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Ukraine Marks One Year Of War With Anxiety And Resolve; Prosecution Completes Murdaugh Cross-Examination; Source: Special Counsel Interviews Trump Aide Who Copied Docs; Powerful Storm Brings Rare Blizzard Conditions To Southern California. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 24, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Ukraine observes a horrific milestone, one full year of Russia's brutal war. We'll get a live report from Kyiv, analysis from our experts and reaction from a top adviser from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Plus, prosecutors grill South Carolina Attorney Alex Murdaugh four hours under cross-examination. Murdaugh trying to explain inconsistencies in his story, including why he lied to law enforcement on the night his wife and son were murdered.
And later this hour, a CNN exclusive report on the Mar-a-Lago classified documents investigation. How did a box of records end up in Donald Trump's Florida resort after several rounds of searches?
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I am Brianna Keilar and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Our top story this hour, the bloody anniversary in Ukraine, one full year of Russia's unprovoked invasion. Let's get right to our Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour, who is on the ground in Kyiv with the very latest. Christiane, how are Ukrainians feeling one year later?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, relieved and less afraid than they did this time last year. If you can imagine, this time last year was full scale. There were missiles, there were tanks coming down from the north, there were paratroopers from Russia who were landing nearby Kyiv. The siege of this city was being started this time last year. Then very quickly they pushed them back within weeks. And now we hear from people that, yes, they were terrified back then. They did not know whether their capital or their country would be standing. 365 days later, it is.
And today we had a press conference with President Zelenskyy and I got to ask him a question about how long he thought this war would take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, I'm interested in the timeline. Today, on the anniversary, you spoke to your own forces and you called for victory within this year. You have heard the western friends, your partners, talk about as long as it takes. You know that the Russian leader believes that time is on his side. Why do you think that it's possible by the end of the year and how do you assess the meaning of as long as it takes from your Ukrainian perspective?
PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINE: Thank you for the question. Indeed, I want to very much. If each of us, each partner and we in our country, if we stay as one fist, one strong fist and work towards victory, this is a victory of values. If they stick to their words, to their terms, and it's not just blah, blah, blah, I believe in it. We have been partners, strong partners, and there is evidence to that. If we all do our important homework, victory will be inevitable. I am certain there will be victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Brianna, last year, the watch word was weapons, we need weapons to defend ourselves. This year they say it's going to be speed, we need them quickly in order to be able to actually launch counteroffensives, regain territory and somehow get to the bargaining table in a position of strength so that they can have negotiations to end this war from a position of strength. They will not surrender and they will not take Russia's terms right now, they say. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right. Christiane Amanpour live in Kyiv, thank you.
Our correspondents and experts are standing by with more on this. I want to start with you, General Wesley Clark. In a new article, you write, along with six other former NATO supreme allied commanders, quote, now is the time for America and its allies to dig deeper, to get Ukraine what it needs to win and succeed. And certainly this is something we heard Christiane talking about that the Ukrainians are calling for. What do America and its allies need to do and how could it change the outcome of this war?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK(RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the outcome of this war is probably going to be decided in a negotiation, but the negotiation outcome will be reflecting the battlefield conditions.
Ukraine needs the wherewithal to put Crimea under threat. That means getting through the land bridge, threaten to overrun Crimea. Putin will come to the table. But to do that they've asked for 300 to 500 tanks, another 500 pieces of artillery. They need fighter aircraft. They need attack helicopters, and for whatever reason -- and long range missiles, for whatever reason, we're not giving them that.
So, what we're heading toward is some kind of a bleeding off stalemate, in which I guess we think we're going to get at the bargaining table what we didn't get on the battlefield, and history shows that's unlikely.
KEILAR: Jim, we know that Putin thinks time is to his advantage. He's trying to wait out the west. Now, you have this new intel that China is considering, at least thinking about providing drones and ammunition to Russia. What are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the concern is -- and drones could be impactful, ammunition as well, because Russia has had trouble getting ammunition as it continues an intense artillery battle really on the eastern front. Drones as well, we've seen the impact of Iranian made drones there, in terms of helping Russia with its air war on civilian targets across the country. So, the biggest concern from the U.S. and Pentagon perspective is that, China's help will lengthen the war. It will give Russia what it needs now, particularly what it's short of now in terms of ammunition.
The other piece of that is more broad, and that is that you already have a war here that is, in effect, to some degree, a proxy war between the U.S. and its allies and Russia. You hear western official don't want to describe it that way but you have the U.S. and its allies on one side arming Ukraine, and you have Russia on the other side that's invaded Ukraine.
With China deciding to provide lethal assistance to Russia, you would now have three superpowers, in effect, involved in the largest land war in Europe since World War II. And that is a prospect that speaks to the broader conflict going on between these superpowers really on a number of fronts around the globe could lengthen this conflict and also add the risk of escalation beyond the borders of Ukraine.
KEILAR: Kaitlan, you had a really interesting interview with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about all of this. Can you tell us what he told you?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This intelligence that they talked about that China is potentially preparing to do this, that they're considering doing it, they've cautioned to say that they have not made a decision yet, but it obviously raises the question to what Jim was laying out there, which is what are the repercussions if China does actually take this step.
We know what the consequences would be, what it would mean on the battlefield. But what would it mean for China, and this is what Defense Secretary Austin told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think for China, it would be a very, very ill-advised step for China to take.
COLLINS: Would it significantly help Russia, though, if they did add that? How much of a blow would that be for the Ukrainians if Russia starts getting that kind of assistance from China?
AUSTIN: Well, you know, again, I don't want to get into hypotheticals, but it's clear that if -- China has a lot of capability in terms of munitions and weapons. And if they provide the substantial support to Russia, it prolongs the conflict.
(END VIDEO CLIP)\
COLLINS: And obviously that is the concern there, that it could prolong the conflict.
And Austin told me, Brianna, that he -- that the U.S. has been delivering warnings to China, basically telling them not to provide lethal assistance to Russia in this battle in Ukraine, in this war in Ukraine, but one thing we should note is that Austin himself is not delivering those messages because he's actually not spoken to his Chinese counterpart in months.
They tried to speak after the U.S. downed that Chinese spy balloon. His Chinese counterpart, the foreign minister, did not take that call. And he said they actually have not spoken in months, something that it is obviously concerning that the Pentagon chief cannot get his counterpart in China on the phone, not for lack of trying, but simply because they're not picking up.
KEILAR: Yes, sour relations indeed there. And, Jill, Ukraine's head of military intelligence says that Russia's goal, as they see it, is to capture all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by the end of March. Even if Russia can accomplish that, do you think that that would satisfy Vladimir Putin?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think you'd have to ask, Brianna, what would satisfy Vladimir Putin. And, you know, if they really did take Luhansk and Donetsk, and that was kind of the original idea that Putin had, maybe he could spin it and say, we have these regions. But I somehow doubt that that will be the end of it. Because even if they had those, I firmly believe that they would want -- Putin would continue to want be to take over the entire country or control it in some fashion.
Now, that could be, you know, having a sphere of influence. And that was his original idea, take Kyiv, decapitate the country and influence it, take it over.
So, I do not believe, sadly, that he's going to be satisfied with that and there are other things that he can do if he had these two areas, he could try to undermine the rest of Ukraine or he could create trouble in the neighborhood. And that is already we're looking at Moldova and other places where he could do that.
KEILAR: Right now, General, we're seeing Russia continuing to shell across the east and the south. The Wagner Group claims to have taken full control of a suburb outside of Bakhmut. What will you be watching for here in the coming weeks?
CLARK: So, the question is how effective will the Ukrainians be at moving into the second line of defense and inflicting casualties and slowing the Russian rate of advance? So, for this to work out on the battlefield, Brianna, there's got to be a holding in action in Donbas and the Ukrainians have to be able to create and maintain their mobile strike force brigades that they'll use to go south, apparently that's the plan, and the Russians want to put so much pressure on the Ukrainians that they can't maintain the integrity of their offensive force.
So, that's what we're watching for. Can the Ukrainians hold in Donbas? Can we give them enough ammunition, enough artillery? And then is there going to be enough left over to make that counteroffensive thrust towards Crimea that would bring a successful negotiation?
KEILAR: Jim, we're also watching tanks, right? This first delivery of Leopard tanks from Poland just arrived in Ukraine. American Abrams tanks will take much, much longer, according to military officials, maybe next year, well into next year even. Is this going to be enough to make a difference?
SCIUTTO: Well the aim, to General Clark's point, is to give Ukrainian forces an offensive strike capability, in effect. And you've seen this with Bradley fighting vehicles that are already going in there, as well as European versions of those. Now you have German-made Leopard tanks and Abrams tanks to follow to give them the ability not just to hold territory but to punch through, as General Clark was saying those lines, to gain back territory in the east and they have the ambition as well of taking back Crimea.
When you speak to Ukrainian officials, they believe they can do this and they can do this in the coming months. You have the Ukrainian defense minister speaking today, about the possibility of winning this war, including taking back Crimea this year.
Now, Ukrainians, they're confident in their abilities and they have got a year of incredible gains and defense to work on, I would say that U.S. officials at this point are -- I don't want to say more pessimistic but perhaps more realistic about how quickly they can gain back particularly when you look at Crimea given the importance that Russia plays on that. But these weapons are going there for a reason. And that is because it's not just Ukrainian intention but also the U.S. intention to give them the ability to take back territory and not just defend it.
KEILAR: Kaitlan, we heard an impassioned plea from Secretary of State Blinken that Russia's brutality should not become the new normal. Is the administration worried that the clock is ticking on Americans tolerating continued support for Ukraine?
COLLINS: I do think they realize that it's softening to a degree, not entirely but it's not where it was a year ago where we first saw Ukraine putting up this defense that surprised so many throughout the world. And I do think it is a concern when it comes to what's the control look likes on Capitol Hill. There have been small but vocal group of Republican who have said they do not want to continue providing support to Ukraine.
And we've heard from top Republicans on committees, like Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs, who say they're confident they can get another funding request through. But it is something I think that the White House wants to make sure they keep at the forefront, so people do understand what is actually the human toll of this. Because yes, the Ukrainians did perform better than they thought, but there is a real human toll. You've seen the vice president speak about it. You saw the president say that as well. So, it is definitely a concern that they have.
KEILAR: Yes, we certainly saw Blinken pushing that message today. Thank you all for this important discussion on this important day. I do appreciate it.
And just ahead, I'll be speaking to a top adviser to President Zelenskyy as the war in Ukraine is entering its second year.
Plus, another day of Alex Murdaugh on the stand trying to explain why he lied to police on the night his wife and son were killed.
KEILAR: More now on the grim milestone in Ukraine, one full year of Vladimir Putin's invasion. Joining us now, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ihor Zhovkva is with us. Ihor, thanks for taking a time tonight.
We heard President Zelenskyy say today that 2023 will be the year of our victory. You are also hearing, though, American and western leaders who are talking about bracing for this war to drag on potentially for years. Do you have any frustration that those leaders seem to doubt the ability of Ukraine to make good on what Zelenskyy is promising, to wrap this up in 2023?
IHOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: You know, I remember some leaders, who are experts, so-called, were saying just a year ago that Ukraine will not withstand more than three, okay, let's say five days, okay, seven days, two weeks, now we have 366 days of war, not only Ukraine withstand it, not only we managed to withstand that also but managed to fight back and almost 50 percent of Ukrainian territory, which was captured after the open aggression has already been released.
We will win this year definitely. Our aim, our will that's what really the president is saying, to have happy, victorious 2023. But in order to get this, we need the support. And we need the support in terms of weapons, first of all. Because Ukraine can start a counteroffensive only with having enough supply of artillery, including long range artillery with enough ammunition, battle tanks and armored vehicles, enough air defense to protect the skies and the territory of Ukraine.
But (INAUDIBLE) we have it, we will definitely. We have all the possibilities to win. We have the will and the courage of Ukrainian Armed Forces. We have the will and strength of our president. We have the will and desire of the Ukrainian people.
So, in order not to stick late (ph) about the land, let's unite all of the efforts of the international community to help Ukraine to win certainly this year.
KEILAR: I do want to say, President Biden did just say something about these F-16s. You talked about defending from the air. We're trying to turn that around so we can get that so folks can see that, and we can get a response from you to that. So, I just want let people know that's coming up.
I do want to ask you, Ukraine's military intelligence chief says that this spring is going to bring decisive battles. Give us a sense of what is in store here in the coming weeks and months.
ZHOVKVA: Well, you know, Russia will be definitely trying to have a revenge, because throughout last half year, Russia was only failing on the battlefield, on the grounds, didn't manage to get any major cities or towns. That's why they will be really intensive. And that's what they really (INAUDIBLE) around the east of Ukraine, around the city Bakhmut and Kreminna. They will be trying to have some offensive from the south of Ukraine. And we have to understand those will definitely happen.
But when they fail, not if, but when they fail, we will definitely have the counteroffensive. Because this advance will be the last Russian advance possible. They're also running out of not even the manpower because they have enough manpower, but they understand somehow why and for what purpose they are doing.
So, definitely, Ukraine should not lose the momentum. It should dwell upon this very positive dynamics we have in the second half of the last year. So, definitely, it will be difficult for us. But when we will start the counter offensive, it will be very much different.
KEILAR: Ihor, I do want to listen now to what President Biden just said. These are remarks just released by ABC News. He said that the U.S. is providing what Ukraine needs now but this is what he said about F-16s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: We know the Germans are now sending tanks in after the U.S. said it would send Abrams tanks as well. But we know President Zelenskyy continues to say what he really needs are F-16s. Will you send F-16s?
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Look, we're sending in what our seasoned military thinks he needs now. He needs tanks. He needs artillery. He needs air defense, including another HIMARS. There are things he needs now that we're sending in to put him in a position to be able to make gains this spring and this summer going into the fall.
REPORTER: You don't think he needs F-16s now?
BIDEN: No, he doesn't need F-16s now. REPORTER: Is that a never?
BIDEN: Look, first of all, the idea that we know exactly what's going to be needed a year, two, three, but there is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military now, to provide F-16s.
REPORTER: But you're not ruling it out?
BIDEN: I am ruling it out for now.
REPORTER: For now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Ihor, he says Ukraine doesn't need F-16s now. What is your reaction to that?
ZHOVKVA: My reaction is, without the F-16s now, there will be no pilots to fly them because our pilots have to be trained before we have the F-16s. And this is what exactly Ukraine has started to achieve already, several countries announced that they will be ready to give training to the Ukrainian pilots to master the F-16s.
So, we will be training. We will be going on with our counteroffensive. We will be looking forward to delivering F-16s. And, by the way, not only F-16s, there are some other types of fighter jets in the European countries as well which can also be provided to Ukraine.
Someone told that there will be no possibility to have long artillery systems to Ukraine (INAUDIBLE). Now we have them.
KEILAR: I mean, Ihor, though, let me ask you though -- Ihor, it makes more sense to train for a plane that you definitely know you're going to get, and right now he's ruling it out.
ZHOVKVA: If train the F-16 plane and the country spends money for training your soldiers for F-16, why on earth this country will spend money if the F-16s will never be delivered to Ukraine?
KEILAR: All right. Ihor, we will certainly be watching. Obviously, Ukraine has gotten so much of what it has called for. Ihor Zhovkva, thank you so much for being with us today. We appreciate it.
ZHOVKVA: Thank you.
KEILAR: Coming up, the prosecution wraps its cross-examination of Alex Murdaugh in his double murder trial.
KEILAR: Today, Alex Murdaugh completed his testimony in his double murder trial. Murdaugh testifying for around six hours admitting he lied to investigators about his whereabouts but insisted he did not kill his wife and son.
CNN's Randi Kaye is joining us now from outside of the courthouse in South Carolina. Randi, take us through the headlines of this day.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was quite a day inside that courtroom, I can tell you that. But, really, the prosecutor's goal today was to box Alex Murdaugh into a corner, to pin him down on his lies and show not only be did he lie about being at the kennel that night, he lied about his lies and so much more. Here are some of the highlights.
CREIGHTON WATERS, PROSECUTOR: The second that you're confronted with facts that you can't deny, you immediately come up with a new lie, isn't that correct?
ALEX MURDAUGH, MURDER DEFENDANT: Mr. Waters, we've established I have lied many times.
Maggie asked me to go to the kennels with her and I wasn't going to go. I said I'm not going to go.
WATERS: And how long after she left did you supposedly go down there?
MURDAUGH: It was very quickly.
WATERS: And you would agree with me that from 9:02 to 9:06, your phone finally comes to life and starts showing a lot of steps, that's far more steps in a short a time period than any time prior, as you've seen from the testimony in this case. So, what were you so busy doing? Going to the bathroom?
MURDAUGH: No, I don't think that I --
WATERS: Get on a treadmill.
MURDAUGH: No, I didn't get on a treadmill.
WATERS: Jog in place?
MURDAUGH: No, I didn't jog in place.
WATERS: Jumping jacks.
MURDAUGH: No, sir, I did not do jumping jacks.
WATERS: What were you doing, Mr. Murdaugh, in those four minutes.
MURDAUGH: Preparing to leave for my mom's house.
I know what I wasn't doing, Mr. Waters, and what I wasn't doing is doing anything, as I believe you've implied, that I was cleaning off or washing off or washing off guns, putting guns in a raincoat, and I can promise you that I wasn't doing any of that.
WATERS: So, what you're telling this jury is that it's a random vigilante.
MURDAUGH: That's your term.
WATERS: The 12-year-old 5'2" people, that just happened to know that Paul and Maggie were both at Moselle on June 7th, that knew that they would be at the kennels alone on June the 7th, the knew that you would not be there but only between the times at 8:49 and 9:02.
MURDAUGH: You've got a lot of factors in there, Mr. Waters, all of which I do not agree with, but some of which I do.
WATERS: Mr. Murdaugh, are you a family annihilator?
MURDAUGH: A family annihilator? You mean like did I shoot my wife and my son?
MURDAUGH: No. I would never hurt Maggie Murdaugh. I would never hurt Paul Murdaugh.
KAYE: And, Brianna, two quick notes about Alex Murdaugh's phone. It was showing no activity from 8:09 to 9:02 P.M. That is the timeframe where the murders occurred as well, according to prosecutors. So, there was no activity at all. He said that he had left the phone in the house, in the main house on the property and didn't take it with him to the kennels.
It's also worth noting while all those steps were being taken, the data shows there were also a flurry of phone calls being made by Alex Murdaugh. He said he was calling to check on his father at one point. But, of course, the prosecution is suggesting that all of those phone calls were made to try and establish an alibi. Brianna?
KEILAR: All right. Randi Kaye live in South Carolina, thank you for that.
And joining us now is Laura Coates and Shan Wu to discuss. What dramatic days on the stand for Alex Murdaugh here. Laura, what were the big moments today as he was on the stand again in his own defense?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, one of the things to keep in mind, when we're talking about a cross-examination, Brianna, is there is this sweet spot between giving the witness enough rope, so to speak, to harm themselves and enough to give them a very concise statement. And you really want ideally for the person to say yes, no, or nodding their head. There was a lot of leeway and a lot of runway provided for this witness to talk, to explain. But whether the jury finds explanations to be credible or not is interesting.
But all in all, the entire theme of this is, look, he's saying, I may be a liar, I may be somebody who is downright a dirty, rotten scoundrel but I did not commit murder. The jury's question will be is there direct evidence to tie him to those murders, not simply the financial fraud crimes he's admitted to on the stand.
KEILAR: You're a defense attorney, Shan. I mean, you know how risky it is for a defendant to take the stand. Perhaps he didn't have a choice here, but how do you think it went?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it actually went very well for the defendant and rather poorly for the prosecutor. I mean, that fine balance Laura was just talking about, where you want to give them enough rope to basically hurt themselves versus controlling them, I think the prosecutor fell on the wrong side of that.
Murdaugh, a tough witness, I mean, he's a skilled lawyer himself, he really changed the whole tempo of this from a cross where the person doing the cross should be controlling him, into one where he was able to control the pace. He turned it into more of a rambling deposition- type of scenario, which is not very helpful in front of a jury.
So, I don't think it went very well for the prosecution. I think they still have a very strong forensic case with the circumstances but the cross, I think, didn't go well for them.
KEILAR: He was repeating. And we heard him there in the highlights that Randi showed. He was sort of repeating back some of what was said, and it did ramble on at times.
Laura, in this case, there's no smoking gun, right? There's no murder weapon. Are these questions about the time line, his addiction, his financial deception, is that enough to build a strong case?
COATES: Some of them are double edged swords. For example, the timeline that everyone is focusing on, the amount of time he was at the kennels and going to his mother's house, allegedly, et cetera, remember, within that very tight timeline, he would have also had to commit these murders, to try to clean up a crime scene, dispose of weapons, dispose of bloody clothing that at a close range would have been apparent, and then make his way to get the gun, throw it out and go to his mother's house.
So, that's a very tight timeline, not impossible. But the idea that he had said that he is an opioid addict, that he was paranoid at times and was concerned about that, he had to combine those two things to have all of that be executed in a very short window.
And, finally, one thing working against the prosecution is, again, this idea that when the jury gets the jury instructions at the end of this trial when both parties have rested, it's not going to include the financial fraud crimes. It's going to include the murder charges. So, he's admitted to the things that he would likely have a trial on in the near future, but as to what the jury in this case had to decide, they've got to do more to bridge this gap and we're arguing a defense case now. KEILAR: Yes. We'll be looking ahead in the coming days for that. Laura and Shan, thank you to both of you.
Just ahead, how did Volodymyr Zelenskyy emerge as the unlikely hero in Russia's war against Ukraine?
KEILAR: In the year since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has emerged as an unlikely hero, not just to his countrymen but to people all over the world. Our Brian Todd has a closer look for us at this. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, experts believe Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pulled this off by digging deep and finding a grit and determination that few people thought he had and he's tapped into a natural talent for stage craft.
TODD (voice over): His exchanges with Ukrainian soldiers today were vintage Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy told his army they would be the ones to decide whether Ukraine will exist in the future or not, but one year after Russia's invasion, few doubt that Ukraine's fate hinges in no small part on the man who emerge as an effective war time leader.
JOHN HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: The man has a spine. And obviously when you are truly David fighting Goliath, if you don't have a spine, you lose.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: 12 months later he is the hard bitten leader. I mean he has been through a year of trial like no other leader.
TODD: And from the first moments of the war it seemed like Zelenskyy was up to the challenge, like when he posted a video message on Facebook from the streets of Kyiv with his cabinet on the second night of the invasion.
ZELENSKYY: The president is here. We are all here. Our military is here.
TODD: Volodymyr Zelenskyy has since dominated the narrative, from a stirring appearance before joint session of the U.S. Congress.
ZELENSKYY: Ukraine is alive and kicking.
TODD: To what he said to the British House of Commons.
ZELENSKYY: We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, on the streets.
TODD: Compare that to what Winston Churchill said after the evacuation of Dunkirk.
WINSTON CHURCHILL, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.
BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: He has successfully mimicked Winston Churchill himself. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has mobilized the United States of America.
TODD: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor remembers Zelenskyy in the early months of his presidency as a good natured, somewhat naive politician. How has the war changed Zelenskyy?
TAYLOR: He's less jovial. He's less -- he's more focused. He's more determined. He's more somber. I mean, this is a hard -- a hard time to go through and he's had it all on his shoulders.
TODD: Still, no one's been able to keep Volodymyr Zelenskyy from the front lines in places like Kherson and Bucha compare that to Vladimir Putin's isolation in the Kremlin.
KEITH DARDEN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: He appears fearful. I mean you get the sense that of a man alone, whereas, Zelenskyy is among his people, among his team and in the fight.
TODD (on camera): The experts we spoke to say unless he makes some colossal and unforeseen mistakes, Volodymyr Zelenskyy's legacy will be very impressive. If Ukraine wins the war it goes down as one of the greatest leaders of this century. If Ukraine loses he's likely remembered as a tragic hero. Brianna?
KEILAR: Brian Todd, thank you. Coming up, a CNN exclusive on the new mystery that has become the recent focus of the special counsel's investigation into Trump's handling of classified documents.
KEILAR: And we are back with a CNN exclusive. Sources say the Justice Department is looking into how a box containing classified material ended up in Mar-a-Lago late last year, months after the FBI searched the property.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz is with us now. Tell us about this.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Brianna, this box, it is an odd situation and it's really confusing, but it's the thing that the special counsel's office has been asking about. They interviewed an aide who handled this box. Now, the reason this box is the thing they're talking about, it's the last thing that the Trump lawyers have found in their multiple reviews of different properties of Trump's, and this box had classified records in it, documents that had classified markings tucked inside presidential schedules. So this is a box essentially of presidential schedules, copies of
them. And they found it in December. So several months after the previous searches, including the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. It turned up in the president's office, the ex-president's office at Mar-a-Lago in a closet. And that was after this aide that they had spoken to, that she had been scanning them -- scanning the documents and the box had moved off premises and back.
So there's a big question here about why wasn't it found earlier.
KEILAR: Yeah, certainly is. What part of the Mar-a-Lago investigation could this factor into?
POLANTZ: Well, this box could factor into two things. One, there is a big question why were these documents not secured? This aide does not have clearance. The documents were scanned. They're in the cloud.
So, there is a national security question there that the Justice Department is trying to get to the bottom of. The other thing is this is an ongoing obstruction case and there has been a suspicion for a while that the Justice Department has that classified records at Mar- a-Lago may have been removed or concealed.
And so one of our sources tells us that investigators at this time appear to suspect a shell game with classified documents related to the movements of this box.
KEILAR: Very interesting reporting. Katelyn, thank you for sharing that with us.
I'd like to bring in a CNN political commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin and CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig to talk about this. He's the author of "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It".
Elie, how does this new information about the handling of classified documents, some of which ended up online, change the questions that the Justice Department is now asking?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Brianna, I see two game changers here.
The first one is now we know something was done with these documents. They weren't just sitting passively in cardboard boxes or in folders sort of strewn about Mar-a-Lago. Some aide actually uploaded them into digital form. So who gave that instruction, why were they uploaded, how were they disseminated?
And the second question is how did this box manage to get out of Mar- a-Lago? Was apparently kept somewhere else in Florida while the search was happening and while Trump team's was searching and make his way back. I think prosecutors are going to be drawn to that as potential obstruction of justice.
KEILAR: Alyssa, you just heard Katelyn explain that federal investigators, what they suspect in all of this is a shell game of classified documents. So, based on what you know about how the former president and those around him work, what do you think about that?
GRIFFIN: Well, this whole story's bizarre. And I just want to note that even the president's schedule, for example, is a classified document. A public one that probably goes to about 50 people in the White House would be at minimum secret. And then there's much more, you know, private schedules, line by line schedules that would be even more classified than that.
But the notion of uploading any of this information online is clearly a security breach and goes against the most basic both archiving and national security protocols. I'm very confused about what he's wanting to do with them. But it does seem like this junior aide was doing this at the direction of the former president.
It almost brings to mind like the Kim Jong-un letters and other memorabilia of sorts from his presidency that he wanted to keep and sort of store in some sort of way, again, completely flouting, archiving, and national security laws. But I think we need to know a bit more before I can pass much judgment.
KEILAR: Elie, does this new reporting reveal anything to you about specific charges that the DOJ might be focusing on or what type of case they're building?
HONIG: So, it's clear to me the DOJ, based on the subpoenas they have been serving and the questions they've been asking, is focused on obstruction of justice, on were there efforts to lie to the FBI, to lie in response to that subpoena, to hide documents when the search warrant was coming down? I think that's clearly become a focus of DOJ's investigation.
The question is, is DOJ willing, if they believe they have a charge on obstruction, to charge obstruction even if they don't have some other crime relating to mishandling of classified documents. That's a difficult tactical decision.
KEILAR: Then, Alyssa, you know, Tim Parlatore, who is an attorney for Trump, told CNN earlier this month that the aide had not seen the classified markings. Do you think that's plausible?
GRIFFIN: Well, the reality is the former president knows how you're supposed to and not supposed to handle classified documents. My understanding is this is a very junior aide, likely did not have a clearance herself. I think that kind of comes with the territory when you direct somebody who wouldn't even know better to kind of do your dirty work.
It's like the height of irresponsibility that the former president would have this individual even handling the documents. I've handled many classified documents. It's hard to miss the markings. But I also don't think this was somebody trained in how to handle them.
KEILAR: Very good point.
Alyssa, thank you so much.
Elie, thank you as well.
And just ahead, southern California facing blizzard conditions, yes, southern California has heavy wind, rain, and snow make the region look unrecognizable.
KEILAR: Tonight, we're tracking extreme weather across the country including a winter storm that is bringing unusual blizzard conditions to southern California.
CNN's Camila Bernal is on the ground in California.
Camila, tell us where you are and what you're seeing.
CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. So we are right next to the Grapevine Interstate 5. It is the interstate that connects Los Angeles to San Francisco. And it has been shut down for the entire day. First, because of the snow, now because of the rain.
Authorities are saying there is a 20-mile stretch that they still are not able to open. Many of the drivers here trying to use the side roads, and they stopped and asked me, when is it going to be open. And I have to tell them, look, authorities are saying they don't have a time frame.
It has been beautiful for a lot of people in southern California because they've never seen this. So we've seen children out here playing. But it's also been extremely dangerous and very inconvenient for a lot of the drivers using I-5.
I want to show you what it looks like for some of the drivers, for the semis that have been here. They have had to spend the night here because they're unable to go back on the I-5. So I talked to a lot of them who told me, well, we're stuck, and there are drivers, not just semi-drivers but just regular drivers who told us, we had to spend the night here because they did not have anywhere to go.
I spoke to some ladies who told me, look, I was driving, and essentially I couldn't go anywhere, and it was just extremely dangerous for all of them. And, so, that's what we're hearing. It is not just here, but it is all of southern California. There are wind advisories, and there are some areas that are reporting 75-mile-per- hour winds in southern California.
There is more snow, more rain, and more wind. And so authorities are telling people stay indoors if you don't have to be outside. This is abnormal for this area.
And it could be historic. We'll have to wait and see exactly how the totals add up. But of course this could be historic for this area -- Brianna. KEILAR: Yeah. Look, I will tell you as a native southern Californian, we are not used to that at all.
Camila Bernal, thank you so much for that report. I do appreciate it.
I'm Brianna Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.