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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Texas Department Of Public Safety: Police Chief Not Responding To Investigators' Request; Fourth Grader Loved To Draw, Wanted To Be An Artist; Biden Announces U.S. Will Send Advanced Rocket Systems To Ukraine; Ex-Clinton Campaign Lawyer Found Not Guilty Of Lying To FBI; White House Pushing Month-Long Campaign To Win Back Voters On Issues On Inflation, Economy. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 31, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because even reasonable people they refuse to believe like. What? Come on. Poisoned? Seriously?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Kremlin and Russia Security Services deny they played any role in Navalny's poisoning.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening.
A week ago today, a gunman took 21 lives at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. He murdered 21 people.
Starting today and for the next two weeks, people in Uvalde will be attending funerals for the 19 children and the two teachers that he murdered. Two weeks of mourning followed by a lifetime of absence.
Tonight, for the first time, we have a phone message sent to parents by the school district while the shooter was still in the school. We've also just learned that this man, Pedro "Pete" Arredondo, Chief of Police for Uvalde School District who was the incident commander that day, meaning the person authorities have said made the decision not to have his officers immediately go into that classroom and stop the shooter even though he knew it was an active shooter situation. He, according to a report has not responded to state investigators for two days.
So keep that in mind as you listen to this recording obtained by affiliate, KSAT. It went out at 12:20 local time. In other words, as the shooting was happening and as police were standing by, waiting in a small Texas town for a tactical team to arrive and then assemble, gear up, and then go in.
No one was confronting the shooter during that time. Police were standing outside the adjoining classrooms where some kids were wounded, some possibly dying still, and others were hiding, smearing themselves with blood in order to appear dead as one girl did, or calling 9-1-1 for help. And those police officers were not going in.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANNE MARIE ESPINOZA, UVALDE, CISD: This is Anne Marie Espinoza with Uvalde, CISD. Uvalde CISD parents, there is an active shooter at Robb Elementary. Law enforcement is on site. Your cooperation is needed at this time by not visiting the campus.
As soon as more information is gathered, it will be shared.
The rest of the school district is under a secure status of a precautionary measure to keep our students and staff safe.
We appreciate your cooperation and understanding at this time and we will share more information as it becomes available.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: So that call goes at 12:20, local time. School District telling parents there's an active shooter situation at the school, yet the 19 officers on the scene we're treating it as something other than that mistakenly so because when it comes to dealing with active shooters, the guidelines are clear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: First of all, when it comes to an active shooter, you don't have to wait on tactical gear. Plain and simple, you've got an obligation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Saying, you don't have to wait on tactical gear. In fact, I want to read you a couple of items from the Active Shooting Training Manual for the State of Texas. Item one is the Prime Directive. It reads: "Stop the killing. Officers' first priority is to move in and confront the attacker. This may include bypassing the injured and not responding to cries for help from children." The key, they're saying, is to stop the shooter in any way necessary.
Item two is this blunt advice: "A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field." So that's what the police on scene should have done, but did not do for one hour.
Yet listening to that same official, Steven McCraw at a briefing just the day after the shooting before the reality of what police didn't do was clear to everybody. Police knew, people who had been on the scene knew, but the rest of the world did not know.
If you'd listen to Mr. McCraw, Steven McCraw at that point the day after the shooting, you might have been led to believe that a delay never happened and that everyone on the scene acted just as quickly as they should have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCRAW: The shooting began. We had Uvalde police officers arrive on scene along with the consolidated independent school district officers immediately breached, because as we know, in officers, every second is a life. They breached it, engaged the active shooter and continued to keep him pinned down in that location, you know afterwards until a tactical team can be put together, comprised of the Border Patrol agents on the front end, some members of their BORTAC unit, which is a SWAT team for Border Patrol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So he is saying they breached it, they engaged with the shooter, and then they waited for a tactical team. He mentioned nothing about when the children were killed. There were children still alive calling 9-1-1.
When he said that the day after the shootings, there were already questions because the training on active shooters is clear, you do not wait for a tactical team. You don't wait for backup, you just don't wait. Statistics gathered by the FBI in the wake of Sandy Hook in a 2013 report where they looked at all active shooter situations going back to Columbine.
COOPER: Note that the average active shooter situation lasts 12 minutes and 30 percent are over in less than five minutes. Thirty seven minutes -- sorry, 37 percent -- that means that in less than five minutes, most of the people are killed 37 percent of the time.
At Robb Elementary, according to a Regional Director for the Texas Public Safety Department, the majority of the gunfire was at the beginning of the attack, which is what we just said, many times, most of the people are killed right away. But crucially, the shooting did not end.
We now know that at 12:21, after police had been outside the classroom for a half hour already, a minute after that phone call from the school went out to parents saying there was an active shooter situation going on, there more shots are fired and a third student inside the classroom calls 9-1-1, the third 9-1-1 call, meaning a child was still alive in there and calling for help. And yet, still no police went in.
And on Friday, that Texas public safety official you heard a moment ago, gave the reason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCRAW: The on-scene commander considered a barricaded subject and that there was time and there were no more children at risk. Obviously, obviously, you know, based upon the information we have, there weren't children in that classroom that were at risk, and it was in fact, still an active shooter situation and not a barricaded subject.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The thing is, he is saying based on the information we have, implying that the information that we now know that wasn't the case. But the thing is, somebody in the police department certainly knew. I mean, they'd heard more shots. They knew the shooter was shooting at somebody or something, and police had received 9-1-1 calls from -- the third one at 12:21.
They knew there were still kids in the classroom with the shooter. They knew that then, it's not just we now have that information as he was implying. Their 9-1-1 dispatchers certainly knew some of those kids were alive and still in danger. Does that information get sent down to the police who are standing in the hallway?
Contrast that to the response when a gunman opened fire the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard in 2013. You can see all the different agencies, military and civilian responding. The After Action Report details all the confusion and mixed signals authorities in Uvalde might have experienced, it also praises the cooperation of many agencies, 117 responders in all. And yes, they went in.
The first officers who went in if you look at the surveillance footage, it's a Navy -- a member of the Navy. It's a bicycle police officer. They went in and they killed the gunman.
Certainly, different place with different resources, yet it's hard to say that the team that went into Robb Elementary was undermanned. There were 19 armed officers there and more nearby, a far more confined location than many with a clearly urgent need to act which they didn't do. And the question is why, and perhaps also why Chief Arredondo, the incident commander no longer seems to be cooperating with the investigation.
We'll be joined in a moment by two law enforcement professionals, one of whom trains first responders on what to do in an active shooter situation. But first, let's get the latest details from CNN's Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A chilling new account from inside Robb Elementary during the mass shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you injured?
CHILD: We got shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where? Where?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid got shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid? They shot a kid? LAVANDERA (voice over): That audio was taken by a man who spoke to
CNN, but didn't want to be publicly identified. A Facebook Live video includes what he says is audio from the radio in a Customs and Border Protection vehicle outside the school. It is not clear at what point during the shooting this video was taken.
We're also hearing from a Customs and Border Protection Officer whose wife is a teacher at the school where his daughter is also a second grader. He was off duty at a barber shop when he got this text message from his wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "There is an active shooter. Help. I love you." From my wife.
LAVANDERA (voice over): That's when he raced over to what he described as a chaotic scene at the school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone was trying to get to the school. People were trying to get everything situated. I was just trying to get towards my wife's room and my daughter's room.
As I was going in, I could just see kids coming out of the windows and kids coming -- coming my way, so I was just helping all the kids out.
LAVANDERA (voice over): Both his wife and daughter got out safely.
One teacher describes the tense moments in her school room after spotting the gunman outside her class window.
NICOLE OGBURN, FOURTH GRADE TEACHER: I just kept hearing shots fired and I just kept praying, "God please don't let him come in my room. Please don't let him come in this room." And for some reason, he didn't.
LAVANDERA (voice over): ABC News obtained a portion of video that appears to be audio from a 9-1-1 operator relaying information from a child inside the classroom.
DISPATCHER: We have a child on the line. Child is advising he is in the room full of victims.
LAVANDERA (voice over): Questions remain focused tonight on the police response. The Texas Department of Public Safety Director says it was the School District Police Chief, Pete Arredondo, who made the decision not to breach the classrooms earlier.
Arredondo who hasn't been seen publicly since the shooting is facing harsh criticism and a Department of Justice review for what officers didn't do as kids inside the school repeatedly called 9-1-1 pleading for help.
JULIA GARCIA, ATTENDED MEMORIAL: And you cry and you mourn harder here because they didn't have a chance.
LAVANDERA (voice over): The first funerals for the victims in the mass school shooting in Uvalde were held today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When that casket closes and they lower it down, for me, it's the realization that you will be able to touch them again. One more hug. One more kiss. One more goodbye.
LAVANDERA (voice over): The funeral expenses for every family are being covered at no cost, thanks to an anonymous donor, according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
FATHER EDUARDO MORALES, WILL PRESIDE FUNERALS FOR UVALDE, TEXAS SHOOTING VICTIMS: Off the top of my head I couldn't tell you how many, but I think one every day.
LAVANDERA (voice over): Father Eduardo Morales says he will preside at 12 funeral services for victims over the next two weeks. Today, visitations or funerals were held for at least four students and one teacher.
DORINA DAVILA, ATTENDED VISITATION: Nobody should ever have to go through this hardship, you know, and something that could have very well been avoided.
COOPER: Ed Lavandera joins us now.
Authorities gave an update on the back door that the shooter apparently used to get into the school. There had been reports that it had been left open, maybe a rock was in place to leave it open. What did they say?
LAVANDERA: Well, Anderson, you're right. If you remember last week, the Texas Department of Public Safety investigators were saying that an unidentified teacher had left that back door propped open and that's how the gunman was able to get inside the school.
Well, now that story has changed. The Texas Department of Public Safety officials are now saying that that teacher once she realized that there was a gunman on the campus, went back to the door and closed it, but it did not lock -- Anderson.
COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. Thank you.
More now on Chief Arredondo why he hasn't responded to Texas Rangers for two days who are investigating what went on. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us with that.
So Shimon, do authorities know why the Uvalde School District Police Chief is not responding?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think part of it is now that he knows there is this scrutiny on him. He perhaps is concerned -- has concerns legally for himself. And so that's why he is not responding to their questions.
But for all intents and purposes, he is not cooperating at this point with the Texas Rangers. They've asked him for information, for follow- up interviews, and so far, that has not happened.
We have been making every effort to try and get in touch with him. We've been to his home. We've been trying other ways to reach him, and Anderson, we've just not been able to get to him. He was not at that Friday press conference. The DPS head there said that they don't know why he wasn't there, but he just wasn't there.
So obviously a lot of questions that he needs to answer, but no one really knows where he is right now.
COOPER: Shimon, I want to play a question that you asked to police. I think this was -- I mean, this was last week and it was Thursday, and I just think it's really important because, you know, there are a lot of -- there were a lot of questions from the moment you and I spoke on the phone the day after this when I was going down there, and you'd been on the scene and know this better than anyone what was going on.
And I asked you about the statement that the police had made, and it was clearly written the way the statement the police has made. It was strange the way it was worded. It clearly was avoiding some very glaring topics like why were they waiting for a tactical team. You finally confronted a police -- one of the police officials about it and I think it was an important moment, and I just want to play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: You guys have said that he was barricaded. Can you explain to us how he was barricaded and why you guys cannot breach that door?
VICTOR ESCALON, SOUTH TEXAS REGIONAL DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: So I have taken all your questions in to consideration. We will be doing updates. We will be doing updates to answer those questions.
PROKUPECZ: You should be able to answer that question now, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It seems like it was after that press conference, I might have the timing wrong, but that they realized people were aware that -- I mean, reporters were asking questions, you were asking really important questions that they frankly had been dancing around for days and avoiding talking about.
PROKUPECZ: Right. And Anderson, in the beginning, there was information that well, maybe he was inside that classroom for 30 minutes, then we started getting indications out, well, no, it may have been up to an hour and that's when you started seeing that there were holes in this story.
Having covered other active shooters, sadly, you know, I was just in Buffalo two weeks ago, you know, in terms of when you cover these stories, you always hear from the police that they moved in quickly, that they neutralized the gunman, we did not hear that in this case.
[20:15:08] PROKUPECZ: The timeline kept changing, and it kept moving further and
further away, which showed that perhaps, the police didn't do exactly everything they were supposed to do and you sort of just got the sense that the public here that the families, the parents of these kids were not getting the full story, because it's almost as if the police officers were trying to protect themselves.
And sure enough, after days and days of asking, Anderson, we get the truth and we see that these officers were simply standing in the hallway, protecting themselves while the gunman was inside with kids, children, as you said, who were still alive.
COOPER: And it's also -- clearly, other officers knew that this was a problem, because in their public statements early on, what they kept pointing out was all the officers who went and broke windows to help other kids get out in other parts of the school, which is very important and a great thing and obviously, important.
But the number one priority, if you have a gunman cornered in a room, and there are children in that room and even if you think that all the children have been killed, you don't know. And even then you're getting 9-1-1 calls from a child in the room and there are three 9-1-1 calls, it was just interesting to me how that is the story they were selling in the first couple of days about getting the broken windows and getting all the kids out of the school and avoiding the most important question and it took days and a press conference like the one where you ask questions.
Was there anything new we learned about the investigation today?
PROKUPECZ: Well, other than the fact that we have this new information about Arredondo, the Chief of the School -- the school police that he is not cooperating, obviously, they've changed the story now on the door, initially saying that this teacher left the door open.
And really, Anderson, even that piece of information only started trickling out because her lawyer came forward to the local newspaper and revealed that information.
So the police are not even being proactive with discrepancies in their own story and putting them out there. It takes other people to come forward, and then they finally come out with the new information.
Look, the bottom line, Anderson, is that now more than ever, we need to see those surveillance videotapes that are from the hallways of that school and we need to listen to the radio transmissions that the police were having between each other on that day, who was giving the orders not to go in, not to storm the door.
Yes, they're blaming the Chief of the School Police. However you talk to officials here and law enforcement from all across the country. They'll tell you, there were many other senior level people there like the Chief of the local police, the Sheriff was on scene. Why weren't those people standing up and saying wait, we may be making a bad decision here. We need to storm into that classroom. So there are still a lot of questions that the police need to answer.
The local state senator, Anderson, here for the district here says that he expects to get a report from the Texas officials that are conducting this investigation on Friday, so maybe then Anderson will learn more.
COOPER: Yes, Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thank you.
Joining us now, 17-year New York Police Emergency Service Unit veteran Andy Bershad, also CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsay, former top cop in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Andy, appreciate you joining us, Chief Ramsey as well. You're an active shooter training instructor. The decision that well all the people in the room are probably dead, and therefore we don't need to go in until a tactical unit arrives, if that was their thinking, does that make any sense to you?
ANDREW BERSHAD, NEW YORK POLICE EMERGENCY SERVICE UNIT VETERAN: Thank you for having me, Anderson, no, of course not.
From the reports that we're getting, the broken pieces of reports, you have communication with the 9-1-1 operators that there were children or seriously injured victims inside and there needed to be a clear decision, whatever you want to term it, as an active shooter, as a barricade, there is potential loss of life, whether it be a child, an adult, there is human life at risk, and a decision needs to be made to aggressively approach the suspect.
COOPER: Chief Ramsey, we also learned that officers on the scene received dispatch calling, informing them that a child called 9-1-1 from inside the school, letting them know what was happening. How does something like that come through? Would that go to the officers who are on the scene?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it should someone. Should be receiving that kind of information. But that's why the DOJ investigation is going to be so critically important.
Until we have that independent investigation where we get actual timelines, verified facts, and hopefully they've already notified all agencies to save all audio tapes, videotapes, written reports everything that has to do with this investigation or this case so that can investigate it thoroughly because right now, you're getting bits and pieces and they're putting information out without even verifying it and that's why it keeps changing all the time.
RAMSEY: So we really do need this independent investigation.
COOPER: Andy, for a "60 Minutes" report, I was able to take a couple of training exercises with the New York Police Department in their active shooter training. They have every officer go through active shooter training, because any officer could be a first responder, depending where they are when a shooting like this happens.
And one of the things that surprised me was that instructors were saying, even if there are injured people, you know, in the hallway, as you approach a room where there's a shooter, you don't stop for the injured people, the priority number one is stop the shooter. Can you just explain why that is so important?
BERSHAD: Certainly, although bleeding control is an absolute aspect of survival in a situation, so does neutralizing the threat, whether it be taking them into custody, whether to neutralizing using deadly force. The more the active shooter has to continue, more deaths or serious injury can be accumulated. So we train them to bypass it.
You have previous situations I don't want to name specifically when children were reaching out, you know, grabbing responders as they were advancing through and we drill it into our officers and students that you need to go by and locate, isolate, and neutralize the threat in whatever means necessary.
COOPER: I mean, that has got to be the toughest job for a police officer, you know, to do that, knowing that it is going to potentially save more lives.
Chief Ramsey, what happens here next? I mean, you have this police officer who is not responding to authorities who are investigating that. Does that hamper the investigation?
RAMSEY: Well, it slows it down. I would I would not be surprised if he has an attorney by now who is telling him not to make any public statements. Obviously, he is exposed, perhaps criminally, but certainly civilly. And I think both the School District and the Chief has a lot to face on the civil side of things. So, he may be told not to cooperate.
In the meantime, they're going to continue the investigation the best they can. But once DOJ gets involved, maybe that'll change in terms of him actually cooperating. You don't want to see this thing get to a grand jury or anything like that. You want to be able to do the investigation, do a thorough investigation, you can't really do that without him. He was the incident commander at the time. So it's going to be important that they be able to speak with him, as well as others.
And you raise something very important, Anderson, that I don't want to overlook. There were other top officials there on the scene. I've handled a lot of these things, and Andy probably has, too, and when you've got something as significant as a school shooting, guess what, you're on the phone notifying a whole bunch of folks -- your elected officials, and everyone else to give them a heads up and let them know what's going on.
And so this thing could go a lot higher than the chief, once the investigation of this really gets going.
COOPER: And Andy, just briefly, I mean, you agree, time is the most -- is the critical factor here that's why everything has to be done so quickly. That's why I mean, a tactical team in most, you know, not in New York, but in a lot of a lot of cities from small towns, it would take a long time for a tactical team to gather, right?
BERSHAD: No, absolutely. I mean, I'm blessed with being in the city of New York, we have a tactical team that I was involved with for 20 years at hand. We train even our officers even in Manhattan. It is condensed as it is, it might be the boots on the ground patrol guys going in.
But we find statistically that the perpetrator or the active shooters tend to be cowards, and by pressing them, cornering them, isolating them, it can make a tremendous difference. Time is absolutely a factor that needs to be pressed, which is why we instruct and show, lock those doors, slow them down. They know they have a limited time of carnage to create before they're pressed to face law enforcement.
COOPER: Andy Bershad, appreciate what you do; Chief Ramsey, as well. Thank you so much.
Coming up next, the father of one young girl who lost her life at Robb Elementary. We will talk to him.
And later, key developments in the fight for Eastern Ukraine on and off the battlefield including today's presidential announcement that the U.S. is now sending advanced battlefield rocket systems to Ukraine. We will talk with former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark, ahead.
COOPER: Each night here on the broadcast, we've been trying to bring you a little bit of information about the children teachers who whose lives were stolen from them at Robb Elementary.
Tonight, we want to tell you more about Alithia Ramirez. She was 10 years old. Her father, Ryan, says Alithia loved to draw. She wanted to be an artist and she already was. I want to show you some of her artwork.
This is her father's Facebook page. It's the winning poster that Alithia designed for her age group to help promote bullying prevention. The title, "Kindness Takes Courage." And it certainly does.
Her father Ryan Ramirez joins us now. Ryan, thank you so much for being with us. I am so sorry for your loss. Can you tell us a little bit about Alithia? It's so lovely to see her art.
RYAN RAMIREZ, DAUGHTER, ALITHIA KILLED IN UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING: Alithia, she was very lovable and kind. She was this real light. She was just there for anybody that needed anything, and that was one thing that we all loved about her.
And just with the drawing, she just loved drawing. She loved drawing so much. Every day, she always had a crayon in her hand and just going to town just drawing.
COOPER: I understand that President Biden, you met with him and he said that he wanted to have some of Alithia's work in the White House -- Alithia's work in the White House.
RAMIREZ: Yes. He had told me that -- just to pick one of whatever drawings that she did, that we wanted to have at the White House.
COOPER: There was a little girl named Grace McDonald, who was killed at Sandy Hook. And she, she was also an artist. And I remember President Obama, his -- Grace's family, Lynn, her, her mom gave President Obama a drawing of an owl that she had done. And he actually had that at the White House. So there's, there's a history for that.
Can you tell us about last Tuesday? I mean, not only did you go through the worst thing imaginable, but just the weighting that you went through is horrific.
RAMIREZ: I mean, we had 50/50, that's what I was worried because I called hospitals. Got with ever who was in charge, about all the schools, that the school was evacuated. And there was a possible that one of her teachers were alive. And passing was seen helping kids get out of the school. So we had that, thinking that she's out there somewhere hiding. And that's what we're going to thinking it was that she was out there.
COOPER: And I know you were at the, you were at the civic center where they told you to go and then you went back to the school, and then had to go back there. And then how long was it until you actually learned what happened.
RAMIREZ: All of this, I found out that this was around 12 o'clock. And I had a buddy of mine helping us find her. And I would think -- I think we found out a little bit before midnight. So I mean, almost 12 hours till they told us that she was deceased.
COOPER: Your daughter's funeral is this Sunday. It's -- what -- how are you getting through each hour, each minute?
RAMIREZ: Just remembering all the other good things, all the things that she had told us, we're going to pictures and videos and we -- we have our ups and we have our downs. And I believe that Alithia would want us to be strong that she's in a better place. And she's in a better place and she's safe.
COOPER: And she's such a beautiful, beautiful little girl and Ryan I'm so sorry.
RAMIREZ: (INAUDIBLE) see her drawing.
COOPER: Yes. Well I love the idea that her drawing of hers will be in the White House. Ryan, thank you so much for sharing a little of Alithia with us. I wish you continued strength and peace in the days ahead, Ryan Ramirez, thank you. We'll have more from Uvalde as well as from the war in Ukraine. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Number derailments nine Ukraine to tell you about starting with a new editorial by President Biden published just moments ago in the New York Times, he states the U.S. is providing Ukraine quote, more advanced rocket systems and munitions. We'll have more on that in just a moment.
Also today, an oil embargo of Russia by the European Union part of a larger package of sanctions that takes aim at about two-thirds of Russian oil imports and 90% by years in.
On the battlefield, Ukrainians now say that Russia controls most of several Donetsk, which is a key city in the eastern Donbas region. You can see it there on the map. It's a big game for Russia. Today, both sides blaming the other after the explosion with Ukrainian said it was a tank of nitric acid at a chemical plant in that city. Separately, officials say that all critical infrastructure in the city has been destroyed and more than 90% of homes are damaged.
Today, President Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian military has made progress in the north in Kharkiv and in the south in Kherson.
Our Matthew Chance joins us now from Kyiv with more.
So, talk more about the gains that Russian forces have made in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson they've made some significant gains in that city of Sievierodonetsk which is the last big remaining city to be captured by the Russians in the Luhansk region, Luhank region important because it's half of Donbas, the Russians say they want the whole of Donbas as a military priority. So, once they establish full control over Sievierodonetsk, there'll be a big, big political win for Moscow because it can say, look, we've achieved, you know, 50% of those of that aim.
But the fight has been, you know, very dirty. So literally, we've seen these images of a massive plume of orange smoke, billowing over the battlefield, after a chemical plant came under attack both sides, you mentioned blaming one another. It's also been a scene of fierce fighting as well, with the Ukrainians making sure that the Russians pay as high a price as possible, militarily to gain control over that city. So, a very nasty struggle for that town indeed.
There's been fighting elsewhere in the region as well, but particularly the counter offensive that's been taking place to the south of the country, as Russia has been focusing much of its resources to achieve that political and military win in Sievierodonetsk. The Ukrainians had been taking advantage of possible vulnerabilities to the south and trying to reclaim territory with some success in that area, striking against territory that had already been conquered by the Russians and bring it back into Ukrainian government control.
So, in the east, the there is progress by the Russians, but there's also an ebb and flow on the battlefield and the Ukrainians are also making some gains.
COOPER: It's interesting to see this video of from the Ukrainian's defense, Ukraine's Defense Intelligence of I assume that's a Ukrainian helicopter being used by the Ukraine. We haven't seen that very often.
This past weekend, President Biden said he would not send rockets with a range to give Ukraine the ability to strike targets inside Russia, we now have learned he plans to send more quote, more advanced rocket systems and munitions. Do we know what kind of weapons the Ukrainian leaders say they need now on the front lines?
CHANCE: Yes, I mean, look, they want more weapons is the kind they need. But particularly, they need weapons with a longer range because they're coming under increasing attack from long range weapons from the Russian side. And they've got nothing to answer that with. They're just having to sit there and take the punishment. And it's -- it means that the Russians are being able to make these battlefield gains. To turn that tide and to reverse those gains, they're going to need long range weapons. So they've been out asking the Americans and other allies for this for some time and there are going to be weapons given to Ukraine of course as part of the $40 billion worth of aid, including $20 billion of military aid that the Biden administration's already agreed.
But it's not the longest range weapons they could have provided. Some of these MLRS, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems that the Ukraine has been asking for, they can reach 300 miles in terms of range. The Biden administration is giving weapons systems with a much shorter range of that, southern region of 50 miles or so is the figure I've heard. But it still sort of more than doubles the capability in terms of range that the Ukrainians would have at their fingertips. So it'd be a big help for them.
COOPER: Matthew Chance, appreciate it from Kyiv tonight. Thanks.
Perspective now from retired General Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.
General Clark, you heard Matthews reports, you believe the momentum of the war in the east has shifted in favor of Russia?
GEN. WELSEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it is shifting. It hasn't fully shifted, but it is shifting because what we never hear about Anderson, these brave Ukrainians that are held it's no longer taking losses and holding it. So, they're getting pounded. And the Russians are an artillery heavy army. They've always been the half out number the Ukrainian artillery two to three to one, they mash it. It's really hard for the Ukrainians to stand up to that without taking casualties. They have taken casualties. So yes, I mean, the momentum is shifting.
Now, can it be held? Can we hold and Donbas? Are we going to get blown out of there? That remains to be seen. The President's remarks and his op-ed are really, really important, very significant at this moment, and very, very warmly going to be very warmly welcomed, I'm sure by Ukraine. What he says is you're going to provide longer range systems. And when you don't have a massive artillery, you've got to be able to have longer range and better warheads, to be able to outrun the enemy and keep that artillery off your own troops. So these MLRS, when they get there will make a big difference I think.
COOPER: And I should know this, but their range is far greater than the howitzers that the U.S. has been providing.
CLARK: That's right, probably double. Depends on the exact condition of the rocket that sent there. But 70, 80, 90 kilometers is possible. So that's, that's the 50 mile that Matthew was talking about. And the howitzers are shooting faster 24 miles.
COOPER: You know, it's interesting. I mean, now, the war is harder for people around the world to see, it's harder for reporters to get to the front lines. It's not like when they're bombing Kyiv. And people can see the horror on their television screens or, you know, wherever they watch these images come across. And so people stop paying attention. And then we're leaders also, you know, NATO, President Biden has cobbled together NATO and had, you know, they're more united than they've probably been in a long, long time.
How long can that unity stay, though, as the wars, you know, leaves the front pages in some cases, and as it becomes more complicated as Russia, you know, may make a play to just hold on to the land that they've they been able to take and say they won't go any farther. Seems like there's going to be more divisions and more calls for some sort of a settlement.
CLARK: Yes, there is it's starting already. But you know, this, this leaves, European leaders always play to their domestic politics. And that's what Germany and France are doing today. As long as they've got Poland between them and Russia, or Belarus, they feel relatively secure. If you're in Poland, you don't feel very secure, or in the Baltic States right now, because you know, you could be the next victim of this. So the United States has to bridge this gap. It requires U.S. leadership, exactly the kind of leadership President Biden showed in that op-ed that just came out in the New York Times.
And it means the U.S. will take the lead in supplying the weapons, it means the U.S. will take the lead in supporting the sanctions. It means these European leaders can then lean on the United States. They said, well, we didn't really want to do this. But the Americans, you notice these tough Americans, they always want to use weapons and stuff, and they get political support when they say that it's the old game that's been played in NATO for 70 years, Anderson. And it's just a question of whether this administration can continue to hold it together. I hope we can.
COOPER: General Clark, appreciate your time. Thank you. Coming up, a verdict this afternoon in the highly charged trial linked to the Trump Russia probe, this one centering on the Clinton campaign lawyer accused of lying to the FBI. What the jury decided, next.
COOPER: In Washington today, federal jury found Hillary Clinton's former presidential campaign attorney not guilty of lying to the FBI. Michael Sussmann was acquitted of accusations he wasn't honest when he gave the Bureau's general counsel a tip during the 2016 campaign about possible connections between then candidate Donald Trump and Russia. This was the first case brought to trial so far by that special prosecutor John Durham, since he was appointed to look into the origins of the Russia probe by then Attorney General William Barr three years ago.
CNN's Evan Perez, joins us now with more. So what more Sussmann accused of doing?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson he was accused of essentially lying to the FBI during the September 2016 meeting. Prosecutors made the case that this was really applied by the Hillary Clinton campaign to try to get an investigation of these supposedly suspicious computer links between the Trump Organization and a bank in Russia. The problem for them was that they were relying on witnesses who repeatedly had very poor memories of exactly what happened. And from what you saw in the jury reaching this verdict after about six, six and a half hours or so. They clearly did not believe that he lied, or that the lie was material. So that was a big problem for the prosecution.
COOPER: So, is the not guilty verdict -- does that affect the future of the Durham investigation?
PEREZ: Well, it does. It raises some important questions not only for Durham and the Attorney General, the Justice Department who oversees Durham. We have one more trial in October, Anderson. There's a Russian analysts who helped do some of the research, allegedly that went into the steel dossier that's coming up in October.
But there are some important questions that are being raised for the Justice Department. This case was a flimsy Case. This case was really very thin. And so the question for Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco, the two leaders of the Justice Department is how much longer are you going to let John Durham continue doing this investigation. Three years, it's already gone on it's much longer than then Robert Mueller's investigation of the Russia, Trump-Russia investigation.
COOPER: There's clearly political considerations in that obviously, or the appearance of. What's been the reaction to the verdict on the right?
PEREZ: Well, you can see on the right they already feel that Durham has given, of course, he wanted, he wanted people in the so-called Deep State he wanted his political enemies prosecuted before the 2020 election. That didn't happen, obviously. And it hasn't happened at all yet. So today, though, the -- you saw on the right that they were celebrating that they believed what this case did was exposed this suppose a conspiracy by the Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump.
For them again, this trial served to bring that to the front. The judge kept warning people by the way the lawyers on this case that this was not to relitigate the 2016 campaign. That's really what it ended up doing.
COOPER: Evan Perez, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up, President Biden inflation in the midterms how the White House is trying to roll out a month long pitch to voters to try to win back there trust in the economy. We have live report from the White House, next.
COOPER: This week, President Biden and his team are rolling out a month long campaign to try to win back voters on the issues of inflation in the economy ahead of fall's midterm elections.
Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, joins us now.
So, the President has pledged to in his words respect the Feds independence and addressing inflation, but he also met with Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen today. What was that about?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House said it was to congratulate Powell on another term as the chairman of the Federal Reserve, but Anderson it was clearly designed also to have the President show voters he is paying attention to their number one economic concern which right now is inflation and it has been for months and the numbers are not only getting better, not getting better for the President, but they're actually getting worse. Because if you look at new polls that have come out, it shows that voters are increasingly pessimistic about the state of the economy.
And despite the White House talk about wage gains and the unemployment rate, this is still their number one concern. And really, the fate of the economy, and Biden's political prospects is going to rest on the Federal Reserve because Jay Powell has got this enormous task in front of him of trying to tame inflation, but also not sending the U.S. economy into a inflation, or excuse me into a recession, as they are trying to tamp down that inflation.
And the President said today, he believes it is clear that this is now really largely the responsibility of the Federal Reserve that he believes a lot of it is out of his hands, and it's going to be up to the Federal Reserve. And I think that's why you saw the White House going out of its way to make sure President Biden was saying that he does respect the independence and the Federal Reserve doesn't want to get involved like his predecessor was.
COOPER: Does the White House concede that the Fed calling inflation transitory was a mistake?
COLLINS: I think the White House concedes that them also calling it transitory was a mistake, because you saw it's not just President Biden, his top economic advisors also Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who earlier tonight told Wolf Blitzer that she was wrong to call it transitory when she said that inflation had posed only a small risk. That was something that you heard, not just from experts outside the administration, but repeatedly from officials here at the White House.
And so, it's posed this question to the White House whether or not they didn't do enough to prepare voters for these inflationary numbers that they are seeing, the higher prices on groceries, on gas. She conceded it today. But we should note that Brian Deese, the President's top economic adviser was in the White House earlier today. He did not call it a mistake. But he said of course what has happened was unexpected and uncertain.
COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, thanks.
More news ahead, we'll be right back.
COOPER: We should do this the top the broadcast. Before we go, just want to put it back on screen right now. These are the names and the faces of 19 children, two teachers who were killed a week ago today in Uvalde, Texas.
The news continues. Let's hand over Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Lauren.
LAUREN COATES, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you.