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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Honoring Lives Lost & Shattered in Russia's War on Ukraine; U.S. Assesses 2 Ukrainian Missiles Struck Key Russian Warship; Zelenskyy on Sunken Warship, Russia "Less Capable" Without It; Ukraine: Russia Taking Revenge for Sinking of Key Warship; Texts: Lawmakers Encouraged, Then Soured on Overturning Election. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired April 15, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Well, THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER and his more -- more of his exclusive interview with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, that starts right now.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Have a good weekend.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'm looking out on the capital city of Kyiv on day 51 of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine.
I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to this special broadcast of THE LEAD live from Ukraine. We're going to get to today's top headlines and my exclusive interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in just a moment.
But, first, I want to pause and reflect on the human cost of this horrific war, on victims young and old. Those whose names we know, those whom we don't.
The Ukrainian ministry of defense shared this image of a blood-soaked stuffed horse, left behind after the deadly massacre on a train station full of evacuees in the town of Kramatorsk one week ago today.
The government says Ukrainian national police will send this child's toy to the United Nations as evidence of what happened that day, evidence of a war crime, one that left seven children dead. Five were killed that day. Two more succumbed to their wounds only recently.
We do not know if this stuffed animal's owner survived, but I would like to ask you to think for a moment. Just a moment today, but its possible owner. A child maybe told he or she can only bring one toy with them when they finally got a chance to flee their town. One beloved toy, and he or she chose this one. Now it's headed to the United Nations. And it is soaked in innocent blood.
This is Tetyana Osimenko (ph). A photojournalist with AFP Getty took this image of her standing in own yard in Bucha not far from where I'm standing. She is weeping over the dirt grave of her son. A few individual flowers and some personal objects stuck into the mound of dirt mark where he lies.
Today, the regional prosecutor of Kharkiv says seven Ukrainians were killed and 27 others wounded when Russian forces opened fire on two buses full of evacuees. This photo shows what was left of those two buses.
Along with the Ukrainian coast, in Mariupol, heart-stopping new video showing the unbelievable scale of destruction in that maritime city. Local officials say early estimates show as many as 22,000 innocent people have been killed in that city.
Russians claim they have made new advances there today. And Ukrainian officials say two Russian long-raining bombers struck Mariupol with cruise missiles. The head of the police force here in Kyiv says more than 900 bodies have been discovered around the capital region since the Russian army withdrew earlier this month. The Kremlin claims today that it fired a long-range missile from the Black Sea, and destroyed a military facility outside Kyiv, one that produced and repaired anti- missile systems.
That is particularly notable as a U.S. official confirmed Ukraine's claims that its missiles sank one of Russia's most important warships in the Black Sea. The Ukrainian armed forces says they know that Russians are likely taking their revenge for that sinking, and, quote, we are ready. We are resisting.
I sat down earlier today with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who told me that the sinking of Moskva is, quote, not a tragedy for us. He also spoke about the unimaginable losses faced by Ukrainian families, moms and dads, brothers and sisters.
Here's just part of our conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The Russian warship, the Moskva, that one that Ukrainian soldiers told to F off, sank. The Russians say, and the Russians are liars, but the Russians say it sank on its own.
Can you offer some clarity and evidence as to what happened to that ship?
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We know that it does not exist anymore. For us, it was a strong weapon against our country.
So, it's sinking is not a tragedy for us. I want you and the rest of the people to realize that. The least weapons the Russian Federation that attack our country has, the better for us, the less capable they are. This is important. And about what happened to it, the history will tell.
TAPPER: Do you have any idea how many Ukrainian soldiers or Ukrainian civilians have been killed?
[16:05:01] ZELENSKYY: I know. I know about --
TAPPER: How many?
ZELENSKYY: As of now, based on the information we have, because it's very difficult to talk about civilians since the south of our country where the towns and cities are blocked, Kherson, Berdyansk, Mariupol, further east, the area to the east, where Volnovakha (ph) is. We just don't know how many people have died in that area that is blocked.
Let's take Volnovakha as an example. Volnovakha as other towns are empty, they are all destroyed. There are no people there. So it's difficult to talk about it now.
As to our military, out of the numbers we have, we think that we lost 2,500 to 3,000. In comparison to the Russian military who lost about 19,000 to 20,000.
That's the comparison. But we have about 10,000 injured and it is hard to say how many will survive.
TAPPER: I'm sure you've seen the video of the Ukrainian mom finding her son, her sorrow, her crying. It is devastating to hear. And you have seen a lot of videos out there. What is it like for you as the president of this country to see those videos, to hear the crying of the moms?
ZELENSKYY: This is the scariest I've seen in my life in principle. I look at this first of all as a father. It hurts so, so much.
It's a tragedy. It is suffering. I won't be able to imagine the scale of suffering for these people, of this woman. It is a family's tragedy. It's a disaster.
It's the dreams and the life you just lost. We live for our kids. That's true. Kids are the best we were given by God and by family. It is a great pain for me.
I can't watch it as a father, I know because all you want after this is revenge and to kill. I have to watch as the president of the state where a lot of people have died and lost their loved ones and there are millions of people who want to live. All of us want to fight but we all have to do our best for this war, not to be endless.
The longer it is, the more we will lose. All these losses will be just like that one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You can see the entire exclusive interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on "STATE OF THE UNION". That's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern, and again at Noon Eastern.
Let's discuss just that part of it with chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward.
Clarissa, thanks for joining us.
So, what did you think about his answer about viewing the sorrows of this war as a father versus as a president? The notion that as a dad, he would want revenge, but as a president, he has to think differently. I thought that was interesting. Almost like he's talking himself through this relatively new profession he now has.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And I think it really speaks to his humanity and his openness. You know, it's such a stark contrast when you look at President Zelenskyy and you see how he was with you. He's very casual. He's unpretentious. He's open.
There is massive entourage. He is dressed casually as befits the moment. He answers you sincerely. He talks about his feelings as a father.
And this is something that has been a huge part of his successful, his ability to connect with Ukrainians as a human being.
And then you look at, on the other hand, president Putin whose family we never see, whose family we know very little about except what has been revealed by investigative journalists, who is cold and only talks to people at the end of 20-feet tables, who has a sort of cruel dead- eyed expression. And you see such a huge difference between the type of leadership.
And I do think it is easy to understand that conflict that Zelenskyy is talking about there, where as a father, as a human, you want revenge. But as a president and a leader, you have to make very tough decisions about what is the quickest way to put a stop to the bloodshed.
What is the best way to end the war? Do you want to see it protracted and dragged out? Do you try to stop it sooner by making concessions? And this for any leader in a sort of arena of conflict is, of course, the toughest decision to make, Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah. He also that, it is so important that this war isn't endless because of these horrific atrocities we're seeing, so many people being killed, innocent civilians.
But, you know, that desire comes amidst European officials telling CNN that U.S. officials and the allies are increasingly assessing that there is no short-term end to this in sight at all.
WARD: And it's such a stark short of contrast from the beginning of the war when we were watching the invasion unfold. The expectation from most officials in the U.S., certainly, was that Kyiv would potentially fall in a day or two. That hasn't happened. The war grinds on.
We've got this massive offensive poised to begin in earnest any moment now, and it is a very ambitious offensive from the north, from the east, from the south. Russian forces are going to be facing really stiff resistance. And what we've seen as well that wasn't anticipated is that potentially, Ukraine has a chance of actually winning this war. And obviously, for a leader like Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that is very appealing, the possibility of an outright victory, particularly against an adversary like Russia which is much larger and has a much more sophisticated military.
And yet you have to weigh that allure of that potential victory at some point in the distance against the losses that will be incurred as a result of allowing this conflict to grind on. U.S. officials as you mentioned, talking about this potentially lasting through the end of the year. That is much, much longer than anyone had anticipated. And you can only expect the sorts of scenes that we have really only witnessed in social media videos, from satellite images that have taken place in cities like Mariupol, where thousands are believed to be dead, where maternity hospitals have been decimated.
That you're going to see more of that playing out across the country as the second offensive gets underway. So it comes back to that point again, that constant push-pull, the tension between wanting to end the war, not wanting to concede an inch but also really wanting to preserve innocent life to the best of his ability.
TAPPER: Yeah. And we have a lot more on that subject in the full interview which airs on Sunday.
Clarissa Ward, live for us from Dnipro, Ukraine. Thank you so much.
A city leader along Ukraine's southern coast says five people were killed today by Russian cluster bombs. A series of explosions scattered in a populated area. CNN is on the ground getting close up look at the gruesome damage.
Plus, a U.S. response when Russia warned of unpredictable consequences if the U.S. keeps sending military aid to Ukraine.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: We are continuing with our world lead now in the wake of yesterday's sinking of that Russian warship in the Black Sea, the result of what the Pentagon now says they assess was a Ukrainian missile strike. People along Ukraine's sea coast are now worried they will become targets for Russian retaliation. Earlier today, CNN's Ed Lavandera was in Mykolaiv which just took a hit from, among other things, what appeared to be Russian cluster bombs.
Here's what he found.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cluster of explosions jolted this residential neighborhood in Mykolaiv Friday morning. Witnesses say some people were walking their dogs in a park at the time. One of the munitions struck just feet away from an orthodox church.
You can see the impact spot of one of the munitions that went off this morning. As you look around here, you can see the impact and the damage done to this church here as well.
Multiple people were killed and more than a dozen others injured. Paramedics treated victims on the scene. Across the street, under the shattered windows of an apartment building, this man told us, he help drag two injured people into a store for safety.
YURI ZAYTSEV, MYKOLAIV RESIDENT (through translator): The noise. The noise of a rocket flying and explosions, that's what I saw and heard when I was in the shop. People ran into the store and I saw people scared. I saw people dropping to the ground from explosions.
LAVANDERA: The sounds of explosions inside the city started around mid-morning and appeared to strike at least three different locations.
Mykolaiv authorities released this video of a private home burning after a rocket strike. Mykolaiv strikes come as residents in southern Ukraine are worried about Russian retaliation for the sinking of the Moskva warship in the Black Sea and the offensive in eastern Ukraine.
In recent days, CNN has witnessed long convoys of families fleeing Russian-occupied areas near Mykolaiv. This bombing struck a densely populated area.
Galina Mironchuk says she was brushing her hair when the bomb landed just outside her apartment window. The blast shattered the glass and shattered her sense of peace.
Did you think something was going to happen to you? I didn't think of anything, she tells me. I thought that was the end of the world.
The recent attacks have also crippled parts of the city's infrastructure. The water has been out for three days, forcing hundreds of people to get water from a river and natural spring. This man evacuated his mother and plans to stay in the city to fight off the Russians.
How worried are you that the Russians are getting closer?
It worries me a lot, he tells me. That's why I sent my mother away. We are still working. If the Russians are close, I will fight them.
For now, residents are left to clean up the bloody aftermath and brace for the next attack.
LAVANDERA: And, Jake, five people killed. City officials said late today that the fifth person that was declared dead died because they had picked up an unexploded munitions. So they're sending warnings to everybody, not to touch the debris that lands in the city.
And, Jake, these attacks today were occurred scattered all over the city, totally random in nature, all in civilian areas -- Jake.
TAPPER: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Just a few hours ago, I spoke with Wladimir Klitschko. He's a former professional boxer, as is his brother, Vitali, who is, of course, the mayor of Kyiv. Vladimir joined Ukraine's defense forces after the war started. They've sworn that Ukraine will never go to the knee. They will never give up.
The Klitschkos are on the move 24/7 visiting residential areas, now abandoned after the Russian army goes through. When I spoke with Wladimir a little bit ago, I asked if he thinks the Russians will return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, BROTHER OF KYIV MAYOR & MEMBER OF UKRAINIAN DEFENSE FORCE: We do expect the Russians will be back. And we are preparing for that. And the past 51 days have been shown that they might use anything possible to come back. So we have to be prepared for anything.
TAPPER: Today, Russia claims it hit a military facility outside Kyiv with a cruise missile. Do you know anything about the attack? What the facility was?
KLITSCHKO: No. I didn't know the details in particular. The past night, I could hear three explosions in the south of the city. And yeah, I cannot say more, what exactly was hit and what the damage is.
TAPPER: I met your brother earlier today. He was talking about what it is like, talking on Russian friends of his back in Russia. He said they're like zombies. They don't believe the facts and the truth of what you're experiencing.
Have you experienced that, too?
KLITSCHKO: Absolutely, pretty much the same. Picture, so to speak, of the people that have been brainwashed. I believe it is just poisoning that affects your brain, basically, your understanding of life, what is good, what is bad.
In my opinion, what is happening in Ukraine, the fight between the evil that came from the Russian side and the good, because we are the good. And good is always going to win.
TAPPER: Later in the show, we're going to be talking to somebody named Clint Williamson, who is a war crimes investigator. Is there anything you want to ask him?
KLITSCHKO: I wish that every crime must be investigated, behind every crime, every killing. And I've seen personally, many, many, many dead bodies of civilians, either they were captured in a car and flattened with tanks or they were on their knees, shot in the head with hands tied behind their back, and some -- there's behind every crime, there is first name and last name. That must be investigated.
As well as an order -- who made this order to go and kill. Go and torture, go and rape. It's genocide, that's what is happening, actually, genocide of the Ukrainian population. That's what is occurring nowadays in Ukraine. It has been done multiple times in different places for 51 days.
How long can we wait for justice and consequences? I cannot forget these lines of the world leaders saying, if the Russian troop will cross the line and invade Ukraine, there are going to be severe consequences. The severe consequences for 51 days have been taking the Ukrainian population.
With all the lives that have been taken, and infrastructure was destroyed. It's just, something that the world cannot passively observe while it is still going. And I believe that the world leaders, and everyone else, should ask themselves. How long can I passively observe?
Where are the consequences the severe consequences that we've been taking and suffering and still fighting back and standing strong? And I just want to call all the world, the free world, to support us. As long as this war is going, support us.
We need this. We are defending your principles, the democratic principles as well.
KLITSCHKO: We're doing the job. And do you know what? We've been asking for help. And trust me, when this war is over, you are going to get it back multiple times.
We are creative. We are good, innovative. We are just a well-educated population that will definitely give back to the world. And we are defending your principles, as I said, here as well.
TAPPER: Wladimir Klitschko, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.
KLITSCHKO: Thank you.
TAPPER: The U.S. says now with more confidence that sinking of Russia's flagship in the Black Sea was indeed the result of two Ukrainian Neptune missiles. How much of a blow m might this to Russia's capabilities?
Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:30:50]
TAPPER: Staying in our world, it's not as though Russia needs any justification to bombard Ukraine, but Ukraine says Russia is now seeking revenge for the sinking of "Moskva". That's, of course, the flagship of its Black Sea fleet, which now sits at the bottom of the sea. Russian forces claim they've struck a military facility now on the outskirts of Kyiv, where I am.
This as we learned that Russia is warning the United States about ongoing shipments of U.S. weapons to Ukraine.
Let's discuss with CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, as well as CNN national security correspondent, Kylie Atwood.
General Hertling, let me start with you. The U.S. assesses that the two Ukrainian Neptune missiles, which are land-to-sea, struck the "Moskva." Its sinking is the biggest maritime loss of a naval ship in 40 years, some say, although there are questions about an Argentinian ship near the Falklands.
But put that aside for now. How important from a strategic and morale standpoint is this sinking?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, I'm going to start off by saying that a lot is still not known about the tactics and the manner of the attack. It certainly probably included Neptune missiles, but I would suggest that there are a lot of other things, tactics and maneuvers involved by the Ukrainian army. But having said that, I would suggest that there are some real tactical brilliance that was behind this attack.
Is it strategically important? Well, what I would say, operationally and tactically, the Russians will now have an extremely difficult time conducting any kind of amphibious operation on the Black Sea coast, without this flagship, which is now part of their new plan.
You know, the other thing is, this ship was supposed to be providing command and control and air defense for the entire Black Sea fleet. Beyond that, though, one more thing, this ship specifically is a big deal, because this was the C2 ship, the command and control ship, that was involved in the attack in Georgia in 2008, and the fact that it's named after the capital is a pretty big deal.
But the last thing, Jake, we can't take this as a singular event. This naval loss goes along with the destruction of the Russian parachute regiment, the so-called VDV, the first week of the war, seven generals being killed, 20,000 Russians that have been killed in action, the destruction of 700 tanks and other equipment across the board, the cross-border operation by Ukraine at the Belgorod, all of these things are contributing to real strategic failure on the part of Russia's military and they're political masters to plan this operation.
TAPPER: Kylie, Russia sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. State Department, warning the U.S. to stop arming Ukraine or risk, quote, unpredictable consequences.
How is the Biden administration responding to that?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, listen. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the Russians have said things in public. They have said things in private, but nothing is going to dissuade the Biden administration from the strategy they are pursuing here.
From continuing to give Ukraine this military support and the timeline here, underscores or sort of gives them credibility to him saying that, because this diplomatic note from the Russians warning the United States not to give Ukraine more military assistance came on Tuesday. President Biden announced $800 million in additional security assistance, weaponry, to Ukraine the next day on Wednesday, indicating that they still moved forward with this, despite this warning call.
And when it comes to what Biden administration officials believe this message signals about where Russia stands right now, they believe that it shows that Russia is not on solid ground right now, that U.S. support for Ukraine has been effective.
TAPPER: General Hertling, the latest U.S. general aid to Ukraine includes more sophisticated and heavy-duty weaponry than previous shipments. Will it be enough to hold off the military offensive in eastern Ukraine given how much bigger and more expensive the Russian military is?
HERTLING: Yeah, I think it's going to be very important, Jake, the things that the Ukrainians are getting. We're changing the approach, the tactical approach to combat right now. The Ukraine's conducted an active defense north of Kyiv. In this fight, they're going to have to go more on the counterattack mode as Russia moves around the Donbas region.
So the ability to move and be mobile and provide firepower, all of those things, preventing artillery attacks with the radar that we've given Ukraine, as well as all the other NATO members who have given elements to the Ukrainian army are all going to be important.
The interesting piece is, what has to happen next is the resupply of these kind of rounds and equipment has to continue to come. It's important to get the first tranche across, but the next group is also going to be important.
TAPPER: Kylie Atwood, General Hertling, good to see you both of you. Thank you so much.
Truckloads of medical supplies for fighters in Ukraine. How the extensive operation works to get those shipments overseas, next.
[16:40:32] TAPPER: In our world lead, the U.N. estimates more than 4.7 million Ukrainians, 4.7 million have been forced to flee this country since the start of Putin's brutal invasion 51 days ago. We've all seen the images of displaced Ukrainians in desperate need of aid.
Our next guest runs an organization that is helping them and works to send supplies wherever their needed. Joining me now is Dora Chomiak, president of Razom for Ukraine.
Thank you so much for joining us, Dora. Your organization, Razom, I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right --
DORA CHOMIAK, PRESIDENT, RAZOM FOR UKRAINE: You are.
TAPPER: I'm told it means together. I'm told it means together in Ukrainian. It's been able to send urgently needed medical supplies to Ukrainians, including more than 115,000 tourniquets, one of the most requested items across the country.
Talk about how you've been able to do this and get them where they're needed most.
CHOMIAK: We -- it's -- the answer is Ukrainians. Ukrainian people. Razom came together in 2014. We're a network of individuals and organizations and we're focused on building a prosperous Ukraine. So, as I'm sure you're experiencing as you're traveling around Ukraine, Ukraine is full of dynamic, driven, innovative, motivated people who have been building this democracy, for the past three decades, if not more.
And it's all of that innovation and drive that's making it possible for us to do so much, so quickly. Everyone's in it.
TAPPER: One of the things that's been remarkable is all the volunteers we've met who are out there, trying to help evacuations of people who are hurt, to get them to Lviv or whatever. And they're all volunteers and none were doing this until the invasion. So, what you're saying totally squares with the people we're meeting.
Razom is also helping with the evacuation of Ukrainian children with disabilities. How is that process going? What are some of the challenges you're facing there?
CHOMIAK: The challenges are the challenges I think that everyone in Ukraine are facing, which you are too, shells falling from the sky and disrupting your ability to live. But it has been very difficult, but we have been able to get hundreds of people into safety. We were able to do that through a network we already had going with SMA, SMA Kids. So we're able to send supplies in small vans in one direction and bring families into safety in the other direction and it's an all- hands-on deck kind of situation. Everyone is involved in defending this country's existence.
TAPPER: These are incredibly difficult circumstances in Ukraine. As I don't need to tell you, the needs in this country, especially in parts of the country like the south and the east, the constantly changing. How have you had to adapt during the course of the war as conditions on the ground have changed and what is still needed?
CHOMIAK: Things, conditions change hour from hour. So, we can have one group planned in the morning, and we need to change the whole plan for the day, in the afternoon. And that's where this mesh network of volunteers and organizations makes it so important to have the same core goals and objectives and be able to adapt on the fly.
People need -- the most thing that people need are something we're not able to provide and that's defense support against these shells falling from the sky. Once the shells hit, we need to stop the bleeding, and that's where the tourniquets and blood clotters come into play, mobile hospitals, and communications equipment to help get those things into the right hand as quickly as possible. Those are the top needs we're seeing.
TAPPER: So you're of Ukrainian dissent. How has this war affected members of your family, as well as coworkers, here or there in Ukraine?
CHOMIAK: It makes video staff meeting calls somewhat complicated. We're working side by side. My colleagues, my family members, but everyone's in it. Everyone's got the same motivation. Everyone wants to see this country succeed as a democracy, so everyone is doing everything we can to make it work.
And it has not been easy, but I'm incredibly proud and motivated by people in Ukraine who do what needs to be done. This is a repeat of the movie my parents lived through. My parents were displaced persons. My grandfather fought the same battle against invaders from Moscow.
So, now, what we've got the attention of the global community and it gives me a lot of hope that the world will be able to become a better place by learning from Ukraine.
TAPPER: Dora, you may not know this, but I have the greatest, most generous viewers in TV news history. Where should they go if they want to contribute with what you do?
CHOMIAK: If people want to come onboard, I encourage everyone to go to RazomforUkraine.org. Please make sure that you go to that URL. We have been attacked by scammers, who are creating fake sites, so please, RazomforUkraine.org, online, on Instagram, and on Facebook.
TAPPER: I'll tweet it out also so people know. If they're not sure, just wait for my social media post.
Dora, thank you very much.
CHOMIAK: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: Appreciate the work you do.
Still ahead, another CNN exclusive. The two Republican lawmakers who went from defending Trump to warning they were, quote, driving a stake in the heart of the republic. The Trump people, by pursuing the false election claims.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Turning to our politics lead. A CNN exclusive revealing text messages between two of former President Trump's most vocal supporters in Congress and then White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
CNN's Ryan Nobles uncovers how they were pushing for evidence to advance the cause of overturning the 2020 election, but when the insurrection started, their tone seems to have abruptly changed.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, two of former President Donald Trump's most loyal defenders in Congress. But in dozens of private text to Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, a picture emerges of how both went from aiding the effort to challenge the election results to ultimately warning against it.
The text obtained by CNN show how they were trying to help initially but by the end, raised concerns to Trump's top deputy about his campaign's effort to stand in the way of the certification of the 2020 election. We're driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic, Roy warned Meadows in a text message on January 1st that is in possession of the January 6 Select Committee.
His stark warning came after weeks of begging Meadows for hard evidence of election fraud and concerns of the lack of specific evidence was a real problem for the Trump legal team. We must urge the president to tone down the rhetoric, he wrote to Meadows on November 9th.
Roy did believe that there were problems with the election. In early December, he went to the House floor imploring his colleagues to look into the thin examples of fraud.
REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The American people are raising legitimate question about our elections and this body is missing in action and doing nothing.
NOBLES: Like Roy, Senator Mike Lee started out hopeful for a path to challenge the election results. In early November, he touted the work of conservative lawyer Sidney Powell, encouraging Meadows to get her an audience with the president, calling her a, quote, straight shooter. But less than two weeks later, Powell appeared with Rudy Giuliani in what would become an infamous press conference where the duo made wild, baseless claims about the election.
SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it. NOBLES: Lee then changed his tune, calling Powell a liability, and
turning his focus to touting Attorney John Eastman. Lee pushed a plan to convince state legislatures to offer up a set of alternate electors. When that plan fizzled, he decided he was not on board. He texted Meadows on December 16, quote: I think we're now past the point where we can expect anyone will do it without some direction and a strong evidentiary argument.
Both Lee and Roy ultimately chose not to join other Republicans to vote against certifying the election.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Our job is to open and then count. Open, then count. That's it. That's all there is.
NOBLES: Privately, they were more emphatic about the fool's errand Trump's team was on.
The president should call every one off. It's the only path, Roy texted Meadows on December 31st.
While Lee argued the effort was on dangerous constitutional ground. Three days before January 6, he warned: I know only this will end badly for the president unless we have the Constitution on our side.
They did not but the Trump team and a group of loyal Republicans went ahead with their plan any way. As it became clear there effort would not be successful, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in protests.
As the violence was raging, Roy texted Meadows: Fix this now.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The gentleman from Texas.
NOBLES: He then went to the House floor and placed the blame squarely at President Trump's feet.
ROY: And the president should never have spun up certain Americans to believe something that simply cannot be.
NOBLES (on camera): And neither of these congressional offices have questioned the authenticity of these text messages. Senator Lee's office told us that he was transparent during that period of time and nothing contradicts his public statements. Meanwhile, Congressman Chip Roy has just responded in the last hour to our report. He tweeted that, quote, that he'll only say this once. He has no apologies for his private texts or public positions to those on the left or the right.
Jake, of course, these text messages are going to be a big part of the January 6th investigation as they move closer to issuing a final report this fall -- Jake.
TAPPER: Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill for us. Thank you so much.
Despite some of the worst scenes of the war, how some Ukrainians are finding a way to mark the most sacred times of the year.
Stay with us.