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CNN Analysis Shows Dam was Damaged Days Before Suffering Major Structural Collapse; PGA Tour Merging with LIV Golf; Chris Christie Set to Announce White House Bid Today. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 11:00   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: A critical dam has collapsed in Ukraine leading to mass evacuations and prompting fears of large scale devastation. So, who's to blame for the collapse?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A woman goes to a neighbor's house and gets shot through the door. Now her family is demanding to know why no one has been arrested.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And major news in the sport, the PGA Tour announcing it is effectively merging with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour, which had been accused of sports washing. So, why the huge about face? This is CNN News Central.

SIDNER: The critical dam in Southern Ukraine that collapsed early this morning was damaged just over one week ago. That is according to a new CNN analysis of satellite images. These pictures show the road that ran across the dam there was fully intact on May 28th. But this image from just yesterday shows a part of that road is now missing, circled in red. You can see there that the portion of the curved road is gone.

CNN cannot independently verify whether the damage caused the collapse or whether it was destroyed in a deliberate attack. Ukrainian and Russian officials have both blamed each other for that destruction. Hundreds of residents downriver in Kherson were forced to evacuate as water flooded into their neighborhoods.

CNN Scott McLean joins us now. Scott, what more do you know about that? That is very telling, looking at some of those satellite images as well.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right. And the blame game is going on here, Sara, with both the Ukrainians and the Russians blaming each other for what happened. But all the while, you have some serious devastation taking place.

Now, I just want to give you a sense of how much water. We're actually talking about. So, obviously, the Dnipro River runs in this direction, and we're talking about a reservoir sitting here, four cubic miles worth of water. This is the same water volume, give or take, as the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It is an enormous volume of water that we're talking about. Obviously, the dam is right here and we're already starting to see, as you mentioned, some flooding that's happening downstream.

Also complicating things for rescue workers, according to the Ukrainian side, is the fact that many roads are already starting to get flooded, already starting to get washed out. And so people going in to evacuate, people are having difficulties right off the bat. That is going to be something that we'll see more and more of.

Now, the Russians say -- now, the Ukrainians, first off, say that, look, this was carried out by Russia, who planted bombs on the actual hydroelectric power plant and the dam itself. The Russians say that this was carried out by the Ukrainians on the order of Kyiv. And the reason that they say that is key here because they say that they wanted to deprive Crimea of water.

Crimea is way over here. So, what does this mean? Well, Crimea has had persistent water issues since they annexed this area back in 2014. It was only after the full scale invasion when Russia managed to seize control of a canal which connects to this reservoir, and that's when they've had their water issues alleviated. On the Russian side, they say that, look, things are going to be okay, water levels are going to drop, but they should have water for some time.

Also of concern, the Zaporizhzhia region nuclear power plant. The cooling systems rely on water from the river. At the moment, they say it's no big deal. And then, of course, we're also keeping an eye on the offensive coming this way, which obviously the Ukrainians say may be hampered given what's taken place here, Sara.

SIDNER: Scott McLean thank you so much for that update. John?

BERMAN: All right. Joining me now is retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. General, great to see you. I think one point we want to emphasize here is the Dnipro River is the dividing line in the southern part of Ukraine, between the territory occupied by the Russians here and Ukraine proper. This is all Ukraine proper, frankly, but the area where Ukraine is still in control.

This is the dam that was blown up or destroyed somehow, the flooding taking place in this region right here. How does this impact a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, it's significant, John. As you and I used to be up on the wall when we were talking about Kherson, if you draw a line from Kherson to Berdiansk, that pretty much cuts that important road between Crimea and up into Donbas, what we call the land bridge. And so one of the potential areas and counterattack routes was to go from Kherson to Berdiansk. That would have been significant, probably the most important way to conduct this counter offensive.

But now with that area blocked off, two issues. Number one, they can't use that critical avenue of approach.


And number two, now the Russians can take all those troops that were being used for the defense in the south and put them up north to bolster their lines elsewhere. So, this is very significant.

BERMAN: Now, I don't know, General, if you can see the map that I have right here, but I'm drawing some Xs here in the region you're talking about around Kherson, south of Kherson right here. You're suggesting that the Russians could, in theory now, because this is flooded and blocked for the Ukrainian troops, move some of their troops up here to this region. And the reason you would do that is to block a possible counteroffensive from Ukraine with the Ukrainians trying to push to the Sea of Azov. Is that the idea?

KIMMITT: Yes, I can't see your map, but you describe it very, very well. The fact is that the challenge for the defenders, he does not know where the attacker is coming from. So, the defender has to be strong everywhere. Well, if you've now taken off probably the most likely avenue of approach for that attack, you now can displace all those other forces that were down there and strengthen the lines in those two or three other areas, which may be coming in. So, yes, this is significant. I suspect that's what's shown on your maps.

BERMAN: Again, now, the Ukrainians, and I'll just remind people what we're talking about here, we're talking about the Dnipro River, very huge, one of Europe's most significant waterways, by the way, the dam is right here. The Ukrainians say that they always knew this was a possibility. So, assuming that is the case, assuming that they planned for the possibility that this region, particularly right around here, might be flooded, what measures might they take?

KIMMITT: Well, I think if they thought that all along, then, obviously, their counteroffensive options would never have included that reach down there. So, it's very likely that they look at some of these other attack routes to use those as the major counteroffensive.

And so if they weren't planning to use Kherson, that's good. But the most significant issue of this then is the fact that those Russian forces down there, which were pinned down, are now no longer pinned down and now they're moving to other areas.

BERMAN: And, General, just to reiterate this fact, which I think we made clear here, this dam was controlled or isn't an area controlled by the Russians. Now, we don't know for sure who is responsible for its destruction, but if, in fact, it was the Russians who were controlling this territory, would a destruction point to strength or weakness by them?

KIMMITT: Oh, I think this is a very logical military maneuver. I don't think it talks to strength or weakness. Again, if you've got to worry about an attack along 600 miles front, if you now just reduce those options for the Ukraine so they can only attack on a 400 miles front somewhere along there, that just makes a lot more sense.

We had the same concern in World War II that the Germans would do this in the Ruhr Valley, which is why our major objective was to stop them from blowing up the Stromanual (ph) dams, and we were successful in doing that. So, no, I don't think this is crazy on the part of the Russians. This scorched earth strategy that they're taking. This seems quite logical from a military point of view. BERMAN: Just to reiterate what the general is talking about here, by flooding this area, prevent crossings here, it does perhaps move the battlefield over to this region and make it much smaller. General Mark Kimmitt, thank you so much for explaining all of this to us. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Also, a major announcement coming from the golf world today, the PGA Tour merging commercial operations and rights with the Saudi- backed rival LIV Golf Tour.

And joining me now for some more on this is CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan, also a sports columnist for USA Today. This is really seen as a stunning announcement, kind of shocking everyone and seeming to come out of nowhere. What do you think of this, Christine?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Absolutely, Kate. That's it, absolute blockbuster news story this morning. And, basically, the headline is never mind. Everything we talked about, the outrage of the PGA Tour, how they spoke about the 911 families and their concern about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, that's all out the window. The PGA Tour has wimped out, let's just say what it is, and they've gone into business with the Saudis, the people who killed Jamal Khashoggi, the people responsible for 911.

I am shocked, because, as you well know, we've talked about this so much, Kate, over the last year or so, all my reporting has been how angry the PGA Tour, its players, Jack Nicklaus, some of the great names, how angry they've been at the LIV golfers for taking that blood money. And now, to see the PGA Tour basically in bed, going into business with them, it truly is a huge story.


BOLDUAN: What is the motivation behind it then?

BRENNAN: I talked to a source just a few minutes ago, and a couple of other sources, as well as we've all been scrambling, as you know, to try to get more information. What it sounds like to me is that the powers that be in golf, obviously men's golf, PGA Tour, LIV Golf, et cetera, were sick and tired of all the squabbling, the drama, the soap opera of the complaining, the arguing, the fighting, the storylines. For example, at the Masters where I was, I was writing about LIV Golf for several days straight, taking away from the game of golf. So, they decided to merge.

And that's the concern, that it was just taking up too much of the oxygen of the game at a time when Tiger Woods is basically finished and Phil Mickelson is basically done, T.V. ratings are never going to be what they were with Tiger. And so they're frankly desperate to not lose more fans over the rancor and the bickering and the arguing between the boys on the PGA Tour and the boys on the LIV Golf, and so they decided to merge.

But what a cave in, a huge cave in, as I said, wimp out, by the PGA Tour, just giving up everything, all the values, all the stands, all the moral standing that they took, truly stunning. I don't know if I've seen anything like this in quite some time. BOLDUAN: And, I mean, when we had spoken about this, I mean, you had been very candid and forthright about I mean, you called it sports washing, like with the LIV Golf tournament, kind of how the Saudi regime was using golf to cover up for its human rights record. I guess we can say some of this matters. The details, it's not entirely clear exactly what combining commercial operations is going to mean for everybody. Do you have any lingering questions about this now?

BRENNAN: Yes, I sure do, a lot of them, a laundry list. But, yes, they will be. And I'm sure there will be people who come back against someone like me and say, well, wait a minute. Look at the language. And we're not going to quite do this or that. And we're going to have separate tours still, even though we're operating together, which I don't know how long that's going to last.

Let's go right to the heart of the matter, Kate, and that is that the PGA Tour will now be in business with the people who killed and dismembered Jamal Khashoggi. They will be in business with the people responsible for 911. They will be part of sports washing, because LIV Golf and the Saudi Investment Fund and Mohammed bin Salman, Kate, today they are leaping for joy. They are dancing through the streets because they have won. The PGA Tour has caved to them.

And instead, if the PGA Tour, some might be saying, well, what could they have done, if the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and the British Open, if they had looked at the LIV golfers a year ago and said, no, you cannot play here, which is something I wrote, something we talked about, if they had done that then took a stand, which golf never does, obviously, the sexism, the racism in golf, haunts it to this day, just appalling sexism and racism and misogyny for years.

But if those guys had taken a stand, which is not in their nature to do that, if they had and said, no Masters, no U.S. Open, I think LIV Golf would have caved. That's what they could have done. They didn't do that. And now they have an absolute fiasco on their hands that is going to be very difficult for them to try to explain. And journalists like me and you, we will be asking those questions for many weeks and months going forward.

BOLDUAN: I mean, look, if nothing else, this presents an important opportunity to remind everyone to look at the reporting from the CIA assessment of what was, who was, and how high it went in terms of approving and concocting the plan in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That today might be a good day to go back and read over that, to remind everyone where that came from. It's great to see you, Christine. Thank you for coming in. Sara?

SIDNER: From shutting down drag shows to restricting gender affirming care, state legislatures nationwide introduced hundreds of anti LGBTQ bills this year. Now, the country's largest LGBTQ rights have declared a national emergency.

Sorrow and outrage now in Florida, a black mother of four was shot and killed by her neighbor, a white mother. The family of the slain mom demanding an arrest, but it has not happened yet. Why? Coming up. Today, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will formally enter the race for the White House. Why he believes he is the best man to take on Donald Trump and Joe Biden.



SIDNER: On our radar this morning, for the first time ever, America's largest LGBTQ organization has declared a national state of emergency for the community. The human rights campaign says there are multiplying threats that have increased homophobia and transphobia across the entire United States, and it cites what it calls an unprecedented wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Also new this morning, both parties in a federal civil rape case against actor Cuba Gooding Jr. have been resolved. They put it this way the matter has been resolved. According to court records, the trial was set to start today with jury selection.


The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, claimed Gooding raped her twice inside a New York hotel in 2013.

And now this, wildfires in Canada are keeping air quality alerts in place across the Midwest and the Northeastern U.S. You can see the air quality in several cities has been deemed unhealthy, especially for certain groups who are sensitive to that. A cold front is, though, expected to push more wildfire smoke farther south and east through this entire week. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Today, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie is expected to formally announce he is running for president. Former Vice President Mike Pence has already filed the paperwork. He's expected to make his announcement tomorrow, same with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgim.

Let's get to New Hampshire right now. CNN's Omar Jimenez is there, St. Anselm College, the one, the only, Omar, where Chris Christie is going to be holding the town hall today. What are you learning about the announcement and also what Chris Christie's campaign focus will be?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, at the one and only St. Anselm College, we're expecting this announcement to happen in a town hall format. Brief remarks off the top, and then opening it up to the group that is there as well.

Now, as for what he will say, I think, bottom line, we're looking for the tone of the campaign to be set. Also, critically, and likely, I should say, how this time around will be different from 2016. Of course, his previous bid for the White House, but also, he hasn't been shy about going after former President Donald Trump, who is seen as largely the frontrunner in this primary race. But he also has been candid saying that I had to work with this guy before. I'm not just some, never Trumper who is now running to unseat Donald Trump. Take a listen to some of what former Governor Chris Christie has said in previous town halls.


FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): You're talking to somebody and hearing from someone who believed I could help make him better, wanted him to do what was best for the country, and he failed me even worse than he failed you. So, I'm not going to stand around and let this happen.

Now, if I decide to run, I'll be able to try to do something directly about it.


JIMENEZ: Now, despite all of that said, I should say, polls have shown an uphill battle for the former New Jersey governor. And, of course, he would join a growing list of GOP candidates in this primary season. So, he's going to have to do even more to stand out. But, of course, all of that work would officially begin as he's expected to announce for president today. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Omar, thank you so much. And, John, debate stage, Chris Christie, Donald Trump, that will be interesting.

BERMAN: Very. But Christie has to get there first. He needs a certain percentage of the polling and he needs all those donors, so that'll be truly interesting.

BOLDUAN: That's true.

BERMAN: All right. There are new questions this morning surrounding a flood at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. CNN has learned that back in October, an employee there drained a swimming pool, which ended up flooding a computer server room that had stored surveillance videos. A source says that I.T. equipment in the room was not damaged in the flood but it did happen roughly two months after FBI agents found hundreds of classified documents in the residence.

CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins us now. And, Evan, I understand you've got some new information about some of the people involved here.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the issue for prosecutors, John, has been to try to home in on this idea that there was obstruction. As you know, they've been looking at whether some of the workers there at Mar-a-Lago were moving boxes ahead of a visit by prosecutors to collect some of these documents.

We know that they had subpoenaed surveillance videos that were provided by the Trump Organization. This was in the early summer before the Mar-a-Lago search by the FBI in August. And then they came back asking for more surveillance video and for a preservation order.

So, all of that, you take that into context, we don't know, and prosecutors don't know whether this flood incident by the pool was something that was intentional, whether it was a mistake. But there are suspicions, and that's the reason why they're asking these questions of some of the witnesses.

Again, it's not clear whether it was intentional, but we do know that at least one witness said that the I.T. equipment was not damaged. And so the mystery will continue, I guess, until Jack Smith tells us otherwise.

BERMAN: Well, speaking of Jack Smith, Evan, any new information today about the meeting that took place at DOJ between attorneys for Donald Trump and investigators looking into these documents?


PEREZ: Well, he turned up at the meeting that the Trump team had asked for at the Justice Department. They did not get a meeting with the attorney general, which is what they had requested, but Jack Smith did show up, as did the top career prosecutor official at the Justice Department, who they had a meeting with.

Again, they were in there for about 90 minutes. And, John, they were told -- rather they were not told whether there was an imminent charge or indictment coming against the former president. And, of course, they made the case that this case is unfair and that the former president is being treated unfairly. John?

BERMAN: Evan Perez in Washington, great to see you, my friend. Sara?

SIDNER: Calls for justice after a mother of four in Florida was shot and killed by her neighbor, also a mother. Coming up, how a dispute over the woman's children led to her tragic death.

Also a school board in Oklahoma has approved the county's first religious charter school to be publicly funded. But is that constitutional?