Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Israel: PM Bennett Accepted Putin's Apology for Russian FM's Claim That Hitler Had "Jewish Blood"; Pennsylvania Gov. Vows To Veto Any Bill Sent To Him Limiting Access To Abortion; U.S. Marshals Release New Details In Hopes Of Finding Missing Alabama Inmate And Corrections Officer. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A lot of breaking news, in the war, in Ukraine, to get to, tonight.

This video, we found, today, shows the intense violence, from Russian bombardments at the remaining civilians and soldiers, who were standing, at that massive steel plant, in Mariupol. Ukrainians say they've repelled a Russian attempt to enter the territory.

The Russians call that fake news. They claim, they haven't tried to take the place, much like Vladimir Putin claimed two weeks ago, today, in a public event, with his Defense Minister, they wouldn't try to enter the area.

Four days, ahead of a symbolic national holiday, Vladimir Putin appears to be looking, for a significant victory, to show the Russian people. He's been awarding medals and honors, for Russian soldiers.


COOPER: This is for soldiers, in Mariupol. He has also given honors, to the Russian units that are alleged to have committed war crimes, in Bucha, and elsewhere. The Mariupol medals for what they're calling, liberation.

Well tonight, we have CNN's Matthew Chance, in Moscow. We'll hear from him, in a moment.

We start though with a marine and former Ukrainian prisoner of war. His story of a battle, in a steel plant, similar to the one we just showed you, and in the same city of Mariupol.

Nick Paton Walsh has more.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): This is how for Hlib's war ends. But if you told him, he was lucky, he'd probably agree.

He fought, for Mariupol, in the other steel factory, Illich since the war began. Put tourniquets on friends, felt the heat of Russian tanks blasting his building, from just meters away. He survived, but only just here, after 17 days, as a wounded prisoner, in Russia.

HLIB STRYZHKO, INJURED UKRAINIAN MARINE (through translator): Very often, when I close my eyes, I see that moment, when the tank was firing at me, and my side getting injured.

On the day of my injury, one of my boys, a machine gunner, was killed. Every time, it's personal. Every time I heard it over the walkie- talkie, or in-person that someone was dead, it would conjure memories of him.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): His mind, also in pieces, left grappling, with fragments of the worst fighting, in Europe, for decades.

STRYZHKO (through translator): You know there's a point, when the brain accepts it, seeing the phosphorus missiles, seeing aviation flying in. When this became normal, that was scary. We learned how to fall asleep, with this accompaniment. Instead, it became scary to fall asleep in the silence.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Two moments though, haunt him here.

STRYZHKO (through translator): The first time, I used tourniquets on my friend.

And the second scene is this. We saw aviation, destroying whole hangars. Watching a huge hangar, to have nothing left, in just seconds. This has really been engraved on my memory.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Wounded, on April the 10th. When he regained consciousness, he was not where he thought he was.

STRYZHKO (through translator): First time I found out I was held captive was when we were inside an ambulance. Me and another guy with similar injuries. He asked, "Are you ours?" And they replied, "It is unclear now, who you mean by ours now."


They said, I was under the guard of the Ministry of State Security of the separatist DPR. But it was scarier, when I got to the separatist hospital. I was told by a Russian soldier, "You'll have to forget Ukrainian now. You will only get help, if you ask in Russian."

PATON WALSH (voice-over): The Russians kept him alive, he says, so they could exchange him, for their own.

STRYZHKO (through translator): There were two of us bedridden. So, we had to be fed by nurses. So, they would say, "Because of you, my son got killed." I tried to be understanding. But they were accusing us of things we never did. And we had Russia news read to us all the time. In the morning and evening. That was a lot of pressure, on the mind, a distortion of reality.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): On April the 27th, an exchange happened, and he was put on a plane, his pelvis crushed, his lower jaw broken, brain concussed, but he can still feel his legs.

STRYZHKO (through translator): And I also have problems with my eyes, because of constant bright flashes and dust. So, at first, they were glazed. Then they opened. For now, I still can't see with my left, and my right only silhouettes.

My body was broken, but not my spirit. My doctor says that I would be able to pick any New Balance sneakers by autumn. That makes me happy.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, southern Ukraine.


COOPER: What a story!

Tonight, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is saying that Vladimir Putin apologized to him. Bennett says that Putin, in a phone call, apologized for a Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov's comments, claiming Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood, a historically discredited claim.

Matthew Chance is live, in Moscow, where the Kremlin imposed strict laws, regarding how Russia's presence, in Ukraine, is described.

Matthew, how did that conversation, between Bennett, and Vladimir Putin, go?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, we've seen the Israeli readouts of that telephone conversation, in which the Israeli Prime Minister said that, look, there was an apology, from President Putin, about those comments, made by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, about anti-Semitic comments, about how Jews are those most responsible for anti-Semitism, and that even Hitler had Jewish blood, a conspiracy theory, as we mentioned, that's been completely discredited.

But the Russian readout doesn't mention that apology. And so, I've reached out to the Kremlin, to see if they could confirm that Putin apologized to the Israeli leader. They haven't answered me.

But there's been a comment, to Russian state media, from Dmitry Peskov, who is Vladimir Putin spokesperson. And he just said, "Look, everything that was discussed was made public."

And the stuff that was on there, their readout was - they talked about the situation, inside Ukraine, specifically about the battles, or whatever, to do with the Azovstal plant, in Mariupol.

And then, they - President Putin congratulated Israel, on its anniversary of its independence, which was today, and also about the forthcoming Victory Day celebrations, to commemorate the end of the Second World War. No mention made whatsoever of any apology.

And, of course, it's very embarrassing incident, for the Russians. Because Israel is a country that is not exactly a Russian ally, but it hasn't joined the big sort of international sanctions, against Russia, for its activities, in Ukraine, for instance, like United States has, and other countries around the world.

COOPER: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who you mentioned, also held a conference call, today. What is Russia's official position, on the situation, at the Azovstal steel plant?

CHANCE: Well, they're playing down or denying, in fact, any suggestion that there is a ferocious battle, underway, for control of that steel plant.

They called it fake news, the suggestion that there are fierce fighting, underway, for control of the Azovstal plant. And of course, if you intentionally spread fake news, in this country, now, there are new laws, which criminalize it, and you can face up to 15 years, in jail.

But what they say is that, in fact, there's been an order, given by President Putin, not to storm the steel plant. And as the Commander- in-Chief, that order - of the Russian forces, that order still stands.

They're also saying, from the Kremlin, that the humanitarian corridors that the Ukrainians have said have not been opened, and haven't been allowing civilians, to pass through, those humanitarian corridors, the Russians are saying, are open. And it is possible, for civilians, to escape that area, into regions of safety.

COOPER: Matthew Chance, appreciate it. Thank you, Matthew.

Perspective now, from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor.


Ambassador Taylor, what are you hearing, from your sources, in Ukraine, about the latest in this war? We haven't heard yet - the U.S. has said that the majority of the Howitzers that were sent in, by the U.S., are in the country. We haven't heard if they've actually made it to the battlefield, yet. Do you know if they have?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I do, Anderson. I have a good friend, who is on the front lines, occasionally. Then, he goes back to Kyiv. Then, he comes to the front line again.

And he told me, a day and a half ago that he observed these U.S. Howitzers, in action. And he described how successful they were, at great distances. He had described, how they took out tanks, several tanks that he watched. He could see these actually happening.

So, I am, yes, the U.S. Howitzers are there, in action, and are being effective.

COOPER: I wanted to ask you about the reporting, on the targeting, of the Russian warship, Moskva, last month, by Ukrainian. Sources, familiar with the events, tells CNN, the U.S. provided Intelligence that helped Ukraine strike the shape with cruise missiles.

Does that level of Intelligence-sharing surprise you at all?

TAYLOR: It doesn't. It doesn't. Intelligence-sharing is maybe not as important as these heavy weapons. But it's certainly on the same order of importance. The real-time Intelligence that allows the Ukrainians, to combine the information, with other sources. They've got a lot of very good sources, Anderson.

They have ways. Of course, the language is helpful. They have ways that we don't, of understanding and getting information, about what's going on, with the Russians. And so, they take advantage, of what we tell them. Other friendly nations, as well. And then, they put that together, and they make the decisions.

COOPER: You've said that if you were running things, you'd be giving the Ukrainians, all the weapons, they're asking for.

What more, do you think, they needed, at this stage?

TAYLOR: I think they really need the anti-air capabilities. Whether that's aircraft, or whether it's any aircraft missiles that fire from the ground to a higher altitude.

What I hear from this friend of mine, in the Ukrainian military, is that the ground forces are doing very well. They are vulnerable, however, he says, to airstrikes.

The Ukrainian Air Force is still in the air. But it's mostly in the air, in the west. The Russian air is able to operate in the east. And that's where they really need the anti-aircraft weapons.

COOPER: Also, drones. That seems to be a big emphasis for them.

TAYLOR: It is. And the larger drones that can carry more explosives. The drones, again, like the long-range artillery, enable the Ukrainians, to engage the Russians, at a distance.

They were able to engage the Russians, at shorter ranges, up in the forest, in the swamps, north of Kyiv. But now that they're on the step, now that they're on the plains, these big fields, that's where they need the drones. That's where they need the Intelligence to be able to spot them. And that's where they need the heavy artillery, long-range artillery.

COOPER: How do you think - I mean, are negotiations even possible, anymore, to put a stop to all the bloodshed?

Because, I mean, you hear from Ukrainian officials, and just regular people who, I was talking to, last week, when I was there, in Kyiv, saying, after Bucha, after the atrocities, which we have all witnessed, which the world has seen, it's hard to sit down at a table with people.

TAYLOR: I have asked that exact question, a couple of times. And you get the exact answer that you just gave, Anderson.

That is the people that are perpetrating these war crimes, what Joe Biden calls genocide, was these things, we see, in Bucha, and in Mariupol, it's hard to stomach, sitting down, with people, who are perpetrating these kinds of acts.

That said, the Ukrainians have been, in good faith, coming up with ideas. The Russians, earlier on, have not been responsive. They didn't have any authority, to make any decisions.

So, the Ukrainians, we have to take their lead. If they are willing to have these conversations, then fine. But what they are really focused on now, President Zelenskyy, is really focused on now are several stages, and the stages are winning on the battlefield.

If they start to win on the battlefield, continue to win on the battlefield, and in the end, win on the battlefield, that will be the way to push the Russians out. And, at that point, the Russians may come for the negotiations.

COOPER: Yes. Ambassador Taylor, it's good to talk to you, as always. Thank you.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, a $300 million trophy, in the hunt for Russian oligarchs' assets. We'll look at where this yacht, nearly the length of a football field, was tracked down. And the insider tells us how the U.S. figures out who to go after.

Later, as tensions heat up, around the Supreme Court, after the Roe draft opinion leaked, the Chief Justice is not hiding his own anger. His first public comments, ahead.



COOPER: Tonight, with little, for the U.S., to celebrate, as Russia tightens death grip, in Mariupol, the Biden administration is touting one notable triumph, the seizure of yet another luxury yacht. This one, valued at apparently $300 million, owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch.

Authorities in Fiji served a U.S. search warrant, after the yacht was found docked there. The U.S. believes it was headed for Russia, to avoid exactly what happened, today.

The White House took a victory lap of sorts, in the Briefing Room, this afternoon, as it celebrated the takedown.

Our Kara Scannell has more, on the latest seizure, and gives us an inside look, at the American mission, to go after Vladimir Putin's assets, and his wealthiest friends.

Kara, so what about this boat?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, this yacht, was seized, on Thursday, in Fiji, by the local authorities, at the request of the U.S.

Now, they say that this yacht was tied to a Russian oligarch, who made his fortune, in gold. They say that he violated numerous laws, in the U.S. And that's why they asked the Fiji government to seize it.


Now, this yacht, which is about 350-feet long, with a lot of luxury details on it, will then sail back to the U.S., and dock at an undisclosed port.

From there, the U.S. Department of Justice, will foot the bill, to maintain the yacht, and pay the crew, so that it doesn't diminish in value. Now, that they ultimately hope to sell it off, for a profit. And some of that money, if Congress passes the Biden administration's bill, could go back to Ukraine.


COOPER: You also got the chance, to speak with the Head of the Justice Department unit, who is tracing oligarch assets. How is that search going?

SCANNELL: Well, as you said, this is the second yacht that they've seized, in the two months of operation.

And I sat down, with the Head of the Justice Department's KleptoCapture Task Force, Andrew Adams. He says that they are casting a wide net. And the number one, on their list, are all of these oligarchs, and Russian government officials, who're on the U.S. sanctions list.

Here's what he said.


SCANNELL: So anyone, who is on the sanctions list, is potentially a target.

ANDREW ADAMS, DIRECTOR, DOJ KLEPTOCAPTURE TASK FORCE: That's right. And, to be even more specific, anyone, who's on the sanctions list, is not only a target, for sanctions evasion. But we are looking at this in a holistic manner. If you are a listed oligarch, if you're a sanctioned entity, our interest is in any charge to hand.

So, if we're talking about sanctions evasion? That's great. If we're talking about money laundering? That'll be brought. But if we're talking about visa fraud, if we're talking about bank fraud, if we're talking about COVID fraud? We'll bring any charge to hand, to disrupt, and discomfort, the people, who are on that list. SCANNELL: And the biggest name on that list is Vladimir Putin. What can you tell us that the U.S. knows about his wealth, and where his assets are?

ADAMS: I can tell you nothing about what the U.S. knows, about any particular person. But he's certainly on the list.

As are, I think importantly, beyond, very wealthy, very famous sort of celebrity oligarchs, there are people, who are close to the Kremlin, who are in the Kremlin. People, who have a role, and have a voice, within the Russian defense industry, and the Russian Defense Ministry.


SCANNELL: Now, Adams says that they are also looking at some other assets, including luxury apartments, in New York City, and in Miami. He also said that they are looking to enforce other laws that would block Russia, from importing sensitive technologies, particularly for the Military.


COOPER: Kara Scannell, appreciate it, thanks.

Coming up, Chief Justice John Roberts' first public comments, since the leak of that draft opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade.



COOPER: Today, Chief Justice John Roberts made his first public appearance, since the unprecedented leak, of a draft Supreme Court opinion that could fundamentally reshape abortion rights, in this country.

Our Supreme Court Reporter, Ariane de Vogue, joins us now, with details.

Ariane, what did Chief Justice Roberts say today?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. These were his first public comments. And he said that he thought that this leak was "Absolutely appalling."

He said that he thought - he hoped that one bad Apple, who had done this, wouldn't change the court's perception, of the court's workforce, which he praised. And then he said it - he thought it was really foolish, for whoever did this, to think that they would actually change the way the court does its business.

But he can downplay it, as much as he wants. This was a stunning leak. Remember, it came with this case having to do with Mississippi's 15- week abortion ban. Back at oral arguments, in December, it was Chief Justice John Roberts, who seemed to be looking for sort of a middle ground, maybe uphold the law, but leave Roe in place. But Anderson, that's not at all, we got - at all what we got, earlier this week, when we saw the leak, of that draft opinion. Justice Samuel Alito, he really went for the rafters here.

He said that Roe v. Wade was egregiously wrong. He said that the issue should go back to the States, and should be decided there, which is a very bad sign, for supporters, of abortion rights. And he basically was willing to throw out 50 years of precedent.

Now, it was only a draft opinion, right? It's not final. But it was very broad. Today, in these comments, Roberts didn't at all talk about the merits of the case. But he said, definitively that the leak, for him, was appalling, Anderson.

COOPER: Did he mention anything about the investigation into the leak?

DE VOGUE: Well, he didn't talk about the investigation. And that's an unusual point, because when he announced it, earlier this week, he said that it was going to be done by the Marshal of the Court. Now, he could have said, maybe to have the FBI look at it, maybe a private law firm.

And what's interesting here, is he really wants to keep this, within the court. The court really prides itself, on its independence. And he seems to think that they can sort it out. Some people are skeptical about that. But, at the very least, he must feel like he is going to be able to stop this.

And that's important, of course, because it comes at this really fraught time. That justices have stopped hearing oral arguments, now. And they're really working to finish up the term, finish up these opinions.

They've got to finish the abortion case. But they also have a Second Amendment case. They have a big immigration case, religious liberty case. And that takes sort of a give-and-take, between chambers, these frank conversations. And the fact that there is this leak looming over that?


DE VOGUE: It's going to complicate it, right? And it makes it all the more difficult. That's why it was so unprecedented. These leaks happen all along - all the time, in the political branches. But you really don't see them, hardly at all, at the Supreme Court.

COOPER: And they meet again, in what two weeks?

DE VOGUE: Right. They're on sort of a brief recess, right now. And then, you're going to see them back - well, we won't see them. They're going to have their, I think, it's next Thursday, their closed-door conference, where they'll talk about some opinions, pending petitions.

For sure, this will come up. And there'll be some conversations. Because, you can understand how they might feel skeptical, maybe even paranoid, after seeing this. I mean, it really has a big impact. And, in a lot of ways, the Supreme Court is this small insular place!

COOPER: Yes. Ariane de Vogue, appreciate it. Thank you.

DE VOGUE: Thanks.

COOPER: Just before air, I spoke with the Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, who has vowed to defend abortion rights, about what can be done, if Roe is overturned, in his state.



COOPER: Governor, in the wake of the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion, overturning Roe v. Wade, you've vowed to protect abortion rights, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

What specific steps are you taking to do that, or can you take?

GOV. TOM WOLF (D-PA): Well, I'll keep doing, what I've been doing, throughout my term in office. And that is to keep vetoing any bill that challenges a woman's right, to make her own decision. And I will continue to do that, up through the end.

COOPER: Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature. They pushed for abortion restrictions, in the past. How much would a ruling like this, if it indeed turns out to be the official opinion, motivate them, in that regard?

WOLF: I'm not sure that it's going to motivate them at all. Pennsylvania is not one of those 13 States, with trigger laws. So, Pennsylvanians are safe, from the consequences of this draft ruling, and presumably a ruling.

But, I think, it does reaffirm the importance of the vote. We've got to vote. And as long as I'm Governor, Pennsylvanians' rights are protected.


WOLF: And if people want to protect these rights, and continue to protect them, they're going to have to continue to vote for people, who veto this kind of bad legislation.

COOPER: You only have eight months left, in office. Are there some executive orders that - I know some people have asked you about? Are there executive orders that you can do?

WOLF: Listen, this is a democracy. And you don't have the right to bound your - or bind your successors to things that the voters don't want.

But what I think this ruling argues is that elections have consequences. And people have gotten protection, for their rights, while I've been governor, because I was there, with my veto pen. And if they want to continue with this, they need to make sure that they keep voting for people who, like me, support a woman's right, to choose.

COOPER: All of the Republican candidates, vying for your job, in eight months, support banning or limiting abortion, in Pennsylvania. Do you think that Pennsylvanians may not continue to have access to abortion, as soon as next year?

WOLF: I really don't think that the majority of Pennsylvanians really want this fundamental right taken away.

I mean, I said this the other day, in Philadelphia. At the heart of American exceptionalism is the idea that each of us is arbiter of our own destiny. We have that ability.

And to have some group of people anywhere, say, "No, you don't have those rights. You can't be the arbiter of your own destiny?" That gets to the heart of who we are as Americans. I don't believe anybody will go along with that, if it comes down to that, in an election.

COOPER: If a Republican wins the governorship, in Pennsylvania, given that all the candidates, either against abortion, or for restricting it, in some level, you don't think that they would actually go ahead and do that?

WOLF: I'm not sure. My predecessor was a Republican. He had a Republican legislature. They did not pass anti-choice legislation, while he was there.

I'm not sure that this is something that hasn't taken everybody, Republicans and Democrats, by surprise that now they have to deal with this. This is - they own this now. And, I think, it's going to be a bad thing, for Republicans, everywhere, including, in Pennsylvania.

COOPER: Governor, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

WOLF: Thanks, Anderson.


COOPER: Justice Samuel Alito, wrote in his draft opinion that quote, "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start." It's an opinion that summarizes his outlook, on the landmark 1973 decision, over a very long career.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): John Roberts said that Roe versus Wade is the settled law of the land. Do you believe it is the settled law of the land?

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: Roe versus Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Samuel Alito seemed to dodge the question of whether Roe v. Wade could be overturned, at his confirmation hearing, in 2006.

DURBIN: Is it the settled law of the land?

ALITO: It is a precedent - if settled means that it is - it can't be reexamined, then that's one thing. If settled means that it is a - it is a precedent that is entitled to respect as stare decisis.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Stare decisis means "To stand by things decided," in Latin. Justice Alito focused on that concept, in his draft opinion, overturning Roe v. Wade.


Alito wrote, "We have long recognized, however, that stare decisis is not an inexorable command... and it is at its weakest when we interpret the Constitution," writing what could ultimately be the final word, if this opinion is issued, by the court, "We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives."

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased to announce my nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Upon his nomination, to the Supreme Court, in late 2005, critics questioned Alito's commitment, to upholding Roe.

During his confirmation, a 1985 letter Alito wrote, surfaced. It was part of his application to become Deputy Assistant Attorney General, during the Reagan administration.

Alito touted his conservative credentials, writing, "I am and always have been a conservative. I am a life-long registered Republican." And "I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion."

Months earlier, while working, in another position, at the Justice Department, Alito outlined, in a legal memo, how the Reagan administration could approach its stance, on abortion, writing, "We should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade, and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled."

Alito said, during his confirmation hearing, he would keep an open mind, as a justice, and put aside, what he did as a government lawyer.

But flash-forward to this past December, Justice Alito seemed to make his personal views clear, during arguments, on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban.

ALITO: The fetus has an interest in having a life. And that doesn't change, does it, from the point before viability to the point after viability?


SCHNEIDER: And Justice Alito does not shy away from taking a stance on hot-button issues. In fact, at the height of the Pandemic, he said that COVID had ushered in unimaginable restrictions, on religious liberty. And Justice Alito has called out critics, who have questioned the court's often secretive ways of operating.


COOPER: Thanks so much.

Coming up, a number of suicides, among the crew of the USS George Washington, is raising alarm, across the Navy, with hundreds of the sailors, moving off the ship, now. CNN spoke with some of the sailors, who said their living conditions were unlivable, and they had a lack of resources, and even food.

The report, is next.



COOPER: A string of deaths, among the crew of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier has prompted more than 200 sailors to be repositioned off the ship.

According to the Navy, the move came, after multiple crew members had died, by suicide. The deaths lead the Navy to open - led the Navy to open investigation into the suicides, and command climate and culture onboard.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent, Oren Liebermann, has the story.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For nearly five years, the USS George Washington has been, here, at the Newport News Shipyard. Its refueling and overhaul process delayed multiple times.

But the ship needs fixing, in more ways than one. Current and former crew members, who spoke with CNN, say the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was never ready for sailors, and the environment onboard was unlivable.

These images, from the ship, provided to CNN, show the conditions, on board. These videos, a broken washing machine, flooded nearby compartments, a bathroom in disrepair. CNN was unable to board the ship, to see these conditions, firsthand. But sailors say, this was the norm.

One sailor, who wanted to remain anonymous, told us about power outages, no hot water, unbearable temperatures, and the food. CURRENT SAILOR ON THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON: They just run out of food. And if that anything left it would be, if you're lucky, you know, a little cereal thing, or like one little chicken leg that may or may not be undercooked.

LIEBERMANN (on camera): What happened, when you tried to flag some of these issues, to your superiors or when others tried to flag them?


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): On Facebook, former sailor Jacob Grella said he was so freaking happy, when he found out he was assigned to the carrier, not far from his home, in Richmond.

But soon, he says, weekend trips home became an escape, from the carrier. With a year left on the ship, he tried to make an appointment, with the ship's psychologist, only to find out it was a six-month wait.

JAKE GRELLA, SERVED ON THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON: I tried to tell my leadership that this is - this could be a reason why these deaths are occurring.

LIEBERMANN (on camera): And what did they say?

GRELLA: I was met with the same negative feedback.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Within the last 12 months, the crew, of the USS George Washington, has experienced seven deaths, among its members, at least four of those by suicide. Sailors say, the Navy brought in mental health resources, after three of those suicides, occurred in one week, in April.

One of those sailors, who died by suicide was Xavier Sandor, who was just a year out of high school. His father says he will always be the family hero.

JOHN SANDOR, SON WAS ASSIGNED TO USS GEORGE WASHINGTON: He loved his job. He did his 12-hour shifts. And how do you sleep on an aircraft carrier with jackhammering and smoke and smells during the day? So, he would sleep in his car.

It's awful. No sailor should have even been living on that ship in those conditions.

LIEBERMANN (on camera): The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, the branch's top enlisted sailor, came here, to the shipyard, a couple weeks ago, to speak with the sailors on board. The message, he later said, in a statement, was to hear the difficulties, and the challenges, those sailors face.

But sailors, who were there, who spoke with CNN, say the underlying message they heard was "Get used to it. It could be worse."

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): One sailor called the visit, laughable and offensive.

The Navy surged more mental health resources to the ship, following the suicides, including a special intervention team, and an additional psychologist.

An investigation into the suicides is expected to be completed this week. Another investigation into the command climate and culture will take more time. The Commander of U.S. Naval Air Force Atlantic says, they'll look at the quality-of-life issues, including housing.

The Navy began moving about half of the 400 or so sailors, living on the ship, to different accommodations, promising that those, who want another place to live, will get it.


A former George Washington sailor, who left the Navy, after his time, on the ship, called it willful neglect.

FORMER SAILOR ON THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON: And that's something that's unacceptable, especially with a country with a military, the budget it has, and the support it's supposed to have behind it. I mean, this isn't Afghanistan, where you're expecting those circumstances. This is Newport News, Virginia.


COOPER: Oren Liebermann joins us now.

I mean, this is so disturbing. The carrier's been at the shipyards, for years. Is that - I mean, that's part of the problem that - the ongoing construction?

LIEBERMANN: It's certainly part of the issue. This process is supposed to take four years. But the carrier went in, in about mid-2017. So, it should have been done last year. But there was COVID, delays, and then other delays.

And now, something that should have been done last year, is now stretching into March of 2023, if not beyond that. So, you're looking at nearly 50 percent longer than it should have taken, which means a lot of these young sailors, who came in, to experience the Navy, to see the world, have done nothing, but be in a carrier, in the shipyards.

And that simply adds to the questions, the issues, and the challenges, when it comes to quality-of-life, in addition to all of the work happening, on the ship. It's worth pointing out Anderson, that that's why a lot of these sailors chose to speak with us.

Not only do they want to see a change, on their own ships, something to fix the climate, and fix the culture, there. But they want to make sure that no other ship experiences these same challenges, and certainly not this same sort of series of suicides that they've experienced.


LIEBERMANN: And that's a real concern. Because, right behind the USS George Washington, in the shipyard, is the USS John C. Stennis. That's the next carrier, in line, to go through this process. And any more delays, to George Washington, could probably, or theoretically, at least, lead to delays, on the Stennis. And that is something they fear too.

COOPER: Yes. Oren Liebermann, appreciate it. Thanks. An important story.

The search for the Alabama inmate, and corrections officer, who went missing last week, is spreading across the U.S., as U.S. Marshals release new details, to try to help identify the two fugitives.

We have them, next.



COOPER: Search is still on, tonight, for a missing Alabama inmate, and corrections officer, who went missing last week.

Tonight, the Lauderdale County Sheriff said he's confident they'll be found, telling CNN, some of the tips they've received, look promising, and that they're following up as aggressively as they can.

Now, this comes, as U.S. Marshals reveal some new details, and pictures, to try to help identify the fugitives.

Ryan Young has more.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Newly-released pictures show Casey White's tattoos, and what Vicky White may look like, if she changed her hair color. Every detail counts, on this manhunt that has, investigators, asking the public, for help, identifying the two fugitives.

CHAD HUNT, COMMANDER, U.S. MARSHAL GULF COAST REGIONAL FUGITIVE TASK FORCE: He's got a sleeve tattoo on his right arm. He does have some tattoos, on his chest. He does have a tattoo, in between his shoulder blades. And something that we learned recently is that he does have two eyeballs tattooed on the back of his head.

YOUNG (voice-over): The Commander of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, tells CNN, tips are flowing in.

HUNT: We've gotten several hundred. And, you know, to be quite honest, you know, all the four corners of the United States, we've gotten tips.

And, you know, we have to look at every single one, because it's going to be that one small tip that we think might be irrelevant, really kind of breaks the case open.

YOUNG (voice-over): Their quick escape was caught on video, last Friday, leaving the Correctional Facility, together, in a patrol car, under the guise of going to the courthouse, for a bogus mental health evaluation.

Then, this gas station camera, caught the patrol car, passing by, on its way, to a shopping center, where the alleged getaway vehicle was parked.

A local councilman tells CNN, he saw Vicky drive by, and nothing seemed suspicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They drove by, slowly. She waved at me twice.

YOUNG (voice-over): Here's where the investigation hit a snag. According to the Sheriff, the description of the alleged getaway vehicle, was never supposed to be released to the public.

SHERIFF RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: That really set us back, as far as knowing what they're going to drive in. We expect they're going to change vehicles.

YOUNG (voice-over): Investigators are, however, piecing together, why they disappeared. Clues of a romantic relationship, from the inmates, who came forward, now corroborate it, with a timeline.

SINGLETON: Casey White was in our facility, in 2020, for an arraignment hearing. He was moved back to the Department of Corrections, where he was serving 75 years, for multiple charges, out of Limestone County.

YOUNG (voice-over): During that time, when he was in state prison, the Sheriff says, Vicky White stayed in touch by phone. He returned to her facility, in February, awaiting trial appearances, and mounting evidence, of a methodically-planned escape, on what was said to be her last day on the job.

Court documents show that Vicky White sold her home, two weeks prior, for $95,000, well below the current market value of $235,000.

CHRIS CONNOLLY, LAUDERDALE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Clearly, lots of planning went into this.

YOUNG (voice-over): Vicky White held a respected position, as the Assistant Director of Corrections, at the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office. The County's D.A., who's worked with her, for 17 years, is shocked by all this.

CONNOLLY: She was a longtime, trusted employee, at our jail. And she just exploited the system. And that's why it's so shocking.

YOUNG (voice-over): And he has a message for her.

CONNOLLY: I would hope she would come home. I mean, you know, I think she's in danger. I would say, come home. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ryan Young joins us now, from Florence, Alabama.

So, Ryan, where are you now?

YOUNG: Yes. Well, I'm outside the courthouse.

And I want to show you something, Anderson. Look at this car. This is the car they got away in. This is the patrol car that has a GPS system in it. So, when this car went to that parking lot, they were able to track it.

But you got to think, seven days later now, Police are hoping, for more people, who are watching this. Look, this story has really got a lot of people interested in. So, tips are coming in, hundreds of tips. But at this point, they haven't been able to narrow down a place where they may be.

They're also hoping that maybe, at some point, they dump that other car, so they get an idea of where they are. But this might have been in planning, for such a long time, the head start may be something they have to work through, for the next few days.


COOPER: Ryan Young, appreciate it. Thanks.

We'll be back, with a rare moment of joy that the world deserves to see, from Ukraine, involving two of our favorite people, braving the war. That's next.



COOPER: Before we go, a chance to share a moment in Ukraine that is far too rare these days. A happy moment.

If you're a regular viewer, of 360, you know Olena Gnes, the mom of three, who spent much of this war, along with her family, in a Kyiv basement. We've been talking to her, throughout the invasion. We had the chance to meet her, and her kids, in-person, during our recent reporting, there.

Yesterday, her daughter, Katya (ph), turned 8-years-old. Family celebrated her birthday, at a park. Olena gave Katya (ph) a gift, in honor of her love of insects.


OLENA GNES, UKRAINIAN MOTHER OF THREE: Hello, everyone. (inaudible). This is her birthday present, today. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

Thank you for, for praying for our safety and security. Thank you very much for your support. And thank you very much, for those of you, who sent birthday presents to Katya (ph). It was very sweet.


COOPER: And the simple joy, of letting insects, fly free, a simple right, to enjoy a birthday. We wish Katya (ph), and her family, the best, on this, happy birthday.

The news continues. Let's turn things over to Don, and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."