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Interview With Adviser To The Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Sak; Interview With Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 24, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What is the end of the war for us? We used to say peace. Now, we say victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: A defiant President Zelenskyy, marking six months of Russia's war, and Ukraine's Independence Day. Will new pledges from the west help change
the tide? Ukrainian Defense Ministry Adviser Yuriy Sak joins me. Plus --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SVETLANA GALUN, JOURNALIST: I see my daughter need help because she's very nervous after the war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The plight of Ukrainian refugees and the challenges of building a home away from home. Also, Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas on why she
thinks Russia is tying her country to the murder of Darya Dugina. Then --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I'm thrilled that we were able to win while remaining committed to our principles of kindness and progressivism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Local elections with national stakes. As primary season wraps in the United States, I asked correspond Audie Cornish what lies ahead for
voters, the Biden agenda, and American democracy.
Welcome to the program. I'm Sara Sidner in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Call it coincidence or call it fate. Ukraine is marking its Independence Day today exactly six months since Russia launched its war to crush it. And
although Kyiv canceled events amid fears Russia might carry out missile strikes, the country quietly but resolutely celebrated its history, its
culture, and its resilience in the face of a formidable threat. This is how President Volodymyr Zelenskyy put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are holding on for six months. It's difficult for us. But we clenched are fast,
fighting for our fate. Every new day is a new reason not to give up, because having gone through so much, we have no right not to reach the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: And allies of Ukraine joined in marking the occasion as well with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a surprise appearance to Kyiv.
And U.S. President Joe Biden announced nearly $3 billion of military assistance to the country. President Zelenskyy reiterated his stance, the
war will not end unless Ukraine regains every bit of territory lost to Russia, including Crimea.
So, will U.S. and European assistance help achieve that? My first guest today is Yuriy Sak. He is an adviser to the Ukrainian Defense Minister, and
he joins us now from the capital Kyiv. Welcome.
YURIY SAK, ADVISER TO THE UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Good evening.
SIDNER: So, let's first talk about how important this day is in the context of the fact that you are marking exactly six months since this war
began, a war that some U.S. intelligence had said was going to end in a few days, with Kyiv coming under Russian occupation. How important is this day
for the people of Ukraine?
SAK: This day is, of course, very important for the people of Ukraine on any year, but it is particularly slow today. Because like you've rightly
said, we have been defending our independence now for six months. We have been defending this independence in a war which a lot of military aspects
and even our friends and allies have predicted that will not last more than three days.
As a result, six months into this war, we're still standing. And moreover, the Russian aggressor who wanted to conduct a military parade in the
central Kyiv indeed is having a military parade. But what we have now on the central street of Kyiv, Khreschatyk, is the zombie parade of the
Russian destroyed tanks, of the Russian destroyed military equipment.
And Ukrainians have been flooding to this zombie military Expo 2022, trying to celebrate our resilience. Trying to celebrate the heroism of our
defendants. And of course, for us, this day is very important.
And we -- at the same time, we have been suffering from a lot of mishaps today but this will not break us. We are determined to win this war and we
are determined to protect our independence.
SIDNER: Let's talk about just Ukraine's independence for a moment here. August in 1991, an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, about 90 percent,
voted to declare dependence. Making Ukraine -- giving Ukraine a parliament. And then now we are in this war. How has the war, or has it, unified
Ukraine? Because you, of course, have Russian speakers, you have people who speak Ukrainian, all living together in the country.
SAK: Thank you for this very good question. Indeed, Ukraine is a very diverse country. And, of course, we have the Russians speaking Ukrainians.
We have Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians. And from time to time these issues will be discussed within our society.
But when this aggressive war began on February 24th, and when the Russians -- predominantly Russian speaking see this, such as the second largest city
of Ukraine, Kharkiv, such as Chernihiv, when those cities were targeted by Russian aggressors, when war crimes were committed in those cities, when
peaceful inhabitants of those cities were killed. Of course, this tragedy, this witnessing of war crimes has united Ukrainians. And today we stand
And in fact, you know, Russian leadership probably was hoping to exploit certain differences within Ukrainian society to their advantage. And this
was their miscalculation. They were hoping that they would roll in on their tanks and the Russian-speaking Ukrainians would welcome them with open
arms. But this has not happened. Because today both Russian-speaking Ukrainians and Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians are fighting shoulder to
shoulder, defending our country shoulder to shoulder, and we stand united today as never before.
SIDNER: Yes, I'll tell you what I noticed when I was in Odessa, some of the people who were, sort of, part of the -- sort of, Russian-linked
politicians, very much changed their tune. And very much stood up for Ukraine, even trying not to speak Russian anymore but trying to speak
Ukrainian as a result.
I do want to talk to you because you mentioned that there have been missile attacks today. I -- first of all, I hope that you're in a safe place, it
appears that you are. Can you give me a sense of what has happened today as far as strikes go from Russia?
SAK: We have been receiving warnings about the possibility of massive missile strikes today on our Independence Day for some time, for, you know,
for almost a week now. But on the one hand, you know, we are prepared for this because Ukraine has been living in this atmosphere of missile terror
now for six months now.
But even by our standard -- even by our standards, what is happening today is a little bit abnormal. Because, for example, in Kyiv, the capital of
Ukraine, today, we've already had eight air raid sirens. In other major cities of Ukraine, even those which are, you know, far away from the
battlefield, from the frontlines, there had been explosion, there had been missile strikes, there have been casualties.
Unfortunately, in one city in Dnipro region, an 11-year-old child was killed today by a missile strike. Residential homes have been destroyed.
So, the aggressor, in a way, you know, proved the expectations that we have, and is conducting today missile strikes across the Ukrainian
SIDNER: I just want to ask again, is this abnormal? Because there have been missile strikes throughout, but are you seeing this on a bigger scale?
SAK: Yes, exactly. Today, what we're seeing today, the number of strikes, the number of regions of Ukraine which are targeted, the number of air raid
sirens which are ringing out even in the capital of Ukraine, this is abnormal. Like, I said, even by our standards.
SIDNER: OK. Let's talk about who has been standing with Ukraine and what impact that has made. President Biden, here in the United States, today
announced nearly $3 billion and an aid package. The State Department Spokesperson, Ned Price, spoke to CNN earlier today about the American aid
and the impact they are hoping this is having on Ukraine. Let's listen to that first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Putin, we have good reason to believe thought he could deprive Ukraine of its independence, of its
sovereignty, within six days or so of launching this war.
Now, six months later, of course, that's not the case. It's not the case because of the bravery and the determination of the Ukrainian people.
Determination and effectiveness that have, in many ways, been enabled by the massive amounts of security assistance that the United States and our
partners around the world have provided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Can you give me a sense of the impact that American aid has been in Ukraine to the war effort?
SAK: Let me start answering your question by telling you a very emotional story from my own experience. I have children. My son is 11 years old. And
almost every night when I come back from work, he is asking me, dad, did the Americans give us more missiles? Did the Americans give us more HIMAR
Systems? And in other families in Ukraine, parents are calling their newly born children, Javalena (ph), they're calling their puppies and kittens,
you know, with the names of the weapon systems that we are receiving from our western partners.
So, this is a day-to-day household level on which the supporters appreciated. But of course, in terms of the situation on the battlefield,
the provision of the weapons that we are receiving from the U.S. is our major strategic partner has been a game-changer. In particular, you know,
our Minister of Defense, Oleksii Reznikov, he has been -- you know, he goes to sleep and wakes up with the same -- one and the same thought. How to
negotiate more sophisticated western standard weaponry for Ukraine.
And for example, when we started receiving the HIMARS, MLRS systems, this changed completely the situation on the battlefield. This allowed the
Ukrainian army to conduct high-precision military strikes, missile strikes at Russian command and control centers. At their ammunition depots, at
their logistic and supply lines, which means that the intensity of the (INAUDIBLE) that they were able to conduct has decreased. Which means that
we have been able to stabilize the front line in the eastern Ukraine.
And we have been able, also, to conduct certain limited counteroffensives. For example, in the south of Ukraine. Of course, this does not negate
completely the missile terror that we are experiencing from the Russian aggressive genocidal army on a daily basis. But at the same time, you know,
the frontline has stabilized and we are entering into the stage of this war where we will be able to liberate our cities more efficiently.
But of course, while we are very grateful for the assistance that we received, we need more military assistance. We need more tanks. We need F-
16s. We need 300-kilometer ATACM missiles.
SIDNER: Let me ask you two things. One, those strikes that you had just mentioned, using, you know, U.S. firepower, were any of those responsible
for the massive explosion in Crimea?
SAK: I would like to stress, first of all, that Crimea is a sovereign territory of Ukraine. Crimea is a territory which has been illegally
annexed by Russia in 2014. And this is a fact recognized by the whole International Community, and it was recognized by the U.N. General
So, from this perspective, anything that the Ukrainian army is doing within Ukrainian territory is our sovereign right. And our international partners
are not imposing any restrictions for conditions upon providing to us military assistance with the view to how we can use those weapons.
But at the same time, for example, if you consider that the missiles that we are getting for the HIMAR systems have, at the moment, only 80-kilometer
range. And if you look at a map, and if you see how far away from the coast of Ukraine, those cities in Crimea where those explosions happen, then, you
know, it's very easy to conclude that, you know, those weapon systems were not used to conduct any military activities in the Crimea.
And moreover, we have committed ourselves and we have promised to our international partners that we will not strike -- we will not use those
weapons inside the Russian territory.
SIDNER: All right. Let me ask you about where the war is right now. The word stalemate has come up. And the concern is that this may be a
protracted, years-long war.
Is that how you see it at this moment with Russia occupying about a fifth, about 20 to 22 percent of Ukraine's territory?
SAK: If you look at the map of the military activities and if you analyze what has happened in the east and south of Ukraine during the last month,
for example, you will see that the Russian aggressive army wasn't able to achieve any significant territorial gains within that period.
Now, that means that Russia's army's offensive capabilities are, at the moment, exhausted, because the Ukrainian army is using very smart
maneuvering and very smart tactics, as well as, by using high precision modern weaponry that we received from our partners, has been able to wear
down the Russian army.
So, at the moment, the situation in the battlefield is stabilized. And what happens next very much depends on how soon and how quickly Ukraine will
receive more military support from our partners. We -- I will just repeat that we need more heavy artillery. We need more ammunition for HIMAR
Systems. And, of course, we need more tanks and F-16s.
SIDNER: Let me ask you about something that has made the whole world shutter, and that is the plant of Zaporizhzhia, the nuclear plant.
President Zelenskyy, your president, has said that he would like the IAEA to take control of that plant. How real of a threat is a nuclear disaster
SAK: Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. So -- and this is a power plant which was under the control of
the Russian aggressive army since March. The Russian army has been using this nuclear power plant as a platform from which they launched artillery
strikes at the neighboring city of Nikopol, which is just across the Dnipro River from there. They have been putting military equipment on the
territory of the nuclear power plant. They have been shelling this nuclear power plant. They have been mining this nuclear power plant.
So, the risk, of course, is very high. And they -- used by the Russian Federation of this nuclear blackmail is of concern not just to Ukraine, of
course, but to the whole of International Community. This is why just recently, the presidents of 42 countries have appealed to the Russian
leadership with the demand to withdraw their armed forces from the nuclear power plant. Because this is a risk of a tragedy that would concern not
And, of course, in light of this, there were statements by the senior officials in the U.S., for example -- and in the U.K. who have rightly said
that should Russia continue their hazardous military activities on nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, this might even constitute a -- to be
perceived as a trigger for Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, right?
Article 5 which provides for, you know, attack for one -- on one country is interpreted as an attack on all countries. So, the situation is very
serious. Ukraine has said before that we are open to the international inspection, to the inspection of the International Atomic Agency. And, you
know, as always, we just need Russia to agree, but so far, it has not happened.
SIDNER: Just lastly, would you expect NATO to come in and start to fight if something happened in Zaporizhzhia at the hands of Russians, yes or no?
SAK: It's a difficult question and I wouldn't like to speculate. You know, this is something that will have to be determined by the NATO countries
SIDNER: OK. Very diplomatic of you. Yuriy Sak, the adviser to the Ukrainian defense minister. I thank you for taking the time. And Happy
Independence Day to you.
SAK: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
SIDNER: Six months of war has forced millions of Ukrainians to leave their homes, seeking safety beyond the country's borders. Hundreds of thousands
of them have ended up in Germany. CNN's Lynda Kinkade has some of their stories, and what life for them is like now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voiceover): Nearly one million Ukrainians have fled to Germany since the start of the Russian invasion, according to the
United Nations. Berlin is a popular landing pad given its proximity to Poland, Ukraine's neighbor.
SASCHA LANGEBACK, SPOKESPERSON, BERLIN REFUGEE AFFAIRS OFFICE (through translator): We have about 25,000 people currently accommodated in our
reception centers throughout Berlin, both Ukrainians and asylum seekers from all over the world, and we only have a few hundred places left. As you
can see here, we will soon reach the maximum capacity of our reception centers.
KINKADE (voiceover): With private accommodation growing scarce, many are looking to other options. More than 400 refugees now reside in a container
village on a runway at Berlin's abandoned airport, Tempelhof.
One of the residents is 28-year-old, Roman, who lost his legs after an artillery attack in eastern Ukraine. He hopes to receive two prosthetic
limbs, but it takes time, says his wife.
SVITLANA KOVEL, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE FROM LVIV (through translator): Medical care is good. The only problem is the waiting time, but that's normal. Here
there are laws, not like at home. We are just used to other laws and procedures, faster medical appointments, faster treatment. Here, it's
better quality, but it takes longer.
KINKADE (voiceover): A few containers down live Yassin (ph) and Albina, who's for months pregnant. After leaving Mariupol to seek safety in Berlin,
they see a future here.
ALBINA KIRSAN, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE FROM ODESSA: We are going to have a baby here. We are going to stay here. We like Berlin so much. And we already
have lots of friends here. Here's nice mentality and very good people and no angriness.
KINKADE (voiceover): Ukrainian journalist, Svetlana, lives at Tempelhof with her mother and daughter. She's most concerned about her 14-year-old
child's mental health.
SVETLANA GALUN, JOURNALIST: I see my daughter need help because she's very nervous after the war. For me and for my mom, it's easier maybe because we
are adults, but for a child, it's very difficult.
KINKADE (voiceover): Here, at an abandoned airport runway, just a few of the millions of Ukrainian refugees whose lives have been completely upended
over the past six months. Lynda Kinkade, CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Coming up after the break, how Russia's war is affecting its neighbor, Estonia. From accusations and cyberattacks to high inflation. The
Prime Minister joins us next.
SIDNER: Welcome back. A few countries have been as supportive of Ukraine as Estonia, a small country that shares 180 miles or 290 kilometers of
border with Russia, and has its own complicated history with its enormous neighbor. Estonia recently announced a new military aid package to Ukraine,
and severely restricted entry to Russian citizens to its territory, calling for other European countries to do the same.
Russia now says a suspect in the more murder of Darya Dugina fled to the Baltic country and claimed Estonia denies, and one that's ramping up the
heat between the two neighbors. Kaja Kallas is the Prime Minister of Estonia, and she spoke to me earlier from Tartu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Kaja Kallas, welcome to the program.
KAJA KALLAS, ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for having me.
SIDNER: Let's start with the latest that involves Russia and Estonia. You, as the Estonian Prime Minister have heard all of the details that have come
out from Russia about Alexander Dugin's daughter, Darya Dugin. And Russia is saying, basically, Darya Dugin was assassinated, and that her assassin
ended up in Estonia. Why do you think that Russia is saying that the assassin is in your country?
KALLAS: First, Russia is conducting different information operations, and this is one of them. I think we have stepped on Russia's toes a lot so that
they would put up such a narrative that this person has fled to Estonia.
SIDNER: Are you concerned that this might be used by Russia to target Estonia in some way?
KALLAS: Russia threatens all the time. This is the way they operate. And right now, they're also conducting this information operation, which is
very -- which is what they do. So, there is nothing surprising there. They are threatening us all the time. And they are playing on the fears, not
only of what fears we have but the fears that other countries have. But we shouldn't be threatened. I think this is all to frighten us.
SIDNER: You are on this program, talking to Christiane Amanpour on February 23rd, on the eve of Russia invading Ukraine. And when you spoke,
you seemed to know, your intelligence seemed to know that war was imminent. And indeed, the next day, the next morning, Russia invaded. Can you give us
a sense of what your intelligence is saying now? We are now six months into the war, what is the status now in your mind?
KALLAS: The war hasn't gone by the plans that the Kremlin had. So, they were expecting a short war and a victory. And also, that the western world
will give in, will start negotiations, and push Ukraine into some kind of agreement which means that Ukraine will give away some of its territory.
This hasn't happened.
Also, Ukraine has been fighting very hard to defend themselves. What happens next, of course, the question is for all of us. In the western
world, as long as we continue supporting Ukraine, they are able to defend themselves and the war can only end when Russia withdraws to its borders.
So, this is something that we have to work on.
And of course, we have to keep on isolating Russia politically, internationally so that they would be pushed into making different
decisions so that this war can't pay off -- that this aggression can't pay off.
SIDNER: Prime minister, I want to ask you what you are most concerned about. Are you concerned -- you are a member -- you country is a member of
NATO, a member of the European Union, do you have any concern that Russia will target you or other nations nearby next?
KALLAS: Well, first of all, we have to make sure that there is no next because we have to keep on supporting Ukraine so that they can push back
the aggression. I think it's very important that aggression does not pay off. That Russia is punished for the aggression crimes and war crimes that
they have been committing on Ukrainian soil. Because we have done that mistake already three times before, so that they got away with Crimea, they
got away with Donbas, they got away with Georgia. And this can't really happen.
We are, of course, concerned that we, on the western side, how can we keep our unity. Because we see that new worries are kicking in. Inflation, high
living costs, all these worries that the different countries have. But we have to understand that all these worries also are related to the war. We
have to make sure that this war stops. And the war stops when Russia stops fighting and goes back to its borders like the international law is saying.
SIDNER: You just mention inflation and it has your country particularly hard, it's at about 23 percent. You have the highest inflation in the
Eurozone. What's happening and how are people responding?
KALLAS: The inflation is like war tax. We are paying this in Euros, whereas Ukrainians are paying this in human lives. Compared to this, we are
paying a cheap price. But of course, inflation is very high. It's hitting people's pockets very hard. So, we are trying to help people to cope with
the higher costs in every possible way, especially the most wonderful people.
What we have to understand that while our focus is right now on the conventional war that is going on in Ukraine, we must not forget that
there's also a hybrid war, an information war going on. Hybrid war that Russia is imposing on us is to create instability within our societies. And
this is through energy prices and all the inflation is also stemming from the high energy prices that Putin is manipulating, or actually has been
manipulating already since last summer. So, we have to keep the focus. Still, if the war ends, the other worries will end as well.
SIDNER: Can I ask you about the support that Estonia has voiced about a ban on Russian tourists? An EU ban on Russian tourists coming into Europe,
the European Union. Why do you think Russian tourists should be banned from the EU?
KALLAS: First of all, I want to make clear that we are not talking about outright ban. So, still humanitarian visas, asylum seekers, all this --
visiting family members. This is all that is outside this visa bank. But what we are talking about is tourist visas, and not giving those tourist
visas for traveling to Schengen.
And why? Because we see there is a sanction for air travel. So, the idea behind the sanction was that there are no flights from Russia to Europe so
that Russians can't travel to Europe. Now, there is only a land border. So, crossing Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. So, all those Russians that have
been issued visas by different Schengen countries are traveling to Europe via our borders. And we can't check everybody and see that they don't pose
a threat to our security.
We have already found a couple of people who have been propagandists coming to our country. Trying to flame conflicts. But this is something, as I've
said, traveling to Europe is not the human right, it's a privilege. And while their country is waging a war on an independent country, we have to
keep this so that this privilege is taken away as long as the war going on.
SIDNER: You talked about stoking, you know, strife. About a quarter of the population in Estonia is Russian speaking. And there has been some tearing
down of soviet era statues, for example, that I think have riled some emotions there. Are you concerned at all about potential internal conflicts
between ethnic Estonians and the Russian-speaking population?
KALLAS: We actually took down the monuments so that we can avoid the conflicts around those monuments. And we took them to museums. So, we
didn't, anyway, demolish them, which is, I think, important. So, that they are part of our history, but they are opening the wound that our society
has because we see this all happening in Ukraine, and it brings back the memories from those historical times in Estonia.
Our Russian population is not the homogeneous group. And they have different worries. Of course, in the eastern part of Estonia, there are
also people who are more in the propagandist fair of Russia. So, that they are hearing these narratives that Russia is presenting. But we are working
on keeping our society together. While we have different views of our past, we have a common future with those people. And we are focusing on building
this common future.
SIDNER: The United States just announced $3 billion in support for Ukraine. The British Prime Minister, you know, showed up there to support
Ukraine, and there has been a lot of support from the west. Is the EU and the entire west doing enough, or is there more, in your mind, that should
be done to try and turn the tide in this war?
KALLAS: Estonia is a small country. And we decided last Thursday to give additional aid to Ukraine by military equipment and hospitals that we are
sending -- field hospitals that we are sending. So, if a small country like Estonia can help Ukraine to defend themselves, then I'm sure that the
bigger countries can do more. Ukraine can defend themselves as long as we keep giving them military aid and other support.
I think this is a fundamental conflict between the western world or the democracies, the free world, and autocracies. So, it's not only the fate of
a sovereign and independent country that is at stake, but it's actually the whole international world order that is at stake here.
SIDNER: Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, thank you so much for coming on our program.
KALLAS: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: And still to come, abortion rights, election deniers, and the U.S. midterm elections. What the primary results reveal about where America is
SIDNER: Welcome back. Trying to set off a second American civil war. That's what two men hoped to do with their plot to kidnap Michigan's
Democratic Governor, according to prosecutors. And now they've been convicted on a number of charges, including conspiracy to use weapons of
mass destruction. CNN's Jean Casarez has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Two men convicted of conspiracies to use a weapon of mass destruction and kidnap the Governor of
Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. Now facing the possibility of life in prison.
ANDREW BIRGE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN: The verdict confirms that this plot was very serious and very dangerous.
CASAREZ (voiceover): Prosecutors say in the summer of 2020, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. went to the governor's vacation home with co-conspirators
to plan an attack. A witness testified one idea was to kidnap Whitmer and put her adrift on a boat in Lake Michigan. Another idea was to try her for
DAVID PORTER, ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI DETROIT: The defendants, in this case, believe that their anti-government views
justified violence. Today's verdict is a clear example that they were wrong in that assessment.
CASAREZ (voiceover): Adam Fox, who prosecutors say was the ringleader, bought a taser and ordered $4,000 of explosives from an undercover FBI
agent. Prosecutors say the two were part of a group training in combat tactics, practicing assaulting cars with rifles and live ammo, detonating
bombs, and trying to recruit others.
You can't just strap on an AR-15 and body armor and go snatch the governor. You can't snatch anybody, and you certainly can't make bombs that are meant
to maim and kill people. A prosecutor said during closing arguments. An FBI informant, known as Big Dan, was a key witness. He said he was with the two
men when they conducted surveillance at the governor's summer home. Prosecutors say they plotted to blow up or bridge to make it harder for law
enforcement to respond to the kidnapping.
BIRGE: No governor, no public officials should have to contend with what Governor Whitmer contended with here.
CASAREZ (voiceover): But the defense argued entrapment, saying Croft didn't actually agree to the kidnapping and was being targeted for his
extreme anti-government views.
They lied to lock him up in a cage, not because he committed this crime, but because they're afraid of the things that have come out of his mouth,
Croft's lawyer said. Adam Fox's attorney told the jury, he talked a big game but talk is just talk. Adam Fox took no affirmative steps to achieve
An earlier trial ended in a hung jury but this time the jurors didn't buy it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't the outcome we wanted, right? But there's more work to be done.
CASAREZ (voiceover): In 2020, Governor Whitmer believed incendiary political rhetoric for giving groups like these a greenlight to violence.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI): Stand back and stand by. Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry. It's a call to
CASAREZ (voiceover): Whitmer saying in a statement after the verdict, those who seek to divide us will be held accountable. Plots against public
officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism. Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: And those kinds of threats to democracy come as American voters mark the end of primary season this week. And they're gearing up now for
midterms elections in November. Show downs over abortion rights. Plus, Donald Trump's grip on the Republican Party have dominated the agenda.
Joining me to shed light on what lies ahead is our Audie Cornish. Audie, thank you so much for winning the show.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for having me.
SIDNER: OK. So, there are some big takeaways I think that you can explain to us from these primaries. You had a congressional of -- someone who is
going for a congressional seat in New York in a swing district, named Pat Ryan, who won. You also have Trump's large influence that still seems to
leer -- loom pretty large over the Republican Party.
In a nutshell, sort of, nutshell, what do these primary results mean for what's ahead in America?
CORNISH: First, understand the context of why people put so much weight on this little district here, special election there. Why would anybody care
about these little races? It's because, over the last couple of decades, there have been these, what sometimes are called, swing elections or wave
elections. It's the idea that there is a course correction of sorts. That the president in power, his party, is going to lose seats in effect because
the voters were -- are holding or answering a referendum on the actions of that party in power. And then either pumping the brakes on it or leaning in
In recent years, it's been pumping the brakes. And, of course, everybody had assumed, at the start of this year, that Republicans were again going
to benefit from a big wave. Many seats turning over to their side of things. And so now, people are looking at the special elections to
understand, read the tea leaves, so to speak, about whether that's going to happen, how big it could be, and what are the issues that might hinge on
SIDNER: You talked about reading the tea leaves, which is also very hard to do especially in the country now. But let's go back to this New York
swing district, Democrat Pat Ryan, really focused his campaign on a referendum on Roe. And he won against a Republican challenger. Considered a
sign to many of -- maybe this is the issue that Democrats really have to latch onto. Is that what you are seeing indicated here for across the
country, or is this just a singular moment?
CORNISH: I think this is one of about four special elections that have happened or races that have happened since the decision about abortion
rights in the U.S. And it is one of several changes, sort of, inflection points, that we're now looking to to say, is this no longer a referendum on
President Biden's performance?
Meaning, inflation, gas prices, the economy, those things that were really creating problems for him at the start of the year. Now, are there other
things that candidates from his party can focus on? And this is one of them. It's an animating issue. It's always been an animating issue. The
difference is, now, there are real stakes.
So, instead of being able to vaguely say Republicans are going to want to do this, Republicans are going to want to do that. Some kind of rolling
back of rights and seeing it in a very gentle way. Now, these candidates can go out and say, here are the stakes, right now, there is a movement to
do X. Right now, there's legislation to do Y.
Right now, there's a prosecutor out there who may be leaning towards the Republican Party, who may say we need to prosecute, doctors, women,
whatever the threat may be. Candidates are actually able to use this language. And that is why people are paying attention to that race so
SIDNER: Let's look at, sort of, democracy as a whole which matters to those inside and, of course, the International Community. You know, Donald
Trump still appears to have a very stronghold on the Republican Party. This idea of election deniers and the election lie that, you know, he stokes,
saying that he really is the winner of the 2020 election, which there is no evidence of.
Several of the Make America Great Again die-hard candidates refused to concede last night. Where are we headed when it comes to this issue of the
elections, people denying elections? And we knew that eventually if they were said -- said that they lost, that they would probably, say, well, it
was rigged. Where are we headed now?
CORNISH: Well, the last election -- presidential election and the, kind of, riot at the Capitol on January 6th have underscored the areas where
peaceful transfer and some of these election norms were deeply, deeply rocked, challenged, or let's say, stress tested. And now, to be a candidate
who identifies with Trump, who operates in his image, is to operate in those same ways. To really continue to push, at the end of an election, to
maybe not concede.
And the question now is what is the U.S. response, especially at the state level, where so many elections are decided, right? This -- at the end of
the day, it's the collection of States that come together to make the final decision. And States administer their own elections. So, what lessons have
they taken away from the last couple of years?
We've also seen a movement of people who, as we call them, election deniers or people who deny that elections are strong and safe in the U.S. who want
to be in positions of power to administrate on those elections as well, right? Being the secretary of state. Being in charge of, sort of,
administration around polls, and things like that. So, it's actually not so much last night that matters. All -- everything is a little bit of a trial
run for the fall. And then, of course, the big test, which will be 2024.
SIDNER: You talk about, sort of, the election deniers. And just to put in context, I know in Arizona, for example, there was a candidate who
absolutely believes that the 2020 election was a fraud, right? He was running for Secretary of State --
CORNISH: Not just a candidate. Several, in that case.
SIDNER: Several candidates.
SIDNER: And that's -- they are the deciders that people need to understand. They are the ones that decide whether or not to certify the
election in their State which could have a big impact going forward for who becomes the president, or at least, a big fight over that.
Can we talk about what's happened? Because historically, when you look at the elections in the States, the party in power gets beat up during the
midterms. And usually, there is a shift there. But given all of these, sort of, existential issues, things like abortion, that are extremely emotional
in this country. And democracy itself being talked about as a very important issue to voters. Will conventional wisdom hold in November's
election, or will these existential issues rise to the top four people going to the polls?
CORNISH: I think part of the shift that you're alluding to is the idea that people are no longer focused necessarily on local issues in their
local elections. That the idea that all of politics is national. That even, you know, your dog catcher, you need to know what their stance is on Roe V.
Wade. And it's because there's so much, sort of, tribalization and really identifying with parties on every gut level. And that means that you have
to follow and toe the line all the way down the line.
So, to put it succinctly, you cannot be in the Republican Party of today, and not raise questions and or follow completely in President -- in the
former president's footsteps in talking about the election. That is merely the bar for entry. That's not something where it's a fringe idea anymore.
And to add one last thing, the number of lawmakers who already believe this, who already talk like this are in Congress already. So, the idea is,
is this a lasting movement with more people in more positions of power, or will there be a course correction of some kind from the American people, in
particular, the statewide elections? Meaning those votes for senators.
That's why people care so much about what goes out with senator races. Because all of the sudden, outside of your filter bubble, the ideas that
are fun to say on Facebook or in your WhatsApp group, they hit a little bit different when they have to hit the ears of voters who are not following in
your same ideology. So, that's why we look at those races, and that's what we're looking for going forward.
SIDNER: Can I ask you about President Biden? I'm sure our international audience had been seeing the negative headlines, and there have been many,
but there have now been several things that Democratic Party has pushed forward when it comes to, for example, climate change and inflation. Trying
to solve those problems. Some big wins, if you will, but is President Biden still seen as a viable candidate because we're noticing some Democrats kind
of backing away from him? And what are people to take from all of this?
CORNISH: That's a big question. I don't think I'm in the best position to answer that question. I think you want to put that to a couple of other
Democrats and their answers are going to be fascinating.
You know, at the end of the day for Biden, he just had to put some kind of winds on the board. And especially after the withdrawal from Afghanistan
which was seen as chaotic. There needed to be for him some kind of headline that said, he's doing what he said he was going to do, and you, the voter,
are happy about that.
So, I don't think anyone is lying in bed and wondering, well, what -- at what point will the Inflation Reduction Act help me in particular? I think
it's the idea of having the headlines, the punditry, people to have a dialogue around him that is not a dialogue of failure. I think that gas
prices coming down so quickly is very meaningful because it means every time you drive down the street and you look up you have a reminder that
there has been a shift. And that really hits people in the pocketbook, so to speak.
So, I think that the headlines are bad for Biden. His approval rating is not great. And it is, obviously, there are going to be losses in this
midterm election. The question is, as a party, can Democrats rally around a set of ideas, values, platform that he's, kind of, pushed forward that they
can actually campaign on?
SIDNER: Audie Cornish, you answered that question expertly. I appreciate you coming on the show.
CORNISH: Thank you.
SIDNER: When we come back, a new world record, touch down for the young aviator flying around the globe.
SIDNER: And finally, a new Guinness world record. Mack Rutherford is officially the youngest person to fly solo around the world. After five
months of flying across 52 countries and five continents, Mack safely landed in Bulgaria today.
At 17 years of age -- 17 years and two months, no doubt, he is breaking two records, including one held by his sister for the youngest person to fly
around the world in an ultralight plane. He is no stranger to aviation records. At the time of receiving his license, he was the youngest pilot in
the world. As he told us last week, it's now back to normal life, studying for his A-levels and finishing school. Amazing. Congrats to him.
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you so much for being here with us and goodbye
from New York.