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At This Hour

Hundreds Face Uncertain Fate After Surrender At Mariupol Plant; White House Holds First COVID Briefing In Weeks As Cases Surge; NBA Chief: League Working To Free WNBA's Brittney Griner From Russia. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 11:30   ET



LEIGH CHAPMAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF STATE, PENNSYLVANIA: We'll have a sense very soon, as far as you know, how many million ballots are left to be counted.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Do you have a sense of how many counties still have counting to do?

CHAPMAN: You know, every county -- you know, last night there were about half of the counties in Pennsylvania that had completed ballots, but many of the counties are continuing to count and they will continue to count over the next few days.

BOLDUAN: But no firm -- no firm number on how many counties are still out there and who still has the most outstanding?

CHAPMAN: Not right now.

BOLDUAN: So I mentioned the 22,000 mail-in ballots in Lancaster that need to be hand-counted now, or looked over once again because of a printing issue. Can you talk to me about what happened in Lancaster? How does this issue of misprinting still happen?

CHAPMAN: Sure. So, in Lancaster County, you know, they work with a vendor to print their mail-in ballots. And yesterday, when they were pre-canvassing and opening their ballots around 7 a.m., they discovered that there were around 22,000 ballots that had a misprint.

And out of those 22,000 ballots, you know, they're about around 7000 that are Republican, around 14,000 that are Democrat ballots, so they actually have to remake the ballots and transfer them by hand. So, my team spoke with Lancaster County earlier this morning and they have confirmed that they are going through that and they expect to have that final count completed by this week.

BOLDUAN: Is this -- did this -- is it possible this misprint happened in other counties or is it only in Lancaster?

CHAPMAN: It's only in Lancaster County. You know, we've communicated with all 67 counties, everything is going smoothly. And all 67 counties it's just specific to Lancaster County, and the print vendor that they use because there was an issue with the barcodes being incorrectly printed so the scanner wasn't able to scan them.

BOLDUAN: So, the biggest question now is this -- these will eventually get counted, but the margin is still at this moment razor-thin, there are laws that could trigger an automatic recount in the Commonwealth, when are you going to know if there is going to be a recount?

CHAPMAN: Sure. So as I mentioned -- you know Pennsylvania, the recount law, it's an automatic recount if we're in the half of 1 percent margin, which we are currently. So as I mentioned next Tuesday, the counties will send their unofficial returns to me, at that time, we'll make a determination as to whether or not we want to move forward with the automatic recount.

You know, since the recount law has been implemented in 2004, it's been used six times, we've had three recounts, and also three waivers so actually a candidate can waive the recount if they choose so -- choose to do so which could happen.

So, by next Tuesday, we'll have a good sense as far as whether or not there will be an automatic recount in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the statewide race -- the statewide Senate race. One thing I want to note is that, for the recounts, counties are required to count on a different type of machine or they could hand count, it just has to be different from the original type of tabulation that they're currently doing right now.

BOLDUAN: Secretary of State, do you think -- I think state law is that you have to make the call by next Thursday, May 26 on the actual recount --


BOLDUAN: Do you think it's going to be up until then or do you think you'll make the call Tuesday, as you keep mentioning Tuesday? Do you think you'd be able to make the call sooner than that next week?

CHAPMAN: Well, the unofficial returns come to me on Tuesday, I'll have a very good sense but all of the votes might not be counted by Tuesday. But I think we'll have a really good sense by Tuesday, I'm required by law to send out a press release 24 hours before that Thursday deadline. So we'll have a good sense Tuesday and Wednesday, whether or not we're going to have an automatic recount in Pennsylvania.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned that a candidate can waive the recount.


BOLDUAN: Is there any indication from either candidate that they do not want to move forward with a recount?

CHAPMAN: You know we haven't received any communication from either of the candidates around that process but I will say as I mentioned, there have been six statewide recounts since 2004 and three candidates have waived. And you know one thing to note in our recounts, we've never had a change in the outcome of the election, there are recounts, so out of the six times, there hasn't been any change in the outcome of the election.

BOLDUAN: So as you well know -- I mean, I was on the ground when all of this was happening. Pennsylvania was the center of many unfounded claims of voter fraud and election issues following the 2020 -- surrounding the 2020 election. Should voters have any concern, Secretary of State, of issues related with what we're seeing here?

CHAPMAN: You know, no, voters should feel confident in the integrity of our elections in Pennsylvania.


CHAPMAN: We had a smooth primary election yesterday in Pennsylvania. There were very few issues. You know, it really just the routine issues that we see in every single election. And you know the claims of any type of voter fraud have been debunked by courts. You know, there have been over two dozen federal and state court cases around the 2020 election.

You know, elections in Pennsylvania are accurate, they're secure and voters can feel confident that election officials that you know are doing their jobs currently. They're making sure that every single vote is counted, and that Pennsylvania's voices can be heard at the ballot box.

BOLDUAN: And working overtime to get that right still today.


BOLDUAN: Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, thank you very much for coming on.

CHAPMAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters that surrendered at the Mariupol steel plant. They are now facing a very uncertain fate. Will the Russians swap prisoners? Details in a live report next.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, the fate of the Ukrainian fighters who defended the Mariupol steel plant is in real question right now following the negotiated surrender. The Russian defense ministry says that nearly 1000 Ukrainian soldiers at the plant have turned themselves over. Ukraine has said it wants to swap for the fighters taken to Russian- held territory but no signs yet of progress there.

CNN's Melissa Bell is tracking this. She's live in Kyiv with the very latest. Melissa, what is the latest that you have on this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the latest is that some of those military leaders of the Azovstal steel bones may still be holed up inside and refusing to surrender. At least what we know for the time being is that they are not amongst those that have been evacuated so far, there's nearly 1000 evacuees that you mentioned.

And we know that there are still some of their military commanders inside the plant since we've been hearing from the head of the Donetsk People's Republic that is the breakaway Republic now fully in Russian hands, who has been saying that they are not amongst the evacuees. So the question of whether that steel plant has entirely surrendered or not remains at hole this hour.

As for the evacuees themselves, remember that when they began being evacuated from the steelworks, there'd been a great deal of relief from their families, finally hoping to get their loved ones home. In fact, that looks at this stage up far from clear.

Since we understand that the negotiations continue between Ukraine and Russia, to try and get those prisoners of war, which is what they are now in the hands of the Russians home. But that they have yet to come to a conclusion, so tense negotiations ongoing and the fate of those nearly 1000 evacuees in the hands of Russian forces, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Melissa, thank you for that. Joining me now for more on this is CNN Military Analyst, retired General Wesley Clark. He's a former NATO supreme allied commander. General, on top of what Melissa just laid out very well, a spokesperson for Russia today also said that there should be no doubt those are the words that these Ukrainian fighters will be treated in accordance with international law. I mean, do you believe that statement? What do you think is going to happen to these fighters, to these now prisoners of war?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, we're into the realm of speculation. But the character of the Russian psyche, the way they treat prisoners is to take revenge and to take pleasure in taking revenge. So I have significant doubts that without international oversight, including armed oversight, that these prisoners would receive Geneva Convention type treatment. I think they're likely to be abused, tortured, and some will be used in show trials of war crimes just because the West is saying that the Russians have committed war crimes.

The Russians are going to torture these people, extract confessions, and find some way to create a counterpart to the Western war crimes trials, I suspect. And I think the ones who are remaining in the steel plant, I think they will continue to fight because they know what waits them if they surrender, they have no trust, they have no confidence, and a lot of experience with how the Russians treat people.

So, it's all very well for the political, and the people in the West, and then humanitarian people to look for something good here and I hope it happens. But experience says that without armed oversight by international forces, this is going to end up badly for a lot of people.

BOLDUAN: And I think part of what you're just getting at Melissa was talking about is the leader of one of the Russian-controlled regions. He says that the top military -- top Ukrainian commanders that they know of, they're still inside the plant, they have not surrendered. Do you read into that? What could that mean?

CLARK: Well, I think the top Ukrainian commanders understand, you know, what their fate would be if they do surrender, but also, they're still committed to the mission. As long as they're there and fighting, it's much harder for Russia to say, OK, we own this area. It's now part of Russia. So this is about the political independence of Ukraine and these men are fighting for a cause. They're very determined, they paid a high price so far, and I think they're going to go all the way with this.


BOLDUAN: Do you think a prisoner swap could work? Do you think it could be successful?

CLARK: I think a prisoner swap could be successful. But normally, in the past, what happens if you're a Russian prisoner of war, and you're sent back to Russia is that you get harshly interrogated and you may be shot on suspicion of treason or the fact that you didn't do your job properly in the first place. So I don't know whether the Russian POWs are looking forward to this prisoner exchange or not.

It could be negotiated, it would certainly be in Ukraine's advantage, it -- but it gets these people out, especially the wounded prisoners because they're unlikely to get the kind of hospitalization and treatment they need inside these Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, in those hospitals. The Russian soldiers themselves don't have good medical care. They've been getting it from the Ukrainians when they're captured. So I wouldn't think that this is a bad thing for Ukraine if it can be arranged, but I think Russia will stall on this.

This is more of -- this is more of games playing at the top level, it's listening to the Europeans talk to Putin, giving him a chrome or two here and there, encourage him to a resist of further arming Ukraine, and continuing to hope that somehow he can manipulate this. So at least he gets to keep the areas he's conquered. President Zelenskyy says absolutely not.

And so behind the scenes, there's this enormous shifting of forces, and reconnaissance and probing, and making offers and pushing and shoving. And at the bottom of it, there are the Ukrainian fighters themselves, who are determined that they will not surrender their land to Russia. So there are some tough days ahead.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. General Clark, it's good to have you as always, thank you. Coming up for us, the White House pandemic Response Team, they just wrapped its first briefing in several weeks. Their updates on the pandemic and what metric they say just tripled in the last month. That's ahead.



BOLDUAN: The White House pandemic response team just held its first briefing in more than six weeks at yet another uncertain moment in the pandemic, one where new COVID infections are jumping, and hospitalizations are on the rise again. The CDC just announced that COVID cases in the U.S. have tripled in the last month. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen was watching this. She joins us now. Elizabeth, what are they saying about this in the briefing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the message at the briefing is look, these numbers, hospitalizations, cases are going up. They could possibly go up again, even more so in the fall. And it's a problem because Congress, it's not clear whether there will still be money from Congress to do all the things that we know work, things like vaccinations, and testings, and treatments and that is a real worry. Let's take a listen to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID response coordinator.


DR. ASHISH JHA, WHIT HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: And I want to make sure we have enough resources that we can buy enough vaccines for every American who wants more. I think that is absolutely critical. We do not have the resources to do that right now so without additional funding from Congress, we will not be able to buy enough vaccines for every American who wants one. And without additional resources, we will find ourselves in the fall or winter with people getting infected and no treatments available for them because we will have run out.


COHEN: Another concern is that Americans aren't making use of the treatments and the vaccines that are out there as much as they should be. So let's take a look at some vaccine data that Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the CDC talked about. She said when you look at the COVID-19 vaccine, and who's had it in the past six months, and who hasn't, 62 percent of people ages 59 to 64 haven't had it -- or have not had it and when you look at over 65 and even more vulnerable group, 57 percent have not had it. The concern is that if you haven't had a shot in six months, your immunity could wane, so really urging people to get a third booster really for everybody and that fourth booster if you're over 50, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It's good to see you, Elizabeth. Thanks for the update. Also, new this morning, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a Chinese plane that crashed back in March, they're reporting that it was likely intentional. The Boeing plane was flying in southern China when it plunged into a mountainous area. All 132 people on board were killed.

The Journal reports that black box data shows that human input to the controls sent the aircraft into a nosedive. Though, so officials are also looking into the possibility that someone, maybe other than the pilots could have broken into the cockpit and deliberately caused this crash.

Now, to a warning from JP Morgan. The average price for gas in California hits $6 a gallon for the first time and analysts for the bank say the rest of the country could be seeing eye-popping prices like this before the end of the summer. AAA reports the national average for a gallon of gas right now is $4.57. It just keeps going up.

Before we go, an update on this. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is revealing that he has been working with the WNBA to secure the release of Brittney Griner from a Russian prison. I want to play for you what he told ESPN.



ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: The league -- and by that, both the WNBA and its brother league, the NBA, we have a huge responsibility to Brittney Griner, one of our players. We've been touched with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, you know, at every level of government and also through the private sector as well. So our number one priority is her health and safety and making sure that she gets out of Russia.


BOLDUAN: U.S. officials, they say Griner has been wrongfully detained for nearly three months now. Secretary of State Tony Blinken. He says this is a top priority, and he spoke with Griner's wife over the weekend about all of this. We'll continue to follow it as well. Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm Kate Bolduan. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts after this.