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At This Hour

Ukraine Seeks Arms from NATO as Fighting Worsens in the East; FBI Arrests Two Impersonating Federal Agents; Senate Poised to Confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 07, 2022 - 11:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in New York.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar live in Lviv, Ukraine. We do begin with breaking news on the war. Leaders around the globe are taking unprecedented action to isolate Russia.

The United Nations General Assembly will be voting soon on suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council as more evidence of their atrocities in Ukraine come to light.

And in Washington, the Senate voting to end normal trade relations with Russia and they move to ban imports of Russian oil.

All of this as fighting intensifies on the eastern front of Ukraine. Its military says it shot down three Russian cruise missiles overnight near Zaporizhzhya, as Ukraine makes another desperate plea to NATO for more weapons.

Let's begin with CNN's Nic Robertson on the U.N. vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

It is odd that Russia, doing what it's doing, is even on the Human Rights Council.

What are we expecting to happen here, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And Russia takes pride in having strong positions on all the U.N. bodies that it can, because it sees it as prestige. That's been President Putin's sort of basic position for a long time now. So to be voted down and off that 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council

would be a significant blow to him.

Would it change the outcome of the war?

Not likely. But it does put Putin and Russia on the path to becoming an international pariah.

The Ukrainian foreign minister here in Brussels has urged U.N. members to vote against Russia. Russia, we understand, has been urging its friends and partners not to abstain because an abstain vote doesn't count. It's a yes or no that counts, a two-thirds majority that will carry the day.

So Russia trying desperately to hold on, Ukraine urging members to push Russia off of that prestigious U.N. Human Rights Council.

How can it, Bianna, as you say, with committing the human rights abuses, when on the U.N. committee, it is there to uphold and stop the very things it's accused of perpetrating?

KEILAR: Yes, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said it would undermine the body and it's hard to see how it wouldn't. Nic Robertson, thank you so much for that live report for us from Brussels. We do appreciate it.

And now to Washington, where the Senate just held a vote to revoke normal trade relations with Russia and to ban imports of Russian oil. That's where CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is with that story.

What does this really do?

How significant is this?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is significant, Brianna. First and foremost, a lot of pressure mounting on senators on Capitol Hill to get this done before they would leave for a two-week Easter recess. The House had passed these two bills weeks ago.

And they had been scuffling over the details in the Senate. Now very likely, we'll see things move quickly this morning. As you see, there's a live picture of the Senate floor, where they're first voting to end normal trade relations with Russia.

That would revoke Russia's preferential trade status with the United States. That is something that President Biden called for earlier -- later -- excuse me, last month. And then they will vote on a second bill.

Now this bill would ban the importing of Russia oil and essentially just codify the executive action that the president moved on last month. These are expected to pass in the Senate. They need to be sent back to the House for reapproval, essentially, because the Senate did make changes to these two bills.

But it's expected these two bills will head to President Biden's desk for his signature later today. And senators saying, look, this is the very least we can do, to pass these two bills, months and weeks of haggling over the details, given that Ukrainians, Brianna, are on the battlefield, fighting this every day.

KEILAR: Certainly are. Sunlen, live in Washington, thank you so much for that.

Now to all of the developments here in Ukraine. Heavy fighting reported in the Donbas region as Putin is preparing for what NATO calls a major offensive on the eastern front.

Ukraine said it shot down three Russian cruise missiles overnight near the town of Zaporizhzhya. CNN's Ben Wedeman is live in Mykolaiv with the latest on the intense fighting there.

Can you tell us what things have been like in that region?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, as we've been waiting to hear from you, we've been hearing some very large thuds in the not too distant -- not too far away from here.


WEDEMAN: And this is really typical of what has been going on in Mykolaiv for quite some time now, daily Russian rocket attacks on this city.

In fact, we were at a market today that was hit earlier in the week. Nine people were killed in that incident, 41 injured. And we went around and looked at the individual impacts.

Within about less than a 100-yard radius, we found 23 impact points, each one of them spraying shrapnel in every direction. We spoke to people there at the time. It was a blood bath; there's still blood on the ground from where all of these people were killed and injured.

This afternoon, we watched as people, civilians, mostly women and children and old people, were boarding buses, one bus for Poland, one bus for Moldova. Many people are afraid that, even though the Russian forces have been pushed well beyond the outskirts, this city is still in artillery and missile range.

And many people feel it's no longer safe to stay here.

KEILAR: Yes, they are experiencing atrocities there, too, and now on the move. Ben, thank you so much for that report, I appreciate it.

Let's talk now with CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier, and CNN military analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Let's talk about what's really being done and how it is or is not going to affect what's happening on the ground here in Ukraine.

Kim, this vote to boot Russia off of the Human Rights Council, I mean, what does it really do? KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That is mostly about denying Russia the prestige it wants on the world stage, to be a member of a major U.N. body. It's all part of the moves, like the vote in the Senate today to stop trade with Russia between the U.S. and Moscow.

That is also part of the U.S. goal, as they are asking Europe to cut its trade with Russia. It helps say, look, we're doing it; we know it's harder for you. Tell us how we can help. And all of this is the thousand cuts against Moscow that are intended to basically show that it's going to be punished.

It's not going to get away with this economically and, hopefully, eventually, have an effect on the upper and middle class in Russia, that Putin would then respond to.

KEILAR: Colonel, I wonder, everything is shifting east now, so much farther away from the border with Poland, where so much comes through, in terms of weapons and aid.

What is this going to mean logistically for supplying the Ukrainian military?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, if things hold the way they're holding right now and the focus to the east stays, which we have every indication that it will, then the supply lines to Poland, from Poland into Ukraine, will actually be fairly secure or at least not -- they won't be affected by Russian efforts to interdict them, at least not as much.

So that's going to be I think a major factor in being able to replenish the Ukrainian military. And it could help them in their fight in the east.

KEILAR: What does the U.S. and NATO need to do, Kim?

DOZIER: Well, as the Ukrainian foreign minister said, weapons, weapons, weapons. And when we hear from the Pentagon, that's exactly what they're trying to do: rush more weapons in there faster.

Not some of the sophisticated anti-air defense systems or the jets that Ukraine had asked for but everything that they say, from the U.S. perspective, that the Ukrainian military has been using to great effect on the ground, from the drones to the Javelin systems.

That will help them take out more tanks, more armored vehicles, especially as the fight shifts increasingly to eastern Ukraine. Now they don't know if it's going to stay there but that is a wide sort of area of plains, not very much cover. And it will help the Ukrainians to have weapons that they can use from a distance, to take out those armored vehicles.

KEILAR: Cedric, we learned overnight, the Ukrainians say, they intercepted three Russian cruise missiles over Zaporizhzhya. One of our CNN crews did hear something that sounded like a plane and then a loud explosion. Can you tell us what you think is happening there?

It seems like there's been many times they've said they've been intercepting missiles.


KEILAR: And I'm curious what kind of technology they're using.

LEIGHTON: Well, that's an interesting question, Brianna, because we don't know everything the Ukrainians have. But it sounds consistent with something they'd have in the S-300.

Now so far, we've been told they haven't gotten any replenishments for their air defense capability from places like Slovakia. But that may not be true anymore. It may be possible that they have something like an S-300 ready to go and in operation over Zaporizhzhya or perhaps other areas that could intercept cruise missiles.

And frankly, get a lucky shot every now and then.

KEILAR: It's very interesting and it makes you wonder what they have here on the ground.

Kim, the E.U.'s top diplomat said a fifth round of sanctions could be agreed to today. But I feel like I could say that, the 13th or the 17th round of sanctions at this point. It seems like, besides the total ban on Russian energy imports to Europe, there really isn't something economically that will maybe make Vladimir Putin reconsider.

Do you see any shift on that?

DOZIER: Not right away. And European officials I've spoken to in the past week said it's got to be cumulative. Each of these things adds on to the last one. And the Russian population is eventually going to feel this and understand that this is not something that's going to go on for a couple of months.

This is something that is for good. It's hard to undo sanctions once you put them on. And this is the most rapid deglobalization of a very sophisticated Russian population, that was used to traveling, et cetera.

Eventually, the hope is that unrest is going to reach Putin. And he may decide, you know, the east of Ukraine is enough and he'll ratchet things back. But more officials that I speak to are worried that he'll just take part, pause, regroup and possibly go after the whole country again.

KEILAR: Kim and Cedric, thank you so much to both of you.

And Kate, that's really it here in the near term, things shifting over to the east. And you're hearing citizens there, who have seen now what is happened in the West and they are fleeing. Some of them very panicked. They see what may be coming their way and they're taking heed. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. We'll get back to you, Brianna, very shortly.

We're also watching this right now, though. Coming up, FBI arresting two men, accused of impersonating federal agents. And now Secret Service agents have been put on leave. The story behind this -- next.





BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, two men are under arrest by the FBI for allegedly impersonating federal agents for more than two years. They're accused of a plot to try to gain access to the Secret Service. CNN's Whitney Wild is live in Washington with details on this.

And, Whitney, there is a lot going on with this story.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this indictment is really crazy and like you said, it goes back two years and it zeros in on two men, who, over a period of time, collected enough law enforcement gear to realistically present themselves to other members of law enforcement as DHS agents.

In doing so, they were able to basically buddy up with other members of law enforcement, who appeared to be all living in the same building. And some of those members of law enforcement that they were able to develop relationships with include members of the Secret Service.

For example, Kate, within this indictment, it says that one of these men accused allegedly offered to buy a $2,000 assault rifle for a member of Joe Biden's Secret Service detail. So obviously, hugely alarming.

Other members of the Uniform Division of the Secret Service, which is the police force that surrounds the White House complex, also named in this indictment, as people whom these imposter DHS agents zeroed in on.

And the scheme was to buddy up to these people and then give them these lavish gifts, which included a year of rent-free apartments. In one case, a year-long rent-free penthouse apartment in downtown Washington, D.C., not cheap if you're from around here.

In addition, this included giving federal law enforcement agents televisions, surveillance systems, a drone, iPhones; in one case, access to a car they claimed was a government vehicle. And they gave access to that vehicle to somebody's wife.

So the scheme is long, it is complicated. But what it highlights, Kate, is that people who are even trained to spot fraud didn't recognize it when it was right in front of them. BOLDUAN: Whitney, thank you very much for that.

Let's turn now to a historic moment in Washington. In just hours, the Senate's poised to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, Jackson becomes the first Black woman to ever sit on the nation's highest court. CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, how is this going to play out today?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just actually in a matter of minutes, the Senate will take its first major step toward getting to the confirmation later this afternoon to break a filibuster.

They just need a simple majority to do just that. And that's the current rules of the Senate to deal with Supreme Court nominations. And they do have a simple majority; 50 Democrats are all united behind it, moving forward, as well as three Republicans, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

But all other Republicans are opposed. So this nomination will first advance and the procedural vote of 53-47 margin.


RAJU: And then at 1:45 this afternoon is when the historic confirmation vote will take place. She will be confirmed on the same 53-47 margin. And then afterwards, she'll take her spot on the bench, when Steven Breyer steps aside at the end of the current Supreme Court term, which is expected in June or July -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And Manu, there's also just breaking news coming in about the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

What are you learning?

RAJU: Yes, she just announced that she tested positive for COVID-19. She was just about to come out and brief the press, at the weekly press conference. And that was cancelled amid the news that she did test positive.

She also had a planned trip to Asia, an official trip she was planning to take with other members of Congress. That is no longer taking place.

In a statement put out by her spokesperson, she said she's vaccinated, fully boosted and she's asymptomatic. But she'll take the proper guidance and isolate, as asked for under current guidance.

But she was also around a number of members. She was around the president just yesterday at the White House at an official signing ceremony event. They were not wearing masks. Other members of Congress, including the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, was around her as well. So this comes amid an outbreak of sorts that's happening on Capitol

Hill. A number of members in recent days have also announced they have tested positive. Pelosi being the most prominent of that. She's 82 years old. She's not feeling any symptoms but she's tested positive here and that'll put her on the sidelines for some time.

But the House is scheduled to go on a recess of two weeks starting tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much.

Joining for more on all of this, Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to President Biden.

Thank you for coming in. Your reaction to this news we just learned about the Speaker. In addition to Speaker, there's been multiple cabinet members, who also just have gotten in the last week.

CEDRIC RICHMOND, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Yes, it's a reminder that we have to take serious precautions. We should stay masked up when we feel it's appropriate and just use common sense.

And so, unfortunately, in public service, you're around a number of people, a number of events. And this is one of those unfortunate consequences of it. But it just reminds us that we still have to be really diligent and knowing that COVID-19 is out there and try to contain it.

I would also say it's a good reminder of why this White House is still fighting for COVID funds. And we need Congress to act.

BOLDUAN: Also, it also is good news, at least at this moment, that the Speaker remains asymptomatic and let's hope it remains that way.

Let's talk about the other big news today, the Supreme Court and this historic confirmation that will be coming, of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. You were directly involved in the president's selection process for the nominee.

She got three Republican votes the last time when her lower court nomination was voted on and it looks like she'll have three Republicans to support her again.

I'm going to put this graphic up to show everyone at home kind of the current justices, showing how the vote margin, generally speaking, has seriously tightened up over the years, as the politics have become more divided.

Cedric, how important is the final vote count in the end here?

RICHMOND: Well, it's been our belief from the beginning, especially the president and vice president, that Judge Jackson deserved bipartisan support. We think that it should have been a very wide margin. She's an outstanding legal scholar and she's a person of impeccable character. But we are happy that there are three Republicans, Murkowski, Collins

and Romney, to support her and give her the bipartisan vote she deserves. We think it's important. We expected it from the beginning. And the judge worked, worked, worked and demonstrated how qualified she was.

And the reward for that is a bipartisan vote today. And we're waiting on it.

BOLDUAN: Very likely it will be coming but don't count the votes until the last vote is counted on Capitol Hill. So everyone waits. It was, I'll call it a rough road to this point for Judge Jackson in some regard because for one reason in particular.

Some of the questions that she faced during confirmation hearings, I want to play this for everyone.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you provide a definition for the word woman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to try to understand here, is it your view that society is too hard on sex offenders?


BOLDUAN: So there is that. But you also hold that up against the history likely to be made today.

Is all of that, what I just played, does all of that fade away after she's confirmed?


RICHMOND: Well, I would hope not. I think it's important for people to see what Black women have fought their entire lives, as they have advanced.

And even with this historic moment and such a qualified woman, she's still had to take the attacks, the mischaracterizations, some flat-out lies that have been debunked, in order to get to this moment and she persevered.

So the only thing I can think of is that she channeled her inner ancestors and sat there with poise and dignity, almost as if she was a Freedom Fighter back in the civil rights movement.

But 20 hours of questioning, 1,500 questions submitted to her in writing that she answered. She met with 97 senators. So she worked. And I think that it's right that she demonstrated how qualified she is, how tough she is, how courageous she is and also, how smart she was. And so I think that what the Republicans tried to do didn't work. She

came out of the hearing with a greater approval rating than when she went into it. And she has the overwhelming support of about 60 percent of Americans.

But no, I don't think we should forget what she went through. I think what we should focus on, though, is how she went through it, the perseverance and the courage that she showed.

And it's going to make this moment that much more historic, that much sweeter. And it's just phenomenal that the president was able to make this commitment, follow through on this commitment. And it symbolizes everything he's done since he's been in office, in terms of equity and inclusion.

BOLDUAN: Also I do need to ask you about this new reporting that Whitney Wild was just bringing to us, about two people being arrested for impersonating federal agents, giving an rent-free apartment to a Secret Service agent, even offering to buy an assault rifle for another agent assigned to the first lady's detail.

And four Secret Service agents are now on administrative leave over this.

Are you concerned about the safety of the president and the first lady and the credibility of some of the agents around them now?

RICHMOND: We don't comment on open investigations. And I would refer that to Secret Service. And as far as the president and the first lady's concerned, the truth of the matter is that, in this day and age, we take their security very, very seriously. And you know, we've been through this for a very long time.


BOLDUAN: Does this worry you?

RICHMOND: Well, I won't comment on the report. I'll just refer that to Secret Service, to the agency, which is charged with protecting the complex, protecting the principles and I'm sure that they'll have a comment if they can.

BOLDUAN: Cedric Richmond, thank you so much for coming in.

RICHMOND: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, air raid sirens going off in Lviv and a Ukrainian city largely spared from these disturbing scenes we've seen in other places in the country's east. Lviv's deputy mayor joins us next.