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Ukrainians May Have Launched Kremlin Attack; Bannon Appears in Court; Asa Hutchinson is Interviewed about his Run for President; Remembering Tina Turner. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 25, 2023 - 09:30   ET




RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to CNN NEWS CENTRAL. Here's a look at one of the top stories we're following this morning.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says every hour matters on the debt ceiling talks. But we are also just hearing from a key GOP negotiator that says he has no plans to go to the White House today. He did, however, speak with White House negotiators this morning. House members set to go home today. The speaker, however, did urge lawmakers to stay close to the nation's capital over the Memorial Day weekend as negotiators work on a debt ceiling deal.



So, new U.S. intelligence suggests that a Ukrainian group may have been behind the drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month. Sources say U.S. officials picked up chatter between Ukrainian officials blaming each other for this incident. President Zelenskyy has denied the country was behind the attack.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins us now.

Natasha, the nature of these discussions and what exactly they indicate to U.S. officials, explain.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, John, so in the aftermath of this attack on the Kremlin with two drones on the morning of May 3rd, the U.S. picked up chatter amongst Ukraine officials kind of speculating that Ukraine was behind it, particularly chatter from Ukrainian military and intelligence officials speculating that it was Ukrainian special operations forces who carried out this incident.

Now, the -- U.S. officials have also picked up chatter of Russian officials speculating privately that it was the Ukrainians and also wondering how it happened. And so all of this chatter kind of put together has led the U.S. to come to a low confidence assessment that it was likely a Ukrainian group that carried out this attack on the Kremlin. Now, it is important to note that U.S. officials don't actually

believe that this was an assassination attempt on the Kremlin because, importantly, Vladimir Putin wasn't even in the Kremlin at the time. And the Kremlin has actually said that publicly. The -- Putin actually - it's rarely in that building. And that is pretty widely known. So, they don't believe it was an assassination attempt as the Russians have alleged here and they don't believe that President Zelenskyy himself was aware of this when it happened or that he was even involved in it at all.


And so there's still a lot of open questions about who carried out the attack in terms of whether it was in any way connected to the government or whether it was just kind of a rogue Ukrainian group or even a pro-Russian group - or a pro-Ukrainian group inside Russia. It's just unclear at this point.

But the Russians, of course, still saying that regardless of who carried it out, Kyiv, the government there, was still behind it, with Dimitri Peskov saying just this morning that they know that the Ukrainian government decided to launch these attacks at the Kremlin. Of course that is still unclear, John.

BERMAN: And it was a remarkable picture and a remarkable, you know, image to see, a demonstration of strength and reach.

Natasha Bertrand, keep us posted. Thank you.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is back in court over allegations that he defrauded donors who thought they were helping to pay to build a border wall. Prosecutors in New York have said that the campaign by Bannon and others raised about $25 million. Just one month ago one of Bannon's associates in - in this was sentenced to over four years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in the related federal case. Bannon pleaded not guilty and was then pardoned by Donald Trump in that federal case.

Now, the New York district attorney, though, brought state charges against Bannon last year.

CNN's Kara Scannell has more on what to expect in court today.


Steve Bannon back in court this morning for a status conference. That's in the case brought by the Manhattan district attorney's office. Now prosecutors allege that Bannon and his co-conspirators defrauded donors in a fundraising effort called We Build the Wall. The objective of that effort was to construct a wall along the southern U.S. border.

Now, prosecutors say that Bannon and others had told the donors that 100 percent of the money would go toward that construction. Instead, prosecutors say, Bannon and the others took hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now, Bannon has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of money laundering, scheme to defraud and conspiracy. And the point of today's conference, a judge is going to bring in Bannon's attorneys because he just got new attorneys after his prior attorney resigned citing irreconcilable differences. So, the judge will check in with prosecutors and Bannon's lawyers to see where they are as part of the discovery process where the attorney's turn over some of the evidence they have for Bannon's lawyers.

Now, we expect the judge today to set a motion schedule and also set a trial date for this case. It's not the only legal problems that Bannon has. You'll remember he was convicted for contempt of Congress for not complying to a - to a subpoena from the House committee investigating January 6th, who's sentenced to four months in prison but remains free while he's appealing that conviction.


BOLDUAN: So much going on here. Kara, thank you so much for that.


SOLOMON: Well, the field for the Republican presidential nomination is growing by the day. One of the candidates taking on Trump, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, joins us next.

Plus, Microsoft's warning about Chinese hackers. The company claiming they want to drive a wedge in communications between the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region. More on the alleged targets coming up.



BERMAN: So, today the race for the White house is officially one Republican bigger as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his bid.

Joining us now is one man who hopes to best DeSantis for the Republican presidential nomination, former governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson.

Governor, great to see you this morning.

So, they say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Governor DeSantis kicked off his campaign last night on Twitter. It didn't really work. What kind of first impression do you think it made?

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it didn't make the best first impression because you want that to go smooth. But, most importantly, you want to be able to get your message out. And the message was stepped on, of course, by glitches in the announcement itself. And I feel for Governor DeSantis and he's got sufficient resources to continue in this fight and to work on recovering from yesterday. So, that's behind. Let's look forward to the next stage of the

campaign, which is all the candidates being out in the early states competing in retail politics, making sure that who can be the best one to not only beat the frontrunner, Donald Trump, but also who can win in November election and bring independents and suburban voters together. I think I can make the case that I'm the one that can do that.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, you did point out that Donald Trump is the frontrunner now, and the polls quite clearly show that. CNN has a new poll just out which also asks voters who your first and second choice are. And we combine those two.

And it is interesting when you look at that. And you can see, in that case you have Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis just breaking away from the field. They are the clear first and/or second choice of Republican voters right now. And then, to a certain extent, it's everyone else. Why do you think those two are in a group of their own?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I think, first of all, they are competing for the same vote. Both President Trump and also Governor DeSantis have much of the stale, same pugilistic style. And that appeals to some. I think that you can combine being a fighter for conservative causes with having respect for our Constitution, having respect for the conservative cause, and also for our country. And so I think, you know, as time goes on -- and it's very, very early -- but as time goes on, they're going to -- voters are going to focus on who can actually win in a November election.


And who can also help bring our country together and who has the experience to lead on fentanyl, who has the experience to lead on our border crisis, on balancing the budget, on constraining the growth of the federal government and being a strong America? These are cases that I want to be able to bring. I like the fact that we've gone up in the polls. We hope to be -- continue to rise.

BERMAN: So, Governor, it's interesting that you just brought up the pugilistic style, those were your words to describe Governor DeSantis and Donald Trump. I was looking at a campaign event you just did in South Carolina where you leaned into the idea of optimism. And that's something of a contrast to what we've seen certainly from the former president who talking about American carnage and also to an extent Governor DeSantis. Why do you feel that optimism is important?

HUTCHINSON: Well, because its foundation for America. Whenever the American went west, we did it with a spirit of optimism and realism on the challenge that was ahead of us as we went into new territory. You know, as we fought in World War II, we did it with a spirit of optimism and conviction that we have to meet this challenge. And so optimism is an important part of it, but we also have to understand that we're at a crossroads. And we are challenged as America. We're being threatened by China, who wants to be number one.

And I'm competitive and I'm a fighter, but I also believe in the spirit of America and also want our president to reflect the national character. And the national character of our country is strength, but it is also goodness.

BERMAN: We just had a report a few minutes ago from Natasha Bertrand which talked about how U.S. intelligence picked up chatter among Ukrainians talking about the drone attack on the Kremlin last month. We also know that there have been pro-Ukrainian strikes from Russians inside Russia over the last several days. How comfortable are you, Governor, with either the Ukrainians or people aligned with the Ukrainians taking that fight inside Russian borders?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I think you have to look very closely at the intelligence as to what the reality is, and I'm not privy to that intelligence information. We want to be able to support Ukraine. We want them to win. We don't want them to go into Russia have counter invasions. But we want them to protect their sovereignty. And sometimes that does involve going after artillery that might be impacting their cities inside of Ukraine, but it causes them to take the fight over across the line.

And so you have to be careful about that. You don't want an expanded war, but we're also not going to let Russian threats determine the U.S. military level of support for Ukraine. My only criticism of this administration is that they've moved too slow. Whether you're talking about Abram tanks or F-16s, let's make a decision, let's get the training done, let's give Ukraine what they need to win and to protect their sovereign territory.

BERMAN: Governor Asa Hutchinson from Arkansas, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Super interesting. Thanks, John.

An amazing medical breakthrough. A man paralyzed for over ten years takes his first steps, and it all has to do with an implant allowing his brain and spine to essentially speak once again. An incredible story we'll bring to you.

And, the icon and the legend. Remembering Tina Turner today.



BOLDUAN: Hundreds of people evacuated and more than 100 firefighters called to the scene. This is the massive blaze that broke out in a seven-story building in central Sydney. Emergency teams, they aren't sure yet what caused the fire. Officials, though, say the building started to collapse so even neighboring buildings needed to be evacuated. They believe that it's mostly contained at this point, but a whole lot of work and repair is now ahead.

Authorities have been trying to find him for more than two decades. Officials now say, though, that they have captured the most wanted fugitive from the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Officials say Fulgence Kayishema was arrested yesterday afternoon in South Africa. Kayishema allegedly orchestrated the killing of more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees during the genocide. He has been on the run since 2001.

A major warning also is coming in from Microsoft we want to tell you about. It says that hackers backed by the Chinese government are likely trying to disrupt critical communications between the United States and the Asia Pacific region in the event of a future U.S./China crisis. According to this report from Microsoft, the hackers have been active since the middle of 2021 and have been targeting critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and in other parts of the United States. Organizations like those covering maritime transportation and government sectors.


SOLOMON: And, Kate, from humble beginnings to rock 'n' roll royalty, Tina Turner's life and musical legendary are center stage today. The dynamic singer died Wednesday at her home in Switzerland. She was 83.


TINA TURNER, MUSICIAN (singing): You're simply the best. Better than all the rest. Better than anyone. Anyone I ever met. Ooh, I'm stuck on your heart.


SOLOMON: Fans around the world paying tribute to the superstar whose electrifying shows made her one of the most iconic performers of her generation. And she became a hero to survivors of abuse after speaking out about the violence she endured during her marriage to ex-husband Ike Turner.

Joining us now to discuss all of this is CNN's senior entertainment reporter Lisa France.


Lisa, so many artists paying tribute. I think it was Angela Bassett who actually posted on Instagram saying Tina Turner was the gift that was simply the best. Who else are we hearing from?

LISA FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: So many legends like herself. I mean Oprah Winfrey saying that she went from being a super fan to a groupie to an actual friend. Another queen, like Beyonce, if you go to Beyonce's website you'll see a tribute to Tina Turner in which she talks about her being the epitome of power and passion and she thanks her for being an inspiration to Beyonce. You know the pair of them, lots of people are going back to 2008 to watch the video of the two of them performing "Proud Mary" together, which was one of the most exhilarating performances ever for the Grammys.

So, the question really is, who is not paying tribute to the wonderful Tina Turner today.

SOLOMON: Yes, I think Beyonce said, my beloved queen, I love you endlessly.


SOLOMON: Lisa, impossible question to ask, but I'm going to ask anyway. I think it's so hard to fully illustrate her contribution to music, but also women around the world. Tell us a little bit more about how Tina will be remembered?

FRANCE: I think she'll most be remembers for her resilience. That's the word that keeps coming back and forth - you know, back from everyone. You know, her strength, her resilience, how she was a survivor.

You know, in the 1980s, when she went public with her abuse with her former husband Ike Turner, lots of people thought about domestic violence in terms of poor women. They didn't think about somebody like a superstar like Tina Turner who had resources being abused. So, for her to speak up and stand out, it meant so much to so many women who had gone through domestic violence themselves.

SOLOMON: Absolutely.

Lisa France, great to have you. Thank you.

FRANCE: Thank you.


BERMAN: An IRS whistleblower speaks out claiming to have critical information about what he calls the mishandling of the Hunter Biden investigation.

Homeland Security now warning about increased threats from pro-Nazi and white nationalist groups here in the United States.