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Protests And Backlash Against Putin After Navalny's Death; Ukrainian Ambassador To U.S. On Russian Capture Of Key Town; Sources Say, V.P. Harris Seeking More Assertive Role In 2024 Campaign; U.S. Proposes U.N. Draft Resolution Calling For Temporary Gaza Ceasefire; Police: Suspect Arrested For Shooting Deaths At University Of Colorado Campus Dorm. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 19, 2024 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the protests in Russia and the global backlash against Vladimir Putin after the prison death of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the world, now getting a closer look at the woman vowing to carry on Navalny's legacy, his grieving widow.

Also tonight, a fiercely contested Ukrainian town falls to Russia, the most significant advance for Kremlin forces in months. I'll get reaction from the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States. She's joining us live this hour.

Plus, sources now tell CNN that Vice President Kamala Harris is seeking a more assertive role in the 2024 campaign as she faces pressure from fellow Democrats to shake up President Biden's re- election bid.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

Tonight, the widow of Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, is angrily speaking out about his death and demanding answers as she vows to carry on her husband's work.

Let's go to our Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Matthew Chance. He's joining us live from Moscow right now. Matthew, how are Russians reacting to Navalny's death?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're reacting with shock, with horror, with grief. I was at a makeshift memorial earlier tonight here in the capital, Moscow, and there weren't massive crowds, but there was a constant trickle of twos and threes of people coming to pay their respects, to lay flowers, to offer their condolences to the memory of Alexey Navalny, the country's most prominent Kremlin critic who was pronounced dead on Friday at the remote penal colony in the Russian north, in the Arctic, where he'd been serving a 30-year prison sentence.

People run the risk here of being arrested or being detained if they come out and make public displays of protest and dissent like this, but, nevertheless, thousands have done that across the country. Several hundred, 400, according to one rights monitoring group, have been detained as a result of their efforts just to pay their last respects to Alexey Navalny.

And it's that mood of defiance that the widow of Navalny, Yulia Navalnaya, touched on when she made an address on the social media platform X earlier today when she said she would expose the people who she said killed her husband, Alexey Navalny. She said she would assume the mantle essentially of his opposition activism, to continue his work, and she appealed to the Russian people to back her in that effort. Take a listen to what Yulia Navalnaya had to say.


YULIA NAVALNAYA, WIDOW OF ALEXEY NAVALNY: I call upon you to share not only grief and the endless pain that has enveloped us and does not let go. I'm asking you to share my rage, anger, hatred for those who dared to kill our future. I address you with Alexey's own words, in which I believe very much. It is not shameful to do little. It is shameful to do nothing. It is a shame to let yourself be intimidated.


CHANCE: All right, well, those strong words from Alexey Navalny's widow. The Kremlin though has been pretty tight-lipped saying, an investigation is underway into what caused the death of Alexey Navalny, but until the results of that have been forthcoming, it says it won't comment.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance reporting from Moscow for us, Matthew, thank you.

Now, let's get more on Navalny's widow and how she's carrying on her husband's fight against Vladimir Putin.

CNN's Brian Todd is looking into this for us. Brian, she has already begun clearly to publicly attack him.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She has, Wolf, in addition to saying flat out that Vladimir Putin killed her husband, Yulia Navalnaya now says she will continue with her husband's cause. The key questions, can she do that effectively and can she survive?


TODD (voice over): She's been through it all with him, from marching in the streets, getting arrested herself, to his final seconds of freedom three years ago before he was taken into custody for the final time, but she has never been out front until now.

NAVALNAYA: By killing Alexey, Putin killed half of me, half of my heart and half of my soul. But I still have the other half, and it tells me that I have no right to give up.

[18:05:03] I will continue Alexey Navalny's cause.

TODD: 47-year-old Yulia Navalnya, Alexey Navalny's widow, can she now effectively lead Russia's opposition.

JULIA IOFFE, FOUNDING PARTNER AND WASHIHNGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: Now, that he is gone, I think the only person who could potentially carry on his legacy is his wife.

TODD: She has long avoided the spotlight, supporting her husband's campaigns, but not leading rallies or making videos.

IOFFE: The fact that she has now affirmatively picked up the mantle is a remarkable turnaround from where she has stood for the last 15 years.

TODD: In the days since his death, she has recorded the video address, made public appearances, and met with world leaders in Europe.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: She was intimately involved in her husband's work. She was a very close partner with him. I think she understands what it was that Alexey Navalny did as well, if not better than anyone.

TODD: She certainly knows the dangers of the job, enduring her husband being poisoned and almost killed in 2020, getting him flown out of the country for treatment at his bedside during their 20th anniversary, and flying back with him to Russia, knowing that he would surely face arrest or worse.

After police took him away in 2021 with the crowd chanting her name, she was defiant.

NAVALNAYA: I am not afraid and I call on you to not be afraid.

TODD: Shortly after that, at a court hearing, Alexey Navalny looked at his wife and drew the shape of a heart on the glass of the dock. When her husband died, she hadn't seen him in two years. His last message to the world was this valentine to her, quote, I feel that you are with me every second. Her first post after his death, I love you.

But after years of living in Europe, would she dare go back to Putin's Russia?

ALEXEI LEVINSON, RUSSIAN POLLSTER, LEVADA CENTER: If she does this in Russia, she will have a high chance of ending up where her late husband ended up.

TODD: Others say Putin could come after her even if she stays abroad.

GLASSER: Look, I think if you are going to be a strong voice of opposition to the Kremlin right now, you have to consider yourself a target.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (on camera): Yulia Navalnaya is already seemingly taking up some of her husband's calculations on how to pressure Vladimir Putin. According to The Washington Post, she called on European leaders to sanction hundreds of Russian oligarchs who support Putin's re-election and to help prevent Russia's elites from evading sanctions. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you, Brian.

Joining us now, the historian Anne Applebaum, a staff writer for the Atlantic. And thanks very much for joining us. How do you see Navalny's legacy moving forward right now? Is there any room for dissent at all in Russia?

ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: There's very little room for dissent, but he was really somebody who spoke to the people who hope to someday dissent, who are learning how to dissent and who aspire to dissent. And he offered people a vision of what it's like to be brave. Here's what it looks like. I'm brave now. You be brave, too. So, while it's a very, very difficult moment in Russia right now, he offers a kind of vision of what a future Russia could look like, what a different Russia could be.

BLITZER: As you know, Navalny's widow says Russia is holding Navalny's body to prevent evidence from emerging on how exactly he died. How do you see it?

APPLEBAUM: I mean, it's very possible. Obviously, I don't have any insight into the Russian funeral or forensic services. But, look, we know they've lied about him before. They tried to poison him twice. It's perfectly likely that they tried to poison him again, and they're hiding the body to prevent the evidence.

I mean, it almost doesn't matter, because one way or another, they clearly killed him. They knew he was going to die. They knew he was in danger, he was ill. They wanted him out of the way. And I suspect they wanted him out of the way even before Russia's fake election in March. Even behind bars, by existing, by being a voice of conscious and bravery, he was a threat to Putin, who wants people to be cowardly.

BLITZER: He really feels -- I'm sure Putin feels emboldened right now going into that so-called election in Russia right now, given that Alexey Navalny is now gone, his chief opposition in Russia right now, and the fact that his troops are making significant gains on the battlefield in Ukraine right now.

APPLEBAUM: They're making some gains. They did take a city. They lost more soldiers taking that city than the Soviet Union lost in the entire war in Afghanistan. So, they're still paying an enormous price. And Putin wouldn't be murdering his opposition. He wouldn't be arresting people who put flowers on public monuments. He wouldn't be arresting people who make mildly anti-war statements in restaurants and who get reported by sitting -- by people at the next door tables if he was so confident.

The war has been disastrous for Putin. People on the inner circles know it. Russians are tired of it. [18:10:00]

We don't really have any polling in Russia, but what we have shows whatever support for the war is clearly going down. His one hope is keeping the United States divided and Europe divided long enough so that he can wear them out and he can win the war that way.

BLITZER: Let's see if he can do that. While I have you, Anne, very quickly, I want to get your thoughts on Donald Trump's reaction to all of this, saying he's being politically persecuted in the United States, like Navalny was politically persecuted in Russia, and he's refusing to condemn Russia for Navalny's death. What goes through your mind when you hear that?

APPLEBAUM: I think it's a kind of sickness to imagine that the United States is like Russia, that we murder our political opponents, lock them up within distant Siberian prisons, and to pretend that somehow the legitimate justice of the United States is the same as that. I mean, it really shows where his mind is. He admires autocrats, he admires autocracy, and at the same time he's unable to accept that the legitimate rule of law has come after him.

BLITZER: Anne Applebaum, you're also a senior fellow at my alma mater, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, thanks for coming in. I appreciate it very much.

Coming up, Russia makes a major advance out there on the battlefield, taking a critical city in Eastern Ukraine. We'll have a live report from the front lines. That's coming up.

Plus, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States is standing by live to join us right here in The Situation Room on how the fight over new U.S. aid to Ukraine is actually impacting the war right now.



BLITZER: Tonight, Ukraine is warily watching Russia's next military moves after Kremlin forces captured a key eastern town, the first major advance for Russia in Ukraine in months.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground for us in Ukraine. And a warning to our viewers, some viewers may find images in this report disturbing.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A sight not seen for a while, a Russian flag going up over Ukraine. But Ukraine's withdrawal announced on Saturday from Avdiivka means more than the loss of a town bitterly fought over since Russia first invaded a decade ago. It is perhaps the first sign a delay in U.S. aid spells death and loss here.

These images released of their last defenses rushing into support under fire from a resurgent Russia who President Zelenskyy says sent seven Russian troops to die for every dead Ukrainian.

This is what it was like in the basement defending down to the last, treating the injured in the darkness, yet aware their options, their ammo, their chances were ebbing. Shelling endless, it spoiled my drink, this soldier complains.

A Commander clear Monday why this happened.

We didn't have enough people, he says. We didn't have enough shells. We didn't have enough possibilities to throw them back.

Russia's Ministry of Defense released images of their final onslaught on that coke plant and what they claimed were the casualties inflicted on Ukrainians as they tried to flee in the dark.

Other images and reports emerged Monday in Ukraine of the fate of their wounded, one of whom called home in his last moments. Allegations that, in the horrifying rubble here, both the wounded were left behind by Ukraine but also shot dead in cold blood by Russian forces.

Russian drone images of their spoils released, again displaying their odd pride over the rubble. Zelenskyy may have to get used to more of this, putting on a brave face as he visited troops in the likely next Russian target, Kupyans'k, just outside Kharkiv.

Although there were different political sentiments in the world, he said, different flashes of problems that distract attention, we still, all together, do our utmost to have the world with us, with Ukraine.

Words, no longer enough, not in Avdiivka and certainly not in the west, where $60 billion in missing aid now means Putin can slowly edge further and further west.


WALSH (on camera): And, Wolf, important to remind viewers just how incredibly real this all is, far away from what Vice President Kamala Harris at the weekend called the political gamesmanship of that $60 billion worth of aid here in Kherson, the southern city that was liberated from the Russians last year.

It's dark every single night because of Russian drones and shelling, and shelling has been quite intense tonight. We heard what sounded like automatic gunfire towards the river just in the last few minutes or so.

Ukrainians deeply concerned that Avdiivka maybe one of many. You heard about Kupyans'k there, where Zelenskyy was today in the south, Robotyne Village, there was one rare gain of the summer counteroffensive, that's under Russian pressure, talk of pressure near Bakhmut, the last major town that Russia took in May of last year, and two other points along the eastern front too, also under Russian pressure. Deep concerns, we were beginning to see a slow change on the battlefield of Russian resurgence in Ukraine. Finally, you heard there are less men, more noise in the distance here, less men, definitely less ammunition, and definitely concerned that that western aid that kept them strong since the invasion may be coming to an end. Wolf?

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh reporting from the battlefield in Ukraine for us, stay safe over there. Thank you very much.

Right now, I want to bring in CNN Military Analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General Hertling, thanks so much for joining us.

Ukraine now lost this city after holding out for a decade since Russia's first invasion going back. Just how significant, General, is this defeat? And how much is the shortage of U.S. military aid to Ukraine to blame?

GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Wolf, as Nick just said, there are multiple towns that are being pressured by Russian soldiers against Ukraine defenses, Avdiivka, Mar'inka, Kreminna, Bakhmut, others that they Nick named.


The Russians are attempting to put Ukraine on the defensive everywhere. They're attempting to mask, preventing them from conducting the defense, because they don't have the supplies and the manpower and the equipment they need. They are spreading the Ukrainian lines very thin, all except Robotyne, which is in the south, that Nick mentioned, are in the western part of the offensive belt. If they can get through that area and they are pressing hard, Dnipro, which is a major city in the western part of Ukraine -- excuse me, the eastern part of Ukraine, is going to be threatened. And that's what's so salacious about this.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a serious situation. General, what's your message to House Republicans who are holding up more than $60 billion in potential Ukraine funding?

HERTLING: Well, truthfully, Wolf, it's a couple of things. Short-term, they are causing the increased death of Ukrainian soldiers and citizens. They are contributing that. They are increasing the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure. There is the continual holding of Ukrainian citizens and children as hostages in Russia while all this is going on.

But as you said earlier in the show, it's the emboldening of Putin and Russian leaders. It has given Putin a second win. And if these funds are continued to be held by Congress, it's going to contribute to a long-term increasing danger to other countries in Europe, and it's going to cause increased U.S. defense spending eventually and potential conflict for U.S. soldiers.

So, this has been a conflict where Ukraine has upheld the sovereignty and the freedoms of the west by fighting hard. We should not let them down right now. And I implore the Republicans in Congress to take a vote of which 70 percent or higher of American people's support to continue to stand with Ukraine and get them the equipment and the ammunition that they need.

BLITZER: They desperately needed right now. Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thanks so much for joining us.

Right now, I want to get reaction from the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us at this critically important moment.

How much momentum does Putin now have with this big win in Avdiivka?

OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you, Wolf, for having me. Well, it's -- I wouldn't call it a win because they didn't take the city. They just destroyed the city as they do with all of our towns and cities during this horrible, aggressive, genocidal war. And it was a wise decision for our commanders to save the personnel, of course.

But as you rightfully said, and your correspondent on the ground, if six, eight months ago, we were at least around the parity with the artillery shells. Now, the ratio is one to six at most.

So, look, you know, nothing changed. Ukrainian people are as motivated. Our brave defenders are as brave. As we discussed with you in the studio previously a number of times, it's just a function of weapons. If we can have more weapons now, if we can double down on our efforts, not only we will continue holding the lines, we will continue liberating the land and freeing those Ukrainians who suffer, as we speak, because they are tortured and killed everywhere.

But, you know, it is a pivotal moment and we have to double down. We have to get more in order to be able to save lives. And, frankly, not only for Ukraine, we have to be able to win. We cannot allow Putin to advance in Ukraine and advance in the minds of the people in Russia and outside of Russia that autocracies are stronger than democracies. We should prove that we are stronger.

BLITZER: So, Ambassador, what is your message to House Republicans right now who are holding up more than $60 billion in new U.S. military aid to your country? Do you blame them for these setbacks in Ukraine that we're seeing?

MARKAROVA: Wolf, there is only one here to blame. It's Putin and Russians who started this aggressive war ten years ago exactly today and who restarted it two years ago. And my message to all Americans, whether Republican or Democrat, well, first of all, thank you, thank you for standing with us all this very difficult two years. And the second message is this is the time to stay the course. This is the time to double down.

Look, everything you helped us with during the two years really worked. We liberated 50 of the territories. We liberated the Black Sea. We are moving ahead in rebuilding Ukraine and we can do it together.


When something works, you don't change it. You just do more of it. And it's time to actually provide us with more help, which we use very transparently and very efficiently, and which will bring peace closer, and which will allow all of us to stop Putin while it's still in Ukraine and not to allow him to start and spread this war where Ukrainian -- not only Ukrainian, but American soldiers will have to fight defending the NATO allies.

We still are not asking the boots on the ground. We only ask for weapons and financial resources in order to fight an enemy who 70 percent of Americans consider either an enemy, Russian country or unfriendly country.

So, I know that American people support us. We just have to start taking the decisions and win.

BLITZER: It's critically important moment right now. Ambassador Oksana Markarova, thanks as usual for joining us. And good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Ukraine.

MARKAROVA: God bless you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, do CNN reporting going inside the Biden campaign right now with new details on who is ramping up efforts to go from the shadows and into the spotlight.

Stay with us, more information coming up right here in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Sources tell CNN Vice President Kamala Harris is carving on a new more assertive role for herself trying to pierce with some see as a bubble around the inner circle of President Biden's sluggish re- election campaign.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is over at the White House, she's getting new information for us. Arlette, how does the Vice President view this campaign?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Vice President Kamala Harris is really taking a more active role as she is trying to determine why exactly at times the Biden campaign has struggled to break through with voters at a time when she and President Biden are trying to secure a second term in office.

So, she is doing this by holding a vast array of conversations across the political spectrum, that includes meetings on Air Force One and also meetings at the Naval Observatory. They're really being billed by people who participated in them as listening sessions, giving the vice president an opportunity to hear from folks out in the country about why some of these issues haven't broken through. In one of those meetings, she assembled a group of Democratic governors at the Naval Observatory and heard their concerns when it came to messaging on abortion, the need to ramp up and turn up the heat on Republicans over their opposition to that bipartisan border bill and also ways to try to attract younger voters to this campaign.

But it's not just listening sessions that she's having. She's also having those campaign strategy sessions with top campaign officials drilling down the polling, drilling down the messaging really to try to set them up for better success heading into November.

And it really comes as the vice president's role in the Biden White House has really stabilized after a bit of a rocky start in those early years. She has become the main leading voice when it comes to the push to secure abortion rights in this country.

And over the weekend, we saw her foreign policy chops on display as she was there assuring allies of the U.S. role in the world and the U.S. commitment to NATO at a time when former President Donald Trump has instead indicated that he's siding with Putin, saying he'd encourage them to do whatever they want to NATO countries who are not meeting their obligations.

But, really, what this does, this reporting has painted a more vivid picture of the role that the vice president has tried to take, trying to take a more active role in figuring out how they can break through as she and the president are trying to secure that second term in office.

BLITZER: So important. Arlette Saenz reporting for us at the White House, thank you very much, Arlette.

Let's dig deeper right now with our CNN Political Commentators, Ashley Allison and S.E. Cupp.

Ashley, you worked on the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign. Do you believe the White House is using Vice President Kamala Harris effectively right now? Is this the right approach?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the best use of the vice president is to get her out and talking to voters, which they are doing and have been doing in an official capacity for the last year or so.

I remember when the vice president was named on the ticket, and from that moment through Election Day, I was charged with meeting with her regularly to do exactly what Arlette was describing, what's the polling saying, where are voters, where are black men, where are black women, where are young people, where is the Asian community. The whole coalition necessary to win the vice president is uniquely positioned to speak to those communities.

And so getting her out, talking about the issues that voters matter the most, is one of the most effective ways to use them. And I am glad to see the campaign is really leaning into that effort right now.

BLITZER: And we're going to be seeing a lot more of her and hearing a lot more of her in the coming days and weeks. No doubt about that.

S.E., the vice president, Vice President Harris, her polls are slightly worse than Biden. So, is a more assertive role for her in this campaign actually a positive?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually think, yes, anything can help. And, look, we all know the stages of grief, right? It starts with denial. I think the Democrats inside Biden world were in denial for a bit about how much trouble his campaign was in.

And I think finally they're in the acceptance phase after some anger and bargaining, they're in the acceptance phase, and finally addressing these insufficiencies with their own voters, with their own messaging, on their own issues like abortion.

Now, I think that's good news.


I think that's really encouraging. And I think Kamala Harris can absolutely speak effectively to those groups and on those issues. The question is whether it's a little too late. I mean, we're a month out from Super Tuesday. It's a little late to be reinventing and tinkering and going on a listening tour for an incumbent who should be really coming from a place of strength and not a place of panic.

BLITZER: Ashley, Edward Isaac Dovere reports on a meeting that Vice President Harris hosted with six Democratic governors. He writes this, and I'm quoting him now, what they are seeing in Biden's campaign, they told Harris, does not look like the path to victory and they were eager to see changes. Okay, said Harris after listening to an hour of deconstruction. What do you think should be done? Here's the question. Does the White House need to hear this message as well? Do you think they will listen?

ALLISON: I think they have to listen. And I think that people throughout the country, governors, mayors and voters, should continue to express what they want to see from this administration, and the administration should continue to talk about what they have already done. I think the question often is, well, what's the message? And the message is only as good as, as many people as it can actually hear it.

So, having these conversations with people who are leading cities, leading states, leaders in their community, having this dialogue is really important because, hopefully, they curate a message that is great and strong and resonating with the voters. And then it's the responsibility for those governors, those mayors, those community leaders to be surrogates for the campaign and for the administration and go out and explain to voters what they have done.

It is an ongoing dialogue. I know that Super Tuesday is just around the corner, but the Democrats actually are not in a real primary season. So, I think this is enough time to get the message back on track and really begin to engage with voters, and when necessary, tinker with it a little bit. This is a very dynamic election cycle, and so we can't stay static regardless of what poll numbers are saying.

BLITZER: What do you think, S.E.?

CUPP: Well, I think Ashley is really onto something, that these surrogates need to start coming out. Where's Elizabeth Warren? Where's Bernie Sanders? Where's Nancy Pelosi? Where are the stars of the Democratic Party going out into their communities, going out into national spotlights and bragging about all the things that they think Biden has done really well?

I mean, there's a big tent over on the left. I'm jealous, believe me, for my position on the right, of the deep bench and all the stars in the constellation of the Democratic Party, and they're just not being used. The Biden campaign feels very insular. And, again, that felt a little bit like denialism at first, but we're in the swing of the campaign now. It's time to get everybody out and singing his praises.

BLITZER: We shall see. S.E. Cupp and Ashley Allison, to both of you, thank you very much.

Up next, the clock is ticking for Donald Trump to appeal the latest court decision against him. We'll go through his options for trying to get out of that huge $355 million penalty he's now facing.



BLITZER: Former President Trump and his legal team are looking to appeal his latest $355 million legal blow in the New York Civil Fraud trial, this as Trump waits for the U.S. Supreme Court's review of his claim that he has absolute immunity for prosecution.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. Elie, what comes next for the former president after this massive judgment against him?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the first thing that Donald Trump has to do is post a bond. Now, that does not mean that he has to post the full amount, $350 million-plus in cash. Usually a bond is either worked out between the parties or the judge will order it. There typically will be some cash component, but you can usually secure the rest of it by posting a deed to property or other values like that.

Once Donald Trump posts the bond, he can then appeal. He has a right to appeal to the mid-level New York State Appeals Court. And then if he loses there, he can try to get it up to the highest level in New York Appeals Court, but they don't have to take the case. But one thing to know, when this appeals process is all over, whatever dollar amount comes out of this, that is not optional, that is not negotiable. Donald Trump will have to pay that.

BLITZER: When do you expect Trump will file his appeal and how likely is that that this decision will be reversed or even reduced?

HONIG: So, he has 30 days to file the appeal. Of course, he has to get the bond in place first. I think his chances of succeeding on appeal are low because a party that loses a lawsuit like this does not win on appeal by saying, well, the judge should have ruled in our favor. The judge should have credited my evidence, my witnesses.

What you have to show is some sort of procedural or structural or constitutional error. And to that end, Wolf, if you look at the judge's ruling, he really sort of appeal-proofs it. He says that much of what he's doing is based on his own assessment of the credibility of the witnesses, of the strength of the evidence. And it's really hard to overturn a verdict on that basis.

BLITZER: We're awaiting, as you know, Elie, two very important decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. First, we could hear from the court at any time and whether they will take up Trump's immunity argument. What are the stakes for that?

HONIG: Yes, the stakes are enormous here. This goes to Jack Smith's federal prosecution in Washington, D.C. Two things, first of all, if the court takes this, it will be one of the most important decisions they've rendered.

It goes to constitutional powers of the presidency, executive powers, separation powers. And on a practical level, Wolf, if the Supreme Court declines to take this case, it will go back to the trial court, and I think we are very likely looking at a trial date late spring or early summer.


But if the Supreme Court takes this case, Wolf, that's going to add several months onto the timeline and gives us a real possibility that this case will not be able to be tried before the election.

BLITZER: And the Supreme Court justices could announce their decision on the Trump Colorado ballot case as early as this week. What are you looking for there?

HONIG: Yeah. I don't think there's too much mystery left in which way this ones going to go, having listened to those arguments a couple of weeks ago. I think it's very likely the Supreme Court reverses Colorado and puts Donald Trump back on the ballot.

And timing was, we never know when the Supreme Court is going to act, but we have a pretty good hint here because Colorado is slated to vote on Super Tuesday, March 5th. And I think the Supreme Court has to be aware of that and has to understand that the voters of Colorado need to know before then whether he is disqualified or not.

So I do look for a ruling some point in the next couple of weeks. We are all on high alert for both of these cases.

BLITZER: Certainly are.

Very quickly. I want to get to the Georgia election subversion case, Elie. A judge is now deciding whether to remove District Attorney Fani Willis from the case. What do you expect to happen here? HONIG: Well, Wolf, I think there's been a lot of questionable ethical

conduct by Fani Willis throughout this case, even before this whole scandal came up. But I don't know that I saw the defendants that people challenging Fani Willis show this sort of specific financial conflict of interest they would need to show in order to justify her disqualification.

Important to know, though, there are proceedings happening this week. Some of them will be behind closed doors. So were not going to have all the information. I think it's possible. Fani Willis gets removed based on a conflict of interest, but I'd be surprised if that's the outcome.

BLITZER: We will see soon enough.

Elie Honig, thank you very much.

Coming up, victims of Israeli airstrike are rushed to a hospital in Central Gaza, many of them children. We're going to show you the deadly aftermath.



BLITZER: All right. Just in to CNN: the United States has proposed the United Nations Security Council draft resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in Israel's war against Hamas and warning against an Israeli ground incursion into Rafah. This as Palestinian health officials say at least 18 people were killed in Israeli airstrike in central Gaza. Most of them children.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond has the story for us. We want to warn our viewers. This report contains disturbing images.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One after another, after another, after another, the victims of the latest its Israeli airstrike flood into this hospital in central Gaza, mostly children.

Some of them still clinging to life. Others bloodied and limp, without a pulse, the life gone from their eyes.

Here, children comfort children, even as they are still trembling from the shock.

MAYAS, INJURED IN AIRSTRIKE (through translator): I was on the rooftop and suddenly I heard an explosion. I flew away and fell down. My back hurts. I saw smoke and stones forming. Then I heard people screaming.

DIAMOND: A hospital spokesman said at least 18 people were killed and dozens of others injured Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on a home in Deir Al-Balah. The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment about the strike. Witnesses say many of the victims had just arrived from Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city where fear and confusion have set in as Israel threatens a coming military offensive.

But central Gaza is no haven, a reality revealed in the cruelest of ways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I can't speak. Innocent children, obviously, they killed them all. They didn't even try their lives (ph).

DIAMOND: In the ruins of the al Baraka family home, the target of Sunday's airstrike, the desperate search for survivors is underway, as one man dies into the rubble, another shouts, get out of there. You'll die down there.

IBRAHIM, NEIGHBOR (through translator): We could only pull two alive from under the rubble, and the rest are all missing. We don't see safety in our mosque, or in an onerous school or in a hospital. The world safety is not something that exists anymore. They evacuated us from place to place, claiming it's safe. There is nowhere safe.

DIAMOND: Shouts, praising God rise as a girl is pulled from the rock but her body is lifeless added to the list of more than 12,000 children killed in Gaza.

Bystanders try and cover her body. But the man carrying her throws the blanket off and wants the world to see what this war has wrought.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.


BLITZER: Our thanks to Jeremy Diamond for that report.

Coming up, a suspect now in custody following a brutal crime on a major college campus. Why, what happened inside a Colorado dorm is being investigated now as a double homicide.



BLITZER: Police in Colorado Springs say a suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of two people at a college dorm.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is joining us live from Denver right now.

Lucy, what do we know about the suspect and the investigation into why this happened?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, no word yet on the why, Wolf, the motive, but the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs confirming to CNN that the suspect was in fact a fellow student. Now, police identified him as 25-year-old Nicholas Jordan. He's originally from Detroit, Michigan. He was studying in Colorado Springs.

They believed that he was responsible for that Friday's deadly shooting that killed two people, a young man and a young woman inside that dorm room on campus.

Now, police also say that he was arrested shortly after being found in a vehicle earlier this morning, he was taken into custody. They say without any incident. Authorities also believed that the suspect and these victims knew each other. In fact, the Colorado springs police department when said it was, quote, not a random attack against a school where other students at the university.

Now they had not, Wolf, go into how they were able to identify them so quickly, but they did say that they obtained an arrest warrant against him on two counts of first-degree murder on Friday evening, the same day that the shooting happened, which means that he was effectively on the loose for two days.

Authorities were asked at a press conference today why they didn't share that information earlier, why they allowed him to be on the loose for so long, here's the Colorado Springs police chief. Take a listen.


CHIEF ADRIAN VASQUEZ, COLORADO SPRINGS POLICE: I have to really balance what we provide to the community with public interest and public trust, and the safety of the public. And I fully understand that, but the investigation has to be able to move forward and our goal is -- well, ensuring that public safety.


KAFANOV: And let's get to the victims, Wolf. Both were found deceased when authorities arrived on the scene Friday morning, the woman identified as 26-year-old, Celie Rain Montgomery of Pueblo, Colorado, the man, 24-year-old Sam Knopp of Parker, Colorado, a student, a beloved student, a musician, both now dead in this tragedy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lucy Kafanov reporting for us -- Lucy, thank you very much.

The news continues next, right here on CNN.