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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: Committee Believes Meadows Intermediary Pressured Hutchinson, Meadows Spokesman Denies It; Some Delta Passengers Offered $10,000 To Get Off Overbooked Flight; Biden Meets With Democratic Governors To Discuss Abortion Rights; Ukraine: At Least 20 Dead After Russian Missiles Strike Near Odesa; Victims' Families Demand Answers At Tense Uvalde City Council Meeting. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 01, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hold on, let me hear. They're silent. There's a buzz. It's kind of high.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: If you ever heard one drone, imagine 200 of them. It feels like an artificial Christmas tree to me, you know? Like I --

CAMEROTA: I'm with you. I haven't completely embraced this yet. It's kind of mesmerizing though. Looking at it is kind of mesmerizing. But I don't know about the sound.

BLACKWELL: I'll take the boom.

All right. THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts now.

CAMEROTA: Have great holiday.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Pack your bags and prepare to hurry up and wait.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Well, if you thought it would be easier to fly than paying soaring gas prices this holiday weekend, brace yourself. Flights are so over booked and the schedule is so precarious that one airline is offering -- get this -- $10,000 for passengers to give up their seats. Yes, I said $10,000.

And major developments in the January 6th hearings. CNN with new information about who may have tried to intimidate star witness Cassidy Hutchinson before she testified.

And then the loved ones of Uvalde shooting victims are sick of waiting for answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are staying here, just listening to empty words. That's all it is, empty words. My sister died protecting her children, her students.


BROWN: Why the mayor claims he can't tell them anymore.


Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we begin with our politics lead, and breaking news as we follow the repercussions from Cassidy Hutchinson's bombshell testimony before the January 6 Committee.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has the very latest.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Witness intimidation has been a serious focus of the January 6th Select Committee.

CNN has learned that both instances, the committee presented as examples of possible witness intimidation during their hearing on Tuesday were directed at their witness Cassidy Hutchinson.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): He knows you're loyal and you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition. I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns.

NOBLES: Sources say the committee believes that pressure was applied on the behest of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, a claim Meadows spokesperson Ben Williamson rejects. No one from the Meadows camp, himself or otherwise, ever sought to intimidate or shape her conversations with the committee, Williamson said in a statement to CNN.

The accusations of intimidation come at the same time "The New York Times reports that organizations close to Donald Trump have been paying for the legal fees of witnesses before the committee. It's a practice that is not uncommon or illegal. But according to the committee's former senior investigator, it does raise potential problems.

JOHN WOOD, FORMER JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE INVESTIGATOR: It does run the risk that they'll be less cooperative than they would be if they had attorneys who that were being paid by the clients, in other words, the witness themselves.

NOBLES: The committee is also working with Secret Service to schedule another round of depositions for two agents who worked in the Trump administration, at the center of a district dispute over the former president's conduct inside the presidential SUV on January 6. CNN learning that the accounts of an angry demanding to go to the

Capitol over Secret Service objections started circulating among agents in the months after January 6.

CNN has learned that agent Tony Ornato, who was also Trump's deputy chief of staff, has met with the committee on two previous occasions. Some committee members say his versions of events that day were murky.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Mr. Ornato did not have as clear a memory from this period of time as I would say Miss Hutchinson did.

NOBLES: Meanwhile, the work of the committee was front and center last night in Wyoming.

HARRIET HAGEMAN (R), WYOMING CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The "2,000 Mules" movie is something that I think we have great concern about.

NOBLES: Vice Chair Liz Cheney's opponent, Harriet Hageman promoting conspiracy theories about the election results, while Cheney accused Hageman of doing Trump's bidding.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): She knows it wasn't stolen. I think that she can't say that it wasn't stolen because she's completely beholden to Donald Trump. And if he says it wasn't stolen, he will not support her.


NOBLES (on camera): And in the weeks ahead, the committee has some important work in front of them. They are still working to schedule two new rounds of depositions with those two Secret Service agents, Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel. At this point, we don't know if they're making any progress.

And then, there are, of course, comes the testimony of Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel. CNN learning the Cipollone does appear to be willing to sit for at least a transcribed interview.

Pamela, the committee may be looking for a bit more.

BROWN: Yeah, Liz Cheney, the vice chair has made that clear.

Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.


And with us to share her insights, former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin, and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers.

Hi, ladies. Great to see you.

So, Alyssa, I want to start with you, just on the heels of this new reporting that we have out. You know and you worked with Cassidy Hutchinson. What is your reaction to Ryan's reporting that the committee believes the pressure on her was applied by an intermediary to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was extraordinarily disappointed to see that reporting and to learn that, but unfortunately not surprised. You know I worked for Mark Meadows for a long time. And I spent a while not trying to criticize him, wanting what I saw on him to be true.

And the more that has been revealed from this, it shows that he was as responsible, if not more responsible than the former president in some of these horrible actions that took place in the final days.

I'm sure it's going to come out at some point who the person was who actually sent those text messages. But from her testimony, you know the only person who might have even more exposure from what she revealed that Donald Trump was Mark Meadows. So it makes sense that they would engage in this kind of intimidation.

BROWN: And, of course, she was a top aide to him in the White House. The Meadows camp is denying this.

But, Jennifer, whoever this is, right, it's a big deal. I mean, this is something that whoever this is, that they should probably be worried about the legal implications here.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right, Pamela. I mean, it's a free standing charge, of course. Witness intimidation, obstruction of justice can be its own criminal offense. Now, I certainly want to see more details about who sent it, what the actual language was, why corroboration there is before saying there's a likelihood or either the possibility of criminal charges.

But it's also something else that I thought Liz Cheney uses this very effectively. It's consciousness of guilt evidence, right? So, prosecutors use this all the time.

If you have to reach out to prospective witnesses to say, hey, stay on the team, we want you to be loyal. The subject of your testimony, meaning the former president, reads the transcripts, that means you know you've done something wrong. And so, prosecutors use this all the time. And I thought she used it very effectively to try and sway her audience, the American people, that these people were doing bad things and they were knew they were doing bad things.

BROWN: And I want to get your reaction Alyssa to the Secret Service sources telling CNN, backing up the basic premise of the story that Cassidy Hutchinson told that she said she was told to by Tony Ornato. They're backing this up about Trump's angry behavior after the January 6 rally.

GRIFFIN: Look, the most important part of that, you know, we all -- the anecdote was so vivid of him reaching for it and all that, but the most important thing which is corroborated by the former president himself, was that he in fact wanted to go to Capitol Hill, knowing that there were people there who were armed and who wanted to obstruct the process of certifying the election. So, that's not even under contention. What is, is that very limited story that it now sounds like other

people heard it and I'm not surprised by that. I'm highly confident that this is going to come out in Cassidy's favor as more facts, you know, come to light in the coming weeks.

BROWN: The bottom line is those salacious detail that she says Tony told her, maybe they don't turn out to be true, but the overall premise like you said, is that he wanted to go the Capitol, which we know, and that she was told the story, right?

GRIFFIN: We're kind of missing the forest on the trees.

BROWN: Exactly.

GRIFFIN: We knew that there are people armed with things, including AR-15s and going to the Capitol. He asked for mags to be taken down so that they could come to his ellipse rally and then encourage them we're going to walk to Capitol Hill. He has admitted in interviews that he's done that he wanted to go to Capitol Hill.

That's the real story. But also I completely believe her account of it. I won't believe a word Tony Ornato says until he's under oath.

BROWN: Right. And you had your own experiences with Tony Ornato.

And, Jennifer, I'm bringing you in, and "The New York Times" reports that organizations close to Donald Trump have been helping to pay for the legal fees of witnesses before the committee. What kind of issues would that raise if true?

RODGERS: Well, it's not inherently problematic because, you know, a lot of these are lower level staffers, they don't have a lot of money. So, you know, they may need some help on the legal end.

The problem is the representation is not independent. If the PACs that work for Donald Trump, that worked to elect Donald Trump are effectively giving legal advice to these witnesses that really is benefitting Donald Trump and not the witnesses, that's where you have a legal ethics problem for the actual lawyers, but also a problem in terms of what information the committee is getting. So, that's why it's a problem.

And here in the committee setting, you don't have the option like you would in criminal case to go before a judge and have an inquiry about whether the client thinks the lawyer really representing him or her inspect independently. So, I think the committee doing the right thing if they are asking witnesses about their representation. Obviously, we know that Miss Hutchinson changed lawyers before she testified publicly, likely because she thought her prior counsel provided by the Trump folks was not really working in her best interest.


And I hope that other witnesses think about that as they move forward because none of them will want a perjury charge. If you have a lawyer who is more interested in Trump's interest and Meadow's interest than your own, you may get yourself in trouble.

BROWN: Right, that makes sense.

Alyssa, let's talk about Representative Liz Cheney, the committee's vice chair. She's fighting for her political life. So, I want to listen to what she said at a Republican primary debate last night.


CHENEY: I know I think that there's a real tragedy that's occurring. And the tragedy is there are politicians in this country beginning with Donald Trump who have lied to the American people. We've got do be honest. We have to be truthful. Elected officials, in particular, public servants owe that to those people we represent.


BROWN: How do you see the state of the Republican Party? Is it willing to listen to that?

GRIFFIN: Well, I think what she is doing is incredibly important, which is standing shoulder to shoulder with the other people in that stage who are spouting the big lie nonsense, saying you should watch "2,000 Mules", widely debunked conspiracy theory film. It's important to have public figure tell the truth and juxtapose that to what others are saying.

This is a battlefield of ideas. The party is very squarely in the big lie, election lies Donald Trump camp now. But the more that you have people educating voters and being willing to sacrifice their political careers to say this isn't true, these are lies that are being fed to you, it's going to have an impact over time.

And I would say, anecdotally, Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony I think resonated with people in a significant way. Many of my family members were Trump supporters. I was a Trump supporter.

And they said, they're like, she was very credible. I believe everything that she said. That came from two different people.

That's going to breakthrough over time, but you also just need truth tellers who are going to go shoulder to shoulder with these election deniers like Liz Cheney to tell the truth and speak it to power.

BROWN: All right. Alyssa, Jennifer, thank you so much.

So, would you give up your seat on a flight for $10,000? That was the choice some passengers were given by one airline on this messy holiday travel weekend.

And then, earlier this week, it was a shopping mall. Today, Russia targeting an apartment building and a rec center in Ukraine. We're live on the ground.



BROWN: In our money lead, millions are already traveling for what expert say will be the busiest travel weekend of the year so far. For the first time in a long while, gas prices are actually declining. AAA says the national average for regular gasoline is now $4.84 a gallon. That's down 9 cents from last week. But still, more than $1.70 than gas prices were a year ago.

But despite feeling the heat at the gas pump, the high prices aren't keeping Americans in park.

CNN's Leyla Santiago joins us live from Miami.

And, Leyla, how many Americans are expected to hit the road this holiday weekend?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you ask AAA, they will tell you that nearly 48 million travelers will be out and about over the weekend for this holiday weekend, 42 million of those, such a big chunk there, expected to hit the road.

And pretty interesting timing right now. If you were to look at exactly when the most, the highest volume of travelers on the road are expected to be out and about, it's right now. It is Friday evening -- afternoon rather as folks are getting off of work, getting ready the start their holiday weekend.

Now, we have been at this gas station where we're just above the national average right now for gas prices. We have been here all day talking to folks and really watching when they get out of the car, kind of roll their eyes as they see the gas prices and really pause when they see the total of how much it is costing folks to fill up their pumps.

But, really, if you look at number and what was released from the AAA forecast for Independence Day weekend, numbers are still pretty high, expected to be record breaking for those that driving for their getaways.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prices are crazy. Fueling just now, you know, it's like 5 for a gallon. It's just crazy. We thought about where to go, what distance. Like maybe it should be car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's already cost me about 1.20. I put 40 bucks inside the truck. That's already $300 on just fuel.


SANTIAGO: So, you're starting the see folks still making their plans to go out and about and have that vacation. Many folks saying they would rather pay the higher gas prices than deal with the headaches over at the airport.

BROWN: Yeah, not many good options ahead this holiday weekend. All right. Leyla Santiago, in Miami, thank you so much.

While the roads will be packed for the Fourth of July holiday, a smaller share of Americans are taking to the skies. Just over 3.5 million travelers are expected the fly according to AAA. That's near pandemic record, but the lowest since 2011 when the economy was still rebuilding from the great recession.

And amid the travel rush, airlines say they are over burdened. In fact, more than 380 flights in the U.S. have already been cancelled with more than 3,900 delayed.

CNN's Pete Muntean reports, looks at behind these disruptions.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Millions of passengers are descending on airports along summer storms putting short staffed airlines to their biggest test in years. The TSA screened 2.44 million passengers at U.S. airports on Thursday, just shy of a new pandemic era record.

DAVID PEKOSKE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: It feels much more like 2019 then the prior two years.

MUNTEAN: Though with more problems for passengers, 3.5 percent of all flights this year have been canceled. A 42 percent increase over 2019.

ANGEL ORSINI, PASSENGER: Prepared to go there earliest time as possible.

MUNTEAN: Airlines say they're facing a range of challenges at the carrier and federal government level.

Just this week, airlines pointed to air traffic control delays caused by staffing issues at a key facility in Florida.

So, who is really to blame when it comes to these massive cancellations?


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The bottom line is airlines that are selling these tickets need to have the crews and staff to backup those skills.

MUNTEAN: In an email to customers, Delta Airlines CEO is apologizing for cancellations, saying, quote, the environment we're navigating today is unlike anything we've ever faced. Thursday, off-duty Delta pilots organized picket lines at major hubs saying they are overworked.

CAPTAIN JASON AMBROSI, CHAIR, AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION: We've been flying record amounts of overtime in the recovery to help get our passengers safely to their destinations. MUNTEAN: And its 24/7 command center in Virginia, the FAA says it is

monitoring potential weather delays in cities across the country from forecasted thunderstorms, wind, and low clouds.

LAKISHA PRICE, AIR TRAFFIC MANAGER, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: No one wants to be delayed, but sometimes that happens. We are always working together intricately to make sure that we mitigate that as much as possible.


MUNTEAN (on camera): Delta Airlines is practically encouraging its passengers to avoid the travel mess this weekend. It just instituted a system-wide travel waiver allowing all of its passengers to re-book their flights completely free of charge now for July 4th. There are also reports that passengers on an overbooked Delta flight from Grand Rapids were offered $10,000 to give up their seat.

The delays and cancellations are piling up right now. The FAA has instituted ground stops and seven airports up and down the East Coast from D.C. all the way to New York -- Pam.

BROWN: What a mess. But, wow, $10,000? I can't get over that.

Pete Muntean at Reagan National Airport, thank you.

And joining us now is airline and travel industry analyst, Henry Harteveldt.

Hi there, Henry. Thanks for joining us today.

We are seeing this wave of flight cancellations that Pete just laid out. Airlines say they're canceling flights to minimize disruptions.

Why are airlines struggling to keep up with demand? Why is this such a unique time for airlines as the CEO of Delta said?

HENRY HARTEVELDT, AIRLINE AND TRAVEL ANALYST: The reason is this, that the travel rebound has been far faster and far larger than I think airlines expected even though they could take a look at their future bookings and reservation system.

But you have to understand, it takes time to find people to be piloting. You don't just walked off the street to become an airline pilot and go behind the wheel of a 737. So, there is a shortage of pilots, shortage of air traffic controllers. A lot of demand for travel. It just ends up in this current chaos.

BROWN: So, what are your tips for people trying to navigate this hectic travel holiday weekend?

HARTEVELDT: Well, that's one reason I think you are seeing so many people say, you know wet? We're going to forget flying if we can. And we'll drive somewhere. And the research study that we did, we just got it back, more than 1,700 airline passengers said that 74 percent of the folks who either had flown so far this summer or planning to fly, regret their decision to fly for summer vacation.

The airlines are really struggling right now. No airline wants to inconvenience anyone, but when you think about it, the numbers that Pete just talked about, along with the delays, you've got more than 450,000 people today affected by all of these delays and cancellations today.

BROWN: I have a flight and a couple of weeks cross country. Should I try to move it to the earliest morning flight to go to my destination? Is that something that passengers should consider?

HARTEVELDT: Absolutely. You are always wisest to take the first flight of the day. The earliest flight you possibly can, provided, of course, it meets your budget. And, the you can't take it nonstop, do so, because it reduce your risk of -- obviously, when you don't have to connect.

But also double check the airline schedule. Make sure that it flies every day to your destination, and even if you are on a nonstop, see if it has connections there, too.

BROWN: So, what do you make of the story about Delta offering $10,000 to passengers to leave an overbooked flight? What do you think this says about the state of the industry right now? I personally have never heard of that. Wow.

HARTEVELDT: Well, it's not new. Delta actually initiated this several years ago. I commend Delta for empowering its agents to basically do what they have to do to take people off the plane voluntarily rather than tell somebody sorry, there's no seat left for you.

So it's an extreme amount of money and I'm not sure how Delta felt about the agent doing that. But if that was the only flight that would connect people to long haul international destinations, for example, in Europe, or under other circumstances, it is well worth it, because the agent got the people off the plane who had the flexibility.


Those folks walked away with $10,000 in travel credit and other -- maybe other services. And the people who needed to get to their destination got there.

BROWN: Yeah.

HARTEVELDT: So, it's a win-win all around.

BROWN: Yeah, and I'm wondering about what you said in the beginning about the labor shortage. People just can't become pilots. I have to go to school. There's a whole process. But I'm wondering given the picketing we're seeing from these pilots, saying that they're overworked and complaints about that and their schedules and pay, do you think there's a little fewer people looking to become pilots to enter the industry? Is that concern?

HARTEVELDT: Pam, that is a really good question. That has been a problem because the airline industry has been historically cyclical. It can take you 3 to 5 years to become an airline pilot. And it can cost $80,000 to 120,000 to get that experience.

If you are looking at that versus other careers, you're probably saying yet a career is better. The good news as you know have airlines like United that have started their own flight training schools, and they have scholarships available. They are working more to recruit people to become pilots.

And the starting pay is a lot better. So becoming an airline pilot is a lot more stable in a lot more lucrative of a career that it was, even just five years ago.

BROWN: Well, that's good to hear. I think we all wants our pilot flying our planes to be happy.

All right. Harry, thank you so much.

HARTEVELDT: Thank you.

BROWN: President Biden just met with governors in states protecting abortion rights. But how does the federal government expand access?



BROWN: In our politics lead, today, nine Democratic governors met with President Biden to discuss abortion rights.

Listen to New York Governor Kathy Hochul at that event.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: This is frightening time for women all across our nation. A lot of fear and anxiety out there. I hear it from women all across the state. Literally young women who never had to think about this right are coming up and putting their arms around my neck and sobbing.


BROWN: CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us live from the White House.

Jeremy, what did the governors ask for from the White House?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, we heard the governors of New York and New Mexico both urging President Biden to open up federal facilities on federal lands to abortion services to the general public, including in states where abortion is now illegal as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling the laws in those states. We heard the New York governor talk about federal facilities. The New Mexico governor talking about Indian health service facilities that could be opened up.

But ultimately, that's something the White House has already ruled out essentially, calling proposals to open abortion clinics on federal lands, quote, well-intentioned, but ultimately saying they could have, quote, dangerous ramifications. That was from the White House press secretary warning of the prospect of some doctors potentially being prosecuted as a result.

Now, President Biden, for his part today focused on what his administration has already been doing in terms of trying to protect medication abortion to make sure that's still allowed and able to accessible to women across the country. And also talking about protecting the right of women in state where is it's illegal now to access abortion services, for them to travel to states where it is indeed legal.

But ultimately, President Biden also focusing on November and the midterms, making the case he doesn't have the votes to go through and codify Roe v. Wade, even if he carves out the filibuster, he says he needs two more votes urging voters in November to vote in two more Democratic senators so that they can get that done after the midterms -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Jeremy Diamond, at the White House for us -- thanks, Jeremy.

And joining us now, one of the nine governors in that virtual meeting with the president, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.

Hi, Governor. Thanks for joining us.

So, what does your state need from the federal government and do you think that President Biden can deliver?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT: First of all, as you heard from Kathy, there's a sense of shock. (AUDIO GAP) out there. So, one of the "asks" we had, we need a way in which we can get the right information to people. Here in Connecticut, we're thinking about 1-800-CHOICE. The hotline you can call if you want to know what your rights are, what your reproductive rights are, when you can get contraception. I think that would be helpful for folks out of state who are looking for reproductive choice as well.

BROWN: What about from the federal government, though, from the White House? Were you satisfied with what you heard today from President Biden and what the White House is doing on this front?

LAMONT: Oh, yeah. No, President Biden is on fire on this issue. He is shocked. He has been in this game from decades. He can't believe they're rolling back these rights.

You know, one of the things we've said was we're going to continue the ARPA services for health care. Reproductive choice is a form of health care. Those are for funds run out and a lot more people will have health care at the end of this year.

BROWN: But what about those who criticize the White House and the president, saying they're not doing enough under this? And, you know, there have been some that was brought up in the meeting today, saying, look, you know, and I think the governor of New York brought this up, using federal lands to provide abortion services. That is off the table now according to the White House.

Do you think that's the right stance? Would you say to the critics of the White House?

LAMONT: I think, you can always try to do more. I think some of the inquiries were really well-placed. First of all, when it comes to abortion pills, being able to deliver that by mail, so that cannot be denied in any state across the country.


The president was strong. He said that no state can take away that right to get an FDA approved pharmaceutical product like that.

He also was strong. He also said I'm going to make darn sure that Texas and other states can't prohibit a woman from leaving the state to exercise her reproductive choices. I think he was forceful. I was very impressed by the passion he felt getting things done.

BROWN: But what about taking off the table using federal lands and states with abortion bans?

LAMONT: That's not an issue in our state. I understand how in another states, it maybe something they can consider. But, obviously, the general counsel of the White House said it's legally complicated. So, I can't speak to that.

BROWN: All right. So, you directly tied to write the economy in your state, in this open, letter saying, quote, we are writing to any business owner who is disappointed in his stance in his current state. If you are looking to relocate to a state that supports the rights of women whose actions and laws are unwavering support of tolerance and inclusivity, Connecticut is for you.

But we should note, it's pretty expensive to live in Connecticut. CNBC has a list of states with the highest tax burdens which are individual income, property sales, and other taxes as a share of total personal income. Connecticut ranks seventh highest in the nation on that list.

Do expect small business owners barely staying afloat in conservative states with lower taxes as it is to relocate?

LAMONT: I think they're going to strongly consider. Probably the most important thing right now, if you a business person, a small business, is being able to recruit the best and brightest or work for your company. I think there are a lot of young employees right now, a lot of female employees, saying I don't feel comfortable working in a state that doesn't share my values.

So, yes, you come to Connecticut for a variety of reasons. We have the biggest tax cut in the history of our state coming in. We've got great schools, we have a carbon free electric grid.

We've also got values and culture, and a place that respects women will be one of the more reasons the people think about Connecticut.

BROWN: All right. I want to get on to this other question about, that we're hearing about in New York, taking it a step further, considering enshrining abortion rights into their state constitution. Is that something you would consider so abortion rights can't be undone by a future conservative governor?

LAMONT: I think that's definitely something we should look into. We can't do it overnight. We have to have a referendum. But, look, what we have right now Roe v. Wade is codified in the state of Connecticut.

So even if it's taken away in other states, it will never be taken away in Connecticut. As long as I'm governor, as long as we have a sympathetic legislature. As you pointed, out you can check governors and legislatures, you see that's happening, all of a sudden, that rights can disappear.

But it's not going to happen here in Connecticut. I'd like to see it as part of our Constitution.

BROWN: And Connecticut just instituted a new law which aims to legally protect providers and patients from other states bans on abortion. A spokesperson in Connecticut's attorney general office told "The Associated Press", the office is quote ready to advise the agency should the state be asked to facilitate and extradition or use state resources to aid in other states investigation proceeding.

If someone can't return to their state because of legal ramifications, will Connecticut also support that person and their child?

LAMONT: Well, first of all, we are a safe harbor. So, if Texas wants to try to prosecute doctors or subpoenaed the women that come here to exercise their rights, we're going to fight it every day, fight on behalf of that doctor and fight on behalf of that woman. That is airtight.

If they want to move to the state of Connecticut, we will make it easier for them to move to the state of Connecticut.

BROWN: But how long would you be willing to support them -- a woman and, you know, her circumstances?

LAMONT: Temporarily, but we will provide free job training for you. We've got the most expensive daycare. We can make a lot easier for you to get going back with your life if you have to move to the state of Connecticut. And that's not a bad choice.

BROWN: All right. Democratic Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut, thank you so much.

LAMONT: Nice to be with you, Pamela.

BROWN: A children's hospital hit by Russian strikes in Ukraine. This comes just days after a mall was hit. We are on the ground in Ukraine, up next.



BROWN: And in our world lead, you are looking at images of utter destruction around the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, a result of intense Russian bombardments overnight. At least 20 people have died.

And Ukrainian officials say one of those strikes hit a children's hospital. One leveled an apartment building and another destroyed a recreational center, killing a child.

CNN's Scott McLean is in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv.

Scott, so the Odesa region is just north of Snake Island, which Ukraine says it has retaken. Was that with the Russian missiles originated and will strike stop now that Russian forces are off that island?


So, as we understand it, the Ukrainians have already taken back the key outpost of Snake Island by the time these missiles were actually fired. This is a good reminder that the Russians can hit virtually any place in Ukrainian territory with these missile strikes. Ukrainians have along appealed for help beefing up their air defense now. Now, we are getting were just tonight that they're getting some of that help from the United States.

Now, the Ukrainians say the volume of strikes against the Odesa region, though, because Snake Island has been retaken, should decrease. Because the Russians don't longer has this launch pad just off the coast of the Odesa region, less than 100 miles from the city itself, that they can use the lunch strikes on an area that they so far failed to reach by land, so they have to resort to lobbing bombs by missiles from airplanes, as was the case, according to the Ukraine, in this particular case, with these missiles.


Ukrainians also say that these are older style missiles, less accurate than the more modern version. The president, President Zelenskyy says they are meant to sink military ships though, there's really not meant to be aimed at civilian targets. A nine story apartment building, a rehab facility for children, a summer camp, 21 people now confirmed dead, along with a 12 year old child.

Ukrainian president has accused Russians of terrorism. The Russians continue to insist that they don't aim at civilian sites. In fact, they say, well, President Putin said they don't need to. They have the intelligence, they have the technology to know exactly what they're aiming up, and to strike it very accurately.

But obviously this is one more example, that simply is not true. The Russians have hit schools. The Russians have hit hospitals, and, in fact, they're hitting apartment buildings every single day, Pamela.

BROWN: Yeah, it sure does.

Scott in Kyiv, Ukraine, thanks for that important reporting there.

Well, tense moments as Uvalde families wait for answers about what happened to their loved ones.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister was obliterated. She was in closed casket. I couldn't hug her. I couldn't touch her. I couldn't say my last goodbyes.


BROWN: One city officials say they don't have the answers.



BROWN: In our national lead, frustrations over police and city officials' lack of answers about the Uvalde school massacre spilled over during a tense city council meeting in Texas.

As CNN's Rosa Flores reports, parents and victims families feel officials are keeping secrets from them, and they are furious.


VELMA LISA DURAN, SISTER OF IRMA GARCIA, TEACHER KILLED IN SHOOTING: These kids were obliterated. My sister was obliterated. It was a closed casket. I couldn't hug her. I couldn't touch her. I couldn't say my last goodbyes.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wry emotions turned to heated exchanges at the Uvalde city council meeting Thursday, after Mayor Don McLaughlin told the room filled with family members of the 19 children and two adults killed at Robb Elementary that there was no new information he could share on the investigation into the failed police response.

DURAN: Why is it that children are calling 911, and you can't tell where these calls are coming from? Let y'all didn't get it?

My sister had no -- there's nothing saving her. There was a lot of children that could've been saved.

You keep protecting Pete Arredondo. The school board failed because the minute of this happened, they should have fired him.

MAYOR DON MCLAUGHLIN, UVALDE, TEXAS: Ma'am, let me tell you something. I feel your pain. We all do.

DURAN: No, you don't, sir. You don't.

FLORES: The mayor said, he, too, is frustrated, with a lack of transparency in the investigation, and read this letter from the Uvalde district attorney: Any release of records to that incident at this time would interfere with set ongoing investigation.

MCLAUGHLIN: Which means, if we release it, she can take us, each and every one of us to the grand jury, and indict each and every one of us. Boy, I've had one heated argument with a district attorney, and basically got told I can go fly a kite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, she doesn't have a heart.

MCLAUGHLIN: No, she doesn't.

FLORES: CNN has reached out to the Uvalde D.A. about the story, but so far, hasn't heard back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over and over --

FLORES: Visibly absent from the meeting, recently elected city council member, Pete Arredondo.

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety has identified Arredondo, who is also the school district police chief, as the incident commander, and laid the blame on him for the failed police response to the deadly attack.

The school district placed Arradondo on administrative leave. Arredondo told "The Texas Tribune" he didn't consider himself the incident commander.

Thursday was the second council meeting Arredondo missed. According to the city charter, if he misses one more, he could be removed.

MCLAUGHLIN: If he misses the third, I don't think there's anybody up here that were okay that we won't -- we won't take the action that we need to take.

FLORES: But that's no consolation for the families who want Arredondo ousted.

ANGEL GARZA, FATHER OF AMERIE JO GARZA, STUDENT KILLED IN SHOOTING: We want you all to look at this, as a mayor --

MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not -- I'm trying.

GARZA: -- as a city council member. Look at it as a dad, as a parent.

Don't do what you can do as a mayor, go beyond that. I know there is a limit on what you can do. Go beyond that.

What if it was your kid? You are -- you can't say nothing.

MCLAUGHLIN: OK, you're right.

GARZA: No, you can't. You understand that. So, do your part for us. If you can't say something, do something.


FLORES: The district attorney has not responded to our request for comment. She did issue a statement early on to CNN, saying that the investigation will take a while, and that she would not comment until then.

Pamela, the next city council meeting is scheduled for July 12th. A majority of that city council could vote out Arredondo, if they choose to.

I've reached out to Arredondo's attorney about this story, and I have never heard back.

BROWN: All right. Rosa, thank you so much. So sad, those families, and just wanting answers. You cannot blame them at all.

Well, the trial begins for WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is being wrongfully detained in Russia. What's next for her case?

Plus, CNN's exclusive interview with Griner's wife.



BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And this hour, new information about what happened with Donald Trump inside the presidential limo on January 6th. Several sources now backing up Cassidy Hutchinson's account of Trump flipping out on his own Secret Service agents.

Plus, a brutal and unprovoked attack on a woman is causing one city to flood the streets with police and keep outsiders away. Women in that country say this is not about real change. It's about optics.

And leading the hour, a wife's fight to free a two-time American Olympic gold medalist from Russian prison. WNBA superstar Brittney Griner's so-called trial began in Moscow today.