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At This Hour

Biden, Spain Prime Minister Deliver Remarks On War In Ukraine; Zelenskyy Calls Shopping Mall Attack An Act Of Terror; At Least 50 Migrants Found Dead Inside Truck In San Antonio. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 28, 2022 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00]

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KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now. President Biden and Spain's Prime Minister are delivering remarks, as you can see there, about the war in Ukraine and NATO's efforts to support Ukraine. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live in Madrid for us. She has much more on this. What have we heard from the president so far, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is the first stop that he is making after arriving here in Madrid. Obviously, today is really going to be these meetings with the king of Spain, he was greeted earlier by the president or that he's meeting the president now. He's greeted also earlier by the king, Kate. He's got these formal dinners tonight. And then tomorrow is when they're going to expand to those bigger meetings with the other world leaders that are gathered here for this NATO Summit.

And one of the biggest aspects of this that is really looming over it, and the White House has just confirmed is that yes, President Biden and the Turkish President Erdogan will come face to face at some point tomorrow on the sidelines of these meetings. Now, that is something that people are going to be watching closely because so far, NATO has been the only country standing in the way of Sweden and Finland being able to join NATO. That is a move that they made very quickly after Russia invaded Ukraine. It's a remarkable step that happened at a much faster timeline than a lot of world experts had assumed could be likely.

But that is how much this Russian invasion -- this Russian war in Ukraine has changed the geopolitical dynamic. And so there are going to be a lot of eyes watching to see how this meeting with President Biden and President Erdogan goes because otherwise, he hasn't been optimistic that at the end of the day, they will appease or they will come to an agreement -- an agreement and a compromise on his issues on having Sweden and Finland admitted into NATO. But, of course, the ultimate outcome remains to be seen if he actually does come to an agreement on that because it has to be a unanimous decision by these leaders.

But, of course, President Biden has a slew of world meetings and much like his G7 summit that he just came from. So many of them, Kate, are focused on Ukraine, which is just so notable to step back. And a year ago, that would not have been the situation but now it's really the subject looming over every discussion he has with every world leader.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's good to see you, Kaitlan, thank you so much for continuing to follow what President Biden's meetings are like and what he's saying there with the -- with Spain's Prime Minister. I really appreciate it.

[11:35:03]

BOLDUAN: So, Ukraine's president is now calling an attack on a crowded shopping mall, an act of terror. At least 18 people have been killed. Nearly two dozen others are missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Speaking in a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A peaceful city, an ordinary shopping mall with women, children, ordinary citizens inside. Only totally insane terrorists who should have no place on earth can strike missiles it's such an object.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Now CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has the very latest from Ukraine.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Kate, search and rescue operations are still underway to try to pull survivors out of the ruins of that mall if there are any survivors left. Now, what we understood happened and this is according to President Zelenskyy is yesterday afternoon, a thousand people were packed in that mall going on about their ordinary lives and I have to note here this is a city that is nowhere near the frontlines, nowhere near the battleground.

While those people were in that mall, air raid sirens went off, people started to evacuate and that's when a Russian missile struck the building, causing a huge explosion, of course, setting off a fire that raged for hours. We understand there's over a dozen people killed, so far, several others wounded, and some who are missing.

President Zelenskyy is clear. He's accusing Moscow here of targeting innocence. Russia claims it was hitting a weapons depot, but President Zelenskyy calls this an act of terrorism and he's called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting. But it's a continuation of something we've seen over the last several days, which is that as President Biden has met with world leaders, as these two major summits have been held, first, the G7 and now, the NATO Summit, of course, President Putin's military has escalated its attacks on Ukraine hitting the country with dozens of missiles by air, land, and sea. Now the message appears to be clear here that President Putin can target Ukraine anywhere at any time, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Salma, thank you so much for that. Joining me now for more on this is Bill Taylor. He's a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. It's good to see you again, Ambassador. Let's start with what Salma was talking about. I mean, this attack on the Mall in Ukraine, Zelenskyy calling it an act of terror. It is nowhere near the front lines, any of the front lines and Ukraine says also it's nowhere near any military installations. What does an attack like this mean at this point in this war? There's been so much bloodshed and so -- and it's clearly an ongoing humanitarian crisis, but an attack like this.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: It's horrible, Kate. It is just horrible. I was just having a conversation with Ukrainians this morning about this and they make the point that this kind of atrocity, this kind of attack on civilian targets, only serves to increase their determination -- their anger, but also their determination that they're going to win this fight. The Ukrainians take from this an inspiration. They know why they don't want to be under Russian control and so they will fight even harder after these kinds of atrocities.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's important context because there's also this new reporting from some of my CNN colleagues that Biden administration officials, that they're now losing confidence that Ukraine can win back all of the territories that it's lost to Russia since the invasion began. Advisors are now kind of debating internally whether Zelenskyy should start shifting his definition of victory to accept the possibility his country shrunk irreversibly. What do you think of that?

TAYLOR: I think that's wrong. I'm not even sure that's happening. There may be some people outside of the government that are having conversations with people inside the government or making those suggestions, but I think that's a mistake. I think that President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people are the only ones that can make any decisions about Ukrainian territory. They are the only ones that can decide when to negotiate. And now, it's just not the time to talk about negotiations.

Negotiations will come when probably both sides are ready. We see that President Putin is not interested in negotiations. And President Zelenskyy has made it very clear that until the Ukrainian military pushes the Russians back, at least to the borders, it looked at the lines that existed on February 24, that he's not ready to negotiate either. He's not ready to reward the Russians for this aggression. So I think it's a mistake to be talking about negotiations.

And, by the way, Kate, we remember that President Biden in his op-ed piece in The New York Times said he would not put pressure on the Ukrainians to negotiate away any territory either publicly or privately. He was very clear about that.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

TAYLOR: And I think that's the right message.

[11:40:05]

BOLDUAN: Yes. And it seems to be the difference between internal conversations and external you know, decided narratives, right, because according to these officials, they're also in the same breath emphasizing -- this doesn't mean the U.S. plans to pressure Ukraine to make any formal territorial concessions, if you will, to Russia but again, ongoing.

I want to ask you about what Kaitlan was reporting about the NATO meeting. The president is in Spain right now. He's beginning his meeting with NATO allies. A big topic, of course, on the agenda, is Finland and Sweden's bid to join the Alliance. The President -- President Biden is going to be meeting with Turkey's president tomorrow, all eyes kind of on that, of what could come as Turkey continues to stand in the way of this membership. What do you think -- you've been optimistic, I believe that they will eventually gain NATO membership. What do you think it's going to take at this point now?

TAYLOR: So, Kate, I think we've even seen something this morning that feeds my optimism, that this problem -- this question will be resolved, and that maybe even at this meeting, at this summit, at this NATO meeting in Madrid tomorrow, the NATO allies, and the NATO leaders in their final statement will welcome the beginning of the process for Sweden and Finland to join. We're hearing something that -- this morning that the Turks may be moving in that direction.

And you're exactly right when President Biden meets with Mr. Erdogan -- President Erdogan, they will have this conversation. But it looks like it's going in the right direction and that will be a big thing for NATO to add Sweden and Finland with that capability, that commitment to democracy and defense. That will make NATO stronger, and that will -- that will make the support for Ukraine even stronger.

BOLDUAN: And a hugely increase the border -- the NATO border along Russia. It's good to see you, Ambassador. As always, thank you so much.

TAYLOR: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. Dozens of migrants were found dead in a tractor-trailer in sweltering heat in Texas. We have the very latest on the investigation that's now underway.

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[11:47:02]

BOLDUAN: It is a grim scene that has been discovered and described in Texas. Officials there say they have found 50 migrants dead inside a truck in San Antonio, what they now believed to be one of the deadliest smuggling incidents in U.S. history. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is live in Texas with much more on this. Priscilla, what is the very latest on this?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, that death toll has gone up to 50. As you mentioned, a federal law enforcement official tells me that 48 people died on the scene and two later died at the hospital. This may be the deadliest smuggling incident. Now, yesterday, authorities had received a call from someone in the area who had heard a cry for help, and that person was alerted then to the track where they found deceased individuals.

Authorities responded to the scene and said that the people that they found had suffered from heat exhaustion and from heatstroke. Authority said that they were hot to the touch and too weak to get out of the truck. Remember, we are in Texas where there is sweltering heat here and the temperatures have been going up to the triple digits. Now, authorities here have been calling this a tragic incident. Take a listen to what the mayor of San Antonio said this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON NIRENBERG, MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: This is probably the worst tragedy in terms of migrant -- migration that I know in recent history, and the people that are responsible for subjecting other people to these conditions should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALVAREZ: Now, three people are in custody according to authorities, so it's unclear what exactly their connection is to the incident but it is, Kate, now a federal investigation.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's good to see you, Priscilla, thank you very much for bringing that to us.

Still ahead for us. Investigators are on the scene of another deadly scene, a deadly Amtrak train derailment in Missouri. I'm going to take you there for a live report next.

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[11:53:26]

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hit a truck. Someone was crossing tracks.

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BOLDUAN: That is the voice of a passenger immediately after the Amtrak train that he was riding derailed in Missouri yesterday afternoon. Three people were killed. Dozens of people were injured. More than 200 were on the train when it was slammed into a dump truck. CNN's Pete Muntean is live near the scene in Mendon, Missouri. He's joining us now. Pete, what are you seeing there? What is the very latest on this?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, National Transportation Safety Board investigators, a go-team of 14 have arrived here this morning. And they very quickly made a very key finding that the railroad crossing here is what is called an uncontrolled railroad crossing. That means no flashing lights, no retractable barriers, known to be especially dangerous in the railroad community. That dump truck that was on that crossing was hit with such force that it was practically pulverized.

The truck really separated from the chassis. We know that the driver of that truck is one of the three who died in this incident. I want you to listen and look now at some of this incredible video from passenger Robert Nightingale. He was one of the 275 passengers on board this train and he was pretty able to quickly figure out that this train hit a truck although he was in shock. Passengers described it as happening in slow motion. Listen now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT NIGHTINGALE, TRAIN PASSENGER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything all right?

NIGHTINGALE: Yes sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all right, folk?

NIGHTINGALE: It looks like we'd be late, Chicago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:55:19]

MUNTEAN: NTSB investigators will no doubt look from video from passengers and also at the front-facing hard-wired camera that is on all Amtrak trains and Revenue Service. NTSB will look at the tracks themselves, the speed if there was an effort to slow down and stop with this dump truck on the tracks. One bright spot here is the boy scouts, two troops from Appleton Wisconsin, 16 of them were on board this train. They were miraculously uninjured, and they rendered help to some of the injured on board this train after this very grisly collision, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. The pictures are really, really something. It's good to see you. Thanks so much, Pete. Coming up for us. Jeffrey Epstein's longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell is being sentenced in federal court right now. Details on what prosecutors are asking for it's up next.

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BOLDUAN: We're standing by right now for Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend to finally receive her sentence in federal court on sex trafficking charges. CNN's Jean Casarez is live outside the courthouse with much more on this. Jean, what's happening?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the sentencing hearing is taking place right now as we speak at the U.S. federal courthouse here in downtown Manhattan. Maxwell is conceivably in court along with up to eight of her victims. So it's really truly the first time that they are all together in that courtroom. There will be victim impact statements are probably happening about at this point. There may be an argument with both sides. Maxwell will be able to beg for mercy with the judge if she so chooses. It's called an allocution. And the judge will pronounce the sentence.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is asking for 30 to 55 years, the U.S. Department of Probation is asking for 20 years, and Maxwell is asking for four to five years. And, of course, the U.S. Attorney's Office is saying that these heinous crimes with these victims, that she was the one that got them for Epstein. She molded them, she made normalcy of relations with Epstein, she bought them presents, she gave them money, they had an operation, they had a playbook and she was convicted on five of the six felony counts. This could be a life term, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jean, thank you so much. That could be coming any moment now. We'll bring that to you when it does. Appreciate it. Thank you all so much for being with us AT THIS HOUR. I'm Kate Bolduan. CNN's special coverage of the Capitol insurrection hearing begins right now.