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Intense Fighting as Ukrainians Make Last Stand At Mariupol Steel Plant; Audio Says, Rep. Kevin McCarthy Called 25th Amendment Process Too Long; Amber Heard Testifies For Second Day About Marriage to Depp. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 10:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So, you could start to see these headline inflation numbers start to cool off a little bit.

I'm still concerned though about food and fuel, and that's because of the crisis in Ukraine. That's going to be a big problem.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: No question, and no sign of relief to that crisis in Ukraine anytime soon. Christine Romans, thanks very much.

A very good Thursday morning, I'm Jim Sciutto.

And happening right now, the city of Mariupol, which has suffered so much through this war, facing just unrelenting attacks in what could be Russia's final push to overtake, or at least to attempt overtake the city. Overnight, Russian forces bombarded Ukrainian troops, look at those pictures there, and civilians. To be clear, there are hundreds of civilians in the basement of that plant there overnight.

That's the city's last line of defense and where those civilians remain trapped. This new video shows Russian troops inside that facility after breaching the complex.

To the northeast, in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, Ukraine holding the line over the past 24 hours, officials say that Russians have had no success breaking through the frontlines there. That's been their goal for some time. But in the city of Dnipro, Russian launched new strikes on civilian infrastructure. Look at that video there, the very moment a bridge with cars on it, by the way -- appeared to be civilian cars -- was hit in that city.

Take a look at the damage in the city of Kramatorsk. Those are civilian apartment buildings. Imagine living there yourself. Russian airstrikes devastating a residential area once again, several buildings, including a kindergarten also struck, also severely damaged. At least 26 people wounded, six taken to hospitals, but a consistent feature this war, attacks on civilian targets.

Let's begin this morning with CNN International Correspondent Scott McLean. He is in Lviv. Scott, Ukrainian forces say that Ukrainian forces have repelled many Russian attacks. Listen, it's a long frontline here, lots of different things happening in different places, but what is the latest you're hearing this morning?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim. Yes, I think there are two central questions. Number one, are the Russians making any inroads to actually taking, physically, the territory of that steel plant to force the Ukrainians into surrendering? And number two, I think, is much more important, which is, is there any progress in actually getting people out?

The Ukrainians, as you mentioned, say that they have managed to push Russian troops back, who have been trying to storm that facility from the ground. The Russians though strongly deny that they have tried to take it by force on the ground. And we are also learning today that -- or last night, excuse me, I should say, the Russians sort of extended this olive branch, saying that they would allow civilians to get out through humanitarian corridor from the steel plant today, tomorrow and Saturday, they would pull their troops back, they would cease fire, and they would allow civilians to go either toward Russia or to Ukraine.

But, today, according to deputy commander of the Azov regiment, which is inside the steel plant leading the fighting there, he says that the Russians have completely broken that promise. There is no cease-fire in place today. He says that the fighting is quite intense there and that people are dying. And he's calling on the international community and specifically, as well, his own president, to try to broker any kind of a deal to get people out from underneath of the steel plant.

And he had a particular call for Zelenskyy to do something to arrange for soldiers to get out from under the steel plant, as well, because he said that many of them are dying in agony.

So, at this stage of the game, Jim, there are no signs that any civilians have been able to leave. The last numbers that we've gotten from the Ukrainians are that there are perhaps 100, 200 or more, including 30 children, as well. And there are also no signs that Ukrainian troops have any plans at all to surrender. In fact, those troops posted a video of some soldiers sheltering underneath that steel plant, singing a battle hymn. And here's one key line from that hymn. It said, it is sweeter for us to die in battle than to live in chains as dumb slaves.

We heard from these commanders before who said that they would like to have a deal to be able to get out, but they say that they will not leave without a weapon in their hand. Failing that, they will fight to the death.

SCIUTTO: Well, there are hundreds of civilians in there with them as well. Scott McLean, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia, also retired Army Brigadier General Steve Anderson.

If I could begin with you, General Anderson, what is the outcome for these people there? Russia is showing no hesitation, in fact, deliberate intention to kill civilians as well as soldiers across the country since its invasion started. So, you have hundreds of civilians, you have soldiers there that Russian forces do not like, you know, to a greater degree, the Azov Battalion, as it's known. What's the end game?


BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: The end game is that they are not going to give up and that they are going to go down fighting and probably die. I believe that they are not going to give up. You've seen it with the way they're singing songs and the like. They recognize what's at stake here. And this would be a huge political and psychological victory for the Russians.

And these are incredibly tough and resourceful people. They've been holding out for weeks. I predict they will continue to hold out for weeks, by the way. They're fighting in an industrial place that is incredibly hard to -- a perfect place to defend. I mean, think of Stalingrad. I mean, the Nazis lost three quarters of a million people fighting in an industrial complex like this in Stalingrad.

So, they're not going to give up. The end game is whatever happens to the Ukrainians, this will inspire generations of Ukrainians for many, many years.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it's amazing, it's yet one more repeat that we're witnessing now with very explicit comparisons to World War II.

Andrea, is this a failure of policy here? This has been -- they've been in that basement for two months. There have been pleas for international monitoring, whether it be a civilian organization, like the Red Cross, or a third party country to somehow negotiate and then manage an evacuation from there. None of that's happened. I mean, these people may die. Russia has shown no hesitation to kill civilians with equal speed and ease, as it has soldiers. Who failed here?

ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think that's an important question. And it just exposes for me the kind of moral dilemma that has characterized much of this conflict. It has been the Biden administration's priority to avoid any sort of actions that would risk direct confrontation with Russia. And so that's been, you know, the unfortunate trade-off that has had to be made. I mean, really, if you talk about a failure of policy, but, really, it underscores just the cruelty, the brutality, the total disregard for human life that Russia has in this war.

And so, again, just for me, it really underscores that moral dilemma, where there's so much more that we wish that we could do, but it is imperative that we also risk or that we avoid the risk of direct confrontation with Russia.

SCIUTTO: As you -- this is a big battle field, General Anderson. There appear to be some Ukrainian gains in the north, around Kharkiv, for instance, gaining back some villages, sounds small, just a village, but territory that's key, because it's pushing Russian artillery, for instance, out of range in the city, in some circumstances. If you look at the battlefield along the east, are Ukrainian forces not just holding the line now but carrying out successful counteroffensives?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: They are absolutely doing that, it's because the Russians have a flawed strategy. They're attacking along an 800-mile front. And not just a couple of main accesses of advance, to which they could overwhelm with artillery and there are numbers in tanks and mechanized vehicles. And he who attacks everywhere attacks nowhere.

They essentially have flawed logistics, flawed strategy. Their soldiers' morale and leadership is poor. The generals are getting killed. The Ukrainians are beating them in every possible way, with their will to fight, their superior logistics, their superior leadership, and their superior execution of an active mobile defense, which thus far is carrying the day.

SCIUTTO: And yet so many civilians are suffering. When we were there in recent weeks, we showed -- we saw with our own eyes, Russia is not hesitant to target civilian areas.

Andrea, May 9th, I've heard a difference of opinion on May 9th, Victory Day, and President Putin's intentions then. There were some who are concerned that he might announce an expansion of this war, including a national mobilization, which would be a draft, in effect, and, therefore, expand the number of forces that he could use in Ukraine, and others who think that would be too costly, even for Putin, and that really he tries to claim some sort of fake, manufactured victory on May 9th and just kinds of keeps on keeping on. What's your view?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: I'm probably in your second camp and I will go out on a limb and also suggest that I don't think that Putin really can afford to declare an official war on Ukraine on May 9th and mobilize the Russian forces. But it is a fraught decision. And he's kind of caught between a rock and a hard place, because if he does not mobilize the public in support of this war, I think, overtime, the balance of forces does favor Ukraine. And so if he doesn't mobilize, he will not be able to replenish those Russian forces and will fail to make any significant progress towards the aims that he has set out.

But, ultimately, I think the political risks are just too much, as you said.


If he mobilizes the forces, then he would have to, by definition, I think, inflate or increase Russia's objectives in this war.

He couldn't walk away with the little that he has to show. And I think for that reason, then, he will not. And he will continue to take advantage over his strong control over propaganda and try to sell whatever kind of shambolic victory he is able to accomplish to the Russian public to try to extricate himself from this at some future date. SCIUTTO: Yes, it's great point. You raise the ambition and you also raise the chances of failing to meet that ambition, yet again. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Brigadier General Steve Anderson, thanks so much to both you.

ANDERSON: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up this hour, new audio of Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy saying it would take too long to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment after the January 6th attack. We're going to speak with a Democratic congressman, Ruben Gallego, about that and other issues, next.

Plus, Amber Heard just took the stand again for a second day of testimony in Johnny Depp's defamation trial against her. A look at her defense strategy, which has already included disturbing allegations of abuse.

And later this hour, she protested in the 1970s, the first time Roe v. Wade was at the Supreme Court. And this week, he rallied again. We're going to speak with 90-year-old abortion rights advocate on her decades-long fight, which is still going.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's always worth it to stand up for what you believe. And I believe that women should have control of their own bodies.




SCIUTTO: We are hearing new audio from minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the days following January 6th. In a call with GOP leadership, McCarthy said that invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office wasn't a viable option. Why? Because it wasn't fast enough.


JOHN LEGANSKI, FLOOR DIRECTOR, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I think the options that have been cited by the Democrats so far are the 25th Amendment, which is not exactly an elegant solution here.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That takes too long too. It could go back to the House, right?

LEGANSKI: Yes, correct. If the president were to submit a letter overruling the cabinet and the vice president, two-thirds vote in the House is going to overrule the president. So, it's kind of in our full, obviously, impeachment, as has been discussed. And I think they want him to resign, which I don't see happening either.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: During the same call, McCarthy also said that he wanted to reach out to then President-elect Joe Biden as he expressed hope for a smooth transition. He added that he thought impeaching Trump would further divide the nation.

I'm joined now by Arizona Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego. He serves on the Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: I do want to ask you first about this McCarthy audio because it's the latest in a series that show a contradiction in what he thought on the day and the days after, not just about the danger of January 6th, but Trump's role in it and what he says publicly now. Has he, by not only not being honest about this, but refusing to participate in an investigation of January 6th, has he endangered his own caucus, right, as well as Democrats, by not making an effort to help prevent something similar from happening again?

GALLEGO: Well, I think the most important thing is not us politicians. I think the problem is that he's endangering the Constitution. He clearly was worried. I was there on the House floor. I saw him and spoke -- him speak afterwards, where he clearly blamed President Trump for everything that occurred. And he, at some point, had some of a conscious that felt that he did do something wrong and had found some type of spine.

But soon after that, he realized that the Republican Party is nonexistent without Trump, and decided to align himself with the Trump wing of the party instead of the Constitution. And that's the problem here. There are many ways that he could have pushed back on Donald Trump and hopefully saved both the Republican Party in the long run and the Constitution of the United States. But he chose, you know, his vapid opportunities to really rise to power and become a speaker instead of protecting the Constitution of the United States.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, referencing this and the broader issue, President Biden called MAGA Republicans, quote, the most extreme political organization that's existed in recent American history. I wonder, is that a successful political message for Democrats in the fall? Because when you look at the polls, the far more important issue to voters, Democrat and Republican and independent, are economic issues, including inflation. Is that the right focus for the president, as well as other Democrats like yourself?

GALLEGO: Well, it certainly is. Because when we're talking about the MAGA agenda, it's not just the fact that they're obsessed with people's genitals or trying to force women to have, you know, babies, they're also going to raise taxes. If you look at Senator Scott's tax plan, his plan is to lower the taxes on billionaires and corporations and make working class people pick up the slack, quote/unquote, if we have any slack at this point to give, in order for us to support that. He wants to cut social security. So, that's the type of MAGA agenda that we actually are worried about. It's not just this weird social side that suddenly has taken off. It's also the economic plans that are really going to affect working class America right now. And there is no plan from MAGA Republicans, really, to deal with everything that's going on right now.


It's just trying to distract with other types of, you know, social issues and other types of hate, when, in fact, they're going to end up raising taxes to pay for their billionaire tax cuts again.

SCIUTTO: Well, let me ask you this. Democrats had a plan to address some of those issues, for instance, to raise taxes on corporations, to help pay for things, like prescription drug coverage, a child care tax credit, et cetera, it's not gone anywhere. And that has been a frustration, as you know, expressed in polling as well by Democratic voters. The Democrats have not delivered on that agenda. So, what are you running on in the fall? What successes, accomplishments are you running on?

GALLEGO: And I think that's actually a very legitimate complaint from Democrats. They want us to succeed because they know our agenda is actually better for working class America. We do have to continue to also point out that we did great work with the CARES Act, lifted a lot of people out of poverty, stopped us from really sliding into a personal recession of economic for the personal economic pocketbooks of families, you know, we're also extremely proud of the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

I've been going across the state here in Arizona. I'm talking to tribes about all of the digital, you know, broadband that they're going to be able to bring because of that type of work and investment that we've done in this country. And we're going to have to continue to push other measures welcome, such as the Chips Act, which would actually be a huge, huge gain.

But you can't deny a couple of things. And, by the way, we know that there's a problem. I feel that problem. My family talks about it all the time. I see the gas prices. Inflation, it does matter. But we know that we have the highest level of employment in the history of this country. It's only going to continue to grow. We actually saw payment down in the deficit that we haven't seen that in a long time. So, we do see some good areas, but we're going to have to keep working. We have to bring inflation down. There is no doubt about that.

SCIUTTO: We're tight on time. Two more quick questions for you. One, you know immigration is a major issue in this election for voters, and the question of keeping or ending Title 42, which to date, you know, related to the pandemic, but the administration, the (INAUDIBLE) court has blocked them. Should the administration keep or end Title 42?

GALLEGO: I think the administration, no matter what, needs to put a plan to replace Title 42. You can't deny that if there's going to be a lot of people coming across the border, so we need to be able to figure out how to deal with the flow of asylum seekers in an organized manner. You know, Title 42 is not the best option to do that, but also, not having Title 42 and just letting things go is not the way to do it. And I doubt the administration is just going to look through that. We need to have a process for people to get here clearly. We need to choose who deserves to be in this country with asylum and those that do not need to go back.

SCIUTTO: Final question, you know the speculation. Are you going to challenge Kyrsten Sinema for the Democratic nomination in 2024?

GALLEGO: Look, we're in 2022 and we're talking about everything we need to do in 2022. I need to make sure that Democrats keep the House and keep the Senate and that questions of 2024 will be decided in early 2023.

SCIUTTO: All right, we'll keep asking. Congressman Ruben Gallego, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, at least eight tornadoes touched down from Texas to Kansas, the town of Seminole, Oklahoma, seeing some of the worst damage caught on camera there.

Next, we're going to go there live, hear how one woman managed to save her family.



SCIUTTO: Right now, Amber Heard back on the stand resuming her testimony in ex-husband Johnny Depp's defamation trial against her. Her testimony yesterday was gripping, emotional at times, as she shared details of what she said was an abusive relationship.


AMBER HEARD, ACTRESS: I fell head over heels in love with this man.

When I was around Johnny, I felt like the most beautiful person in the world. You know, it made me feel seen. It made me feel like a million dollars.


SCIUTTO: And she said she'll never forget the first time she alleges Depp hit her. She said it happened when she asked about one of his tattoos.


HEARD: I just stared at him, kind of laughing still, thinking that he was going to start laughing too to tell me that it was a joke, but he didn't. He said, you think it's so funny? You think it's funny, (BLEEP). You think you're a funny (BLEEP). And he slapped me again. Like, it was clear it wasn't joke anymore.

I knew it was wrong and I knew that I had to leave him and that broke my heart, because I didn't want to leave him.


SCIUTTO: Depp denies this happened, says he never hit Heard.

I want to bring in Civil Rights Attorney, CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin for more on this.

So, Areva, I suppose, the first question is, last week, we heard from Depp with disturbing allegations against Heard. Now, we're hearing disturbing allegations from Heard against Depp. How effective, first of all, do you think her testimony has been so far on this jury?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's been really gripping testimony, Jim. She described a lot of what we had already heard in Johnny Depp's case, which is, you know, the allegations regarding his heavy drug use, his heavy dependence on alcohol and his violent outbursts.