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Chris Christie Set to Announce White House Bid; PGA Tour Joins Forces With LIV Golf; Mar-a-Lago Flood Under Investigation; Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor; Ukraine Dam Destroyed. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: President Biden welcomed the team yesterday, praising the Chiefs' performance both on and off the field.

Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes -- take a look -- making a last-minute play at the podium, intercepting his tight end Travis Kelce.


TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: So I have been waiting for this moment.




KING: Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We will see you tomorrow.

"CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A destroyed dam and an accusation of ecocide, Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of blowing up a critical dam, leading to massive flooding and evacuations. Now Kyiv is calling for a U.N. Security Council meeting and new sanctions against Moscow.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And the PGA Tour changing course. After a year of insults and lawsuits, the tour and LIV Golf are joining forces. But some golfers are livid,those who took a moral stand and a financial hit by not taking money from Saudi Arabia.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: We do begin in Ukraine with these pictures of a dam breach. You can see water just gushing through the dam here. This is a critical spot on the Dnipro River on the front lines of the war. And this happened in a Russian controlled part of the Kherson region.

Almost 900 people have already been forced from their homes because of this, these rising waters, while settlements downstream are starting to flood. One Ukrainian officials said 16,000 people on the West Bank of the river are in a critical zone.

Russian officials, on the other hand, are telling residents that there is no threat. There are new satellite photos that showed the dam had been damaged just days before the breach, and there are accusations flying over who is to blame here, Ukraine saying that it was blown up by Russian forces -- quote -- "in a panic."

The Kremlin disputing that accusation, claiming this was -- quote -- "deliberate sabotage" from Ukraine. This is significant. It's a different type of warfare that we're seeing here, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, absolutely. And it could come at a critical time.

As we know, the counteroffensive from Ukraine is looming and set to start at any moment.

So let's get the implications of this down with Ambassador Bill Taylor. He's a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and now vice president for Russia and Europe for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Thanks so much for being with us, sir.


SANCHEZ: Let's take a look at a map and see exactly where this dam is located. How significant, in your mind, is this development and, specifically, geographically where this is taking place?

TAYLOR: The geography is really important, as you say, Boris.

Where this takes place is the southern part of a long front that the Russians have to defend against. The Russians are very worried about this counteroffensive that the Ukrainians have been mounting. For months, we have been talking about this. And now it seems to be coming.

The Russians don't have enough troops to man the whole thing. It's 900 kilometers 600 miles. And what this dam break does is eliminate 200 miles of that line. So this gives them -- this gives them less area that they have to defend against.

SANCHEZ: So the dam itself is roughly two miles long, 100 feet tall. You're pointing out that it covers, back to the map, a very extensive area, and it nears areas like Kherson, where we saw this kind of flooding.

Your argument is, as we go back to the map, this could actually benefit Russia. Do you have any insight or perspective on whether they may be responsible for this?

TAYLOR: I think they're responsible, Boris. They control that dam. It is in their area where they occupy, illegally, but they occupy it.

We understand that the explosion took place from inside that control room, inside the control room. So it wasn't an attack from the outside, an attack from the inside, where the Russians control. And, as I say, there's a military reason for them to blow that dam.

SANCHEZ: Yes, so we should also point out this could have an impact on that Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The cooling rods that are inside, need water. And with all that water flowing, that could present some problems.

TAYLOR: Could present problems.

The Zaporizhzhia plant needs the big source of water to cool it.


TAYLOR: And if that water gets too low, they will have a hard time cooling it.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And it is something, obviously, to watch for as we consider all of the bigger problems that this might present.

So, in the context of the counteroffensive, from your perspective, does that delay Ukraine's efforts?

TAYLOR: Undoubtedly, that's what the Russians wanted when they blew this.

They wanted to disrupt. They're worried about this counteroffensive. And Ukrainians have been preparing and are prepared. I was there two weeks ago, talked to the soldiers, talked to the generals, talked to the ministers. They're ready. And they're -- they may be starting that. They're starting it in the middle here. They're starting in the middle.


And so the concern down here is what the Russians have. That may have been why they blew it dam.


We should point out, in the sake of fairness, Russia says that they had nothing to do with this. They're pointing the finger at Ukraine.

TAYLOR: They would, wouldn't they?

SANCHEZ: Right, of course.

Ambassador Bill Taylor, always a pleasure to have you, sir -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Now to a CNN exclusive. Sources saying a flood at Mar-a-Lago is raising suspicions in the classified documents probe.

We are told that he maintenance worker drained a swimming pool in October and somehow flooded a room where surveillance videos were stored on computer servers. It happened roughly two months after the FBI searched Donald Trump's Florida residence and found hundreds of classified documents.

It is unclear if the flooding was intentional or if this was a mistake, but it was the same maintenance worker who was seen on security footage moving boxes before the FBI search.

CNN's Paula Reid is joining us now on this.

Do we know, Paula, if the surveillance video was damaged in the flood?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It does not appear that the surveillance footage was damaged.

Look, this is one of a series of incidents at Mar-a-Lago that investigators are looking at to answer the question of whether anyone should be charged with trying to obstruct their investigation. And we know this surveillance video is significant evidence for prosecutors, because they're trying to determine that anyone tried to hide documents.

We know that they did move documents. That's been captured on surveillance. They also want to know if they have all of it. Are there any gaps? Did anyone try to withhold some of the footage from that?

We know, from our reporting, that some witnesses going before the grand jury, including the Trump Organization's head of security, have been asked about this very issue, which is why something that sounds maybe a little silly, it takes on a really a serious tone when you think about it in the context of possible obstruction.

KEILAR: And especially because it was the same person seen on that security footage. I think that's also something that maybe makes them pay a little more attention.

You're also expecting that there's going to be a witness appearing in Florida. Why Florida?

REID: It's a great question, because we know, up until now, the grand jury that's been working on the Mar-a-Lago case has been seated in D.C.

They have called other witnesses there. This has been the seat of this investigation. But in order to charge, ultimately, a crime, you have to have a connection between where you charge it and the alleged crime that you are charging.

And from the outset, there were questions about whether a case against the former president or his associates could be brought in Washington, because the connection here, of course, would be that many of these documents belonged to the Archives, to the government seated here.

Also, many of them were removed from the White House, though I will say it's a little complicated because Trump was still president when he left the White House. So, from the outset, there have been questions about whether D.C. was the proper venue.

We know they're going to hear from at least one witness now down in Florida, but it's unclear at this point if they're going to try to bring maybe some charges down in Florida, some in D.C., or what exactly they're doing. But it does make sense in terms of where the alleged criminal conduct could have taken place that they would use a grand jury down here.

But then the big question is, where, if anywhere, will they charge someone?

KEILAR: Yes, we will be looking for that. That's really interesting.

Paula, thank you for the reporting -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Still to come on CNN NEWS CENTRAL: A mother of four is dead and her family is grieving after she was shot by her neighbor, and there are growing calls for that neighbor's arrest. We're going to show you how the state's stand-your-ground law may be impacting this investigation.

Also, Prince Harry taking the stand inside a London courtroom as Britain's press goes on trial. Ahead, why he says that some tabloids have blood on their hands.

And the partnership that is not only shaking up the sporting world, but also has potential serious geopolitical implications, the PGA Tour joining forces with Saudi-backed LIV Golf. The fallout from that is next.



SANCHEZ: A stunning move in the golf world today.

The PGA Tour, the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, and the DP World Tour have agreed to a blockbuster partnership. This ends nearly a yearlong legal battle and a bitter feud that has pitted top players, sponsors and even fans against each other. The LIV Tour stormed the American golf scene last year supported by billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia's public investment fund.

KEILAR: Yes, and, along the way, the -- it picked off some of the PGA's most prominent names, players like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau.

They signed contracts for tens, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, and the PGA Tour fiercely pushed back by banning these players who joined LIV. Often, they were arguing the Saudi league was being used to sportswash the kingdom's dismal human rights record.

The State Department cited torture and detention of political activists among some of those abuses. In June of last year, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said this during a tournament broadcast.


JAY MONAHAN, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: As it relates to the families of 9/11, I have two families that are close to me the lost loved ones. And so my heart goes out to them.

And I would ask any player that has left or any player that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?


KEILAR: The answer to that question may be different now.

Here is what Monahan said this morning:


MONAHAN: We have recognized that, together, we can have a far greater impact on this game than we can working apart. And I give Yasir great credit for coming to the -- coming to the table coming to the discussions with an open heart and an open mind.

We did the same. And the game of golf is better for what we have done here today.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this, we have Dan Rapaport, golf journalist for Barstool Sports, and also David Sanger, White House and national secure already correspondent for "The New York Times."


Dan, to you first.

What changed for the PGA? How did this come together?

DAN RAPAPORT, BARSTOOL SPORTS: Yes you don't want to oversimplify such a complicated matter, but I think it might be as simple to say that money always wins.

I think the PGA Tour took a really hard-line stance on this. They gave away those bans. They said you can't -- you have to choose one or the other. The Saudis are so bad. They thought -- they thought they could stamp them out. They thought they could cut this problem at the root and that, if they turned the Saudi entity, if they turned LIV Golf into a money loser, then maybe they would get bored, or maybe they would just turn their attention somewhere else.

Well, that's not going to happen. The Saudis have money on a different level on the PGA Tour. They could afford to keep pumping money and money and money into LIV Golf and to keep offering guys more and more money. The PGA Tour couldn't just do that. They don't just have a fund of $600 billion to start funneling to their players.

So they had to go deep into the reserves. They had to -- some people suggested they borrowed money to fund their tournaments this year. They had to ask their sponsors for more, and I don't know if they thought that was sustainable. So, at a certain point, you have to deal with the facts on the ground.

And when the facts on the ground say that person that you were fighting against, the entity you were fighting against has unlimited money, and they are willing to bleed you out, well, at a certain point, you almost have to engage. Otherwise, you risk yourself becoming obsolete.

SANCHEZ: And, well, David, it's notable because the PGA describes this not as a merger or a sale, but as a newly formed entity.

Obviously, the Saudis outline that they are the exclusive investor in this new endeavor. Could this be interpreted as anything other than a victory for Saudi Arabia?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, it's a big victory, Boris, for Saudi Arabia and for Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia and the man who has put so much money so many billions into the LIV Golf endeavor here.

I think what's really interesting is the degree to which this helps complete the normalization of MBS, as he's known. You will remember that, after the gruesome murder of Khashoggi, the -- of course, an American resident and a Saudi citizen and dissident, that there was an effort to try to make sure that MBS was frozen out.

That pretty well ended last year when President Biden went to Saudi Arabia in search of an oil pricing deal, among other things, that he did not get. And now what you're seeing is basically the full normalization, because there's nothing we have heard announced in this deal that involves commitments by the Saudis on any of the human rights issues that Brianna mentioned were in the State Department report just a few weeks ago.

KEILAR: Yes, I mean, Dan, you have Brett Eagleson, who's the president of 9/11 Justice. This is a group very vocal in their opposition to LIV Golf representing the families.

They are gut-wrenched over this. You're speaking to players who I wonder if some of them are gut-wrenched because they also were morally opposed. And some of them could have gone to LIV, made a ton of money. And they decided, no, that's not what I'm going to do.

RAPAPORT: Yes, there were definitely some players who objected on moral grounds. I think what they're really most upset about right now, at least in the immediate aftermath of this announcement, is, they had no idea.

And the PGA Tour throughout this whole process has said, the PGA Tour is it's players. They're one and the same thing. It's a player-run tour. Well, this is the biggest announcement the tour has made in many, many years, if not ever, and guys like Collin Morikawa, guys like Harris English, Joel Dahmen, big, big names on the PGA Tour, had no idea this was happening. And this rumor mill, the Saudi rumor mill has been churning like

crazy. For years and years, I have heard so many rumors this is going to happen, that's going to happen, this guy's going to go, that's guy is going to go. Never heard a peep about this. Never heard a peep.

It's unbelievable. And the players are really upset because there are a lot of players. Rickie Fowler comes to mind. You know, $75 million, he was offered, Will Zalatoris, $130 million. There was some rumors that Hideki Matsuyama, the Japanese man who won the Masters, was offered $300 million.

And Jay Monahan went to them and said, please stay loyal to us. Don't take the money.

They stayed. The other guys did take the money. Now those guys can come back and all play under the same umbrella? So there's a player meeting at 4:00 p.m. at the Canadian Open this -- today. And that's going to be spicy. That is for sure.

SANCHEZ: It's got to be extremely frustrating for those players that left millions and millions of dollars on the table, and wound up watching some of their colleagues make bank going to play for Saudi Arabia.

So can Jay Monahan survive this, Dan? Do you think -- are there going to be calls for his resignation? Do you think he's safe?

RAPAPORT: There are definitely going to be calls for his resignation. There already are.

I saw one player, Dylan Wu, went on Twitter and basically said, can someone tell me how Monahan gets basically a promotion? This release -- he is the commissioner of this new entity, which is all the best players in the world. They said, how is this guy getting a promotion when he said one thing for two years?


He said these are bad actors. He said these people are trying to buy the sport. And then you got a release today where they call a LIV like a groundbreaking entity, and there's nothing about the 9/11 stuff. His first communication to players, he called LIV Golf the Saudi league. Like, they were -- there was a concerted P.R. effort to paint this thing as a nefarious, hostile takeover.

And now they're partners. So it's not just players who want Monahan out, and not all the players. Some will be definitely stick by him. I have heard from agents, I have heard from coaches that this guy, it's -- when you watch that clip that you guys played and then you and then you read the -- you read the statement from today or you see him speaking with Yasir Al-right next to him, it's like -- it's hard to believe that it's real life.

KEILAR: It's very clear he's sticking to talking points.

SANCHEZ: Right. KEILAR: You can see how much he is are sort of glued to them.

But, David, I wonder, are other "bad actors" -- quote, unquote -- looking at this as a way to maybe sportswash themselves? They look at what Saudi Arabia has done here successfully. And they may take a lesson away from it?

SANGER: Not just in sports.

There was going to be -- after the Khashoggi killing, after some of the other findings, there was a real pullback from doing business of all kinds, Brianna, with the Saudis. And that was the big argument inside the Biden administration when President Biden decided to go last July, because the concern was that the image of him -- and you remember it so well -- where he was doing the fist bump with Mohammed bin Salman when they first met looked very chummy.

And it looked like the message was, the Saudis are back and our issues with them are over. The State Department will tell you that's not the case. They still are a significant human rights violator and so forth. But it's not much of a sanction, when you see them move from buying off individual players to buying into an entire league.

And that's what's happened here, as Dan pointed out. It's just the money's flowing in a different way, not just to the individual players to build up the league, but now through to a new entity with the PGA itself. And that tells you that they are back to do business as normal, which, by the way, is exactly where the Trump administration made the argument they should be headed.

Then you saw former President Trump issue a tweet today congratulating them on a great deal and mentioning none of the human rights issues.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it was on TRUTH Social, Donald Trump's social media outlet.

KEILAR: Platform, yes.

SANCHEZ: Platform.

Really a stunning development here. David Sanger, Dan Rapaport, thank you both so much. Appreciate the time.

RAPAPORT: Thanks, guys.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

So, former friend-of-Trump-turned-brutal-critic Chris Christie set to officially join the Republican presidential race today. What we're learning about his decision.

KEILAR: Plus, Prince Harry in court, the duke of Sussex making a rare royal appearance as a witness in his fight against a British tabloid.

Why he said it hurt his relationship with his brother, Prince William.



SANCHEZ: The 2024 race is about to get much more crowded. Today, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to announce he is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Tomorrow, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum are expected to throw their hats into the ring.

Now, Christie was a Trump ally and for a very short time ran his presidential transition. Those days are, of course, long gone. He has been a vocal critic of the former president, especially for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Let's take you now to Manchester, New Hampshire, where we find CNN's Omar Jimenez.

Omar, Governor Christie expected to hold a town hall there tonight. What do we anticipate he's going to say?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for starters, Boris, we're going to be looking for him to set the tone of what this campaign will look like and, related, how it's going to be different from 2016, the last time he, of course, launched a presidential bid.

Now, coming into this, obviously, we are expecting him to make an announcement to run for president at a town hall here at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, where he will make some remarks and then take questions from the audience.

But we're also looking to see how he approaches the, I mean, for lack of a better term, elephant in the room, which is, of course, former President Donald Trump, who has been seen as the front-runner even in this early portion of the primary process.

And, as you mentioned, former Governor Christie has not been shy about going after former President Trump. And he's even been candid in saying that he's not just some never-Trumper who's getting in this race to try and take down the former president.

Take a listen to some of what Governor 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.