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At Least 40 Dead, Dozens Missing In Dnipro Apartment Attack; Rep. Santos Faces Growing Pressure To Resign After Lies; FAA Investigating Near Collision Between 2 Planes At JFK Airport. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: In Ukraine, the death toll is rising now in what has become one of the deadliest single attacks of this entire war, at least 40 people were killed in a Russian missile. Just take a look at this video.

It just really obliterated huge portions of an apartment complex in Dnipro. And dozens of people are still missing right now. Fred Pleitgen is there for us. He joins us at this hour. Fred, what's going on there right now?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Kate. And first of all, you're absolutely right. The magnitude of the destruction here is just absolutely incredible. I'm going to get out of your way SO you can see what we're seeing right now, which is, first of all, this gaping hole where large parts of this building used to be but then you can really see how those rescue and recovery efforts and the cleanup effort are still going on.

And officially, the Ukrainians say that this is still a rescue -- a search and rescue effort. But, of course, they also acknowledge that by the second, the chances of finding anybody alive in what you see there in front of you really is dwindling and is really going towards zero. And the amount of people who are killed in this incident, they have continued to rise throughout the course of the day. Right now, we do stand at 40 killed.

The Russians have come out, Kate, and they have claimed that they were not behind the strike. They say that this was a straight Ukrainian anti-air missile that hit this building. The Ukrainians obviously not having any of that. They say that they track the missile that was fired by the Russians from the Sea of Azov all the way to here, where it impacted.

And they say it was a Kh-22 cruise missile, which is a missile that is normally used or that is designed to destroy aircraft carriers. That is the missile that they say hit this building. And obviously, when a missile like that hits a building like this, you have the kind of destruction that you see there before your very eyes right now. And I can tell you. Being on the ground here, seeing some of the people who are from this area, seeing some of the -- some of the relatives, there's absolute grief and anger here on the ground from a lot of people.


Obviously, many people cursing the Russians after this incident, but certainly, the people that we're speaking to also saying they are not going to be brought down by what happened here just a couple of days ago, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, resolve still to continue. Thank you so much. Fred Pleitgen's there for us. We're going to continue to watch as this they say is still a search and rescue effort.

Joining me now for more on this is retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, thanks for being here. What do you see in this really devastating attack on this apartment complex?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Kate, let's first talk about whether this is a Russian missile or an air defense missile. It is the former not the latter. It doesn't take an expert to determine that that was literally hundreds of pounds of explosives in a missile that contributed to that building fallen, and an air defense missile does not have that. So, it's another instance of Russia just flat-out lying.

Now, I won't get too geeky on air but this is an issue of a strategy of attrition on Russia's approach. You know, they're in warfare. They're strategies of attrition where you try and exhaust the enemy, wear down the enemy and bring different things to bear. Annihilation is where you try and outmaneuver the enemy, get them in a position where you can attack them, and force a decision on the part of the other government to surrender.

But the difference here is Russia is using a strategy of attrition not against the Ukrainian military force, but against the civilian force in an attempt to make President Zelenskyy have a lack of will to continue this fight. It's not working, as you just said. There's more resilience now in Ukraine than there's ever been. But, unfortunately, this is going to continue.

BOLDUAN: You know, it's interesting, general, Because the former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, he was on this morning, and he spoke to something similar of what you're just talking about. Kind of what this says about the war. He also talked about the war as being -- I believe the word that he used is when you look at it being in a stalemate right now. And I -- it makes me wonder how does Ukraine break out of this, this stalemate moment? Do -- what can be done? What needs to be done?

HERTLING: Yes. Well, I don't agree with Secretary Esper on that. I don't think we're in a stalemate. There are certainly massive struggles going on in Kherson, in the Donbass, and it's a difference in approach like I just said in strategy between Russia trying to affect the Ukrainian people while Ukraine's army is trying to affect the Russian army and get them out of the country. That's a strategy of attrition, force decisions because you are defeating the security force of the enemy.

So, this is certainly not a stalemate. But what needs to happen, you know, unfortunately, a couple of things. Russia has to run out of ammunition, which I don't see happening anytime soon. There are certainly indicators that are -- that they have less and less ballistic missiles to fire.

But in this case, I mean, as an example, this weekend, those Kh-22 missiles that Fred was just talking about, indicators are, there's about 50 of them as part of their Black Sea Fleet that Russia can fire. They allegedly fired about 14 this weekend. So, you still have almost three-quarters of the ones left on ships and submarines in the Black Sea, as well as coming by air.

So, it's going to continue. But what has to happen with Ukraine is they have to get an improvement in their maneuver force to continue to conduct attacks and offenses against the Russian military and continue to drive them out of the country. That's what you see. It is somewhat of a stalemate between types of strategies but I believe that Ukraine will have the power to continue their counter offenses.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for coming in, General. I really appreciate it.

HERTLING: Pleasure, Kate. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Well, just days -- just days after winning a national championship, the University of Georgia is now in mourning. One of its football players and team staff member killed. What we're learning about that deadly crash? Coming up.



BOLDUAN: This weekend, more calls for Congressman George Santos to resign, though more resignation also seems to be setting in among Republicans that he's not going anywhere anytime soon. He is now under federal investigation over his campaign finances. And the questions about the many lies that he is told about his life, they are not going away, and they're really only becoming more and more jarring.

Joining me right now is New York Republican State Senator Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, who is one of the Republicans -- one of the Republicans in New York and across the country who has called on Congressman Santos to resign. Thanks for being here, State Senator. I really appreciate it.

So, this new reporting over the weekend from the New York Times, and also reporting from CNN shows that influential Republicans including the head of a key super PAC with close ties to Speaker McCarthy knew that there were problems with the life story of George Santos like over the summer and beyond. They had concerns over his backstory. If leaders knew about this and didn't raise it or tried to stop him, what is your reaction to that?

PATRICIA CANZONERI-FITZPATRICK (R), NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: Well, first of all, Kate, thank you for allowing me to be with you today. I find that surprising that the information didn't come out. Certainly, if leaders knew about it, they would have shared it. If the opposition knew about it, I'm surprised they didn't share it because if this information was easily revealed by an opposition research firm, why didn't our opposing party know about it and bring it to light?


BOLDUAN: And I know that -- and I will say that Republicans in New York have been really candid and forthcoming about saying that this -- the vetting process was flawed. That's one thing that we have seen in this.

And local Republicans have acknowledged that and saying that kind of their vetting process of new people who want to run, there are going to be fixed in place to make sure something like this doesn't happen again -- happen again. But still, in the face of this, I still am wondering with the more that we learned -- we learn, how this all slipped through? What do you think?

CANZONERI-FITZPATRICK: I think that because this was typically a seat in 2020 -- and I have to say, Chairman Cairo of the Nassau County Republican club has been very candid about it. In 2020, we didn't expect there to be a serious challenge. Tom Suozzi was our incumbent, he was a very strong candidate.

So, in 2020, I think he got by everybody simply because this was a person that was running without real backing and real expectation of being successful. And it -- and he wasn't.

In 2022, I do think that you know, we took him at his word in 2020. He stuck in there, and he continued to work hard to become a candidate -- you know, to win his election. And it's very --it's not easy to know exactly how it happened other than, as Chairman Cairo has been very honest, most of the candidates like myself have typically had long roots in our party.

And George Santos came from Queens. He was recommended by other people. We didn't know about his background. And that's the difference. And in 52 years involved in Nassau County Republican politics, Chairman Cairo has never seen anything like this, and neither of most of us so it's an unusual circumstance that popped up.

BOLDUAN: It is. That's for sure. I mean --and I just wanted to ask you really quickly, many Republicans have called on Santos to resign. He says he will not. It is clear that it's very hard to force a member of Congress -- to force a member of Congress out. Do you think it would make a difference if Kevin McCarthy himself would call on him to leave? Because at this point, he has not.

CANZONERI-FITZPATRICK: I do think he would. There is a procedure where the House Committee on Ethics would have to conduct their own investigation. If they find that there's enough evidence, they could bring it to the floor of the House with a two-thirds vote of the members, they could expel him.

But as you -- I'm sure well aware, leadership has to decide what comes to the floor of the House for a vote. And that's where we don't know what will happen. If these investigations turn up some hard evidence of criminal activity, I think Kevin McCarthy will have a hard time not bringing it to the floor for a vote.

BOLDUAN: I -- you -- one would think so. That's for sure.


BOLDUAN: State Senator, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

CANZONERI-FITZPATRICK: You're welcome. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Triumph turned to tragedy at the University of Georgia. Just hours after celebrating the football team's national championship national title, a player, 20-year-old Devin Willock, and staff -- and team staffer, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, they were killed in an early morning car crash. Two other people were injured in that as well.

And we're learning much more about this and these beautiful lives that were lost. CNN's Isabel Rosales is in Athens, Georgia for us at this hour with more. Isabel, what are you learning?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. We did confirm with police earlier this morning the identities of all four people that were inside of that car. They're still trying to understand just what made the driver veer off of the roadway here.

But first, I want to show you a new addition here to the crash site. Just in the last hour or so, a couple coming out here and posting this red Cross, leaving flowers, and doing a silent prayer over this cross in honor of the victims, those that pass, and those that did sustain injuries.

I did, Kate, also speak with Devin Willock's aunt and uncle who were fighting back tears, but they so wanted to get across to our audience who Devin was. And that's a kind-hearted person who had such a pure love of football. They called him a gentle giant. At just 20 years old, he's gone way too soon.

And, Kate, for any parent, that would be a nightmare, something that should never happen having to bury your own son. But the grief is profound in this family because this is not the first time that this has happened. Devin's older brother, Jonathan, just a couple of years back, getting into a car crash and then later dying from his injuries. I want you to listen now to Devin's aunt and uncle as they speak about this unbearable loss.


CICELY STOUT, AUNT OF DEVIN WILLOCK: We lost him at the age of 20. His birthday is going to be February the 28th which he will be 21 years old. That's we -- you know, it's a big loss of the family. Really it is. It hits home really hard.


CICELY STOUT: He's gone way, way too soon from us, you know.



ROSALES: Yes. And Chandler LeCroy was also in that car. She was killed. According to her LinkedIn, she was a football recruiting analyst. I did come from with the Athens Clarke County Police Department. The two survivors, Victoria Bowles with serious injuries, and UGA football player Warren McClendon. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Isabel, thank you very much for that. So, scary moments at JFK Airport as two planes almost collide on the runway. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 1943, cancel takeoff plans. Delta 1943, cancel takeoff clearance.


BOLDUAN: What happened here and why this was such a close call? Next.



BOLDUAN: Tense moments at JFK Airport. Two planes nearly collide on the runway Friday night. Potential disaster averted though because of some quick action by an air traffic controller. The FAA is now investigating. Lots of questions here.

Let's go to Pete Muntean. He's been tracking this for us. Pete, what happened?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the good news is that a disaster was avoided but really only with seconds to spare. Kind of insult to injury here, Kate. The quick action of the air traffic controller in the JFK tower stopped this from happening. Also, the quick reaction by a Delta Airlines Crew onboard 737.

That is the animation from flight radar 24. It's a little bit sped up and not exactly the scale but it gives you a pretty good idea of what happened here. That Delta flight was clear to take off on JFK's runway four left. One, the air traffic controller in the tower, and I want you to listen to the ATC audio recording here, realized an American Airlines 777 was taxing across the same runway as that Delta flight was accelerating to take off. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 1943 cancel takeoff plans. Delta 1943 canceled takeoff clearance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, there. And a -- with Delta 1943.


MUNTEAN: The good news here is that this was averted, but only with about 1000 feet, despair according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Which sounds like a lot, but it's about three football fields. Not a lot in aviation terms.

The deal here, Kate, is that this sounds a lot like the Tenerife disaster of 1977. The single worst air disaster in commercial aviation history, 500 people killed when two 747s ran into each other on the runway. It didn't happen this time because of that quick action.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Well, then thank -- and thank goodness. Lots of questions now, I'm sure FAA is looking into it as we speak. It's good to see you, Pete. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for watching us at this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this.