since the war started.
Abra Tefer is the senior Middle East spokesperson for the World Food Programme. She joins us live now via Skype from Cairo.
Abra, thank you so much for being with us. I think the worst part of all of this is that hunger is only one of many, many problems facing people in
Gaza right now. I mean, they have to deal with, obviously, basic survival. There is, of course, going -- a war happening right now. And then, you
think about how many people have been displaced, how many people have seen their homes reduced to rubble. And then, there's the threat of disease as
Just walk us through how difficult it is, just the day to day survival ordinary civilians in Gaza, what are they facing from the moment they wake
up in the morning to the moment they go to sleep at night?
ABEER ETEFA, SENIOR SPOKESPERSON, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Listen. It's a very, very difficult humanitarian situation that we have never seen
something that looks like it in the last -- you know, probably in my last 15 years in this job.
I mean, the -- you're speaking about hunger of catastrophic levels in Gaza. We're waiting right now, as we speak, for an imminent report on the food
security situation in Gaza, and that was done during the seven days pause. So, it's not even reflecting the horrible and horrific situation of the
last few days.
The this is -- it's coming at the time in which, you know, our senior leaders have just been in Gaza, they've described to us a situation in
which fear was in the air everywhere. You see it in people's eyes. People have lost faith that the aid -- any aid will reach them.
And it's a very difficult environment. You cannot deliver assistance under a sky full of air strikes. The humanitarian operation is on the brink of
collapse. It's impossible to get food in the condition or any -- not just food, any supplies in these conditions to meet some of the basic needs.
And because of the lack of confidence of people that aid is coming their way, we're experiencing also a breakdown in law and order. So, the
situation in general is a very difficult one. People are being forced into just one of five -- of the five governorates of Gaza, so it's extremely
overcrowded. Shortage of water, a widespread of disease, the operating space and the areas where we can deliver is shrinking by the minute.
So, we are looking at situation in which, you know, there is always going to be a risk of famine in Gaza if we don't and are unable to deliver
quickly and open all supply routes, and we did have a breakthrough yesterday with the first convoy crossing through Kerem Shalom, coming from
Jordan and getting into Gaza.
So, there is a ray of hope. We hope it continues, and we hope the situation allows us to avert this humanitarian crisis.
ASHER: Yes. And when you think about -- I mean, you talked about the aid truck. When you think about just how little aid is arriving, especially
when you think about Just the numbers here, 2 million people living in this enclave, at least a million of them go to Hungary at this point. Just
explain to us the process of actually distributing the aid when it does reach Gaza, because there is only so much to go around. Who decides who
gets what when?
ETEFA: Well, you know, the World Food Programme is working at the moment at different fronts. So, the minute we get food inside Gaza, it gets
distributed very quickly. We have focus -- we have a focus with our some partners on the ground to provide hot meals, especially in shelters and in
the areas where people are staying together especially in these very overcrowded areas.
We're trying to get bakeries again operating, at least one or two of them, so that we can provide fresh, you know, bread. The focus is still on the
ready to eat food supplies because there is no cooking gas. There is, like, very little fuel inside. So, we just need people to, you know, eat whatever
they can get their hands on. These high energy biscuits that, you know, give you, you know, what you need from the minerals and vitamins that can
keep people surviving.
So, nothing stays in our warehouses. Everything gets distributed quickly because the situation is very chaotic and people are impatient because they
are hungry. So -- you know but there is so more that needs to be done, you know. We need to have this operating space to be able to get, you know,
food parcels to families and to allow them to prepare their food. We need to get these ready to eat food rations. We need to get, you know, the
nutritious food for children who are at risk of severe malnutrition as we speak.
ASHER: And there's also the trauma that comes with this. I mean, it's important to note, yes, of course, people need food, that is Obvious. But
there's a psychological trauma that comes with every single day not knowing if you're going to be able to feed your children.
ETEFA: Absolutely. Hunger is a traumatic experience, and this is why we see people unable to, you know, function properly when they don't have
food. And the reality is that, you know, there is a lot of psychological elements to, for example, the provision of bread.
This is why bread is very important. It is -- it's not about the nutrition value of bread. It's the fact that it is -- it signals a little bit of
normality and, you know, it gives people, you know, the ability to be full even though we know very well that it doesn't give all the nutrition that
you need. But the experience of being full is very, very important to stabilize the situation, to make people calm.
But as we speak, you know, the frequent cuts of communications make people feel isolated, feeling hungry. The -- there is very -- a lot of shortage in
drinking water to the extent that sometimes adults will only have one cup of drinking water a day. All of these things bring a very traumatic
experience to children and to adults experiencing this humanitarian crisis.
ASHER: All right. Thank you so much for being with us. We are so grateful. Thank you for updating our audience on this, Abeer. We appreciate it.
All right. I want to bring you some breaking news happening right now out of the Czech Republic. Czech police are saying that there has been a deadly
shooting, a deadly shooting at a university in Central Prague. Police are saying -- they're saying this via social media, that there are officers on
the scene. That the area has been completely cordoned off. This is happening at Charles University. Worth noting, this is one of the oldest
and largest universities in Eastern Europe.
They are reporting that there is an unspecified number of dead and injured. So, we don't have an exact number in terms of how many people may have been
killed here, but officers are saying that it was indeed a deadly shooting. We will bring you much more information on this story as and when we get
more from Czech police.
All right. Still to come, the U.S. and Venezuela are celebrating a prisoner swap following months of high-level negotiations. We'll look at who has
been in released, coming up after the break.
ASHER: All right. I want to quickly update you on that breaking news story out of the Czech Republic. Police are saying that there has been a deadly
shooting at a university in Central Prague, we know that police right now are still on the scene. This is according to their social media post.
This is at Jan Palach Square, said to be one of the busiest areas this time of year. There were a lot of people, a heavy crowd here at the time of the
shooting. The shooting took place at Charles University, which is basically one of the oldest universities in the Czech Republic. In fact, in Eastern
Europe as well -- Eastern and Central Europe as well.
Police are reporting that there are several dead. We don't exactly know how many at this point, but they are reporting that several people died during
the shooting. That there were a lot of people who were injured as well. We're being told that the entire building where the shooting took place has
now indeed been evacuated and that the suspected shooter is now dead as well. We will, of course, bring you much more just in terms of any updates
as and when we hear them.
All right. The U.S. president has been speaking out after the release of 10 Americans who had been held in Venezuela, six of whom the U.S. considered
to be wrongfully detained. In exchange, the US has freed Alex Saab, the alleged financier to Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro.
Joe Biden said the deal was made because Venezuela had agreed to hold free elections and had so far complied with that. Ed Lavandera is in San
Antonio, Texas joining us with more on this.
So, Ed, I mean, those are really emotional scenes on the tarmac. I mean, a lot of people are just listening to some of what the American detainees
were saying and how they just never imagined that they would ever become free and how they just learned to really treasure just this idea of being
free. Just explain to us what those moments were like in terms of being reunited with their families once again and how the deal came about too?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right. And it was stunning to see how the day developed for them. They told us that they
had woken up in their jail cells in Venezuela, put on a flight to a Caribbean Island, which turned out to be a meeting point. And they waited
there for almost six hours as the final details of this deal between the U.S. and Venezuela was agreed upon. And then, they were put on another
flight, and that's when they found out they were headed home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The release of 10 Americans from Venezuelan custody unfolded so quickly, their families didn't arrive in time to greet
them at the San Antonio airfield where six of the 10 walked off a plane with the U.S. State Department officials who negotiated the release.
SAVOI WRIGHT, RELEASED FROM VENEZUELAN PRISON: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty. Free at last.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Savoi Wright was one of the six American detainees who arrived in Texas. Venezuelan authorities arrested him in October. He
was wrongfully imprisoned on terrorism charges and accused of conspiring with political opposition of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Wright
says he was kidnapped by Venezuelan authorities and held for ransom.
LAVANDERA: Did you think you were going to see this day anytime soon?
WRIGHT: I didn't know if I would ever make it out. And it's really scary to be in a place where you're used to having freedoms and you're locked
into a cell, sometimes with four other people, a very tiny cell. And to realize, am I ever going to get out of this?
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Roger Carstens is the U.S. government's special presidential envoy for hostage affairs and was part of the extensive team
involved in negotiating the prisoner release.
ROGER CARSTENS, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: We left with everyone right now. There are no more Americans left in Venezuela that
are being held in the prison facilities.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The deal also included the return of the infamously corrupt military contractor known as Fat Leonard Francis. He was
the mastermind of the largest bribery scandal in U.S. naval history and escaped to Venezuela last year after his conviction in 2015. In exchange,
the U.S. agreed to return Alex Saab, a close ally of the Venezuelan president who was facing prison time in the U.S. on corruption and money
CARSTENS: If you don't make a hard decision like this, you're basically writing these guys off. Because the other side never asked for something
EYVIN EVAN HERNANDEZ, RELEASED FROM VENEZUELAN PRISON: I'm incredibly, incredibly grateful. I'm sorry. I can't even speak.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Eyvin Hernandez was wrongfully imprisoned in Venezuela for 630 days. He says he was held in a makeshift prison and
endured psychological Treatment.
HERNANDEZ: So, they keep you there, in inhumane conditions, and they make your life a living hell. They do everything in their power for you to lose
that peace and to try and make you go crazy.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Despite this, Hernandez says he doesn't harbor any anger or hatred to those who imprisoned him, and he hopes the U.S. and
Venezuela can come to discover peaceful relations.
HERNANDEZ: All you think about when you're in prison is, how you didn't appreciate being free while you were free. There's no way to understand
what it's like to be in prison unjustly and not have any way out. And so, it's been a long time coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Zain, those six Americans were here to San Antonio because -- at a place called the Brook Army Medical Center, there
is a specialized program that help military prisoners of war as well as other civilians who have been wrongfully detained in places around the
They're brought here, and it's a kind of a place where they can come and reacclimate back to normal life, and they help these people through this
process. So, those Americans will have access to that program. And one other note, the American, Francis Leonard, who was also returned to face
the criminal process here in the U.S. is expected to make a court appearance in Florida later this afternoon. Zain.
ASHER: All right. Ed Lavendera, live for us. Thank you so much.
All right. Thousands of people took to the streets in Argentina to protest the economic measures announced by the country's new president. Javier
Milei signed a decree on Wednesday pledging to dismantle more than 300 regulations that he says are hindering Argentina's growth amid a severe
economic crisis. He says a package of laws is going to be sent to Congress in the coming days to accompany these reforms and advance the process of
All right. Still to come here on "Connect the World," the U.S. Supreme Court is facing some major decisions right now that could determine the
fate of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. We'll have details ahead on Donald Trump's presidential immunity filings. The top U.S. court could also
be the next stop after that ruling in Colorado. We'll break down Trump's legal fights in just a moment.
ASHER: All right. Welcome back to "Connect the World." I'm Zain Asher.
I want to go back to our top breaking news story in terms of what's happening in the Czech Republic. Police say that the suspected shooter is
dead after a shooting at a university in Central Prague that killed several people. A video posted by police on social media shows the area around
Charles University completely cordoned off at this point. You see those police vehicles there.
Police are saying that in addition to those who have been killed, a lot of people are injured at this point, they're saying that many are injured.
They say the shooting happened in the university's philosophy building. Let's discuss with CNN Senior National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem.
Julia, of course, there's still so much we don't know at this point. I mean, this breaking news coming to us about 30 or so minutes ago, we don't
know how many people have been killed. We don't know how many people have been injured. But give us your initial thoughts because Prague is not the
place where you would expect something like this to happen.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No. No, not at all. So -- and we will be careful here. So, I'll just give it from the sense of
sort of where would an investigation lead at this time. Because as you've said, Czechoslovakia, while gun ownership is permitted, has one of the
lowest gun ownership rates. So, it's nothing compared to, say, the United States or even other European countries.
So, that being said, this is unique in -- by all accounts. The investigation, as all of these investigations, well, now that they know
that the suspect is dead, we'll begin with him or her, presumably him, who he is, what his a relationship may or may not have been to the university.
Did he know the target, or did he -- or was it some outside motivation? And then, that gets to the next part, which is, what was the reason for this?
At colleges and universities, it's often people with affiliations with the college and university, a student, a staff member, but -- and this is --
you know, this is also in the realm of possible, not probable, because of the increased threat environment around the globe that every country is
responding to. They will also look to the motivations and whether they were political in nature.
ASHER: And just in terms of the step-by-step process of piecing together how this happened. I mean, obviously, I just -- we just showed our audience
Jan Palach Square there where we saw several police cars, several sort of flashing lights, and the area appearing to be cordoned off. Nobody was in
that square when I saw those images on our screen. I am told, though, that at the time of the shooting, there was a heavy crowd.
What is the sort of step-by-step process in terms of figuring out how this happened? I mean, obviously, security cameras and security footage, I
imagine, would be the next port of call, what after that?
KAYYEM: Yes. So, it's -- it -- there'll be a couple things. So, first of all, presumably, the call -- the university would have some sort of
security apparatus, whether it's video cameras. They might also have on- site police presence or some sort of security officials, that will be coupled with the fact that every citizen is now a video camera.
So, what pictures were being captured in real-time before, in other words, what the assailant -- where was he heading? Did he look purposeful? Was
this -- or was this very, very random? And so, that combination of visuals will give a sense of what we call the tick tock, the moments before and the
At the same time, while this investigation is going on, we could never forget, you know, it is the holiday season. This is a -- you know, these
are young people, but as I say, you know, with college age students, you know, we're still their parents, right? There are going to be parents and
others who want to know where their children are.
So, there's going to be a whole apparatus established for what we call family reunification. And also, unfortunately, given that we know that
there are some dead, family notification. That is as important as -- you know, as the motivation right now, you want to make sure that the community
is treated with the respect that they deserve given what's happened to them.
ASHER: All right. Juliette, stand by. I just want to bring in our senior producer joining us live now on the phone who's actually just outside of
Prague, Ivana Kottasova, is on the phone for us.
Ivana, obviously, we're just piecing together details. I know we don't have all the information in terms of what happened. We are being told that there
were a lot of people who may have been killed during the shooting and a lot of people injured as well. What more are you hearing?
IVANA KOTTASOVA, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: We are hearing from the police that the shooter has been eliminated, whether that means he is dead or she is
dead or been eliminated in other ways, we don't know just of yet.
We also don't know the precise number. As you say the police is only saying there's several dead or a number of dead and many injured. What we know is
that the emergency services in Prague has -- have put together a major trauma plan. So, all of the hospitals, the major hospitals in Prague are
ready to receive injured.
I can tell you just, as your previous speaker was saying, this is very much a central downtown Prague. This area is very popular with tourists. It
would be very busy at this time of the day. It has beautiful view of the Prague Castle just across the river. So, yes, this is a very, very popular
and busy area at this time of the day.
ASHER: And this sort of event is relatively rare in the Czech Republic. I mean, gun ownership is relatively low per capita. This is not the sort of
thing that you would expect to happen in a place like Prague. Just talk us through the reaction from ordinary people in Czech -- in the Czech Republic
as this unfolds.
KOTTASOVA: Absolutely. It's very unusual. I cannot remember a school shooting in the Czech Republic, and I grew up here, and I am from here. I
can't remember an event like this. So, it's a massive shock.
All of the Czech network, TV networks are covering it live as it unfolds. All of the top national officials, prime minister, the home secretary,
everybody is canceling all of their programs and heading straight to Prague.
As you said, it is true that gun ownership is relatively low, but the laws are fairly liberal in European standards. So, people can obtain guns
legally. There are some safeguards. You have to pass tests and things like that and background checks, but it is not, as in other European countries,
for instance, in the U.K., where it is virtually impossible to obtain again as a civilian.
So, there are guns within the society. So, we don't know at this point what kind of gun this was or how the person -- how the shooter obtained it. But
there is not -- the laws are relatively liberal. But that said, something like this is extremely unusual, and people are in a state of shock.
ASHER: All right. Ivana Kottasova, live for us there. Thank you so much.
All right. At any moment now, the U.S. Supreme Court could weigh in on a crucial question regarding federal prosecution of Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Trump's legal team asked the high court to stay out of his presidential immunity dispute. The dispute is over whether the former U.S.
president has immunity from Special Counsel Jack Smith's prosecution for alleged crimes related to the 2020 election. Here to talk all about this is
CNN's Katelyn Polantz. She joins us live now from Washington D.C.
Katelyn, thank you so much for being with us. So, the Trump team -- Trump's legal team essentially wants Court of Appeals to sort of intervene and
address this first. Just explain to us why Trump doesn't want the Supreme Court to get to this first.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Zain, this is all about timing. Right now, Donald Trump is headed to criminal trial in March.
That's the date that is set by the judge and that is still on the calendar.
However, Donald Trump, as a criminal defendant, has raised this argument that perhaps he should not have to be on trial, that he has some sort of
protection, an immunity protection, because he was president at the time that his actions took place that are now part of those charges related to
what happened after the 2020 election, election interference, January 6th.
So, the immunity question is before the Supreme Court because the Justice Department wants to have someone resolve this very quickly. There is going
to have to be a court that resolves this question, does Trump get the immunity from being -- sitting for trial before he actually goes to trial?
And so, the Justice Department wants to skip ahead. They've fully briefed it. So, they've said what their arguments are. Trump's team has put in
their arguments. And the Trump team arguments have largely been, at this point, to the Supreme Court.
You don't have to look at this just yet. There shouldn't be a rush here. No one should be making law with reckless abandon. Those are the words that
they used. And they are instead hoping that the Supreme Court doesn't want to get involved just yet in deciding the law here. And instead, that the
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, that intermediary court, will take this first with hearing arguments in the beginning of January.
ASHER: And, Katelyn, the fact that this is all sort of happening when we're just weeks away from Iowa, weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, the New
Hampshire primaries. I mean, how does that affect the political landscape in all of this?
POLANTZ: Well, Zain, it affects the political landscape in that Donald Trump is out there campaigning quite a bit talking about his criminal
prosecutions, the other things that the courts are doing and looking at related to him.
There are a lot of legal questions that haven't been resolved about how America, The United States should be grappling with what happened in 2020
and the consequences that Donald Trump should be facing as the person that all of those supporters were trying to assist after the election in trying
to disrupt the election, spread disinformation, storm the capital.
And so, the courts have to determine this, but when they look at it, no matter what Trump is doing on the campaign trail, and sometimes his
campaign is what's happening in court where he's showing up at these court proceedings, that's part of his campaigning. The courts look at it
differently. They work on their own timelines, and they say what their decisions are not affected by any calendar.
ASHER: All right. Katelyn Polantz, live for us there. Thank you so much.
All right. Former U.S. president Donald Trump insists he is not an insurrectionist after the Colorado State Supreme Court ruled that he can't
be on next year's presidential ballot because of a constitutional ban on insurrectionists holding office. Many legal scholars agree this decision
will not be the final word. Now, of course, all eyes right now are on the U.S. Supreme Court.
For more on the Colorado ruling, I want to go now to Alayna Treene, joining us live now from our D.C. Bureau. I mean, a lot of people believe that this
certainly disenfranchises voters and that, you know, if you have certain states where Donald Trump is on the ballot and other states where he's not
on the ballot, then that, of course, chaos could, assume. Just walk us through what the fallout is from all of this legally.
ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Yes. Well, look. I mean, I think, legally Donald Trump is clearly facing, you know, 91 counts of charges. He's been
indicted four times this year. And now, he's having yet another legal issue land in his lap.
And I will say, you know, politically, and just covering the Trump campaign myself, talking with his advisers repeatedly about this over the last
several days now, they do view this as something that they very much are angered about. They weren't expecting this. They were surprised by this
But at the same time, and as we've seen with his past legal battles, they do see it as helping solidify his support in the presidential primary race.
And the Trump campaign is essentially using the same playbook to push back against this latest ruling as they have with his past indictments, which is
to essentially argue that the decision is political, that it's -- these judges are trying to interfere in the 2024 presidential election because he
is the Republican front runner. And also, to try and fundraise off of this. We have seen the Trump campaign put out a couple fundraising e-mails now
trying to raise money off of this most recent court decision.
And I think when you look at the broader political landscape as well, you are seeing a lot of Donald Trump's rivals in the primary also weighing in
on this. In many ways, they're feeling forced to respond to this, something that they really don't want to be doing. They're crisscrossing the early
voting states, trying to distinguish themselves from the former president. But at the same time, they're having to weigh in on an issue that they
recognize they need to defend him on because so many people in the Republican Party view what the courts are doing to Donald Trump really as
ASHER: All right. Alayna Treene, life for us there. Thank you so much.
All right. Still to come --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is an amazing day to be witnessing. From up here, you can hardly see just how
accurate the (INAUDIBLE). And you can see the lava.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: -- CNN takes to the sky over an active volcano. You won't want to miss these images. We are live from Iceland for you next.
ASHER: All right. Nearly three days after a volcano erupted in Iceland, officials in the town of Grindavik are still assessing possible dangers.
Roads are closed to everyone except emergency services. Police are asking people approach, not to go near the eruption are and, of course, to be
cautious and to be aware of the gas, the sort of toxic fumes being emitted from this.
The government says it's supporting around 4,000 people who had to evacuate in November, helping them find housing and buying apartments for those who
are in the most dire of needs. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has been on the ground the past few days, seeing the impact of this eruption from both the land
Fred, just walk us through what you've seen. I mean, these images are incredible.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It certainly was incredible. We took a nighttime flight actually with the
Icelandic coast guard over this quake zone. It was a survey flight that they did and actually also practice evacuating people from that quake zone
in -- or from that eruption zone if that would be necessary. There are, of course, still first responders working in there.
One of the things, Zain, that we did see is that the activity of this volcanic eruption does seem to have subsided a great deal. There's no more
active events that we saw, but we still definitely saw a lot of magma beneath us.
And what was really remarkable is that were actually able to smell those gases that we've been talking about, that the authorities are so concerned
about and actually feel the heat from that magma as well, that's how low we were flying underneath there.
Now, the authorities are saying, despite the fact that the activity has decreased considerably people in the town of Grindavik, which is about -- I
think, say about four or five miles behind where I am right now, I'm actually just coming from there right now, they are able to go back into
that town for a couple of hours, but they're not able to go back to their homes, and they're not able to stay there because the magma tunnel that led
to that massive eruption that we saw almost three days ago, that is also under the town of Grindavik, And it has caused some massive cracks in the
ground in Grindavik as well. So, certainly, the danger has not passed.
There was a seismologist that I was talking to earlier today, and she told me that they expect that in this part of Iceland, there is going to be
increased volcanic activity for the coming years and they certainly say that the danger for Grindavik has not passed.
But for now, they say that this eruption seems to be dying down. They say it was a very furious one in the initial stages. We saw those massive
fountains of magma being spewed into the air, sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, but they do say it's also dying down fairly quickly. But,
again, the danger for the residents here and certainly for the town of Grindavik is not over yet, and they do fear that there could be further
eruptions in the not-too-distant future, Zain.
ASHER: Yes. So, the lava has, of course, slowed down. The threat has indeed waned, as you point out. Not completely over, but it certainly has
waned. What about the exposure to -- the potential exposure to toxic fumes?
PLEITGEN: Yes. I mean, that's something that the authorities have been talking about. And I can tell you from flying over that area, you do smell
that there is -- there are fumes in the air. Not clear how toxic they were, but you don't want to be exposed to that for an extended period of time.
There was the fear in the sort of early stages of that eruption that, for instance, Reykjavik could be influenced by those toxic fumes or could get
some of those toxic fumes as well. So far, it doesn't appear that that happened.
One of the things that we heard from the meteorological office here in Iceland late yesterday and early today is they say that the wind is
shifting in a way that is actually good for Reykjavik and good for the main airport in Keflavik as well so that any sort of toxic fumes and ash or
anything else seems to be blown out to sea at the moment. So, that, right now, is some good news certainly for the residents of the Icelandic
capital, which once again is very close to this eruption zone.
And they say, right now, the main concern that they have is there could be new eruptions because they do still see the magma bubbling in that magma
tunnel, and certainly, this town of Grindavik definitely still right in the crosshairs, if you will, of that magma tunnel as well, Zain.
ASHER: All right. Fred Pleitgen, live for us there. Thank you.
All right. Could another big media merger be on the horizon? We'll have the latest on CNN's parent company and who it could be talking to. Just ahead.
ASHER: All right. An update on the breaking news out of Czech Republic. Police report several people killed and many injured in a mass shooting at
Charles University in Central Prague. They say that the shooter has been eliminated. The incident took place in the university's philosophy
building. So far, there's no word yet on who the shooter was, the identity of the shooter, or even a possible motive here.
We are awaiting update from Czech police. CNN are watching this story throughout the day. We'll bringing you much more information as and when we
get it. Once again, a mass shooting at Charles University in Central Prague, happening about an hour or so ago. We know that many people have
been killed. We don't exactly know how many? We also know that many people were injured as well.
All right. We have developing news about the high-speed train service. Eurostar departures on the undersea rail link between England and France
are canceled right now because of an unscheduled strike.
Eurostar's own staff not striking, but workers at the Eurotunnel are, that's the tunnel used by Eurostar train. Staff there have walked out in
protest at the size of that yearend bonuses.
I want to talk about us now. Sources tell us that CNN's parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery, may be looking at a merger with Paramount
Global, whose holdings include CBS. They say the CEO of the two companies met this week and talked about possibly joining forces. Here's how the two
company shares are trading today.
See, neither company worth noting is commenting. If a merger does happen, it could have huge implications across the media landscape. Let's bring in
Anna Stewart to break this down for us. So, Anna, just talk us through what both sides have to gain, why these two mega legacy companies are flirting
with the possibility of a merger.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, early stages, no offer on the table. Perhaps there never will be, but you can see --
ASHER: Just talking. Just talking.
STEWART: -- why they are interested. Yes. Just talking. But you can see why they might be interested because they are both facing the same
problems. You've got streaming tech giants on the one hand, you've got the free content of YouTube and other social media platforms on the other. And
this is all about, one, scaling up and two, synergies.
And if we show you some of the key assets that both have to offer, you can certainly start to draw a few synergies between them. First of all, look at
movies and content. Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers Studios, it would create combined, that's a juggernaut, at a time when content is king. And
also, Zain, not just about new releases, this is also about those important libraries of material, which brings us to perhaps the second most exciting
area here, the streaming platforms.
You have Paramount Plus. You have Max. They are both relatively new. They are both struggling against rivals like Netflix and even Disney Plus
combined. Of course, for the consumer, you could have "Star Trek" and "Titanic," you could also have "Succession" and "Harry Potter." You could
see that that might be quite nice for some of those out there.
Cable networks, CBS also has CBS News, CBS Sports. For Warner Brothers Discovery, it has CNN. It's a crown jewel. Of course, also, Eurosports
under the umbrellas well. Plenty of synergies there.
I would say, though, one issue here is both companies' big reliance or legacy dependence, I would say, on cable channels and whether -- given the
structural decline in both with cord cutters and a decline in TV advertising, do you want to add one problem to another big problem? Does
that really create a solution? Possibly not.
ASHER: So, lots of good reasons why they both might consider joining poor sports, as you point out, just given the portfolio you have in terms of
both companies. But there are, of course, hurdles and lots of hurdles to a potential deal here. Walk us through them, including regulatory approval as
STEWART: Right. I mean, there always are. And I can show you just a very simple list of some of the biggest issues. You mentioned regulation. Of
course, we're actually seeing quite an antitrust area with the Biden administration at the moment, but also debt because I think the key issue
here is both of these companies have huge amounts of debt. $45 billion dollars for Warner Brothers Discovery. Over $16 billion for Paramount
Global, and they're much smaller as a company combined. That's a lot of debt to take on.
Also, tax law. Of course, Warner Brothers Discovery had its own big merger last year. As a result of that, it couldn't actually make an acquisition
until April of next year. So, a few little issues to look through there.
ASHER: All right. Anna Stewart, live for us. Thank you so much.
All right. We've just got a new information on the deadly shooting in the Czech Republic. We now know that 10 people have been killed. More than 20
are wounded. It happened at Charles University in Central Prague, in the university's philosophy building. Police say that the shooter has been
eliminated. So far, there's no word yet on the identity of the shooter or the motive. CNN will, of course, be watching this story throughout the day,
and we'll bring you more information as and when we have it.
That is "Connect the World." You're watching CNN "State of the Race" with Casey Hunt is up next.