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Isa Soares Tonight

Sam Bankman-Fried Gets 25 Years in Prison; Starving Children Fill Hospital Wards As Famine Looms in Gaza; Ukraine Targets Russian Oil Refineries; Putin Rejecting Speculation That Moscow Is Planning To Attack NATO Countries; Russia's War On Ukraine; Milie's Terrorist Insult; Obama, Clinton Join Biden Fundraiser; Trump Attends NYPD Office Wake; President Biden Is In New York In New York For A Fundraising Event. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 14:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very good day to you, I am Richard Quest, in for Isa Soares. In our program tonight, 25 years in

prison for the crypto fraudster, Sam Bankman-Fried convicted of stealing more than $8 billion from customers.

We'll have the verdict and analysis. Another child die from starvation in Gaza as the number of hunger-related deaths increases. It's a reminder of

the dire situation. And Ukrainian drones now targeting Russian oil refineries. The strikes and what they're doing to Moscow's biggest money-


The former head of FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried has been sentenced to 25 years in a federal prison. Sentence is for his role in the collapse of the

cryptocurrency exchange. Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud and conspiracy. He told the court, "my useful life is probably over."

The 32-year-old now faces decades behind bars. The recommended sentence was harsher, in fact, prosecutors wanted him until at least his 80th birthday.

It is one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history. The prosecutors estimate that FTX customers and investors lost more than $10 billion.

Bankman-Fried said his decisions haunt him every day. CNN's Kara Scannell is in New York and joins us. I read parts of the sentencing by the judge.

He was pretty -- well, not pretty, he was very direct, left nothing to be imagined.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Richard, that's right. I mean, the judge was saying that he thought that Sam Bankman-Fried was exceptionally

smart. He said he's a really good marketing guy, and he said that he listened to Bankman-Fried address him today in court where Bankman-Fried

said he was sorry, he made mistakes.

But the judge said he didn't show any remorse, and that was a key issue. The judge saying that he knew Sam Bankman-Fried knew what he did was wrong

when he used investor money, $8 billion worth of it to make risky investments and to buy real estate in the Bahamas among other things.

So, the judge, you know, looking at -- he had -- Sam Bankman-Fried was standing as a judge, directed his sentence to him and told him that because

he hadn't shown remorse, and because he was so smart and savvy, the judge thought if he released him -- if he gave him a short sentence, that

Bankman-Fried could do this again.

So, what key message that the judge had for him today was one of deterrence. The judge saying that there is a risk that this man will be in

a position to do something very bad in the future, and it's not a trivial risk. He did reject prosecutors requests for a sentence of 40 to 50 years

in prison.

He thought that was too much, but 25 years is still a lengthy sentence, especially in a white-collar case. And it means that when the time is up,

Bankman-Fried, who is 32 years old now will be 57.

QUEST: And was he immediately taken into custody, because I'm sure obviously, he appealed against the sentence. But was he -- was he locked up


SCANNELL: Yes, he was removed from the courtroom by the U.S. marshals. And Bankman-Fried has been in federal detention since August. That is when the

judge revoked his bail after finding that Bankman-Fried had engaged in witness-tampering after his arrest.

So, Bankman-Fried hasn't been a free man or have been able to walk around since August. Of course, he went through his criminal trial in the Fall,

testified on the witness stand. You know, today, he was taken right back into custody where he will now, you know, begin serving this serious


The judge said he would recommend that he serve it in a medium security prison because he was concerned about the notoriety that Bankman-Fried has

if he were to be in a high security prison.

QUEST: Yes, there's a -- one of the interesting things is this lack of remorse that the judge talked about again and again, even in his statement,

before sentence, Bankman-Fried saw -- I mean, the only way one can really put it is, he sort of said sorry, but never went all the way.

SCANNELL: Yes, I mean, that's right. I mean, some of the key phrases that I noted from what he had said --

QUEST: All right --

SCANNELL: You know, he said, I am sorry, a lot of people felt really let down and they were let down, and he said, there are things I should have

done and there are things I shouldn't have done. If he talked about how he and his colleagues, many of them pleaded guilty and testified against him,

built something beautiful, and he said, I threw it all away, it haunts me every day, I made a series of bad decisions.


I was the CEO, I was responsible, but he didn't say that he --

QUEST: Right --

SCANNELL: Didn't admit to committing these crimes, and he didn't act as remorseful as the judge would have expected to have heard from him.

QUEST: Final thought from you, I liked this bit where he talked about Las Vegas because Bankman-Fried had said, they'll get their money back, the

money was there, and the judge basically said if you steal money, going to -- go to Las Vegas and win and then give it back. It's still wrong.

SCANNELL: Right, I mean, one of the big things in this case is that prosecutor said, you know, investors lost $8 billion and --

QUEST: Right --

SCANNELL: Bankman-Fried's attorneys were saying, you know, the bankruptcy process is recovering some of that money, but the judge said that is just

speculative. It is not clear people will make their money back, and not to mention that, people will make the money back at the price of the

cryptocurrency was in November of 2022.

Some of these currencies have gone up by 400 percent. So, they might be made whole, but that is something that are still not played out.

QUEST: It's fascinating case, I'm grateful for you, thank you very much, Kara Scannell joining me. Heavy fighting is reported around two hospitals

in Gaza including Al-Shifa in Gaza city. Israeli forces say they're conducting precise operations against militants for the eleventh day.

So far, 200 people have been killed, residents say homes near the hospital have been hit and children are amongst the dead. They say other children

are still alive and the rubble rescue teams can't reach them or haven't got them facilities necessary.

A medical source telling CNN a six-year-old boy died today from malnutrition at a different hospital in northern Gaza. This video of the

child was filmed earlier this month showing him frail in the hospital bed, 30 people in all as we said to have been reported to have died from hunger-

related causes.

The International Court of Justice today said Gaza isn't only facing the risk of famine, but famine is now setting in. In a follow-up to its January

order, it now says Israel must immediately take all necessary steps to ensure Palestinians are receiving life-saving aid.

Melissa Bell is with me in Jerusalem. Melissa, let's do this first. Let's do this idea of the court saying more must be done. Israel is already under

instructions from the court to do something which possibly and probably hasn't done. So, what's the significance of this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've heard also, Richard, of course, that Ireland has now joined or is choosing to join with an

intervention on South Africa's side. You'll remember this was a case filed at the International Court of Justice at the end of last year, we had that

preliminary ruling of course, Richard, in January that you referred to, ordering Israel to take all necessary measures to prevent the committing of

genocidal acts in Gaza.

But calling short of calling for an immediate ceasefire. So far, that appears to have borne little fruit on the ground. There is now this

intervention by Ireland backing South Africa. We've already had an intervention early on. The first other country to get involved beyond

Israel and South Africa, Germany, a couple of months ago on the side of Israel, claiming that South Africa had no reason to bring this case and

there was no case of genocide.

Right now, for the time being, there's very little to suggest that Israel has taken on board the initial order or that it will take on board any

future orders as to the facts of the case. The substantial facts of the case, they continue to be ruled on by the ICJ, and that could of course

take years, but so far, certainly, and what -- in terms of what we're seeing, in terms of the ferocity, the relentlessness of the military

campaign, and of course, the worsening strangulation of the Palestinian people as a result of that siege day after today.

We haven't seen anything to suggest either that they have slowed things down or let things up, whether they have any intention, Richard, to do so.

QUEST: This -- the ongoing violence and the death of the child from essentially malnutrition. The situation is deteriorating --

BELL: Sorry, Richard, I'm not sure I can hear you anymore. To the question --

QUEST: Can you hear me, Melissa?

BELL: Of the worsening humanitarian situation though, you mentioned a moment ago, the young Muhammad al-Najjar(ph), who's become the 30th

casualty, fatality of this worsening famine, dying today of the results of malnutrition, dehydration, hunger. This is likely to be just the beginning

of much worse to come.

That's certainly what the United Nations is warning of. It's published a map today showing the great difficulty there is in getting aid into the

Gaza Strip, speaking of continued impediments and time-running out, and there is so much more to be done, given the needs inside the Gaza Strip.


And then of course, as you mentioned a moment ago, the relentless military campaign itself, we've seen those images around the Al-Shifa and Al-Amal

Hospitals, also those testimony is coming from Palestinians nearby. One family saying that a strike earlier today buried six of its children with

some of them still alive.

They claim -- and the other eyewitness statements that we've been hearing, Palestinians, journalists and doctors among them, telling CNN of detention

and abuses at the hand of the IDF. Now, these are allegations we've put to the Israeli Defense Forces for now that they haven't replied to.

The IDF continues to claim that these are targeted operational activities of both hospitals that are necessary because they claim that Hamas has come

back. And I think that's interesting because even as the world waits to see what they do with Rafah, and as the United States tries to urge them to

show restraint, it is, of course, the question of what happens in the north where we had heard that the operations should be calming down, the intense

period was over.

They've had to get back to Rafah, they say, because Hamas has come back, Richard.

QUEST: Melissa Bell in Jerusalem, I'm grateful, thank you. Now, we're turning to our top story, Sam Bankman-Fried has got 25 years in prison.

Yesha Yadav is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean at Vanderbilt Law School, where indeed I went back in the mid 1980s, long time ago.

Anyway, the good professor specializes in markets, cryptocurrency and corporate bankruptcy and joins me now. Are you surprised at the severity of

the sentence or should it have been more?

YESHA YADAV, ASSOCIATE DEAN, VANDERBILT LAW SCHOOL: Richard, thanks so much for having me on the show today. I'm not surprised by this sentence at

all. This sentence treads a pretty middle ground between what the prosecution was asking for, 40 to 50 years and what the defense was

proposing, which is a very short five to six years at the time.

Now, what this sentence seeks to do is do what the judge is looking to do, which is deter future bad behavior in the industry, as well as to

underscore just how serious Sam Bankman-Fried's crimes have been. The judge was extremely focused on the impact on the victims. He was extremely

focused on the pain that was caused, and what was clear to me was that the judge was very conscious that Sam Bankman-Fried did not appear remorseful

and he was certainly not buying what Sam Bankman-Fried was selling today, which was an attempt at an apology in court.

So, this sentence certainly does not surprise me, what it does leave open in the future is that it does allow for SPF to have some form of a free

life in his 50s at some point. But it does mean that his most productive --

QUEST: Right --

YADAV: Professional years will not be there.

QUEST: The whole concept on the wider issue, the whole concept of cryptocurrency, the very idea of it, I mean, the real crypto hawks want as

little regulation as possible. They see it as being the absolute epitome against the establishment and establishment terrorism. So, to strike a blow

if you will, for the ordinary investor is quite significant.

YADAV: Well, Richard, I think that posture is changing a little bit. I think what the SPF crisis and the FTX crisis has made sure is that many in

the cryptocurrency universe are actually calling for more regulation. That, this is a space that needs more regulation.

QUEST: Yes --

YADAV: In fact, many of the folks that have been shilling for extremely high sentencing for SPF have been very vocal about the fact that line needs

to be drawn under this chapter, and that the future needs to show a greater commitment to reform in order simply to win back the trust of customers,

which cannot come if instances like this keep repeating themselves.

QUEST: One of the interesting -- on a slightly separate issue, the -- I noticed that -- you'll remember the LIBOR, the interest rates scandal --

YADAV: Yes --

QUEST: Ending, one of the defendants have now lost appeal against -- they were allowed to appeal, even though as many years later, but they lost that

appeal against conviction. You know, authorities are being a lot -- prosecuting white-collar crime at the highest level is very difficult.

Juries get lost.

It's hard to make -- you know this better than anybody, professor, has the tide turned, do you think?

YADAV: The tide has turned, I think what the prosecutors in this case showed is that they were able to make an extremely compelling, clear case

against SPF. What was obvious was the jury returned a verdict in a matter of hours.

They were extremely decisive. And that is a credit to the prosecutors that were able to create a very compelling narrative from an extremely complex

set of facts.


So, what that really makes clear is that even though there are complexities to finances, you know, very well, Richard --

QUEST: Yes --

YADAV: That, you know, prosecutors are willing to do the hard work to make the case to juries and make it so well that, you know, the judge has no

choice, but to deliver such difficult sentences. So, indeed, it's a risk in finance that prosecutors always faced, but they're clearly very skilled at

their job, given the evidence that we've seen in this case.

QUEST: Many thanks, good to see you, professor, I'm grateful, thank you.

YADAV: Thank you. Thank you --

QUEST: Officials in the city of Baltimore, the priority now reopening the shipping channel. Search efforts are pausing for salvage and wreckage

operation. The White House said a heavy lift crane will be brought in. Meanwhile, bodies of two construction workers have been recovered, four are

still missing and presumed dead. They're all immigrants to the United States.

And new traffic cam footage shows -- let's just pause and see, the ship is visible, you can see that on the right of the screen, it's about half-way

under the span when the inevitable happens, as we know. You can see, hit about now as the ship goes underneath, knocks out the structs and the


The image shows traffic was stopped before the impact after the crews had given the Mayday call. Maryland governor says emergency -- starts to give

the emergency signal certainly saved lives. Joining us from Baltimore is our correspondent Brian Todd. Brian. So, the -- those missing are presumed


But the challenge, the immediate challenge now is to open the channel, and of course, recover the bodies once you've removed the super structure and

the wreckage.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Richard, and that's a very complicated task and a very dangerous task. That search has been actually

switched from a recovery operation to a salvage operation. It's not clear if they really expect to find the bodies of the four people presumed to be

dead, but they're going to keep trying to do that.

But again, conditions very dangerous for divers in the water, because it's been bad weather here that has complicated the search, very cold water and

very murky water, but also the fact that there's so much twisted metal and concrete under the surface that the divers have to navigate around.

That's very dangerous for the divers. And so, they've really had to navigate some of that and negotiate some of that as they've gone along

here. But again, this has now gone from a recovery operation to a salvage operation. Meanwhile, you've got billions of dollars worth of cargo traffic

that has basically come to a sudden stop, not only inside Baltimore harbor where we are, but outside the harbor.

I'm going to kind of step away from the camera and give you an illustration of that, Richard, that's the Polar Anca Rio(ph), that's one of the ships

that's basically stuck in Baltimore harbor right now, we are told by officials that there are total of 11 ships in addition to the Dali; that's

the container ship that struck the bridge.

Eleven ships in addition to that, that are now stuck in Baltimore harbor and cannot move. Those include three bulk carriers and oil and chemical

tanker and one vehicle carrier. But again, 11 ships that can't move from this harbor, but earlier today, my colleague Joe Merkel(ph) and I were down

about 25 miles south of here in the Chesapeake Bay, where there were several tankers and cargo ships just at anchorage there.

But 25 miles south in the bay, these ships are just waiting for guidance on where to go. And that's something that Transportation Secretary Pete

Buttigieg and other officials have been talking about over the past couple of days. Their challenge now is to reroute some of that Maritime traffic to

the port of Virginia and elsewhere, Richard.

QUEST: Is -- and feel free to say, no idea at all. Is anybody coming up with any timeline for when that channel might reopen?

TODD: Well, we just had worked from one of the experts that CNN spoke to, that he thinks it could be open as early as sometime in May, but again, you

know, that's going to probably be contingent upon a lot of things going right between now and then. We do know, Richard, that there is a heavy

crane that's going to be arriving late tonight, they are bringing heavy floating cranes up here to try to remove some of the large debris.

But once those cranes get on site, Richard, it's going to take them a while to remove all of that, because they've got to chop it up into smaller

pieces just to get it out of there. So, again, it would take days just to get that stuff in place --

QUEST: Right --

TODD: And then several more days to remove it. And of course, you know, in addition to the search for the four missing gentlemen who are presumed


QUEST: Brian, I'm grateful for you there, thank you sir. As we continue tonight on ISA SOARES TONIGHT, attorneys for Donald Trump argue that his

election interference case in Georgia should be thrown out. We'll discuss what they told the judge.



QUEST: We are now waiting on a ruling from the judge who will decide whether to dismiss Donald Trump's election subversion case or move forward

with it. It's Judge Scott McAfee who heard arguments from Trump's attorneys in the case, then it should be thrown out because of comments made by the

former president about the 2020 results in Georgia protected by the First Amendment even if those statements are false.

The prosecutor pushed back saying that the former president's lies helped fuel a criminal conspiracy. Zach Cohen has been following the proceedings,

Zach is with me now. As we -- I mean, I sort of feel we've been over this in some shape or form, the First Amendment argument about that case and

what he said, or indeed in the -- in other cases, haven't we been -- haven't we been through this already.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN REPORTER: You're absolutely right, Richard. We've heard this before, and this was -- including from two of Trump's former co-

defendants in the Georgia case. They tried to get the case thrown out under this claim that their speech and that their false claims about voter fraud

in the 2020 election were covered by the First Amendment.

The Judge, Judge Scott McAfee summarily dismissed and denied those motions previously. And we've also heard this in the federal case, the one brought

by special counsel Jack Smith. Judge Chutkan in that case also denied a motion by Trump to try to get that case thrown out under similar First

Amendment arguments.

But look, there was a lot -- a significantly less drama in the courtroom today in Fulton County than what we've grown accustomed to over the last

two months as defense attorneys try to disqualify Fani Willis from the case. But the hearing was an important one, and it was important because

this is an issue that has to be formally resolved before this case can get to trial.

I want you to listen to what Steve Sadow; Trump's lead attorney in the Georgia case, what he argued before Scott McAfee today.


STEVE SADOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: What President Trump said, speech- wise or expressed, either through his speech or conduct, which is still freedom of expression, because that's false in the eyes of the state. It's

lost all protections of the First Amendment, just the opposite.

If anything, under the circumstances, it needs more protection.


COHEN: So, prosecutors were quick to say, not so fast, oh, I'm hearing that argument, pushing back and saying it wasn't just that Trump lied, is

that, that lie fueled a criminal conspiracy, take a listen to how they pushed back on what Sadow was arguing just then.



DONALD WAKEFORD, PROSECUTOR: It's not just that he lied over and over and over again as counsel for the defendant points out by listing all of the

instances in the indictment, is that each of those was employed as part of criminal activity with criminal intentions.


COHEN: So, as he mentioned, again, we've heard similar arguments to this made before Scott McAfee, and he's denied those motions, it remains to be

seen what he'll decide here. We don't have a decision yet, but past precedent would suggest he's probably likely to deny this attempt by

Trump's lawyer to get the case thrown out as well. But again, the big question --

QUEST: All right --

COHEN: That hangs over this case is, when will we see a trial? Could we see a trial before the 2024 election? The prosecutors have requested an

August 5th start date, the judge has not set one on the calendar yet, so, that still remains the biggest question mark in Georgia and for Trump's

political future and criminal future in Georgia as well.

QUEST: Many thanks, thank you. Yes, Republicans have decided to move ahead with an impeachment process against the U.S. Secretary of Homeland

Security. The House Speaker Mike Johnson has informed the Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, he'll be sending the impeachment articles to the


It's expected to happen on April the 10th. House Republicans have impeached the Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last month by an extremely narrow margin.

It's been a historic holy Thursday for Pope Francis. He's seen here washing the feet of 12 women at a prison in Rome.

The emotional ceremony that I'm hoping we're going to be able to show you is what -- it's meant to emphasize humility, there you are. It's humility

and it's the first time the pope has washed the feet of only women. Eighty- seven-year-old pope has been experiencing health and mobility difficulties recently, which is why he led the ceremony from his wheelchair.

This ritual seeks to imitate Jesus washing of his disciples' feet the night before he died. And in Britain, the queen has been stepping in for King

Charles in the royal Maundy service. The queen handed out Maundy money to 75 men and 75 women, each one for the age of the monarch. King Charles is

75 and she was of course, stepping in for the king as he recovers from cancer treatment.

King Charles delivered some words of encouragement during his Easter message.


CHARLES PHILIP ARTHUR GEORGE, KING OF ENGLAND: Ladies and gentlemen, it is for me a great sadness that I cannot be with you all today. The Maundy

service has a very special place in my heart. It has its origin in the life of our Lord who knelt before His disciples, and to their great surprise,

washed their travel-weary feet.

And as we have just heard, in doing so, He deliberately gave to them and to us all, an example of how we should serve and care for each other.


QUEST: It's the king's first public message since his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, revealed she too is being treated for cancer. The king

announced his own cancer diagnosis earlier this year. As we continue together tonight, Ukraine goes after a Russian money-maker, oil refineries.

We've got the details on Kyiv's attempts to turn the tables and the big diplomatic rift after Argentina's President's remarks on CNN yesterday.

What he said and who's taken offense?



QUEST: More about Russian President Vladimir Putin's rejecting speculation that Moscow is planning to attack NATO countries. His comments were

released by the Kremlin on Wednesday.

He was talking to military pilots about Russia's ongoing and unprovoked war in Ukraine. And the president said the idea Russia could turn its attention

next to other parts of Eastern Europe was nonsense.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is complete rubbish. The possibility of us attacking some other countries, Poland,

Baltic States, they are scaring the check with it. This is total drivel. This is yet another way to fool their own people and make the people spend

more on defense and make them carry this burden. That's it.


QUEST: Clare Sebastian is with me. It's nonsense, he says. But of course, before you answer, let's remember, bearing in mind the tens of thousands of

troops that were massed along the border with Ukraine. And what did President Putin tell President Macron?


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): On the discussions on military and security aspects, as I have said very clearly yesterday, we

have had exchanges with President Putin, and he told me that he would not be behind any escalation. I think that is important.


QUEST: It might have been important, but it was a lie, and it was nonsense. So, why should we believe him when he says this about Eastern


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we shouldn't, because if you listen to the entirety of what he said, he says, look, yes, it is nonsense,

we're not going to attack NATO countries. Why would we, he says, when the U.S. accounts for 39 percent of global military spending, that is a

credible statistic, by the way, and Russia 3.5 half percent.

But then he goes on to say, if F-16s are deployed to Ukraine, we will attack them. Now, this is not surprising. They've been attacking all sorts

of western equipment in Ukraine. But he also says, even if they're launched from airfields in third countries, we would consider them a legitimate


And if you really listen closely, when he says them, it's not clear whether he means the planes themselves or the airfield. So, I think there's

definitely some ambiguity here. And I think we really should read this in the context of the other comments we've heard from Putin recently of

projecting Russian force vis-a-vis NATO.

QUEST: Right. But he does not want to get into even a spat with NATO.

SEBASTIAN: He doesn't. But he also wants to present NATO to his people as the aggressor here. He talks about, you know, NATO getting closer to

Russia's border, whereas Russia is not touching it. All of that. So, I think that's part of the messaging here.

But no, I think it's true, you know, that NATO does have a greater capacity. And certainly now, with it having expanded so significantly since

the start of the war with Finland and Sweden, he doesn't. But I think overall, you do see this sort of projection of power from Putin.


QUEST: There's a good opportunity. I haven't had a chance to sit opposite you for some time. So, is he feeling -- not by his election, that was never

in doubt, but by the fact that the E.U. took forever, the U.S. still hasn't come up with its money, Ukraine, if not on the back foot, is at least

trembling a little on the front foot, is he emboldened, Putin?

SEBASTIAN: Yes, I think he is. I think you can tell that from the way that he approached the election, there was very little campaigning. There was a

lot of propaganda, but not a little sort of effort went into it. And I think he is talking a bit about the military. We see a military content.

Visiting this, you know, air force training facility and all of that. But I think the terror attack that we saw in Moscow just one week after the

election was bit of a wild card in that regard.

QUEST: And we have your report.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Flying straight for Russia's biggest moneymaker. This precise hit, one of more than a dozen Ukrainian drone strikes reported

on Russian oil refineries since the start of the year.

VASYL MALYUK, HEAD OF SECURITY SERVICES OF UKRAINE: We have already reduced both production and processing by 12 percent. So, we continue to

work while the gas station country continues to burn.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Attacks like this, which CNN has geolocated to the high-capacity Ryazan Oil Refinery, may experts say do more harm than

sanctions to Russian energy.

HELIMA CROFT, HEAD OF GLOBAL COMMODITY STRATEGY, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS: From the beginning of the war -- we made, the U.S. made the decision to try to

keep Russian oil on the market, because no one would support Ukraine in a winter of discontent.

SEBASTIAN: And now, the weapons have stopped coming.

CROFT: Right. That is the question. Has the bargain broken down because aid for Ukraine is being held up in the United States Congress and then

does this mean that Ukraine has a limited window to try to change dynamics on the ground?

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Russia has admitted oil refining output is down and its temporarily banned gasoline exports to preserve supplies.

Meanwhile, global oil prices have risen around 12 percent since the start of the year. A U.S. official telling CNN these attacks are now being


CROFT: If it wasn't an election year, there might be more willingness to endure this. Like, that's why Washington is calling Ukraine right now.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Two years ago, Ukraine would not have had the technology to do this, some of the refineries hit are over a thousand

kilometers from its territory, a big leap in terms of range. This puts around three-quarters of Russian refinery output in Ukraine's reach,

according to RBC Capital Markets.

As to their ability to avoid this fate, being downed by Russian jammers, a source close to Ukraine's drone program telling CNN artificial intelligence

is now in use in some of the refinery attacks.

NOAH SYLVIA, RESEARCH ANALYST, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: They have this type of thing called machine vision, which is a form of A.I., to our

understanding. All you have to do is you take a model and you it on a chip and you train this model over time to be able to identify images, geography

and the target.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): It also allows for a high degree of precision. Look at this strike, geolocated again to the Ryazan Oil Refinery, a second

hit on one specific tower.

SYLVIA: From what we have seen, some of it is they're striking targets that need a lot of western technology. And Russia has a much more difficult

time procuring this technology.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): And yet, experts say Ukraine is still exercising some restraint. These blue dots are Russia's key western oil export

terminals. Around two-thirds of its oil and oil product exports pass through these ports, according to RBC.

CROFT: If we simply had one major export facility hit, I think the impact on markets would be substantial.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): For Ukraine, the risk here is not just U.S. disapproval, but Russian revenge, amid signs Ukraine's own energy sector is

once again in its sights.


SEBASTIAN (on camera): So, like, there's clearly more that Ukraine can do. It's clear the gloves are off, but not completely. But you do see

significant risk. There's pictures at the end there. This was last Friday. Significant attacks unprecedented in the words of the Ukrainian prime

minister on Ukraine's energy grid, a hydroelectric power plant in Dnipro, most of Kharkiv, the second biggest city, offline. So, there's significant

risk, but this is also a big challenge to the U.S.

QUEST: Grateful. Good to see you. Nice to be --


QUEST: As you and I continue tonight, three presidents and one goal, beat Donald Trump, a preview of tonight's big fundraiser. In a moment.



QUEST: Colombia has ordered Argentinian diplomats to leave the country following inflammatory comments from Argentina's president.

Javier Milei, seen on the left, called his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro a killer, a terrorist, you know, during a CNN interview.


JAVIER MILEI, ARGENTINE PRESIDENT (through translator): The slaughter that is Venezuela is truly unprecedented. The same with the jail that is Cuba.

Then there's the other cases that are heading in that direction, like the case with Colombia, with Mr. Petro. Not a lot can be expected from someone

who is a terrorist killer, a communist.


QUEST: Well, not surprising after that, the Colombian Foreign Ministry says Mr. Milei's comments have deteriorated the trust of our nation. He's

only been in office since December, and highly controversial ever since.

Joining me now in Mexico City is CNN's Espanol's Garbiela Frias. Gabriela, good to see you. I mean, I suppose no one was more surprised when he starts

using words like terrorists and killers, but the Colombians are having none of it.

GARBIELA FRIAS, CNN ANCHOR: Richard, as you were saying, President Milei was referring specifically to Gustavo Petros, now Colombia's president's

past, militancy in the left-wing guerrillas in the 1970s, a particularly bloody period in the Colombian history.

But his words, as you said, already prompted a diplomatic spat. Colombia ordered the expulsion of Argentinian diplomats. It did not mention who will

have to go in a timeframe. But the Colombian foreign ministry said in a statement, and I'm quoting, "The Argentinian president's comments have

deteriorated the trust of our nation in addition to offending the dignity of President Petros, who was democratically elected."

As you mentioned, President Javier Milei sat down for an interview with our Andres Oppenheimer for an interview in Buenos Aires, and he was asked among

many other topics about the harsh words that some Latin American presidents have had to describe Milei in the past, specifically the presidents of

Mexico and the president of Argentina.

So, this is, for the moment, the diplomatic spat between Colombia and Argentina. Richard.

QUEST: OK. So, the next, obviously is, does -- will anybody care? I mean, in a sense, yes, Argentina is a big economy, but Milei is known to be like

this. Does anybody -- does it matter if Colombia and Argentina have a long- lasting diplomatic spat?

FRIAS: To be honest with you, this is not the first harsh exchange of words between these Latin American leaders who are ideologically opposed.

Leftist presidents, Pedro and Obrador, and President Milei, who you know has been self-describing as a libertarian, and has repeated that the left

is a cancer for humanity. So, I'd be very much surprised if in economic terms this will hinder the relationship. I don't think so.


But at the same time, let me just add that President Lopez Obrador in Mexico has already responded to the comment of Milei's during the interview

who called president of Mexico an ignorant. And Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also posted on X just a couple of minutes ago that President Milei is a

fascist conservative.

So again, this is not the first time. So, I would be surprised that this would go beyond this harsh, very not diplomatic exchange of words.

QUEST: Splendid. Thank you. Good to see you, Gabriela. As always, thank you. We're grateful.

As we continue tonight, former presidents Obama and Clinton are with Joe Biden for a major political fundraiser. How much are they going to raise?

In a moment.


QUEST: Two presidential visits with very different backdrops. The former U.S. president and current presidential nominee, Republican nominee, Donald

Trump, he's in New York, attending the wake of a police officer, Jonathan Diller, who was killed early this week during a traffic stop in New York.

Trump campaign says Trump was invited by the Diller family. You see the photos there.

And President Biden is in New York, he's preparing for a mega fundraiser a few hours from now to be joined by the former President Barack Obama and

Bill Clinton at Radio City Music Hall. I'll be doing a turn.

The Biden campaign says the fundraiser should bring in more than $25 million. It would make it the most successful single political fundraiser

in American history. It includes a conversation that will be moderated by the TV host, Stephen Colbert.

Our CNN's Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein is with me. How on earth do you raise $25 million in a night?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, you know, I mean, pretty much, you know, any kind of

restraint on campaign finance has evaporated in the half century since Watergate and a lot of big donors.

You know, money is not Joe Biden's problem. He has a significant financial advantage over Donald Trump, in part because Trump is choosing to divert so

many campaign contributions to his own endless legal defense.

But, Richard, historically, the presidential election has probably been the U.S. election in which financial advantages matter the least. Advertising

matters the least because voters have a lot of other information and they're also voting on how they feel about the big questions about things

are going in the country.


Still, the extent of Biden's financial advantage, as demonstrated by events like this, is so extreme that we are going to test that proposition.

Because right now, Biden is spending a lot money in the states that matter and not really being offset very much by Republicans.

QUEST: Where does Donald Trump then get his money from?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know Trump has been a surprisingly successful small donor, you know, from the beginning. I mean, I'm maybe not surprising in

that, you know, Trump's superpower has always been politically that he motivates a lot of low propensity voters. I mean, that's how he kind of

changed the structure and the and face of the Republican electoral coalition by bringing in a lot blue-collar non-urban voters who didn't

normally vote and these are the same people who contribute.

It is a very effective small donor fundraiser. And you're seeing the same thing with the -- you know, kind of the bubble around Truth Social in terms

of kind of crowdsourcing of buying of this stock. You know, there are super big rich Republican donors. And as a group they were probably more tilting

toward Haley and resistant to Trump. Many, most of them will come back in the fold. But small donors, I think, are a big part of this financial kind

of arsenal.

QUEST: Right, Ron. Stay where you are for a second. I just want to bring another story to your attention. Well, obviously, you know about it, but I

want just to tell our viewers and then get your thoughts.

The former senator and one-time vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman has passed away. On Wednesday in New York, complications from a fall.

I've met Lieberman, a few times. Charming chap. He was the first Jewish vice-presidential nominee of a major party. He ran with Al Gore in the 2000

election, which was eventually decided by the Supreme Court in favor of Bush. For years, he was an institutional Democratic Party before turning

independent. He passed away at 82.


QUEST: Ron, was he the president that America never had? Along with a couple of others. But I mean, you know, everybody always said it would be

his time someday.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think time kind of -- you know, the increased polarization of American politics left him like one of those polar bears,

you know, with the ice melting around him kind of stuck on his own little island. He was someone who very much believed he was of the DLC generation,

Democratic Leadership Council, of Clinton -- Bill Clinton generation that was always looking for bridges between the ideas of both parties.

He partnered with John McCain and Lindsey Graham on a lot of not only foreign policy, but domestic issues, including at one time, an early plan

to promote action on climate change, back when Lindsey Graham was more of a bipartisan figure.

But as time went on, that posture put him more out of touch with a Democratic Party and a Republican Party that were pulling apart. And he

became an independent, not by choice, because he lost his Senate primary in 2006 in the Democratic primary, largely because of his support for the Iraq

War, and then ran and won as an independent.

And I think, you know, by the end of life, as it turned out, and certainly by end his career, he was someone who felt pretty alienated from the

mainstream of both parties, was involved in this no-labels effort that, you know, many Democrats see as kind of a stalking horse for Donald Trump. But

he was somebody who represented a certain time in American politics, and I think was kind of moved toward the edge as time went on.

QUEST: Which we see again and again. Now, tonight at this event, you're going to have the three former Democrat presidents there. You know, Obama

was less -- Obama's success was less -- was lessened by a determination by the Republicans that he was not going to succeed. Clinton managed to

cajole. He was extremely popular. He was at that moment in time. Biden is centrist by nature, but he's being pushed into a more extreme way because

of the counterparty.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, you know, Biden's -- as you point out, when we're talking about Joe Lieberman, Bill Clinton was kind of the last gasp of true

bipartisan cooperation on a whole range of issues, including a budget deal in '97, Welfare Reform in '96, and he did it only after intense

confrontation that led to the government shutdowns with the new Gingrich- led Republican Congress.

Obama -- by the time Obama came into office, we were 15 years further in the road to polarization, and based unremitting Republican opposition on

everything that he did, including not a single Republican vote for the Affordable Care Act on the floor of either chamber.


Biden, I think by contrast, got more done on a bipartisan basis in his first two years than almost anyone, including me, affected. I mean, that

infrastructure bill that he was able to do, the bill to promote domestic production of semiconductors.

But as you point out, I mean, the core of what each party wants to do now is so fundamentally urgent that there isn't a lot of buy-in across party

lines. And particularly when you look at the executive branch actions on issues like immigration, the environment, clean energy, climate change, we

-- you know, Democratic -- what he's doing is a long way from what Republicans want to do.

And if Donald Trump comes in, we are going to see the reverse of what we saw in 2021. I mean, you know, Biden reversed a broad range of things that

Donald Trump did. Trump would come in and reverse a broad range of things that Biden did. It is whiplash. It is hard to run a country that way.

QUEST: Thank you. Very grateful for you.

I'm going to leave you tonight with these pictures of Mother Nature, the wetter than normal winter. It's led to a superbloom. Wildflowers blanketing

landscapes. So many of them. You can see them forever. I'll leave you with these pictures as I say, thank you for joining us tonight. This is CNN.

"THE NEWSROOM" with Jim Sciutto is next.