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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

White House, Congress Hear Powerful Calls For Gun Reform; Uvalde City Council Extends Disaster Declaration; Interview With Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Jan. 6 Committee To Present Findings In Prime- Time Hearings Starting On Thursday; Email: Trump Campaign Told Fake Electors In Georgia To Use "Complete Secrecy"; Calls To Address Crime And Homelessness In Key Races; Russia Claims It Has Opened A Land Bridge To Crimea Through Occupied Ukrainian Territory. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 07, 2022 - 20:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: So the Treasury Secretary, loud and clear to lawmakers on what she thinks can and should be done; whether or not they'll do it, of course remains to be seen.

Thank you so much for being here, everyone.

I'm Kate Bolduan. AC 360 starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The grieving son of an 86-year-old woman killed in Buffalo and a favorite son of Uvalde by way of Hollywood, both making emotional pleas to do something about gun violence.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

Actor and Uvalde native, Matthew McConaughey spoke at the White House. Garnell Whitfield, Jr, whose mother, Ruth, was one of the 10 killed in a supermarket in Buffalo testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.



Because if there is nothing, then respectfully, senators, you should yield your positions of authority and influence to others that are willing to lead on this issue.

The urgency of the moment demands no less.

My mother's life mattered.


BERMAN: Negotiations in the Senate appear to be at a critical stage with one key lawmaker telling CNN they hope to reach an agreement by the end of the week.

We'll be joined shortly by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, and we will have a live report as well from the White House.

First, though some of what Matthew McConaughey said from the briefing room.

He talked about getting the news, going back to his hometown of Uvalde, about meeting overworked funeral directors who are trying to make badly torn bodies look like children again for memorial services.

He spoke with parents like Ryan and Jessica Ramirez, who told him about their daughter, Alithia.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: Now Alithia, her dream was to go to art school in Paris and one day share her art with the world. Ryan and Jessica were eager to share Alithia's art with us and said we can share it that somehow maybe that would make Alithia smile in heaven.

Maite wore a green high top Converse with a heart she had hand drawn on the right toe because they represented her love of nature. Camilla has got these shoes. Can you show these shoes, please? Wore these every day, green Converse with a heart on the right toe.

These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting.

How about that?

There was a fairy tale love story, a teacher named Irma and her husband, Joe. Oh, what a great family this was. Irma was his teacher, who her family said went above and beyond and just couldn't say no to any kind of teaching.

Joe had been commuting to and from work 70 miles away in Del Rio for years. Together, they were the glue of the family. Both worked overtime to support their four kids.

Irma even worked every summer when school was out. The money she had made two summers ago paid to paint the front of the house. The money she made last summer paid to paint the sides of the house.

This summer's work was going to pay the paint the back of the house. But Irma was one of the teachers who was gunned down in the classroom. Joe, her husband literally died of a heart ache the very next day when he had a heart attack.

They never got to paint the back of the house. They never got to retire. They never got to get that food truck together.


BERMAN: McConaughey did not simply make an emotional appeal, he also pushed for what he called responsible gun ownership and reasonable practical regulations.

But we should point out right here that for the people living in Uvalde, two things come first before any of that. One is burying their dead. Funerals are not even over yet. The other priority is getting answers from their public officials which they still do not have about what actually happened the day their children were murdered.

For that, let's go to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who is there in search of those answers and Shimon, I understand there was this emergency City Council meeting today. What did you learn before and after and was Chief Arredondo even there?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, so Chief Arredondo who is the newly appointed City Council member, he was not at the City Council meeting and you know, John, two weeks after we stood out here fighting for information, we still continue to do that.

With the Mayor being in attendance at the City Council, you know I approached him as he was getting off the elevator to ask him questions about this investigation, about the confidence of the police department.


And we learned some new information. And one of the things we learned was that the City Police Chief, that's the Chief Police Chief for the Uvalde Police Department, for the first time, we're learning that he actually wasn't here on that day, that he was on a scheduled vacation.

Take a listen to some of the back and forth that I had with the Mayor today.


PROKUPECZ: Do you have confidence in the local police department to continue their duties? And in the Chief as well, Chief Rodriguez?

MAYOR DON MCLAUGHLIN, UVALDE, TEXAS: Chief Rodriguez, so you know, was out of town when this happened. He had been in vacation for a month before.

So when this initially took down, Chief Rodriguez wasn't in town. He canceled his vacation and flew back the next day.

PROKUPECZ: So who was in charge of the police department at that time?

MCLAUGHLIN: He had an assistant chief, I'd have to find out exactly who it was.

PROKUPECZ: Do you have confidence in Chief Arredondo?

MCLAUGHLIN: I have no.

PROKUPECZ: Excuse me, sir. Don't push me out of the way. I want to back up. Okay, sir. That's fine. Please don't get in my way. Well he has been avoiding our questions.


PROKUPECZ: And John, that was the first time that we've been able to question the Mayor, we felt this was a public hearing. This was something that we should do. He did go on to answer more questions after that.

You know, he does have this confidence in his police department, but he says, he's also being kept in the dark on the investigation that officials here are not sharing information with him. But something else is sort of starting to happen here is that the local authorities here, the city officials are starting to lay some of the blame on the state officials for some of that bad information that has come out.

You know, many of them feel that they were the ones that were talking, the DPS officials, the state investigators, and that they were the ones that were giving the bad information. But it begs the question of where was the state officials? Where were they getting the information from? And so, we still wait for more answers.

You know, I spoke to a community leader today who said that families as they continue these funerals, they're just feeling immense frustration and pressure to try and get answers from authorities here.

BERMAN: Shimon Prokupecz, keep pressing, we know you will. Thank you.

We played you some of Matthew McConaughey's emotional appearance today at the White House. He also brought policy ideas, which is why we want to turn next to CNN's Kaitlan Collins, our chief White House correspondent. Kaitlan, what was the mood like in the White House Briefing Room when Matthew McConaughey spoke like that?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, it was almost completely silent in the room because he was going through the graphic horrors that these children went through in great detail as you heard him there, talking about the lives that were lost, really weaving it together in a way that we haven't even heard most officials do, talking about what they went through.

But he was not just talking about what happened in his hometown, John, he was also talking about what he thinks needs to happen going forward when it comes to gun restrictions.

And we should note that before you hear what he believes -- what Matthew McConaughey believes should happen, he cast himself as a responsible gun owner. He talked about growing up learning how to use a gun, different kinds of guns he used growing up in Uvalde. And then he said that he believes there needs to be changes made after what happened.


MCCONAUGHEY: So we know it is on the table. We need to invest in mental healthcare, make it safe for schools. We need to restrain sensationalized media coverage.

We need to restore our family values. We need to restore our American values. And, we need responsible gun ownership -- responsible gun ownership. We need background checks. We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21. We need a waiting period for those rifles.

We need Red Flag Laws and consequences for those who abuse them. These are reasonable practical, tactical regulations to our nation, states, communities, schools, and homes.

Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals. These regulations are not a step back, they are a step forward for civil society and -- and the Second Amendment.


COLLINS: He said elected leaders need to be more worried about more than just being re-elected, and I should note, John, he had just left a meeting with President Biden when he made those comments.

BERMAN: Yes, Kaitlan, what came out of the meeting between the actor and the President?

COLLINS: The White House isn't really going into detail. They said that they obviously talked about what they believe they need to see going forward. What Matthew McConaughey has seen on the ground, he said he and his wife and his two kids, they drove down the day after the shooting had happened, and they have been on the ground talking to the families since that's really what detailed what he said.

And of course, this comes as President Biden is having his own conversations with the lawmakers here in Washington, John, who are working on gun control, potentially, legislation.


Senator Chris Murphy was here. He is the top Democrat who has been leading those talks, and he had met with President Biden for about 40 minutes before President Biden's meeting with Matthew McConaughey and the White House says that the President feels optimistic, that they feel like they've made more progress lately when it comes to these discussions and the talks and the negotiations that they had made really in decades.

And one other thing though, John, it's very clear that what they are talking about on Capitol Hill is likely to fall well short of what Matthew McConaughey is calling for there, what President Biden called for and his evening address last week, but the White House said they believe any step forward is a good step.

BERMAN: Kaitlan Collins, perfect segue, that's where we'll go next. Thank you very much.

Hawaii Democratic senator Mazie Hirono is in close contact with Senator Chris Murphy's office that is leading the negotiations for the Democrats and she joins us now.

Senator Hirono, thank you so much for joining us. What are you hearing from your colleagues about where these negotiations stand tonight?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): I have so much faith in Chris Murphy and his commitment to providing us with an option for some kind of commonsense gun safety legislation. So, as he remains optimistic, I remain optimistic.

But the sense of urgency is there.

BERMAN: Some of the things being discussed, investments in mental healthcare, bolstering school security, incentivizing states to pass Red Flag Laws. And then what might be the most interesting, newest item here is potential waiting periods for 18 to 21-year-olds to buy AR-15 style weapons. Do these measures go far enough for you?

HIRONO: None of these measures individually go far enough, but I completely believe that we need to make a start on sensible gun safety legislation.

You mentioned waiting periods, et cetera. Hawaii has among the strictest gun possession or gun ownership laws. We have the lowest incidence of gun violence. There is a causal connection.

And I know that you know that the Judiciary Committee in the Senate had a hearing today on domestic terrorism, of which by the way, White supremacism is among the most troubling, but all of the panelists, there were five of them, three democratically invited and two Republican invited, they all agree that easy access to guns is a huge, huge contributor to the massive gun violence in our country.

BERMAN: I mentioned the idea of a possible waiting period for people 18 to 21-year-old to buy AR-15 style weapons that's different than raising the age to buy them to 21. Right now, that doesn't appear to be on the table. But we did learn today that Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader has privately expressed an openness to raising the age to 21 for purchasing semiautomatic rifles.

What do you think of that? You know, we know that he doesn't think it'll be in the final deal because of other Republican opposition.

HIRONO: Well, I hope that his private expression becomes public policy and a public position of the Republicans because let's face it, it is the Republicans who have kept us from voting on a lot of these sensible gun legislation bills.

So I hope the tide is turning and we can get at least 10 Republicans to support commonsense gun safety legislation this time out. We cannot continue to have these kinds of massive shootings.

In fact, from the time of Uvalde, we've had some 34 mass shootings, that's in less than a week. So, the easy access to guns is what makes our country as Chris has said, makes our country the outlier of other nations.

We all have mental health issues. We all have other kinds of issues, but it is our country that makes access to guns, AR-15s so easy.

BERMAN: You mentioned being supportive of these measures as a first step. Are you at the point now or Democrats are at a point now that they basically have to take what Republicans are willing to give?

HIRONO: My hope is that we will be able to come to some kind of a compromise that moves us forward. And as I said, I have such trust in Chris Murphy who has been fighting for sensible gun safety legislation for over a decade that I have faith in him that he will present to us, as well as the other negotiators, present to us something a heck of a lot more than a nothing burger to move us forward.

BERMAN: Of course, Senator Chris Murphy was the Congressman representing Newtown, which was nearly 10 years ago at this point.

Senator Mazie Hirono, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.

BERMAN: Next, 360's Randi Kaye talks to owners of AR-15 style rifles about what they see in a type of weapon that began its life is something only really soldiers carry.

Also, a retired Army three-star General weighs in on whether or not civilians should even have access to them.

Later, with the January 6 hearings about to begin, a new warning from Federal officials warning of political violence in the country. Perspective from conservative lawyer, George Conway.



BERMAN: We talked before the break about the prospects, the slim prospects of legislation raising the age to purchase semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15 from 18 to 21, something CNN is reporting that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is privately open to.

Some though, most notably the President, do not think these kinds of weapons belong in civilian hands, period.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A few years ago, the family of the inventor of the AR-15 said he would have been horrified to know this design was being used to slaughter children and other innocent lives, instead of being used as a military weapon in the battlefield as it was designed, that's who's dying for it. Enough. Enough.



BERMAN: The President last week, and now South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune talking to CNN today.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): In my state, they use them to shoot prairie dogs and you know, other types of varmints. And so, I think that there are legitimate reasons why people would want to have them.


BERMAN: Now, whichever view prevails, consider this. According to a "Wall Street Journal" reporter who is coauthoring a history of the AR- 15, there were about 400,000 AR-15 style rifles in circulation when the 1994 assault rifle ban took effect.

When it lapsed in 2004, the number began rising. Today, it stands at 20 million. It has gained a kind of symbolic value for some on the political spectrum. But for others well, they just plain, like having one. Our Randi Kaye has more on that.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anna Thomasson learned how to shoot an AR-15 style rifle back in 2015 after a battle with breast cancer, sidelined her from running marathons.

ANNA THOMASSON, FOUNDER AND FIREARMS INSTRUCTOR, TRUE AIM GROUP: Being a girl and my family that was what the boys did, so I had never learned how to do that before.

KAYE (on camera): Did it give you confidence, learning how to use it?

THOMASSON: Incredible confidence. It's incredibly empowering.

The energy coming off of that gun, I feel like goes into your body and then you're not tired again.

KAYE (voice over): It energized her so much, she became an instructor.

THOMASSON: Eyes and ears.

KAYE (voice over): And along with her husband, Bryan Wertz is now teaching others how to use it. We caught up with them at Eagle Gun Range in Farmers Branch, Texas.

KAYE (on camera): Does it fire differently when you use it compared to other rifles or I mean --

BRIAN WERTZ, FIREARMS INSTRUCTOR, TRUE AIM GROUP: It is softer shooting than most. It doesn't have a lot of recoil, and it almost feels like shooting like an air gun as opposed to something that's really heavy.

KAYE (voice over): Bryan also likes the AR-15 style because he says they are easier and safer to handle than handguns, so you don't need to spend as much time and money on training. WERTZ: The thing about easy that matters is that when you defend

yourself, it's more accurate. So if you're in a home and your family is all there, you'll be more accurate with that.

KAYE (voice over): Bryan and Anna use their AR-15 style rifles for target practice, but mainly for their own protection.

KAYE (on camera): What do you say to, you know, people who say, why would somebody like you have to own an AR-15? What do you say to those?

THOMASSON: Because of this guy right here. He, he, he, he -- any of those people can punch me once, I'm going to be lights out, but if I can defend myself and give me distance and time, then I have a fighting chance to live past today.

WERTZ: I know some people are just afraid of them and they're not comfortable with them. If we can introduce it to them safely, then they normally say, "That thing is not even scary."

REY RODRIGUEZ, MANAGER AND FIREARMS INSTRUCTOR, EAGLE GUN RANGE: This is an AR-15 chambered in 556 with the EOtech red dot.

KAYE (voice over): Rey Rodriguez is also a big fan of the AR-15 style rifle.

RODRIGUEZ: I fell in love with it the very first trigger pull.

KAYE (voice over): Rey says he owns them for protection.

RODRIGUEZ: I can clear my apartment if I need to.

KAYE (voice over): Rey says the AR-15 style is especially popular because they are so customizable, often described as Legos for adults, and a personalized hers to fit her small frame. It weighs less than five pounds.

THOMASSON: We've had to find different components to make it as light as it can be. I would not be able to hold up a 20-pound gun and fire it where I needed to fire it.

KAYE (voice over): Bryan also had Anna's AR-15 style rifle decorated with a pink Hello Kitty decal. Others took it to greater extremes. And then there's Rey, who tattooed a picture of his heavily modified rifle on his arm.

KAYE (on camera): When you add on to the real gun, you're going to add on to the arm?

RODRIQUEZ: I'm going to keep adding on to -- yes, adding onto the art. Yes.

KAYE (voice over): Despite his loyalty to the AR-15 style rifle, there are still many who will question why anyone needs to own one.

RODRIGUEZ: I would say give a proper gun range the ability to coach them through what an AR-15 is capable of and what you can do through proper training and proper coaching. You can see that it can be a sport and it is a sport.


BERMAN: And Randi Kaye joins us now from Dallas.

Randi, I'm curious is this gun store you visited seen any change in demand for the AR-15 style rifles after the most recent shootings?

KAYE: Well, John, we've certainly seen a run on this type of weapon after or other mass shootings. People hear a lot of talk of gun rights, a lot of talk of banning this style weapon, so they tend to rush out to the stores and buy them.


But we spoke to the Eagle Gun Range where we did our story and they told me that they haven't seen any uptick in demand or sales of the AR-15 style rifle.

And John, just one other note, you mentioned, I want to put something in context, because you mentioned this nearly 20 million AR-15 style rifles in the United States. Now, that's actually just a very small percentage of the number of guns in the United States. There's actually 393 million privately owned firearms in the United States right now. So 20 million of those are these AR-15 style rifles -- John.

BERMAN: Randi Kaye, thank you so much for that report.

Now, someone who used the AR-15's close cousin, the M-16 as a tool of his trade, CNN military analyst, retired Army three-star General and gun owner, Mark Hertling.

Mark, when you hear these perspectives from people that Randi spoke with there, you know, as a military man who has seen what these types of weapons were more or less built for, what goes through your mind?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's an interesting dynamic, John. What you just said is I've qualified on the M-16 and the M-4 weapon, the nine millimeter and the 45 caliber Beretta, 50 caliber machine guns and the M1 A1 tank. So I think I know a little bit about weapons. I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment, I own a weapon. I have it in the house, in a locked box with a trigger lock and I've qualified on it. And I do all those things, because we happen to have five grandchildren.

But on M-16, I know people are enamored with it because as your two guests recently just described, it's a good weapon to fire. It gives someone a sense of protection as the young woman said, it gives you a sense of power.

But truthfully, as the President also said, it is a weapon with a high muzzle velocity. When it is sold along with high capacity magazines, we have to understand that this was designed and this is factual, as a weapon of war. It's designed for catastrophic killing. It's designed to damage tissue, and to cause organ dysfunction in the enemy.

There are very few survivors of an M-4 or an M-16, just as I would say, of an AR-15 hit. From my experience, you know, and from what we've seen factually, it's also the weapon of choice for mass killings, for mass shootings.

We have seen the AR-15 used in almost 90 percent of the mass killings that we have seen in the United States and that's because it is easy to use. It does have in most cases, a high capacity magazine, and you know, it's a weapon that can be transported very easily.

To comment on one other thing, though, I'd say, if you're saying you're buying a weapon like this for varmint killing, I'd say I'm going to question first of all your commonsense, as well as your choice of weapons for that kind of honey.

These are excuses made by those who want an M-16 or excuse me, an AR- 15. I'm not opposed to owning these kinds of weapons. I am very in favor of responsible gun ownership, commonsense weapon regulations, regulation or registration of weapons. We do that for our cars. Red Flag Laws, the limits on magazine capacity and the banning of ghost guns.

Those are the kinds of arguments I believe our Representatives in Congress should be taking up.

BERMAN: You were mentioning Senator Thune. Senator Thune of South Dakota was talking about his constituents, he said, want an AR-15 for varmint hunting. Those were his exact words.

HERTLING: Yes, and he is one of several that has done that, too. And it's just kind of a bizarre argument.

BERMAN: You mentioned they were designed in your mind to cause catastrophic damage, tissue destruction. What exactly do you mean by that?

HERTLING: Well, there's been a lot of studies on this, a lot of medical studies recently. You talk to doctors who work in emergency departments, emergency rooms, and hospitals, they will tell you because of the velocity of the round that leaves the weapon anywhere from 3,200 to 4,200 feet per second. That round because it is so small, usually the 223 or the 556, it will enter an individual and when it hits anything, a bone, an internal organ, it will ricochet.

It also causes a small entry wound, but a very large exit wound because it tumbles inside of the human body.

There are films of this kind of round striking pig tissue, gelatin that represents human flesh, and you can see the kind of damage it does like it did, unfortunately, on the young children in places like Uvalde where it just -- it blows the human body apart both on the outside and the inside from the tumbling inside the body, the striking of different organs, if it hits a bone, it will ricochet. That's what it is designed to do in combat.

So that is why, truthfully, I have problems with the AR-15, but I can understand why other people want to use it and want to own it.


BERMAN: General Hertling, I do appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

HERTLING: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Coming up, the Department of Homeland Security Threat bulletin on the possibility of heightened extremism fueled by the midterm elections. Also, a 2020 scheme in Georgia by the former president's campaign comes to light as the January 6 committee gets ready to hold its first public hearings on Capitol Hill.

We'll talk about it with conservative lawyer George Conway, next.


BERMAN: Tonight, the Department of Homeland Security is warning of potential domestic violence through the summer and fall possibly tied to the expected Supreme Court decision on abortion calls for copycat mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas, and even potential attacks over the midterm elections.

Meanwhile, another scheme to undermine the 2020 election has come to light and email from December 2020 obtained by federal prosecutors, shows the former president's campaign told a group of fake Republican electors in Georgia to have quote, come fleet's secrecy as they plan to gather in the state capitol and cast electoral votes for the former president even though he lost that state. In the end, all of Georgia's electoral votes went to the Biden-Harris ticket. This failed Georgia scheme and the DHS warning come just two days before the January 6 committee holds its first public hearing on Capitol Hill that takes place Thursday night right here in primetime.


Joining me now is conservative lawyer George Conway, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post.

George, this terrorism threat assessment says quote, in the coming months, we expect the threat environment to become more dynamic as several high profile events could be exploited to justify acts of violence against a range of possible targets. How concerned are you that we could see another moment of mob violence like the one we saw on January 6?

I think we might have just lost George Conway's signal. All right. We're going to take a quick break. Get George Conway back up. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Right back with this conservative lawyer George Conway. George, thank you so much for waiting with us.

Look, these January 6 committee hearing set to begin Thursday night you said before right here on CNN, the committee doesn't need to show any new bombshells in order to make their case for conspiracy. But what are you hoping to learn from these hearings?


GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Well I'm hoping to learn with the rest of the American public more of the details of what happened. I mean we're hearing a lot of this stuff kind of third hand and not from directly from witness depositions like to see some of the witnesses, some of the video from the witnesses. I think it would be, you know, if it's done correctly, and I have every reason to believe it'll be done correctly. It's going to be very dramatic to actually see these people, for example, who worked for Mike Pence. Talk about the pressure that Trump -- Donald Trump put on Mike Pence, to see, witnesses like Mike alluded go on the stand to talk about the advice he gave, don't -- get a Vice President Pence and also hear more of direct evidence about the -- about what happened on January 6 at the Capitol.

There's just a lot of things we can hear. But the fact of the matter is, as I've said, we already have enough evidence to conclude that there's a substantial likelihood that there was a criminal conspiracy here. And in fact, one other point that's needs to be -- the needs made during these hearings is that it wasn't just about the January 6, violence. It was about the fake electors. It was about the pressure on Pence. It was all about the attempt to coop the Justice Department and we're going to hear from some of those Justice Department lawyers who Donald Trump tried to pressure.

All of those things made this a conspiracy to defraud the United States to corruptly impede a congressional proceeding to fraudulently attempts to obstruct the governmental function, which all which is illegal under federal law. And even without the violence, it violated federal law, but with the violence, putting it all together, and having all of these strands tied together and show how they were linked, and they were linked at the top by one man, Donald Trump, for the committee to put this all together, I think would be a very, very constructive thing for the American people to see.

BERMAN: George, you just talked about the fake elector scheme. As you know, CNN is reporting that in the wake of 2020, a Trump campaign official called Georgia Republicans and told them to operate in quote, complete secrecy and discretion, when they held this meeting of would be electors. Complete secrecy and discretion. What does that say to you?

CONWAY: Well, that's classic evidence in the criminal context. It's classic evidence of criminal intent when you are doing something surreptitiously, it tends to suggest that there's a reason why you don't want people to know it, which is that you know, and that they would, whoever finds out about it would think you are doing something wrong. And they were acting surreptitiously. Now, because they knew that if somebody found out that they were trying to do what they were trying to do, they get called out for it. And they tried to and people of Georgia Capitol would try to stop it. And, you know, it's absolutely important evidence of criminal intent. And the fact that it came from the Trump campaign is highly significant.

BERMAN: Also notable that this electric situation is part of the January 6 investigation, part of the DOJ investigation and part of a separate Georgia investigation all at once.

George Conway, I do appreciate you sticking around with us. Thank you very much.

CONWAY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Several states holding primary races today including California where crime and homelessness have become major focal points. And just a few hours polls will close there at 8:00 p.m. local time, 11:00 p.m. Eastern. And it's gearing up to be a big showdown in two of the nation's major liberal cities. And Los Angeles mayoral race progressive Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass and former Republican now Democrat Rick Caruso, a real estate developer and billionaire they are leading the pack in San Francisco. Dissatisfaction over crime has fueled efforts to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah has the details.



KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her name has been a part of California and D.C. politics for decades. Sixth term Congresswoman Karen Bass now aims closer to home running for Los Angeles mayor.

The clear front runner when she launched, something happened along that journey.

REP. KAREN BASS (D-LA) MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think $40 million explains that. I mean, I actually think anybody that had $40 million would be close to me.

LAH (voice-over): She's talking about billionaire developer Rick Caruso.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think nobody can clean up LA? Meet Rick Caruso.

LAH (voice-over): The first time candidate is smashing spending records by self-funding his nearly $40 million campaign blanketing all video screens.

RICK CARUSO (D-LA) MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I'm running for mayor because the city we love is in a state of a emergency, rampant homelessness, people living in fear for their safety.


LAH (voice-over): The once registered Republican then independent who became a Democrat just this year is running on a law and order message. Caruso hones in on frustration over LA's exploding homeless problem and rising crime rates. That message is resonating.

CARUSO: Have you voted?

LAH (voice-over): With Democrats like Nicole Couch.

NICOLE COUCH, RICK CARUSO SUPPORTER: We are totally fed up, with the gas prices. The homelessness like every block we go on, there's homelessness.

CARUSO: They're looking for a change. They're tired of excuses. They're tired of having career politicians tell him we can't do anything about it. I think everybody in the city and this country are looking for somebody to lead in the middle. And the extreme right and the extreme left is just -- it's failed us.

LAH (voice-over): Voter frustration over crime is most acute and California second largest city, San Francisco, where theft and violent crime, homelessness and open drug use in parts of the city has put the political bullseye on the city's District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

CHESA BOUDIN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We filed more than 10,000 new criminal cases.

LAH (voice-over): He's on the ballot in a potential recall that if successful, would show one of the country's most liberal cities revolting against progressive prosecutors. Anger in California's two largest cities is the political opening for Caruso, who was better known for being the builder of sanitized outdoor malls in LA. He now appears poised to advance in California's open primary system.

The top two vote getters head to the general regardless of party, but one could win outright in the primary if either grabs more than 50% of the vote.

(on-camera): Why is a mall guy, even a factor here?

DAVE JACOBSON, CA DEMOCRATIC MEDICA CONSULTANT: It does have a message that's tapping into the anxiety and the frustrations that voters are feeling. It's clear that there's a slice of the electorate that wants something different. They don't want someone who's in political office. They want an outsider.

CARUSO: Have a good day.


BERMAN: Kyung Lah joins me now from Los Angeles. You know, Kyung, California has 22 million voters in this electorate. What's voter turnout been like so far?

LAH: Well, if you look at what the state returns are looking like, and we're tracking them right now, it is just about 4 million people who've returned their ballots. If you're really good at math, I am not. That is 18%. So even though you are seeing people voting behind me, we're seeing more people coming in, there's still a couple of hours left to vote here in California, that turnout is pretty abysmal. And so, that's why Democrats here in Los Angeles say it's going to be really tough for them to extrapolate exactly how the Democratic base is feeling when the turnout is that low, that we'll have to wait until the general end it is in the general John, that the Caruso campaign and the Bass campaign believe that they will be facing off in a full match off.

BERMAN: Kyung Lah --

LAH: John.

BERMAN: -- no one told me there would be math. Thank you so much for that report.

We are four months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine and with no end in sight, there is more destruction in parts of eastern Ukraine. Has the Kremlin claimed they've now built a land corridor between Russia and Crimea? The latest from Ukraine, next.



BERMAN: The war on Ukraine has turned into a war of bloody attrition. New satellite images show parts of eastern Ukraine significantly destroyed after weeks of intense fighting. Smoke rising from explosions in one village craters from artillery strikes data field just outside another. This comes as Russia's Defense Ministry claims they have opened up a land bridge from Crimea to Russia through occupied Ukrainian territory.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine for us tonight.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At three years old, Evan (ph) doesn't know war rages around him.

He doesn't really understand it yet, says his father Igor. For him, it's just boom, boom. We try to explain it's only a loud car passing by. Evan (ph) mother Ksenia shows where they live. Neighbors who left the city of Sloviansk let them move into their ground floor apartment because it's safer. The hallways full of bottled water, the bathtub is full. There's been no running water here for weeks.

As the air raid siren blares, those who remain behind wait for food supplies at a distribution center. Were stains Zanaida, my neighbor has a well. I have dogs and two cats. My husband has diabetes.

Sixty four-year-old Nikolai shrugs off the danger of staying put. Where can I go if the bomb everywhere he asked me? You can't escape your fate. Galina fled her village nearby on the front lines. It was very hard there she says. There was a lot of shelling, half the village disappeared.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Her son-in-law and her daughter are taking her away. Every day people gathered for buses out of Sloviansk. The war now into its fourth month has seen millions flee their homes. With no end in sight, a sense of resignation and exhaustion has said in. Some who leave may never return. Katya's mother and father come say goodbye.

KATYA, SLOVIANSK RESIDENT: Actually, I didn't plan to leave. But I decided to leave because the situation is getting more and more dangerous.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Her parents will stay behind even as a part of them leaves.


BERMAN: And Ben Wedeman joins me now. Ben, we mentioned this land corridor to Crimea, which has been a long term goal of the Russians. What are the Russians saying about it now?


WEDEMAN: Well we heard John from Sergei Shoigu who is the defense minister of Russia who says that the necessary conditions for full rail connections between Russia and Crimea are now in place. And that's really been made possible by the fall of the seaport city of Mariupol, which sort of stood in the way of that. And now and this is one of -- this was one of Russia's main war goals when this war began on the 24th of February. So it is a major development. And given that there hold on the south eastern part of the country, at this part point, looks fairly firm. It looks like that goal may have been achieved. John.

BERMAN: Ben Wedeman, thank you as always for your reporting.

We'll be right back.



BERMAN: A quick reminder, the House January 6 hearings begin on Thursday. Our primetime special coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The news continues now. So let's hand it over to Laura Coates in "CNN TONIGHT." Laura.