Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Judges Uphold Trump Gag Order In Federal Election Case; Israel: 450 Targets Struck In Gaza, Highest Since Truce Ended; Dem Pollster Sees Path For Biden Despite "Grim" Data; Russia Fires Cruise Missiles On Ukraine After Long Pause; China Makes Rare Nighttime Show Of Force Near Taiwan. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 08, 2023 - 19:00   ET




Trump's gag order back on. An appeals court rules the former president cannot go after witnesses in the DOJ election interference case. But he is free to attack the special counsel. So how far will Trump go?

And Israel raises its flag in Gaza City, a highly provocative move, as the United States stands alone in vetoing a U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Plus, grim. That's how one veteran Democratic pollster describes his latest findings. Young voters, Black voters, Latino voters, LGBTQ voters, all collectively giving Donald Trump higher grades than President Biden. So what's going on? I'll ask him.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm John King, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Trump silenced. The D.C. Court of Appeals upholding most of a gag order in the federal 2020 election case. The three judges say Trump can no longer target witnesses or singled out individuals related to the court proceedings. The court writing, quote, we agree -- some aspects of Mr. Trump's public statements post a significant, an imminent threat to the fair and orderly adjudication of the ongoing criminal proceeding.

Since he was charged, of course, Trump has repeatedly gone after potential witnesses. Remember, he called his former vice president, Mike Pence, delusional, mocked his former Attorney General Bill Barr as, quote, slow-thinking and lethargic, and he tore into his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who received immunity in order to testify in that federal case.

Trump writing: Some people would make that deal, but they're weaklings and cowards, and so bad for the future of our failing nation.

As for the former president, he's vowing tonight to appeal, posting online, quote, what is becoming of our First Amendment? The judges preempting Trump's defense, saying, in the final paragraph in their ruling: Mr. Trump is a former president and current candidate for the presidency, and there is a strong public interest in what he has to say. But Mr. Trump is also and indicted criminal defendant and he must stand trial in a courtroom under the same procedures which govern are all other criminal defendants.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT live in Washington tonight.

Evan, what else can you tell us about what the judges say in this important ruling?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you can hear the reluctance, certainly when we were listening to the court hearing, you know, a couple of weeks ago, that there was a great reluctance by these judges to muzzle the former president. They understood his arguments, that he does have this First Amendment right. Of course, he's a leading candidate for president, and the public does have a right to hear from him.

But they clearly also said that you can't just allow complete First Amendment freedoms here when it comes to a criminal trial. He has to be treated like any other criminal defendant. And they say, as you pointed out, they say this is what the rule of law means.

And so, that's why today we saw this ruling, which is pretty lengthy, and you see very, very thoughtful. One of the things they did concede to the former president, though, is that he is allowed to criticize Jack Smith. This is something that was not in the original order. In the original order, he was not allowed to talk about Jack Smith.

He can criticize the prosecution of himself. He can say -- criticize the Justice Department, he can criticize Joe Biden. He can say that the prosecution of Donald Trump is politically motivated. All of those things are permissible.

The other thing that was interesting in this ruling, John, is the three panel -- three judge panel here really pushed back on Donald Trump's very, very well-documented efforts to try to delay this trial. One of the things they say is that allowing that to happen, it would be counterproductive, and create perverse incentives, and unreasonably burden that judicial process.

So we can expect that the former president, of course, is going to go to the Supreme Court to try to get this gag order tossed out. But, you know, the record here is very clear, that the judges know what Donald Trump's record is when he comes to his attacks on people, some of these witnesses. And they want to try to preserve this trial, which is scheduled to get started in March.

KING: In March, in the thick of the campaign. Evan Perez, thanks for that tonight.

OUTFRONT now, Alyssa Farah Griffin. She's the former White House communications director for Trump; Ryan Goodman, "Just Security" co- editor in chief; and Laura Coates, our CNN senior legal analyst and the anchor, of course, of "LAURA COATES LIVE".

Ryan, follow up on what we just heard from Evan. What do you see is the most significant pieces of this?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think the most significant pieces what their ruling is actually about is now imposing a gag order on the former president. And the big question is, does he cross that line?

The court is also pretty specific about saying, you know, that line were drawn here, you can't really attack witnesses, or speak about there's witnesses, in terms of their testimony in the case is similar to the line on the conditions for your release.


So they really are saying, you know, your legal jeopardy -- your legal jeopardy you're your liberties maybe at stake here if you cross these lines because the conditions of release or also, you're not supposed to communicate with other witnesses and what these social media tweets and truth posts, that they're communicating with the witnesses by threatening them as well.

KING: Alyssa, you're unique among us. You have been in room when people have tried to tell Donald Trump, don't say it, sir.

In a political setting, not a legal seating like this, but he likes to test lines. He likes to cross lines. He doesn't want to lose money, fine. He certainly doesn't want to go to jail. What are you expecting here?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, Donald Trump, if anything, is a deeply undisciplined person. I can't count the number of times that we agreed, you shouldn't do this because it will jeopardize X and he goes out and immediately does it. I would be stunned if he doesn't end up violating this in some way or another.

What's going to be interesting is if the judge does choose to take an action beyond a fine. At the end of the day, this is a high net worth individual. $10,000 is a drop in the bucket to him. Does he actually take the step if he goes further potentially giving him jail time?

KING: So, Laura Coates, let's get into that. You're a former Justice Department prosecutor. You understand how the courts work and these judges. What -- judge doesn't want to send a president, a former president who's an active candidate to jail, but the judge also wants to say, you know, I issued a ruling and you need to follow it. How is this going to play out?

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he doesn't want to do that, of course, because any judge would not want to because of that phrase, no one's above the law. Wouldn't that put somebody who says they're candidate above other particularly similarly situated defendant? We don't want to have inequities exists there.

But think about how significant this is. And Ryan alluded to this point as well. This stops the end run around the order that says you cannot communicate with witnesses, but trying to give them a message just the same. It won't mean anything if you cannot directly intimidate or threaten a

witness, giving persevere incentives about whether they want to testify again, deterring them from coming forward and having due process, and not just this case but other cases as well. And put it on social media and get the message. A judge will not take this lightly. He says much in this actual hearing and also in the ruling today.

Why? Because the First Amendment applications, because they know about free speech, because he's a candidate. But it does not give him an excuse to just defy court orders or to invite, really, the reversal of due process.

KING: So, Trump, Ryan, cannot go after the former vice president, his former chief of staff, any other potential witnesses in this case, but the court did say, the Justice Department and special counsel are fair game? Does that surprise you, or is at the right call?

GOODMAN: It's a difficult question. I think it's an appropriate call. So, it's within the bounds. And it makes sense in a certain way. They're also saying this is part of the First Amendment issue, that individuals have an ability and credibility to cross their government and public officials and who is Jack Smith, but an arm of the Justice Department.

So, that's why the Justice Department is a fair target, and that's why Jack Smith, to a certain degree, is a fair target. So, it makes sense in that way.

On the other hand, you could also say, trying to intimidate the very prosecutor, that's not -- that is a line people should never cross, most defendants should never cross that line. And it can also pollute that jury poll. But the court is also saying today, we're really concerned about the administration of justice, but not today considering the jury pool. So, that might be left for another day.

KING: And, Alyssa, we're going to see the president probably next week. He's been attending his trial at the end of this week. But he's supposed to testify on Monday, six weeks into the Iowa caucuses. Most of his opponents have been.

What does that tell you about his priorities, or whether he's choosing them or not right now?

GRIFFIN: I mean, I think to the American public, it just underscores, he's more focused on staying out of jail than he is on actually campaigning and winning and earning the voters' votes. He didn't show up for any of the Republican debates, yet he's been sitting on these court dates.

I, by the way, would say, I think it's 50/50 he actually testifies. I think his lawyers are probably trying to walk that back. I think there's a lot of danger there. But this again, this is about him. This is not what his voters were looking for.

KING: Laura, another big legal development last 24 hours is the charges against President Biden's son, Hunter Biden, who's now been indicted by the special prosecutor, federal case, nine tax related charges, three of them for tax evasion, filing false documents. House Republicans also investigating Hunter Biden.

And this one seems a little bit odd to me. Tell me what you think. The Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer just said this to Jake Tapper about the new federal charges.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): My concern is that Weiss may have indicted Hunter Biden to protect him from having to be deposed in the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.


KING: Weiss, the special counsel, is a Donald Trump appointee. He was the U.S. attorney in Delaware, held over for this case. Does that make any sense to you?

COATES: No, you can easily dismiss that as maybe he's searching for a reason and grasping at straws to suggest that the reason they will not take yes for an answer, on Capitol Hill, as to his statement, he'll testify, he'll do it and open, he'll do it in front of a camera, but they want it behind closed doors. They can potentially have the effect of saying what they'd like to say happen.


That's not really a protection mechanism you're talking about here. I think it's fascinating to think about Hunter Biden and Donald Trump having something very much in common these days. That is they are both talking about the political machine trying to undermine their pursuit of justice.

But on one hand, we're talking about Donald Trump, he has a hand in that by trying to, in many respects, dictate the terms and express it in ways that are not truthful and forthcoming. On the other hand, Hunter Biden, asking to have the opportunity to do so but nonetheless having a similar argument from the Congress.

But at the end of the day, when you look at both of these different cases, when you look at what Hunter Biden is charged with. You look at what Donald Trump is charged with. Both require and the presumption of innocence and not to have everything litigated in the court of public opinion.

Now, courts are meant to do just that. Congressional guardrails are not in place in the same way as they would be in a court of law. So, I suspect both attorneys would have a vested interest in having their clients be a little bit quiet about what could go in front of Congress or in front of a camera.

KING: If you read that new indictment, Ryan, against Hunter Biden, it's very well documented, very serious tax evasion charges. Most tax cases are settled, especially if the feds have the documentation. No tax cases in my lifetime have involved the president's son 11 months before a presidential election. What happens here?

GOODMAN: In a normal case, I think he would try to settle and plea. It's a strong case against him, and it's not worth the risk. And I think he could, in some ways, have gotten off, but we've already run that movie and it didn't work out well for him and it collapsed. So, I do think that he's in jeopardy, serious jeopardy. And we'll see.

In all likelihood, it looks like it's going to go to trial.

KING: When I started in this business, when there was a big case in federal court, the politicians say the lesson would just leave it alone, let the courts run their course and then come with oversight. The House Republicans don't see it that way.

GRIFFIN: No, nor does Hunter Biden, who wants this days in an open setting to defend himself, despite the fact that the White House and president would much prefer that he handle this privately and not expose it to public scrutiny.

KING: Big developments.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, Ryan Goodman, Laura Coates, thanks.

We want to note for you, Laura will be back tonight, of course, for "LAURA COATES LIVE" at 11:00. She's got a very busy weekend, co- hosting the "CNN HEROES: ALL-STAR TRIBUTE" this Sunday night, 8:00. Thank you all for your time.

OUTFRONT next, intense house to house combat in southern Gaza, as one U.N. agency operating there says it believes it is headed for collapse.

Plus, one veteran Democratic pollster says President Biden has problems with nearly every reliable Democratic voting bloc. Are there any bright spots for the president?

And the barrage of missiles aimed at Ukraine today, as Vladimir Putin announces, yes, he's running for reelection.



KING: Tonight, intense close quarter combat. That's what's happening taking place inside southern Gaza. Israeli defense force is releasing video of soldiers moving through Khan Younis, Gaza's second largest city. Israel claims it killed dozens of terrorist and destroyed tunnels in that operation.

And in the north, you'll see it here, an Israeli flag raised in the middle of Gaza City. That to many, a very provocative gesture.

Israel pounding Gaza with 450 strikes over the past day, the highest number since the fighting resumed. The aftermath of those strikes leaving a number of civilians dead and injured. Hospitals say they're at a breaking point. As the situation in Gaza grows increasingly grim, the United Nations

agency for Palestinian refugees says it's under collapse. The agency's head writing this, quote, in my 35 years of work in complex emergencies, I never have expected to write such a letter, predicting the killing of my staff and the collapse of the mandate I am expected to fulfill.

Ben Wedeman is OUTFRONT.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight-year-old Mohammad is doing his daily chores, fetching water, collecting scraps of paper and plastic to start a fire, to help his mother cook their daily meal. But he'd rather be elsewhere.

You think I like it here, asks Mohammad. Of course, we don't. It's terrible. I want to go home, where we had food and water.

That buzzing comes from Israeli drones hovering overhead. They never go away.

He's been deprived of his childhood, says his mother Um Oudai. He can't live like a normal child, he can go to school. He misses his friends.

More than anything, the children here miss a sense of safety.

Overnight, Israeli warplanes struck the Yafa mosque in Deir al-Balah. No one was there, but everyone heard it.

In the camp, the best parents can do is keep the kids' minds off the danger. I play with them, I joked with them, distract them from their misery, says Ahmad Khaled. When they hear the bombing, they're terrified.

But there is no escape. These children have already seen too much.

We miss our town, we lived well, says Jawaher. Now, all we see are dead bodies everywhere. There are no basic services here. The garbage piles up in the street. Says Mohammad, we go from one place to the other, and they keep bombing us.

Yet they still play, as the drones buzz overhead.


KING: Ben Wedeman joins us.

Ben, remarkable, remarkable reporting on those children who, of course, caught in the middle of this. You have such deep experience in the region. The Israeli flag raised and flown in the middle of Gaza City today. In some ways, you might say military tradition. You take territory, you raise your flag.

But do you see a more provocative message here? WEDEMAN: Well, keep in mind, John, that is Palestine square and that

is a very big flag in the middle of it. Now, the Palestine square is where during that seven-day truce Hamas handed over some of the hostages. And that was after, on the 14th of November, Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, came out and said Hamas had lost control of northern Gaza. Above and beyond that, I think this is Israel's way of saying we have retaken this part of Gaza.

But keep in mind that in June, 1967, Israel totally defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, took Gaza, the Sinai peninsula, the West Bank, the Syrian Golan Heights in just six days. The Israeli ground offensive has been going on since the 27th of November, and still, Israel has not been able to defeat Hamas.

Still, Hamas is firing missiles toward Tel Aviv, to the Israeli towns around the Gaza Strip. I think they need to show the public that they are gradually retaking Gaza. The question is, how long are they going to hold it? John?

KING: Ben Wedeman, very important context, live in Jerusalem tonight. Ben, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT next, young voters, Black voters, Latino voters, LGBTQ voters, all collectively giving Donald Trump a higher approval rating than President Biden. The Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg who calls his own finding grim is OUTFRONT.

Plus, the Harvard president breaking her silence tonight after coming under fire for this.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Dr Gay., at Harvard, does calling for that genocide of Jews violate Harvard's rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or No?

DR. CLAUDINE GAY, HARVARD PRESIDENT: It can be, depending on the context.




KING: Tonight, quote, this is grim. Those are the words of the veteran Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, those words about his latest poll of thousands of voters in the battleground states.

Greenberg who teams up with James Carville at the Democracy Corps, found that among voters who usually make out the Democratic base, young voters, Black voters, Hispanic voters, Asian voters, LGBTQ voters, get this, all of them collectively gave Donald Trump a higher approval rating than President Biden. Those findings despite increasingly positive economic news.

Just today, the jobs report showing 199,000 jobs added last month in November. The unemployment rate dropping to just 3.7 percent.

Stan Greenberg is OUTFRONT tonight.

Stan, we've known each other a long time. You've been doing this a long time. You paint a very grim picture. I know you say grim, but.

But let's start with the grim. What was the most sobering thing you learn about the president's standing?

STANLEY GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Yes, I reiterated grim but because there is a path. But the grim is in the fact that the base is the problem. That you have a -- you know, we're behind in this race, in the base, approval of the president is lower than that of Trump, you know, in the base. And probably the hardest part about that is that if the issues at play, it's not just we're not doing well now and inevitably the structure of that race, you know, will come back.

I think we're dealing with issues of prices, wages not keeping up with inflation. We're talking about crime. We're talking about the border. So we're dealing with -- you were dealing with issues that are eroding our people on the issues. Now, we can -- we can, I believe, get them back. There is a path in this poll, there is a structure.

That's actually pretty democratic, you know, if you look beyond the president's numbers. But there's also a path for him, you know, in this.

KING: You ask voters about 32 specific topics, and the president of the United States led on only six of those 32. His bright spots included women's rights, climate change, addressing racial inequality.

I want you to go through that and give me your view on how he gets on the path back. But let me frame it this way. We spent a lot of time together on the campaign a long time ago. There was an incumbent president, George H.W. Bush, who like this president, keeps saying, look, the numbers are finally getting better. The economy is getting better.

George HW. Bush was unable to convince the American people and Bill Clinton won because people want to change and they wouldn't listen.

Is President Biden at risk of having an electorate that wants change and won't listen?

GREENBERG: I think he's going to be listening because I think this poll I believe will matter. By the way, if you look at this poll, look, what you need to look at is where the intensity is, and the issues that really, you know, push each side. There you see women's rights, there you see health care. There you see democracy, it's like it's slightly to our advantage.

But those are the issues. We are being heard by crime, border and wages not keeping up with prices. If the president I believe is looking at his own base of voters, keep in mind, these are Black, Hispanic voters, young voters, and they want to lean in to him offering the kinds of benefits that are critical to surviving this kind of inflationary period.

The inflationary period is not going to end, people are still struggling. We know that people rate the economy in your own poll very poor, you know, in the latest poll.

But we shown in our message is that if you make a contrast, you know, going forward, talking about what you've done, but also make a very strong contrast with Democrats dealing with child text credit and drug costs, you know, the Republicans being for the rich and not willing to protect their corporations. I think there is a president that can make the turn, face those issues where Democrats actually are across the finish line.

KING: We'll watch that weeks and months ahead if he indeed listens to that.

Stan Greenberg, appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thank you.

Let's take a deeper look at what Stan Greenberg was talking about there. He says there's a path back for the president. A path back to this, a map where you win the popular vote and you win the Electoral College. Right now, he says, because of the softest, weakness in the Democratic base, what President Biden would get is something more like this, a Republican win. This case, a Donald Trump win over Hillary Clinton back in 2016, because of the states I'm going to walk through right now.

So, let's come back to the 2020 map. He said softness among -- weakness among Latino voters. I was just at Nevada -- he's right. Anecdotally, what I saw supports what he shows in the poll.

Imagine, you won the state by 33,000 votes and change, President Biden in 2020. Imagine if there is a drop in Latino vote for the Democrats. Some for the Republican, maybe some stay home. That would be huge damage in a state where you just won.

Move next to Arizona, again, another place where the Latinos and others, young voters also critical here, suburban voters. The president won it only by 10,457 votes. If you have even the slightest drop off or defection in your base, you lose the state.

Just one more, earlier this year in Wisconsin, imagine if the Black vote, either small percentage goes for Trump, some stays home, maybe a third party candidate in a state you won only by 20,000 votes, that's what Stan Greenberg was walking about, saying, wake up White House, you have to get back on these issues to get it back.

The biggest issue for the president is the economy. Let's look at the numbers. I'm a, any president, Democrat, Republican, would love to have these numbers. Nearly 200,000 jobs created last month. Since President Biden took office, more than 14 million new jobs in the United States. The unemployment rate is 37 percent. That is historically very, very low.

You would think that, and it is for the White House bragging rights, except the American people just don't feel it. They don't see it. They don't accept it.

Look at our polling. Keep those economy numbers up there. In our new CNN national poll and this is back up by Stan's polling, only one third of Americans support the president's handling of the economy, nearly seven in 10 disapproved, two thirds.

State of the economy, seven in ten Americans, look at the unemployment rate, look at all the jobs, seven in ten American say the economies, bad. It's going the wrong direction. And they're not optimistic about a year from now when they'll be potent to pick a new president or keep their current president. Six and ten Americans say they believe the economy will be poor.

You heard Stan Greenberg mention prices, inflation, gases. This is what we found in our travel. Listen here. These are two Republicans, one in Iowa, one in Nevada, who voted for Joe Biden because they couldn't but for Donald Trump, who right now, though, feel economic stress.


ZOLIA SANCHEZ, NEVADA VOTER: The economy is really bad. And I -- I don't know if I hadn't realized, but yesterday, I went to the Mexican store and I bought three bulios (ph), you know that used to be three for $1. Right now, they're three for $2, which was a shocker to me.

KING: It doubled

SANCHEZ: It doubled, the price. Yeah.

BETSY SARCONE, IOWA VOTER: I'm buying diapers. I, you know, was buying formula. The gas prices, I've done things to change the places where I shop. I purposely go to Costco to fill my car with gas. So things like that do affect me.


KING: And both of those interviews, one was a couple months ago, one was just last week. The voters said they listen. Some of them do see some signs of improvement, especially when it comes to prices at the store. But they want to see and they want to hear from the president. They said they're hearing solutions. So, Stand Greenberg, you heard in that interview, talks about the path back, part of it is the president being more visible and vocal on this issue. At least that's those voters told us.

OUTFRONT next, the fallout growing after three Ivy League university presidents testify about antisemitism and genocide. Tonight, the Harvard president breaks her silence as more than 70 lawmakers demand those presidents be fired.

Plus, Russia pounding Kyiv with a barrage of cruise missiles as Vladimir Putin cozies up to Iran.



KING: The fallout growing after the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania testified about antisemitism and genocide. A bipartisan group of 74 lawmakers just sent a letter to the schools, demanding their boards immediately fire their presidents.

Harvard's president, Claudine Gay, in a desperate attempt to save her job, says she's sorry for refusing to say the genocide of Jews would violate the school's code of conduct. This outrage underscores the growing questions over whether some schools are doing enough to lower tensions when it comes to the Middle East.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shots fired outside Temple Israel, a synagogue in Albany, New York.

POLICE OFFICER: We were told by responding officers that he made a comment, free Palestine.

MARQUEZ: No one injured, but nerves frayed as antisemitic incidents are on the rise.

Mufid Fawaz Alkhader, 28, now being investigated for a possible hate crime.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: I've directed our state police as well as the National Guard to be on high alert.

MARQUEZ: The Big Apple seeing a spike in incidents, motivated by hate.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: The numbers don't lie. For every 250 percent rise and ethnically motivated hate crimes in New York City over the past two months.

MARQUEZ: Anger and fear on college campuses, some of the nation's finest schools, MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania. Their presidents facing withering criticism after failing to take a definitive hard line against calls for genocide during pro-Palestinian protests on their campuses.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Ms. Magill, at Penn, does calling for that genocide Jews of violate Penn's rules or code of conduct? Yes or no?

LIZ MAGILL, UPENN PRESIDENT: If the speech turns to conduct, it can be harassment, yes.

MARQUEZ: A protest outside the office of University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, making clear there is no room for nuance on calls for genocide.

Penn's president facing calls to resign. Harvard's president, Claudine Gay, issued a full-throated apology for

her testimony.

CLAUDINE GAY, HARVARD PRESIDENT: We embrace the commitment to free expression and give a wide berth to free expression, even of views that are objectionable.

MARQUEZ: That apology in the "Harvard Crimson," the student newspaper, Gay explained in part, calls for violence against our Jewish community, threats to our Jewish students, have no place at Harvard and will never go unchallenged.

Anger and fear running in all directions after three Palestinian students were shot in Burlington, Vermont, last month.


Jason Eaton, the alleged shooter, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder. The case is still being investigated as a possible hate crime.


MARQUEZ (on camera): So, this is the remnants of a protest that's been going on throughout the streets of New York, downtown New York City for much of today. This is Washington Square Park, right next to NYU, another university where there have been protests. Most the protests in New York, they have been going on for weeks on end, they called -- increasingly calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

But that university of Pennsylvania president, her job is still very much open question. The board of trustees met last night. There was no discernible decision then. But we expect something one way or another in the days ahead -- John.

KING: Miguel Marquez, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT next, Vladimir Putin, turn into one of his friends, Iran, as his forces unleash a dizzying attack on Ukraine's capital.

Plus, China flexing its military muscle near Taiwan, in a rare nighttime show of force. Washington warning about the risk of war.



KING: Tonight, Ukraine intercepting a barrage of cruise missiles over Kyiv throughout this day, breaking a nearly 80-day pause in air attacks on the capital city. Many homes on the ground damaged by that debris. It comes amid growing fears of the battlefield impact as Congress is set to break for the holidays without passing billions of dollars in new aid for Ukraine.

Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT from eastern Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ground is turning hard, even hostile, as winter sets in. But Ukraine appeared bullish, Friday, releasing these drone images of strikes on Russian positions in the hotly contested eastern town of Avdiivka.

The light bravado off the soundtrack belying real Ukrainian anxieties, but Russia slow and brutal grind forwards in this town, and elsewhere, may be what persists in the savage cold of winter. Not Western unity behind Ukraine as U.S. Congress stalls in approving vital aid.

Fears echoed in renewed dawn destruction Friday. Kharkiv here hit hardest, perhaps, but across Ukraine and old terror returned to the skies. Cruise missiles fired at an array of targets, including the capital.

Ukraine said 14 of 19 fired were shot down, only debris hitting Kyiv. But as they surveyed the damage, the White House is warning era defenses will be perhaps the first impacted when U.S. aid ran out, was surely front of mind.

Less fracture and debris in Moscow, where in a year of surprises for the Kremlin, Friday had none. Vladimir Putin prompted by a Russian occupying soldiers saying he would run again to be Russian president. Still, after facing down a coup and military setbacks in Ukraine, he said he had thought twice about it. I won't deny it, he said, but at different times I had different thoughts. This time, you're right. It is the time to be decisive.

Like nearly everything in Russian politics, it was as arranged is the results in the March vote will likely be. Also on hand in Moscow was Iran's president Ibrahim Raisi, one of the few world leaders who will still shake Putin's hand. His drones have aided Russia's bombardment of Ukraine's cities all summer and now winter has left Putin walking surprisingly tall.


WALSH: John, the last announcements from the Pentagon was $175 million of aid towards Ukraine. That will assist, yes, in HIMARS targeted missiles, potentially Javelin, too, the anti-tank missiles, but it's really a paltry sum compared to the billions we got used to hearing every other week of U.S. aid for Ukraine. There are deeply concerned, frankly, about what might happen on Capitol Hill.

We don't have full transparency in what money is left. But this is exactly the time that Ukraine needs U.S. support most. The counter offensive didn't do what they had hoped. Russia seems to be finding its feet again on the frontlines. And this winter is bitter. It's going to help nobody. But it's certainly a time in which Ukraine could hope to move forward decisively, John.

KING: Important reporting. Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for us, thank you.

Let's go OUTFRONT now with retired Army General Ben Hodges. General, let's try to split the political statement here with a life

and death questions here. One week until the Senate leaves for the holiday. Congress not close to an agreement as we speak tonight. Some in Congress think Ukraine actually could -- aid could go away for good, if they can't figure this out.

Let's deal with, what do we know? Nick Paton motion it's a bit of an issue. What do we know about the stockpiles, the warehousing right now, in terms of, what they have left for anti-aircraft missiles? What's in the pipeline? As in when does this become not just a political debate, but a life or death situation on the ground?

LT. GENERAL BEN HODGES (RET.), FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY EUROPE: Well, first of all, if the Ukrainians were only able to shoot down 14 out of 19 drones and rockets that came in last night, that's a lower percentage than they have been knocking down in the past. That could be a combination of factors, but I think that's an indicator. And, of course, the Russians are going to fill the sky with drones and rockets in the coming weeks. I would imagine there's a real shortfall of air defense weapons.

KING: You say short fall, and to that point, you said Russia will fill the sky. How much and how can Putin exploit this uncertainty?

HODGES: Well, look, I am sure that President Putin knows, his only hope of winning is that the West quits, that we'd lose the will to keep doing this. And so, that's why he's willing to expand hundreds and hundreds of lives of his own soldiers, every day, in places like Avdiivka, he doesn't care how many he loses. But he knows that wears down the Ukrainians and it drags out this war.


And so, whenever he sees things like what's happening in our Congress, the inability to deliver the aid that's needed, that is oxygen to the Kremlin. It reinforces their belief that they're on the right track. That's a real problem for Ukraine and maybe it's also a real problem for us.

KING: What do you make of Putin announcing today he will run for reelection? That would be his fifth presidential term. I read that as him knowing this moment of uncertainty, essentially telling the Ukrainians, I'm not going anywhere even though some of your friends are wavering. Do you see it that way?

HODGES: Yes. Of course, a dictator is never going to give up power. I mean, he -- I don't think he had a retirement plan or a plan to go off to Sochi and live out the rest of his years. This is not a guy like most dictators are autocrats, they easily give up power.

So, it's not a surprise that he would announce he's staying. Clearly, he feels more confident now that maybe he did a few months ago about the direction of the war. That's why I think it's important that the president, our president, has to explain to the American people why this is so important. This is not some far off border fight, this is important for American prosperity and American security. And if our president were to say, we're committed to Ukraine winning, that would derail Putin's strategy for a long war.

KING: Lieutenant General Hodges, grateful always for your time, sir. Thanks so much.

HODGES: Thank you, John.

OUTFRONT next, China's latest show of force that has the White House, quote, seriously concerned.



KING: China making a rare nighttime show of force near Taiwan. More than a dozen Chinese fighter jets and nuclear capable bombers operating around the island last night. Beijing making moves like this more and more, but always in the light of day. It comes as tensions are higher than ever in the region, with the White House warning it has, quote, seriously concerned about the situation.

Will Ripley has this story, you'll see first right here OUTFRONT.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea, saber-rattling and rising U.S. China tensions. Beijing says that U.S. Navy illegally intruded its territorial waters, mobilizing China's military to track an American warship near the hotly contested Spratly Islands, nearly 700 miles from the Chinese coast. A People's Liberation Army statement says the U.S. deliberately disrupted the situation in the South China Sea. That U.S. Navy says the ship was conducting routine operations in international waters, consistent with international law.

Taiwan keeping a close eye on that latest regional standoff between two global superpowers. Beijing's expanding military exercises and persistent incursions, sitting the stage for a power keg. Taiwan bracing for potential conflict, developing its first indigenous submarine, hoping to stop China from blockading the island.

Taipei says Beijing is bolstering its military might on the sea, beefing up air bases, deploying drones, and fighter jets near the island. A new report from Taiwan's defense ministry says the Chinese military uses realistic combat training and exercises to strengthen its preparedness against Taiwan, an island democracy, China's communist rulers claim as their own territory, despite never controlling it, even unveiling a blueprint plan for one day integrating Taiwan.

All on the verge of what could be its most crucial presidential election ever. Three political parties battling for the hearts, minds, and votes of nearly 24 million Taiwanese. Last month, a nail-biting political showdown playing out live on screens across the Taiwan. Rival leaders storming out, flinging accusations. The clock ticking toward a crucial registration deadline. Two opposition parties say as friendly to China failing to find common ground, paving the way for a three-way race. The ruling party seen as tough on China, taking the lead in early presidential polls.

WEN-TI SUNG, FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL'S GLOBAL CHINA HUB: China policy will always be the single most important issue in Taiwan's presidential elections.

RIPLEY: Taiwan's ruling party promotes peace through military strength, prioritizing partnership with the U.S. over economic opportunities across the strait. The opposition says voters are choosing between war and peace.

DREW THOMPSON, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, LEE KUAN YEW SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY: The mainland has always been a paradox for Taiwan. It's only its biggest security threat. It's also its biggest economic partner.

RIPLEY: A delicate, dangerous stance. For the U.S., China, and Taiwan, the stakes could not be higher.


RIPLEY: And it's not just these military shows of force that they're concerned about here in Taipei. There was a meeting with a Taiwanese official. Our producer here, Eric Chang (ph) had, and we just learned that they believe that China has essentially sent out a memo, urging their disinformation warriors to act more effectively, more efficiently and discreetly so that they can't be traced to try to influence the result of next month's presidential election here in Taiwan.

As you know, the China friendly party in the lead, John. China furious about that, trying to do everything they can about that on all fronts to stop that from happening.

KING: Consequential moment, Will Ripley, thank you very much.

And before we go tonight, Anderson Cooper and Laura Coates will host "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE" this weekend.

Here's a look at this year's heroes.


ANNOUNCER: Sunday on CNN --

ESTEFANIA REBELLON, YES WE CAN WORLD FOUNDATION: We provide bilingual information for Mexican children at the U.S. border.

ANNOUNCER: Support the extraordinary people making a difference in the world.

MIKE GOLDBERG, I.CARE: We are rebuilding the colonies here in the Florida Keys.

OSEI BOATENG, OKB HOPE FOUNDATION: I am going to ensure that people in Ghana have access to health care.

DR. KWANE STEWART, PROJECT STREET VET: If I see a pet in need, and a person cares for them dearly.

ADAM PEARCE, LOVEYOURBRAIN: Trauma can be a pathway of growth.

ALVIN IRBY, BARBERSHOP BOOKS: We install child-friendly reading space in the barbershop.

YASMINE ARRINGTON BROOKS, SCHOLARCHIPS: We all are connected because of the shared experience of having an incarcerated parent.

STACEY BUCKNER, OFF-ROAD OUTREACH: There should be no homeless vets period, none.

TESCHA HAWLEY, DAY EAGLE HOPE PROJECT: I don't want to be defined as a victim of my circumstances.

MAMA SHU, AVALON VILLAGE: I do want to make sure that they get all of the attention and love that they deserve.

ANNOUNCER: "CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE", Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, on CNN.


KING: Thanks for joining us. I hope you have a peaceful weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.