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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Justice Department Appeals Federal Ruling On Travel Mask Mandate; Ukrainian Military Official Says The Whole Of Luhansk Territory Is Being Shelled, There Is No Safe Town; Ukraine Releases New Alleged Intercepts Of Russian Communications, Shoot All The Civilians To The End; Russian Billionaire Blasts War, Urges West To "Stop This Massacre"; Text Messages Reveal Sen. Mike Lee Lobbied The White House To Overturn The Election; Russian And Belarusian Players Barred From Competing At Wimbledon. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 20, 2022 - 20:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: He is suing her for defamation after she wrote about being a survivor of domestic abuse. Depp said today that he was the victim.


JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: She threw the large bottle -- and then I looked down and realized that the tip of my finger had been severed.


BOLDUAN: Amber Heard denies that, meanwhile, has accused Depp of multiple instances of abuse.

Thanks so much for being here. AC 360 starts now.



Multiple breaking news stories we want to tell you about tonight, a lot to get to on Ukraine, including an unbelievable image of bravery that we want to show you. Also the latest in the fighting in the east, we will have live reports from there.

But we want to start with the latest in the travel mask mandate in this country. A short time ago, the administration is signaling it will fight that Court ruling that struck down the mask mandate for mass transportation.

Jeremy Diamond is at the White House with the latest. So, what are they saying?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson just two days ago, that Federal Judge struck down that mask mandate and tonight, we're learning that the Justice Department is indeed moving forward with an appeal.

This is a statement from the C.D.C. they say quote: "To protect C.D.C.'s public health authority beyond the ongoing assessment announced last week, C.D.C. has asked D.O.J. to proceed with an . It is C.D.C.'s continuing assessment that at this time, an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health."

And then what is interesting in that statement, Anderson, is the C.D.C. is indicating that their rationale for moving forward with an appeal is twofold. On the one hand, the conditions right now require that mask mandate across the country. And on the second hand, they want to maintain that legal authority, should the pandemic get worse, should they need that mask mandate authority in the future, they want to have that in their back pocket.

But at the same time, as the Justice Department filed a notice of appeal tonight, they did not include a request for a stay of that Judge's order striking down the mask mandate. That indicates that this is really much more about preserving that legal authority than getting that mask mandate back into place right now -- Anderson.

COOPER: They do not want to set a precedent of not having that authority. Jeremy Diamond appreciate it.

Now the war in Ukraine, an incredible image of bravery in the face of a Russian attack that is expected to grow and scale and violence in the days and weeks ahead. It's an image played out across Ukraine every day, first responders in this case, a Red Cross volunteer helping Ukrainians even if it means putting their own lives in danger in what Russia will not even call a war.

This is from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city in the east. It is difficult to watch, but important to see because it captures in one moment the violence and the panic that Russia is enacting all across Ukraine.


COOPER: People risking their lives to help others. Again, that was in Kharkiv. Another image we want to show you tonight, an elderly woman grieving at the grave of her son in Bucha, outside the capital of Kyiv, a town, as you probably know, brutalized by Russian forces. The name of that town, Bucha, will be written in blood in history because of the brutality Russian forces enacted in that town.

Our Jim Sciutto reports that even as Russia expands its forces in Ukraine and continues the bombardments, they have made no major territorial gains in the east. It's a campaign of violence and of terror, but also as a Pentagon official said yesterday, a prelude of what is to come -- worse things to come.

Today, Ukrainian military official telling CNN's Becky Anderson, quote: "The whole of Luhansk territory is being shelled. There is no safe town," he said.

Vladimir Putin also had a message the West today.

[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS] COOPER: Russia launched what it says is a new kind of missile not

only can it deliver nuclear warheads, according to Russian authorities, but evade Western defenses as well. That is their claim.

Putin said this image was meant to quote provide, "Food for thought for those who in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country," end quote.

The launch came the same day the U.S. announced another round of sanctions, this time targeting a key commercial bank and more than 40 individuals and entities associated with a Russian oligarch, but those won't do anything at the moment to help people in the port city of Mariupol, the Russian Army once again prevented residents from leaving.


COOPER: President Zelenskyy today says about 120,000 people remain in that bombed out decimated town. And today, he pleaded with the West for more help.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We don't know when we can unblock Mariupol, and I say this openly that all the boys in Mariupol want our victory. They want a free city. None of them are going to surrender to the enemy.

This is their internal feeling. This is what they are.

First, it involves serious and heavy weapons. At the moment, we don't have enough of these weapons to free Mariupol. The second path is diplomatic. So far, Russia hasn't agreed to this.


COOPER: So there is certainly a lot to cover tonight.

Matt Rivers is in Lviv in the west of the country, Ben Wedeman is in Kramatorsk in the east, and Phil Black is in the capital, Kyiv. We start with those soldiers and civilians in Mariupol.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Azovstal Steel Plant housing Mariupol's last line of defense. If the defenders here fall, so goes the city.

A few days ago, George Kurparashvili says he was right in the heart of the fight.

GEORGE KURPARASHVILI, AZOV BATTALION COMMANDER: Honestly, I'll tell you, I've never seen such a brutal, devastating war, because Russians are just trying to execute the civilians.

RIVERS (voice over): He spoke to us via video chat from an undisclosed location. Severely injured during the fighting, he says he was smuggled out to recover. He is a Georgian national and a Commander in the Azov Battalion, one of the few remaining units left defending the city.

He says he was among the soldiers fighting the Russians while at the same time taking care of hundreds of civilians sheltering in the area, some of which purportedly seen here in video CNN can't verify posted on the Ukrainian government's social media.

RIVERS (on camera): So how long do you think your group can take care of all of those people and yourself?

KURPARASHVILI: That's hard to answer. That's hard to answer even for me.

Time is short, that's all I can say.

RIVERS (voice over): Tens of thousands of citizens in besieged Mariupol still need to be evacuated. On Wednesday, a slight glimmer of hope. A humanitarian corridor agreed to by both sides where civilians could evacuate Mariupol heading to Manhush then Berdyansk and then onward eventually to the Ukrainian-held City of Zaporizhzhia. The city's mayor urging people to use it.

He said, "Dear people of Mariupol, during these long and incredibly difficult days, you survived in inhuman conditions. You may have heard different things, but I want you to know the main thing, they are waiting for you in Zaporizhzhia, it is safe there."

Video from Mariupol's City Council shows buses lined up ready to take those who wanted to leave. It's unclear how many got on, but a regional official says fewer people left than he hoped.

RIVERS (on camera): For many, leaving is a difficult choice. It requires trusting that the Russian military will not harm those trying to leave, and yet this is the same military that has spent the entire war systematically targeting civilians across the country.

RIVERS (voice over): And yet the city has become unlivable. For the military units still resisting, Kurparashvili says, they are caring for soldiers and civilians, sometimes with the same injuries due to Russian shelling.

KURPARASHVILI: It's a triage, child or soldier. And I've seen a lot of times, there was a soldier saying go ahead, take your child. It is a priority.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)

RIVERS (voice over): A Commander inside the steel plant has urged the international community to set up an evacuation route using a third party, another country that might be able to facilitate the transfer of soldiers and civilians to safety. If that doesn't happen, Kurparashvili says Russia will continue the bombardment and it will end only one way. KURPARASHVILI: There will be nobody left in this area. They will be

dead, all the children. I'm not talking about the soldiers, but the civilians will be eliminated. It is going to be on us, on a civilized world.


COOPER: I'm joined now by Matt Rivers in Lviv in the west, and Ben Wedeman in Kramatorsk in the east.

Ben, I mentioned U.S. officials told Jim Sciutto today that the U.S. had assessed no major territorial gains for Russia in the East. You are near the frontlines today, does it square with what you saw? How are things?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does. There has been sporadic fighting in the areas around here along the eastern front, but by and large the weather has been bad. It's been overcast and drizzly, not ideal for Russian military operations.

We were near the frontline today. We heard sporadic artillery, but by and large the intensity does not seem to match sort of the description of what's going on in this part of the country as an offensive -- Anderson.


COOPER: Matt, clearly, evacuations didn't go very well today, fewer people than they thought. Wouldn't we, I mean, know, how long can there be evacuation from Mariupol?

RIVERS: Well, I mean, what we saw today was really disappointing, Anderson, no question about it. I think Ukrainian officials had thought that maybe they had an actual opportunity to get thousands of people out of Mariupol. I mean, this was the first humanitarian corridor that had been agreed upon for several days now, if not longer than that, and yet it didn't pan out.

Once again, if you believe the Ukrainian version of things, the Russians not only were disorganized, as they put it, and didn't hold up their end of the bargain, but they simply continued shelling and completely ignored a ceasefire.

So that opportunity to get civilians out of there was not taken, and then on the flip side, we are not just talking about civilians, we are also talking about evacuations of soldiers at one point.

You know, I talked to that gentleman we spoke to in our piece, and I said, would soldiers ever give up and surrender to the Russians in that Azov Battalion that we spoke about, and he said, no, he said, because they firmly believe that the Russians hate them so much that if they were to surrender, Anderson, they would be summarily executed by the Russians.

So he basically said for those Azov Battalion soldiers, there are two ways out of Mariupol, either they get evacuated safely by a third- party country, or they die there fighting.

COOPER: Ben, I'm wondering, were you able to learn about what things are like for Russian troops now? Because I mean, a lot of them have moved from positions far in the north, they've come all the way down now to fight in the east. You know, are their supply lines open? Do we know much about things for them?

WEDEMAN: Yes, in fact, today, we were in this town, Barvinkove, which is south of Izyum, one of the main frontline areas, and we spoke to an officer who is pretty reliable, we have discovered, who said that the Russians have massed about 15,000 forces in that area.

There has been fighting. Ukrainian forces have actually been able to regain some territory in that area and captured Russian troops, and what they say, what this officer told us is that we're seeing a repeat of the sort of the logistical chaos that we saw among the Russian troops around Kyiv.

He spoke of low morale, poor coordination between units engaged in combat, and poor communications, as well that he was saying that in one town where they were fighting, the Ukrainians were outnumbered by about seven to one, but despite that gross difference in the two sides, the Ukrainians were able to push the Russians back.

So all the problems that the Russians were plagued with before don't seem to have been resolved. Now, military analysts are saying that there is somewhat better coordination between ground and air forces, but the officer we spoke to didn't seem to be overwhelmed perhaps by the ability of the Russians in that area. So yes, I was surprised that he was saying that.

COOPER: Yes, that's fascinating. We'll see if that continues to be the case. Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Matt Rivers, as well.

Coming up next, a chilling report detailing the brutality of Russian soldiers. We'll also talk with the head of USAID, Ambassador Samantha Power.



COOPER: Investigators already working in Ukraine gathering evidence of potential war crimes by Russian forces. CNN's Phil Black has a report tonight on some who witnessed Russian soldiers' brutality up close.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anfry Bychenko says his life will be forever split in two, before and after the day the Russians came.

He remembers the skies over his home in Hostomel near Kyiv, suddenly swarming with dozens of attack helicopters.

(ANFRY BYCHENKO speaking in foreign language.)

BLACK (voice over): He says they flew in a low formation like they were on parade and soon after, he says, Russian ground forces approached his home.

(ANFRY BYCHENKO speaking in foreign language.)

BLACK (voice over): This is where he says they opened fire from a distance, an explosive round landed close by fracturing his leg, shrapnel piercing much of his body.

But Anfry says he was lucky. He got to a hospital before the Russians walked out. He used to fight pro-Moscow separatists in Eastern Ukraine. He says many veterans from the east were deliberately killed during the occupation.

(ANFRY BYCHENKO speaking in foreign language.)

BLACK (voice over): "If I had not been wounded, I would have been shot, too," he says.

(VASILI HILKOV speaking in foreign language.)

BLACK (voice over): Vasili Hilkov (ph) also survived Russia's occupation, but at great cost.

Vasili was shot by the Russian numbers and firepower that rolled into Bogdanovka, a tiny village northeast of the capital.

(VASILI HILKOV speaking in foreign language.)

BLACK (voice over): "So many tanks passed," he said. "So much ammunition. Every house had 20 soldiers occupying it, including the house where he, his neighbors, and family were sheltering." They stayed in the basement. The Russians moved in above.

(VASILI HILKOV speaking in foreign language.)

BLACK (voice over): "One night," Vasili says, "Four drunk soldiers pushed open the basement door and screamed. Everyone out by the count of 10 or all will be killed." Vasili says women were screaming, children crying, and as he was the last one through the door, he was blasted from behind with a shotgun.

He says, "Nothing was left of the leg, all bones destroyed." Just a puddle of blood in minutes. He says two days later, some Russian soldiers helped him get to hospital. He still thinks they're beasts, not people.


BLACK (voice over): The Russian invasion of areas around Kyiv violently interrupted and ended many people's lives, and some would somehow survive brutal, intimate encounters, leaving them forever changed.


COOPER: Phil Black joins us right now. Those videos are so important because that's really the first -- that was in the first wave of the attack where they were trying to get the airport, and had they been able to get that airport, they would have been able to just get troops directly into Kyiv, it would have been a game changer for Russian forces.

How are those in those occupied areas? How are they coping right now?

BLACK: Anderson, in a practical sense, life is still really difficult for them there. Many of these areas still don't have power or water. They have to rely on charity for food.

You do see some people moving back. These are people who fled ahead of the invasion. You see them cleaning, tidying, trying to repair what they can that works if the house was occupied by Russians, a place where they slept, but not so much if it was blasted by a Russian tank.

The devastation and the damage through these communities is really quite extraordinary. Still, when you talk to people, there is anger and an open expression of hate, hatred of Russia for what it is done to them, their communities, their country. But the thing that really strikes you when you talk to people who have survived the occupation is the sense of shock that they are still disturbed, traumatized by what they have lived through and experienced.

These are people who speak in a very soft voice, when they try to explain what they saw, but particularly those who have experienced that casual cruelty, the willingness to indulge in grotesque violence that has really come to define the Russian occupation of these communities around Kyiv -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, terrorized by drunk soldiers. Phil Black, appreciate it. Thank you.

Perspective now on the brutality of the war from Samantha Power. She is the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. In her previous work as ambassador to the U.N. and member the National Security Council, she has rallied the U.S. and other nations to focus more on human rights and refugees and atrocities across the globe.

Ambassador Power, Russia's full force is obviously out in Northern Ukraine and redirecting most of its combat power to the Donbas. Just overall, how do you see the conflict right now?

SAMANTHA POWER, ADMINISTRATOR, U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well, on the one hand, we are starting actually to see Ukrainian civilians who had crossed into Europe return to their homes, what's left of them in places like the capital city of Kyiv, even in places like Bucha, where some of the worst atrocities of the war have been carried out.

And we at USAID and all the donor governments around the world want to be there and meet the needs as people come home, putting plastic sheeting up instead of windows that have been shattered, making sure that they have enough food, even as markets struggle to get back on their feet. So you have that dimension.

I mean, Russia lost the Battle of Kyiv, and that was profoundly humiliating for Russia, but also creates occasions for people to get back and to at least try to resume their lives.

I should note, of course, that Russia continues to try to prevent that from happening both by having left landmines in their wake, but also in continuing to stage long-range missile attacks on places like Kyiv or even Lviv, where you spend so much time, so you have that dimension.

Then you have the same issues that we've talked about throughout this conflict, which is the use of siege as a weapon of war in places like Mariupol, and so these are places that have been under siege since early March.

We're talking now six or seven weeks without a flow of food, water, medicine, fuel into those civilians who remain. And you heard David Beasley the head of the World Food Programme, just in the last couple of days, saying that people are actually starving to death in those besieged areas.

COOPER: Russia has also promised to destroy weapons and aid shipments coming into Ukraine from other European countries. Have you -- have we -- have you seen any of that? I mean, have they actually done any of that?

POWER: Well, my emphasis is you can imagine is keeping the humanitarian assistance, channel and channels because there are many now, completely separate from the security assistance channels. And we see a lot of claims from the Russian Federation that everything coming off over the border is oriented around the military campaign, and that's just not the case.

You know, we are flowing all kinds of supplies of everything from antiretroviral medicines for HIV-AIDS patients, to you know, basic food staples, to shelter and reconstruction equipment and supplies that will allow people to begin to rebuild their homes.


POWER: So, we've got to keep those supplies coming. The international community, the humanitarian community that we all know well from other conflicts is now stood up, BURTON: they are really having a hard time accessing the eastern part of the country where Russia is gearing up for its huge offensive, and then the south, these areas that have been besieged.

But everywhere else, again, we've got to keep those supplies going. And those attacks on places like Lviv, where 65 humanitarian organizations have set up shop, I mean, those attacks pose grave risks to people who are just going to try to provide food, shelter, and medicine.

COOPER: There is also obviously ripple effects of this. Russia and Ukraine are major producers of food, including wheat. You've got to be hugely concerned about a potential global food crisis as a result of this war, whether it's in Africa or in the Middle East, or really all around the world. Is there anything that can be done to offset the loss of these crops?

POWER: Well, first of all, what's amazing is that Ukrainian farmers are out there actually, you know, trying to plant for the next season and trying to harvest and they're doing so in some cases, in flak jackets, with de-miners by their side.

So intentional was the Russian Federation's attempt to take Ukrainian food supplies offline, you know, again, mining so many areas. So we are trying to support those farmers, make sure they have the inputs and the seeds and so forth to plant for the next season and to look ahead.

But you're absolutely right, the cascading effects of Putin's invasion are devastating, and there is no other way around it. Some of the estimates are that more than 40 million people will be thrown into poverty just by one man's decision to invade his neighbor, and what we will do is surge emergency food assistance.

We are working the phones trying to get other countries that contribute to food stocks around the world to put more supplies out there. So, the price has come down, particularly those who produce fertilizer or wheat along the lines of what Ukraine has done for so long.

So that's really important, but it's also just going to take plain old humanitarian assistance, and that is what's so tragic, Anderson is, you know, countries don't want to be receiving humanitarian assistance when they can grow their own crops and feed their own people.

But when fertilizer prices skyrocket, when wheat that they're accustomed to buying, you know, becomes out of reach, inaccessible or the prices go up, then they're in a position for the first time in some instances to have to ask for help. And so we want to be in a position to provide that help, but it can't be the United States alone, every country has to step up.

COOPER: Ambassador Samantha Power of USAID, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

POWER: Thank you.

COOPER: More on Ukraine ahead, one of Vladimir Putin's most famous critics joins us to talk about dissent in Russia and a new report that suggests even some of his closest aides think the war is a mistake, a founding member of the activist and punk rock group, Pussy Riot, joins us next.



COOPER: Another Russian billionaire has spoken out somewhat against the war. Oleg Tinkov says on his Instagram page that the innocents are dying and that quote, generals waking up with a hangover have realized they have a s - - t army. He urged the West to provide Vladimir Putin a clear exit to save face and quote, stop this massacre.

According to a new Bloomberg article, Putin does not want a clear exit. They're reporting quotes, 10 people with direct knowledge of what's going on inside the top levels of the Kremlin. And those sources say that well a growing number of senior insiders are questioning Vladimir Putin's war. They see no chance he'll change course part because it's believed Putin still has the public support. The article also says these insiders are worried that quote, Putin could turn to a limited use of nuclear weapons if faced with a failure in a campaign he views as his historic mission.

I'm joined now by Nadya Tolokonnikova, a founding member of the activist group Pussy Riot, which has been publicly protesting Putin for about a decade.

Nadya, it's good to have you back on the program. Given your personal experience with Vladimir Putin's Russia, does -- I mean, does his wrath have any limits in your mind?

NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA, FOUNDING MEMBER, PUSSY RIOT: I think he went completely insane. And honestly, nobody in Russia was expecting that he's going to invade Ukraine. A lot of -- I feel like a lot of American press was writing about it. But none of none of my comrades, independents, or in political circles see it coming. So I feel like he totally lost his mind at that point when he invaded Ukraine. And so honestly, at this point, we're not going to be surprised by anything, including using of nuclear weapons.

COOPER: You wouldn't be surprised if he did.

TOLOKONNIKOVA: I mean, I would be, I would be disappointed if he did, because it's definitely really unfortunate for survival human species. But I would not be surprised if he did it. Because, you know, as noted in the article, he sees it as his historic mission. He said multiple times that this is the biggest jeopardy -- geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. They follow up sort of (INAUDIBLE).

So he sees that he's role in life as Russian tar as new Russian emperor to restore this territories. And he's going to fail that he believes that he's going to fail his mission as a god, god providing tart. He really lost his mind. He believes that he's sent by some higher forces do save Russia and restore Soviet Union.

COOPER: In the Bloomberg article, they -- there's a quote, I'm going to read it, they said senior officials have tried to explain to the President that the economic impact of the sanctions would be devastating, erasing the two decades of growth and higher living standards that Putin had delivered during his rule, according to people familiar with the situation. Putin brushed off the warning saying that while Russia would pay huge costs, the West had left him no alternative but to wage war.

Do you think there is any chance that he would take some sort of diplomatic off ramp at this point? Or be satisfied? I mean, if the -- if they have some victories in the southeast, do you think they would stop at that?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: I don't know much believe in that, because Putin has a philosophy of thug (ph) and if he feels like if he is compromising something he's losing which is not exactly the global politics doesn't work like that. But that's exactly for the last 20 plus years, I was saying that Putin has to go, because he does have philosophy, his because really black and white view of the world. So I'm actually saying that he's, he's about compromises.


But regarding people around Putin getting mad, I would not -- I'm not surprised reading, reading and all of the statements because most of those people, they actually really love life. They really love luxurious lifestyle and one of the most important jobs of (INAUDIBLE) one of the biggest critics of Putin, who is in jail right now. He's my comrade and friend since 2007, one of his biggest roles was to expose luxurious lifestyles of Putin's clothes (INAUDIBLE), and they do love their life in Europe and United States. They go to Miami to give birth to their children, they did not want to lose it.

COOPER: The last time we spoke, you told me about how some of your own family members believe what Vladimir Putin is saying refuse to believe the pictures coming out of places like Mariupol. I talked to so many Ukrainian people who have relatives in Russia of loved ones, because fathers, you know, mothers who don't believe what they're going through. Has -- I'm wondering, just in your case, has there been any change in some of your relatives mindset?

TOLOKONNIKOVA: Not really. People want to believe in something. So they want to join. What they're basically they're devastated. Like, nobody's happy about the word, right. So like, nobody's happy that their country is in the word. But because they see sanctions, they see Russian economy on the verge of collapse. They want to believe something and they decide to believe they are ideology of a strong man. And unfortunately, this is just a psychological law that unfortunately works often against Russian people who end up living in crazy lies provided by Russian propaganda.

COOPER: Yes. Nadya Tolokonnikova, I really appreciate talking to you. Thank you.

TOLOKONNIKOVA: Thank you so much for having me.

COOPER: Yes, it's always interesting. Thank you. We're going to have more of the war in Ukraine later and its effect on one of the world's most prestigious sporting events.

But up next, the latest on the January 6 investigation, "360's" Gary Tuchman visit Utah Senator Mike Lee to try to ask him about text messages obtained by CNN revealing his support overturn the election, before voting to certify the results on January 6.


[20:41:12] COOPER: As the January 6 House Committee works to unveil the details leading up to the insurrection, a CNN exclusive reveal that two allies the former president including Utah Senator Mike Lee, sent text messages to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, encouraging and eventually wanting the White House about its attempt to overturn the election. Lee initially supported legal challenges the election even encouraging Mark Meadows to get attorney Sydney Powell access to the former president in early November 2020. He was, yes supporting Sidney Powell.

He texted quote, Sydney Powell was saying that she needs to get in to see the President, but she's being kept away from him. Apparently she has a strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play. Can you help get her in? Just two days before the insurrection Lee suggested another path to undermine the election results, he texted Meadows quote, we need something from state legislatures to make this legitimate and to have any hope of winning. Even if they can't convene, it might be enough if a majority of them are willing to sign a statement indicating how they would vote.

But on January 6, Senator Lee made no mention of trying to overturn the election and private instead voting to certify the election results after the insurrection in favor of President Biden. Senator Lee himself has continued to stay quiet since CNN reported those texts in that contradiction was revealed.

We invited him on the program but never got a reply from his office. So, we sent "360's" Gary Tuchman to find him and try to get some answers. Gary joins us now.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, whether you're Republican, Democrat or Independent, when you're in Congress, you represent all of the American people. And often when Congress people get involved in some kind of controversy, they say I'm sorry to tell the American people or they say I'm not sorry to all the American people. But when they say nothing, we don't just forget about it.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): We gave Senator Mike Lee every opportunity to explain himself. And here is how it went down.

(on-camera): Senator Lee these texts show you work hard to try to overturn the presidential election. Are you still OK with that? How come you won't talk about it, sir? Your public position was much different than the text indicated.

(voice-over): Senator Lee with the conscious decision to stay silent. Lee and his fellow Republican Utah U.S. Senator Mitt Romney attended the ceremonial opening of the new ThermoFisher Scientific facility in Ogden, Utah. Lee spoke.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Thanks to all of you are here to celebrate this great day. And thanks to ThermoFisher. TUCHMAN (voice-over): And he cut a ceremonial ribbon along with Senator Romney and others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, cut.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But when the event ended, Senator Lee rapidly left and jumped in a waiting vehicle it seemed away. Senator Romney, on the other hand snuck around.

(on-camera): We know you're not Senator Lee, but do you think he should be speaking out about these text messages?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Well, you know, I've made it clear in my actions so far that that I disagreed with the effort to try and overturn the election of the e-mails that I've seen so far that Senator Lee assent, I didn't see him requesting anything that was illegal.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): While he was asking about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I want to ask you about inflation really quick.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Senator Romney didn't take any more questions on the texts. But while he notably said he hasn't yet seen anything illegal, no mention of the ethics or morality of it. Meanwhile, take one more look at our attempt to hear from Mike Lee. It's clear he could have defended himself.

(on-camera): Senator Lee, these texts show you work hard to try to overturn the presidential election. Are you still OK with that? How come you won't talk about it, sir?

(voice-over): But he has chosen not to.


COOPER: So certainly didn't say anything to you. But was there any kind of reaction from him? Was he -- I don't know. Did he react in any way?

TUCHMAN: No reaction from his face whatsoever. You know, Anderson, I talk very loudly at times particularly during that attempted interview and there are people standing around us who are part of the event who were startled when they heard my voice booming out towards him. But Senator Lee, he didn't look surprised, startled. He looked like he didn't hear me. It looked like he didn't see me, although I know he did. And it was clear that his modus operandi for today was not to take any questions from reporters. Anderson.


COOPER: It's so interesting the juxtaposition between him and Senator Romney who, obviously both members of Republican Party but clearly, you know, happy to talk to you uncomfortable with his position, Gary, appreciate it. Thank you. Back to the war in Ukraine, next, and the most the move the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world Wimbledon took today something they haven't done since the aftermath of World War II. Details ahead.


COOPER: The invasion of Ukraine is bringing on some massive and historical consequences for Russian and Belarusian athletes. For the first time in history Wimbledon organizers say that Russian and Belarusian players are banned from competing at this year's tournament the most prestigious Grand Slam tennis. It so some marks the first time that players had been banned on the grounds of nationalities and just after World War II when German and Japanese players were excluded. The ban will prevent several high rank players from competing in the elite tennis competition with the Kremlin responding to banned calling it unacceptable.


Joining me now former professional tennis player, and ESPN tennis analyst, Patrick McEnroe.

Patrick, great to have you back on the program.

How big of a moment is this? I mean just purely on a historical context it's extraordinary. It hasn't been done since the end of World War II?

PATRICK MCENROE, FMR PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Yes, 1948, exactly, Anderson. It's historical. It's tragic, and a lot of ways because none of us of course, want to see something like this happen to individual athletes, that one can certainly argue have nothing to do with what their own government is doing. At the same time, you can understand I think the position of the All England Club, which runs to Wimbledon Championships, it's a private club, they can essentially do whatever they want to Anderson.

But interestingly, it's not just Wimbledon of course, this is the big one. This is one of the big tournaments in tennis. But even the warm up tournaments to lead up tournaments into the great Wimbledon Championships are not allowing Russian and Belarusian players to compete. This is a huge blow to some of those individuals. Daniil Medvedev was number two in the world, Aryna Sabalenka whose number four in the world on the women's side, and she was very nearly in the championship match last year at Wimbledon.

COOPER: I mean, do you have a sense of why they decided to do this? I mean, did they decide as you said, it's a private club, they can do what they want. They you think they just decided to take a stand and make a point?

MCENROE: I think there's a couple of reasons why they decided to do this Anderson. And I think number one, they're feeling the effects of this war, I think even more so than we are in this country being a large European country. I spoke to an English journalist who covers this inside and out who told me he thought this was one of the reasons. I think another reason and maybe even more important than this is the idea of actually handing the Wimbledon trophy, one of the biggest moments, arguably the biggest moment in tennis, on center court, the hallowed grounds of the All England Club, to a Russian or Belarusian player. I think that's something that Wimbledon just did not want to take that risk.

And I believe they made this decision very early on. So we're only a couple were a couple of months out of the tournament taking place. I think they saw what happened at the Australian Open, the debacle that transpired with Novak Djokovic and the vaccine issue down there. And they wanted to get way out in front of this. And by the way, I should also mention Novak Djokovic, one of the players that's already spoken up against this decision by the All England Club saying it's unfair to the individual players involved.

COOPER: The players themselves what are your sources telling you about what they're going to do?

MCENROE: Well, that's a great question. The Russian players and I have multiple sources within their teams, their agents, and so on. They are in a no win situation, Anderson. They cannot say a word. Many of them, including some of these top players have families back in Russia. And quite frankly, they're afraid to speak up. They're afraid to say anything against their own government, against the war. You have Andrei Rublev who's another top 10 player from Russia, who said no war. He wrote it on a camera lens after one of his wins. That's a picture of him right there. A month or so ago when the war just got underway.

But as far as taking a stand against their government, that's something that's just not palatable for these players at this moment in time. And remember, the Russian government, Putin included, they've celebrated their Russian athletes to a degree that may be even more over the top than it is here in this country. We know how much we celebrate our athletes. And when you look at the debacle that was the Olympic Games of the figure skating, the figure skater scandal that went on there, they are in an absolutely no win situation. Not only are they going to miss Wimbledon Anderson, but multiple other tournaments. That's a huge part of the tennis season.

COOPER: It's also interesting, you know, it's not the first time politics and sports have intersected recently. I mean, you said you mentioned Peng Shuai, Djokovic, the Russian Olympic skater, the Winter Olympics, Brittney Griner. I mean, how slippery slope is this, do you think?

MCENROE: I think this slope is getting more and more slippery by the minute Anderson. And I think this idea that sports are not political, we can throw that out the window over the course of the last couple of months with some of these huge stories. I mean, where is this? The big issue, I think is where is this going? We all agree that the atrocities going on in the Ukraine are horrendous. They're horrific. Is this a special circumstance? Is this different from other situations that have happened around the world with other countries that make an exception to the rule? And so, that's what we're seeing here unfold before our eyes. And unfortunately, as was the case with Novak Djokovic in Australia, he became a political pawn. Now part of that was his own making because he refused to take the vaccine. In this situation these Russian players, these Belarusian players could certainly make the argument that they have absolutely nothing to do with what their government is doing. But others are saying, including some former Ukrainian players, saying they must be held responsible and accountable. This has gotten so bad. This is so tragic. This is so disgusting. What's happening in Ukraine that individuals, Russian citizens have to take some responsibility as well.


COOPER: I mean, does Wimbledon decide -- does that ripple to the U.S. Open, to the French Open?

MCENROE: While the French Open has not made that decision that is due to take place in about a month's time. So that will happen before Wimbledon happens. So I don't believe that will affect their decision. When it comes to the U.S. Open, boy my friends at the United States Tennis Association, Anderson who run the U.S. Open, they're going to be having some long, tiring meetings over the course of the next couple of months about how to handle this. Because where does this go, the HCP, the men's player union, the WTA, the union for the women have all said, this is outrageous. This is not right to do this to individual players. So this is just the beginning of this door in the tennis world.

COOPER: All right. Patrick McEnroe, really appreciate it as always. Thank you so much.

MCENROE: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: We'll be right back.



COOPER: Reminder, before we go. New Sundance Award winning CNN film explores the unbelievable but true story of the man who took on Vladimir Putin and live to expose the truth, "NAVALNY" premieres this Sunday, 9:00 p.m. on CNN.

The news continues. Want to hand over Laura Coates and Jim Sciutto in Ukraine. Jim.