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At This Hour

Russian Jet Hits U.S. Drone; ICC To Open War Crimes Cases Against Russia; Credit Suisse Shares Crash. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 15, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, aggressive, risky and unsafe. That's how the Pentagon is responding now to Russian fighter jets forcing down a U.S. drone.

Plus, multiple investigations now into the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank including questionable stock trades, just as another major bank runs into big trouble, sending stocks tumbling this morning.

And a Texas showdown, a judge hearing arguments right now in the high- stakes lawsuit over abortion pills.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan.

The U.S. State Department does not call in the Russian ambassador every day. But that is what's happened. This is after the Pentagon says Russian fighter jets forced down a U.S. spy drone in international waters in the Black Sea.

According to U.S. officials the Russians, first dumped fuel on the drone, similar to the one you see here, and then hit its propeller, forcing the U.S. then to bring the drone down. The Defense Secretary slamming the incident as reckless.


GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This hazardous episode is a part of a pattern of aggressive and risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace. So make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.


BOLDUAN: Oren Liebermann joins us from the Pentagon.

You have new reporting also about one of the big questions in this, which is who is and how is this drone going to be retrieved? OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, a senior Russian official saying on Russian state TV that they will try to recover this drone. He acknowledges they're not sure if they can recover it.

But it is clear the drone has value to Russia. They could try to learn from it if they can recover it.

But it is worth noting that the Security Council has taken steps to protect the equities, this Reaper. The National Security Council also views it as the right of the U.S., as you heard right there from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as well, to fly in international airspace. And they will continue on do so. Here is John Kirby.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: It is not uncommon and nor has it been since the beginning of this war for us to have these kinds of flights, conduct these kinds of flights.

And it is also not uncommon for the Russians to try to intercept them. The message that we delivered to the Russian ambassador is that they need to be more careful in flying in international airspace near U.S. assets that are again, flying in completely legal ways, conducting missions in support of our national security incidents.

They are the ones that need to be more careful.


LIEBERMANN: Beyond protecting the U.S. equity, which is what the U.S. says it has done, it is unclear if the U.S. is even able to recover this and that is because there are no naval assets in the Black Sea that would be able to carry out such a recovery effort.

And getting them would take a tremendous amount of time. And it would put them at risk because of the Russian naval ships that are already there.

So whatever that step was to protect the equities in terms of a recovery, that seems far more difficult for the U.S. even if the Russians try it carry that effort out.

BOLDUAN: So interesting. Thank you.

Putin's spokesperson describing U.S.-Russia relations now as in a, quote, "deplorable" state after confrontation. And you're seeing video of this here. David McKenzie is tracking this live in Kyiv, Ukraine.

David, what more is Russia saying about this?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's significant because Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, telling reporters that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia is at its lowest point. And that's coming off of a low base already. The Russians have said

repeatedly that there was no contact between the aircraft and the Reaper drone over the Black Sea. They said they also didn't use weapons in any way.

They dispute the U.S. and their description of what exactly happened and they are blaming the U.S., as you might expect, for escalating the situation. It is significant that finally, after several hours, a Ukrainian official from their Security Council here, has, in fact, weighed in saying that they believe this is Russia trying to escalate the situation.


MCKENZIE: As they put it, a signal to try and expand the conflict. That's certainly the Ukrainian view.

But Russia appears to be trying to play this down, saying they did not have any direct contact with the UAV and that this is not their fault again, pointing the finger at the Pentagon.

But it is a very dangerous situation of international airspace, where Russian and American assets are operating frequently. And certainly it paints a picture of a possibly more dangerous situation of this kind of contact. Kate.

BOLDUAN: David, thank you.

Joining me for more on this is CNN military analyst, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks and CNN national security analyst Beth Sanner.

General, John Kirby, as we heard today, was while how this ended is uncommon, flights like this are not uncommon. Russia trying to intercept the drone like this is also not uncommon.

How often does this happen and why?

What do you see here?

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I wouldn't say it's a matter of routine in that every week there's some type of incident. But it is totally not unprecedented.

Look, in 2020, the Russians tried to ram, with one of their naval vessels, the USS John McCain guided missile destroyer.

Before, a week before this illegal invasion occurred, a Russian fighter went after a -- really kind of provocatively went after some Poseidon P-8s, which are maritime reconnaissance aircraft. So it's not unprecedented.

Everyone is calling it rather reckless and I would assume we agree it is reckless. One of my colleagues nailed it and said this is provocative stupidity on the part of the Russians. When you can combine this level of capability which they have,

phenomenal capability, with this incompetence, it really is a very dangerous road that they're going down. Of course, the United States will always engage freely in international waters and airspace. It won't hamper it for a second.

BOLDUAN: Beth, if you're in your former post, you hear these reports that this has happened, what's the first thing that you care about?

What are you thinking?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I'm thinking about, first, you know, intent.

Did Russia intend to do this?

Then I'm thinking about tit-for-tat.

What would happen if we do X, Y and Z in response?

Because everyone wants to avoid an escalation, even the Russians.

BOLDUAN: In terms of intent, that's a big question, General, because the administration is not speaking to what the possible motivation might have been on the part of the Russians.

But one question, I guess is, is this -- they think it was stupidity, that your contact said to you.

But is this an isolated decision by pilots in the air?

Or is this a directive from above?

MARKS: I would say it's a directive from above. I mean, we talk about this extreme hierarchy, with these socialist, autocratic nations. But there really is, what we're seeing is Putin is operating in what's called the gray zone.

Ukraine and what's happening in Ukraine obviously was a criminal activity. And the globe understands that. The United States has been, with NATO's support, providing incredible support to Ukraine. Putin is not going to directly engage against NATO and the United States.

So it's going to operate in this gray zone, where it can make its point. And try to direct influence in terms of what type of activities there exist.

It's also a sphere of influence thing. They look at the Black Sea and think they're national waters. They're international waters and the United States has every right to operate there. So this is what Putin is trying to achieve. It's very much directed.

BOLDUAN: Beth, John Kirby on this morning was asked about how concerned the administration was over what the Russians could learn if they do retrieve the drone, according to Russian state media. They're going to try to retrieve. That's now sitting in the Black Sea. I want to play for you how Kirby responded to questions about that

level of concern over the technology. Listen to this.


KIRBY: We took steps to protect information and to protect -- to minimize any effort by anybody else to exploit that drone.


BOLDUAN: Kirby also said on ABC, Beth, that he's very comfortable that Russia's ability to exploit the technology would be highly minimized, is how he put it.

What does he mean?

What's he saying?

SANNER: Well, I'm guessing that he means they have some self-destruct mechanism, that they tried to crash it into the sea as hard as possible.


SANNER: Those kinds of things to try to minimize the amount of exploitation. And I would also add here that the Russians almost certainly have had access to this very drone in the past, when it crashed or had been brought down over other war zones. And other countries would have probably shared that information with them.

So I would say it's probably not catastrophic what they would get. But you know, it's a thing. I think it's not inconsequential but not catastrophic.

BOLDUAN: General, the Russian jets first dumped fuel on top of the drone when they encountered it.

Why would they do that?

MARKS: Simply as a matter to try to affect hardware capabilities. Look, the Reaper can carry all manner of sensors underneath it. So they're looking to try to affect the ability of that surveillance package, let's assume it's a surveillance package.

And that was their initial move. Again, that's craziness, if you ask me. It makes no sense at all.

And to Beth's comment, she's absolutely spot-on. The United States doesn't want it not only to get into Russian hands but when we have capabilities like this, we have software that will have a kill switch if something goes sideways. So everything was done to try to scuttle it before the Russians can get to it.

BOLDUAN: A military incident, now a diplomatic incident. Let's see where it goes next. Thank you both. So there are also more developments this morning on international

efforts to hold Russia accountable. The International Criminal Court will be opening two war crimes cases against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

That's according to "The New York Times" which reports that the ICC plans to issue arrest warrants against several people is how they put it and these would be the first international charges to be brought against Russia since the invasion.

One case is related to Russia's targeting of civilian infrastructure, including the attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol. The second case they are reporting targets Russia's alleged abduction of Ukrainian children. Listen to what secretary of state Tony Blinken said about this around the one-year anniversary of the invasion.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We can never let the crimes Russia is committing become our new normal. Bucha is not normal, Mariupol is not normal, Irpin is not normal, bombing schools and hospitals and apartment buildings to rubble is not normal.

Stealing Ukrainian children from their families and giving them to people in Russia is not normal.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Stephen Rapp, a former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues and he recently served on a panel of outside legal experts at The Hague that reviewed evidence against Putin for the crime of aggression.

Ambassador, always great to have you on. Thank you for coming in.

You have said that the war crimes here in terms of Ukraine and Russia's invasion of Ukraine are on a scale not seen since World War II.

How significant is this move now by the ICC?

STEPHEN RAPP, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR AT LARGE FOR WAR CRIMES ISSUES: Well, it's very significant, because I think it may reach the highest levels. Certainly when you get to the decision making and the course of this conflict. The decision maker, number one, two, three and four, I think is Vladimir Putin.

Particularly on these attacks on the civilian infrastructure. And we've had from the beginning of the conflict, the indiscriminate attacks and the carpet bombing of Mariupol.

And particularly since October, this effort by their actions essentially to put out the lights and put out the heat and starve and freeze people to death over the winter months is clearly a war crime. Our Pentagon said so a few days after this began. And it's continuing even as we head into the warmer months and it's an

attack against civilians. And it has practically nothing to do with what's happening in Bakhmut or Kherson or anywhere near the front.

Intentional attacks on civilian infrastructure and disproportionate damage to civilians for only minimal military advantage, a clear war crime and Vladimir Putin is the responsible party. And then we have the forced adoption of children.

BOLDUAN: Secretary Blinken has said that the number is at least 6,000 Ukrainian children have been abducted and sent to Ukraine. The Ukrainians put the number at over 16,000.

When it comes to this issue, will we ever be able to determine how many children have been taken?

How do you hold people accountable for that?

Some of these kids are as young as 4 months old.

How are they going to return to their families?

RAPP: There are efforts to return them; 308 have been rescued. When I was in Ukraine 10 days ago, I spoke with a young man who survived this.


RAPP: He came out only because his grandmother braved all the roadblocks and went and got him, because he had memorized her phone number and was able to get to a phone.

There are hopes of this happening but I think it's possible to verify the crime. But even one is the crime. You cannot deport children even for reasons of safety from an occupied area to another country. You can do it for reasons of health but then with permission of their parent or guardian.

And clearly unlawful war crimes and we have, of course, the head of the agency that's doing it, Maria lvova-Belova, very proud of doing this and boasting about it, almost as if she's taking these people away from some sort of savage lifestyle and bringing them to civilized Russia.

So really a genocidal attitude, frankly. And then you have Putin putting into effect the decrees that make it possible to make it permanent.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

RAPP: To adopt these children, (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN: The Kremlin completely dismisses all of this, saying that they don't recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.

What does that mean for this effort? RAPP: Well, everyone who gets charged by an international court tries to defy it. I do think it's clear that the ICC has jurisdiction over Ukraine. It's given the ICC that jurisdiction; 42 states referred the case to the prosecutor.

This is territorial. And this is as if I went to Toronto and I killed somebody there, it would be up to the Canadians to decide whether to prosecute me. If Putin doesn't want to be prosecuted by the ICC, he doesn't commit a crime on the territory of a country that's given jurisdiction to the ICC.

Unfortunately, the U.S. in the past has taken an incorrect legal position in defense of the jurisdiction. Congress has given the direction that it's time to say goodbye to that argument --


BOLDUAN: Ambassador, can I ask you about that because there are some interesting developments on that very question, because in December, Congress modified what you're getting at, this longstanding legal restrictions on Americans helping the ICC, now allowing the U.S. to assist with investigations and eventual prosecutions related to Ukraine.

The Pentagon, also, according to "The New York Times," though, is blocking the Biden administration from sharing evidence because they fear setting a precedent that might lead to prosecuting Americans down road.

What do you think of that?

RAPP: Well, it's not a correct legal argument. And obviously we had the issue in Afghanistan with alleged torture in the black sites, et cetera, and prosecutors deprioritized that because we have our own legal system and are able to deal with these things ourselves.

The Russians are obviously doing nothing about these crimes and it's appropriate -- and these are extremely grave so it's appropriate that the ICC take them.

In terms of protecting ourselves, we protect ourselves by having a strong system of accountability ourselves. And then the ICC doesn't have jurisdiction in making that argument. And that's what -- there was really a unanimous view of people who served in prior administrations on this.

And they expected, frankly, that the Pentagon would withdraw its position. I hope it still will. I've talked to the people in the Pentagon who frankly regret the position because it really weakens our hand.

It does involve whether we share information, intercepts and other things of what were being targeted and it is extremely important the United States be a leader. We dealt with cases like Milosevic, the leader of Yugoslavia, only because of pressure of the U.S. conditioning relief from sanctions, for instance. The E.U. countries then conditioning whether people could move forward, for the E.U. to move forward and help themselves economically. They provided the pressure to get Milosevic pushed aside and eventually bring him to The Hague.

It's hard to imagine getting Putin, a powerful country. But frankly, we didn't think it was possible in the case of Milosevic. I prosecuted an African president, Charles Taylor. We brought him to justice eventually.

So you know, it's important that you have political leadership and the United States needs to be right on this. This is as important as providing Abrams tanks in terms of protecting the people of Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. If anyone has a question, to think that Putin could never be really be held accountable, just speak to Charles Taylor, who you successfully prosecuted for war crimes in Sierra Leone.

Ambassador, thank you so much.

RAPP: Good to be here.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

We also have this ahead, stocks continuing to sink as investors worry about yet another troubled bank. We will take a look at the markets next.





BOLDUAN: Stocks are down at this hour. Take a look at the board. The markets are reacting as another bank lands in trouble following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Matt Egan is tracking this for us.

Looking at the big banks and the little banks right there, Matt, what's happening with the markets right now?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: It's really all about the banks. Investors are bracing for the next shoe to drop after those bank failures of recent days. Regional bank stocks are tumbling again; big banks, as well -- Citigroup, JPMorgan. They're down sharply. But all eyes are on Credit Suisse. You see it's down 16 percent.


EGAN: They're at record lows. This is a big European lender and it's worth noting that this bank has been in turmoil for years. One Wall Street veteran compared it to a slow-moving car crash.


EGAN: What is new at Credit Suisse is their biggest backer, a Saudi bank, is saying basically they don't want to invest any more money, any new funding in this bank. And they're citing regulatory reasons. They don't want to have too big of a stake because that would require them to face new rules.

No matter the reason, this is amplifying concerns about the banking sector. I do think we have to separate out what's happening with bank stocks and what this means for people who have money in the bank, because FDIC insures up to $250,000 per bank per borrower.

And the last few days it showed the government is even willing to support you above the $250,000 limit. So both things can be true. Bank stocks are going down and your money is safe up to the FDIC insurance limits and perhaps even above that.

We should touch on some of the encouraging economic news we got out.


BOLDUAN: Oh, yes, inflation.

EGAN: Remember inflation?

That was the biggest problem in the economy maybe up until the last few days. But the Producer Price Index, that's wholesale inflation. And that shows that the prices are coming down month over month.

A 4.6 percent increase over the past year if you look at the trend, that's a big improvement. Eight straight months of cooling inflation and this is the lowest figure. And things are definitely going in the right direction there.

However, retail sales, retail sales dropped in February. That comes after a big spike in January.

The question is what is the Fed going to do with these three major stories, right?

We have a situation where people are spending less money; inflation is cooling off and then all of this pressure on the banking system.

BOLDUAN: Next week is going to be critical and complicated.

EGAN: And suspenseful.

BOLDUAN: Add more adjectives. Thank you so much.

Abortion rights are back in court today. A federal judge in Texas will soon decide on whether to block the FDA's approval of a drug used for medication abortions, a drug that was approved by the FDA two decades ago and has been used since and is now the most common method of abortion in the United States.

Jessica Schneider is watching this one for us. Jess, what's going on here and what's really at stake?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot at stake here, Kate, because this is the first major abortion case since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.

In this case, the decision here is all in the hands of one federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, and his name is judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. He's repeatedly ruled against the Biden administration and progressive policies.

And he worked for anti-abortion groups and causes right before he became a federal judge. So if mifepristone is blocked, it could limit abortion options for women across the country.

What is a two-pill regimen could become a one-pill regimen, which experts say is less effective. And women could have their access to abortion even more limited or virtually disappear.

And even women in states where abortion is still legal right now, they could have a tougher time because access to in-person clinics would become harder if abortion -- if medication abortion is no longer available in its current form, since the most common method of abortion is medication abortion. And that's up to about 10 weeks.

So to give you a background in this case, anti-abortion groups filed it in November and they say the drug is dangerous and should not have been approved by the FDA. But it has been on the market for 23 years. They gained FDA approval in 2000.

And experts at CNN, in the data that we analyzed, it does show this drug is safer than penicillin and Viagra. This is safer, the data finds. So, Kate, a lot is on the line in this politically charged case. And obviously, a decision by this one judge in Texas could affect millions of women across the country who might rely on medication abortions.

All of that unfolding in a Texas courtroom. We have reporters in there and we should be getting an update at some point and it has been going on since 10:00 this morning.

BOLDUAN: We're listening, Jess. Thank you.

Who knew what and when and who did what and when?

That is what both the SEC and the Justice Department are digging into, as they've launched investigations into the collapse of SVB. A member of the Senate Banking Committee is our guest.