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Ex-Ukrainian Pres: Counteroffensive Begins "Within Hours"; CNN Chairman & CEO Chris Licht Is Leaving The Network; 9/11 Families Outraged Over PGA Tour, LIV Golf Merger. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 07, 2023 - 11:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, Ukraine's former President Petro Poroshenko told CNN the counteroffensive will start within hours. That happened just about an hour ago here on this show. Now, CNN cannot independently confirm that.

With current officials, U.S. and Western officials, are seeing signs though that the long-awaited counteroffensive is actually underway. One senior NATO official noted a substantial increase in fighting on the Eastern Front in the past 48 hours.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is joining us now. What exactly are they seeing that indicates that finally, this offensive has begun?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Sara, they're seeing a lot of increased activity that is essentially out of the ordinary for what has been happening over the last several months. Including, as you mentioned, that intensified fighting over the last 48 hours. And what they are seeing essentially is Ukraine beginning to probe more actively Russian defenses and try to figure out where there are gaps where they can try to punch through and essentially create momentum so that larger forces within the Ukrainian military can then move in and try to take more territory.

And they're seeing activity in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region between Kherson and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that seems new. They're also seeing increased Ukrainian activity south of the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, that appears to be a new offensive.

But look, the bottom line that we have been hearing from NATO officials, as well as European officials and U.S. officials is that it likely is not going to be something that is announced, right? It's going to be a series of kind of subtle attacks by the Ukrainians to try to punch through various Russian defensive positions in a way that will then allow them to move forward en masse. And so, what we are hearing now from the Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister, actually is that this is going to be a counteroffensive that is going to be taking place at multiple points across the frontline.

So again, not just one big kind of moving in in one location, but a series of several different attacks using artillery strikes and ground attacks that the Ukrainians will do to try to throw the Russians off balance and try to test their defensive positions here. Now, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, he has said that he does believe the Ukrainians are very well-prepared for this counteroffensive. Here's what he told CNN earlier this week.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think the Ukrainians are very well-prepared. As you know very well, the United States and other allied countries in Europe and really around the world have provided training and ammunition and advice, intelligence etcetera.


BERTRAND: Now, President Zelenskyy is tempering expectations for the counteroffensive saying that essentially they need fighter jets in order to really make substantial progress here. That is something of course that they are not going to get from Western countries for at least several months, Sara.

SIDNER: All right. Natasha Bertrand, thank you for all your reporting. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, police have identified the suspect to open fire at a graduation ceremony in Virginia. The 19- year-old has been charged with second-degree murder and was arraigned earlier today. Police say the ceremony had just led out. Hundreds of people were outside with their families when the shooting began. At least two people were killed, an 18-year-old who had just received a diploma and a stepfather.


LEVAR STONEY, MAYOR OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: Is nothing sacred any longer? Is nothing sacred any longer? It's -- this should not be happening anywhere. A child should be able to go to their graduation and walk out the graduation and enjoy the accomplishment with their friends and their families.


BERMAN: CNN's Brian Todd is in Richmond, Virginia with the latest for us. Brian, graduation is supposed to be one of the happiest days in someone's life.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure is, John. And it certainly did not turn out that way yesterday. It was quite the opposite and chaos really ensued -- violent chaos ensued just outside that theater with a graduation occurred.


We do have some critical new information just received from the police chief and the mayor at this news conference behind us at the police headquarters. You mentioned the ages of the victims. We have the names of the victims. Shawn Jackson, 18 years old, and Lorenzo Smith, 36 years old. They are the deceased. Lorenzo Smith is Shawn Jackson's stepfather.

We were also told that a nine-year-old girl who was struck by a car and injured, fortunately not life-threatening injuries, that nine- year-old girl was also related to that same family. So horrible, horrible day for that family yesterday. Also, the suspect identified as 19-year-old Amari Pollard.

And we did ask some pointed questions to the chief about a possible motive. He did say that these two be -- excuse me, these two people, the victim, and the suspect, were known to each other. We press the chief on the motive. Here's what he had to say about that.


RICK EDWARDS, INTERIM CHIEF, RICHMOND POLICE: We believe that the two individuals, Shawn Jackson and Amari Pollard, knew each other. This is a mass shooting, but we don't believe it was what is typically referred to as an active shooter. This was targeted at one individual. This was a dispute that we're hearing took place over the course of over a year.


TODD: So, dispute over the course of a year. And the suspect, according to police actually attended the graduation watching someone else graduate. Then came out according to police, and committed the shooting. The suspect was arraigned on two charges of second-degree murder this morning, John.

BERMAN: How horrible. Brian Todd, keep us posted. Thank you for your reporting. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just horrible is right, John. Let's turn to this now.

At least three people were arrested yesterday outside a school board meeting in Southern California. It's over a fight that broke out over differences about the Glendale Unified School District's LGBTQ policies. Hundreds protested at the meeting before clashing with a smaller group. That's according to police. Listen to this.


CELENA MESA, PARENT: If it was really about just acceptance and tolerance, the conversation would be you love your fellow student no matter what. Period. Why do kids have to know that what two mommies are?

AMY PEREZ, PARENT: At this age, the only thing that they're teaching is that gay people exist. So, I -- that's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: CNN's Natasha Chen has more details on this for us. She's joining us now. Natasha, what all happened here, and what led up to this?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is -- actually, is not the first clash to happen in the LA area within the past week. It just got a bit out of hand there as you're seeing from the video. Police said it was mostly peaceful, except for a small group of people whose behavior they deemed became unsafe.

They said they arrested at least three people on various charges including unlawful use of pepper spray and obstructing police in the course of their duties. And they said that their efforts to de- escalate failed. So, after 6:00 p.m., they ordered the crowd to disperse.

Now, at that point, the school board meeting was going on and the board unanimously voted to pass their resolution to approve -- to recognize June as LGBTQ Plus Pride Month, which is certainly not the first year they've done that. The district says there's a lot of misinformation that's out there about what is actually taught to elementary students.

And to be clear, the schools have been following California state law that's been in place for more than a decade, which requires including the representation -- fair representation of diverse populations when teaching history or social studies. And that includes people in the LGBTQ Plus communities. Here's the superintendent explaining.


VIVIAN EKCHIAN, SUPERINTENDENT, GLENDALE CA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: A biggest piece of misinformation is that at the elementary level, we teach anything other than what means -- what inclusivity entails that we have families that come in all different shapes based on the state framework, based on guidelines from our state.


CHEN: And last Friday, let's show you a video from North Hollywood, where there was also a protest and counter-protesters outside an elementary school there after a Pride assembly was held. And apparently, a book called The Great Big Book of Families was read to the kids. At the same time as last night's protest, Kate, LA you at -- the LA Unified also passed a resolution encouraging the teaching of LGBTQ Plus education.

BOLDUAN: Natasha, thanks for bringing it all together for us. Thanks for the reporting. Sara?

SIDNER: Ahead, some dramatic video. A bridge collapsed for a second time since construction began just a few years ago. Where this happened and what we know about the investigation? That's coming up.

24 hours after the blockbuster merger of the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf, the fallout growing. Details on how the golf world is adjusting to a new reality.



BOLDUAN: Some news this morning involving our network. CNN's chairman and CEO Chris Licht is leaving the company. He took over the post just over one year ago. CNN's Oliver Darcy joins us now for more. Oliver, what are you learning about this?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: And that's right, Kate. Chris Licht, the embattled chairman, and CEO of CNN whose tenure was really marked by a series of severe missteps. He will be departing the company effective immediately. That's according to Chief Executive David Zaslav, who heads the parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery.


He made that announcement to staffers on the daily editorial call and said that he has implemented three seasoned executives to take hold of the company in the interim. Those executives include Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley, and Eric Sherling. And they will lead the company alongside newly installed Chief Operating Officer, David Levy.

This really caps a tumultuous year for CNN that has, you know, seen shrinking profits, programming missteps, and really low employee morale. And so, David Zaslav is hoping that these three executives who he's installing can really right the ship and get everything back on track before a new leader is ultimately named. He said that process -- that search process for the new network chief will not happen overnight. It will take some time. And so they're hoping they can right the ship and get back to the news. CNN has been breaking a lot of news lately and they want that to be the focus of the organization.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And all those people you listed we know very well here at CNN. Oliver, thank you very much for the reporting. John?

BERMAN: So, Rory McIlroy lashes out this morning. His new reaction to the effective merger of the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf. Prince Harry close to tears, the details of his dramatic new testimony inside a London courtroom.



SIDNER: Stunning video of India where a bridge under construction collapsed into the Ganges River. This happened in Bihar, one of the core estates. This is the second time the bridge scrambled in just over a year. Indian officials have ordered an investigation but they still haven't said publicly what caused the first collapse. CNN has not confirmed any reports of injuries yet.

Prince Harry wrapped up his testimony today in a privacy case against a British tabloid publisher. And on the stand, he got quite emotional saying it has taken a lot to appear in court. He accuses Mirror Group newspapers of publishing at least 33 articles with information obtained by hacking his phone or other illegal means.

All right, some bad news for drivers. The Energy Department is predicting that oil and gas prices will rise next year because of Saudi Arabia's decision to slash oil production and an agreement by OPEC Plus to extend its output cuts. The department boosted its forecast for oil prices by 14.5 percent for the third quarter of 2024. And now, it expects gas prices to average $3.38 a gallon. That is up by 7.3 percent. John?

BERMAN: All right. So, this morning, we are getting new reactions from golfers following the shocking announcement that the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour will effectively merge. For the first time, we are hearing from the likes of megastars including Rory McIlroy, who has been severely critical of LIV throughout the year. LIV Golf, of course, is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia linked to the death of Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post editorial writer, of course, the situation surrounding September 11. The family members of 9/11 victims have called this merger shocking and deeply offensive. Sara spoke to one of the family members earlier this morning.


BRETT EAGLESON, SON OF 9/11 VICTIM BRUCE EAGLESON: You know, we thought that the PGA was a solution built upon integrity. We thought that the PGA had morals. We thought they had ethics. And for 12 months, they had just trashed the kingdom's name and then they turn around and do this deal. It's just -- it's just -- it feels like a gut punch.


BERMAN: "CNN WORLD SPORT" anchor Don Riddell joins us now. And, Don, there are a lot of golfers on the PGA Tour who stuck their necks out criticizing LIV Golf over the last year. Rory McIlroy is one of them. And now we are hearing from some of these golfers for the first time.

DON RIDDELL, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT, WORLD SPORT: Yes. John, when you and I spoke about this, this time yesterday, a lot of the golfers will themselves learning about all of this, which is quite remarkable given that the PGA Tour is a tour run by the players. They were all blindsided by this, including one of the leading figures Rory McIlroy, as you say.

He's been the most outspoken over the last year. He's been described as the moral compass of golf, the conscience of professional golf, and he was the guy we really wanted to hear from ahead of the Canadian Open. This is what he had to say.


RORY MCILROY, FOUR-TIME MAJOR WINNER: I still hate LIV. Like I hate LIV. I hope it goes away. And I fully expect that it does.

It's hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb. And you know, feeling like I've put myself out there and this is what happens. Again, removing myself from the situation. I see how this is better for the game of golf. There's no denying that.


RIDDELL: Just to expand on one of the things he said there. He thinks LIV will go away. He sees that LIV and PIF, which is the Saudi Arabia public investment fund, he sees those as two different things.

So, he accepts that the public investment fund Saudi Arabia are now financially involved in all of golf. But he thinks that that's not the same as LIV and so maybe LIV and the format -- the unusual groundbreaking format will go away. He also thinks that the rebel players who took all the money shouldn't be allowed back into the PGA Tour in the DP World Tour. And he doesn't think they will be.


But yesterday, we were hearing that there will be a pathway extended to those players to try and reapply for their tour cards after this season. But that's interesting from Rory McIlroy, kind of saying, they come at me.

BERMAN: I have to say, the strength of his words there continuing to say I hate LIV Golf like he did. And to say he felt like a sacrificial lamb, he wasn't mincing words there. What did he say about you know maybe taking money? Money that may be coming from the Saudis?

RIDDELL: Yes. I mean, he said he's come to terms with it. He's come to terms with the fact that there is money in professional sport and you can't necessarily choose where it comes from. I guess some of the LIV golfers might say, well, are these PGA Tour golfers now going to have to explain why they're getting paid by Saudi money, blood money, whatever you want to call it? But he says, look, there's nothing we can do about it. It's here.

BERMAN: Don Riddell, I have to say I did not see this day coming. Not now. Thank you so much for being with us.

BOLDUAN: And thank you all so much for joining us. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL. "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next.