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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Mykolaiv Official Asks Residents To Gather Tires And Set Them On Fire; Ukraine's President Zelenskyy Addresses UK Lawmakers; Biden Announces Ban On Russian Energy Imports; U.S. Gas Prices Surge To All- Time High As Oil Costs Soar; Biden Bans Russian Oil, Natural Gas, Coal Imports To U.S.; AAA: U.S. Gas Prices Soar To Record High $4.17 Per Gallon; Zelenskyy Thanks Biden For Banning Russian Energy Import To U.S.; Florida Senate Passes Bill Banning LGBTQ Topics In Some Classrooms; Pop Star Dua Lipa Hit With 2nd Copyright Case For Hit Song. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 08, 2022 - 17:00   ET



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, Jake, it is -- I have to say quite troubling how dark this city, that's normally bustling has fallen in the last hours. A couple of hours ago we were seeing what seemed to be outgoing shelling on its outskirts that lit the sky up briefly and at dusk we saw what you referred to earlier on, which is the piling up of tires just down here below.

The only real light in the town right now is that a police car that seems to be patrolling relatively constantly. The streetlights have been turned off. The city basically bracing yourself for the possibility of some sort of assault.

Now, the tires were an extraordinary appearance because the relatively bullish Regional Governor Vitaly Kim had sounded very confident in the past days about kicking the Russians out of the International Airport and how that essentially been capturing lots of Russian armor of late.

Today, he sounded a very different tone, saying that he understood that the Russians thought they could capture the city, quote, at any cost. And asking those locals who were not willing to fight at higher risk, he said, to bring spare tires to any intersection they possibly could.

Two hours later on, we've seen a lot of people literally down here before dusk, bringing their cars up and just pulling tires out and dumping them at various positions. Two hours later, he said, Look, you've been amazing, the people of Mykolaiv, you've done what we needed. Please don't set fire to the tires until I give you the order.

And this is an extraordinary guy because he's been using his telegram account here the social media messaging app to essentially galvanize rally the population over the last days.

And so there's a feeling I think, here, Jake, that we are potentially bracing for something quite bad. We've seen the assault over the last 10 days being at times random a lot of artillery on the skyline. It has been exceptionally quiet tonight and this in the last hours or so at the same Regional Governor Vitaly Kim, who said they're not necessarily expecting an assault tonight, more something at dawn. And this city, Mykolaiv is obviously vitally important because of where it sits on the Black Sea coast. And tonight, it is chillingly silent. Jake

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Nick Paton Walsh reporting live in the Mykolaiv. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Ukrainian president Zelenskyy today addressed British lawmakers via video conference he promised the Ukrainians would quote fight to the end. CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joins us now live from Kyiv. And Matthew, there were some very one assumes purposeful echoes of Winston Churchill in Zelenskyy speech tell us what he said.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. He referenced the Churchill's famous fight on the beaches speech by saying that, you know, we will not surrender to the Russians. We'll fight them in the fields and in the forests, or will fight them on the shores and in the streets. And so that was obviously very resonant intentionally, of that famous, you know, Churchill speech.

And he got a standing ovation for it. It was very emotional, indeed. And, you know, this is, you know, again, underlining his status, as, you know, a real war leader in this country. I have to say though, his central request or demand of the British Parliament was, again, for a no-fly zone, to be imposed over the skies over Ukraine to stop Russia's bombing of civilian areas and to prevent it from degrading further the Ukrainian military. It's a call that has been making when anybody will listen to him. He made it to the Americans earlier, to the US, to the Europeans. And then he made it again, in the British Parliament.

And it was really interesting that, you know, after he finished that speech, and after he got that standing ovation, no one from the main political parties in Britain even mentioned, the idea of a no-fly zone. And so it just underlines that idea, that fact that when it comes to imposing a no-fly zone in the skies of Ukraine at the moment, Western countries, including Britain, including the United States, see as a no go area, because it would bring NATO pilots into direct confrontation potentially, with Russia, which could be a real matter for escalation.

Nevertheless, you know, again, another very successful speech in the sense that he underlined and sort of bolstered this degree of sympathy that there is in many Western countries now for Ukraine's plight, Jake.

TAPPER: Matthew in the city of Sumy last night in Ukraine, an official says a Russian airstrike in a residential area killed 21 Ukrainian civilians, including two children. Russia, I guess it's agreed to assemble single humanitarian quarter out of the city for anyone who wanted to flee Sumy. Did they uphold -- did they uphold that agreement? CHANCE: I think to some extent they did. Yes. But you're right. I mean, in the hours before that agreement came into force, there was this, I mean, absolutely horrific incident. Ukrainians are saying it was an airstrike in which 21 people were killed. I mean, I think that has to be one of the single biggest incidents of the loss of life in a single airstrike that we've seen so far, although, you know, we'll see what the final sort of total is of that, the wrecking is of that when we see all these various incidents laid out.


But you're right, the ceasefire did hold the corridor was made available to people coming out of the city. There has been a ceasefire imposed, if you like, are upheld in various cities across the country, particularly in Kyiv, over the course of the past 24 hours.

And within the past few hours, the Russians have said that they will, you know, hold fire again, tomorrow. And so we are seeing this succession of offers by the Russians to stop firing to allow citizens civilians rather to evacuate these residential areas.

And, you know, one of the reasons for that might be they want to empty them before they really go in hard to bring them under Russian control so that that may be what's one motivation behind it.

TAPPER: We know that Russians have attacked fleeing Ukrainians, even ones in what were thought to be humanitarian corridors, whether in the south of the country, there was that horrific mortar explosion that The New York Times captured of that family that was killed by a Russian munition of some sort.

So there's a lot of skepticism, obviously, understandable skepticism of the Russians. How are Ukrainian officials responding to this new proposal from Russia for a ceasefire in several cities?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, yes, they are treating it with skepticism, because you're right. I mean, we have seen these horrific scenes of, you know, green corridors, being supposed to supposedly agreed by the Russians, only for the civilian population to be, you know, ruthlessly shelled as they attempt to get themselves and their families, children, old people to safety.

I mean, remember, the deliberate shelling of civilians is a war crime. And, you know, there have been calls repeated around the world for, you know, for those responsible for this to be to be held to account. But at the moment, of course, the big concern is, can those green corridors work? Can the safe passages be opened up wide enough to allow these the vast majority of the people trapped inside these residential areas to get out to safety?

TAPPER: All right, Matthew Chance reporting live for us in Kyiv. Thank you. Please stay safe. One letter has become synonymous with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That's the letter Z, which by the way isn't even found in the Russian alphabet. But as CNN's Phil Black reports after that letter was spotted on Russian tanks, and Russian military vehicles, it's become a symbol for those supporting Putin's barbaric war on the Ukrainian people.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's impossible not to notice. Many of the Russian vehicles invading Ukraine carry a distinctive mark trucks, tanks, fighting engineering and logistical vehicles. They are advancing through Ukraine with the letter Z painted conspicuously in white.

The people being invaded have noticed here in the eastern Ukrainian town of cookouts and angry crowds swarms after and attacks a single vehicle, it's only obvious connection to the war, the letter Z.

ARIC TOLER, DIRECTOR, RESEARCH AND TRAINING, BELLINGCAT: It's almost certainly some kind of tactical grouping. There's a million different theories about what the Z means but I think it's just a marker just easy to do. Easy thing to mark is like a square or triangle.

BLACK: In a war where the wannabe conquerors are not flying their national flag. That single character has taken on special significance.

At a recent gymnastics world cup event, 20-year-old Russian competitor Ivan Kuliak accepted his bronze medal wearing a Z prominently on his chest. He was standing next to a Ukrainian athlete. The sport's governing body described it as shocking behavior. But how do you describe this? Terminally ill children and their carers formed a giant Z outside of hospice in the Russian city of Kazan.

BRIAN KLAAS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF COLLEGE LONDON: It's disgusting that the state is co-opting young children to be propaganda mechanisms for their war is dangerous when small little symbols become proxies for being a loyal citizen in an authoritarian regime during a time of war because those who don't wear it, those who don't show the Z could be targeted by the state.

BLACK: And in this highly produced propaganda video, Russian men wearing that letter declare their support for the invasion, chanting for Russia, for the president, for Russia, for Putin. An aerial shot shows a giant sea made from the orange and black The St George's ribbon a traditional symbol of Russian military glory usually associated with victory over Nazi Germany.


By accident or design, a character that doesn't feature in Russia's alphabet has become an iconic symbol of Putin's invasion and the propaganda campaign to win support among his people. Phil Black, CNN, London.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Phil Black for that report. Ukraine's President suggests the U.S. and its allies may be complicit in a genocide of the Ukrainian people. Up next to senator who recently met with President Zelenskyy joins us to talk about that accusation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back.


With our world lead, President Biden today announced a full ban on Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports to the United States. President Biden saying he hopes this will quote, deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine. Joining us live to discuss Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and met with President Zelenskyy in Ukraine before the invasion.

Senator, how big of an impact will this make in deterring Vladimir Putin's bloodshed in Ukraine, especially given the fact that this is a unilateral move made independently of European allies, though, I'm sure Biden tried to get them on board.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: This is not a symbolic move. But without Russia, the impact, excuse me, without Europe, the impact on Russia's economy of just removing their oil from imports to the United States is probably limited. And I think there's a moral imperative for the United States to not send money to fund Putin's war. But we are a very small share of Russia's exports.

And so doing this without Europe, I don't think it's necessarily going to fundamentally change Putin's calculus, it's ultimately going to be the accumulation of the impact of all of these economic sanctions that may eventually cause Putin to realize he may have a choice to be made between perpetuating this war in Ukraine and keeping a hold on power.

So, I'm glad the President went ahead with it. I think we got to be careful to make sure that there's not too big an impact on American consumers. But without Europe, the impact on Putin remains to be seen.

TAPPER: Russian oil supplies as you note, it's only a small slice of U.S. energy needs just 8 percent in 2021. In the second half of February, the Department of Energy reported that imports dropped to zero as U.S. companies cut ties with Russia. So I guess I wonder, given the fact that American companies were already doing this, what do you say about this ban? Was it necessary even was the free market already doing that?

MURPHY: As the United States economy continues to rev up, there was certainly going to be an increased demand on energy consumption. And thus, you always have the possibility of private companies bringing in Russian energy, I think it makes sense to have this policy on the books. I just don't know that we should overhype. Its impact, ultimately, the broader sanctions that we have levied on Russian banks and news of all of these private companies, from Starbucks to Coca Cola, de MasterCard, pulling out of Russia, that's really where the primary impact is going to be.

But let's just admit the insanity of a U.S. economy that continues to run on oil that is provided to us by dictators. The reality is, if we're not getting this oil from Russia, we're likely going to be importing more from another brutal dictator in Saudi Arabia, for instance, or we may have to go to Venezuela for oil. We should ultimately learn our lesson here and become energy independent and choose to invest in clean domestic energy. So we never have to choose between one dictator versus another.

TAPPER: Now, I mean, Republicans say the same thing except they're not talking about clean energy. They're just talking about American fuel, fossil fuels from Louisiana or Anwar or Keystone. But on that subject, though, you raise an important point, you talk about the moral imperative of the United States not funding Putin's brutal, barbaric war against the Ukrainian people.

But now the solution to that is that we're now going to be funding Maduro in Venezuela or the mullahs in Iran or the Saudi regime. I mean, these are also governments that are doing things that that they'll take our money and use it to do things that are morally repugnant.

MURPHY: Well, there's -- I don't think massive U.S. oil imports from Venezuela or Iran coming anytime soon, it is the likely we are going to need to import more oil from the Saudis. And on any given day, the behavior of the Saudi regime rivals that of the Venezuelans and the Iranians.

I think you need to remember when you talk about domestic oil production, there's no guarantee that that stays in the United States. When we produce oil here in the United States, that goes to the highest bidder, sometimes that's here in the US. But oftentimes, that oil gets sent to China, that all gets sent to Europe. Renewable energy stays in the United States when we are producing energy from solar panels or wind turbine that stays on the American grid. So if you really care about keeping American made energy in the United States, you should be investing in renewables.

TAPPER: So gas prices are at record highs. And a lot of Americans were already struggling to buy gas for their car. This might not affect you or me. But, you know, people in rural America who travel long distances, people who are living paycheck to paycheck, this really makes a difference.

What can the administration and the Congress do to help those struggling Americans? Polls indicate that people including a majority of Republicans are willing to sacrifice to for this moral imperative, but what more can be done for the people who really can't afford this?


MURPHY: No, listen, I think you're exactly right. And I frankly been saying this for the last several days is that I frankly didn't want the administration to move out too quickly on this policy without making sure that we could backfill that Russian oil. Because I do think it's really easy for the political elites in Washington to tell low income consumers, they should pay more for a gallon of gasoline in order to save Ukraine, that's a lot harder for people that don't have the extra money in Waterbury, Connecticut. So, I think in the short run that probably doesn't mean we're going to have to bring in more oil from places like Saudi Arabia. I'm interested in a proposal that some of my colleagues have here to temporarily suspend the gas tax, or lower the gas tax to try to defray the costs for consumers. But I think as long as this war is happening in Ukraine, the market is going to price in an amount of instability that's going to keep energy prices high.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you so much. Good to see you, sir. Coming us, U.S. gas prices inching closer and closer to $5 a gallon, how high will they go? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money late today, more big American brands cut ties with the Kremlin earlier today. Coca Cola says it's suspending business in Russia. McDonald says it's closing all of its locations in that country. Then there's President Biden's move today to ban oil imports from Russia coming as gas prices already are soaring to an all-time high. The price for a gallon of regular now averages 4.17, according to AAA. That crushes the old record of 4.11 set in 2008. Not only are gas prices bound to go even higher, as CNN's Pete Muntean reports the spike is already spilling over onto other areas.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New record high gas prices are pumping drivers full of anxiety. Uber driver Mohammad Tehrani says he's done circling the DC area for rides. Instead he waits in this line with his car turned off.

MOHAMMAD TEHRANI, FAIRFOX, VIRGINIA: A few weeks ago it was like $3. Now it's like jump to a dollar. For driver this is bad. It's not good.

MUNTEAN: AAA says the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $4.17 on Tuesday, up more than 55 cents in only a week. Some of the worst prices are on the West Coast. This station in Pasadena, California is actually below the county average.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's horrible. We can't even live anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big jump.

MUNTEAN: Prices are soaring since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. President Joe Biden's latest measure is to ban imports of Russian oil, meaning gas prices could go up even more.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The decision today is not without cost here at home.

PATRICK DE HAAN, HEAD OF PETROLEUM ANALYSIS, GAS BUDDY: We'll have a short term effect and gas prices are going to continue going up as a result of that. MUNTEAN: The impact could go far beyond the pump. Retail groups fear Americans will lose extra spending money for things like food and clothes. Even summer trips could cost more with jet fuel just reaching a 14-year high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gas prices find their way into the cost of virtually everything.

MUNTEAN: Relief can't come soon enough for Uber drivers like Mohammad Tehrani what he pays for gas comes out of his paycheck.

TEHRANI: It is tough. I mean, but what can we do? This is what it is for now.


MUNTEAN: We also heard from one driver near Chicago he says it used to cost him about $85 to chop off his pickup truck. Now he says it costs more like $120. You know this is all coming as more people are iron guy going back to work. Many returned to work dates are set for the next few weeks. And Jake, it's commuters who are in for really big sticker shock here.

TAPPER: YEs. Pete Muntean, thanks so much. Let's jump into this and elicits. I have to say it's hard to imagine a lot of the same Republicans who pushed for this ban on Russian oil and gas. Not ultimately blaming Biden for gas prices, even though I realized they were high before this down the road. There's not going to be a lot of nuanced conversation about this in October is what I'm saying.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS UNDER TRUMP: Well, let me start by saying this. I give the Biden administration tremendous credit for the last couple of weeks of how they've handled the Ukraine situation. I think they've managed to unite the Europeans, which is no small task.

But I will say this gas prices were rising before the conflict started. And the problem is, is Republicans are going to say we're not doing domestic production. We could be producing as many as 200,000 barrels of oil here in the U.S. as opposed to exporting it from Russia, or even from Venezuela or Iran.

So I think our, you know, the argument you're going to see heading into the midterms is A, don't import it from tyrants anywhere, whether it's in South America or in Russia, but also what are we doing domestically to address this issue.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATGIST: What we're doing is drilling. The rig count Baker Hughes is a drilling company. The rig count a year ago was 403 domestic, 650 today. OK, now, Joe Biden doesn't drill. ExxonMobil does. And they have the oil industry in America 9,000 leases that they're not using. Why? Did they all of a sudden join -- did Exxon joined the Sierra Club? Are they worried about the environmental impact of their drilling? No, they want high prices. They want this spike. They're popping champagne corks in the Exxon boardroom now. And I do think the White House ought to be more candid. Yes, this is Putin causing it. But I know who's profiting from it and ain't the American people.

LAURA BARRON LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: They were today during the White House press briefing now how many Americans actually listened to or what ultimately the press secretary says but she did -- White House press secretary Jen Psaki did talk a lot about the fact that they are trying to explain to the American public and she said that she hoped the press would do that yes, on federal production. She said there are actually 9,000 approved permits out there that are unused.


LOPEZ: And that on top of it, you know, that Biden -- the President made this decision on the oil experts to ban the Russian oil experts very deliberately, very carefully. Some may say it was with Congress nipping at his heels. But the President has been very careful to not make a decision like this without really consulting closely with European allies, knowing that they were probably not going to make this decision at the same exact time he was going to. And a lot of them haven't so far.

TAPPER: It is a nuanced and complex issue, which is not necessarily a good thing you want to -- I think you want to have if you're the politician in favor of it. I will say this also, you just heard Senator Chris Murphy note, the oil and gas industry, they do produce a lot of oil and gas in the United States, domestic oil production is up. But that doesn't mean they sell it to Americans, they sell it to, as Murphy said, the highest bidder, which is often China.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think that's right. And Paul makes this point. And I think you have the Biden administration, trying to make this point as well, that these oil and gas companies are making tons and tons of money. I think last year was a record --


HENDERSON: -- year in terms of their profits. They don't want to cut back on that profit, even though Americans are paying record high prices. I was in Alabama a couple of weeks ago. And gas was something like $3. And on the pump, there was a sticker of Joe Biden that said, Joe Biden did that.

So this is already baked into the cake, I think for Joe Biden in a terrible way, in terms of the politics of it going into November. And, you know, the nuance of it, you know, what the oil and gas companies are doing, what Russia is doing, that's going to be lost, I think, as you try to make this argument to Americans that are really paying -- you know, prices at the pump that they haven't seen a year.

TAPPER: And a Democratic member of Congress said something to me that I thought was interesting, which is, this is how the American people gauge inflation, right? This is -- they don't look at, you know, the Consumer Price Index.


TAPPER: They just go to the pump, they see the prices are up, and they're mad at whoever's in charge.

BARRON LOPEZ: Right. When they're at their grocery store, when they're at the gas station. I will say I've been in a number of focus groups, with Democratic voters, but across the spectrum, whether it's young voters, older voters, you know, white, black voters. And so far, the Democratic base is still saying that they are trusting Biden, and that they actually are with him on his decision so far on Ukraine and Russia. They do also say that, yes, the gas prices are hurting them, and that they're not happy about it --


BARRON LOPEZ: -- but they're still sticking with him to this.

GRIFFIN: And the Wall Street Journal had a poll that actually echoed that nationally saying that most people are in favor of this ban, and they're willing to eat the cost for a period. But if I'm advising President Biden, which I'm not, I'd say you've got about a two-week window to figure out what you're doing to drive down costs. That sentiment isn't going to last for that long, I think. We all are heartbroken over what's happening in Ukraine. But if you're living paycheck to paycheck, you just can't justify that for too long.

TAPPER: And you heard, Murphy --


TAPPER: -- there I say that because he said and I agree that people in Washington come up with -- we say things like the American people can sacrifice. I'm not saying this, but I'm (INAUDIBLE) politicians that the American people can sacrifice their important principles. I can afford it. It's no skin off my back. But there are Americans, as Alyssa says, living paycheck to paycheck.

People in rural America have to drive two hours to work or truckers. I mean, there are a lot of people this is really going to hurt. Again, I'm not saying there isn't a moral imperative. What does Biden need to do other than talk about the need to make the sacrifice? What can he do to help bring down prices for all?

BEGALA: First, he needs explain that he gets it, right? Because he's driven around a limousine that, you know, he's not paying at the pump. He has to explain to folks that he used to be a car guy.

TAPPER: But, you know, in general, I mean, he know.

BEGALA: He used -- no, he -- certainly he lived in --

TAPPER: Right. BEGALA: -- the real world for quite a while before he moved into the White House, that's first. But second, I think Senator Murphy is right, they need to look for offsets. I don't know if this is right policy, but they're already politicians in the Democratic Party talking about a windfall profits tax on the old companies with offsets going to poor and middle class families paying this bill. And then others want to put some of it toward alternative energy.

And you heard Chris Murphy sort of hinting toward that. So you got to find offsets, but they shouldn't lose sight of the villain. Walt Disney said this, he said, I judge my movies based on the villain. How evil the villain is, is how good the movie is.

TAPPER: But are you saying that Putin or oil companies?

BEGALA: Well, that's -- I thought Putin first.


BEGALA: The oil companies are generally a pretty good villain, but Putin is an animal and a monster and he is causing this.

HENDERSON: You know, I think that's right. But if you were paying $5 --

BEGALA: Right.

HENDERSON: -- to go to work, and you know, per gallon --

TAPPER: It's up top six in California.

HENDERSON: Six -- I mean, this -- you know, all of this sort of strain you.

BEGALA: They still have to find offset.

HENDERSON: You're still showing this money out. It doesn't really do any good. And also, I don't think they have enough time to address this, right?

GRIFFIN: (INAUDIBLE) the gas companies right now. I actually think that that's -- you're going to have a better bet for the next couple of months trying to broke a deal and saying we are in this, you know, historic moment than if you're going to try to --

TAPPER: What's the argument? How do you convince oil companies to give up profits?

GRIFFIN: I think that there's been huge consumer demand for companies to do the right thing with regard to Russia. So I actually think that the -- I think the consumer desire is there. They could come around. I mean, listen it's an uphill battle but that's where I would be having (INAUDIBLE).

[17:35:04] BARRON LOPEZ: The White House must be listening to Paul because, I mean, today the Press Secretary was saying that she called these gas price hikes, you know, this gas issue, Putin's -- Putin is to blame, it was Putin gas hikes. And so that is the villain that the White House is, you know, has squarely in their sights when they're trying to explain it.

TAPPER: Well, it's a very, very important issue and a lot of people out there who are going to be feeling a lot of pain and we all hope, of course, that we figure out a way out of this. My thanks to the panel.

You might not believe the latest fight in Florida is a controversial new law sparking outrage. What does it say? Coming up.


TAPPER: In our world lead, moments ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a new video. He thanked President Biden for announcing the U.S.'s new ban on Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports to this country. Zelenskyy saying, quote, it is very simple, every penny paid to Russia turns into bullets and projectiles that fly to other sovereign states, unquote.


Here to discuss now, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland who just briefed lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Thank you so much for joining us. What direct specific impact do you think President Biden's ban on Russian energy imports into the U.S. will have?

VICTORIA NULAND, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, Jake, 70 percent of Russian oil is now offline thanks to sanctions and bands like the one that President Biden put in place now. And I was listening to your last panel, we need to remember that the villain here is President Putin. And President Zelenskyy is right, every drop of Russian oil that is consumed is another drop of Ukrainian blood spilled.

TAPPER: So watching the way that President Biden has gone about announcing these sanctions, it's obvious that he's been trying to work closely with the European Union and NATO and sometimes even letting them take the lead, for instance, on the sanctions personally against Putin. I don't need to tell you that the E.U. has significantly more exposure to Russian energy than the U.S. which it's about 7 percent or 8 percent of our imports. You know, you're completely depends upon it.

Biden made this move unilaterally, I assume that suggests that he couldn't get E.U. on board. Don't -- doesn't the world need the E.U. to be fully committed to a full ban at some point for this to have the intended impact on Putin and the war?

NULAND: Well, Jake, as as you said, first of all, President Biden did consult very closely, including yesterday with key allies to make clear that we intended to move but also that we understand that their exposure is much greater. And that because, historically, so many countries in Europe have depended on Russian gas and oil, that they are not going to be able to turn on a dime on this one as we are. There are other things that they can do that are difficult for us to do.

So part of what we're trying to do as this allied family is each contribute from where we are strong. But I do think that this conflict has put a shot in the arm to those in Europe who want to diversify away from Russia yet gas and oil. And we will be able to accelerate that process in the period ahead.

TAPPER: Putin has called the sanctions. He said they're equivalent to a, quote, declaration of war. Is there any scenario in which the U.S. might talk about lifting some of the measures if Putin started removing troops from Ukraine? In other words, are they on the negotiating table? Is there a way to use these sanctions to give Putin an off ramp? Is that the exact purpose of them?

NULAND: Well, the primary purpose of these sanctions, first, before we instituted them, and when we were just talking about them was an effort to deter Putin from going in. That, obviously, did not succeed, but now we have to punish him. And, unfortunately, we have to make the Russian people to also feel what he has done to global peace and security. So that's the first purpose, is to ensure that over the long term, over the medium term, ideally over the short term, that this is a strategic loss for President Putin.

That said, if in fact, he gets out of Ukraine, if in fact, he gives back what he has stolen and makes reparations, obviously, the Ukraine -- we will work with the Ukrainians on lifting of sanctions. I want to live for that happy day.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, today, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines said Putin is not going to be deterred. He might escalate because he, quote, perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose, unquote. Give the American people a clear-eyed assessment. How do you see this ending?

NULAND: Look, he is losing tanks and aircraft. He has thousands of soldiers dying, who will go home in body bags to Russians. He has citizens now who have zero access to a free press or ATMs or Western technology. The pressure on him is growing. And sooner or later, he will wake up or the Russian people will wake up.

Unfortunately, it could be a long and difficult grind to get from here to there. And I think all of us owe a huge debt to the Ukrainian people. Because it is they who are sacrificing not just for their democracy, but for all of our democracies.

TAPPER: I think a lot of Americans, tens of millions of Americans are heartbroken by the images we're seeing, crying children, dead bodies of families. I do want to know if it's OK with you, your grandparents were Ukrainian immigrants. I don't know if that makes it extra hard for you to watch but you do have a tie to this country. NULAND: Actually, Jake, my grandparents came from nearby. They came some from -- some of my family came from Minsk in Belarus where Russian soldiers have walked through on their way to Ukraine. And others came from Moldova which is another country that Putin is threatening particularly if he is successful in an attack on Odessa and then keeps going north.


So, yes, I am proud to be an American diplomat. And that is only possible because my grandparents left Russia to escape the Czar's pogroms and the Czar's army. And, unfortunately, we're having a repeat of Russian history in terms of the brutality against their own -- against the citizens of the region.

TAPPER: Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

NULAND: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Parents again at the center of politics this time in Florida, a bill heading to Governor DeSantis's desk banning some conversations in some classrooms, that's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, Florida's State Senate just passed a contentious and controversial bill that would limit conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms for younger kids, kindergarten through third grade. Now the legislation is headed to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis's desk. He is expected to sign it. It's officially named the Parental Rights and Education Bill. It is unofficially called the Don't Say Gay bill by its opponents who worry that it will harm kids who identify as LGBTQ.

CNN's Leyla Santiago reports on the bill from Florida. She reports at the state that may be paving the way for other conservative legislators to copy their newest classroom crusade.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite the state-wide protests --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the Florida legislature that what they are doing does not represent us.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The emotional pleas.

SHEVRIN "SHEV" JONES (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: I never knew that live in my truth would cause church members to leave my dad's church. Our friends does not talking to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 22 yeas, 17 nays, Mr. President. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the bill passes.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Florida Senate today passed Bill 1557, a bill that essentially bars teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in the classrooms of young students. The bill calls for procedures to reinforce the fundamental right of parents, and prohibits instructions on sexual orientation or gender identity, and K through third grade in a manner that is not age appropriate, but doesn't define what that means.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And we're going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum.

JONES: There is no curriculum for K through third grade. And so that's in sex education. So if that's the case, then what are we doing right now? Why is this even necessary?

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Florida democratic and openly gay Senator Shevrin Jones argued the bill is a political move that is hurtful to the LGBTQ community. Critics refer to it as the Don't Say Gay Bill, even though the bill does not specifically prohibit the use of the word gay.

The spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis, however, on her personal Twitter account, has called it something very different. The Anti- Grooming Bill, grooming, a predatory practice used by sex offenders to gain trust and seduce children, which is not in the bill either.

BRANDON WOLF, PRESS SECRETARY, EQUALITY FLORIDA: There is an assertion that LGBTQ people simply by existing are a threat to children. That is bigotry. It's at the core of this bill.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.

DESANTIS: I think it's inappropriate to be injecting those matters, like a transgenderism into a kindergarten classroom.

JONES: And to those who thinks you can legislate gay people away, I'm sorry, you cannot.


SANTIAGO: And Jake, we should mention that in a staff e-mail today, Disney the CEO of Disney, which by the way, employs 75,000 people in Florida said that the leadership there unequivocally stands with the LGBTQ community, but he stopped short of taking a stand on the bill itself.

TAPPER: How soon is Governor DeSantis expected to sign this bill into law?

SANTIAGO: You know, what the timeline is exactly, we still are waiting to hear on that. But I can tell you in speaking to some of the LGBTQ advocates, they are hoping that maybe there's a possibility for some sort of change of heart here. But I think for the most part, most people are expecting him to continue with what has been his support of this bill and sign up pretty quickly.

TAPPER: Leyla Santiago in Miami, thank you so much.

Coming up, she's one of the most popular pop stars on the planet right now. And she just got sued for the second time in days. That's next.



TAPPER: In our pop culture lead, British superstar musician Dua Lipa is facing a second lawsuit today, accusing her of copying music for her smash hit "Levitating" just days after another band made the same allegation in a lawsuit filed Friday. The first complaint from the group Artikal Sound System alleges that Lipa song is substantially similar to its 2017 track, "Live Your Life", but you can judge for yourself.


TAPPER: The second lawsuit alleges that Lipa's hit tune copied the melody to the 1979 track, "Wiggle and Giggle All Night," the songwriters highlight interviews with Lipa, in which they say she admits to taking inspiration from historic music to create her album. Billboard named Lipa's "Levitating", Song of the Year for 2021 after spending 68 weeks on the hot 100 chart.

I guess to some people and occasion is not the sincerest form of flattery.

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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.