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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Russia's Moves Are Beginning Of Invasion Into Ukraine Says President Joe Biden; U.S. Moves More Troops, Equipment To NATO Allies In Eastern Europe; Biden: Putin Moves Are "Beginning Of A Russian Invasion" Into Ukraine; Biden Levels New Sanctions On Russia Over "Flagrant" Violation Of International Law "With Ukraine Invasion"; All Three Arbery Killer Found Guilty Of Federal Hate Crimes; Fractured Senate GOP Primary Gives Controversial Candidate An Opening In Missouri. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired February 22, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks so much for joining us.
AC 360 starts now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: President Biden calls it the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine as he levels the first round of sanctions against the money machine that keeps Vladimir Putin, his cronies, and their kleptocracy running.
John Berman here in for Anderson.
Tonight, unlike when we left you last night, there is no longer a question of whether Putin ordering troops in to eastern Ukraine would be enough for President Biden to use the I-word "invasion." The President settled that this afternoon.
He also settled how we would respond along with European allies all to make the case that Vladimir Putin is not getting away with a slap on the wrist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who in the Lord's named does Putin think gives him a right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belong to his neighbors.
This is a flagrant violation of international law and it demands a firm response from the international community.
We're implementing full blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions VTB, and their military bank. We are implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russian sovereign debt.
Starting tomorrow and continuing in the days ahead, we will also impose sanctions on Russian elites and their family members. They share in the corrupt games of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: A senior administration official elaborated telling CNN, quote: "This is the beginning of an invasion and therefore this is the beginning of our response."
Secretary of State Blinken appearing alongside Ukraine's Foreign Minister said Thursday's meeting with his Russian counterpart is off. He canceled a meeting with Sergey Lavrov telling reporters that Russia has not been serious about diplomacy, but left the door open if it might prevent all-out war.
Meantime, Germany put certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia on hold. Germany is Russia's largest gas customer. A senior Pentagon official tells CNN that F-35 fighters and Apache attack helicopters already in Europe are being redeployed to the Baltic States and Poland, and U.N. Secretary General Guterres called Russia's actions so far a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and characterize Russian forces as a quote: "perversion of the concept of peacekeeping."
Back home as well, politics enter the equation with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and others saying the administration's botched pull out from Afghanistan signaled weakness and encouraged Vladimir Putin's aggression.
We have a lot to cover tonight starting as only CNN can, in all the hotspots, CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward is in Kyiv; contributor and criminologist, Jill Dougherty in Moscow; and in Lviv, CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Clarissa, I want to start with you in Kyiv. What has the reaction been in Ukraine among officials to the sanctions that were announced and the cancelling of the Blinken-Lavrov meeting?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is no secret that there have been some daylight between the U.S. and Ukraine on the issue of how to respond to this threat that Putin has been posing. The Ukrainian point of view was always that if you know it's going to happen this invasion, you should levy sanctions early.
Now, however, we're seeing a much more united stance. President Volodymyr Zelensky coming out and saying how grateful and appreciative he was not just to the U.S., but of the U.K., the E.U., Germany, in particular for canceling that crucial Nord Stream 2 pipeline agreement, which has such huge geopolitical and strategic consequences.
Zelensky also went on to say that he is now not mobilizing the Army, but he is calling up reservists and this is happening, John, as we are hearing from NATO that Russian troops are arriving in that Donbas region, and the real question now becomes, do they attempt along with those pro-Russian separatists to push the front lines to the borders that they believe constitute those two breakaway republics. If they were to go ahead and push forward with that that would result
in major fighting and particularly in major metropolises like the City of Mariupol, it is a city of half a million people, a port city, also, Kramatorsk and so you have the sense here, that really the city is on something of a knife edge as people wait to see what will play out.
President Zelensky and the Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, both saying today, still the first choice of action, the first course of action is a committed pledge to diplomacy and trying to deter President Putin from going any further, but Kuleba also finished off by saying, but Plan B, if Plan A doesn't work is to fight for every inch of our land -- John.
BERMAN: So let's go to Moscow. Jill Dougherty, what is Putin's likely response to the announcements that were made today with the sanctions?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, interestingly, John, the Kremlin said they were a little too busy to be listening to President Biden. They had a meeting, the President had a meeting, so that's kind of the mood here.
You know, it's really kind of a sense of inevitability that there is a plan unfolding. You know, you had President Putin, recognizing those breakaway regions. Then today on TV, there was a big vote -- several votes giving the President the greenlight to deploy troops outside of the border of Russia, because of Donbas.
And then you had President Putin in a quick news conference saying, you know, Ukraine really should not even -- it shouldn't even think anymore of trying to become a member of NATO, and I think one significant thing to push back on the sanctions, the former President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev said that I believe it was in a tweet, he said, get ready. This is the new world -- sorry -- welcome to the brave new world where Europeans are going to have to pay a lot more for gas.
So there is this feeling, and you certainly heard it when the Secretary of State was asked, you know, did we underestimate -- did the United States underestimate Vladimir Putin? And he said, no, that actually, we were revealing his playbook and that is what is being played out now.
BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, this package of sanctions, this took a long time for the United States and its allies to work this out. How did they arrive here exactly? And what's your sense of what they truly expect to happen now?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, let's start with your second question. It is still the view of the U.S. military that well, one, Russia maintains an enormous force -- three quarters, in fact, of its conventional Armed Forces postured against Ukraine, and that Russia's plan remains an invasion far beyond what we saw today with some forces moving into these, the full scale invasion. That is the U.S. Intelligence Assessment, not clear on timing, but that remains the intention.
The U.S. and NATO answered two questions today. One, would they, after Russia's first move, stick together? Would they stick together and respond in lockstep? Which they did over the course of the day. You saw Germany start the day suspending Nord Stream 2. That is no small move. You saw the U.K. announcing its sanctions. You saw the 27 member nations of E.U. announcing theirs, and then the U.S. announcing.
And then the second question they answered was, would a step short of a full scale invasion trigger that unified response? You know, Putin is a master of the half measures, right? The death by a thousand cuts, and you can imagine he was testing NATO's resolve, NATO's unity by starting small to some degree.
And then you might say that the U.S. and NATO called that bluff and said, no. For that relatively small step, we're going to respond in kind and then ramp up. That was part of President Biden's message today, if Russia moves further.
This is quite a dangerous game of poker, if you want to call it that, or chicken that is playing out here with very real consequences ahead for Ukraine and, frankly, given how maximalist Putin's statement was in his speech last night, perhaps for Europe.
BERMAN: Forty million people caught in the middle, at least, Clarissa Ward, including where you are in the capital of Kyiv where some three million people live. What's the mood been? How has it changed over the course of the last 24 to 48 hours?
WARD: I definitely feel that the mood is a lot more grim. It's not panic. And you're seeing Ukraine's leaders, you know, they're stopping short of calling this an invasion. They're trying to keep people calm. But there is a sickening sense of dread, I think developing among many people, you hear anecdotally of a lot more people looking into potentially leaving or at least exploring their options.
I think the question that some have now is that while Ukrainian leaders say that they still favor a diplomatic, peaceful solution, it's not clear at this stage what the off ramp is. How on earth does this situation now de-escalate?
We've seen that meeting cancelled between Blinken and Lavrov. What is the next opportunity for diplomacy to play out? Because at this stage, there is no real inkling that Russia any longer has an interest in participating in that process.
BERMAN: And Jill, I mean, Vladimir Putin said some outrageous things on TV speaking to the Russian people and the world. I'm curious, you know, the Russian stock market fell today. There have been sanctions issued today. I am curious what the reaction among the Russian people has been.
DOUGHERTY: The Russian people seem to be -- probably I would say, half are supporting this, actually, because they believe they've been told, especially the people who are watching TV, young people don't watch that much TV, but most of the population do, and they believe that it is Russia that is under attack, that Ukraine is being used as a tool by the United States and the West to bludgeon Russia, and that Russia is really in grave danger.
You had President Putin actually make a pretty outrageous comment that Ukraine actually might eventually be able to put together a nuclear weapon, because remember, they did have nuclear weapons in the old Soviet Union, which they gave up willingly at the end of the Soviet Union. But yes, the rhetoric is very strong, but some people are actually following it.
BERMAN: Jim, just quickly, what's the next thing you are looking for here? The next move that you think will tell us where this is headed?
SCIUTTO: The next move would be military action, both inside the Donbass and perhaps beyond, right? The U.S. still sees preparations for that kind of military action, they're taking it very seriously. They're watching day by day.
Listen, it is a tense situation here, lives are at stake. The pressure has not been let off from the perspective of the U.S. and NATO. It is going to be a crucial few days and weeks, frankly, with consequences far beyond Ukraine.
BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, rest that voice if you can. Clarissa Ward, Jill Dougherty, we appreciate all the work the three of you are doing. Thank you so much.
Perspective now from CNN military analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, thank you so much for being with us. We heard at the top of the show that the United States is moving U.S. troops and equipment to strengthen the Baltic States in Poland. This is on NATO's eastern flank and also sending in F-35s and Apache attack helicopters. What does this tell you?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the military forces in Europe, John, U.S. military forces under the command of EUCOM do this all the time. Truthfully, when I heard the President say that and he is moving forces to the Baltic countries, I've been there multiple times as the Commander. I know the forces train there multiple times.
This is not something new, and in fact, it's relatively easy to go from Poland, to the Baltics, from the Baltics to Romania and they practice it all the time.
The last year I was in command in Europe, we did 400 different exercises in a year with the 28 different countries that were in Europe. So, that's not a big deal.
But the interesting piece is, it gives a little bit of safety and a feeling of camaraderie to the Baltic countries -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania -- they are the most concerned about this, because they are right on the border of Belarus, along with Poland. So they see themselves in the crosshairs, especially when Mr. Putin said yesterday that he is taking over Ukraine because of the Russian speakers that he needs to protect.
There is a bevy of Russian speakers in those three Baltic countries, and even in Poland. They're very concerned about continued expansion by the Russian President.
BERMAN: You heard President Biden and others say, Jim Sciutto just reporting that the administration fully expects Russian military action to continue and intensify including an up to a full scale invasion.
How bad would that be? Give us a sense.
HERTLING: It would be -- it would be horrific, John. What we're talking about -- I've heard a lot of analysts and commentators talking about comparisons to 1945. It will not compare to that at all.
The lethality of modern weapons, the type of weapons that are being used, especially artillery and munitions and what they aim at, they hit and destroy, except for artillery.
You know, when you're talking about the Russian use of artillery, their doctrine is to put a heavy barrage of fire on the ground in front of moving troops. They don't care what's on the ground that that artillery hits. That's area fire weapons. It's not precise. It means it covers a large area.
And the Russians, truthfully, in many conflicts in the recent past have not cared that much about civilian casualties. So you're seeing not only a President in Putin, who's invading another country against international law, but I think you're going to see if there is an attack and God help us if there is, that there will be multiple casualties in the civilian population throughout Ukraine wherever they strike.
BERMAN: You've got about 30 seconds left. One of the possible areas of attack would be along the southeastern coast, an amphibious assault, very quickly, what would that look like?
HERTLING: Yes, that would be tough, too. Imagine the opening scene as people have seen the movie "Saving Private Ryan," it would look a lot like that except you would not only have the amphibious assault ships, which the Russians have already put in the sea as of. They have six ships down there already that can deliver troops, but it would also have overhead fire from fixed wing aircraft. Yet, it would have how captor assaults, too.
A whole bunch of helicopters come in. They depend on that not only for transporting troops, but also for delivering weapons.
So you would see a scene from "Saving Private Ryan" on steroids along the Mariupol coast in the Sea of Azov, and that, I anticipate that might be one of the next steps that Mr. Putin might execute.
BERMAN: Pretty chilling thoughts. General Mark Hertling, thank you so much for being with us.
HERTLING: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: Next, I'm going to ask Russian pro-democracy leader, Garry Kasparov, whether he thinks this initial round of sanctions will be enough to deter Vladimir Putin, and whether he has overplayed his hand, Putin has already.
Later, the domestic political repercussions of what could become the biggest foreign policy challenge with the Biden presidency not to mention a big issue for Republicans who find themselves split between internationalists and isolationists.
BERMAN: Today's U.S. and allied sanctions on Russia are a piece of what our next guest has long advocated. He is Russian pro-democracy leader Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and the Renew Democracy Initiative.
BERMAN: He tweeted -- tweeting today, he writes: "Putin runs a mafia, treat it like one. They hide assets with family bodyguards, chefs. They buy politicians to protect them. Expose it all. Kick them back to the Putin police state they helped build."
Along with tweets like that, he is also the author of "Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the enemies of the free world must be stopped."
Garry, thank you so much for being with us. You've seen the sanctions that they've laid out. Do you think that they are enough to make Vladimir Putin think twice?
GARRY KASPAROV, CHAIRMAN OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION AND THE RENEW DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE: I think it's too late for him thinking twice, and I think he made very clear in his ranting speech that he did not recognize Ukraine as an independent state. He is not done with Ukraine.
And it's very important that the response from the free world would make the cost of further aggression prohibitive to Putin, or at least too high that it will lead to some inevitable changes inside my country.
Yes, as for sanctions, it is less than I wanted, but more, actually much more than Putin expected. And yesterday, I have to admit I was depressed hearing noises from the administration say: Oh, the latest annexation was not qualified as an invasion. But today, it has changed. President Biden made a very strong speech.
And as far as I understand, it's the first package of sanctions, more to come. But even what we saw today, it's enough to make other people think in Russia, others that always stand with Putin's decisions. Others as we saw in some phenomenal video footage from Russia, voted for the decision, but they were scared because they knew what was coming.
BERMAN: So more than Putin expected. Not enough to stop him in Ukraine right now, but enough to cause problems for him domestically, if I'm hearing you right. Do you think Putin in some ways, overplayed his hand then?
KASPAROV: Every dictator, sooner or later overplays his hand, and I don't think Putin had my choice because he needs ongoing conflict, and Ukraine is a natural target. He has to cover his failure of running Russia.
And of course, free, independent, sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine is the deadly threat to Putin's dictatorship. So that's why his aggression against Ukraine has many other acts of aggressions that he committed throughout his 20 years in power. They were somehow just in his nature.
And now after so many years of having no consequences for his crimes, he decided that he could do whatever, and I think he was, I wouldn't say surprised, but he was probably confused by saying that the free world now eventually is getting its act together.
BERMAN: How do you hurt Putin?
KASPAROV: Look, I don't -- I've read enough history books to know that all dictators, they go through the problem, the same process of thinking and making their decisions. And I think that now you reached a point where he is not listening to the voice of reason in his immediate entourage.
And I think his view about the world is sick. That makes the situation even more dramatic. The previous guest talked about the cost of Russian aggression and the power, the military power that Russia can launch, but let's don't forget Putin has his finger on a nuclear bomb.
Though, I think we are still far from the moment where he could consider it. But the fact is that he talked about it is sending a signal that he lost the sense of reality, and that's surprised the free world, the whole world is paying for 20 years of appeasement and 20 years of ignoring warnings about the danger from a KGB Lieutenant Colonel, who became the leader in Russia more than two decades ago, and who believe sincerely that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century.
BERMAN: So Secretary State Antony Blinken cancelled his meeting with the Russian Minister, Sergey Lavrov as a result of all this, but I do wonder if Vladimir Putin is as you say, if he has lost touch with reality. What's the point of diplomacy at all?
KASPAROV: Diplomacy is needed, but not with Putin. What is happening now is that we are witnessing the end of the post World War Two order international security and cooperation that was based on the core principles of territorial integrity.
[20:25:07] KASPAROV: There was only one annexation since 1945, Saddam Hussein in
Kuwait, not counting Putin's annexation of Crimea, and now, Putin demonstrated to all the fascists and dictators and terrorists around the world that borders can be ignored if you have enough strength, and the free world had no power to stop you, if you are brazen and swift.
And I think now we need to reconsider the idea of international security infrastructure, but it should be done not with Putin, but against Putin. And that's why I think it's very important for America to redouble its efforts to unite the free world, European allies, and actual allies around the world, to make sure that these this act of aggression will be treated with utmost seriousness and the actions will follow the words, because it's not just about Putin, it's about the whole infrastructure that he's sitting on top of.
And even if, you know, if he commands his Army to cross the border, body bags coming back to Russia, they could actually shatter the foundation of his power.
BERMAN: It is the post-World War Two era and order we are talking about here to be sure, Garry Kasparov, really appreciate talking to you tonight. Thank you very much.
KASPAROV: Thank you very much for inviting me.
BERMAN: Up next, as President Biden imposes tough new sanctions to punish Moscow, Republicans appear split in their criticism with the former President Donald Trump praising Putin today.
We will have the details next.
BERMAN: President Biden unveiling the first round of new sanctions against Russia today as he faces pressure both in the U.S. and abroad to punish Moscow for what he described as the beginning of a Russian invasion. But as the President navigates a major foreign policy challenge, maybe the biggest during his presidency, he's also facing criticism as the nation watches how he handles the conflict, especially from some Republicans who say Biden's former policies embolden Putin's actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R) MINORITY LEADER: I don't believe Vladimir Putin would have couple of 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine had we not precipitously withdrawn from Afghanistan last August.
It looked not only chaotic, but it looked weak. And so they are pushing the limits everywhere in reaction to the perception of American weakness and blossom resolve.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: But there is a divide in the Republican Party's view of the conflict stay, for instance, the former President praised Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: So Putin is now saying its independent, a large section of Ukraine. I said, how smart is that? And he's going to go in and be a peacekeeper. That's the strongest peace force. We could use that on our southern border. That's the strongest peace force I've ever seen. They were more army tanks than I've ever seen. They're going to keep peace, all right? No, but think of it is a guy who's very savvy. I know him very well, very, very well.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining us now CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent for The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, I want to leave Trump aside just for a moment here and talk about what Mitch McConnell said. How much do you think the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan is shaping the administration's approach here?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think you'd have to say that even Biden partisans remember those terrible pictures and understand how badly that played out on their television screens when it came to the withdrawal in Afghanistan. I think McConnell is being really hyperbolic here, however, and I do think this is a completely different situation.
In this situation, President Biden is trying to stop a war. He's not trying to end a chaotic, messy war of many, many years. He's trying to prevent one from happening. And what he is doing is trying to gather allies together on the same page, which is incredibly difficult, particularly coming after four years of a Trump administration, when NATO couldn't agree on anything.
BERMAN: Maggie, we hear Mitch McConnell and you've also heard people like Tom Cotton, and Lindsey Graham and others, Ben Sasse, who are critical of the Biden administration's response, saying it's not strong enough. But then you hear the former president praise Vladimir Putin. Mike Pompeo has praised Vladimir Putin in different words, and then Tucker Carlson, much the same thing. There really does seem to be a split now in the Republican Party. What are the implications of that?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: John, I think that to be clear, I do think that what the current president is doing is more important than the former president, but they're absolutely at least in this regard. There absolutely is a divide within the party about how to handle Putin. And you see it in the commentary that you just described. I think it's one thing to have a television host like Tucker Carlson saying what he's been saying. And it's entirely something different to have the recent former president who is a old poll show leading if he wants to be the Republican nominee again. So I put that in a different category.
But it is striking that I think Republicans have -- you know, and there's this has been going on predating Trump where there has been sort of an effort among some Republicans to suggest Putin is not that bad. And it's not as if there has been complete consistency among Democrats on this as well before the Trump era and before the hackings in 2016. But I do think that you have seen a number of people in the Republican Party either identify was sort of quote unquote, proceed strength or suggest who cares about Ukraine, then you have as you said the flip side. You have people like Tom Cotton who want to be more aggressive and I think that that's where most Republican leaders are.
BERMAN: And Gloria, you know, that said, I want to show you something the House Republican Conference tweeted out today after President Biden speech, and Republican Adam Kinzinger's reaction to it. You can see the GOP House conference tweeted a picture of Biden walking away from the podium with this quote, this is what weakness on the world stage looks like, unquote. And Kinzinger responded, as still technically a member of the House Republicans, let me with all my mic condemn this damn awful tweet during this crisis, you can criticize policy, but this is insane and feeds into Putin's narrative. But hey, retweets, am I right?
BORGER: Yes, he's right. He's, he's 100% right. I mean, there is the President United States, who is just talking about the fact that Ukraine is invade, being invaded by Russia. And what do they do? The President has just told spoken to the country, and he's walking off the stage. I mean, I'm old enough to remember when something like that would be considered a disgrace by any official arm of the Republican Party.
But obviously, you know, that's, that's not the case anymore. There are people who believe, and I think, obviously, for political reasons right now, that there is no bar that is too low, to criticize Biden on foreign policy, whether it's we ought to take a harder line, or this isn't our problem. Whatever it is, the official line will be, as you just saw, in that photograph, that Biden is incompetent and can't do anything. And whatever he does, will be wrong, even if it is against Vladimir Putin.
BERMAN: And then Maggie, another thing you do hear from Republicans and allies of the former president as well, Putin, you know, didn't invade Donbass didn't send troops into this region under Trump's watch. It's happening under Biden.
HABERMAN: I think you're going to hear that a lot, John, I've certainly heard it a lot from sources in the last day, I expect it to be a continued line. I think it becomes a tougher case for them to argue when the former president is praising what Putin is doing. It's a little hard for it to be both that Putin was somehow fearful of Trump and worried about the quote unquote, madman theory, and Trump's unpredictability and then have Trump saying, wow, this is a good move. You know, we should do the same thing on our southern border.
But I think that the inherent logical consistency of these arguments don't really matter. I think basically, it's going to cleave along the lines of Republicans saying Biden is wrong somehow, and Trump is either right or Republican would be better.
BERMAN: Yes, and it would be better if all parties may be more concerned with the 40 million Ukrainians caught in the middle of all of this right now. That should be the primary concern, I think for everyone.
Maggie Haberman, Gloria Borger, thank you both very much.
In a victory for Ahmaud Arbery's family, the three men convicted for his murder were found guilty on federal hate crimes charges today. CNN's Ryan Young has the details next.
BERMAN: Nearly two years to the day that Ahmaud Arbery was killed by three white men outside of Brunswick, Georgia, a jury has found the men guilty on all federal hate crimes charges, determining they chased Arbery because he was black. It was an emotional day and core for both the jurors and the family as they call the verdict of victory.
CNN national correspondent Ryan Young has the latest.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Holding their hands high outside of Georgia courthouse, another victory for the family of Ahmaud Arbery nearly two years after his murder,
WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I knew that we would give victory on the state level. And in the federal level.
MARCUS ARBERY SR., AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: I give all glory to God. And we got justice for Ahmaud.
YOUNG (voice-over): A jury found Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and William Bryan guilty on all counts and their federal hate crimes trial. All three men were convicted of interference of rights, which is a federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping of Arbery. The McMichaels were also each found guilty of an additional firearms charge.
The McMichaels and Bryan are already serving life sentences for the felony murder of Arbery after a separate state trial in November, only Bryan is eligible for parole after 30 years. But these new federal convictions could add more life sentences.
COOPER-JONES: We got a victory today. But it's so many families out there who don't -- who don't get victories.
YOUNG (voice-over): This is a federal hate crime case that almost did not go to court due to a plea deal with the defendants, which was ultimately rejected by a judge. Arbery's mother expressed her outrage with the U.S. Department of Justice today.
COOPER-JONES: I told the DOJ that yes, they were prosecutors. But one thing they didn't have, they didn't have a son that was lying in a cold grave.
COOPER-JONES: And they still didn't hear my cry. And what the DOJ did today, they was made to do today.
YOUNG (voice-over): The U.S. Attorney General reacting to today's verdict and Wanda Cooper-Jones comments on the DOJ.
MERRICK GARLAND, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department has a legal obligation to prosecute hate crimes. I cannot imagine the pain that a mother feels to have her son run down and then gunned down while taking a jog on a public street.
YOUNG (voice-over): And remember today's decision and the previous convictions almost did not happen. Glynn County police and local prosecutors did not arrest or charge Arbery's killers after they chased and fatally shot him on February 23rd, 2020. When the video that Bryan recorded of the encounter came out nearly two and a half months later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation intervened and arrested the McMichaels first and later arrested Bryan.
COOPER-JONES: We waited without any arrest for 74 days, and now today that we're actually here with another guilty verdict. I mean, it's I mean, it's great.
YOUNG: John, you know, in the state case, you got to see this play out across the world. But in this case, it really was up to us the reporters to tell you what happened in court. And as I was sitting back in the rows, I could see Travis McMichael almost bend over when they said guilty after guilty then I focused on Ahmaud's family and you could see the pain and at the same time, the joy they we're experiencing from finally getting this verdict. And then I look up to the jury and it's the jury that showed so much emotion, you can see several of them crying especially the jury foreman, a black man who was crying over and over again as they were talking about this verdict coming to end. You think about the pain this community has experienced.
But let's not forget before this video was put out, people watch this and decided not to put any charges out on these men until so many people started fighting to change that. John.
BERMAN: Ryan Young, our eyes and ears in the courtroom. Thank you for being there. Appreciate it.
Just ahead, look at what should have been an easy layup for Senate Republicans holding an open seat in a very red state and said a controversial candidate could win the party's nomination giving Democrats a chance. Details ahead.
BERMAN: Republican attempts to win back the Senate may hinge on a fight for an open seat in Missouri once thought to be safe. The reason a former governor who had resigned after accusations of sexual misconduct and blackmail is now the apparent front runner for the party's nomination.
Manu Raju has the details
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The allegations were stunning, the City Missouri Governor who was a Rhodes scholar and a Navy SEAL, accused by his former hairdresser of coercing her into oral sex and threatening to blackmail her with nude photos of her to cover up their affair. That was nearly four years ago, forcing Eric Greitens to resign as Republicans threatened to impeach him, after witness testimony detailed the starling accusations.
ERIC GREITENS (R-MO) GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: There we go.
RAJU (voice-over): Now he's trying to revive his political career, joining a crowded GOP field filing papers for the Senate on Tuesday. And he stands a real chance of emerging as the GOP nominee and that has Republicans including his primary rivals, very nervous.
(on-camera): Has he been exonerated?
REP. VICKY HARTZIER (R-MO) GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: Oh, absolutely not. It was deplorable his behavior, it brought shame and disgrace on our state. It's just really, really disgusting.
REP. BILLY LONG (R-MO) GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: It's not that he's not electable, but we're going to spend 40, $50 million, the Republican Party is to try and drag him across the finish line.
STATE SEN. DAVID SCHATZ (R-MO) GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: I served with Governor Greitens he was unfit for office and he's unfit for office now. He was not exonerated from that.
RAJU (voice-over): But Greitens is employing a Trumpian playbook defined and dismissive. Calling the allegations made up and full of lies.
(on-camera): None of that was true. The blackmail allegation, none of that was true? GREITENS: None of that was true. You know, that those were lies. And what's great for us is that here we are, and again, God is good. That pain will come, that suffering will come and eventually, the truth will rain. And that's what's happening today.
RAJU (voice-over): A criminal charge against Greitens was dropped by a Democratic prosecutor in St. Louis. And an FBI agent investigating the Republican was later indicted for lying about his interview with Greitens accuser. A Missouri ethics board also found no evidence of wrongdoing by Greitens over separate allegations of campaign misconduct from 2016. That would find his campaign for not reporting in kind contributions. Yet his accuser has never retracted the allegations of sexual assault, including that he taped her hands to pull up rings as he allegedly took a picture of her with her pants down. Allegations all detailed in a GOP led State House investigation.
MARK MCCLOSKEY (R-MO) GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: You will find out there is no exoneration because it shows his basic character in a way that I think would be shocking to the average person, if they just read it.
ERIC SCHMITT (R-MO) GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: There's a lot of questions that were left unanswered when he left and so that's going to be his job in the campaign.
RAJU (voice-over): It's been a decade since the last GOP nightmare in Missouri, when Democrat Claire McCaskill defeated a Republican engulfed in controversy.
(on-camera): But 10 years ago, Missouri lost the Republican seat because of the controversies involving Todd Akin. What about folks are saying this could be a repeat.
GREITENS: Oh, I think that's absurd.
RAJU (voice-over): Yet, Democrats, like Lucas Kunce are hoping to take advantage.
(on-camera): What kind of impact will that have in the general election here?
LUCAS KUNCE (D-MO) SENATE CANDIDATE: I mean, I think it's going to be good for us.
RAJU: Now Donald Trump is still neutral in this race, but he has been actively following what's going on, talking to a number of the Republican candidates, including Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long this just this past week. And Eric Greitens, himself has been seen in Mar- a-Lago in recent days. And how badly do these Republican candidates want that Trump endorsement, none of them other than one state senate president David Schatz push back on the bogus notion that Trump has peddled, the 2020 election was stolen.
And one Republican candidate John, Billy Long was even wearing a tie today that was signed by Donald Trump, and he had the breast pocket of his jacket, a $45 bill, whose picture was on that $45 bill, Donald Trump's. John.
BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju, thank you so much.
Just a moment, we head back to our breaking news for a live report from Russia just across the border from Ukraine on the movement of Russian troops in the wake of those new U.S. sanctions.
BERMAN: More now on our breaking news, President Biden promising more harsher sanctions after the one he announced today if Russian troops encroach further into Ukraine.
Our Frederik Pleitgen is in Russia, near those regions of Ukraine controlled by the Russian backed separatists. Fred, you've been there for a long time now talking to a lot of people doing some phenomenal reporting. What's the latest you've seen in recent hours?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John, what was certainly was extremely interesting and insightful to be able to go into that area, which is right near the border with Ukraine and right at the border with the Donbass region, which is, of course, those separatists Republic that Vladimir Putin has just recognized. And what we saw on the ground, there was really an army I mean, a lot of Russian soldiers pretty much in every village you saw the soldiers. And then the other thing we saw is a lot of military technology, a lot of military gear, a lot of military hardware there on the ground, from troop transporters from a lot of soldiers on the ground too. Also pretty heavy duty hardware as well, we came across a big column of tanks, armored vehicles, and also self-propelled artillery.
And you know, John, one of the things that the U.S. has been saying is that they're not only concerned about the concentration of soldiers that they see in that region, but also the posture of those soldiers, the way that they've been fanning out towards the border area. That was definitely something that we saw on the ground there as well. You didn't see soldiers inside bases, you saw them in their vehicles at the side of the road. And that's something that the U.S. has indicates an attack could be imminent, at any point in time. And this did appear to us to be an army that wouldn't be able to strike at any time.
Of course, Vladimir Putin has said that's not the case. Vladimir Putin has also said that his army will not go into the Donbass yet. But one of the interesting things that we actually picked up from people on the ground there is they said, what we saw today was actually less hardware than they had seen in the past couple of days. They believe that some troops may have already crossed the border right now anything just support that as circumstantial, but that's certainly the vibe that you're getting on the ground there. And it really is, I have to say, a very, very tense situation in that border area, John.
BERMAN: And you've seen it all. Thank you Fred to you and your team who've been there giving us a very unique perspective on what's going on. Frederik Pleitgen, thank you. [21:00:09]
And stay with CNN for the latest from Ukraine. The news continues. So let's hand it over to Wolf Blitzer in "CNN TONIGHT." Wolf.