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Isa Soares Tonight

U.N. Security Council Passes Gaza Resolution; Police In Czech Republic Bolster Security Nationwide; Jailed Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Not Seen For 17 Days; Analysis: Israel Drops Massive Bombs On Gaza, Fueling Soaring Civilian Death Toll; Supreme Court Rejects Special Counsel's Request To Hear Trump Presidential Immunity Dispute Now; Supreme Court Won't Expedite Appeal In Trump Immunity Dispute. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 22, 2023 - 14:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to you, I am Richard Quest in for Isa Soares. Tonight, finally, after days of

negotiations, the U.N. Security Council passes a resolution on Gaza, urging more aid to get in, it stopped short of calling for a full ceasefire.

Then, securities ramped up across the Czech Republic after the country's deadliest mass shooting in decades. And growing concern over the

whereabouts of the jailed Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny after 17 days missing.

After days of delays and debate, finally, the U.N. Security Council has just approved a resolution on Gaza that stopped short of calling for a

full ceasefire. It demands the unhindered and expanded delivery of humanitarian aid as well as steps, in their words, to create the conditions

for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.

Those particular words very carefully crafted to avoid a veto by the United States. In the end, the U.S. abstained, even while praising the resolution

as a strong step forward.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: It took many days and many long nights of negotiating to get this right, but today, this

Council provided a glimmer of hope amongst a sea of unimaginable suffering. Today, this Council called for urgent steps to immediately allow safe,

unhindered and expanded humanitarian access.


QUEST: Now, after the vote, Israel vowed to continue its war until all the hostages are released, and Hamas is eradicated from Gaza. U.N. Secretary-

General says a ceasefire is the only way to begin to meet the needs of people in Gaza, and end what he calls their ongoing nightmare.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: Over the last weeks and days, there has been no significant change in the way the war has been

unfolding in Gaza. There is no effective protection of civilians.


QUEST: The vote to boost humanitarian aid to Gaza follows as a U.N.-linked group is warning of an increased risk of famine. The group says the

bombardment and besiegement of the population have caused catastrophic levels of acute hunger, the highest it's recorded for any given area or


The Israelis military top aid coordinator disputes this, there is a crisis, saying there is no food shortage in Gaza. Jerry Diamond spent much of the

day at Kerem Shalom Border Crossing where Israel is inspecting aid trucks headed into Gaza -- he's in Tel Aviv.

Jeremy, I'll be with you in just one second. But I need Alex Marquardt first who's with me in Washington. I mean, the U.S. top business close as

they possibly could in terms of passing the language, calling for conditions that could be ripe for a ceasefire, but eventually signing up.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the U.S. was never going to vote in favor of a resolution that called for an immediate

ceasefire. We've already seen them reject that in the past. They vetoed a recent resolution to that effect at the U.N. Security Council.

So, what you do have here is essentially watered-down compromise language, that makes the point that the sides need to work towards the conditions for

a cessation of violence. It also works towards getting the aid to where it is needed. Richard, these were very contentious negotiations.

The United States wanted to make sure that during this vote today, they did not feel like they had to vote no. They did not feel like they had to veto

it. They either wanted to vote in favor or they wanted to abstain. In this case, this is a resolution that they fully support.

But at the same time, they did abstain. And the reason that they abstained was because there is no condemnation of Hamas. This resolution --

QUEST: Yes --

MARQUARDT: Does not mention Hamas. U.S. officials have said they don't understand why the U.N. Security Council cannot simply condemn Hamas, which

they obviously argue started -- kicked off this war. At the same time, they were heartened to see language that deplores terrorism more generally.


This resolution also calls for all the hostages to be returned immediately, to be freed immediately, and sets out conditions for this aid to be

distributed in a way that is so desperately needed by so many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Richard.

QUEST: OK, now, Jeremy in Tel Aviv. U.N. Security Council -- sorry, the U.N. Secretary-General said the main hindrance to delivering aid is the

Israeli onslaught that's making it just about impossible. From what you've seen today, is it realistic to have this unhindered expanded delivery of

humanitarian aid?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question that it is desperately needed, and something needs to happen to increase

the flow of aid into Gaza. The Israelis will say that they have taken steps, particularly over the last week to do exactly that after a lot of

U.S. pressure, they opened this Kerem Shalom Crossing, which is where I was earlier today, allowing the flow of aid directly from Israel into the Gaza

Strip for the first time since the beginning of this war.

Over the last week, more than 308 trucks have been able to go from Egypt, directly into Israel, get checked at that Kerem Shalom Crossing and cross

into the Gaza Strip. But that is just simply not enough to meet the enormous need that exist in Gaza right now.

When -- before this war started, about 500 trucks of aid as well as commercial shipments were going into Gaza every single day, about 60

percent of that was being handled at this Kerem Shalom --

QUEST: That's right --

DIAMOND: Crossing. And so, it's clear that Israel could take much more aid through this crossing. But the problem, Richard, is not only the fact that

the U.N. is struggling to distribute it, because of the continued bombardment that makes it dangerous for its workers to distribute that aid.

But also, there seems to be a disconnect from Israeli officials about the reality on the ground. Colonel Moshe Tetro, who is the senior military

officer charged with coordinating the delivery of that aid into Gaza, he told me today with a straight face, that there is no food shortage in Gaza.

And that is simply not borne out by the facts on the ground. It's not borne out by the World Food Program, which just yesterday came out with a report,

saying that 50 percent of Gazans are now experiencing severe or --

QUEST: Right --

DIAMOND: Extreme hunger.

QUEST: Jeremy, when you challenge him on that, and I read the transcript. When you challenged him that basically, what planet are you living on? What

did he say?

DIAMOND: Well, he basically said, look with your own eyes. You know, we were standing with a dozen or so trucks around us, he said we are

facilitating the aid. And he effectively pointed the finger back at the --

QUEST: Right --

DIAMOND: United Nations and these other international humanitarian groups. But they -- I've talked to those groups, and they will say, it's because of

the bombardment. We can't --


DIAMOND: Effectively coordinate the distribution Israel isn't providing those kinds of safe corridors for the aid to actually be received on the

other side and then distributed.

QUEST: Jeremy, thank you. Alex, last one to you. You live and breathe this sort of diplomacy. I get it that progress was made today in terms of more

aid will arrive in the fullness of time. But was any progress really made today?

MARQUARDT: I think it was, Richard. In that, you have the U.N. Security Council approving something with no real dissent, and actually saying with

a fairly unified voice that this is a major priority. That the mechanisms to get the aid into Gaza need to be -- need to be better.

That there need to be these humanitarian pauses so that the aid can actually be distributed. And that steps need to be taken towards ending

this conflict. That they all agree that the cessation of hostilities needs to end. But Richard, at the end of the day, this is the United Nations.

These are calls that are being made --

QUEST: Right --

MARQUARDT: By the United -- the Security --

QUEST: Good point --

MARQUARDT: Council. So, they can call for all they want, it doesn't necessarily mean that Israel needs to respect those humanitarian pauses.

They can call for the hostages to be released, certainly does not mean that Hamas is going to be doing that tomorrow.

So, it's certainly a success in the view of Washington, because they did not have to, again, face the wrath of the international community, furious

that they vetoed yet another U.N. resolution that is designed to help the people of Gaza.

So I think this does make a solid step forward in terms of making sure that the world is pressuring the parties, Israel and Hamas, to make sure that,

that aid can get into Gaza, to the people who need it most. But none of this is actually binding, Richard. So it is --

QUEST: Right --

MARQUARDT: That pressure, the symbolism of the United Nations for what that's worth. Richard.

QUEST: Alex, I'm grateful, thank you, sir. Now, normally, at this time of the year, I'd be telling you about the plans -- I'm showing you happy

pictures from Bethlehem as everybody gets ready to celebrate Christmas.


Thousands of people will be going there. However, this year, the streets around Bethlehem are quiet in the biblical birthplace of Jesus. There are

no festive lights, there are no marching bands. That Giant Christmas tree that I've often referred to and shown you, church leaders have canceled

public celebrations in a show of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

It will not be Christmas in Bethlehem as it usually is. And indeed, one Bethlehem judge even created this main jersey, showing the baby Jesus lying

in rubble instead of a crib. And the pastor says the message to the world from this is clear.


MUNTHER ISAAC, LUTHERAN PASTOR (through translator): If Jesus were born today, he would be born in Gaza under the rubble. You see the picture of

Jesus and every child under the rubble in Gaza. So, this is a letter of solidarity with our people in Gaza, an expression of the meaning of

Christmas. God is with the suffering and the oppressed.


QUEST: Of course, as Christmas arrives around the world on Sunday -- Monday, we will of course, have all the events that which you need to be

aware, and that you need to see. As we speak at the moment, security has been ramped up across the Czech Republic after that deadliest peace time

attack we've been talking about.

Prague's police chief has now confirmed 14 students and staff were killed at the shooting at Charles University on Thursday. And we really have no

idea on the motive of the gunman. The police have released this body-cam footage, it gives insight, chilling into what happened during the attack.

You see officers searching through corridors and evacuating people from buildings in the university. The government says three foreign nationals

were among the 25 people also injured. The journalist, Eliska Fajmonova was at Charles University at the time of the shooting at a different part of

the building.

She joins me now from the university in Central Park. Good to have you, thank you for taking the time. Tell me about how things are tonight at the

university, and, indeed, the mood in Prague.

ELISKA FAJMONOVA, JOURNALIST: Hello to the United States, we are now in Prague, in the center of Prague right in front of the Charles University.

We are not, in fact, standing in front of the Faculty of Arts, we are a bit next to it, a few 100 meters, next to the place where the mass shooting


Czech Republic is really not used to that, and that's also why people are - - have been gathering the whole day in front of one of the buildings of the Charles University to commemorate the 14 victims of this mass shooting. It

was in fact, a shooter who came to the university, to the Faculty of Arts to just shoot --

QUEST: Right --

FAJMONOVA: And apparently, as the policeman said today, this attack was also connected to another murder that happened in the surroundings of

Prague about ten days ago. So, as you can see, despite this pouring rain, people are gathering here in front of the Charles University, bringing

candles, lighting them. However --

QUEST: Right --

FAJMONOVA: The place is really silent. You can --


FAJMONOVA: Barely hear anything.

QUEST: Let me ask you, there are -- I hear that in the legislature, the government is already considering new anti-gun laws, barely a day or so

after this has happened, and already, there is a call for new gun laws. Is this likely to be successful?

FAJMONOVA: Well, we don't know. Czech Republic is really not used to this type of attack. This is something very new for us. It is something that we

only know from TV when it regards, for example, the United States or terrorist attacks in the west of Europe. So, this is something completely


I know that there are already big discussions about new rules or laws that could follow this attack. I am a student at the Charles University, and I

already received an e-mail about what to do after such things --

QUEST: Right --

FAJMONOVA: Happen. But we will have to see.

QUEST: I'm grateful for you, it's raining out, go inside and warm, I'm grateful Eliska for joining us tonight. As we continue, you and I, missing

for 70 days and still no sign of Alexei Navalny; the jailed Russian opposition leader. One of his advisors joins me, next.


American being held in Russia is also concerned for his safety. Sometimes Paul Whelan says he feels abandoned. We'll have the latest on his status.


QUEST: Concerns for the jail of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are growing. It's been 17 days since he was first reported missing. Navalny

was supposed to be transferred to another Penal Colony, he has since missed multiple-scheduled court hearings including two that was supposed to take

place today.

He was arrested in 2021 after returning to Russia and is now serving 30 years in prison. His daughter Dasha told my colleague, Erin Burnett, that

she has no idea where he is.


DASHA NAVALNAYA, DAUGHTER OF ALEXEI NAVALNY: And what they're trying to do is they want us to get scared. They want us to stop working, they want the

Anti-Corruption Foundation to fall apart without one of his main leaders, my father.

And it's not going to happen, we're going to continue doing our work, we're going to continue releasing investigations, and I am going to continue

coming on CNN and talking about these issues.


QUEST: Now, CNN has contacted Russia's prison service to clarify Navalny's whereabouts. Earlier this month, the Kremlin said it doesn't have the

capacity nor willingness to monitor prisoners whereabouts. Vladimir Milov is with me, a former Russian politician, now an adviser to Navalny. Sir,

thank you for taking the time. Simple question, when you ask the prisoner service where is he? What do they say?

VLADIMIR MILOV, ADVISER TO ALEXEI NAVALNY: Oh, great to be with you, thanks for having me. Usually, you have to send formal written inquiries,

which is also a tedious process. So, you have to wait until you get the replies and answers. And the colleagues have been actually bombarding all

the known detention institutions in Russia, trying to find Navalny across the country.

So they got certain replies from some of the facilities, and they confirmed that Navalny is not present. The others haven't answered yet. So that's a

constant process. As a matter of fact, they can say no, but Navalny may appear there the next day. So we got to keep thinking that's the very time

and effort-consuming process, and we --

QUEST: Right --

MILOV: Hope to find out soon, but so far, no answer.

QUEST: What do you think -- where do you think he is? What do you think is happening?


MILOV: Well, first, I think that's a deliberate tactic. It is no coincidence that Navalny disappeared exactly the moment when the so-called

sham presidential elections were announced, and Putin announced that he's going to be running again for -- sorry, I lost count for which term

already. Also many other repressive things are happening at the same time.

Putin is really willing to show that he's going to enter the Kremlin office for another term through intimidation, through repression, through pressure

on the society. And that's clearly a blackmail against all the opposition forces. He wants to keep us nervous, he wants to give us -- to give up

whatever fight we are engaged in, and only monitor what happens to Navalny.

I think it's also a form of pressure on him personally. That's clearly --

QUEST: Right --

MILOV: A form of physical torture, isolation from all the contact with the outside world.

QUEST: And awful to put it in these terms, and I hope you'll forgive me, but if anything happens to Navalny, if he's killed, murdered, if he's -- if

more things happen to him, does -- how does that help in a sense, Putin? Because does that not just whip up greater opposition or does it just cower

people into submission and fear?

MILOV: You know, Richard, one thing is that Putin, and we know this very well from his quarter of a century in power, he's also a very revengeful

man, a very revengeful person. Sometimes this goes well beyond Russianality(ph), and we can see a lot of that with absolutely barbaric

attacks, bombardments and horrific war crimes committed in Ukraine.

He clearly hates Ukrainians for all these decades of resistance against his attempts to subjugate them into Russian resurrected empire. Same with

Navalny. He clearly hates him personally, he wasted no effort in creating a really massive inter-agency poisoning squad that followed him for long

months to murder him. So, I think this revengeful element is probably --

QUEST: Right --

MILOV: More important here than some rational thinking.

QUEST: Grateful to have you with us, thank you. An update now on the American Paul Whelan, who's been wrongfully detained in Russia since 2018.

In a call with CNN on Wednesday, Whelan said he's afraid for his safety after being assaulted by another inmate in a Russian prison camp last


U.S. Marine Corps veteran is serving a 16-year sentence after he was accused of being a spy which he vehemently denies. CNN's Brian Todd has our



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American Paul Whelan wrongfully detained in Russia for 5 years now faces new dangers in a

Russian prison camp. Whelan tells CNN he's being targeted by an official at the remote camp in the Mordovia region where he's being held.

Whelan says the official is retaliating against him because the official was admonished following an assault on Whelan by another inmate on November

28th. We spoke to Whelan's sister about his latest account.

ELIZABETH WHELAN, PAUL WHELAN'S SISTER: I am concerned and horrified, but not surprised to hear of these latest issues he is having. Mordovia is very

isolated, I'm sure that the prison guards are used to being able to get away with an awful lot without anybody paying any attention to them


TODD: According to Whelan, the prison official, who he did not name, called on prisoners to instigate fights with Whelan so that Whelan himself

would be disciplined. He says prisoners on the official's behalf, asked him for $1,100 in protection money, the exact amount that's in Whelan's prison

account. Quote, "prisoners would not have known that unless they had been told".

Then he said of the prison official, quote, "having no luck with obtaining the money, he ordered me to move to a different barrack, which would expose

me to criminal behavior as well as the potential of assault." The White House calls Whelan's latest accounts troubling, and says it will address

this with Russian officials.


and Russians rebuffed it, regardless of what Mr. Putin says, and we're working hard to see what we can do to get another proposal that might be

more successful to get both him and Evan out.

TODD: John Kirby is referring to "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, who's also wrongfully-detained in Russia. Paul Whelan gave CNN

even more chilling details of the dangers he now faces from other inmates, quote, "most people carry knives here, and many use stimulants which can

make them wild and violent.

SARAH MENDELSON, FORMER U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL AT U.N.: The conditions like all Russian prisons are very bad, right? So, the prison guards are

controlling access to the bathroom, food, light, day, your mobility. And you know, this fact of corruption is particularly intense.

TODD: I asked Whelan's sister if he carries any kind of a weapon to protect himself.


E. WHELAN: Paul has gone out of his way to make sure that there is nothing that can be done or said about him that would cause him to incur additional

charges, because that's what the Russians will do. They will add charges onto your sentence.

TODD: Whelan also told CNN, he feels threatened because he is an American, and that the prisoners in his camp, quote, "don't look too kindly upon the

U.S. support of Israel in Gaza.

(on camera): Paul Whelan told CNN that when he spoke to prison officials about his security concerns, they told him he could go to solitary

confinement 24 hours a day. CNN has reached out to the prison for comment on all of this, we have not heard back. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


QUEST: As we continue tonight, the devastating scale of destruction in Gaza, new analysis reveals how tense the Israeli bombing campaign has been.

And we'll tell you new reports shows how far Donald Trump went to toss out his Michigan election loss. And it doesn't look good for the head of the

Republican Party either. All of that on the other side.


QUEST: New analysis is indicating how intense the Israeli bombing of Gaza has been since the war began. The analysis from CNN suggests Israeli forces

have dropped hundreds of 2,000-pound bombs on densely-packed areas of civilians. Now, I'm warning you, some of the images you're about to see are

graphic. Here's our chief international investigative correspondent Nima Elbagir.



NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Even at a distance, the devastation ruled on Gaza is unmistakable.



ELBAGIR: We are a few hundred meters here from the boundary with Gaza, but even here, you get a sense of the degree of the Israeli bombardment of

Gaza, the sheer intensity and scale.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): This is what that looks like up close. Scenes of destruction have become all too familiar. Here, the aftermath of another

Israeli airstrike. This time, in late October at the Jabalia Refugee Camp, one of the most densely populated residential areas in Gaza. The bomb that

caused this damage is a 2,000-pound bomb, likely made in the USA, dropped by the Israeli Air Force, at least four times as powerful as the vast

majority of the bombs used by the U.S. in its fight against ISIS.

In densely populated Gaza, the human cost is incomparable. Whole families wiped out in one place. Jabalia Refugee Camp is one of the epicenters of

Israel's bombing campaign. To understand the complete picture and scale of the destruction in Gaza, you need to look from above. In coordination with

artificial intelligence company, Synthetaic, CNN was able to locate over 1,900 craters left behind by bombardment in just the first month of the

war. Using AI, we analyzed the diameter of these craters. Over 500 of which were greater than 40 feet in diameter, consistent with American made 2,000-

pound bombs used by the Israeli air force.

Our analysis covers the one month period to November 6th, in which a staggering 10,000 people are believed to have died. The U.S.'s most senior

Middle East diplomat testified on November 9th. The number of dead could be even higher.


BARBARA LEAF, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: And in this period of conflict and conditions of war, it is very difficult

for any of us to assess what the rate of casualties are. We think they're very high, frankly, and it could be that they're even higher than they're

being cited.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Yet the U.S. continues to back Israel's bombardment. So, why is the death toll so staggering? Because it's not just about the

point of impact. This is a crater caused by a 2,000-pound bomb. The potential kill zone from that crater can spread up to 365 meters. That's

1,200 feet, an area equivalent to roughly 60 soccer pitches, or around 90 American football fields.

The IDF told CNN, "In stark contrast to Hamas's intentional attacks on Israeli men, women, and children, the IDF follows international law and

takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm." But is that true? This is just north of Shati Refugee Camp along the main coastal road. When

you go in closer, you can see in just this small neighborhood, at least nine craters, consistent with 2,000-pound bombs. Which means the potential

kill zone could encompass this entire area.

CNN and Synthetaic's analysis of the devastation of Gaza shows extensive bombardment. In an area this densely populated and using these bombs, it's

inherently indiscriminate. And the human cost continues to soar, surpassing 20,000. Many of the dead still unburied, still under the rubble, with no

end in sight. Nima Elbagir, CNN, Sderot.


QUEST: Breaking news, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request from the Special Counsel Jack Smith to quickly decide whether Donald Trump has

any immunity from federal prosecution for alleged crimes committed while in office. Let's join my colleagues in the United States for more on this


JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: As the President of the United States, he was just trying to cling on to -- cling to power.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and you know, Jack Smith made a big point about the former President trying to disenfranchise millions of voters, and

there was a situation right there in Detroit, Michigan. Again, allegations. But those -- and those will be tested in trial, but now that trial, where

both sides would be able to present their case, is now months away.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: And Evan, what's your takeaway from this? I mean, this came down pretty quickly, but if I'm not mistaken, Jack Smith, he

asked once, and he sort of asked again to say, hey, we really need you to give us something on this. The Supreme Court said, OK.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Supreme Court actually told -- gave these very tight deadlines to both sides to weigh in

before making this decision. It was clear that there, at least somebody, John Roberts and perhaps some others, on the court where --


Did want to at least take a look at this and decide whether to consider this full request.

And what we see here now is that they're saying, well, you know, we also know that obviously the Appeals Court had also decided to move very

quickly. They set very tight deadlines and they have scheduled January 9th for oral arguments on these very same questions. So, it's quite possible

that people -- some of the other justices thought, well, let's wait for that.

But let me just say this. You know, Smith makes a pretty strong argument here that this case, if you compare it to precedent, right, which is 1974,

the Nixon case, and those urgent questions that were being put before the court at that point, they took a look at that case. They expedited it. They

skipped over the appellate process. They heard that case in two months and they rendered a decision in 16 days after oral arguments. So, that -- what

Jack Smith said in his request, he says, here, the stakes are at least as high, if not higher, for a resolution to come because obviously we have

that -- we all know the electoral calendar. We know the ballots are being printed literally in the next couple of weeks. And so the question that is

before this court is really, really urgent.

So, what this means, guys, I think, you know, clearly the March 4th trial is in grave danger of actually happening at that point. It's most likely

not going to be anywhere near there because of this process. But again, you know, these courts can act quickly if they choose to do so.

KEILAR: I do, Jeff, want to look at this through a political lens. But first, I just want to bring in Elie Honig real quick because we do have him

on the phone and we should certainly talk about the legal side of this before we look at it through that political lens. It's important to note,

Elie, and I wonder if you think this may have had some bearing on what the Supreme Court decided.

In fairness, it is a very short ruling here. We do not know what -- the reasoning behind it. But Jack Smith, as he was explaining why he wanted

this expedited, he did not give a specific reason in his filing other than to talk about really the public interest. The policy here was he couldn't

invoke the 2024 election. Although I think when a lot of people look at this, they say, well, maybe it should have been expedited because maybe

there should be a trial before the election so that people who are voting yes or no on Donald Trump, you know, have a full picture of what's going on

here. Do you think that that had a bearing, his argument that maybe was sort of maybe not as strong as it could have been?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (via phone): Well, Brianna, I think that's exactly the biggest weakness in Jack Smith's argument that this

needed to be expedited. Let's remember, the party who was asking the Supreme Court to do something unusual here was Jack Smith. He was saying we

want to skip the Court of Appeals, which now will not happen. The next step will be the Court of Appeals. But Jack Smith was saying we want to skip the

Court of Appeals and have you, Supreme Court, take this case immediately. And if you're going to make that request legally, you, Jack Smith, bear the

burden of explaining specifically why there's a need for speed here.

Jack Smith, because he has been unwilling and remains unwilling to acknowledge that he wants to try this case before the election, instead was

left, if you look at his briefs, to argue these sort of vague generalities about speed is good and delay is bad and public interest. But he never says

because we need to get this in before the election. And in his brief, Donald Trump's lawyers attacked that. They say all that Jack Smith is

offered up here is generalities that would apply to any case. They do not offer a specific reason.

Brianna, as you say, we don't know the exact reason why the Supreme Court has turned this down for now. But it is really important to keep in mind.

The next step here will be the Court of Appeals. Donald Trump lost his immunity argument at the District Court, the trial court. He will now get

to go to the Court of Appeals. That will take a few weeks, as Evan said. They've set a very quick briefing schedule. And then the Supreme Court

might take it then. This does not mean the Supreme Court will never take this case. It just means they're going to have the Court of Appeals take it


And I think what this does, as Evan said, this makes the March 4th trial date almost impossible for hold. I think this means that trial date is

going to be pushed back, perhaps substantially.

ACOSTA: And, Joan, I know you're still with us and you want to respond to what Elie is saying. But it sounds as, I mean, we're not getting a

resolution on the immunity issue. We're just getting an issue on whether this is going to be expedited.

BISKUPIC: That's exactly right. And I think the Supreme Court eventually is going to have to decide this. The Supreme Court is the only bench that can

decide this falling. And I would just respond to what Elie said about the Trump lawyers' arguments, Jack Smith had a chance to come back and respond

to Trump's lawyers' claims that he wasn't specific enough. And he did not even try to take that on. What he wanted to take on was the very important

first principles question here involving the separation of powers, involving presidential shield from criminal prosecution.


And he likened it to some of the weightiest issues out there, essentially saying, I don't need this, you know, the message was, I don't need to be

specific on why. This is such a big question of a former president who is trying to elude accountability for his actions. And we need an answer on

that sooner rather than later. And finally, Jim, to your initial point, there is no way this doesn't go back to the U.S. Supreme Court, because no

matter what the appellate court does, the Supreme Court is going to have to resolve this once and for all in this case of Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: As they should.

QUEST: So, the breaking news there, that the Supreme Court has rejected the attempt by the Special Counsel, Jack Smith, to have an expedited, or quick,

if you will, get it to the Supreme Court and decide on Donald Trump's immunity as president to face further trials. And said they've said, nope,

we're not going to hear it quickly. It has to go -- so we don't know the reasons, but it has to go through the normal route, so now the courts of

appeal will listen and decide that before. But few doubt that question of presidential immunity will end up at the Supreme Court at some point,

sooner probably than later.


QUEST: Vin Diesel, one of the world's biggest movie franchises and stars, Fast and Furious, has been accused of sexual battery by a former assistant.

Asta Jonasson alleges that the actor forced himself onto her in a hotel suite in 2010 and then masturbated in front of her. A civil suit was filed

in Los Angeles on Thursday. It sued the actor, his production company and his sister. It's important for me now to say that Diesel denies the

allegations completely.

Elizabeth Wagmeister, CNN's Entertainment Correspondent, joins me in Los Angeles. Now, with the scene set that she's made the allegations, he's made

his denial, I think what we need to look at here is the, if you like, the life that these allegations take once they are made, because there are

consequences in the allegation just being made. Tell me more.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: That is absolutely correct. So, in this world of social media.


And really the world of Hollywood, where public image and your persona means everything for your star power, these allegations are very damaging.

Now, as you said, Vin Diesel has denied this, but still you make an excellent point, which is that the allegation is out there. That is not

something that the public can unhear. They know that he has now been alleged of sexual battery and wrongful termination. It is a very detailed

lawsuit from 2010. That is when this alleged incident occurred in a hotel room in Atlanta.

The accuser says that Vin Diesel forcibly pinned her up against a wall. She couldn't get away. I actually have a piece from the lawsuit that I want to

read to you right now with some of these allegations. It says, "Vin Diesel forcibly grabbed Ms. Jonasson, groped her breasts, and kissed her. Ms.

Jonasson struggled continually to break free of his grass while repeatedly saying no. Vin Diesel is physically larger and much stronger than Ms.

Jonasson and abused his position of authority as her employer and was able to easily overpower Ms. Jonasson."

Now, as you said, Vin Diesel has denied this. I have a statement from his attorney, Bryan Freedman, he categorically denies all claims. And yet, we

will see what life this takes on. Does this go away quickly? Are there more allegations that come forward? These are all things that we have to keep a

very close eye on.

QUEST: Now, of course, we followed during the week Jonathan Majors, who was actually convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Now, Marvel Studios

severed ties with him. And they severed ties with him upon the conviction. So obviously, in all these cases, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

In this case, what does the Fast and Furious franchise have coming down the road, pardon the pun, that, you know, what's still being made that's in

jeopardy if this were to go the wrong way for Diesel?

WAGMEISTER: It's an excellent question because Fast and Furious, that is one of the most successful film franchise of all time. It has made over $7

billion, and Vin Diesel really is the star of that franchise. The most recent one that came out was one of their most successful. So, if Vin

Diesel ends up continuing to be in this legal trouble, that will be a big problem for Universal, which is the studio behind Fast and Furious.

Now, we also have to remember this is not the only franchise that Vin Diesel is part of. He voices the character Groot in Guardians of the

Galaxy, which comes from Marvel. And as we know, these franchises, they're never really done until they are done. If they make money, the studios will

make another one. So, Vin Diesel is at the center of two huge franchises. If this continues, we will hear from them.

Right now, though, as we said, it is one woman coming forward with this lawsuit. Very serious allegations, but he denies them. So we need to see

how this will continue to play out.

QUEST: And I can only imagine the PR swirl that is going on at all those studios and production companies, even as we speak. Listen, I'm very

grateful for your time. Thank you so much putting that into context for me. Thank you.

Lionel Messi is continuing to call on his former teammates to join him in the United States. This time with ex-Barcelona and Liverpool striker Luis

Suarez, who's on his way to Florida, into Miami to announce the signing of the 36-year-old on a one-year contract. Messi has now brought three of his

old Barcelona teammates to Miami. He's open to replicate the success they had in Spain into Miami. We'll kick off the new Major League soccer season

on February the 21st.

As we continue tonight, busy holiday travel is officially underway. Airlines, roads, trains, millions of people are getting away as the start

of this weekend. Wherever you're going, I suspect there'll be some trouble and misery, but I'll certainly try and make it a little easier for you

after the break.



QUEST: Update you on our breaking news story, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the request from the Special Counsel Jack Smith to skip the

Federal Appeals Court and speedily decide whether Donald Trump has immunity from federal prosecutions for crimes committed while in office.

No doubt the Supreme Court will eventually get the case, but it's going to be some time now, and that's seen as a blow to Smith and a victory for


Tens of millions of you are on the move. Twenty million drives in the U.K., more across Europe, travelling to get holiday getaways between now and

Christmas Eve and Christmas. Busy roadways are just the latest holiday travel headache. Several Euro-style trains were cancelled when Eurotunnel

workers took part in an unscheduled strike.

For the air travelers, we had storms in the U.K., bad weather elsewhere, and long lines reported all across the world, even for those who paid to

get through quickly. TSA PreCheck and Clear reporting longer times than usual.

And joining me now CNN's Polo Sandoval. You know, it's miserable, but it's fun and people are traveling.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, that last bit of information, Richard, it is a little bit of a source subject for some of us

frequent travelers here in the United States. That is because the number of passengers that are enrolling in those expedited screening programs from

the TSA and from Clear continues to increase. And with that, the chances that you'll probably have to wait in line, in longer lines than those of

the folks in the regular queues. One of the reasons why is because the Department of Homeland Security that oversees, TSA PreCheck recording about

18 million passengers who have been rolled in their program since it was first introduced in 2011.

Now, TSA PreCheck, Clear, they're saying that they're working on their numbers, their presence at the airport to try to make things go a little

faster. But really, it is a bit counterproductive. And I should say, that's not the case at every single airport in the United States.

I will also tell you this, those lines will take any help that they can get, given the record breaking numbers of travelers that we're expecting

this year alone. According to AAA, it says that about 150 million Americans will actually be travelling. A vast majority of them will be driving to

their destinations, but a little over seven million are coming to these airports, getting on airplanes, and then heading to their destinations as


Just yesterday alone, Richard, about 2.5 million people used TSA checkpoints.


That was a number that was higher than expected. Today, that number will only get higher. Richard.

QUEST: Polo Sandoval, I am grateful for you.

In Britain, it has been announced that Christmas, number one, number one this Christmas, Wham! Last Christmas.

Now, the extraordinary thing about this from George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, last Christmas hadn't actually been top of the U.K. charts before

at Christmas. Indeed, it was denied number one 39 years ago by Band Aid in 1984. Today, of course, I mean, George Michael tragically died some years

ago, today, Wham!'s Andrew Ridgeley says, George said he wrote Last Christmas with the intention of it writing Christmas, number one.

And so from Andrew Ridgeley talking about George Michael and the Christmas number one in the U.K., last Christmas, it is, "Mission accomplished," our

quote of the day.

I'm very grateful for your time and attention tonight. I will have more from you on the other side of this break. This is CNN.