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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Thousands Escape Kyiv Through Safe Corridors; White House Warns Russia Could Use Chemical Weapons In Ukraine; Moldova Shows Solidarity With Ukrainian Refugees; U.S. Does Not Support Transfer Of Fighter Jets To Ukraine; Pentagon Shores Up Its NATO Defenses In Europe; Ketanji Brown Jackson Meets With GOP Senate Leadership On Capitol Hill; Michigan Announces First Charges In Boy Scouts Investigation. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 09, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: They're desperate to save their lives and those of their families.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the chaos of this evacuation, the frantic search for lost child. The rush to escape the fighting an orphan has been left behind. Each bus desperately checked for a familiar face.

(on camera): Hi. Hello, hi. You speak English?

(voice-over): For the journey across the front line, the children are well protected against the cold. If not at all. The older kids were terrifying, Natasha (ph) tells me. But the little ones didn't understand the danger they were all in, she says.

This is a mass exodus from areas under heavy Russian assault. The agreed safe corridor which hundreds of civilians, entire families be using to escape the (INAUDIBLE) horrors of the past few weeks become.


CHANCE (on camera): Nadia. Where have you come from, Nadia?

NADIA: From Vorzel.

CHANCE: From Vorzel, which is a town up there.

NADIA: Yes. This is a time -- this is a place which was -- which was the very dangerous and there are a lot of Russians and a lot of Chechens. I don't know.

CHANCE: Russians and Chechens.

NADIA: Yes, Russians and Chechens. And they kill our owner of the house where are we sitting.

CHANCE: They killed the owner of the house?

NADIA: Yes, yes, they killed the owner of the house.

CHANCE: And so you must have been and your family over here.


CHANCE: You must have been terrified.


CHANCE: Frightening.

NADIA: It was terrified. Absolutely terrified. My family is OK.


NADIA: Now we are going in the -- we're leaving.

CHANCE: Where --

NADIA: 10 days in the underground.

CHANCE: You've been 10 days underground.

NADIA: 10 days underground.

CHANCE: Oh, my goodness. There you have it. You know, just one family that has taken this opportunity to escape the horrific situation they found themselves in the last 10 days or more. And again, you take that chance to get themselves and their children out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of volunteers who helped with nutrition and warm.

CHANCE (voice-over): And helping them do that safely. This embattled Ukrainian official tells me is now as much a part of fighting this war with Russia is killing the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Warm food and warm drinks.

CHANCE (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a medical crew that helps to manage people that were wounded. We've seen shelled people with broken and ruptured legs here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have a security force that actually interview people because we are afraid that Russians may have sent some of their own in the --

CHANCE: As spies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As spies. As -- CHANCE: As saboteurs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As saboteurs. yes, right here.

CHANCE: And all this is happening, of course, all this is happening under the threat, the threat of artillery strikes and gunfire.


CHANCE: That's a real threat right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a real threat. But we have no choice because we have thousands of people who really have spent more than a week in the basements with no cellular coverage, with no access to medical assistants with no food, no lights, no electricity, and they want to flee. They need us to help them.

CHANCE (voice-over): But as the buses leave for the capital, the boom of artillery fire resumes in the distance. The window to this escape from the fighter is closing fast.


CHANCE: Well, Jake, it's past midnight here now. And of course, that window has fully closed in the sense that those humanitarian corridors have now -- are now no longer in operation. There's no suggestion at the moment. And it's past midnight here, as I say that there's going to be another opportunity for these people, the thousands of people still left in the areas that are controlled by Russia and whether it's still fight fierce fighting, whether they are going to get another opportunity to escape that violence.

What I will say, though, is that there are negotiations taking place tomorrow in Turkey at the highest level that have taken place since the beginning of this war with the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine, meeting in the city of Antalya in Turkey, to try and hammer out to see if there's any kind of common ground between these two countries.

TAPPER: Matthew, right before we came to you today, you heard air raid sirens and then a roaring sound behind you. Do you know what happened?

CHANCE: Yes, I did. I mean, it was like air raid such sirens of the kind that we hear sort of regularly here in central Kyiv, they're often not followed by anything at all, but this time, a few minutes later there was a roar through the sky which made us all step back from this open window here. I don't quite know what it was.

It could have been jets. It could have been a missile. It could have been Ukrainian anti-aircraft defenses firing at something in the sky but we're going to try and get some clarification on that and come back to you as soon as we can.

TAPPER: All right, Matthew Chance reporting live from Kyiv. Thank you so much. Please stay safe.


Joining us now to discuss Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us. Does the U.S. know for sure that Russia is responsible for this horrific attack on that hospital that maternity and Children's Hospital in Mariupol?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Jake, I haven't gotten a report yet from the intelligence community about it. I'm getting briefed, generally multiple times a day. But I don't have fidelity on that. Of course, the Russians are increasingly indiscriminate in their bombing. It is as sadly we anticipated of the stiff resistance.

The Russians are meeting is causing Putin to simply double down and try to inflict as much pain as possible. So I don't have confirmation. But it's certainly tragically consistent with what we're seeing of how the Russians are broadening this conflict and just trying to inflict maximum pain on the people of Ukraine.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, it certainly wouldn't be out of character. They've already bombed several hospitals in Ukraine, and they did so to a devastating effect in Syria over the past decade. Just moments ago, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, quote, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them, end quote. Do you expect that to happen?

SCHIFF: You know, this is a sadly one of the false flag operations that we anticipate the Russians may deploy. This is part of their tradecraft. And, you know, sadly, we've seen similar things in the past. So I am deeply concerned about it. And of course, depending on how the Russians go about it, if they were to use chemical or biological agents as a pretext, of course, that would be another terrible escalation. And who knows where that could lead.

TAPPER: You mentioned yesterday, what you're hearing from some of your constituents about Ukraine, I want to play that sound.


SCHIFF: I also think, and this is what I hear from my constituents, and I know on a bipartisan basis, it's what my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are hearing that as they want us to do more.


TAPPER: The House is expected to vote this week on a massive spending bill that would include nearly $14 billion in additional assistance for you -- from you -- for Ukraine. What else can the administration do to help save Ukraine from this murderous thug, Vladimir Putin, while also not risking causing World War III?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, that's exactly the line that we have to want, we want to make sure that we don't get into shooting war ourselves with the Russians. But I think there's still more that we can do to continue to ratchet up sanctions on Russia and make the Russian people see the folly of their murderous and despotic ruler.

But also, there's further military support we can provide Ukraine to help Ukraine with its air defense, I think that's a particularly high priority for Ukraine, to make sure that they have the ability to take out some of the Russian aircraft that are engaging indiscriminate bombing, but also to take out Russian tanks and other military vehicles. And so, we're doing our best to provide that kind of support at the same time avoiding any red lines.

TAPPER: Well, there was this plan floated by Poland to have their Soviet made planes MiG-29s go to Ramstein Air Force Base, and then the U.S. would get the planes to Ukraine so they could defend their own skies, do their own no-fly zone. But the Pentagon shot that down.

SCHIFF: Well, as I understand it, what the Pentagon rejected was flying those planes from American base in Germany, and I understand the concern they have about the potential escalation. There should be another way to get those planes to Ukraine. I would certainly support are doing that. And having Ukrainian pilots leave Ukraine to take possession of those aircraft and fly them into Ukraine.

I also want to make sure that we get Ukraine some of the missiles they need, so that they can shoot down Russian aircraft from the ground. That to me is an urgent priority. And I hope that we are and I know we're working with our NATO and other allies to try to make that happen.

TAPPER: It appears that the U.S. and the West have drawn a line and the line is NATO countries. We're not going to come to the defense with our own troops or service members. In Ukraine, they're not a member of NATO but NATO countries that's where we draw the line.


Your Congressman, Congressman Mike, your colleague, Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, spoke to CNN earlier today. I want to play some of what he said.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Can we stop talking about Ukraine is not being a member of NATO. Ukrainian fight, and the Ukrainian spirit of the very reasons embodied in why we formed NATO in the first place. We have to protect them. We have to protect the skies. I know what that means. And we don't do things like this rationally. But if we're balancing things, what needs to be on the other side of the scale for us to act?


TAPPER: Do you disagree with him?

SCHIFF: Look, I understand how he feels. He represents a large Ukrainian diaspora. I do too, that I met with recently in Los Angeles. And it's absolutely heartbreaking and our constituents want us to do more. At the same time, our constituents don't want us to go into war with Russia.

And so I think we have to continue to walk that line make sure that we're providing Ukraine with all the support we can, make sure that we're turning up the pain on Russia. I'm very proud to see Americans in overwhelming numbers support a ban on Russian oil and gas even though that's going to mean more pain at the pump. But I don't think we can go to war with Russia or should go to war with Russia.

TAPPER: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it. They may not have much, but they have kindness. We're going to visit people in Europe's poorest country opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees. That's next.



TAPPER: The sobering number topping our world lead this hour, more than 2.1 million refugees. 2.1 million have now fled Ukraine. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees call that a terrifying number. And we can only expect it to go up as the reality in Ukraine grows even more dire. Nearly 300,000 people have crossed into neighboring Moldova in the last two weeks as CNN's Ivan Watson reports regular people in a Moldovan border village are stepping up to help.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the day Russia first attack Ukraine, residents of this sleepy village in Moldova heard explosions.

RUSANDA CURCA, MOLDOVAN ACTIVIST: You can hear sometimes the explosions from Ukraine is terrifying.

WATSON: It's not just the sounds of war that are coming across the border. Refugees of the conflict have come here too. Some Moldovan villagers have opened their doors to their Ukrainian neighbors in their time of need.

People like Boris Makeyev. This 75-year-old widower welcomed Olga Kuznetsova (ph), her mother and two children into his home after they fled across the border last week.

I feel badly for them, he says. The children are small, this little one is innocent.

Boris holds two-year-old Andrei (ph) as if he was his own grandson. These Ukrainians have never been to Moldova before, but they fled after spending days and nights hiding from Russian airstrikes in the basement of their home.

(on camera): The family left on very short notice after hearing warplanes the night they packed two suitcases and left with five minutes notice. (voice-over): With no advanced planning, the women rely entirely on the generosity of Moldovans for food, shelter and clothing including for eight-year-old Vera (ph). Vera (ph) says they're very kind people here in Moldova.

What made you want to help?

CURCA: I don't know how to act differently. You know.

WATSON: Rusanda Curca has been helping find homes in the village for a few dozen of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians that have fled to Moldova in the last two weeks.

CURCA: So because it's normally to help people in need, some people are hosting refugees other are donating products, stuffs things, and others are just praying for peace.

WATSON: Down the road from Boris's house we meet Valentina Cherney (ph). She took in her Ukrainian sister-in-law Olga and family, including 29-year-old and Natalia, who was seven months pregnant.

We have to stop Vladimir Putin, Olga tells me, or else he'll just keep going invading countries like Moldova and Poland. As she speaks, Olga's 14-year-old daughter fights to hold back tears.

The Moldovan government says tens of thousands of refugees are living in the homes of ordinary Moldovans, an extraordinary act of collective kindness from one of the poorest countries in Europe. Asked how long he could afford to continue hosting this Ukrainian family. Boris Makeyev told me they can stay as long as they need.


WATSON: Jake, there are so many Ukrainian refugee children here that a government official tells me they're starting to look at trying to integrate them into the country's educational system. The kids that I met today, I asked about their studies. And surprisingly, they're continuing to do homework and school assignments at a distance, distance learning, a continuation of a practice that began under the COVID pandemic. Now that they're refugees across borders they continue to study with teachers via the internet who are still in Ukraine. Jake.


TAPPER: Incredible. Ivan Watson reporting live for us from Moldova. Thank you so much. Stay safe.

Our next guest recently said Vladimir Putin maybe the best thing that ever happened to NATO. We're going to ask him if he still feels that way. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Brand new video shows an airstrike on the town of Zhytomyr in central Ukraine. The city's mayor says this strike appeared to hit power plants as well as a civilian building and followed another round of strikes targeting the area last night just part of the brutal Russian bombardment of Ukraine.


Today, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. does not support the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine, even those belonging to Poland to this comes after Poland proposed sending MiG-29 to a U.S. Air Base in Germany, then, to go to Ukraine. CNN's Barbara Starr joins us now live from the Pentagon. Barbara, what exactly did Kirby say?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, he laid out a number of reasons why the U.S. is not supporting this proposal. And one of them is the view that perhaps, in the U.S. view that Ukraine doesn't need them that they have a number of aircraft. They may not be flying as much as they could because of the Russian missile situation in the air. That threat they have squadrons. And he laid out a number of reasons. Have a listen to a bit more of what he had to say.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: He stressed that we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time, and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody either.

The transfer of MiG-29 to Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO. Therefore, we also assess the transfer of the MiG-29 to Ukraine to be high risk.


STARR: Very carefully chosen words there as you can see a message to Moscow or not getting involved in the war from here in the United States from a U.S. base in Germany. But in addition, Kirby went on to say the U.S. talking to a number of allies and partners about additional air defense weapons to Ukraine. Things like Stinger missiles, like surface-to-air missile systems, believing the Ukrainians can make more use of that than additional fighter jets. Jake.

TAPPER: And Barbara you're also learning the Pentagon is beefing up its military infrastructure in Europe and NATO countries. How many troops are we talking about and where?

STARR: Well, we've already seen 500 additional troops go this week, two Patriot missile batteries. Now in Poland on NATO's eastern flank all of this part of an effort to erect essentially a wall of deterrence on NATO's flank, sending a message to Russia don't make any mistakes, don't come across into NATO, we have to turn to and we will use it they hope of course, not to.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks so much. Here to discuss Admiral James Stavridis. He's a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. He's also author of " 2034: A Novel of the Next World War." Admiral, good to see you again. Let's start with that announcement from the Pentagon Kirby, the spokesman for the Pentagon saying the U.S. will not support the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine at this time, even if they're Polish fighter jets, what do you make of that?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I can understand the reticence about doing so it's complicated. There are logistic challenges. And as John Kirby, our mutual friend said, it is escalatory.

Jake, on the other hand, my own view is that I think it's time to take some additional risk here. And this is less risk than having U.S. jets flying over Poland creating a no-fly zone. This is something we could, in my view, continue to think about doing if we can overcome these logistic challenges.

Again, it's about risk calculus. When I hear John say, at this time, I'm not sure what else Putin would do that would cause us to take this step. So I hope we continue to examine this. I thought it was a creative idea.

TAPPER: Poland's initial proposal was to transfer the fighter jets to Ramstein Air Base, that's a U.S. base in Germany, so then the U.S. would transfer the these Polish Soviet made MiGs to Ukraine. Why would that not work for NATO? I know that's not your position. But logistically, what's the issue there?

STAVRIDIS: I think the concern would be that these would be at that point NATO jets. And it was unclear whether the intent was to have them operate from Ramstein, the NATO base in Germany, or to get them into Ukraine.

I for one would not support having them operate out of Germany. I think that does put us into the conflict. But logistically, if you could get those jets into western Ukraine, support them out of a place like Lviv, get them in the air, I think they could have impact.

TAPPER: Why can't Poland just transfer themselves? They're right on the border with Ukraine.

STAVRIDIS: It's a very good question. I think the answer is the Poles are concerned about risk, concerned about Russia identifying them individually as stepping into the war as a combatant. If I were the leader of Poland, I'd be concerned about that to. What Poland is trying to do logically enough is to get the whole Alliance behind the idea. So far it's hit some roadblocks. Let's give it some time.


In the meantime, Jake, as Barbara reported, I think more fruitful and more immediate would be to get additional anti-air weapon systems above and beyond quite literally the altitude Stingers can play at. There are other systems that are available. Let's get them in there as a starting point, let's continue to look at the idea of getting these jets there over time. That would be my prescription. TAPPER: There have been proxy wars between the U.S. and Russia before. I'm thinking right now of Syria and the U.S. and Russia would coordinate so as to not directly attacked each other with these deconfliction lines that they had. But it is true that the U.S. killed some Russian mercenaries I think in Syria, why is this different?

STAVRIDIS: I think that this is different, because it would be potentially, if you mean, the idea that no-fly zone with U.S. pilots, it would put U.S. and Russians, nose to nose in potential combat situations, if you mean the Polish jet.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, the Polish part.

STAVRIDIS: I don't think, yes, in that sense, I agree with you. I don't think this buys much more risk than that. That's why I advocate continuing to look at it.

TAPPER: You said Russian President Putin quote, maybe the best thing that ever happened to NATO, I assume you mean, because it's brought the alliance together, given it a sense of mission? Do you still feel that way?

STAVRIDIS: I do very much so and I think that the Polish jet issue is something the alliance can continue to look at. But step back from that from the moment and look at the unanimity of response to this. And in particular, Jake, I recall in my four years as Supreme Allied Commander, every NATO conference, every NATO gathering, every NATO Summit, I would move like a be directly at Chancellor Angela Merkel or then Minister of Defense, Ursula von der Leyen. And trying to encourage them to increase their defense spending.

I got nowhere in four years. Vladimir Putin in two weeks has gotten the Germans to hit the 2 percent goal and to add 100 billion euros to their budget this year. By the way, the Russian defense budget $70 billion. The Germans are adding well above that this year in defense spending. That's the kind of response that Putin is eliciting from the Alliance.

TAPPER: You were a NATO Supreme Allied Commander from 2009 to 2013. So right after the Russians invaded Georgia, and right before the Russians invaded Crimea, what do you wish NATO countries, the U.S. had done during that period that might have kept Putin from doing what he's doing today doing what he did in Crimea, the year after you left?

STAVRIDIS: Well, first, I'll have to observe, as you correctly say, he invaded right before I got there. And then he invaded right after I left. So maybe the solution is putting an admiral in charge of NATO command. Actually, I think that had little to do with it.

I think what NATO has could have done in that period, would have been to bind itself even more tightly with some of these partner nations. Famously, we worked very closely, for example, with Finland and Poland, not NATO members, they deployed with us to Afghanistan. So did the Ukrainians. I think we could have increased our level of training with them, integrated them more fully as a NATO partner, perhaps that might have deterred Putin. But you know, Jake, as I watched Putin over the last few weeks, the last few months, really the last few years, he is seized with this idea of rebuilding the USSR. It's not clear anything we could have done would have prevented what is occurring now.

TAPPER: Rebuilding the USSR by bombing maternity hospitals.


TAPPER: Admiral James Stavridis, thank you so much. Good to see you again. A barrage of interviews to secure the job of a lifetime what Republican senators are saying after meeting Judge Jackson, Biden's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, on Capitol Hill, Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was peppered with questions behind closed doors from conservative Republican senators such as Mike Lee and Josh Hawley.

Lee told reporters that he will continue a quote thorough review ahead of her confirmation hearing at the end of the month. Hawley called their meeting substantive while moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine struck a more positive tone calling her huddle (ph) yesterday with Judge Jackson quote productive, and saying that the judges credentials were quote impressive, but Collins emphasize that she has not yet made a decision. She is one of three Republicans to have voted to confirm Jackson to her current role on this DC federal appeals court.

Our panel joins us now. So Tia, everyone wants to know how moderate Republicans like Susan Collins will vote on Jackson's domination especially fellow Democratic senators like Mark Warner, who reposted this photo him -- of him questioning Collins posing as a Capitol Hill reporter. But do you expect any early yes commitments from any Republicans ahead of the hearing?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: I don't expect them to play their hands that early, perhaps after the hearings next week, that you'll have some that start coming around. But I think, you know, they don't want to commit themselves because there will be four days of more public vetting of Judge Jackson and I think none of them want to get out there and then something perhaps come out or happened during the hearings.

So I would expect after next week you'll start seeing people saying where they land on her nomination.

TAPPER: And Kasie, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, he thinks the timeline for this nomination process is rushed and quote arbitrary. Dick Durbin's office, the Democratic Whip, he points out Republicans only waited 16 days after announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett's domination to start confirmation hearings, this will be 24 days.


Despite the hypocrisy, do you think the rubber -- they're going to use this rush timeline argument, the Republicans?

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I've been around this town long enough, Jake, as have you to know that those charges of hypocrisy don't seem to matter to either side in any circumstance like this. It's pretty shameless especially. I mean, frankly, Republicans particular, Alice, I apologize.

But you know, when you look at what Mitch McConnell was the way he will twist the arguments on their head sometimes. I mean, there are people in this town that admire that but it is really something to see. And he rushed Amy Coney Barrett through if this timeline is arbitrary. I don't see how that one wasn't.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is a big deal. This is a lifetime appointment. This is one of the most important factors for a lot of people's vote mine, specifically when it came to my vote in the last two elections, because that is a lifetime appointment.

It's important, and it's imperative that we slow down, let the senators engage in their advice and consent process to for this nomination. And look, you know, yes, there is a bit of hypocrisy. But if you look at the actual numbers, the average timeline for confirmation is around 53 days.

Amy Cony Barrett in total was 30 days. And the Democrats schedule in this case for Judge Jackson is around 24. So this is a much shorter timeline. It is arbitrary. But the most important thing here is to have a thorough and an accurate vetting process, because this is such an important decision.

TAPPER: You think that they're going to get any Republican votes?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, "USA TODAY": I don't know I've kind of given up on predicting what Republicans will do. But I think that is, I mean, we're talking about a few days between what you just said, so it's not really that --

TAPPER: 24 and 30.

POWERS: That there's not that big of a difference. And I agree it is a very important, very important position in this country. Judge Jackson, though, of course, was just before the committee for --

TAPPER: Last summer.

POWERS: Yes, a year ago. So were Amy Coney Barrett had been about three years. And so this isn't like a new person that they're not familiar with. So, I think that, you know, she's eminently qualified. And unless something comes up that we don't know about, there's really no reason that she shouldn't be confirmed. There's really no reason to wait. I don't really know what would happen if you added a few more days to it.

TAPPER: So it is the midterms. Let's turn to an election in North Carolina. Former President Trump's endorsed candidate for North Carolina's Senate seat. The retiring senator, Mr. Burr is leaving the seat open and Trump's pick Ted Budd is slipping behind his opponents and internal polling and in fundraising according to Politico. One of Budd's opponents, Republican former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory released this attack ad today. Take a look.


PAT MCCRORY, FMR. NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: While Ukrainians bled and died --

REP. TED BUDD (R-SC): He's a very intelligent actor.

MCCRORY: Congressman Budd excuse their killer.

BUDD: Their strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank. We understand that.

MCCRORY: Budd's votes have been friendly toward Russia. He voted against sanctions on Russia.

I'm Pat McCrory. I don't compliment our enemies. I stand for truth and freedom.


TAPPER: It's very interesting, the subtext there also because in addition, I mean, it's not just Ted Budd, whose compliment or enemies. Donald Trump, he said that Putin was a genius.

I should point out that Budd noted that in other parts of that same interview, he called Putin evil and a thug. What do you make of this the politics of a Republican attacking Republican for being soft on Putin?

STEWART: Well, this is obviously what we're going to see in a Republican primary. This is going to be a big, big race. We're going to see a lot of money in this. This ad, accusing him of being a Putin apologist is just the first of many.

On the flip side, Budd who has the support of the Club for Growth, having been on the receiving end of the Club for Growth attack ads, that's going to be brutal and they are putting big money into going against McCrory already $4 million. They have $10 million in the bank to go after him.

And while right now out of the gate, we have one Republican calling another one a Putin apologist. By the time the Club for Growth is done, a McCrory is going to look like a liberal Grim Reaper. So this is going to be a tough race.

TAPPER: So making McCrory liberals going to be interesting. He's not particularly liberal. But you know, I do think it's interesting, because you obviously do have this, you know, pro Putin wing of the Republican Party these days. And, I mean, you heard some of that echoed in Budd's comments, but also, it's kind of surprising to see a Republican, given, you know, where the party has seemed to have been in the last month or so?

HUNT: Well, I think we're learning a little bit about just how big that quote unquote pro Putin wing is, because certainly those voices have been the loudest, especially under Donald Trump and some of the loudest anti-Putin voices in the Republican Party have been quieter, frankly, over the last five years because of the effect that Donald Trump has had on the party.

But I think you've seen some people kind of pulling back on that a little bit.


I think this is really -- it's being exposed for what it is, which is a button that's being pushed that has echoes of white nationalism, the way that Putin has run Russia and become kind of a hero to white Christians. You're -- that is extremely unsavory. And it goes against, you know, being pro Putin, pro Russia goes against everything that the Republican Party stood for three decades before that. So, you know, I do think that this ad is extremely interesting for that reason, and it's going to be a real test.

TAPPER: I mean, I agree with what you're saying. But I mean, we've heard those voices in prominent positions and conservative media and on in Capitol Hill.

MITCHELL: I mean, I think it shows the limitations of like Republicans want to be in lockstep with former President Trump. But on this issue of being, you know, if not necessarily pro Putin saying nice things about him, we know that doesn't sell well with regular people.

And so they're pivoting not necessarily because of Trump, but in spite of Trump, because they know that the public sentiment is, you know, anti-Putin stands, you know, firmly against him right now. And so that's why I think you're seeing the shift.

POWERS: Yes. Well, I mean, if you just look at polling, and even Republicans, overwhelmingly, if they have to pick sides between Putin and Ukraine, they're picking Ukraine. They see what's going on there. They're looking at the television. It's not just a theoretical thing now. It's a real thing.

And so I don't think Republicans can win on that message actually. I think it's a -- it is a real problem for them to be pro Putin. I just don't think it's going to sell. Now, look, we've seen Fox News and Trump poll voters in a certain way, but it doesn't seem so far that it's working.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, one and all. Great panel. Really appreciate it. Coming up, criminal charges have been filed against a one-time Boy Scout leader details on the sex abuse investigation. That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, Michigan's Attorney General today announced the first criminal charges in the state's ongoing investigation of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts. Michigan officials say they are going through thousands of claims. Let's go to CNN's Alexandra Field. Alexandra, this is horrifying story in this particular case involves a man who's already in jail for similar crimes in New York.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. We're talking about Mark Chapman, a former Michigan Scoutmaster who has been serving time on Child Abuse convictions in New York. He was set to be released this week. Instead, he's now facing a slew of criminal sexual conduct charges from Michigan authorities, who say that for years he abused two young boys one just 13 or 14 according to investigators. At the time the abuse started, the other was 11 years old.


DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mark Chapman is alleged to have abused children for years. He threatened them with violence when they refuse to participate or tried to stop him from continuing his assaults. And he is the source of their pain, their psychological scars and their mental anguish.


FIELD: The investigation into Chaplain followed a tip that was called into a hotline set up by the state which last year announced investigation of allegations of widespread sexual abuse connected to the Boy Scouts of America. Overall, the Michigan Attorney General's office now believes there are as many as 5,000 victims in the state with allegations of abuse tied to the scouts. Nationwide, around 90,000 claims of sexual abuse have been made by former scouts. The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy back in 2020. Facing hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits at that time, Jake.

TAPPER: That's terrifying. Alex, what about the proposed nationwide settlement involving the Boy Scouts and those tens of thousands of victims?

FIELD: Yes, so a confirmation hearing is set to start on Monday. It could last several weeks and this is for a revised restructuring plan for the Scouts of America which would include a historic $2.7 billion compensation fund for survivors of sex abuse.

TAPPER: All right, Alexandra Field, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Horrible story. An underwater mystery has been solved 107 years later. That's next.


[17:57:51] TAPPER: We have a real tale for you in our buried lead, a discovery literally buried nearly 10,000 feet underwater. The shipwreck of the HMS Endurance has been found 107 years after it sank to the bottom of the sea about 100 miles off the coast of Antarctica.

Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men abandoned the HMS Endurance during their 1914 expedition to the South Pole. After the ship became encased in ice and sank in some of the coldest water on the planet. Shackleton's crew camped on the drifting ice for more than five months before eventually making it to the deserted Elephant Island.

Then Shackleton and part of the crew volunteered across 800 miles of some of the most dangerous waters in the world and an open rowboat. Eventually they landed on South Georgia Island. They then had to hike across mountains to reach civilization.

More than 21 months after the Endurance first set sail, team was sent to save the remaining crew on the deserted island. This is August 1916.

Amazingly, everyone on Shackleton's crew survived. And so did apparently the HMS Endurance. Researchers from Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and History Hit, who discovered Endurance using underwater search vehicles say that the 144-foot wooden ship is almost completely intact. And it's in excellent condition because the water is so cold and that helped preserve it.

The HMS Endurance will not be moved, it will not be taken apart, it will remain at the bottom of the ocean, where it will be photographed and mapped for research purposes.

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