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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Gloves Come Off in GOP Primary; Biden: Hopeful We'll Know By Tonight if We Have a Debt Deal; Interview with Rep. Seth Moulton (D- MA); Deadly Russian Strikes Obliterate Medical Facility In Central Ukraine; At Least Two Dead, Dozens Injured After Russians Strike Medical Facility In Dnipro. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 26, 2023 - 20:00   ET



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why that man in the Asiana incident allegedly tried to open that plane? We don't know. Authorities are merely saying he was not in a good mental state. By the time it was all over, neither were some other passengers who were taken to the hospital for hyperventilating -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I mean, look, it is terrifying, and I think everyone wants to know the motive.

Thanks so much to Tom and thanks to all of you. Have a good weekend. It's time now for AC 360.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The gloves are truly off tonight in the Republican race for president. John King here, in for Anderson tonight. Thank you for your time.

Even if you're paying just a little attention to the Republican race, it is now hard, impossible not to notice Ron DeSantis and the former president now openly throwing haymakers. Never mind that old 11th commandment, thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.

Donald Trump, of course has never bought into that. And now, it seems his fellow Floridian, doesn't either.

Over the last 48 hours, Governor DeSantis has gone straight at the GOP frontrunner, most recently today on this conservative talk show.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's been attacking me by moving left. So, this is a different guy than 2015-2016. Two million illegal aliens he wanted to amnesty. We both faced COVID-19 and we both responded in the way we did.

He responded by elevating Anthony Fauci and really turning the reins over to Dr. Fauci.

You know, under the Trump administration, you know, he enacted a bill, basically a jailbreak bill. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As for Mr. Trump, there's this and yes, listen closely, he is deliberately calling the governor Rob, not Ron.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rob DeSanctimonious and his poll numbers are dropping like a rock. I would almost be inclined to say these are record false. The question is Rob just young, inexperienced and naive or, more troubling, is he a fool who has no idea what the hell he's doing?


KING: The former president there once again, giving the words ad hominem a real workout, yet he is also yes, he is also calling for party unity as long as it's behind him, using language, some would certainly consider divisive, invoking the specter of a foreign-born Jewish billionaire somehow pulling the strings to the United States government.


TRUMP: Biden's puppet masters like George Soros, are hoping for a long, drawn out Republican primary. They want to divide us so they can quietly buy the White House for Crooked Joe.


KING: So let's talk about all of this.

Joining us tonight, two of our favorite CNN political commentators, the former Utah Republican congresswoman, Mia Love; Republican strategist, Alice Stewart is with us as well; and "The New York Times" campaign reporter, Nicholas Nehamas who covers Ron DeSantis for the paper.

Nick, let me start with you. This is a big shift for the governor just 48 hours. Pre-official announcement, he was much more nuanced, much more gentle when it came to Donald Trump. Why have they decided -- he is soft on spending. He is soft on COVID. He is soft on crime. Why?

NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, CAMPAIGN REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, soft on Trump, he had barely mentioned former President Trump by name until he got into the race. So this is very much seeing Governor DeSantis unleashed. I think it surprised a few people. He is in this position where, Mr. DeSantis, where he needs to stay on the good side of a lot of Mr. Trump's base, while at the same time winning them over.

So, clearly, he is seeing a need to differentiate himself starkly from the former president, and we're really seeing that unfold today.

KING: So, Mia Love, Congresswoman, the question is, does he have the skills to pull it off? We all remember 2016 when established politicians tried to go after Donald Trump saying he wasn't a real Republican. He wasn't a real conservative, and they failed.

You served with Ron DeSantis in the House. Does he have the skill set to walk that tightrope, to tell Trump voters, I know you love him, but he's not conservative enough. I know you love him, but he can't win.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I need to say that DeSantis has a bigger hill to climb than he thinks. The thing that people Republicans really liked about Ron DeSantis earlier is that he was seemingly a fighter. He was choosing battles that were big, and they liked that about him.

And when Trump went after him with no response, Trump went after him over and over and over again, he lost that fighter appeal. So he had to, he had to do something to go back and position himself as a fighter again.

You know, likely the floor is high, because there are so many people that that like certain qualities about Ron DeSantis and he has quite a bit of funding and people, big funders behind him to help him make it all the way through the primary. But he has to be a fighter.

He has to show that he can stand up to Donald Trump or else, I mean that the GOP won't give him a second look. So he had to do that, he had to start standing up.


KING: But we'll see if it works out.

I want you to listen here. This is Governor DeSantis talking on Newsmax about what he says a limit, a ceiling, he says to the former president's support, listen.


DESANTIS: I do believe that there's a limit to the number of voters that would consider the former president at this point. I mean, we've seen it you know, in Florida, we've seen in places like Georgia. I think that there are some people that don't like Biden, but they would like another option. So, I think my ceiling is higher in a general election.


KING: Is that, Alice Stewart-- you have lived through 2016, you lived through 2012 as well, you understand Republican primaries quite well, is that a winning primary message? That guy can't win the general election.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is for rational Republicans who actually want to win the general election. Look, Donald Trump probably has a ceiling in the primary as well, but with a fractured field, it's in his favor.

And look in a general election, a candidate like DeSantis, or any of the other Republicans we have, in my view are more favorable general election candidates.

But I think DeSantis is doing the smart thing. He kept his powder dry before getting in the race. Now, he is in. The powder is in the gun and he is firing shots at Trump, because it would be political malpractice not to fully attack Donald Trump. You have to go through him to get to President Biden.

And look, he is smart in the primary showing that he is just as conservative or Republican or right as Donald Trump or maybe even more to the right as Donald Trump, because we're in a primary.

But the reality is, big picture, they are probably a lot more like on policy than they are different and DeSantis has one big difference that Donald Trump doesn't have, and that is he won re-election and if he can focus on the fact that he has won re-election, Donald Trump is the culture of losing, that is a good winning message and a reminder to rational Republicans that it's time to put someone in the primary position that has one and focuses on their future and not the candidate's past grievances.

I think that's a winning message for him and other candidates in the race.

KING: Nick, you've covered the governor extensively, Governor DeSantis, and now he has this -- you know, he had a rough launch to the campaign. He had a rough couple of months before that. By rough launch to the campaign, I mean, the Twitter glitching and all of that. He still raised a boatload of money and he thinks it won't hurt him in the end.

But now that he has done this, is the direct at Trump, was that always planned? Or was it because the last couple of months have been tough for him? And you know, his skill set better than most? You heard Donald Trump. Donald Trump has been on his case for days and weeks, but now he's on his case, in a Trumpy constantly by the hour way. Does he have the skill set to handle that?

NEHAMAS: I mean, Governor DeSantis you know, like any politician I think does not like being attacked and having to sit on his hands. I'm sure that was very frustrating for the last few months. And now, he really sees an opportunity to differentiate himself from President Trump on policy.

I do think, we've got some internal audio tape from the governor's donor meeting yesterday where his top campaign staffers were very much saying that they are going to run to the right of Mr. Trump and paint DeSantis as the real conservative in the race.

And yes, I do think that requires the governor to make that comparison himself.

KING: It's going to be fascinating to watch. Congresswoman Love, back to your experience, Republicans passed criminal justice reform under Donald Trump. It was a bipartisan bill, you were part of that effort.

They passed it because they thought it was good policy. But also, let's be honest about the politics, they thought it would help the Republican Party in the African-American community to develop a bigger tent out there across America where it's been a problem.

Ron DeSantis, today criticizing that bill, calling it a jailbreak bill. Is it a jailbreak bill?

LOVE: I found that really interesting, because from the moment I stepped on the floor in Congress, I worked with the Congressional Black Caucus on criminal justice reform.

We had think tanks all the way from the right, all the way to the left coming together on criminal justice reform. If he is going to attack Donald Trump on something, this is not it.

Ron DeSantis was there and I believe he voted for it. I'm not really sure, but I believe he voted for it. If he didn't, shame on him because it was quite significant. It was a great bill to pass that we worked on and bipartisan bill. It was great for America.

KING: Alice, help us wrap the conversation. If you're in the DeSantis war room, you hear him, he says you know I might even pardon Trump. I'll think about pardoning January 6th offenders.

So, he is trying to have affinity with the Trump base. Talk about the things they love most, even as he attacks their hero. How do you pull that off?

STEWART: It's a very, very delicate balance to do so because in order to win this primary, you have to keep Trump's base to the degree that you can but broaden the electorate and the wording that he is using is important.


But I happen to think that they're much better off by focusing on what he has done as the governor of Florida. He has a very successful economy, his handling of COVID was very strong and it is a state that has low crime. And if he can focus on what he has been able to accomplish in Florida, and convey that to the primary voters, that's a winning message.

But the key right now is to, in the Republican primary, you're going after Republican voters, many of them very conservative. He is going to have to win them over, and then as we get closer to the general election, you know how it works. You get the Etch-a-Sketch and you shake it up at that point.

But right now, he is going all in to the right to get over these Republican voters for the primary.

KING: All into the right. A crackling beginning still seven -- eight months before anybody votes, but we're off to a crackling start.

Mia Love, Alice Stewart, Nicholas Nehamas, thank you so much.

Next for us, what President Biden just said about the debt ceiling talks and what his Treasury secretary just did. They bought negotiators, yes, bought them more time to reach an agreement.

And later, my conversation with one of Boston's most popular people these days, especially with these UMass students and not just for his connection to the Celtics.


KING: With the federal government just days now away from running out of money, President Biden was upbeat late today about talks with House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling and head off a potential economic disaster.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With regard to the debt limit, things are looking good, very optimistic. I hope we'll have some clearer evidence tonight before like 12 that we have a deal, but it's very close and I'm optimistic.

Negotiation going on. I am hopeful. We'll know by tonight whether we are going to be able to have a deal.


KING: The President speaking just a short time after his Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen revised her estimate for when the default could happen, from the first of June to the fifth of June. That, of course gives everyone a bit more breathing room.

That said if "very close," as the President just put it can mean almost there well, this is Washington, it can also mean not quite. So for the latest on both the progress and the sticking points, let's go to Capitol Hill with CNN's Manu Raju who is there for us.

Manu, the president says maybe before the clock strikes midnight tonight. Possible? What are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is new optimism that a deal can be reached on both sides of the aisle. This is a sharp shift in tone that just earlier in the day, as the two sides were still squabbling over the key sticking points.

I just talked to Patrick McHenry who is one of the key negotiators who told me that he concurs with President Biden's assessment that they are very close to a deal. But there are those sticking points that they have been fighting over. One of them is whether or not to impose work requirements on beneficiaries of the food stamp programs.

Republicans have been pushing for that, Democrats say that is an attack on the poor and Republicans that I spoke to today, including Garret Graves, who is one of the chief negotiators insisted that that would be part of the final deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): If you're really going to fall on the sword for that, versus actually negotiating something that changes the trajectory of the country for spending -- I mean, it is crazy to me that we're even having this debate.

RAJU: Are you willing to drop that? Work requirement in this agreement?

GRAVES: Hell no. Hell no. Not a chance.

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R-NC): We're waiting for the White House to come to terms and there are tough things that remain.

RAJU: How much of the deal is still not within reach at this point?

MCHENRY: The deal is within reach, it just has to be agreed to and we're waiting for the White House to understand the current set of terms we're dealing with.

That means that we're in the window by which we meet the June 5th deadline. It's not over, we are not done, but we're within the window of being able to perform this.


KING: So Manu, you hear the optimism there and again, the Republicans sharing the president's optimism, that's a big deal. But there's still a but here, even if the speaker and the president cut a deal, what does your reporting tell you about whether it can actually pass the House and the Senate given all the grumbling?

RAJU: There is going to be a furious effort, John, to try to lock down the votes because there is plenty of grumbling, particularly among Democrats who have been shut out of the negotiation here on Capitol Hill. Many of them do not like the direction of these talks.

Kevin McCarthy does not appear to have given a whole lot other than allowing for the debt ceiling to be increased to the 2024 elections, but there's not -- the issue of work requirements is one that many of them said that they simply will vote against if this is included in the final plan, and it appears that it very well could.

And then on the right, a number of conservatives say that this has been watered down from the Republican bill that passed last month that had way far more spending cuts and it included a lot more requirements, went after Joe Biden's student loan program for instance. They say they're going to vote against this.

So this will require a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to get together to get this to the finish line, and then you've got to worry about the United States Senate. That takes time to pass, John, so they don't have much time despite those additional few days. June 5th is right around the corner.

KING: Right around the corner. Manu Raju tracking the latest for us, appreciate it very much, Manu, thank you. Joining us now, someone who'll be weighing how to vote on whatever those negotiators do come with, Congressman Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts joins us now.

Congressman, grateful for your time tonight.

So in a normal negotiation, contract negotiation, business negotiation, it would be a good thing to get more time. What do you make of the breathing room Janet Yellen was just able to give the White House and the congressional negotiators. Is three or four more days a good thing or in Washington, does that mean it leaves it on the vine longer for everybody to criticize?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Look, I mean, I think you're right, (Anderson), that there's certainly a risk, but the speaker has already agreed to 72 hours to review the bill in detail, and of course, what he really has to do is sell it to the extremists in his caucus.

Remember, he counted on the votes of people like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, some of the most extreme politicians America has ever seen in order to get elected speaker. Those are the types of people that he's going to sell this deal to, and he may need some extra days to do it.

KING: In your party, one of the red lines, the Republicans say a red line is that they will have work requirements on food stamps benefits. A lot of Democrats, especially progressive Democrats have said no way, that if that's in there, they will not vote for it. Would you vote for that if the president negotiated that? Has the White House given you any assurances they would not agree to that?

MOULTON: John, look, it depends on what's really at stake here. There are a lot of studies out there that show the work requirements just put onerous burdens on people and don't actually do what the Republicans say they will do.


MOULTON: And let's look at these numbers, John, $1 billion, would be saved with work requirements. If the Republicans do what they intend to do and reinstate the Trump tax cuts or extend the Trump tax cuts, we are talking about adding $3.5 trillion to the deficit. So that's $1.00 saved versus $3,500.00 saved if the Republicans would stop with these Trump tax cuts that just went to the wealthy and the biggest corporations in the world.

So they're not being honest here. They're not even looking at the facts or the math. We need to do a lot better.

KING: I know Democrats think the burden here should be on Republicans, because raising the debt ceiling, the country should pay its bills, it has been done mostly in the past, that everybody just agrees to do that and you fight over the spending things in the budget.

But with a president up for re-election who does not want turmoil in the American economy, does the president have enough juice, enough loyalty among Democrats if there are things in it you don't like, if he picks up the phone and says, I need you to vote for this, would you do it?

MOULTON: I mean, look, the president has got a lot of loyalty in his party, I'm always going to vote on what I think is right. That's my principle, but there are an awful lot of Democrats who are just going to do whatever the president says and that may be enough to get it across the finish line.

KING: I want to shift subjects here. You're a Marine Corps veteran, four tours in Iraq. The first time I met you was when you were in Iraq working for General Petraeus way back in the day.

I want to ask you about the hold up. You're among those who wrote to the president recommending General Charles Q. Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president agreed with you. He nominated General Brown for that job, the top military officer in the United States.

Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, already holding up more than 200 general and flag officer promotions now says General Brown can also get in that line, that he will use his power because he's mad at the Pentagon's reproductive health policies.

The Pentagon has said if a service member lives in a state where abortion is banned, it will give them leave, it will give them travel benefits to go out of state if necessary.

What is your message to Senator Tuberville tonight and I know you serve in the House, not the Senate. Is there anything that Democrats can do about this?

MOULTON: Look, my message to Senator Tuberville is we need to move the military to move faster. General Brown famously said a few years ago that we need to either modernize more quickly or we will lose. We need to move faster we need to modernize.

Senator Tuberville, this 68-year-old White man from Alabama wants to take us backwards. Take us back to the 1950s. there are 80,000 women who serve in the military. They don't get to choose where they get stationed and they don't need some 68-year-old White guy from Alabama telling them what to do with their bodies and what health care decisions they need to make.

KING: Congressman Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thank you very much.

MOULTON: Good to see you, John.

KING: Up next for us, who reportedly helped move boxes at former President Trump's at Mar-a-Lago resort one day before a DOJ official came to retrieve classified documents. This person now reportedly talking to federal prosecutors. We'll explore what we know and the legal implications, next.


KING: As federal prosecutors dig and dig and dig into how former President Trump handled classified documents as he left office, there is a new development that could possibly be quite important to the case.

This reporting is from "The New York Times" late last night. The headline, Mar-a-Lago worker provided prosecutors new details in Trump's documents case. "The Times" reports a maintenance worker for the former president recounted helping to move boxes into a storage room a day before a Justice Department official came seeking the return of classified material.

Now according to "The Times," this maintenance worker doesn't know what was in the boxes, but the worker did share what he knows and what he saw with prosecutors.

These details coming out after "The Washington Post" reporting we had on the program last night that two people working for the former president moved boxes of papers on that day. "The Post" did not have details on the two people.

A lot to discuss with defense attorney, former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu.

Shan, let's just start with Watergate, we had John Dean. How significant could a Mar-a-Lago maintenance worker be here to the special counsel's case?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think they're very significant in terms of the timing, John. Obviously, the day before the Justice Department is coming about these documents. The fact that there's corroboration that they're moving boxes into that very storage unit, which later they show to the Justice Department and say, hey, look, this is where we're storing things. It naturally brings to one's mind, where were the boxes before then?

And so that timing is really critical and it is all part of the investigation which is a very methodical, step by step effort to establish who did what, when to really try and gain insight into what Trump was thinking at that time.

KING: And as our reporters keep hearing, the special counsel is getting closer and closer to decision time. According to "The Washington Post," are these prosecutors looking into the Mar-a-Lago documents have "gathered evidence indicating Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible, and that sometimes, showed them to others. If true, how problematic is that for the former president?

WU: It's quite problematic. It's obviously mishandling of that type of highly sensitive material that we've since learned just how sensitive it is. And I think for a prosecutor looking at this and from a defense standpoint, it's not enough they just have to kind of disassociated issues going on like they're trying to cover up something and maybe he mishandled documents. It's putting them together that is really critical here.

And that's what this investigation seems to be doing. They've got pretty good evidence that careless mishandling whatever and they've now got very good evidence that there was trying to be a coverup, and going back to your Watergate reference. When you put those two together, then you have a case.

KING: And to that point, you have a lot of prosecutors who would say you know, I have a clear case of obstruction. But if you can't prove the other crime, the jury might say obstruction of what?

Do you believe from the reporting especially in recent days about the documents that they have sort of the threshold mishandling of classified records and then obstruction of justice in terms of the government's effort to get them back.


WU: I think that's right. I mean, there has been some reporting of a sealed memorandum that Judge Howell had prepared. And it seems like the prosecutors certainly amassed evidence enough to persuade her that she even used the word supposedly that it was willful on the former President's part, difference between convincing a judge on that in a motion versus convincing a jury, but seems like they're on the right track.

KING: Shan Wu, appreciate the insight, sir. Thanks very much.

WU: Sure thing.

KING: Coming up for us, an attack in Ukraine today after Russian forces blasted through a medical facility. We'll talk to CNN's Sam Kiley. He is right there in the city where it all happened. And later, bit of upbeat news, as you head into the holiday weekend, a billionaire sweet gift to college grads in my hometown, Boston. We will tell you about his surprise during their commencement ceremony, just ahead.


KING: In Ukraine today, at least two people were killed, dozens more wounded, after a Russian attack on a medical facility. CNN geo-located those strikes to a hospital and a veterinary clinic into Dnipro. Of those hurt, two were children, eight were doctors. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is there and has more. Sam, what's the latest on the recovery efforts in the aftermath of these strikes?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Ukrainians move extremely fast, I mean, while the building was still burning, not just smoldering but burning, John.


They were firing water against it, emergency services were, and at the same time, dismantling the building, having conducted their investigations into what exactly was behind this blast. In other words, what kind of a missile? Now, we know that they -- the local authorities say that 31 people were injured, eight of them were doctors. They are also saying that they think it was nothing short of, in other words, a miracle, John, that more people weren't injured or killed, and that is because the medical staff were on a shift change here, one batch had left work and the others were beginning to work, and therefore there were fewer patients on site to fall victim to this latest missile attack inside Dnipro which left a massive hole in the medical facility and burned a building next door.

The World Health Organization, John, remarkably saying that this is a nearly the thousands attack on the health facilities of Ukraine in the last year by Russia.

KING: That number speaks volumes just to the horrific brutality of the Russian targeting, obviously. Ukrainian authorities often bullish about their defense capabilities. But, what are they saying about their ability to defend against these waves of missile attacks we're seeing?

KILEY: This latest wave, they were less successful in shooting down the incoming missiles, and there have been in the past about 80 percent or more, just over 80 percent rather, were shot down. In this wave, often they get -- do a lot better than that, sometimes shooting down 100 percent. But, they also know that they have a finite capability, and so do the Russians. And it's really a race between the two sides as to whether or not the Russians can overwhelm the Ukrainians, or whether the Ukrainians can continue to shoot down so many missiles that the Russians ran out.

But, one of the Russian techniques is to use these cheap Shahed drones produced in Iran, which are cheap to make, very primitive, but they can be sent up in huge quantities, and every one of them has to be shot down, John. And this is all ahead, of course, of an anticipated summer offensive, and clearly from the Russian perspective, they want to weaken the air defenses as much as possible till that gets underway.

KING: And as we wait for that to get underway, we've seen some softening. We did also see -- we report that we saw some images of a drone attack on the Russian side of the border, the city of Krasnodar this morning. What do we know about that strike, pretty close to the border and relatively close to the fighting, right?

KILEY: Yes. I mean, Krasnodar was hit, the Russians claim, with to what they describe as UAVs, or what we're colloquially calling drones. The Ukrainians have said nothing about that. But, we have seen an increasing number of mysterious or semi-mysterious events inside Russia.

KING: Sam Kiley in Ukraine, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Retired Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack. He is the author of "Swimming the Volga: A U.S. Army Officer's Experiences in Pre-Putin Russia". He also served as a Defense Attache in Moscow at a time during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and annexation of Crimea back in 2014. The general also just returned from a trip to Ukraine. General, grateful for your time tonight. Let's focus on your recent trip right there. From your perspective, what you saw, what you heard, the briefings you received, is Ukraine, from a Military standpoint and I guess a morale psychological standpoint, ready for this counter offensive?

BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET.), FORMER U.S. DEFENSE ATTACHE TO RUSSIA, & U.S. ARMY: John, good to see you. The trip was very, very enlightening. We were part of a NGO called "Renew Democracy Initiative". A group of nine of us were in Kyiv and we got out to the areas around Kyiv, including tragic Bucha in European side of the atrocities, very illumining (ph).

My main point to take away, John, and your viewers is that the -- I -- how the Ukrainian people -- it's the Ukrainian society. It's a society-wide fight against the Russian aggression, and everywhere from government speaker, government seniors, to people out there in the countryside, this is a society-wide fight that the Russians never imagined in their arrogance and disdain toward the Ukrainians back in February last year when they thought (ph) they never imagined it. So, they hit with a -- they tried to hit with a baseball bat, a nest of hornets and they're living it now. So, the Ukrainians are all in, 80 percent at least, and the other point and then I'll stop, is that how -- the Ukrainians are -- don't talk about surviving anymore, don't really use the win.


They're using the term "after the victory". They're using the word "victory" in regard to defeating the Russians, which I think is actually very important to listen to.

KING: When we get to this kind of offensive, we've seen some softening activities. We know it is coming relatively soon. Is President Zelenskyy's goal the same as say President Biden or the NATO nations who are helping Ukraine with weapons? What would you view as a "success for Ukraine"?

ZWACK: First of all, Ukrainians, and I think I respect him for this, are setting the conditions for the however the counter offensive is, already with small counter attacks, but they're picking their time and place, and not -- and we have to be mindful that they're under a lot of pressure in this counter offensive, not just domestically, but to the international community and their support base. But, there are clearly ramping up. Nobody knows exactly where or how, but it is coming.

And I think the Russians are already spooked along the front line, is we're hearing, and I think that success will be something -- first of all, success will be -- you will see the success when you see it. I don't think they exactly know what the end state will be. If they take major chunks of land, if they were able to push down towards Melitopol and Mariupol, ideal thing if they could seal off the Crimea, if they could really, really push in, I don't think anybody is thinking about right now of taking the whole country back, but major gains. And a key point of is this is, will -- if getting the Russian, which was pretty shaky in a lot of places, do they melt down in the face of Ukrainian termination and good attacks as they did outside Kyiv and they did outside Kherson? So, that psychological piece is huge.

KING: General Zwack, appreciate your perspective, sir. Thank you.

Last month, we learned the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was tricked by a fake call from Russian pranksters. In a video chat earlier this year, Powell discussed global politics and the economy with someone he thought was the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. It turns out they were Russian supporters of Putin who previously pranked other influential officials. CNN's Matthew Chance got a chance to speak with the pranksters and investigate the motive behind their tricks. Take a look.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're notorious pro-Kremlin pranksters. But, the Ukraine war has given them a new focus and new victims to deceive.


CHANCE: Like George W. Bush, who thought he was speaking with the Ukrainian President who had supposedly called to discuss the Western Military alliance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You always wanted to take Ukraine into NATO, not Russia, but Ukraine always, as I remember.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD U.S. PRESIDENT: That's right. I felt Ukraine needed to be in the EU and NATO.


CHANCE: A Russian official later told the pranksters, it revealed the truth about long time U.S. ambitions to distance Russia from Ukraine.


CHANCE: How do I know that you're not prank calling me now?


CHANCE: And getting to the truth. What would otherwise be left unspoken, is what the pranksters told me they are all about.


VLADIMIR "VOVAN" KUZNETSOV, RUSSIAN PRANKSTER (TRANSLATED): First, it's about what this person is really like, how a President of a country behaves in an informal conversation. We're interested in getting more honest answers than we would in an ordinary public interview.

CHANCE: One of the criticisms that is levelled against you is that you're always sympathetic to the Kremlin point of view. Let me ask you directly. Are you working at the behest of the Kremlin to expose foreign officials or opponents of the Russian authorities?

KUZNETSOV (TRANSLATED): In general, it's wrong to say that we are pro- Kremlin. We're more pro-Russian pranksters since this is our country that we love and worry about. You say that we only call those who are against the Kremlin. But, the issue is that Russia simply doesn't have many friends now.


CHANCE: Ukraine, on the other hand, has many, especially in Washington, and posing as Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, has got the Russian pranksters results --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just say, it's a great honor to speak to you.


CHANCE: -- with influential figures, like the Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, who thought it was the real President Zelenskyy quizzing him on the global economy and suggesting the Fed let Ukraine print its own U.S. dollars to fund the war with Russia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you could present me printing press, I would be really happy.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIR OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE OF THE UNITED STATES: We have one of those, but we keep it in the basement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. But, you -- again, I know you're going to be dependent on a lot of help from the West and from the United States.


CHANCE: And it's not just U.S. officials being pranked.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would like to continue the nuclear program in order to protect ourselves from Russia.


CHANCE: Britain's Defense Minister was taken aback when who he thought was Ukraine's Prime Minister floated the idea of nuclear weapon.


BEN WALLACE, UK DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think more than being neutral, Russia would really hate that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANSLATED): For sure, we are know -- we know this.


CHANCE: The British government condemned the prank as straight from the Kremlin playbook.


CHANCE: Why haven't you prank called sort of prominent people in Russia, like Vladimir Putin, like the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, like Prigozhin, the head of Wagner? Why aren't you prank calling those people to expose the truth about them?

ALEKSEI "LEXUS" STOLYAROV, RUSSIAN PRANKSTER: (inaudible) -- and disaster in our country because such calls could be -- could make a damage in our inner politics, and especially in current situation.

CHANCE: But, you're not worried about the danger and the risks of doing what you do in other societies.

STOLYAROV: We think about risks that could hurt our society, of course.


CHANCE: The truth is, really powerful Russians would never tolerate being pranked in this way. Vovan and Lexus would simply be unable to get away with duping a Kremlin that's cracked down hard on dissent, whereas Russia's enemies in the West, especially in the U.S., are considered fair game.


BUSH: OK. Yes. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

BUSH: You guys talk to me next.



CHANCE: Matthew Chance, CNN London.

KING: Just ahead, we will tell you what caused this reaction. Look at the happiness at a college commencement ceremony in Boston.




(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Graduates at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, were in for a big surprise at their commencement ceremony.


ROB HALE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GRANITE TELECOMMUNICATIONS: For us, the greatest joys we've had in our life have been the gift of giving. So, each of you is getting $1,000 cash. The first $500 is for you. It's a celebration of all you have done to be here today. You are leaders. Celebrate. The second $500 is a gift for you to give to somebody or somebody else or another organization who could use it more than you.


KING: That generous man was billionaire Rob Hale. He is the Founder, CEO of Granite Telecommunications, and he owns a minority stake in the Boston Celtics.

Mr. Hale, thanks for joining us tonight. This is the third year you've given this kind of gift to a graduating class. You did it in 2021 at Quincy College, last year at Roxbury Community College. Where did this idea come from? Why?

HALE: I'd say the first one, the Quincy Community College, was 2020 -- 2021, and the kids were on the heels of the pandemic. And so, it seemed like they'd been through so much adversity that we should give them a reason to celebrate. Secondly, Quincy, Roxbury and UMass, Boston, are high percentage first generation college graduates, high percentage minority population. These are kids who, and honestly many, many, many adults, to be honest as well, who have worked their tails off to get here and to work through, work two jobs to get through, they needed a little celebration.

KING: I grew up a couple of miles from the UMass, Boston, campus. So, I'm guessing that the reaction, I know if it was John King of my age, college age in those days, be a big deal to get $1,000. You segue (ph) this with $500 for you, $500 --

HALE: Yes.

KING: -- for an organization or a person who needs help even more than you. Let's start with the reactions. When people come through that line and you handed those envelopes, what's the most interesting, unique funny thing that someone has said to you?

HALE: The most emotional is, many of them say how they intend to use the $500, not for themselves. Very few people say that. Many people say, I intend to give this to the following organization. One woman said to me, I have five children. I'm going to give $100 to each of my children, and they need it. And then, she hugged me, and we both got kind of misty, to be honest. It was pretty special.

KING: You're hoping to plant a seed, obviously. You talk about how successful you have become, and how philanthropy is so important for you to give back. You can't guarantee this. You don't know what they do with the second envelope. But, your hope, I assume, is to plant a seed that they give that money away this time, and that is they do better in life, even if they don't reach millionaire status, they think here is 500 bucks, here is 1,000 bucks, maybe a few thousand dollars, I can do to help, that this is the beginning of something, right?

HALE: That's 100 percent the objective, is that we -- Karen and I are very, very, very fortunate, and to be honest, many of the most joyous moments in our lives have been culminations of gifts and seeing the byproduct. And so, we hope that the graduates take the money, give it to an individual or an organization, and feel that joy. And I'm telling you, it's intoxicating. And they'll want to keep that joy and they want to do it more frequently. I believe, I really believe that if they put the money to good use, it will become a trait that carries on for the rest of their lives.

KING: And as you know, you've started doing this at this unprecedented time where there is a lot of stress, the COVID stress, and then there is the can I find a job stress and everything like that. In terms of the seed you're trying to plant, have you heard from any of the students, say two years ago, saying thank you, you were so important to me then, this is what I'm doing now?


HALE: I've heard ironically, Quincy Community College is a two-year school, becoming a four-year school, by the way, but it was a two-year school when we did it. One of the young ladies that we gave the gift to $1,000 to at Quincy Community College came through this year at UMass, Boston, and told us, you gave me $1,000 before and I gave it back to Quincy College because they helped me. Thank you for my second gift. And I said, thank you for your second graduation.

KING: That is pretty cool. I'm guessing about -- just about every college and university in the country has asked you to be their commencement speaker next year, right?

HALE: After this show, they will.

KING: Let's hope that you choose wisely. Lastly, listen, I'm a Dorchester kid. I would be remiss. You are a Co-owner of the Boston Celtics, who have after three games that made me quite miserable, played two games that have me kind of hopeful. How are you feeling for tomorrow night? Can we get two in a row?

HALE: I think you hit the nail on the head. Hopeful is the right word. I am with you. And I believe we have a really gifted team, and if they play defense and they run the floor quickly, I like our chances.

KING: Whoever figured out what to change in the pre-game buffet or to throw the hot button, give that person a race (ph).

HALE: Will do. And I'll tell him it's from you.

KING: Rob Hale, I really appreciate your time and your generosity. Thank you, sir.

HALE: Thank you, John. See you at the pub.

KING: Amen. The news continues. You can join me next hour for CNN Tonight, right after a quick break.