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At This Hour

U.S. Poised To Send Abrams Tanks To Ukraine; Germany To Send Leopard Tanks To Ukraine, Allies To Follow; Interview With NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg On Military Aid To Ukraine; Tornadoes Tear Through Texas And Louisiana; Suspect To Be Arraigned In Deadly Northern California Shootings; Interview With Senator Alex Padilla On Federal Gun Legislation. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 11:00   ET




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

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In the next hour, President Biden will deliver remarks on U.S. support for Ukraine. He's expected to announce the U.S. will be sending M1 Abrams tanks to help Ukraine.

This long debated move also comes just as Germany confirms they will also be sending tanks to Ukraine, the German-made Leopard 2 tanks. Both of these moves have been in the works for a while, a step both countries have resisted for a variety of reasons.

These coordinated announcements now also pave the way for other European countries to do the same and supply tanks to Ukraine as Ukrainians are preparing for a big spring offensive by Russia. We're going to discuss all of this with NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. Let's start with Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

What are you hearing, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We're told about 30 tanks will head to Ukraine, one of the most advanced and complex tanks pretty much out there.

How soon?

This will take time. We've seen the coordination between the German announcement to send its German-made Leopard tanks and other countries to send German made tanks and the expected announcement from the U.S.

It will send just about short of 3 dozen of its Abrams tank. In terms of how soon we could see the Abrams tank arriving, that will take much longer because the U.S. just announced its own drawdown of U.S. inventories. It's unlikely that U.S. will do the same with the Abrams.

That means the U.S. will have to procure new Abrams tanks for Ukraine and that will take time, months perhaps before we see Abrams enter the battlefield. But Ukraine needs that time to learn how to use them, operate them and the other new systems that the U.S. and others have already announced they will provide.

LIEBERMANN: Oren, thank you so much.

Oren will be standing for with this formal announcement from President Biden.

In the next hour we'll hear from the president directly from the White House. And it's widely expected he'll formally announce the news on the tanks. MJ Lee is standing by for us at the White House, working her sources for us as well.

MJ, what are you learning?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We should be hearing directly from the president, explaining the rationale to the American people why the U.S. is expected to now send these tanks to Ukraine. That explanation is so critical us because this is a notable shift for the Biden administration.

Pentagon officials have said for a while it's challenging to maintain these tanks, to train people to even operate these tanks, not to mention the amount of time, as Oren was talking about, to get these tanks physically to Ukraine.

It's impossible to sort of look at this decision, this expected announcement, in a vacuum. You have to look at it in the context of what Germany is doing. German officials have been making it clear for a while they were not willing to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine unless the U.S. was willing to send Abrams tanks.

So this is a coordinated effort and probably other European countries as well. We do expect the president to once again talk about how important he believes it is for the Biden administration to make any kind of significant decisions when it comes to Ukraine in coordination with other allied countries, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, MJ.

German's chancellor also made the announcement this morning.


BOLDUAN: We're told these tanks could be operational in Ukraine in about three months. There's a lot in the works here, as we're learning all of this. Sam Kiley is in Kyiv, standing by for us.

How is this news being received in Ukraine right now?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With some delight, I have to say, Kate. President Zelenskyy obviously welcomes it. He's been asking for some 300 tanks.

At the same time the defense minister has said he's anticipating some more good news. That would be the 30 tanks that Oren is referring to, that we're expecting the U.S. president to announce as being supplied to Ukraine. On the front line, we've been in touch with soldiers on the front

line. They're particularly pleased to hear they'll be coming, because they've been running out of these particular pieces of equipment. They've had to capture a lot of tanks from Russia and repurpose them.

But they are running low. And they have been particularly useful in the fighting around Bakhmut. Also on the training front, yes, it could take months to training a fresh recruit. But it won't take long to train a seasoned tank fighter.

They probably have the most experience in all of NATO in how to drive and fight with a tank. They don't know how to physically drive the Leopards, the Abrams. Ultimately they want to see more help coming through.

If you add up all the pledges, between 90 and 100 tanks. They are asking, though, Kate, to get to 300.

BOLDUAN: That's a critical point as well, even in the face of what you say is delight in this being received in Ukraine. Sam, thank you very much.

Joining me is NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.

Thank you for being here.

What is your reaction to this tank announcements coming from the U.S. and allies?

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: These are important announcements. And what the German chancellor Olaf Scholz said today really is important. It makes it possible for Germany but also for other European NATO allies to provide battle tanks to Ukraine.

That will significantly strengthen their combat capabilities and demonstrate the unity and resolve of the NATO allies and partners in providing support to Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Secretary-general, the introduction of tanks has long been discussed.

What did it take to get here?

STOLTENBERG: What you have seen is that the front lines in Ukraine have stabilized. We have seen how the Russians are digging in. If we want Ukraine to be able to both to defend against upcoming Russian offenses, we know the Russians are planning for new offenses.

And also if we want Ukraine to be able to retake territory, we need to give them more armor, more heavy and modern weapons.

The announcement last week of armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and now the announcement of battle tanks, that all together will strengthen significantly the combat strength of the Ukraine armed forces. And we need that to assure that president Putin doesn't win this war. BOLDUAN: The view allies provided to this point has been enough to

keep Ukraine in the fight but not enough for Ukraine to win this war. I have heard that from retired generals, military experts, for quite some time.

Do you think the introduction of these tanks finally provides the capability to actually win?

STOLTENBERG: NATO allies and partners have provided an unprecedented level of support to Ukraine and actually many allies, including the United States, trained and supported the Ukrainians before the invasion. We have done that since 2014.

And this has enabled them to push the Russian forces out, first of the territory in the north around Kyiv and then in the east around Kharkiv and then in the south in Kherson. Now we see President Putin has mobilized more than 200,000 more troops.


They are ramping up production of ammunition weapons and they're planning new offensives. So we need to provide even more support, not only to ensure that Ukraine survives but actually ensure that Ukraine is able to liberate more territory, win and prevail as a sovereign, independent nation in Ukraine.

That's exactly what NATO allies are doing with the announcements we saw last week but also with the announcement of battle tanks today.

BOLDUAN: I'm hearing from some military experts already, that the number of tanks all put together, the scope of what is being promised in terms of tanks, it is still inadequate for what Ukraine needs.

What do you say to that?

STOLTENBERG: First, I leave it to individual allies to make specific announcements. But the German announcement today is important, because it opens up for other European allies that have Leopard tanks to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

There are many European allies that have Leopard tanks. Many of them have made it clear they are ready to provide battle tanks to Ukraine.

I spoke just now with President Zelenskyy. And, of course, he welcomed the announcements made, not only from Germany but from many other allies, to provide tanks but also to provide training, ammunition, maintenance, spare parts, the whole logistical support for these new heavy, modern NATO-standard battle tanks.

BOLDUAN: Russia's response today is the tanks, quote, "will burn just like all the others."

What is your message to Russia today?

STOLTENBERG: Ukrainians have proven extremely skilled and capable in operating the equipment, the weapons that NATO allies and partners have provided.

I'm absolutely certain that they will be able to do that also with main battle tanks from NATO allied countries, especially because many of them have experience already from the front lines, operating Soviet era armored vehicles, battle tanks.

But that's a useful background to then start training on modern NATO battle tanks. This is a war, an aggression. President Putin invading another sovereign, independent nation in Europe, Ukraine, Ukraine has the right for self-defense. We have the right to support them in upholding that right.

Because if President Putin wins, it's a tragedy for Ukraine but a danger to us, because the message is that when leaders use power, they get what they want and then the world becomes even more dangerous and we more vulnerable. So it's in our security interest to support Ukrainians.

BOLDUAN: Jens Stoltenberg, thank you so much for coming on. We sincerely appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

Much more on that, ahead. Important comments from the secretary general.

Also communities across Texas and Louisiana are cleaning up following devastating storms. More than a dozen tornadoes were reported. And the threat from this weather is still not over. Rosa Flores is in Deer Park, just outside of Houston, Texas.

Rosa, what are you seeing?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're seeing the path of destruction. This was a nursing home. You can tell that the frame of this building was ripped off in certain areas. And some of the corrugated metal, part of the roof, is bent over, it's mangled. A lot of the masonry has fallen.

From what we understand, there were about 59 seniors living in this facility when the tornadic activity hit. I talked to one of the daughters of one of the residents here. She tells me all of the seniors were evacuated and they were fine. They had no injuries.

She actually said that they were moved over to the building across the street and, according to authorities, they did send an ambulance bus here just as a precaution.

But Kate, these are some of the images we are seeing here on the ground. This is what we see. There's a path that goes through this area and a lot of the buildings, a lot of the homes look like what you see behind me.

[11:15:00] BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you so much for being there. I really appreciate it.

We're also watching this. The suspect in the deadly mass shooting in northern California will be in court this afternoon. The state's governor pointing the finger at Congress right now, as he puts it, to do their job. That's next.




BOLDUAN: This afternoon, the man suspected of killing seven people in shootings near Half Moon Bay, California, will appear in court.


We're still waiting to learn what charges the alleged shooter will face but police are now calling the attack an incident of workplace violence. Veronica Miracle joins us with much more.

What is expected today, Veronica?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It will be his first court appearance since being accused of the horrific mass shooting. CNN has obtained court records. And it reveals this isn't the first time he's been accused of violence involving other employees.

In 2013, a former employee accused him of trying to suffocate and trying to murder him. Zhao tried to suffocate his former coworker and roommate over issues around work and pay.

And a temporary restraining order was filed. And he would not be able to obtain and buy a gun but that went away in July of 2013.

Over the weekend, this mass shooting took place at two separate locations. One was apparently where Chunli Zhao lived and worked. And there were other people who lived and worked there, including children.

Governor Gavin Newsom toured Half Moon Bay yesterday. He met with families, community members, who have been deeply impacted by this violence. Kate, I'll be honest with you, he seemed exhausted and really fired up. This was his second mass shooting tour in just days.

That first one in Monterey Park over the weekend in Southern California. He quickly came up to northern California to tour another mass shooting site. Listen to what he had to say.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We need the federal government to do its job. This is on everybody. We've chosen this. This is our decision to live in these conditions. It doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. So we have chosen this. We have accepted this.


MIRACLE: Chunli Zhao will be in court today at 1:30 Pacific time.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate it.

Joining me now is Democratic senator Alex Padilla.

Senator, thank you for coming in. California, as we know, has some of the strongest gun laws in the country. And you've had these deadly mass shootings just in quick succession. Gun violence is a problem in every state.

Why do you think it's happening right now in California?

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): First, Kate, let me say, as heartbroken as I am for the families and victims in the communities, Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and elsewhere, I'm equally outraged as the governor.

A lot of this doesn't have to happen. We know that smart gun safety laws work, whether it's restrictions on the type of weapons made available, stronger background checks. The numbers don't lie.

And for the 10 years we have an assault weapons ban nationally, the numbers came down. So the governor is absolutely right. We are going to keep fighting the fight here in Congress to reinstate and adopt some of these proven solutions, not just state by state but nationally.

BOLDUAN: I do want to play something more from Governor Newsom's conversation with my colleague, as he points the finger directly at Congress. Listen to this.


NEWSOM: California leads the nation in common-sense gun safety. It saves lives but we can't do it alone. Folks can go to border states and there's loopholes. We have to solve for these patterns. It requires Congress to take bold leadership. The number one death for children last year was gun related and we didn't do a damn thing.

Congress is sitting on its butt.


BOLDUAN: He puts this on Congress. There's very tough politics around gun regulation.

What do you think you can actually do now?

PADILLA: We have no choice but to continue to try to address this issue. In neighboring states, you can get large-capacity magazines, assault weapons. That's a huge loophole. Nowadays you can buy parts online and modify what is otherwise a lawful weapon into something that is not allowed in California or other states. That is a huge loophole. Let's be precise. It's not just him pointing

the finger at Congress; it's him pointing the finger at congressional Republicans.


They're the ones that have refused and resisted and obstructed efforts to reform gun safety laws at the federal level.

That being said, I have to remain hopeful and we can look at some of the progress made last year as a reason to stay hopeful. The passage of the Safer Communities Act, it did strengthen for background checks for buyers under 21. Adapting those best practices to everybody, not just younger buyers, incentivizing red-flag laws.

Let's look how they can work in different states.

More needs to be done. Americans are dying. Our children are dying.


BOLDUAN: Senator, let me ask exactly on that point. There were 15 Senate Republicans who voted on that bipartisan gun safety measure that passed. You would need them, of course, for anything else to be passed in response to these mass shootings.

Have you spoken to any of those Republicans in light of what's happened in your state?

PADILLA: We have. Again, the conversation continues in the immediate aftermath of the Safer Communities Act.

BOLDUAN: But real conversations. You know these shootings can spur renewed conversations.

Have you spoken to any of them since this has happened to see if anything has changed?

Basically the chance of getting an assault weapons ban passed in reality is nonexistent.

PADILLA: So here's the truth. I just returned to Washington, D.C., literally a couple of hours ago. I will begin the conversations immediately. I stayed in California while the governor was in Half Moon Bay yesterday. I was in Monterey Park at the vigil with the community.

While we fight the fight in Congress, we also have to make sure we stay on the ground, supporting the families, the friends, the communities that are dealing with trauma for a long time and need our help to heal. We have to do both.

BOLDUAN: Senator, thanks for coming on, as you just returned very shortly ago. We appreciate your time. We'll see where those conversations head.

PADILLA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: The Justice Department is looking into another discovery of classified documents, this time at the home of former vice president Mike Pence. How that changes the politics of all of this now, next.