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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Sources: Former Attorney General Bar Tentatively Agrees to Give Sworn Statement to January 6 Committee; At Least 15 Joined Private Chat Group of Suspected Buffalo Shooter Shortly before Attack; South Dakota Trigger Law would Outlaw Almost All Abortions if Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade; Trump Looms Large In Primary Fight For Governor; Kharkiv Resident Flees The City After Constant Bombings; Biden Pledges The "Complete Backing" Of Sweden And Finland's Bids TO Join NATO Alliance; Crewless Boeing Capsule Launched, Expected To Dock With International Space Station. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 20:00   ET



ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ruperto Escobar will keep working his land and keep waiting for an immigration solution that seems lost in these fields.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Important report. Thanks so much for joining us.

AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The Pennsylvania's high stakes Republican primary race is still tight as the votes from Tuesday keep trickling in. We'll have more on that shortly. But first, there's breaking news in the wake of 2020 in the insurrection that followed.

Two potentially significant items, in fact, new signs the former Attorney General William Barr is ready to testify to the House January 6 Committee and the evidence the Committee says it has about a tour of the Capitol that Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk gave on January 5th, evidence that contradicts Republican denials in an ethics complaint about the allegation by the Congressman himself.

CNN's Evan Perez press starts off on the Barr story.

So William Barr has already informally talked to the Committee last fall. They want him to speak again this time under oath. How likely is that?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they have a tentative agreement for him to appear with the Committee to do this interview under oath, and so we expect that this is actually going to happen.

One of the interesting things with Bill Barr is that, you know, he has spoken a little bit publicly doubting the Committee and whether it has made too much of a big deal about January 6, but obviously, there's a lot of information that the Committee believes he has from the period before he left office.

Keep in mind, he left office at the end -- just before the end of December. So there is a lot of information he has from the period after the election that he can tell them about.

COOPER: The last time Barr spoke with Committee, the conversation reportedly focused on interactions with then President Trump before and after the election. Is that still their focus with Barr, do we know?

PEREZ: That's right. He spoke for about two hours with some staffers and Liz Cheney, the Republican who is the Vice Chair of the Committee, and we believe that that is exactly some of the information that they want from him. Again, this time in a formal manner.

And look, he can tell a lot about, you know, his interactions with the President, including the fact that he is one of the first to tell them that there was no fraud in the election. Certainly, the Justice Department did not find evidence to support this idea of fraud.

So he has a lot of information of that period before frankly, the efforts to overturn the election began gaining steam in those weeks after the election -- Anderson.

COOPER: Evan Perez, appreciate it. Thank you.

Now more on evidence the January 6 Committee says it has been a tour of the Capitol on the eve of the insurrection given by Republican Congressmen.

CNN's Paula Reid joins us with more on that. So, what do we know about this tour?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, in a letter this afternoon, the January 6 Committee sent a request to fellow lawmaker, Barry Loudermilk, Republican of Georgia, asking him to voluntarily provide information about a tour he allegedly gave on January 5th.

Now House Democrats had previously accused Republicans of providing tours to people in the days leading up to January 6, and that some of those people allegedly went on to then storm the Capitol.

But Anderson, we have a big discrepancy here, because another group of lawmakers on a different Committee of which Representative Loudermilk is a member, they say -- those Republicans say that they reviewed the security footage from the days leading up to January 6, and they say they didn't see any large groups, and they didn't see any tours, and there was no one wearing MAGA hats. Now Republicans have denied providing tours in the days leading up to

January 6, and Representative Loudermilk has even filed an ethics complaint against Democrats accusing them of making these allegations without providing evidence.

So in today's -- in response to today's letter, Loudermilk released a statement saying that the tour that he gave was a constituent family with young children and that they never entered the Capitol Building.

Now, we'll note Anderson, in the letter, this tour allegedly happened around the Capitol complex, which as we know, is much broader than just the Capitol Building.

So we have two groups of lawmakers here, reviewing the same evidence and coming to different conclusions. How do we suss out who is telling the truth? Well, today Loudermilk and other Republicans demanded that the U.S. Capitol Police just release the video footage, but the Capitol Police has said that they not going to release any evidence while the January 6 investigation is ongoing.

COOPER: So has the Committee said what kind of evidence they think they have?

REID: Well, this would have been a great opportunity for them to provide more specifics. And what's so notable today about the letter that they released, Anderson, is lacking in a lot of specific details to really support this allegation beyond just saying we reviewed the evidence, and our conclusion contradicts that of the Republicans on the other Committee.

Now again, eventually, this video footage will likely be seen by the public. There would be a huge credibility problem for the Committee if it turns out that this footage does not support their allegation. But at this point, it's unclear because of course we have not seen this footage and it'll be really interesting to see if this footage plays into the public hearings that they're planning next month or of course, their eventual final report.


COOPER: Paul Reid, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming next, primary politics in the second night of overtime in a GOP race that could decide who controls the Senate next year. Dr. Mehmet Oz backed by the former President still hanging on to a little more than a thousand vote margin over the more establishment candidate, David McCormick.

Now that said, the race tightened today again. The votes are still coming in with a new batch expected shortly. CNN's Athena Jones is where they're being counted. She joins us from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

So how soon until we know if this race is heading for a recount?

ATHENA JONES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it be several more days.

Here in Lancaster County, they have just finished tallying the Election Day ballots and the mail-in ballots, the ones that have arrived that they are allowed to tally so far, by law. You'll remember that there was a problem with 22,000 mail-in ballots that were misprinted. So they've had groups of 50 or 60 people, county staffers, election officials working to resolve those issues to re-mark and scan those ballots.

We have the results, they show that Kathy Barnette, who was at this point out of the running won the county, won Lancaster County, but Dave McCormick, won 405 -- got 405 more votes than Mehmet Oz in this county.

But it's important to note that it could be several more days before we know the winner because not only are there other counties that are still counting ballots, but there are also going to be, in this county and other counties, military ballots, military and overseas ballots and provisional ballots to be counted, and by law, they can't be counted yet.

Provisional ballots can begin to be counted tomorrow. We know that in this county, there's about -- there's 589 of them. But when a race, is this close, all of those votes matter, and that is why it's hard to say how long it's going to take before we know the results.

COOPER: And is there any way to -- I mean, is there any sense of how those outstanding ballots may affect the race?

JONES: Well, based on what the campaigns are saying and what we're actually seeing, what the campaigns are saying is, it is being held up in the numbers. So Dr. Oz is doing well in places like Philadelphia and the eastern part of the state and David McCormick has been doing well with absentee ballots. They are hoping that that continues because a lot of the ballots remaining to be counted are those mail-in ballots.

But you know, each campaign is kind of hoping and saying they have a path to victory, but we'll have to see who comes out ahead. Right now, statewide. Dr. Oz is still ahead. But of course, if they're within 0.5 percent, there is an automatic recount, and at least right now, it looks like that's very, very likely, but we just have to see how it shakes out.

And like I said, there are several counties that are still counting votes, and not all of them are being clear about how many more votes are left. So, still a kind of watching and waiting game.

COOPER: Right. The newest votes that came in, what did they show again?

JONES: Well, the votes here in Lancaster actually all day or very much of the day, the split, the distance, the gap between David McCormick and Dr. Oz has been about 400 votes. In fact, several hours ago, it was smaller, maybe 360. But in this county, the last several hours and trend has been a slight edge for Dave McCormick, but we just don't know what's going to happen in all the other counties, counties like Allegheny County, Bradford County, some smaller counties, like Clarion County, these are places that are still reporting, maybe not even -- certainly not 99 percent, not even 95 percent of the vote in some of these cases.

So it's still going to be several more days until we get a clearer sense of who came out on top in this initial tally, and then how close is that to determine whether there will have to be a recount. It'll be a while, and of course, as you mentioned, this is a high stakes race. Who wins this contest in November will help determine which party, Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.

COOPER: Yes. Athena Jones, fascinating stuff. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Perspective now from CNN chief political correspondent, "State of the Union" co-anchor, Dana Bash; also Pennsylvania's own Michael Smerconish, host of "Smerconish" here on CNN.

I'm wondering, what do you make of what's happening in Pennsylvania. I mean, it is fascinating to see how close this race is.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is so fascinating, and it is the whole notion of Donald Trump and Trumpism, whether or not that is a part of this race or any other Republican primary. That's yesterday's news. We know the answer is yes.

Because even David McCormick, although if he does become the nominee, he'll run a very different General Election race to win there than Mehmet Oz would be. He still was very much singing from some of the -- singing some of the Trump lyrics during the primaries.

But the fact that you have the former President who put his name on the line behind somebody who he clearly liked, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that he is a fellow TV star, and he doesn't have an outright win is very, very telling, and it is a reminder, certainly for people I talked to who are still in touch with the former President, that he shouldn't just do things impulsively, but good luck convincing him about that in the future.

COOPER: Michael, how much do you think the outcome of this ongoing Senate vote count in Pennsylvania will have on whether the foreign President continues to try to be Kingmaker with the other endorsements?


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let me first say that this has a groundhog day feeling to me of what we went through in 2020, where on Election Night, it was Donald Trump who was in the lead. We all remember the red mirage and the blue wave, and it seems like McCormick is the Biden in that analogy, in that there is a tick- tick-tick, whereby that margin gets smaller and smaller.

And if the trends hold up in terms of how he has outperformed Oz in absentee ballots to date, then I suspect he is going to surpass him. To answer your question, specifically, something I'm wondering about,

Anderson, is that if the one loss record of the former President doesn't turn out the way that folks on his side would hope, maybe it forces him to spend more money in the General Election on behalf of candidates to make sure that he's in good stead across the board with a lot of Republicans.

COOPER: Is the former President hurting whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be by claiming the primary to be illegitimate?

BASH: It could be. It absolutely could be. The answer to that question depends on who the nominee is. If it's Dave McCormick, maybe less so, excuse me, if it's Mehmet Oz, maybe less so because there is no question that Donald Trump will change his tune if Oz becomes the nominee.

But if it's McCormick, absolutely, because what does McCormick need to be the next senator from Pennsylvania? He needs not just swing voters, not just maybe so-called Country Club Republicans, if there are any -- many of them left. Most of them are in the sort of collar counties around the big cities, but he does need some of the Trump base. He does.

And if they are convinced by the former President, just like many of them are convinced about what happened in 2020 that this is not legitimate, it certainly might hurt.

The other thing that I just want to add to what Michael said is that so far, in the contest, so far, Republican contest, 70 percent of Republican primary voters have voted for a candidate not endorsed by Donald Trump. So, if there is any math that goes into what the former President decides to do in the future, that might help.

COOPER: Michael, I mean, had Barnette not been in the race, would most of her voters you think have gone to Dr. Oz?

SMERCONISH: I think in this race, there were momentum shifts. I think that initially, it was McCormick who had momentum. Then Trump weighs in for Oz. I think he saved Oz because I think Oz would have faded. That's just my view.

And then $50 million gets spent combined on behalf of McCormick and Oz, mutually assured destruction. It opens a lane for Barnette. In the 11th hour, she finally gets vetted, and all of a sudden her momentum goes away.

So it was very complicated, a lot of twists and turns. But in the end, it's very hard to know. A final thought if I might, because we all like to keep score in terms of how well did Trump's picks do? This could get recorded as a loss for Trump if Oz loses, but in my view, without Trump's endorsement, Oz would have lost.

COOPER: Interesting. Michael Smerconish, appreciate it. Dana Bash as well. Thanks.

Coming up, next. We have more breaking news. New reporting about the alleged Buffalo gunman talking to online followers just minutes before the shooting that took 10 lives.

Later, my conversation with a young woman who documented the destruction of Kharkiv, a city she was forced to flee. Tonight though with Russian forces driven out of the area, she talks about what going home is like for her.



COOPER: More breaking news tonight. We already know that the alleged Buffalo mass killer was looking to spread his message of hate online. Now, we're learning more about the followers he was apparently communicating with just moments before the shooting that killed 10 people.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us now with that. So, what is this information that you've learned tonight?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson. We have learned that at least 15 people joined the account that the shooter set up on the app, Discord, in the minutes leading up to this attack. The 15 people, you know, they were invited by him. We have been told that already that they were invited by him to join this kind of private online chat, this little forum on the app, Discord, and at least 15 people joined it.

There could have been more who he invited, but at least 15 people joined it and were able to view his attack plans, at least about 30 -- starting about 30 minutes before the shooting.

According to "The Washington Post," there was a header on the top of that forum that these people were viewing, said quote, "Happening: This Is Not a Drill." We had previously reported that he had invited a select few number of people to join that forum, that little chat on Discord, where he basically laid out a diary of the plans that he'd been making for the last six months, including the fact that he had surveilled this store, that he came here three times on the date of March 8th, to do surveillance, that he had plotted out, you know how many Black people were in this area, how many Black people were in the store, and that he had planned this attack from March 15th, but had to delay it several times.

All of that was in that kind of attack plan that he laid out in that private chat forum, and the new information tonight is that at least 15 people actually viewed it. And Anderson, "The Washington Post" reported that also, when they viewed those attack plans, they had a link that they could click on with that live streaming of his attack -- Anderson.

COOPER: Did any of them -- I mean, is it known -- is it clear who these people were? If the FBI plans to track them down? Did any of them call law enforcement while the attack was happening?

[20:20:06] TODD: Those are really good questions and I don't think we have the

answers to most of them. It is not clear exactly who those people were. I interviewed a former FBI Special Agent here in Buffalo named Jonathan Lacey. He is pretty keyed into this stuff. And he said, you can bet that the FBI is trying to track down those 15 people.

Now, some of them, he said, are not going to go by their real names when they log in and start to watch this stuff. They might have handles or other designations, but they can find out from IP addresses and other things. Maybe, you know, some tracking of their phones, possibly who these people are, and he said, you can bet they're going to track those people down, interview them, bring them in, and see if any of them might have even been complicit in this attack -- Anderson.

COOPER: Brian Todd, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Lawmakers in Oklahoma late today supplying a preview of what large portions of the country might look like if and when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. They passed a bill banning almost all abortions from the moment of fertilization with exceptions only for medical emergencies, rape or incest.

As with a similar Texas law, the measure allows private citizens to sue abortion providers along with anyone who aids or abets them. The vote comes the day after hearings before the House Judiciary Committee that saw Louisiana Republican Congressman put this hypothetical make of, what you will, to an Alabama OB GYN.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Do you support the right of a woman who's just seconds away from birthing a healthy child to have an abortion?

DR. YASHICA ROBINSON, PHYSICIANS FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: I think that the question that you're asking, asking does not realistically reflect abortion care.

JOHNSON: In that scenario, would you -- how about if a child is halfway out of the birth canal? Is an abortion permissible then?

ROBINSON: Can you repeat your question?

JOHNSON: If a child is halfway delivered out of the birth canal, is it permissible to have an abortion? Would you support the right for an abortion?

ROBINSON: I can't even fathom that.

JOHNSON: I'm not asking you if you can fathom it, if it occurred, would you support that abortion or not? That's unrestricted abortion, right?

ROBINSON: I can't answer the question. I can't imagine -- just like you probably can't imagine what you would do you if your daughter was raped.


COOPER: Just as a factual matter, abortions do not happen during delivery. The most recent CDC data shows that nearly all abortions, about 93 percent were performed less than 13 weeks into pregnancy. That said, in some parts of the country, those who do perform abortions and those who want one are already dealing with post Roe kind of world that could be coming soon.

More from CNN's Kyung Lah.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next stop, Gate C-22 proceed to 27.

DR. SARAH TRAXLER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, PLANNED PARENTHOOD NORTH CENTRAL STATES: So I am going to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the Planned Parenthood health center to provide abortions.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The clock starts ticking in Minnesota on the first flight to her neighboring state of South Dakota.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My pleasure to welcome you to Sioux Falls.

LAH (voice over): Dr. Sarah Traxler has only today to see her patients who want abortions.

Greeted by private security, they drive new routes each time to the one and only abortion clinic in South Dakota.

LAH (on camera): How long have you been doing this?

TRAXLER: I've been doing it for about seven years. Patients should be able to access the healthcare they need in the cities, in the states that they live in and if there is nobody else willing to do it, this is what we feel like we need to do in order to give patients access to that care.

LAH (voice over): Dr. Traxler comes twice a month because no doctor in-state will.

MISTY, HEALTH CENTER MANAGER: They either won't because it's against their beliefs or they don't feel safe doing it because of the atmosphere and the climate in South Dakota.

LAH (voice over): That climate is why Misty only uses her first name in our interview.

MISTY: We're here, we're functioning, we're seeing patients, abortion patients. Our schedules fill, you know weeks out, but that doesn't mean that it's accessible to everybody who needs it, absolutely is not.

LAH (voice over): Governor Kristi Noem has pledged to make South Dakota the most anti-abortion state in the country with a trigger law already in the books. GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): As soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, our

state laws are ready to protect every unborn child here in South Dakota.

LAH (voice over): A conservative state especially on abortion access, South Dakota is bright red politically, largely ruled, it already has some of the country's most restrictive laws dictating when, how, and where women can get an abortion.

But Roe v Wade still allows Dr. Traxler to continue her work. On this day, she sees 11 patients.

TRAXLER: We want to get them seen, get their ultrasounds, get their education, and so that we can timestamp their visit.

LAH (voice over): It's then a state mandated wait time of 72 hours kicks in before the patients can legally get abortions.

Tell me a little bit about these 11 women.

TRAXLER: So they come from all walks of life. Young, old, never been pregnant before, so this is their first pregnancy and several who have multiple children. Many of them traveled several hours to get here today.

LAH (voice over): Hanging over each visit, the Supreme Court's draft decision overturning Roe.


TRAXLER: If the decision comes tomorrow, we would not be able to complete their visit 72 hours later. We would have to call all of those patients and let them know that they can't be seen and they need to go somewhere else.

LAH (voice over): South Dakota's trigger law would immediately end all abortion here except when the mother's life is in jeopardy.

TRAXLER: It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking that this is not going to be available to them anymore. It's unfair. It's unjust.

It's very frustrating to me that we are in -- at this place because I don't think that bodily autonomy should be up for debate and it makes me very fearful that we're going to see an increase in the number of people who are seeking out unsafe alternatives.

LAH (voice over): The clock resets for Dr. Traxler, 72 hours later, she will make this journey again to see those same patients for as long as the Supreme Court will let her.


COOPER: Kyung, we heard the South Dakota Governor said the state's trigger law outlawing all abortions except when the mother's life is that risk will go into effect immediately if and when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Do abortion rights supporters in South Dakota have any contingency plans?

LAH: They actually do. They're going to make an immediate pivot from focusing on patient care to patient travel. Yes, that South Dakota clinic will immediately not be able to do abortions anymore.

Dr. Traxler will stay in Minnesota, but instead her focus will shift on getting those patients out of South Dakota. This is already happening in the State of Texas. Plans are underway to get this to happen in Oklahoma. What you're seeing are these healthcare professionals instead going to become patient navigators, which is really just a fancy way of saying that they're going to become travel agents for these patients.

Women who want an abortion might call the clinic, but then that clinic would instead give them an itinerary that could be a train, bus, plane to take them to states like here in California or to Colorado or to other states where they could get that access to an abortion -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kyung Lah, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up next, back to primary politics and the grudge match. More specifically, the former President's grudge match for Georgia Governor between the challenger he backs and the incumbent, a fellow Republican, he has openly and repeatedly attacked.



COOPER: Even as the votes are still being counted and the dust is settling from Tuesday's primary night, they're gearing up for another round next Tuesday, most notably in Georgia where as in Pennsylvania, former President Trump looms large on the Republican side and so does the election he lost.

More for -- more now from our Jeff Zeleny.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): We're in a fight for the soul of our state.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is also facing another fight for the future of the Republican Party.

KEMP: We need to win and win big on Tuesday. And then we will unite and do what we have done again, and that is beat Stacey Abrams in November.

ZELENY (voice-over): The next big stop of the midterm election season is the Georgia primary on Tuesday.

KEMP: Good to see you all.

ZELENY: Kemp is trying to project strength by looking ahead to a potential rematch with Stacey Abrams. But long before that he must overcome vicious criticism from the loudest voice in the Republican Party.

DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Brian Kemp is a turncoat, is a coward it is a complete and total disaster.

ZELENY (voice-over): Georgia has been the object of Donald Trump's obsession since narrowly losing the state in 2020. He's never forgiven Kemp and other GOP officials for refusing to meddle in the election.

TRUMP: Brian Kemp, he sold you out. We didn't look, he didn't want to look, he didn't want anything to do with it.

ZELENY (voice-over): Trump convinced former Senator David Perdue to challenge Kemp a bet that is now looking increasingly risky, 60% of Republican primary voters support Kemp, according to a new Fox News poll while 28% back Purdue, a healthy increase in the governor's advantage since March.

Gone are the days when Trump, Perdue and Kemp are all part of a unified Republican family. Deep divisions rooted in the big election lie are now at the heart of the Georgia primary.

DAVID PERDUE (R-GA) GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: So what I'm frustrated with is that we can't get our Republican leaders to investigate. They say, well, we've audited we looked at all that they have not. They have not done that.

ZELENY (voice-over): At rallies --

TRUMP: They attacked and cheated on our elections. And they did it right here in Georgia --

ZELENY (voice-over): -- and in TV ads.

TRUMP: Brian Kemp, let us down. We can't let it happen again.

ZELENY (voice-over): Trump blames others for his defeat.

(on-camera): President Trump has called you a turncoat, a coward. What do you say to Georgians who are making up their mind right now? Whether if they should listen to him or listen to you?

KEMP: I will tell Georgians I can't control what other people are saying. They want some nice bite. And for them, they're not worried about people from around the country that have been criticizing us.

ZELENY (voice-over): Kemp goes to great lengths to ignore the criticism. Some supporters do not.

SUSY ALLEN, GEORGIA VOTER: President Trump has a lot to say about a lot of things. But the best person to unite Georgia is got an account.

KERMIT MOODY, GEORGIA VOTER: He needs a bandaid and put it over his lips.

ZELENY (on-camera): A bandaid over his lips.

MOODY: Yes. He needs to learn to control his speech. And I am a Trump supporter all the way.

ZELENY (voice-over): As he flirts with another presidential run, Trump has plenty reasons to keep Georgia on his mind. He endorsed Congressman Jody Hice to challenge Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who also declined to help Trump overturn the election. He's supporting former football great Herschel Walker for Senate. Those two Republicans along with Perdue make up the Trump ticket.

TRUMP: We first have to defeat the rhinos, sellouts and the losers in the primaries this spring.

ZELENY (voice-over): The biggest question of all is whether Republicans will come together after the divisive primary.

(on-camera): After all that President Trump has said about you if you went on Tuesday, will you seek his endorsement to help unify the party?

KEMP: But the only endorsement, I'm worried about is the people of Georgia's on Tuesday.


ZELENY: Now, Kemp is not only campaigning hard to win, he's trying to get more than 50% that would allow him to avoid a June runoff election. One thing he's doing on the eve of the election bringing in former Vice President Mike Pence to campaign for him. Anderson is the biggest split yet with Pence and former President Trump.

COOPER: The interesting Tuesday night. Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

Up next, as Ukraine's top military figure gives an upbeat assessment on the course of the war. I'm going to speak with a resident of Ukraine, who was on this broadcast after documenting the Russian bombing of her home city Kharkiv.


Will talk to her she was forced to flee she has now returned to Kharkiv. Her thoughts on the city and the war, when we come back.


COOPER: Ukraine's top military commander today expressed optimism about the course of the war. During a meeting with his NATO counterparts the commander in chief the Ukrainian general staff said his forces have unblocked the sieges of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv and we're now fighting the direction of Kherson. He also said they've managed to take away Russia's strategic initiative caused them critical losses and as you know, forced them to abandon their main objective of capturing Kyiv.

Along with the officials optimism, we're beginning to see people who fled some of the hardest hit areas returning home. Anastasiya Paraskevova for one, we spoke with her she was fleeing Kharkiv two months ago.


ANASTASIYA PARASKEVOVA, RECENTLY VISITED HOMETOWN OF KHARKIV AFTER FLEEING: So as my parents can no longer wisdom that the constant bombing especially after yes -- last night, which was truly a terrifying thing. We are going to leave, if we lived that long gosh.


So, I don't want to leave and I won't be leaving Ukraine. We'll be moving to somewhere just farther away from Russian border. I don't know why but being bombarded is easier to leave in your home.


COOPER: Anastasiya recently visited Kharkiv for the first time and joins me now.

Anastasiya, we first met you right after you had fled the city of Kharkiv, you've now been back for the first time. Were you nervous at all to go back?

PARASKEVOVA: Yes, I was actually nervous. I did not know for sure how I will feel when I see the city. I have not seen it for two months. And yes, the most of devastation was done when I was there. So I knew what to expect. I also seen videos on my phone of pretty much everything that was destroyed. But seeing it life is entirely different. And but the experience was good because city was much more alive. People are walking the streets and some shops were working. It felt like some life was back, much better than it was when I was in March. So overall, I felt good to see Kharkiv again.

COOPER: Your dad had left when you all -- when you left as well. But he had gone back first. ITV cameras captured the moment that you saw your dad for the first time since you got back. I just want to show that to our viewers.




COOPER: That's you and your mom. That must have been just an amazing moment.

PARASKEVOVA: Yes, it was really nice to see him after two months. We talked on the phone regularly, but it's the happiest I heard his voice being in two months. And to see mom and dad reunite was also really special. And yes, nothing more to add, just glad to see everyone is OK, and together again.

COOPER: You visited your apartment you got into your apartment also for the first time since you fled the shelling? Was it what you expected?

PARASKEVOVA: No, nothing like expected honestly, it was -- I was not sure again, what I will feel when I was living in it felt like a piece of me was left in that apartment. So, I was hoping that this piece will fit into place when I returned. But for some reason it didn't. Maybe because I knew I will be going back to (INAUDIBLE) or maybe because it will not feel like home until the war will end. This my theory is that this feel of home and security will come back only when I will truly know that the war is ended.

So, it was not as feel good moment as I expected it to be I guess. Although what seemed my home in one piece not exploded or destroyed was definitely good, but not as fulfilling as I thought it would be for sure.

COOPER: Because Russian forces have been pushed back from that area. There's not the shelling that there was. There was a lot of damage done though obviously. What is it like for people now living in Kharkiv? Are people still spending nights in the subway at all?

PARASKEVOVA: Yes, some people are still staying in subway, but soon it will end because subway will be used as a transportation again, not as a shelter. And the shelling is much less severe. Because as I was there the entire day in Kharkiv I only heard two explosions very, very far away. Not even in the city but outside the city.

So yes, it's much better. It's not safe of course. Just today my mom told me that there was a pretty huge explosion in Kharkiv in the morning. But it's better than it was when I was there in March for sure. And many people are functioning way more there on the streets. Spending time just like they used to also many people go into work, city transportation is starting to work again like buses and stuff. So it's much more it looks like a city that is with that people live in not as it was when I was living in like a dead city with no one around.


COOPER: It's really good to talk to you and I'm glad your family is OK. Thank you so much for speaking with us, Anastasiya Paraskevova, thank you.


COOPER: Coming up, President Biden today reiterated his support for Finland and Sweden to join NATO despite more pushback from Turkey and threats from Russia. We'll talk to you as ambassador to the UN, next.


COOPER: The Biden administration today authorized another $100 million in security aid for Ukraine. This comes as the president is expected to sign that $40 billion aid bill that the Senate passed today. During the White House meeting with Finland and Sweden -- Sweden's leaders today President Biden's solidified his support for their bids to join NATO saying the two nations have the quote, full total complete backing of the U.S. The President also said the administration is submitting reports on the matters, so the Senate quote, can efficiently and quickly move on advising consenting to the treaty.


Now this comes after Turkey's President say, reiterated his objection to the two countries joining the alliance.

With us now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield. Thanks so much for being with us.

LINDA THOMAS GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Thank you. Delighted to be here.

COOPER: How important is it for Finland and Sweden to join NATO?

GREENFIELD: I think for Sweden, Sweden and Finland, it's really important. They have been threatened by the Russians. And I think they feel that they're feeling the pressure. And they have been strong allies, to NATO, they have strong armies. We think they will be great contributors to the organization.

COOPER: Is it Erdogan's resistance to it? Is that something that could derail them joining?

GREENFIELD: I don't think it will derail them joining it, it means that we will have to have more discussions within the Alliance to work out the concerns that various nations might not have. But our senses this will move forward.

COOPER: The war in Ukraine is obviously taken -- it's been unpredictable to say the least, the U.S. did predict that the invasion would take place, many Ukrainians didn't think it would. How do you see the situation now?

GREENFIELD: The war is continuing. But what we've seen is that the Russians didn't achieve what they intended to achieve. So we warned early, our allies, our partners, Ukrainians that we saw this coming down the pike, the Russians had the sense that they could go in and a couple of weeks defeat the Ukrainians and the Ukrainians would wave the white flag that has not happened. The Ukrainians have stood strong against the Russian aggression. They defeated the Russians in Kyiv and they are continuing to fight.

So this is not an easy battle. And what the Russians have succeeded in doing is unifying NATO, unifying our European allies and really bolstering the resolve of the Ukrainian people.

COOPER: There's been criticism of the UN for not doing more earlier being in more on the ground in Ukraine faster. But also for obviously, with the Security Council, Russia has a veto power on the Security Council and can stop anything the Security Council might the other partners in the Security Council might want to do.

GREENFIELD: Yes, we've heard that over and over again. But what we have achieved in the Security Council, we've isolated the Russians. And we were able to actually take the condemnation of Russia in a resolution to the General Assembly and got more than 140 nations to vote to condemn the Russians. So, they are not succeeding with their veto in stopping us. Their veto is it's not allowing them to achieve the goals that they want to achieve.

COOPER: Food security is obviously a huge thing. You spoke about it yesterday, the World Food Program chief said, a failure to open the closed porch in Ukraine to get green out could be in his -- in their words declaration, a declaration of war on global food security.

GREENFIELD: It absolutely is a declaration of war.

COOPER: And that's going to be -- there's going to ripple effects around the world.

GREENFIELD: Absolutely. What the Russians are doing at this moment, contributing to this food insecurity crisis. Some countries import more than 50% of their grains from Ukraine, and because of the Russian blockades in the Black Sea, because of Russian attacks on Ukrainian farms. Because of the war, Russia has created this food crisis that we have already been dealing with for a number of years. And what they're doing is making it worse.

COOPER: And we're going to see the ripple effects, not just in some cases in the U.S., but in North Africa, in the Middle East.

GREENFIELD: We've been having discussions with our African colleagues, Secretary Blinken hosted ministerial in New York yesterday in which we brought a number of countries from across the globe together. And all of them express concerns about the impact of this food crisis on their countries. And in Africa, many countries again, depend on more than 50% of their imports from Russia, from Ukraine, from this region, and all of them are being impacted now by this war.

COOPER: Ambassador, I so appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

GREENFIELD: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Glad to meet you in person.


COOPER: All right.

Coming up, crewless in space, we'll explain why no one is aboard the long awaited launch of a new spacecraft for NASA.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And lift off. Starliner is headed back to space on the shoulders of Atlas powered by a workforce dedicated to its success.



COOPER: We end tonight's broadcast with the site that no matter how many times you see it is amazing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. And lift off. Starliner is headed back to space on the shoulders of Atlas, powered by a workforce dedicated to its success.


COOPER: This was in Cape Canaveral Florida. Lift off happened just a short time ago. No one is inside the Starliner spacecraft built by Boeing long delayed is uncrewed. The plan is to have it reach the International Space Station dock and return to earth within a week. Boeing is trying to show NASA that the vehicle is ready to carry astronauts which has not been easy so far. Company wanted it operational by 2017.


The news continues. Want to hand things over to Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you. And you're right it still is very cool to see. I really love it.