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Russia Launches Biggest Air Attack On Ukraine Since Start Of War; Trump Expected To Appeal Removal From Maine Ballot Soon; Michael Cohen Says He Unwittingly Sent Attorney Non-Existent Case Citations Generated By AI. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 29, 2023 - 17:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the world's news network.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Happening now, death and destruction in multiple cities across Ukraine after the biggest Russian air bombardment since the start of the war. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy now pleading with the international community for help to respond to what he's calling an act of terror. Also this hour, the Trump campaign promising a quick appeal after the former president was removed from the 2024 primary ballot in Maine. The risks of electoral chaos are rising tonight with two states now disqualifying Trump based on the 14th amendment's insurrectionist ban. And just 17 days before the Iowa caucuses, the fallout is continuing tonight for Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley after her answer are really non answer about the cause of the Civil War.

Her GOP rival Chris Christie calling her a "slippery, slick politician." Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Kaitlan Collins, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin this hour with Russia's massive new air assault on Ukraine, a sign of the wintertime campaign that Ukrainian officials had been warning about and dreading. President Biden calling it a stark reminder that President Vladimir Putin remains committed to obliterating Ukraine. CNN's Nic Robertson has our report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLAMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): From Ukraine center, Dnipro, to all points, Kyiv in the north, Odesa in the south, Kharkiv in the northeast, and to Lviv in the far west. Russia launched its biggest air attack since their ground invasion 22 months ago. Forty-four of 158 Russian missiles evading Ukraine's Western supported air defenses, killing and wounding civilians. This man narrowly surviving pulled from the rubble in Kharkiv. Schools, shopping malls, private homes and high rises, even a maternity hospital hit. In the capital, this resident awoken by missiles at 7:30 a.m. It was a horrible sound. It was so frightening. The missile was flying and everything was buzzing, worrying, she says. I didn't know what to do.

President Zelenskyy is accusing Russia of throwing nearly every type of weapon in its arsenal against Ukraine. Ukraine's Air Force describe a complex attack of interlocking waves of drones, bombers, fighter jets, cruise hypersonic and other missiles intended to distract and stretch air defenses.

RBERTSON: There was outrage and anger from European leaders, but Russia's complex assault appears intended not just to exploit weaknesses in Ukraine's air defense system, but it's waning international support highlighting Ukraine's need for European and U.S. money is held up by internal politicking.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): In a week, when Ukraine appeared to have turned its narrative to one of success destroying a valuable Russian tank transporter ship in Crimea, reality appears to be a second winter under sustained systemic Russian bombardment.

Nothing changes, Russia's goal is the same he says, to destroy Ukraine as a state and to destroy all rebellious Ukrainians as a nation. Resilience now Ukrainians best friend.


ROBERTSON (on camera): You know, and I think to that point what President Zelenskyy had to say today about appealing for support, a moment when Ukraine needs support saying that it heard from Western leaders and that he was grateful for their support. And I really think that strikes a very careful note from him thinking back to last summer at that NATO Summit where Zelenskyy was criticized frankly for not sounding thankful enough if you will, offering enough gratitude for all the support he's getting. Now he sees just how tenuous that support is, and that it may not even come in time for what he needs to defend the civilian populations in the cities. He's desperate. And I think we really got a real sense of that today.


COLLINS: Yes. And it's not clear it'll come at all from the United States. Nic Robertson, thank you for that report on what we saw happening today.

For a closer look at the destruction that this new Russian air bombardment has caused, Reporter Helena Lins is on the scene and takes a look inside the ruins of a warehouse that was hit in Kyiv.

HELENA LINS, CNN PORTUGAL INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Let me just take you inside and show you what's actually the destruction that is inside because, you know, the warehouse was hit, though, if caught fire. When we arrived here, the smoke was still very visible from the outside. Right now, we can still see smoke in the inside, the smell is actually also strong. And for some time, we couldn't access the inside of the warehouse because firefighters were still trying to stabilize, so nothing could actually fall that we now have permission to enter. And as you can see, you know, there is the structure is completely destroyed, the roof of the warehouse is totally destroyed.

And we are actually walking most of the time on shattered glasses on fragments of the warehouse, but also of the equipment that was inside. I was speaking with the general manager of the company, which is actually a German company working in Ukraine, and he was telling me there is only electro technical equipment here, there's no weapons, and it's now mostly destroyed.

COLLINS: Helena Lins inside that warehouse in Kyiv. Thank you for that report.

I want more on the reaction to what we're seeing play out here in Ukraine with our military and diplomatic experts. And Ambassador Bill Taylor, let me start with you because you heard something that Nic Robertson mentioned there, which was Ukraine in recent days sinking Russia's tank transport ship, just another blow to the Black Sea fleet of Russia's. I mean, what do you make of whether or not this is retribution for that? Or is just this really part of that campaign that Ukrainian officials had been worried about that would happen come wintertime?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Kaitlin, I think this is the campaign that the Ukrainian officials have been worried about. This is what happened last winter, you reported it, and many have observed that the Russians attacked during the winter when it's very cold, very cold there, as Nic knows. And when he -- when it's very cold, to attack the civilians, the civilian targets, electricity generation and distribution, which affects the water going up into the apartment buildings, it's crucial and it's cruel, Kaitlin. So this is what they've been anticipating. They're better prepared this year for this. But the Ukrainians know that this is a big assault that's coming from the Russia.

COLLINS: Yes, it doesn't seem like this is the end of it.

Colonel Leighton, when you look at what actually Russia was doing here, Ukraine is basically saying they threw every weapon that they have at them, hypersonic missiles, cruise missiles, strategic bombers, drones. What does that tell you about the tactics that Russia is using here to not only try to overwhelm but also to potentially confuse the defenses that Ukrainian has -- that Ukraine has?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Kaitlan that -- yes, exactly that Ukraine is really, like Ambassador Taylor said, anticipated some of this. But what was really interesting about this attack, on one hand, it's kind of like throwing the kitchen sink at the problem. The Russians are throwing everything into it, as you mentioned. But what was really interesting about this was the fact that it was so integrated. All these different diverse weapons platforms, coming together in a very concerted effort going through all of the targets that they had in all parts of Ukraine, from the west, to the north, to the east, and even to the south central part of the country. So, what you're seeing is a highly integrated efforts, or at least an attempt at a highly integrated effort by the Russians to exert maximum pressure. Now they're going after the civilian infrastructure. They're not going after as many of the military targets, although there were some in this batch of targets, but the main gig is the civilian population. And it's a question of going after Ukrainian morale.

COLLINS: And when it comes to Ukrainian morale, I mean, Evelyn Farkas, it doesn't help to see the fight that we're seeing play out here in the United States over sending more aid to Ukraine. I mean, they've been warning about the fact that if they don't get more aid from the United States, from other European countries, just how detrimental that'll be on the battlefield. And you saw President Biden kind of acknowledging that in his very lengthy statement on this bombardment today. Can Ukraine make it through the winter without getting more aid? And how does that embolden President Putin here?


EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASST. SECY. OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Yes, Kaitlan, you make a really important point. President Biden obviously took advantage as much as much as he could have this latest barrage, this latest attack on Ukrainian civilians, innocent civilians and their infrastructure by Russia to remind the American people that, first of all, we're the ones that are making sure, together with our European allies, that more death and destruction isn't occurring. But if we stopped providing our assistance, it's guaranteed that you will see more women, children and innocent civilians dying at the hands of the Russians. So, he did take advantage of that, rightfully so.

I think, though, it's also a reminder, you know, yes, I was in Ukraine in October. And I know that Ambassador Taylor's been there recently as well. The Ukrainians were ready for a barrage. They knew there was going to be a barrage coming from Russia. But the timing I think, does matter.

Putin is under incredible pressure domestically, we could have a whole another segment on what's going on in Russia. And he's also mindful of the fact that, you know, that the only way to weaken Ukraine is to try to get at the people's morale and at the west morale. And I think this strengthens Ukraine's morale. It remains to be seen to get to your question what it does to western morale, but hopefully it strengthens it.

COLLINS: Yes, a major question with lawmakers come back to Washington in just a few weeks. Thanks to you all on that new development here tonight.

Also coming up, speaking of for President Trump and how he is responding behind the scenes, as he is preparing his legal team to appeal that latest decision to remove him from the ballot in the state of Maine.



COLLINS: Tonight, the Trump campaign promising to appeal after the former president was removed from a second state's primary ballot. Maine's secretary of state making this bombshell decision about 24 hours ago, following a similar ruling that we saw from the Supreme Court in Colorado. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is following it all for us.

Jessica, I think the big question here is what is happening next in the Maine case, since this is not a decision by a court but instead by a secretary of state.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that's why they'll have this time to appeal to the courts. They'll have to appeal Trump's team, though, pretty quickly, because like I said, this was a case decided by the Maine Secretary of State. But with an appeal as Trump's team has promised here, it then will be heard by the state courts in Maine. And the state's laws here dictate that this next level of court, the Superior Court, it must make a decision pretty soon by January 17.

So, this was decided that was -- it was a decision decided by the State Secretary of State unilaterally on her own. She held that hearing earlier this month. And she said that while this was a big decision to make, she said that all the evidence in her view is really indisputable. Here she is.


SHENNA BELLOWS, (D) MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE: No secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on section three of the 14th Amendment. But no presidential candidate has ever engaged in insurrection and been disqualified under section three of the 14th Amendment.


SCHNEIDER: Now, her decision last night, it's obviously come under a lot of criticism. Many people have been saying, you know, it's the voters who should get to decide who's elected, it shouldn't be a secretary of state who decides who's on the ballot. So here's the top Republican in Maine, here's what he had to say.


JOEL STETKIS, CHAIR, MAINE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Our voting rights enshrined in the Constitution are sacred to us. And to have one particular person remove, really, the top candidate from the ballot because she dislikes that person just smells of politics that so many Americans really, really hate now.


SCHNEIDER: And this isn't the final word here. It'll next be heard by the state trial court, then potentially the state's highest court. And Kaitlan, it really likely will be eventually appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court where of course, the Colorado decision to take Trump off the ballot, it has already been appealed by the GOP in Colorado.

COLLINS: Yes. And they want the Supreme Court to fast track that decision. I mean, when it comes to all of this, this isn't the only two states where we're seeing this effort play out. It's played out in a lot of states. Some it's been outright rejected, some have had these decisions.

We're also waiting tonight for another decision about keeping him on the ballot in Oregon. When do we know or what do we know about when a decision could come in that case?

SCHNEIDER: It really couldn't come at any time here, Kaitlan. And you know, this is a liberal group in Oregon. They filed a lawsuit earlier this month, and they filed it directly to the state Supreme Court. And what they want the justices to do there is order Oregon secretary of state to take Trump off the primary and general election ballots. They're citing, of course, the 14th Amendment.

Trump's team actually has that deadline of tonight to oppose the lawsuit. So at any time really beginning tomorrow, the Supreme Court in Oregon could issue its decision. So there's a little more time in this case, though. You know, Oregon doesn't hold its primary until the end of May, Kaitlan. So, the Oregon Supreme Court likely has a little bit more time to make this decision since ballots don't need to be printed necessarily anytime soon.

COLLINS: Jessica Schneider, we'll be waiting to see what Oregon decides. Will also speak to the Maine's secretary of state, I should note, about her decision in the next hour. But joining me now is CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman.

And Maggie, it's now been nearly 24 hours since this decision from Maine secretary of state came out. Trump has -- his campaign has responded, he has posted a link to her contact information, but he himself doesn't seem to have said anything about this. How's he reacting privately to being removed from the ballot not just in Maine, but in other states as well?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Privately, he's saying similar things to what he's saying publicly, Kaitlan, which is this is election interference and making all the political arguments that we have gotten used to. This isn't something that his folks are seeking out. It's yet another set of court cases when they already have a pretty full load of those. But some of his political advisers do think there is political advantage at least in the short term. In Colorado, he's still on the ballot. So, even as that case is likely to go forward to the Supreme Court, he is on the ballot because the decision of the ruling there has been stayed.


In Maine, we don't quite know yet what's going to happen. They believe, generally speaking, he and he's advisors that they will have success at the Supreme Court, but he has also voiced some concern that a court that has -- you know, he appointed three of the justices at the Supreme Court and gave the conservatives a supermajority, he is concerned that they are going to look as if they're trying not to rule in his favor and might rule against him, we will see. But right now, this is crowding out final days of the primaries, when his rivals who are trailing him need to get attention. And to that end, his team seems -- see some advantage. And also, to the points made before, there are a lot of people including some Democrats, who are criticizing these decisions, and they are amplifying that as much as they can.

COLLINS: And they're worried about, you know, the actual just basis of this, the unprecedented nature of someone like a secretary of state --


COLLINS: -- you know, making the decision to remove a major party's potential candidate from the ballot. But there also seems to be a political concern here. You talked about the Trump team seeing a political advantage. Chris Christie was on CNN this morning and telling my colleagues that he thinks this is going to make Trump a martyr, that this is going to potentially help him. I mean, if this does go to the Supreme Court, if they reverse these decisions, how much could that potentially help Trump in this?

HABERMAN: That's what his team is relying on is the idea that this plays into a broader sense, that he is being victimized somehow by the system. That's been his argument the whole time for the, of course, the last two years. I think it's important to note, Kaitlan, he has been indicted for things that he did that, you know, he is charged with alleged crimes based on a lot of his own actions around trying to stay in office in the case of, you know, declassified documents that he possessed. These were things he possessed. He argues that he had the right to have them.

But again, these are things he did. And I understand that these cases are generally born out of a lot of frustration among Democrats that efforts to hold him accountable in various ways, either moved slowly or didn't work at all, like the Senate impeachment trial, the second one. But with the way it's playing out right now, it could end up benefiting him because his team is collapsing all of this under the rubric of witch hunt. And they're trying to turn around all of the arguments that are used against Trump that he interfered with the democratic process and trying to suggest that's what's being done to him.

COLLINS: Yes, and it's not just that decision coming from the Supreme Court. I mean, they're also being asked to rule on --

HABERMAN: That's right.

COLLINS: -- the other claims, presidential immunity. I mean, they could have a major, you know, place in the 2024 election. But Maggie, I have to ask you about something else --


COLLINS: -- that happened today, just given your obviously close coverage of not just Trump but the people around him, Michael Cohen, obviously, his former attorney, his former fixer, he is now apparently saying that he mistakenly gave his attorney these non-existent case citations that were generated by artificial intelligence, by Google's Bard system, which were then submitted to a judge as a part of his argument. I just -- what do you -- what do you make about?

HABERMAN: Look, I think that, you know, this has been an issue since we learned to the fact that these cases did not exist. And the question was, how did this come to be? He is owning it. And he said, I think in a court filing that was unsealed today that, you know, he had done this, that it was a mistake, and that he was -- he did not realize how this was going to be used. He didn't realize that the lawyer who submitted the filing using these non-existing cases wasn't going to check to make sure that they did.

And so, you know, that is something I think he will point to to say that, look, I was trying to be honest about this. The Trump team unfortunately for Michael Cohen is going to use this as an example to paint him as what they have all along, which is say that he has a habit of saying things that are not true. And they have been doing this for some time. There is, Kaitlan, a broader lesson for everyone here about artificial intelligence and how dangerous it can be.

COLLINS: Yes, and a lesson for the attorney who submitted that to the judge without seeming to check it.

HABERMAN: Correct.

COLLINS: Maggie Haberman, thank you for your reporting as always.


COLLINS: Next here in Situation Room, Nikki Haley trying to move past that stumble on the campaign trail in New Hampshire as one of her Republican rivals, all of them are seizing on it, but one of them calling her a "slippery" politician.



COLLINS: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is in Iowa today after wrapping up her swing through New Hampshire. But the fallout from what she didn't say about slavery and the cause of the Civil War at a town hall in the Granite State has still been trailing her as her Republican rivals are continuing to pile on to the attacks. CNN's Kristen Holmes is following all the developments here.

Kristen, I think the big question is how the Haley campaign also feels about this and whether or not they're going to be able to move on from these comments if Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis and others, Vivek Ramaswamy keep talking about them.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, I mean, her Republican opponents definitely don't want her to move on from these comments. We've heard them hitting her relentlessly on the campaign trail. Ron DeSantis going after her authenticity, saying that if you're running for president, you have to be able to talk to the people not just read off of a teleprompter. But no one has really gone after her as hard as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Now that is not that surprising. He appears to have the most to gain if this is detrimental to Nikki Haley in any way particularly in the state of New Hampshire. He has called her slick, he has called her slippery. And today he took it a step farther parlaying those terms into her posture when it comes to the former president. Take a listen.



CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been her whole campaign. She does not want to offend anyone. She won't tell the truth about Donald Trump, even though she knows that he was the cause of January 6th, she won't say it. Even though she knows that he regularly lies, she won't say it. She was asked by a voter again in New Hampshire, would she categorically rule out being Donald Trump's vice president? And she won't answer the question. These are simple questions for -- to a smart woman. And when she doesn't answer them, you have to believe she's being a slippery, slick politician.


HOLMES: And Kaitlan, what he is referring to is at a town hall, which he doesn't mention. This voter said that they were deciding between Chris Christie and Nikki Haley, but wanted her to categorically say that she would not be Donald Trump's vice president. And instead, she said she doesn't play for a second and kind of beat around the question.

Now, I have talked to a lot of people who know Nikki Haley, who have worked with Nikki Haley. And the thing that they say about Nikki Haley is that she is a smart woman, and she is a smart politician. And that doesn't surprise any of them that she wouldn't answer that question because whether or not she wants to be Trump's vice president, if he is the nominee, she doesn't want to definitely kill that before the options even there.

And obviously, we have seen reports that Donald Trump has been floating her name to allies along with roughly about a dozen other people. But again, obviously thing to keep in mind here, we are way too early to be having any vice presidential conversations. So we will just table that until later in the cycle.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Yes, we don't even know who the nominee is yet. Kristen Holmes, thank you for that reporting.

My panel is also here. And Alice Stewart, I wonder what you make of how this has been playing out ever since this first non-answer, really, from Nikki Haley, and the way that people like Chris Christie, who obviously have a lot to gain from keeping this comment in the news and keeping it at the forefront of their comments. What do you make of what he's saying about this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, when you have the momentum, and at your back, like Nikki Haley has for the last several weeks and heading this close into Iowa, New Hampshire, the last thing you want is to spend 48 hours talking about not having the correct answer on the root cause of the Civil War, and she has cleaned that up. But this clearly it is a mode of attack for the other challengers.

As for Chris Christie, look, the cornerstone of his campaign has been to take down Donald Trump and he has been very forceful in his attacks on Donald Trump. Every time he opens his mouth on the trail, on the debate stage, no one can be attacked Donald Trump enough for Chris Christie. But for him to go after Nikki Haley saying that she has basically given Donald Trump a pass, I have to push back a little bit on that because she has been critical of Donald Trump for what he's done with regard to the debt, adding to the debt. She has pushed back for saying that he is not the president, shouldn't be the president moving forward and really attacked the chaos and division of his candidacy in his presidency.

So I think she's pushed back some on Donald Trump being careful not to alienate his base, but no one could attack Donald Trump enough to satisfy Chris Christie.

COLLINS: Well, and Errol, you heard that moment that Kristen just referenced there, which is when a voter was asking Nikki Haley last night, yes or no, would you agree to be Donald Trump's vice president? This is how she answered that voter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a chance to redeem yourself after last night's slavery thing. Would you be able to say categorically that you will not accept being Trump's vice president? And you know, the reason is, I've got this ballot here, and I'm trying to figure out whether I'm going to mark you or Chris Christie.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You may heavily dislike Trump, I get it. And Chris is obsessed with his dislike for Trump. But if you go in with that kind of obsession, you're not going in with the clarity of moving our country forward. I've never played for a second. I'm not going to start now.


COLLINS: Errol for example, I mean, Ron DeSantis, has been asked the same question. He said, no, we did not hear a yes or no from Nikki Haley, what do you make of that answer?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, she's a trained diplomat. And so she speaks diplomatically. She is probably wondering, in the back of her mind, which part of this game do you people not understand? You know, I'm old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan was dubbed the practitioner of voodoo economics by George H.W. Bush, who later became his running mate. You know, this is about way more than dislike of one person. And to that extent, I think Nikki Haley makes a good point.

This is about leadership of the party. This is about leadership of the country. This is about leadership of the free world. It doesn't lend itself to these kinds of absolutes. We should point out by the way, that when it comes to Republican voters every poll that we've seen suggests that the Chris Christie stance will get you maybe fourth or fifth place by the time all of the dust settles. So this is a party that is still making up its mind about Donald Trump. They have to be talked to somewhat diplomatically. And that's what I heard Nikki Haley doing.


COLLINS: Jamal Simmons, Nikki Haley's argument kind of here has been Democrats don't want to see her as the Republican nominee, because she would be more formidable going up against President Biden than a Donald Trump is the nominee. What do you make of those? Not only those comments by her, but also her implication, you know, she claimed that person who was there on Wednesday night was a Democratic plant was the word that she used, saying it was someone that President Biden Democrats place there.

I mean, I don't think that changes what the answer should be. But what do you make of the argument that she would be more formidable as the Republican nominee than the former president?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's just assume it was a Democratic plan, but you know, that you're going to run for president of the free world. So if you can't handle a Democratic plan at a town hall meeting, how are you going to handle Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, right? So let's just put that to the side. The other thing is, you know, there are moments in the campaign, there are moments where voters get a feel for the stuff, the mettle of a candidate. And we don't know when those moments are going to occur.

They usually occur when the candidate is under some duress. And the campaign kind of gets it -- the voters get a sense that the candidate is bigger than just this moment and they get a sense of what it is they're about. What Chris Christie is getting at is a core thing that he called her slick -- slippery and maybe a little slick, right, grew up in Detroit. They might call it two-faced, right? She's trying to be a little dance. We know with the MAGA dance with the moderates. You can't really do both and primary politics. People really want politicians with a little bit more certainty.

In the general election, absolutely. Voters want to know somebody can navigate the tide and figure out how to tie different strands together. But in primary politics, particularly in the Republican Party right now, they want hardcore certainty.

COLLINS: Errol, one question she did answer was would she pardon Donald Trump if she became president, and she had that power, and he needed to be pardoned, would she do so? She said yes, that she would, essentially arguing and be for the sake of the country. That's an answer that we've also seen from Governor DeSantis. I mean, what do you make of the fact that that is a question being asked if the GOP field if they would pardon the Republican front runner.

LOUIS: It's a really important question. And none of them should be answering it, frankly. We still have a lot of court cases to play out. We still have questions about ballot access that needs to play out. We have a system that needs to be respected. We have facts that need to be uncovered. Witnesses who need to be heard, it is much, much, much too soon, to start talking about whether or not there's going to be a pardon.

And so it comes across as transparently political, simply tried to appease the Trump base, maybe pull some of them over, act like you're with that crowd. And it really is a shame. And it's a little bit shocking. But the reality is, it doesn't even work because both of the people who were doing this Ron DeSantis, and also Governor Haley, they're way, way, way far, 20, 30 points behind Donald Trump. You're not going to sort of finesse your way into this. Either you oppose him or you don't.

And in this case, if you're going to stand up for the system, for the courts, for the federal cases, for the state cases, for the witnesses, and for the rule of law, you simply can't announce that as a political bargaining chip before the first primary, it just doesn't make any sense.

COLLINS: It's a good point. Thanks to you all. Errol Louis, Jamal Simmons, Alice Stewart, hope you all have a great 2020 -- end of your 2023.

SIMMONS: Kaitlan? two word for you before we go, Kaitlan.


SIMMONS: Two words. Go blue.

COLLINS: Don't do it. I knew you were going to do that. Don't do that to me Jamal Simmons. Come on, you know, I'm going to have to say roll tide back to that. I'll be at that game on Monday. So we'll be rooting for the Crimson Tide.

STEWART: Happy New Year.

COLLINS: Jamal Simmons, thank you. Happy New Year to everyone except Jamal, on that note.

I want to turn to Ohio now because there was a serious important development that happened there today. The Republican governor there in that state, Mike DeWine, he broke the Republican legislature in his state and vetoed a bill that would have banned minors in the state from receiving gender affirming care and prohibited gender athletes, transgender athletes from taking part in female sports. CNN's Miguel Marquez is covering his story. Miguel, what was the justification that Governor DeWine, a Republican governor offered for vetoing this bill from his Republican state legislature?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, given the shape of this across the country. It is very clear that not just Americans, but Republicans as well are torn on this issue. The governor, Republican governor driving home the point that, look, this is between parents and their children and not about government mandates on health care, saying that this bill not only prohibited things like certainly surgery or hormone therapy but it also prohibited therapy, mental health care for some of these kids who might need it.


Also the governor really digging in on the facts on transgender care, making the point that, look, three quarters of kids who seek mental health counseling, if they're transgender or non-binary. Two thirds of them don't even go to get any sort of hormone therapy. The governor really driving home that this is about parents and kids, and not about government interfering -- intervening in what are very difficult and wrenching decisions.


GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): These are gut wrenching decisions that should be made by parents, and should be informed by teams of doctors who are advising them. These are parents who have watched their child suffer, sometimes for years, and who have real concerns that their child may not survive to reach adulthood.


MARQUEZ: And look for the kids and the parents who are dealing with this, the stakes could not be higher. There is study after study that shows that transgender young people and non-binary young people, there are more suicides and suicide attempts among that population at their much higher rate. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes. And Ohio Republicans, they do have a supermajority there. So I think it raises the question of whether or not those Republican lawmakers are going to override their Republican governor's veto. What are supporters who wanted him to sign this into law saying?

MARQUEZ: Yes, some of his gotten pretty nasty, some of them calling him a child mutilator of being very, very unhappy with the Republican governor and the decision that he's made. They do have a supermajority. They're already talking about overriding that veto. And look in 20 states right now, the campaign for Human Rights says that there are limits or bans, outright bans on transgender care like this.

And that North Carolina in August, overrode the Democratic governor, there in a similar fashion. So it is expected that the House will begin in Ohio some sort of process to override and senators already saying they'll override as well. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Miguel Marquez, remarkable development that we've seen playing out and multiple states. We'll continue to follow that story.

Also ahead here tonight on THE SITUATION ROOM, the IDF is expanding its military campaign in southern Gaza, civilians there becoming more desperate as delivering aid to them is only getting more dangerous.



COLLINS: Tonight, the Israeli military says it's expanding its operations in southern Gaza, even as the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate with United Nations officials warning about the difficult and dangerous conditions that they're facing to try to get aid delivered to Gaza. CNN's Nada Bashir has the story.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A seemingly endless stream of injuries. The wounded, rushed to whatever hospitals are still able to treat patients. Day after day, the death toll climbs. There is no respite from Israel's widening offensive. By daybreak smoke rises above southern Gaza. Many of those who fled here for protection now watch as their loved ones are buried. Grief here is never ending.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas who they say are embedding themselves amongst civilians. But the innocent here are shown no mercy in this war, gripped with fear as Israeli forces repeatedly strike residential buildings and even around hospitals.

NADEEN ABDULATIF, DISPLACED GAZAN: The house that we stayed and we thought it was good and we found shelter finally, a house next to it was bombed. The house jiggled and the house went crazy and the windows broke.

BASHIR (voice-over): Some 2.2 million people in Gaza are now said to be facing an acute hunger crisis, prompting this sea of desperation, crowds grabbing what little food aid has made it in unsure of their next opportunity. With no safe place to turn, people continue to stream into Rafah despite the bombardments now gripping the border city.


BASHIR (on camera): Well, Kaitlan, the situation in Gaza seems to only grow more desperate by the day and getting aid into Gaza is still proving to be a challenge. Just today, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said its aid convoy was fired by Israeli troops after passing a checkpoint into southern Gaza. And while no one was injured, the U.N. agency has said that aid workers should never be a target.

Now Israel says it is looking into the incident but this has once again brought into question the security guarantees, aid agencies have repeatedly sought from Israel in order to provide the vital aid to millions of civilians in Gaza. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Nada Bashir, thank you for that report.


Coming up here, airports across the U.S. expecting a busy weekend, as millions of passengers who went home are now traveling during the final days of the year.


COLLINS: This weekend, officials are expecting a busy one at airports across the country as millions of passengers are going to be taken to the skies as the Christmas holiday season is coming to an end. CNN's aviation correspondent Pete Muntean is joining us live tonight from outside Reagan National Airport outside Washington. Pete, how are things looking so far of people are on their way to the airport?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It's been pretty smooth today. Kaitlan, you know, it's quite a down bit here at Reagan National Airport. But thankfully the cancellations and delays have remained at bay. This will be though a huge weekend for air travel. Look at the line here at Reagan National Airport during the 7:00 a.m. rush here. A lot of people coming home after the end of the Christmas holiday meeting those leaving town for New Years.

And the TSA says it's already screened about 20 million people in total since the start of this rush. After this weekend is over, it says it'll add another 7 million people to that total, 2.6 million people expected at airports across the country today alone, 43,000 flights handled by the FAA. The good news here is that airlines have performed pretty admirably over this holiday rush, 187,000 flights scheduled by airlines during the first week of this rush according to FlightAware, 36,000 of them delayed. That's about one in every five flights.

Although only 1,300 canceled, we're talking less than 1 percent of all flights. I want you to think back to where we were a year ago. Southwest Airlines was in the middle of its 10-day long meltdown, it canceled 16,900 flights in total stranded about 2 million people that all started because of bad weather at some of Southwest major hubs that led to cascading issues behind the scenes. The good news is that over this rush, the weather has been pretty good. And it seems like for the last weekend of the year, it will stay that way. Kaitlan?


COLLINS: But everyone will be watching closely, especially those traveling. Pete Muntean, thank you for that.

Still ahead here on THE SITUATION ROOM, the main Secretary of State will join us live in just a few moments to talk about her decision to remove Donald Trump from that state's primary ballot and what is expected to happen, next.


COLLINS: Happening now, breaking news, as CNN is now learning when Donald Trump is expected to appeal decisions removing him from the ballots in Colorado and Maine, standby for more details on that.


We'll also get reaction from the top election official who disqualified Trump from that ballot in Maine. She'll join us live this hour.