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House GOP Defiant Amid FBI Informant Revelations; Arizona Prosecutor Refuses To Send Murder Suspect To New York City; Biden Calls Putin A "Crazy S.O.B." And Slams Trump On Navalny Comparisons. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt. It is 5:30 here on the East Coast.

The House Republicans leading the charge in the Biden impeachment inquiry are remaining defiant even amid these new revelations that a now-indicted FBI informant made up a Biden bribery scheme and met with Russian spies last year.

House Judiciary chairman Jim Jordan and oversight chair James Comer are now trying to create as much space as possible -- as they can between themselves and the discredited informant. I'm going to show you this and you can decide how you think it's going -- watch.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): He wasn't an important part of this investigation because I didn't even know who he was. All I knew was there was 1023 that alleged bribery.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You said the 1023 was the most corroborating piece of information he has.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): It corroborates but it doesn't -- it doesn't change those fundamental facts. So now --

RAJU: But it's not true.


RAJU: But your promotion of a bribery scheme was false.

JORDAN: Not at all.



Let's bring in CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for The Boston Globe, Jackie Kucinich.

Jackie, my colleague, Manu, there pressing Jim Jordan. We should probably note House Republicans interviewed the president's brother, James Biden, for many, many hours yesterday.

But I don't -- I don't -- I don't want to put it just in our mouths in terms of what's going on here. I want to show what a Republican had to say about his colleagues and the claims that they have been out there making. This was Ken Buck last night -- watch.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): We were warned that the credibility of this statement was not known. And yet, people -- my colleagues went out and talked to the public about how this was credible, and how it was damning, and how it proved President Biden's -- at the time, Vice President Biden's complicity in receiving bribes. It appears to absolutely be false.


HUNT: It appears to absolutely be false and yet, they're out there continuing to do this.

I mean, how -- what legs left do they have to stand on here?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE (via Webex by Cisco): I mean, to say this is problematic is probably an understatement of what is happening right now in the -- among House Republicans. But listen, the facts haven't gotten in the way of them pursuing this investigation for a lot of this.

I mean, let's remember -- back in September their own witnesses were saying that there wasn't enough evidence to impeach -- to prove high crimes and misdemeanors. So this is really a -- I mean, they've created a (audio gap).

HUNT: All right, I think we may have lost Jackie Kucinich there. We're going to work on getting Jackie but. But as we do that, I do want to make sure that we touch on one other critical story that's playing out in politics. And if we have Jackie back we'll ask her about this.

But I want to show you what Nikki Haley had to say. In Alabama, an Alabama Supreme Court ruling said effectively that frozen embryos are children. This was in a wrongful death lawsuit from a couple that sued after a doctor, they said, dropped their frozen embryos. But it has caused one of the leading hospital systems in the state to already stop actually performing certain IVF procedures for fear of being held criminally liable for wrongful death or to receive punitive damages.

Nikki Haley was asked about this -- whether she considers a frozen embryo to be a baby -- and this is how she answered. She was also then pressed on CNN last night to explain further. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, embryos, to me, are babies. So, I mean --


HALEY: I mean, I had artificial insemination.

DAVIS: Yeah.

HALEY: That's how I had my son.

So when you look at -- you know, one thing is to have -- to save sperm or to save eggs, but when you talk about an embryo you are talking about -- to me, that's a life. And so, I do see where that's coming from when they talk about that.


I didn't say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling. What -- the question that I was asked is do I believe an embryo is a baby? I do think that if you look at the definition, an embryo is considered an unborn baby.


HUNT: All right, very interesting.

Haley has also referenced her own experiences with IVF. She, in the course of this presidential campaign, has talked about that. She's tried to take a softer tone on abortion than some of her Republican rivals did in the primary, although her critics will point out that she still has said that she supports restrictions on abortion that don't -- that mean that tone doesn't necessarily line up with what she would do.

But she did talk about how she went through IVF with her -- with her son. And as this debate plays out there is going to be this tension between what Haley seemed to be trying to say there, which is that for parents trying to conceive -- for them, that frozen embryo is possibly a child. On the other hand, if it's defined that way in the law, it actually is going to make it likely impossible to actually pursue IVF at all.

So there's real tension there in exploring this really deeply nuanced issue that I think is going to be something that is going to be central as the presidential campaign continues.

All right, let's go now to this legal news.

Arizona prosecutors refusing to extradite the suspect in the brutal murder of a woman in a New York City hotel. Maricopa County attorney Rachel Mitchell announced Wednesday that she doesn't trust Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to keep the suspect behind bars -- watch.


RACHEL MITCHELL, MARICOPA COUNTY ATTORNEY: We will not be agreeing to extradition. In having observed the treatment of violent criminals in the New York area by the Manhattan D.A. there, Alvin Bragg, I think it's safer to keep him here and keep him in custody.


HUNT: Hmm.

Bragg's office has responded. They accuse Mitchell of playing political games with a murder investigation. They also cite the decrease in murders and shootings in New York City.

The suspect is being held without bail in Arizona where police say he stabbed two women and also told them that he was wanted for a homicide in New York.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson. Joey, it's good to see you.

Like, can you talk us through the actual, like, what's allowed under the law here? And then I want to ask you -- I mean, this has obviously got a lot of politics in it, but is Arizona allowed to do this, and why?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CRIMINAL ATTORNEY (via Webex by Cisco): Oh, the law, Kasie -- right, mixed in with the politics for sure.

Look, the reality is that whether she does not want or feel comfortable or want to play politics with the issue, legally speaking, you're required to extra -- to extradite.

Now, extraditing -- what does that mean? It means that one state makes a request because that state -- in this instance, New York -- based upon a murder committed and alleged that he committed it -- the defendant that you showed earlier -- the extradition requires the person to be sent by the requesting jurisdiction. That's just the law.

And you can have hearings about it. You can make a big show about it. But the reality is that man, right there -- in the event there's probable cause to believe that there was criminality, you're coming back to New York regardless or irrespective of what you want to argue about the policies of the sitting district attorney.

The further good news here, however -- if there could be any good news around his conduct -- alleged conduct -- is that because he's committed crimes -- alleged crimes in Arizona, there's a vested interest in Arizona prosecuting him. So it's just a matter of the timing issue with respect to when he comes back because he is, in fact, accused of carjacking and stabbing, right, women there.

But the reality is regardless of what she wants to dress it up in or what embarrassment in -- and it smacks of there's an actual prosecution happening in New York on March 25 of a former president -- it smacks of a lot of politics.

But legally speaking, there's a firm request to him back and at some point, he will be back.

HUNT: Right. Well -- and, I mean, the other -- the other aspect, Joey, in terms of the political here, it seems to me, is this increasing division between red states and blue on crime and how that is handled in terms of --

I mean, she's basically saying that New York is going to let this guy go because, obviously, prosecutors have discretion in how they handle things and whether they hold someone or whether they don't -- whether they don't -- whether they prosecute a crime at all. You point out correctly that they are trying to prosecute this in New York.

But this -- I mean, it reminds me a little bit of what, say, Republican governors are doing on the southern border in terms of trying to rope blue states into this.

And we know that crime is also going to be a central issue in the election.


What do you make of that dynamic?

JACKSON: Yeah, it's an interesting dynamic, to be sure, and already, we're seeing that play out here. In fact, what the reports are is that Manhattan prosecutors flew to Arizona to make this request and so there was discussions as it relates to that extradition. There's already the spokesperson of Manhattan making clear that hey, New York -- we have half the crime rate that Phoenix, Arizona does.

So you're going to see this going back and forth with respect to, right, which state is the safer and which city within the state is the safer. Who can prosecute and who can prosecute more effectively? And that's just, at the end of the day, unfortunate.

This is about someone who is alleged to have committed a murder. Murder obviously is very significant. New York and particularly, New York County -- that is Manhattan -- has a viable jurisdiction over that and certainly has an interest with regard to its citizens of holding this particular defendant and accused accountable. As a result of that, that's what the focus needs to be on.

Now, at the same time, to be clear, there is a competing request in Arizona because he's alleged to have committed crimes there.

But I think at the end of the day, it should be about the accountability of the defendant for the specific crimes and not about wrapping this up in a political issue of red state, blue state, we prosecute better than you do. He has a carjacking here. It's a murder there. We can do it better. He'll be in custody here. You'll let him free there.

That's simply political and shouldn't happen. The people of whatever state deserve justice and I think that's what the people of New York State will get ultimately -- even if it is not, Kasie, immediately.

HUNT: All right, Joey Jackson for us -- our CNN legal analyst. Joey, thank you. I always appreciate you.

JACKSON: Always. Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right, now to this rather sad story.

Commander Biden has been a pretty bad dog. New internal documents show that President Biden's family dog Commander has bitten U.S. Secret Service personnel in at least 24 incidents, and that doesn't include other cases that involve executive residence staff and other people who work at the White House.

An incident back in July reveals just how serious the problem was when the German Shepherd bit an agent on the forearm and caused a severe, deep, open wound.

A source says the Bidens feel awful and heartbroken over the biting incidents.

All right. Coming up, Gov. Ron DeSantis firing off about Donald Trump, according to audio obtained by The New York Times and the New York Post. What he says would happen if Trump did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.

And a private U.S. spacecraft enters orbit ahead of an attempt to land on the moon today.



HUNT: Welcome back.

President Biden's 2024 strategy is coming under sharper focus with new plans for the border and student loan relief, as well as more aggressive attacks against the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump.

During a fundraiser in San Francisco yesterday, among other things, President Biden called Vladimir Putin a, quote, "crazy S.O.B." while hammering Trump on comments that he had made likening his legal troubles to the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Biden told attendees, quote, "If I stood here 10 to 15 years ago and said all this, you'd think I should be committed."

Here to talk about all this is CNN's Stephen Collinson, our big- picture painter extraordinaire. Stephen, always love to have you. Thank you very much for being here.

Let's -- I want to read something else that the president said during a fundraiser yesterday. He told attendees this. Quote, "As I walk out of meetings, a head of state will find an excuse to come up close and say, 'You've got to win.' Not because I'm so special. 'You've got to win because my democracy is at stake if the other guy wins.'" He says, "Nine heads of state have done that with me."

It's a remarkable situation and it sort of plays into this broader question. I mean, Biden clearly thinks he's the one to beat Donald Trump. But there are a lot of Democrats who question whether that's actually the case -- at least they do in private, not in public.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (via Webex by Cisco): That's right. And I think if you go back, say, six or eight weeks ago, there was a lot of hammering by Democrats not just because of the vulnerabilities of the Biden reelection campaign but because it didn't really seem to be getting going. There wasn't a great deal of evidence of a proactive campaign against Trump even though it was becoming clear that he was obviously going to be the Republican nominee.

So this week, for instance -- just this week you've seen a coordinate and a sharp attempt to define the campaign for Biden.

Yesterday, we got notice that the president is considering some tough measures on executive orders on immigration. That would take aim at a perceived weakness about his handling of the border among many swing voters.

You mentioned student loans -- more news of student loans relief.

We're seeing more coordinated attacks against Trump. Almost every day the president goes after the likely Republican nominee.

The vice president has been talking a lot about abortion -- another issue where Democrats think they can do well.

So there is, I think, a sense of defining this campaign running into the State of the Union address next month. We don't know whether it's going to work yet, of course. There are big issues like age and the economy. Whether the president has vulnerabilities. But I think we're seeing evidence that Biden is making a much clearer argument to voters.

HUNT: No, for sure. And it's really kind of interesting the way you threaded this all together.

I also want to ask you, Stephen, on the Republican side. Ron DeSantis was on a phone call yesterday, the audio of which was obtained first by the New York Post and then The New York Times, among others. CNN hasn't listened to this audio yet.


But one of the things that really stood out to me about what DeSantis said was how he talked about Trump's lack of accomplishments when he was president the first time.

He said, quote, "I was in Congress the first two years when Trump was president. We didn't really do what we said we would do. You didn't see any major immigration, border, or any type of legislation. You didn't see anything with repealing and replacing Obamacare. You didn't see anything about reining in the bureaucracy."

DeSantis also let loose on the conservative media. Now, he talks about this a little bit, right, as he was wrapping up his presidential campaign, but he put it in pretty stark terms this time.

He said, "Trump, at some point, said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote. Well, I think he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and the conservative media wouldn't even report on it."

What does this tell you about Trump's vulnerabilities and how this is going to play out in the context of the race against Biden?

COLLINSON: It's very interesting. It seems like DeSantis still hasn't reconciled this central conundrum of his campaign. He was betting on the fact that Republican voters, in his mind, would be more interested in a president who got a lot of things done on a conservative agenda -- the MAGA agenda -- somewhat like he has been doing in Florida, using his power to push forward that kind of policy.

But voters didn't really want that. They're still wedded almost to the idea of Trump as a personality. His outlandishness, his anti- establishment creed is really what binds Republican voters to the former president. They want to send someone to Washington to create a storm and they don't necessarily appear to be doing so for ideological reasons. So, DeSantis clearly is still trying to work his way through that.

I think he's right that the conservative media -- and we're going to see that during the CPAC conference in Washington over this weekend -- is going to support Trump whatever he does as a media industrial complex on the right that is propping up Trump.

I think the question is when the former president has to move out of that bubble, if you like, in a general election, whether he's going to be able to appeal to a broader coalition of voters. Can you just rely on concerns about the economy among people who voted for Biden and are thinking about doing so -- voting for him this time around? It's going to be very interesting to see.

And I think that's why these attempts by Biden to chip away at various issues and get a few voters here, a few voters there could be crucial. Because --

HUNT: Yeah.

COLLINSON: -- you're going to see in states like Wisconsin and Arizona -- the swing states -- that a few votes can make a big difference.

HUNT: A huge difference. I mean, the suburbs of Phoenix, the suburbs of Milwaukee, the suburbs of Atlanta. I could go on.

Stephen Collinson, thanks very much for being with us. I really appreciate your reporting.

COLLINSON: Thanks. HUNT: All right. Coming up next, a growing crisis in the U.S. A new survey revealing just how many Americans know someone who has died from a drug overdose. And an Alabama fertility clinic pausing IVF treatments after the state's Supreme Court declared that embryos are children. That's all next on "CNN THIS MORNING."



HUNT: All right, welcome back.

China is lending two giant pandas to the San Deigo Zoo. Welcome back, pandas. It's the first loan of its kind in 20 years. Zoo officials say there's no timeline yet but they're optimistic that the animals will arrive soon.

It comes after Chinese leader Xi Jinping recommended, quote, "envoys of friendship" between the two countries.

China took back pandas from D.C.'s Smithsonian National Zoo last year. I and my son are very sad about that. So maybe we can get some back here in Washington, too.

All right, time now for sports.

We had an exciting finish in college hoops last night as LSU hits a wild buzzer-beater to upset number 17 Kentucky.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning, Kasie.

So, March Madness right around the corner and Kentucky and LSU giving us a little preview last night. So, the Wildcats -- they were down by one with under 20 seconds to go. Rob Dillingham, though -- the clutch jumper there to put Kentucky up by one. LSU obviously did not call a time-out with just 12 seconds left. Jordan Wright with the ball. It got stuck but he threw it back immediately to the middle of the paint. And Tyrell Ward put it in at the buzzer.

LSU women's star Angel Reese storming the court to celebrate, as do all the students. LSU wins the thriller 75-74.

And here was a very happy Ward afterwards about the chaos on the court.


TYRELL WARD, FORWARD, LSU: No, I ain't going to lie. I blacked out as soon as the shot went in, and I can't lie to you.

REPORTER: Yeah. I think Angel Reese grabbed you around the neck. Were you aware that was her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know nothing that was going on. I can't lie.


SCHOLES: All right, 'Messi Mania' is back. Lionel Messi's first full season for Inter Miami officially getting underway last night against Real Salt Lake. In the 39th minute, Messi to Robert Taylor. It puts Inter Miami up one-nil.

Then check out Messi right before halftime. He's going to actually chip the ball over a player that was down. His shot gets blocked but just take another look. Just unreal.

Then in the 83rd minute, more fancy footwork from Messi. He slips the ball to Luis Suarez who gets it to Diego Gomez for the goal. Miami wins two-nil.

The MSL season really gets going Saturday with 11 games on the schedule.

All right, and finally, Tiger Woods' son Charlie trying to follow in dad's footsteps. The 15-year-old is going to compete in a pre- qualifier event today in hopes of making the field for his first PGA Tour start next week. Charlie needs to make the top 25 today. If he does, he would advance on Monday where he'll then need to finish in the top four to make it to the Cognizant Classic field.


You know, Charlie won a Florida State Championship with his Palm Beach High School golf teammates back in November. And it's always fun watching him compete with his dad at the PNC Championship in December, Kasie. Here's hoping he makes that field because that would be quite the accomplishment at just 15 years old.

HUNT: That would be amazing. I love stories like that. And I have to say I'm going to be interested to see the first time he beats his dad in public. I'm sure it'll happen someday, right?

SCHOLES: That would be great, yeah. They both (INAUDIBLE).

HUNT: All right. Andy, thanks very much for that.


HUNT: And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.