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Erin Burnett Outfront
Protesters In Iran Burn American Flag After Strikes in Yemen; Biden Vows To Respond To More "Outrageous" Militant Attacks; Gaza's Hospitals Now Battlegrounds As Israel Hunts For Hamas; DeSantis Going Straight to South Carolina After Iowa Caucuses; Polls Just Opened in High-Stakes Taiwan Presidential Election. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 12, 2024 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next:
The breaking news, a U.S. flag in flames as massive protests break out in Iran, following U.S.-led airstrikes in Yemen. And tonight, Biden threatens more strikes to come.
Plus, a CNN investigation tonight. Gaza hospitals on the edge of collapse, a top target for Israel which says Hamas is using some as command centers.
So, tonight, we have an in-depth look at what is actually happening inside those hospitals? It is a special report you will see first here OUTFRONT.
And just in tonight, Ron DeSantis going straight to South Carolina after Iowa, even though New Hampshire comes first. He'll be in both on the same day. Is it a smart move, sign he's staying in or desperation?
John King is here with me at the magic wall.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett on this Friday.
OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, protesters burning the American flag on the streets of Iran. You can hear them chanting, saying an attack on Yemen equals war. These images coming out of Tehran tonight, coming as President Biden says, the message from those military strikes in Yemen was intended for one audience -- the audience in Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've already delivered the message. They know not to do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But around the same time that Biden said that, telling reporters that he has delivered the message and Iran knows not to do anything, news broke that the Houthis, who, of course, are the militia backed by Iran, were retaliating against the U.S. for the strikes last night, following a ballistic -- firing a ballistic missile towards a ship and the Red Sea, a move of defiance and one that could drag the United States into a wider war, which is something the White House says that U.S. strikes are designed to actually prevent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We know people are anxious about escalation. We are, too. And again, everything we're doing, and everything we're trying to do is to prevent any -- any further escalation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The urgent question tonight, of course, is this -- can an escalating war be contained?
In Yemen, the outrage is palpable. The images there are stunning. Look at these aerial views thousands, thousands. I mean, I mean, it's impossible even count the number of people, you saw that large that large view of the streets in the capital in Yemen, in Sana'a.
Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT live at the Pentagon.
And, Oren, you know, you see what's happening in Yemen. You see what's happening in Tehran. Is this latest missile that we saw today from the Houthi militia, the full response that we expect? Or is more anticipated?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Very much more is anticipated that one Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile that was fired from Yemen. The U.S. was monitoring that, but it didn't hit close to any vessels and certainly not close to any U.S. vessels. So, perhaps, it was some way for the Houthis to show they still have capabilities.
But the U.S. and the Pentagon are expecting a much further, or perhaps even larger response from the Houthis here, one that more directly targets potentially U.S. assets in the region as we wait to see how this unfolds.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In the dead of night on the Red Sea, the attack took shape. U.S. Navy FA-18 fighter jets launching off the deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, part of a coordinated strike against Houthi targets in Yemen.
The U.S. not acting alone here. Typhoons from the U.K.'s royal Air Force took off from Cyprus, join in the attack with the support of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands.
BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: This is an international problem that required an international response. LIEBERMANN: Early Friday morning in Yemen, the attack hit home, explosions and thick smoke visible in the dark skies over Saada, in northwest Yemen, and the capital of Sana'a, under the control of the Iranian-backed rebel group. The U.S. and U.K. targeted nearly 30 sites, including facilities for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones, as well as radar sites and command and control nodes.
The goal, disrupt the ability of the Houthis to target international shipping in the Red Sea, something they've done at least 28 times since mid-November.
BIDEN: We will make sure that we respond to the Houthis if it continues its outrageous behavior, along with our allies.
LIEBERMANN: The attacks have forced some of the world's largest shipping companies to avoid the Red Sea, disrupting global trade by adding thousands of miles to international sailing routes.
KIRBY: All the targets that we chose were targets that were meant to go after their exact capabilities, to guide, to launch and to store those kinds of missiles and drones.
LIEBERMANN: The U.S. lead strikes targeted locations across Houthi- controlled Yemen, including the port city of Hudaydah, with more than 150 precision guided missiles in the attack, the target sites sit next to the Red Sea and the narrow Bab-el-Mandeb strait, a critical waterway for international shipping.
In Yemen, crowds of protesters gathered in the capital, waving Yemeni and Palestinian flags, chanting slogans against the U.S. and Israel. The Houthis say five people were killed and six injured in the U.S.- led strikes.
They have vowed to respond, calling U.S. and U.K. assets legitimate targets.
YAHYA SAREE, HOUTHI MILITARY SPOKESPERSON: The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression against our Yemeni people and it will not go unanswered.
LIEBERMANN: The U.S. strikes come with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin still at Walter Reed Medical Center where he's been since New Year's Day, recovering from complications from a procedure to treat prostate cancer. In the 72 hours before the operation, a defense official says Austin spoke with President Joe Biden twice and gave the final authorization for the strikes on the day they were launched, monitoring them in real-time from the hospital.
LIEBERMANN: And Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remains at the hospital tonight. There is no word from the Pentagon or no outlook on when he could be released. It's worth noting that today, he spoke with the chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
So, Erin, he remains in touch. He's able to monitor this in real-time. But, of course, it is an incredibly sensitive, critical situation as he stays at the hospital.
BURNETT: Oren, thank you very much. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon tonight.
And now, James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, joins me. He's also a retired lieutenant general in the Air Force.
And Director Clapper, the U.S. is threatening more strikes. Obviously, they've already used as Oren's reporting, 150 -- more than 150 munitions and struck more than 30 targets.
Look, you've been there to make these sorts of major decisions. What's going on behind the scenes right now?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think right now, they're assessing the administration -- that's the National Security Council specifically, is assessing the impacts of this first round of strikes. And, you know, the objective here obviously is to restore deterrence, that is to change the behavior of the Houthis so they stopped their attacks on shipping and the Red Sea.
Now, I doubt that this one round is going to do that and they're probably going to have to do some more of this. And I don't know what the threshold of pain is for the Houthis to stop. But this is endears the Houthis to -- Yemenis witness the demonstration in the streets. So there's a domestic implication here for them, that they're also paying attention to.
BURNETT: And, of course, you know, you see the demonstrations there. The demonstrations in Tehran.
Director, I'm curious because President Biden had removed the Houthis from the United States list of terror groups. And tonight, in those comments, he said he's considering whether to put them back on. Now, I mean, it's easy to call up a decision to remove them, of course.
But the question for you, Director, is does being on that list for the Houthis have any real consequences?
CLAPPER: Well, you know, that's a -- that's a good question. I think the reason they were taken off the list was to provide an inducement or motivation for them to agree to some sort of ceasefire, given the fact that this is a terrible humanitarian disaster in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world.
So, putting him on the terrorist list or taking them off frankly, I'm not sure, you know, what extent that has intrinsic value. We went ahead and attack them when they're off the list. So, I think, you know, to tidy up things administratively, it'd be better if they were on the list as a terrorist group because they are.
BURNETT: So, the Houthi say, say that American interests are legitimate targets. They're being very clear about that. Now, obviously, they can't strike the U.S. from Yemen, where they're based, but they and others, Director, can take advantage of the chaos on the southern border.
There were 225,000 illegal border crossings in the month of December alone on that U.S. southern border. It's a stunning number every time I say it, I almost have to go check it because it does sort of stop you in your tracks.
How worried are you about this when you look at that border?
CLAPPER: All right. I've gotten very concerned about it. The nature -- the composition of the border crossers has changed a good bit since my day, and now, it's now much more international.
There are Chinese, Russians and others. So we traditionally thought about it as people coming from Central America -- South and Central America. Well, it's much broader than that.
So this is a serious national security concern. Having said that though, we -- it doesn't mean that that's our -- that should be or could be or should be our exclusive focus. We ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time to attend to our southern border, and also continue our position of leadership internationally.
BURNETT: All right. Director, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
CLAPPER: Thank you.
BURNETT: An important warning when we think about these issues.
I want to go now to the Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California, who also is a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Congressman Khanna, I want to ask you several points here, but the White House says is no interest in being drawn into a conflict in the Middle East. And that this is all meant to prevent escalation. Just to be clear, again, 150 munitions, more than 30 targets, and you just heard the former director, Director Clapper saying, this is clearly just the beginning. That there's going to be more, right? There are -- there would need to be more.
What do you say to the White House saying that this is about stopping escalation?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, Erin, first of all, the White House made a big mistake by spending a month talking to the Australians, the British, the Canadians, the only people they didn't talk to were members of Congress, which is required by Article One in the Constitution.
In the War Powers Resolution, the president can take action for imminent self-defense, and one of our ships, or even if a navy vessel was being attacked. But he can't take retaliatory action to deter future action without coming to Congress.
And the other thing I would say is have they talked to our Gulf Allies? Because if you talk to the Saudis, I just talked to the Saudi ambassador this morning. She will tell you that the Saudi bombing campaign of the Houthis was not successful and that the biggest thing we need to do to de-escalate and open the shipping lines in the Red Sea is to have an end to the conflict in Gaza. And that's what you would hear from UAE as well.
So I'm not sure they're consulting with the Gulf allies. And today, we see that the shipping is more restricted in the Red Sea, the price of oil is going up. So, I don't see what we're achieving.
BURNETT: Well, and as you point out, the UAE and Saudi not on that list, right? They did have one Middle Eastern country, Bahrain, home of the Fifth Fleet, but the UAE and Saudi, a glaringly absent.
But when you say that they should have, instead of spending all that time over the past month talking to all these other countries, they should've talked to Congress. The president was asked about this. He was asked to respond to criticism like that from you and other Democrats to the fact that they did not seek this congressional approval.
And here's what President Biden said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: They're wrong and I sent up to -- sent up this morning when the strikes occurred exactly what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. That's pretty blonde. He says you're wrong.
KHANNA: With all due respect, the president is wrong, and the president is no longer doing what he campaigned on in 2020. I mean, he criticized Donald Trump for not coming to Congress to seek authorization on strikes against Iran, and anyone who has looked at his, by the way, its not just Democrats, its bipartisan, it's Republicans like Senator Michael Lee has looked at the War Powers Resolution.
They are saying, okay, he notified Congress. He has an obligation to notify Congress within 48 hours if its an imminent self-defense. But we have known about the Houthi disruptions since early December. The Security Council has passed resolutions about it.
So, look, I'm a supporter of the president. I'm a supporter of his re- election, but he's just wrong about this issue.
BURNETT: I want to ask you one question, Congressman, if I may, before you go and this is how you spent a lot of your day. I know you said you talked to the Saudi ambassador in the mourning, but you were also in a classified briefing today. And the topic of this was UFOs.
And the reason I mentioned is that obviously it was classified and, you spend your day, they're focused on whistleblowers claims that the U.S. government operates a UFO crash retrieval program and has a UFO and the remains of, quote, a non-human or non-human pilots in its possession. Okay. This was the congressional hearing today.
Were you satisfied by what you heard there?
KHANNA: Well, of course, I can't discuss anything classified, but I will say this. I and I think many of my colleagues left with more questions and we need further answers. I think the person briefing us was good, but there are still unanswered issues and I think we need further briefings.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much for being with me.
KHANNA: Thank you
BURNETT: And next, a dire warning from one of the last working hospitals in Gaza, as we have a special investigation into whether Israel's targeting of hospitals in the Gaza strip is justified.
Plus, live pictures out of Iowa tonight. A blizzard is forcing Republican candidates to cancel some of their final events before the state's caucuses. In fact, we're just learning that Trump has canceled three out of his four rallies. So which candidate does this help or hurt the most?
John King is here with me. He'll be standing by at the magic wall.
And the judge in Trump's Fulton County case tonight addressing for the first time allegations that the D.A. is having an improper relationship with the lead prosecutor.
BURNETT: New tonight, cut off, a near-total Internet blackout being reported in the Gaza Strip. This is according to Netblocks, which is a major monitoring website. That includes landlines, cellular, and Wi- Fi.
Palestinian health ministry, which collects data from Hamas, now claims Israeli attacks have killed 24,000 people since the start of the war in Gaza. It is an absolutely stunning number.
And according to "The A.P.", as of early December, even Israel admitted that the death toll at that time in the first few days of December in the Gaza Strip was at least 15,000. This is one of the last working hospitals in Gaza warning it's on the verge of running out of fuel and not functioning.
Katie Polglase is OUTFRONT with this CNN investigation on Israel's targeting of Gaza hospitals.
KATIE POLGLASE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first two months of war decimated Gaza's health care system as Israel launched an air then land offensive on the north of the strip. Out of 22 hospitals in northern Gaza, CNN has identified 20 that have been damaged or destroyed between October 7 and December 7th.
Imagery analyzed by CNN shows over half have been directly attacked. Several, including the two largest in Gaza, Al Shifa and Al Quds were directly attacked by the Israel Defense Forces. This evidence suggests at Al-Ahli hospital, CNN previously found evidence a misfired rocket from Gaza was likely responsible for a deadly blast. But this appears to be the exception.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's called the Qatari hospital.
POLGLASE: Israel and U.S. intelligence say Hamas used many of these hospitals as command and control centers, a claim Hamas denies.
While protected under international humanitarian law are hospitals protection during war is not absolute.
CRAIG JONES, AUTHOR, "THE WAR LAWYERS"|: There are instances where those protections can be lost, and that is for such time as they are being used for military activities to sort of further the activities of an enemy. That does not give carte blanche to militaries to launch an attack however they want.
POLGLASE: This is al-Quds, Gaza's second largest hospital. We modeled out how weeks of Israeli attacks around it caused severe damage and civilian harm. Behind the hospital on October 29th, an explosion has just hit. The director of al Quds spoke to CNN that day, saying there was bombing all around us. On November 7th, the IDF published a video of them conducting a strike, just 100 meters from the hospital entrance. Here. They claim they were targeting a Hamas weapons depot.
The strike appears to have taken place on November 5th. This video from the ground shows people being stretchered away from the scene and into the hospital. But inside already looked like this, after days of strikes nearby.
The IDF say they repeatedly told people to evacuate, medical staff inside at the time said this was just not possible.
MSF ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEON, AL-QUDES HOSPITAL: We have thousands of civilian people in the hospital. How? How to convince them to go outside? Where? Were to go?
POLGLASE: The IDF legal adviser told CNN they did not attack al-Quds hospital, except in mid-November, when apparently returning fire from Hamas militants releasing this footage as evidence, 21 people were killed. The IDF said they were terrorists, but acknowledged civilians were still inside.
Over at Al-Shifa Hospital, displaced civilians were sheltering in the courtyard where aerial attacks were intensifying. An IDF legal advisor again told CNN they did not attack Al Shifa. But weapons experts told CNN this is a remnant of an Israeli illumination shelf.
A couple hours later, and the maternity ward is hit. Here, part of an Israeli tank missile is found.
Within a week, Israeli forces enter the hospital.
DR. AHMED EL MOKHALLALTI, SENIOR PLASTIC SURGEON AT AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL: We can see them checking and searching the east part of the hospital.
POLGLASE: Al-Shifa was one of the hospitals, the IDF and the U.S. say Hamas were operating in. But when troops arrived, they appeared to have found very little evidence of this, publishing these videos of a network of tunnels. What the IDF videos don't show is what they would have found just meters away. Multiple graves dug by civilians who were forced to bury their loved ones within the hospital grounds, amid the continued siege. The cameraman asked, who was in the grave? My mom, she replies.
Can I just put to you a conversation I had with a legal adviser to the IDF? They said to me, at the end of the day, as long as Hamas continues to use these hospitals and facilities for the military operations, there is absolutely no choice but to go there.
JONES: That is absolutely a choice and to frame it not as a choice is to frame that death and destruction is just an inevitability
POLGLASE: Those first two months of war, and now among the most deadly and destructive of any conflict in recent history. The question remains as to whether any military objective can justify this.
BURNETT: Really incredible reporting there, Katie.
I know you've reached out to the IDF about your investigation and all of your reporting there. You ask them to respond. What did they say to you?
POLGLASE: Well, Erin, we sent them a full list of all the hospitals we identified as damaged or destroyed and they said in response the following, quote, they did not conduct any targeted attacks against hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
They also said, quote, any strike, which is expected to incidentally damage hostile so tell us is approved by the highest echelons of command.
And that is an important point because this damage is part of the calculation. It's known in advance. And the question is whether it's justifiable -- Erin.
BURNETT: Of course, a crucial question. And also as they talk about the precision with which they target all of the damage that your reporting and showing obviously flies in the face of that statement.
Katie, thank you very much for that incredible reporting.
And next, live pictures out of Iowa, the state slammed with a blizzard tonight, the 2024 can, but its forced to cancel events with just days before the caucuses. Could all this lead to some sort of a very unexpected outcome?
John King is here. I see him right over there. He'll be on the other side of this break with me next.
And we've got new video tonight. This video it was from a remote penal colony where Putin's number one critic Alexey Navalny is being held. As we learn more about being credible lights, prisoners are going to there to stay alive.
You'll see the images.
BURNETT: And this just in, Ron DeSantis now taking his battle with Nikki Haley directly to her home state, planning to travel to South Carolina immediately after the Iowa caucuses, not straight to New Hampshire where the next primary contest is actually taking place, although he'll be there later in the day. First stop, South Carolina.
So let's go straight to John King on this latest development.
So, John, he goes straight to South Carolina you know, surprising everybody. What does this actually mean?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What it actually means is he's trying to send a signal to his voters in Iowa first and then in states that follow and send a signal to his donors and a signal to his staff. Forget the chatter, ignore all the chatter out there that he will drop out if he doesn't do well in Iowa.
Now, define well in Iowa, we'll get to that on Monday, but there's been a lot of buzz. Iowa should be a state for him, evangelical support, conservative. He has the governor support if he comes in a third, especially if it's a distant third, a lot of people think ill get out of the race.
He's trying to stop that. No, that's not going to happen. And Nikki Haley, guess what? My fight with you is going to come straight to your state before I go to New Hampshire where he's running way, way behind in the polls.
South Carolina is a better state for him if you're looking at the numbers. BURNETT: Right.
KING: Most of all, Erin, remember this, he's trying to send the signal. I'm in it, Chris Christie, the night before he dropped out, said it was ludicrous to think he was going to get out in the race. He got out the next day.
KING: So let's see what Iowa does. Then we'll see what happened.
BURNETT: Right. So, you still don't know. But meantime, in Iowa, right? Things are very up in the air. Shall we say in part because of let me just show everybody what's happening in Iowa right now, that is pretty incredible, heavy winds snow, dangerously low temperatures. In fact, wind chills are as low as minus 45 across the state. Thank God, I was there last week. It was a balmy 30.
Haley, DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, all canceling campaign stops in Iowa as the state is hit with a blizzard and record cold temperatures and now Trump just canceling three out of four of his events in Iowa this weekend.
And the forecast for caucus day is a high of negative three. OK. That's not good news. I when it comes to getting people to vote and have their say, right, John, because you know, you want people to get out, but that could dramatically affect turnout.
So how does it all work on Monday?
KING: So lets go through the process first and then a little bit of Iowa's history and then later on, well get to the weather will impact. Let's just look right here. By the math, Iowa was not a big deal. Yes, it's first, but in terms of winning the nomination is about delegates, Iowa only has 40 of the Republican convention delegates, the national delegates at stake. That's 1.6 percent of the total.
So you say, what's the big deal? Iowa doesn't matter, it's a tiny number.
Iowa is not about the math though, Erin. It's the first contest, so its about the momentum. The process is really interesting. There are some exceptions, but mostly you have to vote in-person. That's why the weather matters. You have to show up, you have to show up.
When you do show up all at the same time, you get an a room, maybe its a school, maybe its a library. The campaigns all get to appoint a representative to give a speech, vote for Trump, vote for Haley, vote for Ramaswamy, vote for DeSantis to give a short speech. Normally, sometimes it goes on a little bit and then --
BURNETT: Sort of like a wedding.
KING: And so you have to sit -- there's pressure in that though your neighbors are looking at your friends, are looking at how could you be for somebody else? But then it's a secret ballot. The Democrats used to vote out in the open and they used to get into PACs and everything. The Republican vote at the caucuses is a secret ballot.
So what you might feel a little intimidated by the speeches, but then you vote by secret ballot. That's the unique process. The question is, does it matter? Especially on the Republican side, Erin, forgive me for turning my back.
But 99 counties, 52 years now, I always been first in the process since 1972, a lot of criticism, you know, it's too wide, it's too rural, doesn't represent the country. Trump and the Republicans decided to keep it there. Does it matter? The track history for Iowa, especially on the Republican side, is not that great.
If you look at the last three contested caucuses, Cruz in '16, Rick Santorum, big comeback, but Santorum wins in 2012, Mike Huckabee in 2008, they are not the Republican nominee. So Iowa's track record to pick a nominee is not so good.
The last time it happened was George W. Bush in 2000. That's what Trumps trying to do. He'll bristle at any comparison to a Bush, but he wants a higher number than 41 percent that George W. Bush got. But Trump's going into this says, I'm essentially -- I'm the incumbent Republican president. That's his mindset. I should win and win big and go on. We'll see if that happens.
BURNETT: All right, so when you look at that 41 percent, right? Obviously, I would the way Trumps polling right now can indicate it's conceivable that he outperforms that, but very unclear. I mean, where does the race stands, right?
KING: So let's take a look that. We will get the final clue tomorrow night when the brand new Iowa poll comes out.
Tomorrow night, the Iowa poll comes out, the last one. These are the three Iowa polls over the last five months. Trump started at 42, as of last month, he was at 51. If he comes in above 50 percent, it's going to be hard to say he's weak, right?
KING: If he comes in above 50 percent, he wins Iowa a big like that, then it'll be up to New Hampshire to stop, because if he gets ahead of steam in these early contests, he's going to be hard to stop. DeSantis 19 five months ago, 19 last month, a little dip in the middle, but he's essentially been a flat line.
Haley has been an interesting story, 6 percent, five months ago, she went up to -- she's now somewhere close to DeSantis, around 16 percent in the poll a month ago. So, that's the big question. Has she ticked up at all? Are they really that far behind Trump. What is this new polls show that even closer?
And then just remember, on caucus night, I mentioned Santorum in 2012, a way back in my first campaign, Pat Robertson in 2008, came out of nowhere to come in second, Iowa can surprise you.
BURNETT: Okay. Tenth presidential election for John King.
BURNETT: I'm not going to ask anyone to do the basic math here. But ill tell you what that adds up to. It adds up to wisdom. So tell me what you are looking for.
KING: So sometimes that experience helps, sometimes in a new Republican Party completely changed by Donald Trump, sometimes that experience is not so valuable.
So what are you looking for? Number one, it is 99 counties. So let's go through what we know about this. Let's just start right here.
If you look at the rural counties, the lighter gray, those are the rural counties. Think about the last couple of presidential elections. That is Trump country, right? So can Donald Trump in these rural bands at the top and the bottom of the state, run it up. That is his strength right there.
Who lives in these rural counties? Well, let's take a look at that as well. If you come up on here, there are a lot of evangelicals who live in these rural counties, the darker, the shading, the more evangelicals live in those counties.
In 2016, Trump and Cruz split that vote. The key to DeSantis, if he has any hope here is to compete with Trump across the bands in the north and the southern part of the state, who else lives here though? This is another interesting dynamic as well, look at the shading here. The darker the shading, the higher percentage of the people in that county who do not have a college degree, high school educated, that is Trumps base, right?
See this lighter pink is white or pinkish purple there, even that is 60 percent of the people do not have a college degree. That has how Trump has redefined the Republican Party, remade the Republican Party. That tends to be his base. Let's watch.
BURNETT: All right. So, you're talking about DeSantis and Trump. What about Haley?
KING: So let me blank this out and come back to this. If you're Haley, you're looking at this, okay? These people don't traditionally vote in Republican caucuses, but you want to find here for her, these suburban counties, right?
See the lighter gray around Des Moines, around the city areas right here. This is where the population growth has happened 60,000 new people have moved here since 2016, population growth in the suburbs. And Erin, we know the suburbs are Donald Trump's kryptonite, right?
The question is, there more moderate Republicans and not usually participants in caucuses? A lot of them are new to Iowa. The question is, do they vote? If Haley is going to surprise us, so it will come in the suburbs.
BURNETT: All right, so the extreme weather, what does this mean? I mean, because it is extreme, you're talking about a high of negative three, a state where, you know, a lot of the voters tend -- can be older.
BURNETT: I mean, this is --
KING: So, look, this is we are right now, and I think we can show you what the forecast is for Monday night, and you the campaigns are worried about this. This is a giant test of organization. Do you have the phone numbers? Are you texting people over the weekend?
Are you telling especially seniors -- if you live in the rural areas, you might have a 20 or 30 minute drive to your caucus site. Can you convince older voters to come or do you need a ride will give you a ride? It's a giant test of resilience, test of loyalty, and a test of organization over the weekend, can the campaigns convince these people, please? We need you to vote.
BURNETT: I mean, it is really incredible and you talk about it being known for whether like saying its dangerous, it can be life threatening and its sort of this two or three-day window outside of it as I said, positively balmy relatively.
All right, John, thank you.
And next, Trump's lawyers tonight zeroing in on allegations that the Fulton County D.A. is having an affair with the lead prosecutor in the case. Could this derail Fani Willis's case?
Plus, new video in tonight from inside the brutal Russian prison where Alexey Navalny says he's now being forced to use newspapers in order her to stay warm. We have this would its first for you. It is a prison known as Polar Wolf.
BURNETT: Tonight, the judge in Donald Trump's Georgia election case, scheduling a hearing on allegations that District Attorney Fani Willis is romantically involved with the lead prosecutor in the case, a man named Nathan Wade.
At issue is whether the money she paid Wade for working on the case was then used to fund their lavish vacations together?
One of Trump's lawyers raised the issue earlier today, making it the first time these allegations were brought up in a courtroom. Neither Willis or Wade have responded to the allegations so far, but of course, Trump has long tried to discredit Willis and this raises major questions about whether he will be successful.
Ryan Goodman is with me, our OUTFRONT legal expert.
So what do you take away from all this
RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: So think the allegations at this point are unsubstantiated in large part, the core of the allegation. But at the same time, Fani Willis has not denied them either. And in fact, "The Washington Post" right now has a headline blazing which says, Georgia prosecutors remains silent days after explosive allegations.
So I think its a problem. And if the allegations do bear out, then it's an even more serious problem.
BURNETT: All right. So this is not the first time Willis is at best judgment has been called into question, right? She had attended a fundraiser during her investigation into Trump's election interference, and the fundraiser was for a Democrat running against one of the targets in the investigations, right? So that had already happened and now you have this.
Does her record if the if this does bear out, right, and as you point out, they've been silent, so there's real question marks tonight. But does this disqualify her from prosecuting the case?
GOODMAN: So I don't think that it necessarily implicates the case itself. That would be very high burden to show that there's a conflict of a certain sort. And that should have to be taken off the case or something like that.
But a separate question might still be independently. Just forget about the case. Should there be disciplinary measures taken? What about misconduct? Just in terms of if the allegations are true and she asked acted this way as the district attorney, then that still has blowback implications for the case indirectly, but not directly.
BURNETT: There's the public perception, the public which is what all this ultimately, even though, of course, I know we say a court of law is about, right, in this political cycle and Trump's allegations of persecution.
House Republicans announced they're investing in the allegations, which, of course, this is no surprise, but they have a specific concern if several, but one of them, Ryan, is meetings that Nathan Wade had with the Biden White House counsel's office. You know, they're raising the question of why would he have been meeting with Biden White House counsels office if the inference being if there's not political interference in this case.
Is this a legitimate concern?
GOODMAN: It would be a legitimate concern if there's political machinations going on and it's a political people that they're meeting with at the White House. But it doesn't look like that. All we have is a line that says the prosecutor Wade is meeting with the White House counsel's lawyers and if he weren't meeting with them and actually think that's maybe a problem, like aren't you doing your job?
BURNETT: So, you think it would be -- it would make sense in his role? You know, if none of these allegations are true, he would just the lead prosecutor, this meeting would make sense.
GOODMAN: Absolutely. He needs to speak to the White House to ask them, are they going to invoke executive privilege? Can I speak to the former White House chief of staff? Can I speak to the former White House counsel for Trump? And then what what's your legal position going to be if we reach out to them?
He has to ask those questions. I don't think on it its face there's anything there. Not even yet. I don't think that's like a smoking gun or something or smoke that might be fired. As it stands, that paper trail, that's not a paper trail is just it's obvious that there would have to take place in a certain sense, right?
BURNETT: Right, although, of course, now you have these questions in light of it, right? That is the whole issue, is there's the perception.
All right. Ryan, thank you very much. Ryan Goodman.
BURNETT: And next, incredible new video from inside the brutal colony where Alexey Navalny is being held. This prison is so remote but it gets just two hours of light per day at this time of the year. This is a story. These are images that you will see first right here OUTFRONT tonight.
And the breaking news, polls are just opening for an election that the entire world is watching. It is a crucial one that could ultimately determined at the United States gets dragged in into a major war.
BURNETT: Tonight, you're looking at new footage from inside the brutal penal colony where Vladimir Putin is keeping his number one enemy, Alexey Navalny. It's incredibly remote and carp, which is about 1,200 hundred miles away from Moscow.
And you see where it is above the Arctic Circle. Two hours of light of day, this time of year. It comes after we got our first look at Navalny since his secret transfer to that prison in a court appearance via video link. You see him there in a Black prison uniform, standing behind bars. For the first time, sharing stunning details about what life is like at a prison known as Polar Wolf.
Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He seems gaunt, but in good spirits.
Alexey Navalny, even cracking jokes and a smile in these first public appearances by the Russian opposition leader since arriving at this Arctic penal colony, where temperatures have plunged.
ALEXEY NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): The reality of prison is that it is a very cold place. Do you know why they take newspapers there? To cover up, because I'm reporting to the court here. It's much warmer to sleep with a newspaper, for example, than without a and you just need this newspaper to stay warm.
CHANCE: It's as if the Kremlins doing everything to make Navalny's sentence last year extended to more than 30 years, as miserable as possible. Conditions at the remote Polar Wolf colony, where he was secretly transferred last month. His family losing contact with him for over two weeks, and notoriously tough, with dark, freezing winters.
In 2021, state-controlled Russian television was granted access to the colony where long-term inmates including some of Russia's most notorious criminals, work in Spartan conditions. Navalny's supporters concern for his welfare say its far harder now to monitor his condition.
KIRA YARMYSH, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S SPOKESPERSON: In the north, so it is very cold there and even today, the light there is for two hours per day. So I mean, the conditions like the environment conditions, there a much worse than they were before in Vladimir region that is close to Moscow now. So, from this point of view, they definitely try to isolate Alexey and to make it more difficult to access him there.
CHANCE: But his previous treatment, Navalny says, was harsh, too. The opposition figure, his head shaven, telling the judge his ten-minute meal breaks was simply too short in which to eat.
NAVALNY (through translator): I get two mugs of boiling water, and two pieces of disgusting bread. And I wanted to drink this boiling water normally and eat this bread normally, but in ten minutes, I must choke on this boiling water. And this is done solely to prevent a person from eating normally.
CHANCE: But, inevitably, Navalny's complaints against the Russian prison authorities were dismissed by the court. But one of the Kremlin's fiercest critics, there seems little bit hardship ahead.
CHANCE (on camera): Well, Erin, it is relentless situation that Navalny is in. One small relief I suppose, for the Russian opposition figure though, is that when the judge in this court was considering his complaints outside of the court, Navalny was briefly allowed to speak to his own mother by video conference call.
But that is a increasingly rare opportunity for Alexey Navalny to grab a few words with the family and the loved ones he's been forced to leave behind.
Back to you.
BURNETT: All right. Matthew, thank you very much. It's just absolutely amazing. And how they want -- they want everyone to see some of this.
Next, the breaking news, a military on alert as polls open in an election that could possibly lead to a war here in America
BURNETT: Breaking news, the White House is warning it would be, quote, unacceptable for China to interfere in Taiwan's elections. Well, polls there have just opened in an election that could determine if China and Taiwan go to war. It comes as China says, its army is now on high alert the military warning, it will, quote, smash any Taiwan independence plots. This election is crucial.
And Will Ripley is OUTFRONT tonight live tonight from a polling location in Taipei.
And, Will, the stakes for the world could not be higher in the election where you are right now.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Erin, China has made no secret that they openly loathe the party, the DPP, the ruling party that is currently had a slight lead in the latest polls available though the polls close more than a week ago. In fact, the only information that voters have outside this polling center is just these newspapers here.
It's very old school here in Taiwan. No absentee voting. You have to go to your hometown and you have to show up in person. And yet, we have seen consistently a lot of people here at this, just one of nearly 2,000 polling sites across Taipei.
This is a neighborhood with older military veterans that tends to prefer the opposition view that a better relationship with China would help avoid war, a view that is shared by some of voters who we spoke with in the rallies leading up to this vote. Take a look
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If the Democratic Progressive Party doesn't change the direction, I think that war could happen in our generation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: But the ruling party says the only way to prevent war is not to try to recalibrate the relationship with the U.S., but actually doubled down on that relationship. The U.S. has sold billions of dollars of weapons to Taiwan over the last eight years of the ruling party's presidency under Tsai Eng-win. The candidate that is running on behalf of the ruling party says he's going to continue that policy of close ties with the U.S., but the opposition warns, Erin, that could be a dangerous path leading Taiwan and the U.S. and China right into a cross strait conflict.
BURNETT: And all of that, of course, on the line tonight and, of course, this Saturday morning where Will is right now.
Thank you all for being with us and thanks to Will.
It's time now for "AC360."