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At This Hour

Biden Pledges New Support For Ukraine, Meets With Prime Minister; Biden Unveils Strategy To Fight Drug Addiction, Trafficking; FL Senate Passes Bill To End Disney's Special Tax Status. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 21, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: We're following breaking news. President Biden is announcing another $800 million worth of military support on the way -- it is on its way to Ukraine, also announcing a ban on Russian affiliated ships in American ports.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Battle of Kyiv was a historic victory for the Ukrainians. It was a victory for freedom won by the Ukrainian people with unprecedented assistance by the United States and our allies and our partners. Now, we have to accelerate that assistance package to help prepare Ukraine for Russia's offensive that's going to be more limited in terms of geography, but not in terms of brutality -- not in terms of brutality.


BOLDUAN: Now, this morning, Vladimir Putin, of course, is telling a different story trying to claim success for the part of the Russians in Mariupol. And in the broader fight in the East though, the reality on the ground suggests the Russian army is struggling to make any real advancements.

Joining me now is CNN Military Analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, some of the details of this new weapons package that the president has announced, more howitzers, more tactical drones, a hundred -- over 100,000 more rounds of ammunition, what does all of that mean for this fight?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Kate, it's a big improvement over the last package, especially from the Ukrainian perspective, the last package had about a week's worth of ammunition. This if my calculations are right, is just a little bit over three weeks of ammunition in addition to that, so this should give the Ukrainians a lot more staying power than they otherwise would have and it also gives them the opportunity to move these assets around, assuming that they can protect them, and move them where they're needed. You know, wherever the battle happens to be raging at that moment, they can go there and use their force in order to stop the Russians from gaining further territory.

BOLDUAN: And when we talk about this bigger, broader this new phase, this front in the eastern Donbass, everything we've heard so far is that then this new battle that Russia hasn't gained much of any ground really in the several days since it started, does that surprise you?

LEIGHTON: Well, it would have surprised me if we were having this conversation on the 24th of February because, on that day when the invasion started, I would have said, you know, they're going to move quickly, they're going to do this, you know, like the Blitzkrieg back in World War II, but that has not been the case. They've got so many logistical issues and we saw a lot of those come to the fore during their assault on Kyiv.

The fact of the matter is, the Russians don't have the capacity it seems to move their armored columns forward, they don't have the capacity to bring their logistical tail up to where it needs to be to have an impact on the fight, at least in the further on stages of that, and so there are some real significant issues that they have. They do have some advantages and that they have -- they're fairly close to some of their supply depots like in Belgorod, they're just north of Kharkiv.

But what they also need to do is move more quickly. And it's going to be a battle of movement, I believe, at least in the initial phases of what's happening in the east, it could eventually devolve back into a war of attrition. But for the moment, the Russians are going to try to move fast. I don't think they'll be able to do it. And the Ukrainians will though have to respond to that. They'll have to move very quickly to counter the Russians.

BOLDUAN: I just had the chief diplomatic adviser to President Zelenskyy on earlier in the hour and I asked what he attributes to success in holding off Russia at least, so far made for making major advances in the East. I want to play for you what he said.


IGOR ZHOVKVA, CHIEF DIPLOMATIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: We are fighting for our own land. We are not fighting for any other's land. What we see around the Armed Forces of Russia is sometimes lack of motivation, sometimes lack of understanding from their generals how to wage a modern warfare.


ZHOVKVA: They used to have in a warfare I don't know, something of the Second World War or whatever, so probably, this will not change. So the generals will not change the situation, will not appear in my question Federation soldiers while we are defending our own land, and will definitely win.


BOLDUAN: What do you think of that, Colonel?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think he's got a real good point here. You know, the Russian military way of doing things, not just the way of warfare, but the way of doing everything is tied to your bureaucracy. It's a very top-down system where the commander has the say in everything and then above the commander, of course, eventually you get to Putin. But the Ukrainians have adopted some Western tactics and techniques, and they are much more flexible and much more responsive to the ongoing situation.

So the diplomatic adviser has an absolute point here. He is you know, exactly describing the way this is -- this has unfolded so far. And the Ukrainians have a really big advantage this way and it's going to be really hard for the Russians to turn that culture that they have around. They spent a lot of time studying doctrine and studying those the history of warfare basically, but they are -- you know instead of studying the history, they also need to think about the future and they doing that in a -- you know, slight increments, but they're not doing yet to the degree that they need to in order to wage a modern war.

BOLDUAN: How interesting. Colonel, it's good to see you. Again, thank you.

LEIGHTON: You got it, Kate.

BOLDUAN: A quick programming note, everyone. The unbelievable true story of the man who took on Vladimir Putin and lived to expose the truth, the Sundance award-winning CNN film, Navalny, airs Sunday at 9 p.m. Here's a preview.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remarkably, Vladimir Putin faces a legitimate opponent, Alexei Navalny.

NAVALNY: I don't want Putin in President. If I want to be a leader of a country, I have to organize the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Kremlin hates him only so much that they refused to say his name.

NAVALNY: Passengers heard about me cry out in agony. Come on poisoned seriously. We are creating the coalition to fight this regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are killed, what message do you leave behind to the Russian people? NAVALNY: It's very simple. Never give up.

ANNOUNCER: Navalny. Sunday at 9 on CNN and streaming on CNN plus.




BOLDUAN: Drug overdose deaths have hit a new record high in the United States, with almost 107,000 deaths in the last 12 months. President Biden is unveiling today his new plan to take that on and addressing two of the root causes of this crisis they want to focus on, untreated addiction and drug trafficking.

Joining me right now is Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is the man overseeing this entire strategy. Thank you for being here. One of the major focuses is harm reduction that I've seen that the White House is rolling out. What does that mean?

DR. RAHUL GUPTA, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: Well, harm reduction is a way to meet people where they are and to save lives. So when we look at harm reduction for the first time in the history of the nation. We are making federal policy to support efforts like Naloxone, which is an opioid reversal, antidote when people are dying of an overdose from opioids, making sure that people have the ability to check their drugs for fentanyl, a very dangerous compound that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and syringe service programs that allow the prevention of the spread of infectious disease which are not only harmful but also very expensive for communities to treat.

So, we're improved -- including those as part of our set because we need to meet people today where they are and help them move forward to not only saving their lives but making sure we're getting them into treatment.

BOLDUAN: I know you've heard the pushback, but the criticism is from some and the fear is that harm reduction and what we're discussing can also potentially encourage drug use. What do you say to that doctor?

GUPTA: That is just not the fact. The fact is that harm reduction saves lives. You know, Kate, three out of four deaths, and we have unfortunately an American perishing to overdose every five minutes around the clock. But three out of four of those deaths are because of opioids like illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Now, the fact that that's happening at a scale of tens of thousands means that we're failing people. We're failing to meet them where they are. And every one of these overdoses from an opioids perspective is reversible. But today, we have so many inconsistent policies, barriers that when you are overdosing today, your zip code gets to define whether you live to an -- or you live or die, and that should just not happen. BOLDUAN: Just last week, I had the DEA administrator on to talk about as we're discussing right now, kind of the terrifying new trend if you will, of mass overdose incidents linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and she said something to me that I think is important.


BOLDUAN: She said for far too long the country's treated overdoses as accidents, but with fentanyl especially they aren't accidents. They're poisonings. They're crimes driven by a drug supply chain largely from Mexico. How does that fit into this strategy? How do you tackle it?

GUPTA: I think it's very important to recognize today this fentanyl is being mixed in with not just heroin, but other drugs like meth and cocaine. So every time somebody is using the normal usual drugs, they're really playing Russian roulette.

Now, to address that we must address the entire supply chain that means, on one hand, we have to work on the precursor chemicals that are shipped from China through Mexico and ended up in the emergency rooms of communities all across the United States but on the other hand, we also have to make sure that we're saving lives when people are overdosing by making Naloxone available, making sure that we are connecting people to treatment.

Kate, the fact of the matter is that today in America, only one out of 10 people gets the treatment when they need it and that's just not fair. We need to do more. We know we can move -- do more. And we need to act to make sure we're saving lives because when you're -- when you're dying, and you're dead, you cannot get into treatment. So it's very important that we're addressing the drug traffickers, drug trafficking profits, while we're making sure we're addressing the untreated addiction.

BOLDUAN: One thing that you -- one of your jobs is setting priorities of where the administration focuses in terms of taking on a big problem. But you -- but people have become accustomed to hearing phrases like the whole of government approach, a comprehensive roadmap, a blueprint, and it does become somewhat meaningless. I mean, people want to know concretely what the federal government or anyone is going to do differently to keep themselves, their kids, their communities safe from the growing threat of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and the threat that it poses. What do you say to them?

GUPTA: Well, Kate, as a physician, the first physician in this role I can tell you for far too long in this nation, the overdose epidemic and the overdose crisis have unraveled the very societal fabric of our nation, and destroyed too many lives and livelihoods. When I travel across the nation and I talked to people including my own patient, they tell me to live with compassion, focus and be data-driven, and make sure you're working on high-impact actions.

And that's exactly what the strategy does. It addresses the two big drivers of this challenge. One is untreated addiction, and the other is drug trafficking. So we're making sure we're addressing both of those. BOLDUAN: Very quickly. How much time do you give yourself to measure if this plan is successful or not?

GUPTA: Well, I think every single minute is important whether we're successful or not because an American is perishing every five minutes. President Biden has made sure that this -- had said this, that this is an urgent priority and we need to act with a sense of urgency because this is not a matter of days, weeks, or years, it's a matter of every minute.

And when we lose Americans, that's somebody's mom, somebody's dad, somebody's neighbor, and somebody's family. So to me as a physician, and to the president, every American dying, any the American dying is unacceptable so we need to move forward and act on this.

BOLDUAN: It's a high bar of success. Doctor, thank you for coming in.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. Florida's governor upped the ante in his fight with Disney, why millions of dollars were on the line for the theme park, and why Florida taxpayers could be on the hook?



BOLDUAN: And to Florida now where Walt Disney Worlds special tax status is set to become a thing of the past as the governor there gets an assist from state lawmakers in this escalating feud. It comes after Disney opposed this new controversial law which critics have dubbed the Don't Say Gay Law. CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Miami with more for us. Leyla, what's happening?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, right now, the Florida House is debating the bill that would take away that status is called a special district. And it essentially allows Disney to operate as its own government around the Orlando theme parks area that -- where it's been for decades. Now, that passed the Senate yesterday. It is being debated in the house today.

But there are a lot of questions here. I mean, Democrats, really saying this is a dispute, many people questioning, can this legally move forward? Does a referendum need to happen for this to take place? What will happen to the debt that this special district currently has? How will it impact the area outside the special districts specifically Orange County, who when we checked with them, they said they're still waiting to get a lot of those questions answered as well?

And then, Kate, there's the question of intent. Democrats really asking what is this about and really alleging that this is DeSantis going after Disney for what you mentioned earlier that now law, that limits how instruction can be made for sexual orientation and gender identity, particularly for its youngest students.

Disney was very strong in eventually opposing that and even said it would stop political donations as a result and was against it, so many think that this is DeSantis retaliating for that. But when we spoke to one of the Republicans sponsoring the bill, he says this is absolutely not about retaliation. And here's how he explained it.



RANDY FINE, REPUBLICAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE, FLORIDA: What this is about is about Disney not recognizing that they are a guest in our state. They are a California company that is a guest in the state of Florida and they are a guest that has had special privileges that no other company has had. If you want special privileges, you'd better be on your best behavior.


SANTIAGO: Context here or maybe I should say reminder because I know many people know, Disney is the largest private employer in Florida, more than 75,000 employees, and by all accounts, these bills are expected to pass. The question is will it end up in court and move forward?

BOLDUAN: Leyla, thank you so much. Thanks for being here, everybody. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts after the break.