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Biden Facing Test From Uncommitted Vote In Michigan Primary; Haley Takes On Trump In Michigan As She Vows To Stay In Race; CNN Speaks With Zelenskyy As Ukraine Marks Two Years Of War; Undocumented Migrant Charged With Murder Of Georgia Nursing Student; Judge: Ex-FBI Informant Charged With Biden Lies Will Remain In Jail. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Odie made an historic landing on the moon last week, of course, but tipped over on its side after touching down on the moon. Its antenna are currently pointed in the wrong direction, NASA says.

The lander did manage to send these pictures of its flight down to the moon. Odysseus will keep communicating with flight controllers until sunlight no longer touches its solar panels.

If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts. The news continues right now on CNN.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, all eyes are on Michigan just ahead of tomorrow's critical primaries, a lot at stake for both parties. On the Democratic side voters angry over the war in Gaza are trying to send a message to President Biden. Does the uncommitted vote pose a threat to his campaign?

And on the Republican side, Nikki Haley is vowing to soldier on after Saturday's blowout loss to Donald Trump in her home state of South Carolina. This as a major conservative donor network pulls (INAUDIBLE).

Also tonight, CNN speaks one-on-one with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, marks two years of war with Russia, why he says millions will die if the U.S. cuts off military aid.

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

First up tonight, President Biden's big test in Michigan, where a primary challenge threatens to embarrass the president and expose deep divides among his Democratic base over the war in Gaza, this as President Biden just spoke out on the Israel-Hamas conflict saying he's hopeful a temporary, temporary ceasefire will be reached by next Monday.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more on the president's primary challenge and our M.J. Lee is over at the White House with details on President Biden's latest remarks about the war. Let's go to M.J. first. M.J., President Biden made the comments while visiting an ice cream shop in New York just moments ago.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The president is up in New York spending the day there to do some fundraising and for a heaping of Seth Meyers, and he was just asked by a reporter when he was visiting an ice cream store when a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war might start, and his response used some pretty specific language on the timing. Take a listen.


REPORTER: Can you give us a sense of when you think that ceasefire will start?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I hope by the end of the weekend, I mean, by end of the weekend. At least, my national security adviser tells me that we're close. We're close. We are not done yet. And my hope is by next Monday, we'll have a ceasefire.


LEE: So the President, Wolf, is clearly being advised by his national security team, who has been working around the clock on this issue, that things are close, though, as we just heard him say, they're not quite there yet.

You know, my colleagues and I have been reporting that the deadline that U.S. officials, along with the other negotiators that are involved, that they're working towards is by Ramadan. This is when they would like to have that next temporary pause in fighting to begin by. And that is so critical because this is when the Israeli government has said that the Israeli forces would go into Rafah in Southern Gaza if by that time a deal isn't struck.

And that is something that U.S. officials are very much set on trying to avoid because the thinking there is that if that does happen, then all bets are sort of off and they wouldn't exactly know when the opportunity next might be for this kind of temporary pause in the fighting to happen.

And it would be also, of course, incredibly significant, because it will be the first pause of the fight since that seven-day truce we saw back at the end of November, when, of course, a number of hostages ended up coming out.

So, clearly, Wolf, we are seeing a president who appears to have reason for optimism that a cease-fire could begin in just a matter of days, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me get Jeff into this conversation. Jeff, there are concerns, as we all know, about tomorrow's Democratic primary in Michigan, where what's called the uncommitted movement has been gaining momentum. What is the uncommitted movement? Explain to our viewers. JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the White House is keeping a very close eye on the Michigan primary, not because of a primary challenger, but because a policy position, specifically what M.J. was just talking about there, the president's handling of Israel's war in Gaza.

But there is this uncommitted movement, a grassroots movement called Listen to Michigan, where they are urging voters in the primary tomorrow to cast their ballot for uncommitted, simply write in uncommitted on the ballot to check that off instead of Joe Biden to send a message, a protest vote, if you will, for the president and the administration's handling on this.


They've been calling for a full ceasefire for months and months.

It is very much unclear if the president's remarks there, and they hope of a ceasefire by next week, will do anything to allay some of those concerns. Never mind the images we're seeing there of the president being asked this by holding an ice cream cone during a stop in New York City.

But beyond that, there certainly is this grassroots movement here urging voters, and there is, of course, a substantial population of Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans in Michigan, right outside Detroit. So, the White House certainly keeping an eye on the primary tomorrow in Michigan, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Jeff, this could have big implications potentially for the Biden campaign in the general election that's coming up this year.

ZELENY: It definitely could, and here is why, Wolf. You'll remember the margins in Michigan, always so important. The road to the White House goes directly through Michigan.

But let's look back at those numbers in 2016. Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,000 votes. Four years later in 2020, President Biden carried it by 154,000 votes. However, the number of Muslim American voters, of course, is the larger influence of Arab-American voters in Michigan, is about 145,000 votes. That's based on the Emgage, a political action group, there. So, the margins there are so important.

We, of course, do not know how all people will vote. We do not know what the situation will be in November. But that's why this is so precarious. And, again, voters in Michigan trying to send a message tomorrow in the primary to vote uncommitted, Wolf, we're told a million people have already voted in Michigan early, and, of course, many more set to vote tomorrow in this key primary election.

BLITZER: Well, we shall see what happens. Jeff Zeleny, M.J. Lee, to both of you, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn, he's a top ally of President Biden and he's a co-chair of his re-election campaign. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, President Biden appears optimistic about a temporary ceasefire beginning next week, early next week, as part of a hostage deal, but the uncommitted movement in Michigan is clear. They want a permanent ceasefire, a total end to Israel's war. Take a listen to how Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib put it. Listen to this.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): And President Biden is risking another Trump term over his support for the most right wing government, the most extremist government in the history of Israel.

There is nothing humanitarian about temporary pause in this death and destruction. We would need a permanent ceasefire.

Nothing else is enough.


BLITZER: Congressman, how do you respond to the Democratic congresswoman?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, thank you very much for having me, Wolf. We all want a permanent ceasefire. But the fact of the matter is we have to go through a process. I do believe that all of us are aware that Joe Biden, as all Americans, and Israelis, were really caught off guard with this raid that took place. They turned into a massacre, and we know that the feelings are very high on both ends of the spectrum. And Joe Biden has been working on this issue. He is saying that maybe by next Monday we will have a temporary ceasefire, but that will lead, hopefully, to a permanent ceasefire.

So, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Let's take the steps that are necessary. If it's all you can do, temporary now and permanent later, let's take those steps. So, I don't believe that we ought to be holding out for the perfect when you've got a good solution on the table.

BLITZER: As they say in Congress all the time, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Are you concerned, Congressman, that President Biden's handling of this war potentially could cost him Michigan in November?

CLYBURN: Yes, I am concerned about that, but it's not just Michigan. I hear from people in my congressional district and in my home state of South Carolina, this is an issue that is very, very consequential to a lot of people, and it is to me as well.

I've had meetings with President Biden on this issue. We've talked about it, and I believe he is doing the proper thing to try to get to a resolution of it. I would like to see it done by tomorrow morning.

But we all know that that's not quite possible. We have to work with our allies. We have to work with their hostages in mind. We can do a lot of things that could endanger the hostages. And let's just be sure that we don't.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Senior Biden administration officials, Congressman, as you know, they met with some Arab and Muslim leaders in Michigan earlier this month.


Was it a mistake, though, for President Biden not to talk to community leaders himself?

CLYBURN: Well, I think we get to that. He had the staff up there and they have these meetings. They can determine what it is that can be done and how the president should be brought into the issue. I do believe in doing things in an incremental way. I do not believe that that's necessarily a bad way to go. Yet, an understanding of what it is that he can come to them with when he does have the meeting.

BLITZER: Lots at stake right now. Congressman Jim Clyburn, thank you so much for joining us.

I want to get some more analysis right now from CNN Political Commentators Ashley Allison and Alice Stewart. And, Ashley, let me start with you. The uncommitted movement, as it's called, in Michigan right now, what's your assessment?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it is a community of people that are hurting right now. They may have family members that are living in Gaza. They may have lost family members that are living in Gaza. Or they may be compassionate to the cause.

I think one of the beautiful things about democracy is that your vote is your opportunity to express how you feel about issues. And so as a Democratic Party that has a big tent coalition, we want to see those expressions.

Now your job as a candidate is to then go and move those individuals, if they're not with you, to where they become from uncommitted to committed. And so I think tomorrow's effort is a -- or the uncommitted folks are going to use tomorrow as an effort to make a showing for a policy decision that they would like the Biden administration to take. And then the campaign and the Biden administration will have to assess accordingly so that they can engage.

BLITZER: Let me read to you, Alice, some of the uncommitted movement's platform, and this is a quote, Biden must earn our vote through a dramatic change in policy. President Biden has been a successful candidate in the past by representing a broad coalition. But right now, he's not representing the vast majority of Democrats who want to ceasefire and an end to his funding of Israel's war in Gaza.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I happen to view this as not exactly a profile encourage when you're asking Democrats to render a vote of uncommitted in a primary. If they really want to send a message to President Biden and his policies do this in a general election. That would really send the message. Look, you have to remember, Congresswoman Tlaib is the one who advocated for from the river to the sea, annihilating Israel off the face of the map. That is where she is coming from and she also said, President Biden, we will send you a message in 2024. Doing this in the primary when we all know that President Biden is going to be the nominee for the Democratic Party in the primary doesn't really send the message that you're really advocating for this position if you're not going to do it in the general election.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

ALLISON: I don't agree with it. We have a process and we have primaries and we want people to engage in every step of the process. After tomorrow, if we will see what happens, I hope that individuals can get to a place where after the Michigan primary, we'll have to see what has happened in November, but they get to a place where they get to President Biden. But they're not there yet. They're using this as a power, as an organizing tool.

And I don't think people should be disregarded. Every vote should matter and what that voice behind every vote. You don't have to agree with it, but that's the beauty of democracy.

And that's why this process is so important because the reality is, is that if they don't get to a point where in the Biden campaign can engage this community so that they can win in November, our democracy is at stake because the alternative is Donald Trump.

And he doesn't want their voice to be heard. And he's already been very clear on that in his first term with the Muslim ban, and he will be even more egregious with draconian policies in four more years.

BLITZER: Alice, I want you to listen to Michigan Governor Gretchen Wittmer's appeal to voters right now at this sensitive moment. Listen to this.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): It's important not to lose sight of the fact that any vote that's not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term. A second Trump term would be devastating, not just on fundamental rights, not just on our democracy here at home, but also when it comes to foreign policy. This was a man who promoted a Muslim ban.


BLITZER: But as you know, some of these voters out in Michigan, Arab- Americans, Muslim Americans, some of them have lost family members in Gaza as a result of the Israeli strikes. And it becomes very, very personal for them in dealing with this right now.

STEWART: Absolutely. And she's -- the governor is not alone. We're seeing Michigan congressmen who are women and men who are saying, President Biden, you need to get right on this issue because of the Arab Muslim community in Michigan who have been so outspoken and vocal on this.


But the reality also is it's not just this issue that is resonating and driving people away from President Biden.

It is the economy, it is immigration, it is safety. And, obviously, there's the issue that is really taking front and center and many Democrat voters is his age and his ability and his stamina to do the job.

So, Michigan leaders are advocating to the Biden administration, you need to take action, you need to do it soon.

BLITZER: And lots at stake in Michigan right now.

ALLISON: I'll just say that it's not an Arab-American or a Muslim American issue. It's an issue that I care about. It's an issue that most people care about in the Democratic Party. And I think it's just a question of where will the Biden administration end on this and can they convince their voters to show up in November.

BLITZER: We will see what's happening. Let's hope there is at least a temporary ceasefire in the coming days. That would be important.

ALLISON: And the hostages get back.

BLITZER: And, of course, the hostages come home as well. All right guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, Nikki Haley's path to the GOP nomination, getting more difficult after a stinging loss in South Carolina and a top financial backer backing out.

Also coming up, what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is telling CNN about what another Donald Trump presidency would mean for his war-torn country and the future of global democracies.



BLITZER: As the war in Ukraine enters its third year, billions of dollars of much needed aid from the United States is mired in domestic political gridlock up on Capitol Hill as Russia makes gains out there on the battlefield.

CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins interviewed President Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Kaitlan, so what did President Zelenskyy tell you?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, it's really notable the timing in which we were sitting down. Of course, not only the two-year anniversary of this war, as Ukraine is now entering its third year of war since Russia invaded, but also it came just hours after Donald Trump had won the South Carolina primary, as he is now becoming the -- what it appears to be, the inevitable Republican nominee. And President Zelenskyy said, obviously, it's up to the American people who is going to win in November in the United States election, but they are paying very close attention to it because they are well aware of the implications it could have on them, and not just in November, but also what's happening right now with that complete gridlock in Washington over more aid for Ukraine and whether or not it will actually happen.


COLLINS: Donald Trump appears that he is on the verge of becoming the Republican nominee for president. The last time I interviewed him, he refused to say if he wanted Ukraine or Russia to win this war. Are you prepared for him to be re-elected?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The decision who will be the president decision of your society, but one moment.

I hope it's not -- I hope it's -- it will not be so, but this way, but anyway, so if Donald Trump doesn't know whom he will support, Ukraine or Russia, I think that he will have challenges with his success (ph). Because to support Russia, it means be against Americans.


COLLINS: A pretty blunt assessment there, Wolf, but also he's dealing with this issue right now with House Speaker Mike Johnson, who is really the Republican that has Ukraine's fate in his hands, as there's a question over whether or not he's going to bring Ukraine aid for a vote.

I should note, there's a meeting at the White House tomorrow with President Biden, Speaker Johnson, the other congressional leaders, like Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries, they're talking about funding the government and this very issue.

And one thing that I was so struck by is how blunt President Zelenskyy was and what that is going to mean for Ukraine, if there is no new U.S. aid, he said that millions of people will die. They will not have any new successes on the battlefield. Maybe they can defend and hold the line, but no new successes. And it was just an incredibly bleak assessment of what is a very real and potential prospect, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, very bleak indeed. And, Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much for the terrific work. We're all going to be watching your full interview with President Zelenskyy later tonight on your show, The Source with Kaitlan Collins, that airs 9:00 P.M. Eastern later tonight.

Meanwhile, two of Alexei Navalny's aides say Vladimir Putin was offered a potential prisoner exchange, which would have included the incarcerated Russian opposition leader before he died.

CNN's Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Matthew Chance is joining us live from Moscow right now. So, Matthew, what can you tell us? MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for months, there's been rumors that Alexei Navalny, the late Russian opposition leader, was being discussed as a possible candidate for a prisoner swap, a swap that's being talked about between the Russians and the United States for some time now, because the U.S. wants to get U.S. citizens, they're in Russian prisons, back home, people like Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter, and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who's in prison on spying, or for spying in Russia, something, of course, that he denies.

In exchange, the Russians want this FSB hit man who's serving a life sentence in Germany for killing a Chechen dissident, Vadim Krasikov is his name, but it's only today that Navalny's team have come out publicly and said, yes, indeed, Navalny was part of those negotiations and could have been involved in a prisoner swap. In fact, they say negotiations to release Navalny as part of that swap were in the final stage the night before he was pronounced dead in his Arctic penal colony.


And so, obviously, that's something that they say is related. What they say is that Putin, the Russian president, couldn't face the fact, couldn't face the idea of swapping Navalny until he took that negotiating chip, and that's their words, off the table.

Now, the Kremlin, we should say, have categorically denied any involvement in Alexei Navalny's death. And I've spoken to myself earlier today, and they've said they had no knowledge of any kind of a deal. But one Western official has told CNN that talks about Navalny being swapped had got underway, although they were in an early stage.

One other small update, Wolf, Navalny's funeral expected now to be held at the end of the week. That could be a potential flashpoint. Back to you.

BLITZER: Yes, we will be watching. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you very much.

Coming up, Nikki Haley insists the race for the GOP nomination is not over two days after a crushing defeat in her home state of South Carolina. A key supporter of her campaign, Governor Chris Sununu, is standing by live. We will discuss.



BLITZER: In Michigan tomorrow, Nikki Haley is trying to bounce back from a blowout Republican primary loss to Donald Trump in her home state of South Carolina.

CNN's Eva McKend is on the trail for us at Grand Rapids, Michigan. How is Nikki Haley making her case where you are in Michigan, Eva?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, she is continuing to hone in on this electability argument, arguing that though former President Donald Trump has won all of these early states, he hasn't done so by a mandate. So, he's not picking up these states above 90 percent.

And what she argues is that that really illustrates that he still has vulnerabilities with independent voters, with moderate voters. And these are the voters that she argues that Republicans will need in the general election.

But what's still not clear is what state she can actually win. Can she win here in Michigan tomorrow? Can she win in any of the Super Tuesday contests? Take a listen to what she told me when I put that question to her.


MCKEND: Today, which state can you tell us that you can definitively win?

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have 21 states and territories that are getting ready to happen. Why don't we wait and see what happens? We don't have to have a crystal ball and say this is going to happen or that's going to happen. We don't live in Russia. We don't anoint kings. We have elections. Let people vote.

MCKEND: But can you name a single state you can win?

HALEY: -- that 70 percent of Americans don't want Donald Trump or Joe Biden.


MCKEND: So, Haley showing no signs of slowing down. She's already campaigning tonight in Minnesota, has left Michigan, and then she's got ten fundraisers in the days ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: The Super Tuesday coming up, what, on March 5th. Eva, thank you very, very much. Joining us now, a key Nikki Haley supporter, New Hampshire's Republican Governor Chris Sununu. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.

Nikki Haley won about, what, 40 percent of the vote in South Carolina, and in your state of New Hampshire as well. But what is the path for her to actually start getting a majority of the votes in these upcoming primaries?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Well, again, you take each state separately. You're looking at Super Tuesday. There's 16, 18 states there when you include Michigan in the mix. When you have the fact that, I think Nikki said it very well, there is not a mandate here.

When you have former President Trump, the incumbent president, the standard bearer of the party, and 40, 45 percent in the early state say, we don't want them, we want to change things out, that's a weakness. And I think when Nikki talks about the electability, as she goes into these states, a lot of which the campaigns are really just picking up, the next ten days will be very intense. And it starts explaining to folks in a state like Michigan, boy, having Trump on the ballot kept losing races for Michigan Republicans. It kept losing House seats and the Senate seats. It put the governorship at risk. We couldn't win the governorship when we probably should have. So, again, electability matters a lot to a lot of these other states.

And when Nikki Haley is on the top of the ticket, all the polls show she crushes Biden. She wins all those seats. She brings the Republican Party back. She can actually fulfill on the mission that Trump talks about, but has never truly been able to fulfill for the party. So, I think, again, this is just starting. She's raising money. A lot of folks want her to stay in it. She has the resources. And it's going to be quite a mix come Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: As you know, Governor, the Republican National Committee, the RNC, is likely to soon be led by two Trump handpicked candidates, including his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump. Do you have any concerns, Governor, that your party will play favorites upcoming -- in these upcoming primary contests?

SUNUNU: Well, it's not just that I have concerns about the RNC playing favorites. The RNC has less cash on hand than it really ever has before. And now you're bringing in folks that really don't have experience raising money.

Donald Trump has shown a challenge in raising money. A lot of the big money donors will stay away from him. They won't give to the RNC. Hopefully, they'll at least give to the candidates, but they're going to stay away from Donald Trump because the money that goes to the RNC and Trump ends up going to lawsuits and legal fees, right?

Think of all these individuals that said, you know, I'm going to give Donald Trump $100 for his campaign. And that's not where it went. It just went to some lawyers in New York City.

So, when Nikki comes to the table, all that goes away. That's another great argument to make that again, to read, not just restructure the party, but give the party more confidence, give its standard bearers, give the voters, give the constituents of the Republican Party a lot more confidence that what we want to see done can actually get done. You can fundraise. We can win these seats again.


Trump has shown year after year after year of losing. We lost in '18. We lost in '20. It should have been a big red wave in '22. With him and his candidates and his messaging, we got killed. We should have done so much better.

So, again, all these things add up to why should we keep doing and ask the party to keep doing the exact same thing when it leads to real negative results with Donald Trump on top of the ticket. BLITZER: Donald Trump is arguing that Nikki Haley, in his words, is hurting the party by staying in the race. Haley says President Biden is more dangerous than Trump. If she believes that, Governor, is she hurting Trump's chances of beating President Biden by staying in this race?

SUNUNU: No, of course, that's silly. Do you think the Democrats don't have all the arguments against Donald Trump in the general election, like do you think there's some cat being let out of the bag here? Of course, not.

Now, look, anyone who's -- and give Trump credit, he's won the first three states. Anyone in that position is going to say, of course, everyone should just get out and the crown should just be handed to me, the party should just anoint me. He effectively tried to do that with the resolution about a month ago at the RNC until they realized what a bad idea that was, and they finally pushed back on it. So, he just wants to be anointed. He doesn't want to earn it.

But, again, you have to. That's what the primary process is for. That's why he should have gone on a debate stage, going to debates, having arguments, doing this -- that actually makes you a better candidate. Trump has no interest in doing that. Trump is trying to save himself, Nikki Haley is try to say this country, and that is a fundamental difference between these two.

BLITZER: It seems to be a huge different.

Governor Chris Sununu, thank you very much for joining us.

SUNUNU: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the Manhattan D.A. today asking a judge to put limits on what Donald Trump can say about his upcoming hush money trial. We'll have a live report on what a gag order would protect. That's coming up next.



BLITZER: Prosecutors in Manhattan are asking the judge overseeing Donald Trump's hush money trial to place a gag order on the former president citing Trump's, quote, inflammatory remarks and threats received by the district attorney's office.

Our Senior Crime Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz has details for us. Katelyn, tell us about the gag order prosecutors now want.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is getting ready for trial in just four weeks against Donald Trump in this hush money case. And they want to make sure that that process is protected. So, they're going to the judge now to put in place some of the provisions for the trial. And one of the things they're asking for is a gag order to be placed on the former president. Now, he has gag orders in two other cases already that he is largely abided by in recent weeks. And so they're asking in this case because of Trump's long history of talking about jurors, talking about the prosecutors who bring cases against him, talking about court staff and the threats that have resulted from the amount that he talks about, all of those people, they want a gag order.

So, what they write in a filing to the judge, defendant, that's Donald Trump, has a long history of making public and inflammatory remarks about the participants in various judicial proceedings against him, including jurors, witnesses, lawyers and court staff. Those remarks, as well as the inevitable reactions they incite from defendant's followers and allies pose a significant and imminent threat to the orderly administration of this criminal proceeding.

Now, they are not asking for Donald Trump to be barred from speaking about the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, himself but they do want to make sure that the harassment of court staff, as well as people in the prosecutor's office, family members, that that wouldn't take place. They cite hundreds of threats that have come in an exponential amount since 2022 when there was just one threat to the D.A.'s office. Now, there's been white powder received by the D.A.'s office in Manhattan in 2023 and many, many threats to them. Also, they obviously have concerns about juror safety as well.

BLITZER: Yes. Trump's words clearly have serious and potentially dangerous consequences.

Katelyn Polantz, stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero. Carrie, how strong is the prosecutor's case for this gag order that they're seeking? He's flouted gag orders in the past. Is there any reason to think this would actually constrain him?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think that they have a compelling case based on the history that Kaitlan explained, including the threats that this office in particular has received. But I do wonder whether the court will implement a gag order this early in the process.

In other words, I do wonder whether the court will give the former president maybe some verbal instructions of how he's supposed to comport himself, wait for him to be out of line with those particular prescriptions, and then move to the gag order. In other words, the gag order would be a step in the process, but maybe not the first one. So, I am curious to see how the timing of the court's decisions play out.

BLITZER: Katelyn, I understand you have some new reporting about how the Trump team wants to play his two federal cases off one another. Tell us about that.

POLANTZ: Right, Wolf. Well, that case we were just talking about in Manhattan, the D.A.'s case, the hush money case, that's going to go to trial at the end of March and block out most of his calendar into May as a criminal defendant, so no other trials at that time. But there are two federal cases that theoretically could go to trial before the election. And Donald Trump does not want that to happen.

So, one thing he's going to try and do is on Friday, his team, according to sources I've spoken with, is going to ask Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida, the judge overseeing his classified documents criminal case, they're going to ask her to move the trial for him in that case into July.


So he's not going to be able to do another trial after the hush money case until that theoretically heads to trial. But then their hope and they hope that there would be you need to move that trial back even further, blocking out, not just the classified documents case from going to trial before the election, but also elbowing out the ability of the federal court in D.C. to hold his trial for 2020 election allegations.

So that is the plan. If we see it work, that's another thing entirely.

BLITZER: And, Carrie, given everything we know about these cases, at least so far, do you expect one of these two federal cases to actually make it to trial this year.

CORDERO: That's a really hard call, Wolf, because there's a couple of different things at play in each of the cases and they're not the same thing. So the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case has classified information which is part of it that it plays into the delay in the discovery process because it involves national security for any information.

That alone aside from the fact that it pertains to the former president, that alone could delay it up to the summer or even past the election time. And then, of course, the district of Columbia case, Jack Smith's case, related to 2020. That case depends a lot on whether or not the Supreme Court decides to take up the issue of immunity.

So I think it's really nearly impossible at this point to predict when these cases are going to take place, in particular, until we get that immunity decision.

BLITZER: Yeah, we're all waiting for that Supreme Court immunity decision to come down. Lower court, appellate court has said Trump does not have immunity. We'll see what the U.S. Supreme Court decides.

To both of you, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, why Georgia's Republican governor now demanding answers from the White House over the killing of a nursing student in his state.



BLITZER: We're learning new details about the death of a student who was kidnapped and killed while jogging on the University of Georgia campus. Meanwhile, the murder suspect status as an undocumented immigrant is igniting debates over immigration policy here in the United States.

CNN's senior national correspondent Ryan Young has the story.


RYAN YOUNG, CNNL SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, officials releasing grim new details in the murder of Augusta University College nursing student Laken Hope Riley. Arrest records alleging her suspected killer Jose Antonio Ibarra prevented Riley from calling 911 and mutilated her body by disfiguring her skull, then dragged her to secluded area to hide her body. Autopsy results determine the cause of death has blunt force trauma to the head.

The 26 year-old suspect lives in an apartment complex, only steps from the campus trail Riley had been jogging on Thursday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a suspect in custody for Laken's murder.

YOUNG: Ibarra was arrested on Friday, the day after Riley was killed. Investigators have not released a motive.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: Laken's death is a direct result of failed policies on the federal level, and an unwillingness by this White House to secure the southern border.

YOUNG: Over the weekend, Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp sent a letter to the White House criticizing the administration's immigration policies and demanding information on Ibarra.

KEMP: It is an understatement to say that this is a major crisis and because of the White House's failures, every state, as I've said, repeatedly, is now a border state. And Laken Riley's murder is just the latest proof of that.

YOUNG: Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Ibarra was arrested in 2022 for being in the United States unlawfully. He was paroled. And Ibarra was arrested again in New York City in 2023, charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation.

According to ICE, NYPD released Ibarra before detainer could be issued.

Former President Donald Trump joined the chorus blame aim at the Biden administration, hyperbolizing the current border crisis as Biden's border invasion on Truth Social, saying Riley's murder should've never happened.

Ibarra was denied bond and is being held in the Athens, Clark County jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not one more dog.

YOUNG: Tonight, Riley's sorority holding a vigil to remember the 22- year-old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is so obvious to me why it feels so dark right now. And that is because we lost one of the brightest lights that there's ever been.

YOUNG: Shaken community gathering to grieve the loss of one of its own from the first full day of classes since the murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our hearts will always ache without Laken who was such an integral part of our sisterhood.


YOUNG: Yeah, Wolf, these kids are struggling. Most of them never had to do -- have dealt with anything like this before. The song by Matt Redmon, "Never Let Go" was playing in these kids were crying over and over. A couple of walked over and said they want more security on campus. They want, to make sure this never happens again. This is something that will walk the rest of their lives -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ryan Young reporting. Thank you very, very much.

We'll be right back with more news.



BLITZER: Tonight, the -- a federal judge says the ex-informant charged with lying to the FBI about the Biden family must remain in jail as he awaits trial.

CNN national correspondent Nick Watt is tracking the story for us.

Nick, why was this format not granted bail?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, because were told he has access to $6 million in cash, that he has nine weapons in his home. That he has very loose ties to this country and he has strong connections with foreign intelligence officials, including Russian foreign intelligence officials, who prosecutors claim were giving him duff bogus information about the Bidens which this guy Smirnov was then passing on to his FBI handler.

They say he was passing on information as recently as last September. That is just not right. The prosecuting the prosecuting lawyer said that Smirnov was just making a lot of this up.

Now, it's been a very interesting week for Smirnov. He was arrested, landing for an international flight in Vegas when before it, magistrate the judge let him out. And that federal probe prosecutors really implored a judge to get this guy back in custody.

They said he was definitely a flight risk, and the judge said he believed that perhaps Smirnovs lawyers were trying to facilitate him absconding from this country, getting away. Now, his lawyer said that he could be released to his girlfriend. He

could wear a tag, all this stuff. The judge said tags can be cut and this is not a garden variety case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Watt reporting for us -- Nick, thank you very much.

Thanks to our viewers for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.