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Erin Burnett Outfront

Navalny's Mother Says Russian Authorities Are Threatening Her; U.S. Spacecraft Touches Down On Moon, A First In 50 Years; Ex-FBI Informant Charged With Lying About Biden Re-Arrested; Nikki Haley Doubles Down On Staying In Race: "Let This Play Out". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 19:00   ET




Breaking news, we're learning new details about the conditions Alexei Navalny's team says must be agreed upon in order for the opposite leader's body to be released. Details that include a secret funeral.

Plus, breaking news, we are on the surface. A U.S. spacecraft touching down on the moon for the first time in 50 years. But the condition of that spacecraft is still unknown as we're standing by for the first images.

And pay up. Federal judges ruling the MyPillow CEO must pay a software expert who debunked his election lies $5 million. The man was supposed to be getting that money is my guest.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto, in tonight for Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news: Alexei Navalny's body now being held hostage tonight. We're learning the conditions that Russia has set in order for authorities to release the opposition leader's body to his mother.

According to Navalny's team, some of the demands include the Kremlin wants Navalny's body to be transported to Moscow on special plane followed by a secret funeral. This ultimatum comes after his mother was finally allowed to see her son's body nearly a week after he suddenly died at a brutal Arctic Russian penal colony.


LYUDMILA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEI NAVALNY'S MOTHER (through translator): Yesterday evening, they secretly took me to the morgue where they showed me Alexei. The investigators claim they know the cause of the death, which they have all the medical and legal documents ready, which I saw, and I signed the medical death certificate.


SCIUTTO: According to Navalny's team, that death certificate says he died from natural causes. It's a suspicious finding, given video of the opposite opposition leader on the day before he died, he appears in good spirits. He was actually joking with a judge.

Remember, this is also a man who narrowly survived one poisoning attempt and spent years in some of Russia's most notorious jails. And despite what Russia claims, Navalny's family and friends have been quite vocal that Putin is, in fact, to blame for Navalny's death accusations echoed by President Biden today after he met with Navalny's widow and daughter.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to be announcing the sanctions against Putin who is responsible for his death tomorrow.


SCIUTTO: Biden is also praising Navalny for his incredible courage in taking on Putin.

And in a moment, I'm going to speak to the wife of another prominent political opponent of Putin's, Vladimir Kara-Murza. Right now, he is also being held in a Russian prison.

Today, he spoke from behind bars.


VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, JAILED PUTIN CRITIC (through translator): We owe it to our fallen comrades to continue working with even greater vigor to achieve what they lived and died for, to make Russia a normal free European democratic country.


SCIUTTO: Those are dangerous words in Russia.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT live in Berlin tonight.

Fred, what more we learning about these restrictions that Russia is placing on Navalny's family just to have a funeral?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jim. That is actually quite remarkable in all this, of course, comes from the director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Ivan Zhdanov. There were really three main restrictions we could see you mentioned one of them and that is that special plane that's supposed to bring the body to Moscow. Well, one of the conditions on that is that Alexei Navalny's mother is not allowed to announce when the body is to arrive before it has arrived. So, obviously, they're trying to keep all that under wraps allegedly so that people wont show up at the airport.

Another thing that we also discerned is that at the whole time on the ground until the funeral. A member of the investigative committee and employee of Russia's investigative committee has to be with the family of Alexei Navalny's. So, obviously, trying to keep the family under wraps as well.

Also, allegedly, the body is supposed to be kept either in the Moscow or Vladimir region and the Anti-Corruption Foundation believes that's because the Russian authorities fear that people could try and storm the morgue. Again, the Russian authorities themselves haven't commented on this.

And other two things that were hearing as well, is that apparently the cemetery of choice of Alexei Navalny's mother has been denied to her, are apparently some arrangement has been made there and they have not yet agreed on a farewell hall either.


Obviously, the anti-corruption foundation is saying that Alexei Navalny's mother has been forced to agree to all this under threats, and we did hear some that from her earlier today when she said that she really wanted all the people who are obviously devastated and who feel that the death of Alexei Navalny is a personal loss for them to be able to say goodbye to Alexei Navalny, to be able to see his body that has been denied to her.

She also said that the authorities threatened her and said time is not an on her side saying, quote, the corpse is beginning to rot.

SCIUTTO: Good Lord. Just a mother trying to lay her son to rest.

Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT now, Steve Hall. He's former CIA chief of Russia operations.

And, Steve, as I listened to those restrictions there, it strikes me that not only was Vladimir Putin fearful of Navalny in life as an opposition figure, but that he fears him even in death. And the support that he might -- average Russians might show to him.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, absolutely, Jim. I mean, that's really the only explanation as to as to why it would be that they would take all these extraordinary measures. I mean, setting aside the horrific human side of this. I mean, can you imagine being a family member and being told, hey, you better make of her man and this quick because your son's decomposing, I mean, it's horrific.

But aside from that, it really does show the great fear and concern that the Kremlin has about this sort of spawning a larger opposition movement around Navalny. And this is why they're -- this is why they are also in an incredibly in humane fashion, mocking his widow, ascribing all sorts of horrific things to her as well, because they fear this level of sort of motivation and mobilization of Russian society behind Navalny.

It's -- it's a great fear and it's really interesting to see how scared Putin is with this.

SCIUTTO: The timing his death was notable given it took place during the Munich Security conference, when you had so many people from around the world there gathered to show their support for Ukraine, discuss that. It seemed like it might be a signal potentially given these restrictions, will we ever truly know with any certainty or confidence how he died in this prison?

HALL: I mean, there's sort of two levels of that question. I mean, it's entirely possible given how, how Putin controls Russia and how all information coming out of Russia is automatically suspect. It's entirely possible we'll never know the actual mechanism of his death.

That said, I think that's less important than the overriding fact that it is Putin's responsibility that he is dead. So how it actually happened, you know, might be -- let's speculation there. But the important fact is Putin and his in his mechanism of Putin-ism, his secret services and all the secret police and intelligence services. They're the ones who are responsible for Navalny's death at the end of the day.

SCIUTTO: And we should note that in 2020, they use the most powerful nerve agent in the world in a first attempt to kill him.

We're learning more details tonight about what exactly the sanctions that the Biden administration plans to put on Russia, not just in response to Navalny's death, but also marking the two-year anniversary of the full scale invasion of Ukraine. We're talking about hundreds of sanctions, some of which will directly target Putin.

I wonder though, will they have an impact because they've been a whole host of sanctions over the last several years, and Russia is still in Ukraine. Russia's still eliminating its opponents inside and outside the country.

HALL: Yeah, I really think they do actually have an impact, Jim, and they're not they're not entirely emotionally satisfying for many of us because we used to, when, you know, whether its a bomb exploding or a missile strike or something like that. I mean, that's on a mission and an immediate response by the United States or their allies to some threat and sanctions work differently. They're harder to find. They're harder to measure.

But I can tell you, there's one good measure and that is what does the Kremlin think about them? And the Kremlin has been pretty consistent about saying they're illegal, they shouldn't be done. So I think they're very concerned about those sanctions over the -- over the long run.

SCIUTTO: Steve Hall, thanks so much.

HALL: Sure

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now, Evgenia Kara-Murza, the wife of jailed Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza joins us.

And good to have you on. Thanks for taking the time.

EVGENIA KARA-MURZA, WIFE OF JAILED PUTIN CRITIC VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA: Hello, Jim. Thank you very much for inviting me. SCIUTTO: I want to begin by asking you about the video we saw today

from Alexei Navalny's mother. She said officials told her that if she does not agree to a secret funeral for her son, quote, they will do something with my son's body. When you heard that, I wonder what your reaction was.


KARA-MURZA: I was absolutely enraged. I mean, first, they tried to kill him with prison. He survives. They throw him in prison. They torture him for three years. They kill him and now that refused to give his body back to his mother, so she can say our goodbyes and she can bury him probably?

I mean, this is so despicably twisted and cruel. But it also shows how much they're afraid of him. The rational story is they're afraid of Alexei even dead. They do not want to allow his supporters -- yes, millions of people, his supporters and his family to say their goodbyes. They want to do everything in secret.

That is despicably twisted and I don't know -- I just -- I was watching that video and thinking of how -- how dare they look in the eyes, the mother who just lost our son and not just lost him. They know when he was murdered. She knows he was murdered.

How dare they look her in the eyes and tell her those things, those despicable things and making threats? That is just --

SCIUTTO: Yeah. It seems deliberately humiliating.

I want to play more if I can of what Navalny's mother said after she tried to get her son's body. Have a listen.


NAVALNAYA (through translator): According to the law, they should have given me Alexei's body right away, but they haven't done it yet. Instead, they blackmailed me and set conditions for where, when and how Alexei should be buried. It is illegal.


SCIUTTO: Now, she's being very public about this. Do you have any concern for her safety at this point?

KARA-MURZA: You know, anyone who challenges the regime and the regime's decisions in any way is in danger, absolutely. But I also, from watching that video, I realized that she will not be stopped.

She -- she's going through hell. She has just lost her son. And yet she is composed and strong and forceful and I would not -- I mean, if I were them, I would do everything she says and do it fast.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, I know you've been forced to go through your own personal hell with your husband's treatment and your husband sent a message today on video from prison in Omsk, Russia. I know you rarely get to hear his voice these days. So I want to play

a portion of his speaking -- him speaking in Russian. We'll translate it at the bottom of a screen from -- for our viewers. Have a listen, and I want to get your thoughts.


VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, JAILED PUTIN CRITIC (translated): I have had lots of thoughts over the recent days. There is a lot of despondency, a lot of despair, which is understandable for any human being. I myself have been a in a fog all this week, I still do not perceive with my mind or emotions, what has happened. But if we give in to despondency and despair, that's exactly what they want. We have no right to do that.


SCIUTTO: You know, watching you react there and I can only imagine myself in the same position. What does it like? How, how do you manage to hear him, see him behind bars?

KARA-MURZA: Well, you know, when someone sent me this video today, I was happy because that is the only way I get to hear my husband's voice nowadays. When he gets those rare chances do speak during one of his court hearings.

And, you know, it amazes me how these people, these political prisoners in today's Russia, not just my husband, but him as well, they tried to live our spirits. They're the ones behind bars. They're the ones suffering in absolutely inhumane conditions. And they're trying to lift our spirits. They tell us to not give up.

And what Vladimir says here in this video is, of course, quintessential Vladimir. Only he could talk about honoring our fallen colleagues and friends by been stronger and by fighting even more, even fiercer. And by not giving up because this is what the regime would want us to see.


And this is why also Vladimir refused to leave the country despite all those attacks on his life, because he said at this, this what they would want me to do, to flee, to get scared and to flee. And I will not give them the satisfaction.

I remember him saying this many times. And so hearing it from him today meant a lot to me.

SCIUTTO: You know, it struck me as I saw him there with that message of hope and defiance at the end. It was reminiscent of Navalny's own statements from prison, sometimes infused with humor as well.

How does he manage that strength? Do you think and that hope in the midst of what he's facing?

KARA-MURZA: That that has always been a big secret to me as well. I don't know how such people do this. I think that he truly, deeply believes in what he fights for.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, I wish you the best. I wish him safety and I wish you -- well, I hope you get some good news, at some point soon, and we certainly appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us tonight.

KARA-MURZA: Thank you very much, Jim.

SCIUTTO: True courage there.

OUTFRONT next, breaking news. A U.S. spacecraft has just touched down on the surface of the moon. It's the first time this has happened in some 50 years. We are standing by now for the first pictures from that spacecraft.

Plus --


MIKE LINDELL, MYPILLOW CEO: There's a $5 million prize for anybody that can -- that can prove the election data that that I have from the 2020 election is false.


SCIUTTO: Well, I'm just being to the man who took Mike Lindell up on that challenge and won. At a special report tonight on how China is taking a page out of Putin's playbook when it comes to taking over other territories.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news, a U.S. spacecraft is on the moon for the first time in 50 years, but we are waiting for word on the condition of that moon lander. According to the company Intuitive Machines, this was a success.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on -- the on the surface and we are transmitting and welcome to the moon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Odysseus has found his new home.


SCIUTTO: A new home. The lander touching down on the moon at around 06:24 p.m. Eastern Time. First time, as we said, the U.S. has landed on the moon in 50 years.

Kristin Fisher, she covers space for us. She's been following it all.

So, Kristen, we're now at a critical point in the mission because we are expecting images about 30 minutes after the landing, still hasn't happened yet.

Do we know anything about the condition of the lander?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: That is the big question now, Jim. As you said, you know, we know that it has touched down on the surface of the moon, but take a look at what just happened with Japan. Japan slim landers, the moon sniper as it was called. It successfully soft landed on the moon, but then it tipped over, right?

And so then there was this big conversation about was this success or a failure? It ended up being what's been described as a partial success. So there's a chance that this could happen here.

But make no mistake. The fact that it has touched down on the surface of the moon is a significant milestone for Intuitive Machines and for the United States, which hasn't done this since 1972, also the first commercial company to ever do this in the history of the world really.

But, Jim, the other big thing is just how Intuitive Machines did this. The NASA administrator and former Senator Bill Nelson said, this was an Apollo 13 moment minus the people. So, a lot less at stake here. This is only a robotic, uncrewed spacecraft.

But NASA really kind of came to the rescue here because Intuitive Machines navigation system wasn't working and there was an experimental navigation system from NASA that was on the lander and that's what they used to land this thing, incredible that they were able to make this work on the fly. But as you said, Jim, a lot of questions about what condition the spacecraft is in now.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, remarkable moment to do an extra orbit of the moon, make a little fix, a patch between the systems, seems to have helped it land. We'll learn in what condition.

Kristin, do stay with me.

I want to bring in former NASA astronaut Danny Olivas.

He's flown on two space shuttle missions, participated in five spacewalks, both more than I have.

Good to have you on, sir.

I wonder what this moment means like for you. You, of course, have been in space many times. Your fellow NASA astronauts, they've walked on the moon.

Tell us why this particular mission is important.

DANNY OLIVAS, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, I mean, this is one of many missions that we are doing as precursors to return to the moon, human beings to the moon, in not-too-distant future, certainly before we get to the end of this decade. And the lander, of course, is one of the key elements for us being able to actually put people on the moon. There's a lot of technology it has to develop and involve between now and the time we actually have human beings ready to make their first trip.

And, you know, so these -- these risks, these are risky missions that we're doing, risky hardware where we really pushing the frontier both of technologically and as a business perspective, with our companies.

SCIUTTO: No question we're seeing so much more cooperation between the private and public sector on this. You think of the SpaceX rocket sending so many of our satellites into orbit.

Kristin, I want to talk for a moment about the location on the moon where this lander touched down. There have been 21 successful moon landings to date. Most of them though, near the lunar equator. I believe we have a map that shows that.

This one though close to the south pole. Why that part of the moon and why is that important?

FISHER: Because that is where scientists believe there is water in the form of ice. And if you have water, you can use that water for astronauts to drink. You can use that water to someday make rocket fuel and then use the moon as a jumping off point to go on to places like Mars and potentially beyond.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson actually said that he envisions a world where the south pole of the moon is a gas station of sorts for the moon. And it's also a critical spot, Jim, as you know, because this is where NASA wants to land Artemis astronauts, the first astronauts to return to the moon since the Apollo program, but it's also where China wants to land its astronauts or taikonauts. They want to build a base there, and so does NASA.

So, it's a competitive spot. And that's why this was so critical. Intuitive Machines becoming the first spacecraft to ever do that.

SCIUTTO: Danny, it's not unlike the old space race of the '60s and '70s and that you have an international competition here to some degree. As Kristin was noting, China's put three vehicles on the moon in the past ten years, Russia also getting back into space. You see other countries India, Japan, et cetera.

Is that a good thing, right? I mean, how important is it for the U.S. to be ahead of the game or, can we look at this more cooperatively?

OLIVAS: Well, I think the answer is still a little bit both, right? We developed technology here in the United States and we have a profile which is directed by a NASA administrator and NASA in general. We're inspiring new technologies and new businesses here in the United States.

And it does always help to have a little healthy competition by the same token, we are seeing international cooperation across our globe, you know, through the signing of the Artemis Accords, as well as, you know, of course, the international space station, which is 16 countries across our globe that built a permanent colony in space. So, there's lots to be said for international collaboration and cooperation, especially at a time when they political tensions are a little high. You know, sometimes we all get together and get along and do some really incredible things.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. So, listen, the U.S. and Russia still cooperating to some degree, right, despite all the many conflicts down here on the surface of the earth.

Danny, Kristin, thanks so much to both of you. We continue to wait for an update on the status of that spacecraft on the moon.

OUTFRONT next, breaking news, the former FBI informant charged with lying about the Biden's business dealings with Ukraine has just been arrested again.

Why? We're going to have the latest next.

Plus, the MyPillow CEO tonight ordered to pay $5 to the man who proved him wrong. When it comes to his 2020 election lies. The man set to get that money, he's next.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news: the former FBI informant indicted for lying to the FBI about President Biden and his family is now back under arrest. A Nevada judge had allowed Alexander Smirnov to walk out of the courtroom with a few conditions on Tuesday, but today, his lawyers say he was rearrested, quote, on the same charges, and based on the same indictment.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT tonight.

Evan, it's an unusual move to say the least. What changed here?


What the Justice Department did is they went to the judge who is in the end going to be overseeing this case. This is the judge in Los Angeles. This is where Alexander Smirnov was actually indicted, Jim, and they got an arrest warrant for his arrest. And so that's what happened today.

And so, now, what happens is that, you know, were going to see him come back to court in Las Vegas.

This is where he was arrested when he came back into the country and where he was first brought before a judge to face those charges.

Now, what I'll read you a statement from -- a part of a statement from his lawyers who described what happened. They say Mr. Smirnov was rearrested on an arrest warrant issued by the same court where he was planning on voluntarily appearing when required. They say that he was inside our law office at the time of his the rest preparing for his defense. And we are we are pursuing lawful remedies to once again, seek his release.

What they've done, Jim, is that they've asked the judge in Las Vegas, the one who had allowed him to go free for an emergency hearing. And so that judge, just a little while ago, issued a new order asking for the Justice Department, for the special counsel David Weiss, to respond by tomorrow afternoon.

So in the meantime, Smirnov is going to be spending at least the night in jail awaiting to see what the outcome of this is. But in the end, what this means, Jim, is that the judge who is overseeing this case believes at least for now that Alexander Smirnov should be detained while these charges are being worked out.

So well see how long he spends. In the end, though, Jim, keep in mind that the Justice Department says that this is still an investigation that's still ongoing. And so we will wait to see when he turns up in Los Angeles to face these charges.

SCIUTTO: Quite a lot of legal drama. Evan Perez, thanks so much.


SCIUTTO: Also tonight, it is time for MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell to pay up. A federal judge ruled Lindell legally owes $5 million to a software developer who successfully debunked Lindell's data that had falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen, something Lindell tried to dodge paying despite repeatedly promising to do so, initially in a contest called prove Mike wrong.


MIKE LINDELL, MYPILLOW CEO: There's $5 million prize for anybody that can -- that can prove the election data that I have from the 2020 election is false. Okay? It's not from that -- is not from the 2020 election.

LINDELL: Anybody here that's for that challenge, the $5 million challenge, you have to sign a sheet, a release form at the front. If you did, the time we go do that now.



SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now, the man who took Lindell up and proved him wrong, Bob Zeidman, who I will note did support Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.

Good to have you on. Thanks for taking the time.


SCIUTTO: So the last time you were on the show, you said you doubted you would ever see the $5 million from Lindell, but a judge now, he's just ordered Lindell to pay up.

What's your reaction?

ZEIDMAN: Well, I'm a little more optimistic. I still have some doubts that I'll see it. Lindell has some ability to keep appealing.

I think the appeal should be denied pretty quickly. There's really no grounds for appeal at this point, but he can drag it on for awhile until unfortunately, there are rumors that he's running out of money and it doesn't surprise me.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. On that point, he's previously claimed that he's run out of money. He's also facing two separate defamation lawsuits from voting machine companies, including one that $1.3 billion suit filed by Dominion. Was all the time you spent on this worth it? And do you think -- because legally, there are also some questions about, you know, how is he still donated in campaigns if he has no money?

ZEIDMAN: Yeah. Well, I've wondered about that myself, but to your point, your question about whether it's worth it. I definitely think it was. So I've done these kinds of things before, but there was rarely $5 at stake in a sense, how you this publicity to Mr. Lyndell for offering the $5 million because that makes it more interesting.

But I think it's always right to seek the truth whatever the truth may be, and I make a comfortable living so I don't need the money, and I think the reason to make money is to seek the truth. So I've been -- like I said, I've been doing this for awhile. This one, it just seems to get a lot more publicity than some of the other things I've done.

SCIUTTO: Well, to your credit. Now, as I mentioned, you supported Donald Trump in 2016, 2020, your choice. No question. But Trump as, you know, is still pushing false claims about the 2020 election which you proved wrong.

Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The radical left Democrats rigged the presidential election of 2020 and we're not going to allow them to rig the presidential election of 2024. The election was rigged. Let me tell, and it was, and we have all the proof you need, too.


SCIUTTO: The fact is, he doesn't. You showed that. It's been proven wrong in court by recounts. You name it, but the trouble is many Republicans still buy that line.

I wonder, do you think enough prominent Republicans, lawmakers are speaking out to reject that false claim?

ZEIDMAN: Well, I think in my mind the issue is complicated. I think the rules that were changed, the elect -- the voting rules that were changed for COVID made things much more complicated. I've always said even before this challenge that it was very unlikely that the voting machines were hacked. That's my specialty. The people I've trained, we go into court, we examine machines. If it was hacked, somebody would know by now. But it does concern me that Mike Lindell, his specific claims of

fraud, that which I disproved are still getting traction and more so as we get closer to the upcoming election, that concerns me a lot.

SCIUTTO: It must. I mean, you said you seek the truth. You care about your country here. I mean, just trouble I suppose is that that makes people just not trust the whole system, right? And I wonder what you think the remedy is. I imagined the effort, for instance, that you did here is one example of that well, I think one thing I've talked about is if I do get this money, I plan to put it towards non-profits that look into election reliability.

And I'm already working with in Nevada policy research institute where I live in Nevada because I think I wish that people from both parties would come together. You know, I knew people in the 20 -- in 2020, sorry, in 2000 election, Bush v. Gore. And it was mostly Democrats who said the machines were hacked or not working. Then again, in recently it's the Republican saying this.

It seems like reasonable people can come together and come up with systems that we can all agree we need.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. It used to be a bipartisan issue, election security.

Bob Zeidman, thanks so much for joining me.

ZEIDMAN: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next tonight.

Nikki Haley vows to keep running against Donald Trump, but if she were to drop out, where exactly what her supporters go?


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: If she's not the Republican nominee, what do you do?



SCIUTTO: Plus, Putin's war in Ukraine is now providing an alarming blueprint for China. We're going to have a special report, ahead.



SCIUTTO: Tonight, an existential crisis for Nikki Haley supporters. Haley insists she has zero intention of dropping out of the race, but her path to the nomination hinges on a -- on a long shot when two days from now in South Carolina where she is still trailing Trump by 35 points in polls.

So who will Haley supporters back if she were to leave the race? Jeff Zeleny is in South Carolina with tonight's voters OUTFRONT




ZELENY (voice-over): For supporters of Nikki Haley, her defiant pledge is music to their ears.

SHEREE RICHNOW, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think she should stay in until the very last second. I really do. I do not think that we should acquiesce.

ZELENY: Sheree Richnow sees Haley is not merely the best choice, but perhaps the only choice in the race for the White House.

If she's not the Republican nominee, what do you do?

RICHNOW: I may not vote

ZELENY: You may not vote for president?

RICHNOW: I may not vote, right, because I don't think either choice is good at that point.

ZELENY: The sun is setting on the Republican primary and on Haley's chances of catching Donald Trump before the early state delegate contests becomes a nationwide sprint.

HALEY: Don't complain about what happens in a general election if you don't go out and vote in this primary, it matters.

ZELENY: Should she not deliver a South Carolinas surprise on Saturday, her supporters face a decision many would prefer not to discuss allowed.


ANN HUPKA, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: We need a president that's going to protect our democracy, not one that's going to give it away to the Russians.

ZELENY: Ann and Marty Hupka are pulling for Haley, but bracing for the general election ahead.

Come November, what do you guys do?


A. HUPKA: We move to Canada.

MARTY HUPKA, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: You're down to two choices would you take that lesser of --

A. HUPKA: Of the two evils. M. HUPKA: -- of the two.

ZELENY: Who is that in your mind?

M. HUPKA: It's got to be Biden. If it's -- I mean, if it's Trump, then it's got to be Biden.

ZELENY: South Carolina has long been Trump country.

TRUMP: We've never lost here. We've never lost here.

ZELENY: On the final day of early voting here, Porter and Linda Baldwin proudly cast their ballots for the former president.


ZELENY: Haley was a fine governor, they said, but her pointed criticism of Trump has soured their view.

P. BALDWIN: It's a waste of time and money and I think they're using her. She's being used.

LINDA BALDWIN, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think she needs to step down.

ZELENY: Senator Tim Scott, who cast his early vote for Trump told us a prolonged Haley candidacy was not good for the party or country.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): The one person who stands in a way of having a conversation between Joe Biden and then Donald Trump is Nikki Haley. And so, getting out of the way is incredibly important.

ZELENY: Don Lassey, a marine veteran, sees it differently.

DON LASSEY, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER/MARINE VETERAN: Any vote for Donald Trump does a vote for Putin.

ZELENY: He's a lifelong Republican.

LASSEY: I voted for Richard Nixon. I voted for Ronald Reagan. I voted for John McCain. I voted for Mitt Romney. I voted for George H. Bush. I like Republicans, but I like mostly honest Republicans.

ZELENY: And believes Trump will become more vulnerable as the campaign goes on, given his legal and foreign policy challenges.

If Haley doesn't prevail, he's already weighing his options.

LASSEY: Lesser of two evils is either Kennedy or Biden. I would like to pick Kennedy, but I'm not sure he will beat Trump. So I will go with Biden.


ZELENY: And at a rally late today, Haley said, I don't care about my political future. If I did, I would be out by now. By saying that, she's the making the case that this candidacy at this

point is about more than her. In her video, it's about the party and indeed the country.

To be clear, some Trump supporters find her candidacy to be an annoyance. Other Republicans find her to be a bit of an insurance policy should something happen with Donald Trump.

In any case, on Saturday, the margin of the outcome here with Donald Trump will certainly determine the next chapter of her race ahead if she'll have the financial support to go forward. But she's saying, I'm staying in at least until Super Tuesday -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Jim Zeleny in Charleston, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT next, Xi Jinping is now echoing Vladimir Putin when it comes to China's claims over Taiwan. We're going to have a special report next.

Plus, a new legal setback for Trump. A judge just denied the president's requests to delay payments of the $350 million penalty.



SCIUTTO: Tonight, China is lashing out at U.S. lawmakers for visiting Taiwan, calling it, quote, interference. It comes as China's President Xi Jinping is taking a page out of Putin's playbook when it comes to Taiwan.

Will Ripley has the story you'll see first on OUTFRONT.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, dangerous parallels between Vladimir Putin's ambitions in Ukraine with Xi Jinping's claims over Taiwan.

In his recent softball interview with Tucker Carlson, Putin justified his brutal war in Ukraine, invoking historical grievances and nationalism.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Suddenly, the Ukrainian soldiers were screaming from there in Russian, perfect Russian, saying, Russians, do not surrender, and all of them perished. They still identify themselves as Russian.

RIPLEY: Putin glossing over the facts thousands of Ukrainians have died, defending their democratic homeland from Putin's army, which is also suffered huge losses for tiny territorial gains.

Xi Jinping echoes Putin's narrative, consistently framing Chinas claim over Taiwan through a lens of historical entitlement, national rejuvenation. XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese and share a natural affinity and national identity built upon kinship and mutual assistance. This is a fact that can never be changed by anyone or any force.

RIPLEY: Here in Taiwan, poll after poll shows the majority of people identify as Taiwanese, not Chinese. That's not how President Xi sees things.

To back up his claims, Xi is expanding China's military at a pace the world hasn't seen in a century since before World War II.


RIPLEY: Former Taiwan presidential spokesperson Kolas Yotaka says both autocratic leaders pose a direct threat to the autonomy and democratic systems of Ukraine and Taiwan.

YOTAKA: Putin and Xi Jinping are similar because both of them believe they represent the old imperial power in their countries. They think they are the chosen ones and they want to stay in power forever. But this is scary.

RIPLEY: The Atlantic Council's Wen-Ti Sung says democratic nations need to unite against authoritarian aggression.

WEN-TI SUNG, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: You hear Xi Jinping talks about the East is rising and the West is declining all the time. With that increase projected confidence comes increased demand for results to be delivered by Xi Jinping as well.

RIPLEY: Critics of Russia and China's strongman leaders say that two nuclear super powers threatened the norms of international relations -- the very foundations of democracy and freedom.


RIPLEY (on camera): Tonight, we have that high profile delegation of U.S. lawmakers on the ground here in Taipei and that, Jim, as you know, is infuriating for Xi because the cornerstone of rejuvenating the Chinese nation in his view to a position of power and global stature is to take control of Taiwan and nothing infuriates him more than to see this deepening relationship with the United States.

So there are many here who really do fear, Jim, that its only a matter of time before Xi, like Putin, puts all these years of rhetoric, all these words into action.

SCIUTTO: And those visits, of course, design to show U.S. support for Taiwan.

Will Ripley in Taipei, thanks so much

OUTFRONT next, Trump suffering another loss in court after trying to delay his $350 million penalty. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Tonight, a judge is rejecting former President Trump's request to delay the $355 million penalty in his New York civil fraud case. That means once the judgment is officially entered, Trump will have 30 days to appeal during that time. However, he will he will need to put up cash or once the judgment is officially entered, Trump will have 30 days to appeal.

During that time, however, he will -- he will need to put up cash or post bond to cover the $355 million payment, and the roughly $100 million in interest that he has been ordered to pay as well.

New York Attorney General, Letitia James threatened to seize Trumps assets, including his prized 40 Wall Street if he does not pay up.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts now.