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Don Lemon Tonight

Georgia And Alabama Primary Elections Hours Away From Opening; Biden Vows To Respond Militarily If China Attacked Taiwan; Poll: Black Americans Fear Racist Attacks After Buffalo Supermarket Massacre; Satellite Images Appear To Show Russian Ships Loading Up And Stealing Ukrainian Grain; Latest News On Russia-Ukraine War. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 23, 2022 - 23:00   ET



KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER ATLANTA MAYOR: I can't begin to imagine what he is getting at, but I do know that anytime you hear someone say go back to where you came from, you make assumptions about what they mean. So, I believe that he was likely signaling something there without actually saying it.

But, listen, it's very clear that they are concerned about Stacey Abrams. Even in the course of this primary race, when Kemp and Perdue should be concerned about one another, they have continuously focused on Stacey Abrams.

So, this is going to be a matchup that the entire country will watch and it will all begin on as soon as the polls close on tomorrow.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Charlie, you know, just really quick, what did you -- as -- you know, you've run races before. What did you make of those comments? How did they hit you when you heard them? Charlie? Charlie is -- Charlie can't hear. So, we're going to move on.

Mayor, let me ask you this question, then, because you can't forget that Georgia was ground zero to President Trump's -- former president's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The man he tried to pursue to find more votes on that infamous phone call is Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, running against Congressman Jody Hice, who has been endorsed by Trump. Hice has repeated false claims about the 2020 election. So, the big lie is on the ballot in this race for sure, no?

LANCE BOTTOMS: Yes, and I have long believed that Donald Trump does not make winners, he goes with winners. So, he didn't have some magic wand that he can just anoint someone a winner, and he has not made good choices in Georgia.

It's going to be interesting to see. We know what's happening with Perdue. The polling is showing that he is down by a lot. So, people are expecting that Kemp may win tomorrow without having to go into a runoff, win the primary tomorrow.

The secretary of state's race is going to be very interesting. We've seen a lot of independent voters go and pick up republican ballots. In this area, many believe it has a lot to do with the secretary of state's race.

LEMON: Charlie, you can hear me now, right?


LEMON: Is the big lie on the ballot tomorrow? In Georgia?

DENT: I think it is. And as the mayor just pointed out, clearly with respect to the secretary of state's race, there's no question. It seems that, you know -- at least I'm very hopeful that Raffensperger will be able to pull this thing out as many thoughtful Georgians realize that he stood up and did the right thing and he should be rewarded for what he did, not punished.

So, I do think the big lie and January 6th and the aftermath of the 2020 election are very much part of the secretary of state's election. And I would also argue the governor's election, too. Perdue has tried to make that a big issue with Kemp, as has the former president, but it seems that, you know, Kemp also did the right thing and it seems like he will be rewarded. So, yes, it's very much on the ballot.

LEMON: Listen, I know this is -- you're in Atlanta, mayor. This Georgia Senate race is the hot one as well. The leading candidate in the GOP primary is a former football player, Herschel Walker. He has skipped a handful of debates. He (INAUDIBLE) press appearances to the state confines of conservative media. Is he in for some major scrutiny if he wins and is matched up with -- against Senator Warnock?

LANCE BOTTOMS: He absolutely is and it's very disturbing to see that Herschel Walker is so close to Warnock in the polls. And people can't take for granted that Senator Warnock or Stacey Abrams will be elected in November.

People are going to have to show up to vote because Herschel Walker is very popular in this state going back to the 1980 Sugar Bowl when Georgia won the national championship. I live with a Georgia Bulldog. The love for Georgia, University of Georgia, is real.

So that is a concern when you look at social media posts from Herschel Walker. I saw one today from November 6, 2020 where he suggested, forget about the legal challenges, let's just all go vote again. It's that simple.

When you have a man of that intellect running against Raphael Warnock, who has represented this state so well, when he's that close in the polling, that's something that we should all be concerned about.

LEMON: Charlie, let's turn to Alabama where there's going to be another test for President Trump, the former President Trump. His political capital is going to be on the line in that GOP Senate primary there.

Congressman Mo Brooks lost Trump's endorsement after the congressman said that Trump asked him to rescind the 2020 election results and put back Trump back into the White House. [23:04:58]

Is this another race where we could see that voters may want to just move on, move beyond 2020, and the former president keeps looking back? They want to move forward.

DENT: Well, absolutely. In the case of Mo Brooks, I mean there was nobody who was more angry about the 2020 election and supporting President Trump. And then, of course, Mo Brooks' poll numbers slipped quite a bit in that Senate primary. Then Trump un-endorsed him. And one of the more conventional candidates seems to be emerging although I've been seeing polling lately that suggests that Brooks is once again surging.

So, I think those of us who would like to see the president take it on the chin really aren't sure where he is right now because he obviously rescinded the endorsement of Brooks. So, I guess you could argue that any one of those candidates who wins right now is kind of putting it to the former president.

And by the way, I should point out, Don, for the record, that Penn State beat Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. Sorry about that, mayor. I had to bring that up.

LEMON: Oh, shots fired. Wow!


LANCE BOTTOMS: I (INAUDIBLE) from you. So, I love Georgia but, you know, one day AMU will get a national title, I'm sure.

LEMON: Oh, I'm staying out of this because I'm just going to stay, go Tigers, but, you know, that's a whole another show. LSU, not Auburn. Thank you both. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

Let's zero in on Georgia now and high turnout in the early voting period there. Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Nikema Williams. Congresswoman, thank you for joining. You've seen this. We've had a lively conversation about all of this. So, we want to get your --

REP. NIKEMA WILLIAMS (D-GA): Lively conversation. We were talking about AMU and my college didn't even have a football team. So, I'm staying out of that one.


LEMON: All right. Let's start with what we already know about early voting turnout for this Georgia primary. That period ended Friday and there's a 168% increase compared to early voting for the 2018 primary. I mean, this is after Governor Kemp signed that controversial voter law in 2021. So, did that law really restrict the vote? Do we -- is it too soon to tell?

WILLIAMS: So, let's be clear, Don. Just because we've seen a record number of turnout does not mean that there weren't things done to restrict the vote. Some of these votes are voters that would have ordinarily voted on election day. But not knowing what the new rules are or how it impacted them, some people are voting early.

But also, we've always said that while we should not have to organize our way out of voter suppression, we were going to do whatever it took to make sure that voters have the information that they needed about the changes in the laws and were still able to cast their ballot.

At the end of the day, it is our goal to continue to make sure that people have the information that they need so that everyone can cast a ballot.

And the Republicans have continued to restrict access to the ballot. It is clear that the law that they passed, SB202, changed the mechanism by which people would access the ballot.

And even looking at all of these statewide races, we're going to have runoffs. The runoff period is now shorter, only three weeks, and you're not even going to have an opportunity to register to vote before the runoff elections.

LEMON: There's been lots of criticism expressed about the Georgia voting law on CNN. You slammed the part of the law that restricts how voters can be provided with food and water -- can't be provided with food and water near a polling location. Do these early turnout numbers show the push to get out the vote early is working despite the fears of what that new law might do?

WILLIAMS: So, I mean, even just tonight, I'm preparing for election day tomorrow with volunteers, my husband and I were buying water, and we're thinking about this weekend. It was 90-plus degrees in Atlanta. And so, it's going to be really hot tomorrow if the rain holds off.

And so, imagine not being able to go and give water to the voters that are waiting in line. That was one of the things that we had to think about tonight. Because of the cruelty of the Republicans in this state doing anything necessary to restrict access to the ballot, we can't even provide water for people in 90-plus degree heat in the south.

LEMON: Let's talk about Stacey Abrams. She had this to say about voter suppression in your state. Listen.


STACEY ABRAMS, DEMOCRATIC GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We have to remember that voter suppression isn't about stopping every voter. It's about blocking and impeding those voters who are considered inconvenient.

The moral equivalent of saying that voter turnout defuses or disproves voter suppression is like saying that more people getting in the water means there are no longer any sharks. Those two things are just not true. We know that voter suppression is alive and well in Georgia and we're going to continue to fight back.


LEMON: So, Stacey Abrams and President Biden both liken the Georgia law into Jim Crow. Is the evidence that Black voters have been disenfranchised or are you expecting to see that in the fall?

WILLIAMS: I mean, I think we're looking at Black voters, minority voters, because what we've done is built a multiracial coalition of voters to elect candidates of our choice.


And so, that is the impact that the GOP wanted to see. They wanted to break up this multiracial coalition. We saw it in the way that they drew these new congressional lines to break up Gwinnett County and congressional district 6 where Lucy McBath McBath was running.

We had a Black woman representing a district that was once held by Newt Gingrich, and they made sure that they did everything in their power to redraw the lines so that we couldn't build the multiracial coalitions that we've been doing on the ground to make the gains that we've made here in Georgia.

So, yes, what they're doing, they're looking at it at every angle from gerrymandering to voter suppression, and we're going to continue to organize towards November to make sure that we get people the information that they need so that they can cast their ballots and we can get them counted.

LEMON: Congresswoman Williams, thank you so much. Appreciate you appearing.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: President Biden says that the U.S. would respond militarily if China attacked Taiwan, and the White House goes into backpedaling mode. But what if the president is actually saying exactly what he means?




LEMON: So, President Biden raising eyebrows over the U.S. stance on Taiwan. Listen to what he said when asked if the U.S. would be willing to intervene militarily if China were to attack Taiwan.



UNKNOWN (voice-over): You are?

BIDEN: That's the commitment we made. Look, here's the situation. We agree with the one-China policy. We've signed on to it and all the attendant agreements made from there. But the idea that -- that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not -- is just not appropriate.


LEMON: The White House downplaying the president's comments, saying that they don't reflect a change in U.S. policy. But this is the first time that the president has said something only to have his administration try to walk it back after the fact.

Back in March, he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin -- and I quote here -- cannot remain in power. That same month, he appeared to suggest American troops would be sent to Ukraine. Last fall, he suggested he was considering using the National Guard to ease supply chain issues.

Let's bring in now CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen. Good evening to both of you. David, sometimes these remarks get portrayed as gaffes, but I'm not so sure that they are. Is this just President Biden saying what he really thinks?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't believe it would be in that camp, Don, because I do think the president is much more forward-leaning in terms of his use of force. He wants to push the Chinese back than some of his people are.

But I tell you, you take a risk when you have a president come out in three or four times -- this is the fourth time now. He has basically said he would step in militarily if China moves against Taiwan. And then his people tried to walk it back. When you do it that often, you begin to think -- you don't know inside the administration what you're going to do next. You've got internal confusion and tension as well as external confusion.

It's one thing to tell the world that you want strategic uncertainty. That's been our policy for over 40 years. We would not be clear. There would be ambiguity and significant ambiguity in terms of how we approach Taiwan, vis-a-vis the Chinese. And everybody has been able to live with that, Don, for 40 years.

That's why so many people in national security are so reluctant to abandon it, because they do think it served the purpose of the United States as well as that of the China to have this ambiguity. Biden is obviously pushing now. He's pushing, pushing to have more space to use force if he decides that that's the case.

LEMON: Listen, Susan, there are those who said -- who think that what the president said was right, and they don't understand why the administration keeps -- the White House keeps walking back the president's comments, because in a big way, it undermines what the president says.

I mean, the White House is downplaying his comments, saying that they don't reflect a change in U.S. policy. Does walking back these comments undercut the power of the president?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, if the president's intention was to send a strong message to the Chinese, then potentially it does certainly. What I'm struck by is the fact that the president used the word "commitment." He said we have a commitment to do this. This is the language that he has used previously as well, Don.

So, one thing we can say pretty clearly is that President Biden does believe that we have a commitment to defend Taiwan because it's something he's said not once, not twice, but multiple times.

And so, you know, I think the confusion, the ambiguity, is no longer a problem. (INAUDIBLE) because President Biden has said, yes, we're willing to do this, but the ambiguity comes from his own administration repeatedly walking back what he's having to say.

So, I do think there's some confusion that is being created by how the administration is handling what appears to be a very clear message again and again from the president.

LEMON: Let's dig in a little more about that, especially what you said about China because China is slamming Biden's comments. I mean, the U.S. has had a policy, a strategic -- your word -- ambiguity over Taiwan for decades. Are there big geopolitical risks in Biden breaking precedent like this, Susan?

GLASSER: Yeah. I mean, look, absolutely. First of all, the quality of a deterrent is only as good as your willingness to follow through on it. So, the immediate question then becomes, well, what level of military commitment is the United States willing to sustain in terms of actually fighting with or on behalf of Taiwan?


You heard Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today say, well, we're willing to provide weapons, trying to make this comparable, say, to what the United States is doing in Ukraine. But remember that in Ukraine, Biden was adamant that there would be no U.S. troops on the ground, and he has stuck to that even though he has increased and increased and increased the level of weapons and support that he's willing to offer to Ukraine.

So, this is something very different than he's saying about China. But, again, the question is, is our deterrent effective? It depends on what we're willing to do to follow through on those words.

LEMON: David, the former president was very good at playing to a domestic audience, right, playing to his audience here. Domestically, people might actually like this kind of plain speaking from Biden. Frankly, you know, we could probably use more of it. But are there different considerations when a president is on the world stage?

GERGEN: Yeah. Listen, I think the president, you know, basically, when he says it three or four times, the rest of the White House should just let it be. Why create this sort of, you know, echo effect which says, no, no, no, it hasn't changed anything at all? Everybody knows, yes, he has changed something. He's moved the ball on this. So, I do think let the -- you know, the president was doing something that he thought was right and there's a very good strong argument that he is right. But his own team is undercutting him when they go out regularly and say, that's not really what he meant, when everybody knows it is what he meant.

LEMON: Do they -- are they feeding into the narrative that the president is not in charge?


LEMON: Susan?

GERGEN: Yeah. There's the same narrative I think he got hurt so badly about and really, I think, was the turning point of his presidency, was how he handled Afghanistan.

LEMON: Right.

GERGEN: And he was accused after that about being incompetent, didn't know quite what were going so far, in contrast to how effective he has been on Ukraine. But he's still living with that Afghan story. And this has some elements -- the China/Taiwan story has some elements that are similar to what went on in Afghanistan.

LEMON: Susan, same question.

GLASSER: Yeah. Don, I think you're right. I do think that it's not a good look when the administration is repeatedly again and again and again walking back the president. It's one thing if it happens once or twice, but especially on this Taiwan issue. It has happened with the exact same statement multiple times.

So that means that they need to get their story straight at a minimum, but especially at a moment when Biden's leadership is being questioned, he's being hammered in the polls. They're dreading the midterm elections this fall. It does seem like this is not exactly the messaging that you want, especially when you're seeing foreign policy as something that ought to be a strength right now.

LEMON: Doesn't the buck stop with him, Susan? Shouldn't he just say, cut it out, I'm the commander in chief, my word stands, shut up?

GLASSER: Yes. Maybe he is.






LEMON: Yeah. That's what he should do. I don't know why he's not doing it. That's what he should do. Thank you very much, both of you. Appreciate it.

A racist massacre in Buffalo, New York that left 10 dead has Black Americans reeling. A new poll showing many are fearful of more attacks. Dr. Cornel West here next.




LEMON: So many people in this country are still reeling from the racist attack in Buffalo. A gunman targeting and killing 10 Black people in their local supermarket. A new "Washington Post"/Ipsos poll shows three quarters of Black Americans are worried that they or someone they love will be attacked because of their race.

I want to discuss this now with activist and scholar Cornel West. He is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer chair at Union Theological Seminary. We are so happy to have you on. Thank you, Dr. West, for being here. Appreciate it.


LEMON: So, over a week later, it is still hard to come to grips with racist gunmen targeting Black people in a supermarket. It is no wonder that this poll shows real fear in the Black community, no?

WEST: No doubt about it. You remember, brother Don, five days before the great Malcolm X was murdered, he said there's been a war against Black people. He talked about Congo. He talked about Rochester. He talked about Georgia and Mississippi. It's 1965, February 16th. What he meant by that was there is a 400-year sustained hatred against Black folk.

It takes a variety of different forms. It hits Black people in different ways. But the crucial thing is not what's coming at Black people only, but how well are we equipped and fortified with our self- love, our self-respect.

Look at Ruth Whitfield. Look at Aaron Salter. Look at precious Geraldine Talley. What do you see in their hearts, minds, and soul? Levels of grace and dignity. Levels of vision. That's the starting point. You don't begin with what's coming at you only. You begin with what you bring to it. That's the crucial thing, you see.

LEMON: This is -- look, I think the most important -- the gazillion dollar question, right, if there is such a thing, this Buffalo massacre was about white supremacist domestic terror.


WEST: That's right.

LEMON: So, what can be done to root this out because you say white supremacy is as American as apple pie. People don't like to hear that.

WEST: That's right.

LEMON: It's tough to hear.

WEST: You've got to tell the truth even if it's painful. But you also have to acknowledge the fight against white supremacy is as America is apple pie.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

WEST: You've got the Klan (ph) on the one hand. You've got Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin King on the other. My mother and my precious mother- in-law taught me that love is a seed. Justice is the seed. The question becomes, do we cultivate it? Do we germinate it? Do we care for it? Do we tend to it such that we're willing to sacrifice? There's no struggle without sacrifice. You give up on the love and justice, you fall into the hatred and revenge.

That's what's been coming at Black folk all these years, the hatred and the revenge. So, we have to be love warriors, justice warriors, but also not naive. We got to bring power and precious to bear.

That's why we have to be critical of our dear brother Biden. It was he who said America is not a racist society. Sister Harris, vice president, she said that's true. That's a lie. It is a racist society.

So, when you get Trump and the others and the neofascists come along with their replacement theory, what do you get? You get a fascist version of that.

Let us be very clear. That's what 21st century fascism is. We are being replaced by these people of color, by these women and so forth. And the challenge is, is there a kind of replacement taking place? Absolutely. You look at high places. You don't see it lily white like the national hockey league. It is more diverse. But it's more diverse in the name of what? Fairness.

We've got to explain that to our right-wing brothers and sisters. Explain that to the neo-Nazis not just in terms of the words but in terms of accountability. Change is taking place. Get used to the change. But that change is also going to be connected to a fairness to you as white brothers or working class and others.

That's why the issue of class becomes important, because when you talk about the progressive version of replacement versus the fascist version of replacement -- when I was in Charlottesville, I've heard the fascist version of replacement. They tried to crush us like cockroaches.

LEMON: I was just going to say that. I'm so glad you said that because when you said, you know, when you're talking about the denial of it, they said it. Those neo-Nazis said it in Charlottesville. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. They're talking about replacement theory.

WEST: Right. And we come back and we say, replacement will take place in the name of fairness.

LEMON: Right.

WEST: And when it's fair to have Black people, fair to have Jews, fair to have Arabs, fair to have Palestinians, fair to have Muslims, fair to have women, gays, yes, it's going to be fairness, but we have to let them know that it's not a trashing of them.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

WEST: It's in the name of a fairness because change is what it is and we have to make sure it bends toward fairness. Neofascism comes along when fairness is given up on and is simply a class of hatred and greed and power. And there's always going to be more right-wing vicious forms of hatred and greed than there's going to be love, justice, and fairness. That's just the way human history is, my brother.

LEMON: Let's talk about something because you mentioned the president and the vice president, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. And you write -- you have an opinion piece in "The Guardian." You said the administration, the Biden administration and Democrats in power have dropped the ball on racism in this country. How so and how should they be responding to this growing problem?

WEST: Well, just look at how brother Biden responds to defending Taiwan and defending Ukraine. Unbelievable priority. Same intensity when it comes to defending democracy in America, defending voting rights for Black people, defending black assets to high quality education, heavy student loans on the back, disproportionately Black students but all students affected by it? Where is his fight on those issues?

But, oh, when it comes to Ukraine and Taiwan, oh, my gosh, he's a warrior on the cutting edge. I call it hypocrisy. Shame on you, Biden. Shame on you, Democratic Party. American democracy is about to go down the drain if you don't come to terms with the legacy of white supremacy not just in the killing of Black people but in the subtle forms, too, but in the name of fairness and justice.

And that's why it's universal. That's why we got white brothers and sisters fighting against white supremacy. That's why you have men fighting against patriarchy. It's a moral and spiritual issue, my brother. We're going to hold on to that, be faithful until death no matter how unpopular it is.

LEMON: I want to ask you something in the time we have left. It's been about almost two years since the horrific video of George Floyd's murder sparked global outrage. His murder in general sparking it. We saw the video. And that's what stuck. At the time, the majority of Black Americans thought that it would make white Americans more concerned about racial discrimination by police.


Today, only 30% of Black Americans feel that way. Why is that?

WEST: Well, because there just hasn't been a significant attempt to make racial justice kind of priority that it deserves to be.

LEMON: Lip service?

WEST: Biden can talk about funding versus defunding. It was never about that false dichotomy. It was about making sure Black people are no longer murdered in the way that they are, brutalized in the way that they are. And in the name of fairness, any American citizen brutalized, any American citizen murdered. You got to make than an issue and sustain it.

What happened to the George Floyd bill? What happened to the voting rights bill? Let's be honest and candid about that. We're talking about Democrats. We're not talking about neofascists like Trump.

With neofascists like Trump, we're never surprised, we're never surprised by evil, we're never paralyzed by despair. But we talk about our supposedly friends. No. The hypocrisy is real when it comes in the rhetoric going one way and their actions going somewhere else.

LEMON: Colonel West, thank you. Always enlightened by your appearances. We'll see you soon. Be well.

WEST: Stay strong, my brother.

LEMON: Thank you.

Satellite images showing Russian ships in Crimea being loaded up with what is allegedly stolen Ukrainian grain. What does this mean for the war? That's next. That's next.




LEMON: Satellite images from Maxar Technologies and other companies very often telling the real story of Russia's invasion and occupation of Ukraine. That includes photos which appear to show Russian ships

loading up and stealing Ukrainian grain. Maxar is even providing images to Ukraine's government as it documents what Russia is doing to the country.

More tonight from CNN's Alex Marquardt.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These new satellite images show what appear to be the ramping up of theft by Russia of Ukrainian grain being poured into the open hold of a Russian ship. This was in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on May 19th. Then two days later, a second ship docks and it, too, is filled. Now, both Russian ships are sailing away.

This weekend, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of fueling a food crisis and of gradually stealing Ukraine's food supplies and trying to sell them. An earlier image from Maxar Technologies shows one of those same Russian ships in a port of their close ally, Syria. The Ukrainian grain waiting to be unloaded onto trucks. These extraordinary, revealing images are so close and so clear that they look like they could be taken by drone or helicopter.

STEPHEN WOOD, SENIOR DIRECTOR, MAXAR NEWS BUREAU: You can actually see the grain pouring into the open hold of the ship.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Stephen Wood and his team at Maxar spotted the ships in this much wider image of Crimea.

WOOD: This is 400 miles up in space. To be able to see that kind of level of detail, the ships, the cab of the truck, pretty phenomenal stuff.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Maxar and other commercial satellite companies have played a critical role in what we know about Russia's war in Ukraine, with satellite imagery that is unprecedented both in quality and how it's being used.

WOOD: Before, this was only available in the halls of CIA or the U.S. government or friendly foreign governments, to now we're showing it on CNN.

MARQUARDT (on camera): We're keeping a very close eye on that column of Russian vehicles, that convoy we've been talking about for several days.

(voice-over): They alerted the world to the famous 40-mile-long Russian convoy outside Kyiv, the rows of hundreds of mass graves near Mariupol, potential war crimes in Bucha, and the aftermath of the Russian bombing of the Mariupol theater.

DANIEL JABLONSKY, CEO, MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES: The satellite is in the final stages of getting ready to be shipped very soon.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): We were given a rare tour of Maxar's satellite factory in Palo Alto, California by CEO Dan Jablonsky, joint projects with NASA and others. Construction underway on six new Maxar satellites, which will allow them to scan a single spot on earth 15 times a day. For decades, Maxar has provided all kinds of images to both private clients and to the U.S. government, their biggest customer.

(On camera): How much does the U.S. government tell you where to look?

JABLONSKY: They tell us where to point the satellites and take the imagery, and then that's what we feed into them as a service, the same way we would do for Google maps, for example.

MARQUARDT (on camera): Will the Intelligence Community, for example, say, we know that there is a war crime that has been committed, there are all these mass graves, for example, train your satellites there and then push out those images to the press?

JABLONSKY: They actually -- they might ask us to make those collections, but they do not influence or ask us to necessarily put out what we're putting out to the public.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Maxar is now giving imagery to the Ukrainian government, part of the U.S. aid for Ukraine. In a fight, the U.S. and others now say that has resulted in Russian war crimes.

(On camera): To what extent are your images going to be critical in these war crimes investigations?

WOOD: For example, the bodies that were found on the street in Bucha, we had imagery correlating at that exact same time where these bodies were, down to the place, the time, and the moment. It's having that kind of fidelity of data that we now have that makes that possible. And I ultimately think it will play an important part.

MARQUARDT (on camera): Each one of those cargo ships that we just showed you in those new satellite images carries 30,000 tons of grain.


(on camera): Russia, of course, denies that they're stealing it, but what they aren't taking, they're either targeting or blocking from getting out of Ukraine, and that is devastating for Ukraine as well as the world, which gets so much of its food from Ukraine. At least now, thanks to these satellite companies like Maxar, we can see it all happening. Don?


LEMON: Alex, thank you. The U.S. defense secretary is saying today that Putin's goals in Ukraine are -- quote -- "unknown." We're going to look at the battles on the frontlines next.




LEMON: Russian missile striking well infrastructure near Dnipro, Ukraine with the head of Ukraine's regional military in Dnipro saying that the strikes caused -- quote -- "serious damage." This comes as the U.S. defense secretary said today that Putin's overall strategy with Ukraine is -- quote -- "unknown."

Let's discuss now with CNN military analyst. Retired Colonel Cedric Leighton joins us now. Colonel, thank you very much. With these strikes on the railway infrastructure in Dnipro region, the head of the Ukrainian regional military saying it is now unclear when normal rail service will resume. What are the Russians trying to do?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Well, Don, what they're trying to do is they're trying to cut off the rail supply. And we have to remember that in Ukraine, the rails are critically important. They're more important in Ukraine than they are in the United States.

And when you look, this is where Dnipro is. It's right in basically the central part of the eastern part of the country. So, this is a big road and railway junction. Plus, the river runs through his area as well. So, if you get Dnipro and you get these areas right in here, you get the rail lines that come from Kharkiv, the ones that come down from Kyiv, the ones that go east, once you cut all these off, what you end up having is a situation where the Ukrainian forces could potentially be cut off from their supply lines and from reinforcements.

So, that's what the Russians are trying to do. They are trying to cut off the Ukrainians and basically surround them in this area right here, in the eastern part of the country. So, if they do that, then it's -- you know, you hate to say it, but it's basically game over for the Ukrainian forces in this particular area, if the Russians are allowed to proceed that way.

LEMON: Speaking of the east, eastern Donbas region, the Ukrainian regional military is reporting heavy fighting, saying that there has been Russian shelling all along the region's front line in recent days. Is this turning into a stale mate or is Russia threatening to push through?

LEIGHTON: Well, Russia wants to push through, Don. And, you know, you look at the kind of fighting that's going on here, especially in towns like here, Severodonetsk, the area around Sloviansk, and to then further south down toward this part of the Donbas region right here.

So, they want to go from Luhansk, which they almost got captured completely, this is the one part that's still remaining, and then they want to go into the Donetsk region right here of the Donbas. So, if they get these areas right here, then it is basically something that what they can do here is control this.

And when it comes to negotiations, which will eventually happen, even though it doesn't look like that now, they're going to be able to control areas that they hadn't controlled since 2014. Once they do that, then it's a lot harder for the Ukrainians to exercise control over this part of the Donbas.

LEMON: Colonel, satellite imagery appears to show Russian ships being loaded up with Ukrainian grain in Crimea. Is this kind of theft why Russia has focused so much of their offensive on capturing these major ports in the Black Sea?

LEIGHTON: This is basically the goal that they seek. You know, when you look at the ships right here and you see all the grain silos right in here, let's do a quick closeup of the ship, and you can see it's actually in the process of being loaded right here with grain.

This is what they want. This is the kind of material, the exports, that Ukraine has as the fifth largest wheat exporter in the world. This is what Russia wants to control, helps with its foreign exchange, also helps when it can export this and influence other countries. And if it controls things like the world grain market, it can control the food supply. So, this is exactly what the Russians want.

And when it comes to the areas that they control, the southern part right here, they only have a very little bit of coastline left, and if they control this, they get access to the wheat-growing regions right in through this area right here. If they do that and they control the ports and the exportability of these areas under their control, then they can in essence tie the noose around Ukraine's neck, and that's an economic goal they have at the moment.

LEMON: The defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, saying today that Putin's overall goals in Ukraine are -- quote -- "unknown." When you look at Russia's military moves overall, what do you see, colonel?

LEIGHTON: So, here's what I see, Don. I see them, you know, clearly, they're operating in the east. They had to give up their -- the work they did around Kyiv. They were forced back from here, they were forced back from parts of Kharkiv, but what they're not forced back from is the northeast right here, the eastern parts here, and most of the south.

What they're trying to do is they're trying to strangle all of these areas right here. They're basically keeping them under Russian control. This prevents the export of goods through ports like Odesa, which, by the way, although not occupied, is under blockade.


When they do all of this, what they're doing is they're in essence taking the lifeline out of this particular area and Ukraine is forced to export through areas like Poland or Romania. It is also the areas where, of course, they are getting goods from those areas and they're also getting weapons supplies from those areas.

So, what the Russians want is they want to strangle this area. In essence, it's a death by a thousand cuts scenario. They want to take these areas and then gradually move westward into these areas so that eventually they could potentially control the rest of the country.

The goal is still to topple the Ukrainian government, to eliminate the Ukrainian culture. They have not done that. They have a long way to go before they can do that. But the way they're going about things, the way they're moving their troops, how they are targeting civilian populations, all of that means that they want to eliminate Ukraine from the map.

LEMON: Colonel, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don. Any time.

LEMON: And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.