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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Addresses Gun Crime And Policing In America; Mikhail Gorbachev Dies, Was The Last Leader Of The Soviet Union; CNN On The Front Lines Of Ukraine's Counteroffensive. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 30, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's lighter and can pierce Kevlar.

Imagine being a parent, not just losing a child, but not being able to physically identify that child or the adult, because they have literally been blown apart.

We equip -- we equip our service members with the most lethal weapons on earth, to protect all of us. Protect Americans. But we require them to receive significant training, extensive background checks, mental health assessments, they have to learn how to lock up and store their weapons responsibly or they get kicked out.

But we let any stranger, an 18-year-old, walk in, a 20-year-old, and buy an AR-15. That's why back in 1994, I took on the NRA and passed the assault weapons ban. For ten years, mass shootings were down. Ten years in a row since I passed that legislation in 1994 as a chairman -- as a senator.

But in 2004, Republicans let that ban expire. What happened? Mass shootings in America tripled. Tripled.

It's time to ban these. It's time to ban these weapons. We did it before. We can do it again.

Folks --


It's time to hold every elected official's feet to the fire and ask them are you for banning assault weapons, yes or no? Ask them. If the answer is no, vote against them.

Look, I'm proud that after seven years, we finally have a Senate confirmed director of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms responsible for any gun crimes. For seven years, the other team would not let us appoint anyone to that job. Incredibly important job, to help local law enforcement, federal law enforcement. Identify the ballistics. A whole range of things.

For seven years, we finally got it passed this time, barely. Seven years because they didn't want anybody in that job. My plan gives the bureau the funding to hire more agents, to stop gun

trafficking, and by the way, there's a lot of states that don't allow you to purchase certain weapons in the state. You just cross the state line and go buy it next door. Bring it across the state line.

Keep guns -- you know what the Mexicans -- Mexico, which has real problems, causing us real problems, you know what their biggest complaint it? Can't we stop gun trafficking across the southern border into Mexico? There are certain gun dealers that are basically -- not gun dealers, they're wholesalers, providing the weapons to anybody who has the money.

Folks, look, we can help local law enforcement, we can solve more gun crimes if we have someone heading up, which we finally do, this organization that's designed to track this kind of behavior.

Finally, my plan invests in crime prevention programs that help keep young people from getting in trouble in the first place. Under my plan, communities can provide after school and summer job programs. They can get paid for it.

More access to mental health and drug counseling. More social workers and housing to keep people off the streets instead of when they get out of jail, they get $25 and a bus ticket and end up under the same bridge that they're under before.


This will help prevent crime, get young people to pick up paychecks instead of a pistol. The same time, we need to help people getting out of prison successfully re-enter society so they don't get in trouble again. If you served your time, you shouldn't be designed -- you shouldn't be deprived of being able to -- if you served it, you shouldn't be deprived of being able to get a Pell grant to go to school. You should be able to get a degree.


What's the best thing you can do? Make them productive. They should get access to good jobs where they can earn a decent living. All of these steps will prevent crime, not increase it.

Let me close with this. A safer America requires all of us to uphold the rule of law. Not the rule of any one party or any one person.

Let's be clear. You hear some of my friends on the other team talking about political violence and how it's necessary. Think about this now. Did any of you think, even if you're as old as I am, you would be in an election where they talk about where it's appropriate to use force, political violence in America?

It's never appropriate. Never, period. Never, never, never. No one should be encouraged to use political violence. None whatsoever.

And look, you know, if we're in a situation where to this day, the MAGA Republicans in Congress defend the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6th. Defend them. You all saw it. I don't care how frustrated you are.

You know, when I showed up, one of the things I learned as president, even though I had been vice president for eight years and done a great deal on foreign policy for the administration, I showed up at a meeting of the major democracies called the G-7 and I sat down. It was in England. I sat down for the three-day conference and I said, America is back.

And Macron, the president of France, turned to me and said, for how long? For how long? And we had a discussion -- just for how long? And one of them said to me, imagine, Joe, if you turn on the television in Washington, D.C. and saw a mob of 1,000 people storming down the hallways of the parliament, breaking down the doors, trying to overturn an outcome of an election and killing several police officers in the meantime, imagine. Imagine what you would think.

Think about what the world saw. Not what we saw, what the world saw. Did you ever think the United States, it would happen? What I find even more incredible is the defense of it. Cops attacked and assaulted, speared with flag poles, sprayed with mace, stomped on, dragged, brutalized.

Police lost their lives as a result of that day. Police lost their lives. One of the officers said it was worse than anything he had experienced in war in Iraq.

So let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress. Don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on the 6th. Don't tell me.


Can't do it. For god's sake, whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?

Look -- you're on the side of the mob or the side of the police. You can't be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection. You can't be a party of law and order and call the people who attack the police on January 6th patriots.

You can't do it. What are we teaching our children? It's just that simple. Now it's sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI, threatening the lives of law enforcement agents and their families for simply carrying out the law and doing their job.


Look, I want to say this clear as I can. There's no place in this country, no place, for endangering the lives of law enforcement. No place. None, never, period.


I'm opposed to defunding the police. I'm also opposed to defunding the FBI. Look, there's no greater responsibility for government than insuring

the safety of our people. Every parent should be able to know when a kid leaves home to go to school or just walk the street, they're going to come home safely.


We can do this. We have to do this. We just need to remember who we are. We are the United States of America.

When we are united, there is not a single thing we cannot do. Not a single thing.


I mean it.

So folks, let's remember who in god's name we are. I really mean it, what our values are. What we believe. We the people. That's how our Constitution starts -- the Declaration, we the people. It's who we are.

And by the way, no one expects politics to be patty cake. It sometimes gets mean as hell, but the idea you turn on a television and see senior senators and congressmen saying if such and such happens, there will be blood in the street. Where the hell are we?

Well, that's all I'm looking for. And folks, do me a favor -- presumptuous of me to say that, but think about doing me a favor. Please, please elect the attorney general of the Senate. Elect that big old boy to be governor.


And by the way, there are a lot of really, and I mean this, I'm not be solicitous. Remember the criticism of Biden when I was running. Biden is too bipartisan. Biden has too many Republican friends.

There's a lot of Republicans I have worked with in all the years in the Senate. I got a lot done. We respected each other. When we disagreed, we disagreed on principle and then had lunch together. Not a joke.

What in god's name has happened to that in the United States of America? So folks, let's bring it back. We can do this.

God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Kasie Hunt in today for Jake Tapper.

President Biden, you saw there, just wrapping up his speech on his plans to, quote, fund the police. The president emphasizing his support for law enforcement officers across the country. He also announced a new push to try to take on gun violence by adamantly saying he wants to ban assault weapons.

I want to bring in MJ Lee who is at the White House.

MJ, it's notable where the president is speaking today. He is in Pennsylvania, a critical battleground state.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's absolutely right, Kasie, and even though this was a speech that was billed a public safety speech, there was no question that this was absolutely also a political speech as well. It was interesting some of the key themes overarching political themes that we have heard the president talk about, they are becoming increasingly familiar.

At one point in the speech, he talked about going abroad, traveling abroad and having world leaders essentially ask him what is happening over there in the -- in America, and him essentially having to answer questions about sort of the state of democracy in this country.

So, this is just one more way in which the president sort of hammered home the theme of protecting democracy here in the U.S. and as you can see here, he is now mingling with some of the folks in the crowd. Before he took the stage, we had a number of local elected officials go on stage and introduce him, so in that way, too, it very much had the vibe of a political event.

But I will note that one person, one candidate who is notably missing from this event is Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. He was not at this event.

Now, Pennsylvania, as you know, is obviously a very important and key battleground state. And we are going to see the president return to the state more times in the coming few days, including on Monday, on Labor Day, and then also on Thursday, he is going to be traveling to Philadelphia where again the White House is saying that he will be giving a speech where the broad theme is going to be about protecting democracy here in the country, Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah. And we should note, of course, John Fetterman running for Senate, from Pennsylvania. Josh Shapiro, the current attorney general, running for governor. There may have been a little confusion in the president's speech.

But MJ, what were some of your broader takeaways from this speech? I mean, he really hit on some very evocative images around gun violence, talking about Uvalde, and then he really hit at Republicans, especially around January 6th and questioning their support for law enforcement over that.

LEE: That's right. Essentially painting Republicans as being hypocrites when it comes to their support or their stated support, he would say, for law enforcement. One line that really stood out to me, he said look, I have a message to MAGA Republicans. He said don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on January 6th.

He went on to say, you can't say you're pro-law enforcement if you are pro-insurrection. Now, he used all of this to basically lay out his own plan on crime and bolstering law enforcement. This is a plan where he has essentially asked for Congress to appropriate 10s of billions of dollars to do things like hire and train more police officers.

And I think one other thing that was kind of interesting is you really got a sense listening to the speech just how much the issue of police and policing has become such a politically fraught issue here in the U.S. He said that he definitely understands that people across the country are just wanting to feel safe again, but then he also went on to say look, I also recognize that there are plenty of cops, police officers who are just bad cops.

But he said that the answer to that, he believes, is not to defund the police but to support them even more, of course, one thing he didn't mention is that there are portions of his own party, people in his own party who are very much for the slogan and the idea of defunding the police.

So I think you really got a sense of how complicated this issue is and also a sense of how the president intends to run on this issue, Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah, he does seem to be attempting to reclaim it in a pretty aggressive way.

All right. MJ Lee at the White House, thanks very much for that.

And joining me now is Alberto Gonzales, the former U.S. attorney general under President George W. Bush.

Sir, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your perspective in the wake of a pretty tough speech from the president.

I want to play for everyone again President Biden talking about law enforcement and January 6th and I'll get you to respond. Watch.


BIDEN: Republican friends in Congress, don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on the 6th. Don't tell me.



HUNT: What do you make of that? President Biden responding to President Trump and many of his supporters?

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATOR: You know, I would go a little further. I would say don't tell me you believe in the rule of law, don't tell me you believe in democracy, if you are not willing to condemn what happened on January 6th.

So listen, I think we have issues on both sides of the aisle, quite frankly, but I certainly agree with the sentiment that don't tell me that you support the police if you're not willing to condemn what happened on January 6th.

HUNT: He also talked -- President Biden talked at some length about political violence. And he seemed to be responding to Senator Lindsey Graham when he said, if such and such, this is President Biden, if such and such happens, there will be blood in the streets --of course, potentially referring to Lindsey Graham saying over the weekend that there would be riots in the streets in the event that the former president is indicted over the search down at Mar-a-Lago.

What was your take on the president's pushback to those comments?

GONZALES: I -- well, I'm not going to comment so much on the president's pushback. Let me comment first on Senator Graham's comments, which I thought were terrible, quite frankly. The notion that there should be any kind of violence in response to what may happen in our courts. Again, the procedure is going to go according to the Constitution. Former President Trump, if he is in fact charged and tried, it will be pursuant to the protections afforded any defendant in our country.

And so, you know, whatever the repercussions or outcome of anything that happens with respect to the search at Mar-a-Lago, there shouldn't be violence in response to that. So I condemn what Senator Graham said. I think it was inappropriate and I think it was wrong.

HUNT: Let me just bring back, I think we actually have the sound of Lindsey Graham. We can show it to everyone to remind them what he said and I have another question on the other side. Take a look.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'll say this: If there's a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle which you presided over and did a hell of a good job, there will be riots in the streets.


HUNT: So is he essentially okaying political violence there? And to go back to President Biden, one of the things he kept saying in the speech today is this is fundamentally un-American that we suddenly have people suggesting political violence may be the solution.

GONZALES: Look, I'm not going to say that he was suggesting violence in the street or encouraging violence in the street, but I think that responsible leaders in Washington should be encouraging patience. Let the process play out.

And I said the same thing earlier, some time ago, that one of the best things that former President Donald Trump can do in addition to, of course, cooperating with law enforcement in connection with this investigation, is to inform his supporters that their response to what's going on here, even though it may be unpopular, that the response cannot be violence. That's not the way that we should be operating and conducting ourselves here in a democracy. HUNT: The reality, of course, though, is not -- the track record that

the former president has on this, we can point to January 6th, is really to in many ways encourage the opposite from his supporters. I'm curious what you think Merrick Garland, the current attorney general, obviously, you have been in those shoes in the past. But he's in a very unique position as someone who has to make a decision about what to do here about the former president.

Do you think he should be considering what Lindsey Graham suggested there, the fact that it might cause incredible political unrest, that the former president might actually encourage his supporters to violence? I mean, can you take us inside what he might be thinking at this point along those lines?

GONZALES: Well, I don't know General Garland, let me begin by saying that. But I can tell you based on what I understand, the kind of person that he is, is that a consideration. Certainly, he'll think about that. He'll understand that there could be those kinds of violent repercussions, but at the end of the day, he took an oath to enforce the law.

And so, if he believes a crime has been committed and he believes he can prove that crime, beyond a reasonable doubt in our courts, then he has an obligation to move forward. The most he can do at that point is, of course, prepare, have the federal government prepare for any kind of reaction that may arise as a result of the charges, as a result of the trial, as a result of a conviction.

But make no mistake about it, he has an obligation as the attorney general to make sure that crimes are prosecuted. And you know, and deal with the repercussions when they occur.

HUNT: Actually, I spoke to Liz Cheney about this very topic, and her push on that front was similar to what you were saying, essentially arguing this needs to be made outside of the context of any political consideration, even if we're talking about the possibility of violence.

What do you think is the responsibility of other Republican leaders? We have seen many of them be very reluctant if not refuse to go out and criticize the former president. What are the responsibility of those types of lawmakers as this process moves forward?

GONZALES: I think they have a responsibility to speak to the American people about the importance of patience, again. Let's let the process play out, and whatever the repercussions, violence can never be the answer. I think that every elected official in this country has an obligation to deliver that message.

I'm not -- I'm not suggesting here that President Donald Trump is guilty of anything, former President Donald Trump is guilty of anything. He's entitled to due process under the law, but certainly, it seems to me that our elected leadership should be informing the American people to be patient, let the process play out, and whatever the outcome, violence cannot be the response.

HUNT: All right. Alberto Gonzales, former attorney general, thanks for your time, sir. We really appreciate it.

GONZALES: You bet. Thank you.

HUNT: Also this hour, Donald Trump back at it. His dangerous posts today flooding the Internet.

Plus, the emergency in Jackson, Mississippi. Water too dangerous to drink. This American city struggling to provide basic services. A water crisis decades in the making reaches a boiling point.



HUNT: We're back now with our politics lead. President Biden's public safety push including a renewed call to ban assault weapons. Moments ago in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the president laid out exactly where he stands.


BIDEN: I'm determined to ban assault weapons in this country, determined. I did it once before. And I'll do it again. For many of you at home, I want to be clear. It's not about taking away anybody's guns. In fact, we should be treating responsible gun owners as examples how every gun owner should behave.


HUNT: The president telling the crowd that they should vote against anyone who won't vote to ban assault weapons.

Joining us now, CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp and Paul Begala.

It's great to see both of you.

Paul, let me start with you. I mean, what do you make of the president's message today on guns? Pretty bold. He's in a swing state. What do you think?


Joe Biden knows this issue. He did write the last time we beat the NRA was Joe Biden's bill that banned assault weapons and those high capacity magazines. I worked for President Clinton who signed that bill into law.

But he's got the sweet spot, which is more cops, fewer guns. He shut down the far left. The nonsense about defund the police. He closed the door on that. In fact, fund the police and turn that back on the Republicans, saying Republican MAGA extremists wants to defund the FBI. Then he turned to the NRA and said, we don't need these weapons of war. He spoke with such passion.

As a parent, do we talk about DNA, I don't know if I can say it without weeping, but how those parents, those moms and dads had to use DNA to identify their own children.

And you know, responsible gun owners support him on that. I'm one of them. We support him on banning assault weapons and we support him on 100,000 more cops in community policing, in cracking down on police brutality.


I think he's exactly captured the heart of the country there.

HUNT: S.E., do you think that calling out the hypocrisy -- what he called the hypocrisy of Republicans on law enforcement support, is that going to be effective for Democrats. He tied it into January 6, too, saying you can't be for insurrection and support law enforcement at the same time.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think Democrats have long ceded patriotism, law and order, stuff like that to Republicans. I think it sounds really refreshing to hear a Democrat talk about it and really put Republicans on the defense, because they should be defensive.

But on the guns, to my friend Paul Begala, another law abiding gun owner like me, I mean, you could say this was brave and a powerful rebuke of the NRA. I happen to agree. Or you could say it was a bold strategy, cotton, to go into a commonwealth like Pennsylvania that saw a surge in gun permits during the pandemic, that has a quarter of a million registered gun owners, that has the highest number of deer hunters in the country, just behind Texas.

We'll see how that plays. I think it was kind of a bold but maybe risky move.

HUNT: You know, it's interesting you say that, S.E., as a former Pennsylvania resident, I mostly grew up there. I think the one pushback I would offer to you on that point is just the suburbs in Philadelphia and even the Pittsburgh area to a lesser extent, the issue cuts very differently there.

So it's interesting to me that he said this in Pennsylvania in Wilkes- Barre in the middle of the state. Let's talk more about the fact that President Trump is campaigning for Republicans in PA this coming weekend.

In the last 24 hours, the former president has posted more than 60 times on his Truth Social website. He attacked Mitch McConnell, he defended the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He perpetuated this false idea that somehow he is the rightful president. He attacked the FBI -- to President Biden's point.

What is happening here, Paul?

BEGALA: Well, a hit dog will holler, won't he? I mean, he just -- something is getting to him. I'm not sure what's getting under his skin, but he's clearly panicked and upset about something. And you know, I'm sure Republicans who are running are kind of thinking of that old country song, how can I miss you if you won't go away?

Republicans had this election teed up on Biden, inflation, and crime. Now, the president has turned it, President Biden, so now the election is about Trump, abortion, and guns. That's an issue that Democrats can run on and win.

So I'm not a big Trump fan, but as a Democrat, I guess I'm kind of happy to see him sticking his face into these races.

HUNT: You're not the only Democratic strategist I have spoken to that feels the same way about Trump's resurgence. Let me show you this tweet that Trump retruthed, the Truth Social name for retweeting. It has the words your enemy is not in Russia over the faces of the vice president, the president, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

There were a couple posts like this. It's very alarming on the one hand, and also seems to be like a regular Tuesday for Donald Trump. How seriously do we need to take this?

CUPP: I mean, on the one hand, this is the kind of stuff that makes him still one of the most dangerous men in America. He is still convincing a not insignificant number of people to treat Americans, whether it's the president, journalists, immigrants, their neighbors, as the enemy. That makes him very, very dangerous.

On the other, to your point, Kasie, the noise of Trump is so constant that this almost, I mean, in a good way, I think we're a little bit numb to it. At least that's what I'm hoping because that's truly dangerous rhetoric.

HUNT: It is indeed. Paul, S.E., thank yous very much for that conversation.

We are getting some breaking news in here. Word of one of modern history's most critical leaders just passed away.



HUNT: We're back now with breaking news. Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the most consequential leaders of the 20th century has died at 91, this according to Russian state media. Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and he ushered in a new openness that led to the end of the Cold War.

CNN's Matthew Chance looks back at his life and his impact on Russia and the world.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With that port stain birthmark on his forehead, Mikhail Gorbachev, was one of the most recognizable figures in 20th century politics. His attempts to reform the Soviet Union and his role in ending the Cold War made him one of its most influential too. As a young man, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State University. It's

there he met and married a fellow student, Raisa Titarenko. He went on to forge a career in the communist party, eventually age 54 becoming its general secretary, the leader of had Soviet Union.

It was in this role that Gorbachev and his wife broke the mold. He, for his outgoing charismatic nature.


Raisa for her stylish outfits and for the unheard of elegance she brought to the role of Soviet first lady.

But the vast communist nation they ruled was on the brink of crisis. Amid shortages of food and consumer goods, the Soviet command economy was grinding to a halt. There was also alarm at the apparently slow response to the Soviet authorities to the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

Gorbachev tried to fix things with what he called perestroika and Glasnost, reforms that were to revolutionize the Soviet system.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, SOVIET UNION LEADER (through translator): I began these reforms and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy, without bloodshed. So the people would cease to be herd led by a shepherd. They would become citizens.

CHANCE: There was revolution, too, in relations with the West. Face- to-face with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Gorbachev made a stunning proposal, to eliminate all nuclear missiles held by the two superpowers. It was the beginning of the end of the cold war. Soon the Berlin wall would fall. And after a failed coup by hard liners in Moscow, the Soviet Union itself was dissolved, and Gorbachev resigned.

GORBEACHEV: I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of president of the USSR.

CHANCE: In 1999, he lost the love of his life, his wife of 46 years, Raisa, who died of leukemia.

But there was no love lost between many Russians and Gorbachev. To many of his countrymen, he would always be the man who allowed the great Soviet Empire to collapse, exposing millions to hardship and humiliation.

Even Gorbachev himself expressed regret.

GORBACHEV: I fought the best I could to defend the Soviet Union. But I failed.

CHANCE: But in the West, he was revered and celebrated as a great statesman. A Nobel Peace Prize Winner who played a decisive role in ending the Cold War, peacefully diffusing the most dangerous standoff of the 20th century.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HUNT: Our thanks to Matthew Chance for that reporting. I want to bring in Jill Dougherty, Russia analyst and the former CNN Moscow bureau chief.

Jill, thank you for spending time with us. Gorbachev was such an extremely influential politician and leader in Russian history. You lived in Russia for about a decade. You met Gorbachev several times. How -- what was your reaction when you heard he passed?

JILL DOUGHERTY, RUSSIA ANALYST (via telephone): You know, intense sadness, really, because Gorbachev, I think, in contrast to any previous Soviet leader, was a personal leader. He had extraordinary charisma.

And just on a personal basis, interviewing him, meeting him, and also his relationship which Matthew mentioned, with his wife Raisa. He broke the mold when it came to an approachable, personable leader, and that, not to mention, of course, his role in history, which was enormous. If you just look at the Soviet Union itself, and how he changed that, he changed it with openness and all of a sudden, publications that nobody could ever read before, they were all over the place. People were reading forbidden literature because there was an intellectual opening and a social opening.

And perestroika that's I think the most difficult part of all, because perestroika means rebuilding, and what he wanted to do, and this is where he failed, is to keep the Soviet Union going. He believed you could reform it, turn it into something like maybe European socialism, but that was impossible, and you know, the Soviet Union collapsed.

And because of that, when people really began to live extremely hard lives, the economy fell apart, there was no structure left anymore to the economy or even societally, people began to blame him. And to this day, many Russians revile him. So to me, he is the person who absolutely changed history with his own personality, to have that vision that somehow things could change.

And it didn't work out the way he wanted it to, but he certainly will go down in history as a person who really reformed and brought Russia out of the darkness, into what eventually became some type of democracy. We know the problems that exist right now, but Gorbachev certainly, I would hope that Russians eventually, many years from now, will remember him as a person who actually improved Russia and saved Russia from itself at many moments.


HUNT: Certainly, he'll be remembered in the West as someone who improved the world.

Jill, stand by for me, please.

I want to bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He is in Moscow.

Fred, what is the reaction in Russia to the news? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there,

Kasie. This is obviously just dropping here in Russian news agencies, and really so far, what we're getting is a message from the hospital where Miguel Gorbachev was being treated when simply said, I'm translating this as I go, tonight, this evening, after a very prolonged and very severe illness, Mikhail Gorbachev has died. That's so far all we have from the hospital itself. Obviously, reaching out to various government agencies.

It's already pretty late here in Moscow, but I do think that Jill is obviously absolutely right. A lot of people here in Russia will obviously be very sad tonight, will be mourning tonight.

But at the same time, Gorbachev did have a mixed bag of results for a lot of people here in this country and is not someone who necessarily has been a popular figure here over the past couple of years, over the past couple decades. Many of course saying he was responsible for the ends of the Soviet Union and many people feel it's sort of brought this country into a chaos that it took a long time for the country to recover from.

So when you speak to people here on the streets in Moscow and other Russian cities, you won't necessarily hear very kind words about Mikhail Gorbachev. You won't necessarily hear a lot of people with a lot of sympathy for Mikhail Gorbachev, but I think Jill is absolutely correct to say obviously he brought the then Soviet Union into a whole different path, a whole new era.

And also, one of the things we have to point out with Mikhail Gorbachev is while he wasn't necessarily very popular here in Russia, especially during the Putin era and during the 1990s, when a lot of the -- which life became very difficult for a lot of people, a lot of disorderliness here in Moscow and other cities. But if you look, for instance, towards Europe, obviously he's someone who is absolutely adored there. You look for instance at Germany where he is still very much revered by a lot of people. He lived in Germany for an extended period of time.

And, of course, many people believe he was largely responsible for the unification of Europe, together with the other very large leaders like, for instance, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., Helmut Kohl, and Francois Mitterrand.

HUNT: Yeah, really remarkable. Jill, you mentioned Gorbachev was, of course, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and Glasnost, his openness program, did usher in a new era of Russian politics. That really eventually led to the end of the Cold War.

What can you tell us about some of the relationships that Fred was just walking through with the great leaders of that era?

DOUGHERTY: Certainly, I'm thinking George Bush, Sr., George H.W., and Reagan, you would have to go back to Reagan and beginning the arms control was probably the most important for the world, those two countries bristling with nuclear weapons. And the fact that they got together and decided that they were going to reduce the number of weapons and bring some type of stability.

I think also, when you get to the end of the Soviet Union, his relationship was almost with any almost leader was usually quite personal. There are very interesting letters that he exchanged with George H.W. Bush. And with Reagan, and I think when you look at these letters, you realize that I think he understood that he was moving Russia into a new world. And yet he was a very -- I wouldn't say he was modest, but there was a certain kind of down to earth modesty about him, too, that I always remember.

And I think, you know, when you -- when you think of Russia today, I don't want to get too much into today, because it's a time to remember Mr. Gorbachev, but the openness and the information that people were exposed to at that point, the reverse is happening today, sadly. Russia is shutting down access to information. I can remember those times where there was absolute excitement when the latest magazine would come out, filled with articles about Russia and the world and people were really, really excited. This was a different country right now.

HUNT: It most certainly is. The current president Biden here met with Gorbachev in 2009 at the White House. This is, of course, when Biden was vice president. President Obama stopped by. You see the photograph there.


The meeting at the time was about reducing global nuclear weapons. So, clearly, Gorbachev had a life on the public stage after he left his leadership post in Russia.

DOUGHERTY: Oh, yes. And also, if I remember correctly, he did some advertisements, I would have to recall exactly, I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who remember some of the advertisements he did. He was very open. Business was coming to Russia, there was an investment at the end of the Soviet Union and certainly the beginning of modern Russia.

But, you know, I think another part of this that's very interesting is Gorbachev and Yeltsin did not get along. This was quite noticeable toward the end when Yeltsin was coming on the scene as the president of the Russian republic, and those two men were really sparring politically. At the very end, they did cooperate, I think, but there was a lot of animosity. I think if you look at Yeltsin, he realized that the communist party and the system they had could not go on.

And I think much as Gorbachev was not particularly enamored with the communist party, but he did believe the economic Russia, Soviet Union, could continue and be reformed. Yeltsin did not. So Yeltsin came in, and basically smashed all the furniture and changed the system, brought down everything and it was the end of the old Soviet Union.

HUNT: Jill, I want to ask Fred about this, too. Fred, how did Gorbachev and the Gorbachev era influence what we're seeing now, influence Vladimir Putin's leadership? PLEITGEN: Well, I think it influenced Vladimir Putin in a way that

Vladimir Putin never wants Russia to be what the Soviet Union was when Gorbachev took over and of course when the Soviet Union fell apart. I think a lot of what influences Vladimir Putin today and throughout Vladimir Putin's career is due to the end times of the Soviet Union, to the time Vladimir Putin spent in Dresden when he was an officer there. And then later, of course, when he went back to Russia after the Soviet Union fell apart and had a pretty tough time there.

So I do think it has a huge influence on Vladimir Putin in that he wants Russia to be a lot stronger now than the Soviet Union was at the end of its days.

HUNT: Very interesting point.

Jill Dougherty, Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much for getting that together for us. We're going to have much more from Jill and Fred coming up in our next hour.

Plus, how much that region has changed. Putin now in charge and invading Ukraine. We're going to go live there next.



HUNT: We're back with our world lead, as we learn of the death of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He pushed for a more open Soviet Union. Quite the contrast of what we see now under Vladimir Putin.

International inspectors are in Kyiv preparing for the risky journey to a Russian-controlled power plant in southern Ukraine made more dangerous by ongoing Russian shelling along corridors to that station, according to one Ukrainian official.

Now CNN's Sam Kiley takes us right up to the front lines in the south as Ukraine vows to chase Russians back over the border.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lightning advance by Ukraine against Russia leaves a winded landscape almost emptied of people. Ukraine claims to have broken through Russian front lines close to here, capturing several villages in a new counteroffensive.

We have been stopped at a road block about a kilometer short of where they say there have been incoming fire in the last 24 hours. But we can see very clearly here that in these tree lines, these tree lines were all occupied by Ukrainian forces until 24 hours ago at the beginning of this counteroffensive. This is clearly been a location where there's been pretty heavy fighting.

The fighting is now concentrated, we understand from soldiers we have spoken to here, close to the front line. Five or six kilometers beyond and beyond that lies the ultimate goal of Kherson. The regional capital captured by Russia in March was rocked by fighting, Russia said today.

Its forces claim to have wiped out a Ukrainian partisan cell in a firefight. Who won the skirmish is unclear, but the city has been the center of Ukrainian resistance for months. Ukraine says that it has damaged the bridges connecting it to the Russian held left bank of the Dnipro River, cutting off key supply lines for the Russians.

NATALIA HUMENIUK, SECURITY AND DEFENSE FORCES OF SOUTHERN UKRAINE (through translator): Continue to try to set up a ferry crossing, but the whole area where it can be deployed is also under our fire control and will be hit.

KILEY: Russia's claim to have held off an offensive in which it lost at least four villages in 48 hours, according to Ukrainian military sources. Maria and her husband stayed on her farm in Ukraine's front line throughout the war to feed their livestock.

The months of shelling have left her shaken. This week, she's endured jets streaming overhead as Ukrainian fighters attacked Russian targets.

MARIA POKUSAEVA, FARMER NEAR FRONT LINE (through translator): I hid inside the house. My heart was jumping out every time. I was screaming so loud when the planes were flying over. I was so scared. God save us.

KILEY: For now, though, survival means getting the harvest in. This may be a long war, and winter is close at hand.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Kasie, as if the Ukrainian advance continues, they're clearly going to tighten the vice more and more around Kherson, and that ultimately risks the problem that the Ukrainians will face, which is they may end up laying siege themselves to a Ukrainian city. That is something they need to avoid, Kasie.

HUNT: Indeed. Sam Kiley in Ukraine, thanks very much for that report.

Our coverage continues right now with "THE SITUATION ROOM."