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Interview With Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel; Stock Market Drops; Desperation in Mariupol. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Victor Blackwell. Alisyn is off.

There is a lot going on today.

Let's start with the Dow. U.S. stocks are down sharply right now. Investors are reacting to the Federal Reserve issuing their biggest rate hike in 20 years. Now, this is wiping out all of yesterday's gains. And it's not just stocks feeling the impact, gas prices, mortgage rates also rising.

CNN' businesses editor at large, Richard Quest, is with us now.

What's going on?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Yesterday was an aberration predicated on some weirdness of what the chairman of the Fed said.

Today, we're back to reality. And this is continuing a trend that the market has been experiencing for weeks, salami-slicing away. And what we're really seeing today, of course, is wiping out yesterday's gains and getting back to where the market really is.

And what we're seeing is exactly what policymakers intended.

BLACKWELL: This was the goal?

QUEST: Well, not in -- in a brutal sense, yes. They need to bring down the economy to slow it down. That means asset prices, house prices, inflation. It means the stock prices.

That will -- has to come down. And, ultimately, unemployment will eventually start to rise.

BLACKWELL: On the question...

QUEST: That's how it works.


On the question of a recession, because that's what a lot of people are concerned about, has the U.S. moved from possible to probable? QUEST: According to the Fed, no. They still believe they can do a soft landing. According to many private economists, absolutely.

Look, you can't have these -- this sort of dislocation, this sort of disruption, people seeing their portfolios for their pensions, their 401(k), you can't have this without people reacting. This is what we call the wealth effect. People feel poorer.

Tonight, people will go home. They will -- over the dinner table, they will say that, we have got X-amount less than we thought. And mortgages are going up and gas is going up and the weekly food bill is going up. We don't feel as wealthy as we did.

Unfortunately, I come back to the point, Victor.


QUEST: This is what slowdown is meant to create. But it's happening in a brutal fashion at the moment.

BLACKWELL: We have got the labor secretary coming up in a bit. We will talk with him about that.

Richard Quest, thanks so much.

All right, let's go now to Ukraine and the battle within the Azovstal complex. Ukrainians are facing nonstop shelling from Russian forces. A local official said, if there is hell in the world, it's in Azovstal.

Vladimir Putin's forces have breached the compound, according to Ukrainian fighters there. But an adviser to President Zelenskyy said the Ukrainians repelled the incoming Russians in the last 24 hours.

And a new post online shows the spirit of Ukrainian defenders. The soldiers are singing the battle hymn of the Ukrainian army.


UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): It is sweeter for us to die in battle than to live in chains as dumb slaves.


BLACKWELL: Beyond Azovstal, Ukrainian armed forces say Russians have had no success with efforts to break through front lines in Donetsk and Luhansk over the last 24 hours.

This drone video from a pro-Russian social channel gives really extraordinary perspective of the fighting. Take a second and look at your screen. The drone appears to have been used by Russian infantry to help hunt down the last Ukrainian defenders in the area. And look closely. In one case, it hovers over the location where the Ukrainians are cornered.

You see them on their stomachs on the yard there, at least six of them as we watch this video. They later surrender. CNN Scott McLean is in Lviv. That's in Western Ukraine.

Scott, Ukrainians say the relentless shelling of Azovstal shows how Russian forces once again are not standing by that promise to let the civilians out to some safety.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But, Victor, help is on the way. That is according to the U.N. special envoy to Ukraine, who said that an evacuation convoy is en route to the city right now specifically to get civilians out of the Azovstal steel complex, something, a place that he calls a kind of bleak hell, surely an understatement there.

This convoy is being arranged with the help of the Red Cross. Obviously, the U.N. is involved as well. This was a successful formula on Sunday, but, since then, there has not been any kind of a success.

Now, nothing happens quickly, of course, in Mariupol.


Apologies. The sound that you hear there is just the end of an air raid alert that was going on in the city. And you can hear the sirens there as well, Victor.

You will remember that it was last Friday, a week ago tomorrow, that President Zelenskyy announced that there would be an evacuation operation, didn't give any more details. It wasn't until Sunday that we found out what that was, and not until Tuesday until they showed up in Zaporizhzhia.

So, Ukrainian officials are unlikely to say much of anything between now and when there's a successful operation. They go into radio silence mode, they say, to avoid doing anything to jeopardize the success of the operation.

The Russians last night had offered an olive branch, saying that they would open humanitarian corridors for people to get out of the plant today, tomorrow and Saturday and go in whatever direction that they would like. But the Azov regimen, which is leading the fighting from that plant, says that the Russians have not kept their word.

They say that the Russians continue to storm the plant on the ground, something that the Russians deny. They also say that the fighting has been extremely fierce there. And a deputy commander of that regiment, Victor pleaded with the international community to come up with some kind of a deal to get people out.

And, specifically, he also singled out his commander in chief, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying that a deal not only needs to be brokered to get civilians out, but also to get wounded soldiers out as well, who are dying in agony, in his words, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, we will see if the U.N. and Red Cross convoy can make more progress there.

Let's turn toward Dnipro now, where I understand you have learned of a Russian missile that hit a bridge. What do you know?


So this was earlier this morning. There were two missiles, we're told by local officials. One of them was struck down by the air defense system. The second one hit a railway bridge. And we have video of that. And it's pretty remarkable that there were no injuries. At least, that's the initial assessment.

What there was, was obviously huge disruption to the trains in that area, which were not able to get through. This has been sort of a common theme with the Russians in targeting train infrastructure and power infrastructure in particular. They don't like that Ukraine is able to use the trains not only to get civilians to and from the front -- to -- from the front lines, but also that they can get supplies and weapons to the front lines.

You mentioned the fighting in the east as well, Victor. The Ukrainians say that they are holding the line. At least, they have been holding the line for the last 24 hours or so, the Russians not able to make very much progress on the ground. And so what they're resorting to instead, though, is bombing, missile campaigns and artillery strikes as well, trying to force the Ukrainians back from those front lines.

But the Ukrainians say that they are having some amount of success. There is also some fighting in the southern parts of the country, Mykolaiv, Kherson. The Ukrainians say that they're making some progress there, but, again, a lot of injuries reported in the last 24 hours from shelling there, which has been pretty relentless in some areas.

BLACKWELL: Scott McLean with the latest from Lviv there.

And, Scott, the cacophony surrounding you, the air raid sirens, the dogs barking because they're annoyed by these sirens, and this happens several times a day, as we have seen over the last several months. Unbelievable, people still living through that.

Scott McLean, thank you.

Let's go to Kramatorsk now, where Russian forces launched attacks on the city center for the first time in a month. Dozens were hurt after six strikes there. And, remember, this is a residential area.

CNN's Sam Kiley surveyed the damage.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The scale of the blast is quite extraordinary. And so is, frankly, the effort being made to clean up already.

I mean, it's just a few hours ago that these impacts were felt ripping through these residential buildings. And I have been on the other side of these buildings. They look the same on this side next to the blast As they do on the other side. The blast simply rushed clean through these buildings, tearing them to pieces.

Mercifully, there were 25 people have been wounded across the city in three different locations. There was also a blast quite close to the administrative headquarters. There's only been six people hospitalized, and one person is critical. That's in stark contrast to the last time Kramatorsk was hit in earnest about a month ago, when the railway station was struck by a surface-to-surface missile, along- range missile, probably similar to the one that landed here.

That killed at least 50 people waiting to try to evacuate from this city. As a consequence, though, of the evacuations, the toll in terms of wounded and dead from these, frankly, atrocities -- this is deliberate targeting with not dumb bombs. This was not an attack that came from an aircraft.

This was clearly a surface-to-surface missile, and the range would indicate that they're guided missiles, not the stupid missiles, if you like, a multiple-rocket launching system, but much more likely the guided missiles that are available to the Russian, such as Iskander and similar.


In that context, therefore, this is a deliberate act against Kramatorsk, which is really the strategic prize for the Russians, if they can capture this town. As far as the Putin administration is concerned, it may be a possibility that they could then believe that they have achieved some kind of a victory, and maybe stop their advance at this point.

But they are at least 25 kilometers away to the north. They're pushing down in various salients around. They're also trying to come in from the east. They have had moderate success and some losses around Kharkiv. But this is the ongoing part of their campaign, pound the civilian areas into submission, and then try to occupy the ashes.


BLACKWELL: Sam Kiley reporting there for us.

Thank you, Sam.

The White house is disputing a new "New York Times" report that Ukraine is using U.S. intelligence to target Russian generals. Now, the U.S. does share intel with the Ukrainian military about Russian troop movements and intercepted communications.

But, according to an administration official, the report is misleading. It's not clear that the death of any particular general can be linked to any specific intelligence.

Joining me now to discuss is retired Army Major Mike Lyons and former CIA officer David Priess. He's also the author of "The President's Book of Secrets."

Gentlemen, welcome to you. David, let me start with you. I mean, the pushback we have received from the administration is that the intel that is shared is not intended for the Ukrainians to use to kill generals. Ukrainians claim they have killed a dozen. What do you make of that pushback that they're helping the Ukrainian military by showing positions, but what they do with it is a separate question?

DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA OFFICER: That's right. There's a nuance here that really does matter.

If you're going to give the Ukrainians intelligence that helps them to defend themselves and lets them know where Russian units are, where the command centers are, lets them know some of the intercepted communications between military leaders and the soldiers, inherently, that is going to give the Ukrainians a rich target environment to know where to strike to prevent damage against their own forces, and perhaps to dissuade some Russian units from moving in certain directions.

It's natural that some of those units are going to have commanders there, up to and including the rank of general. So there is an important distinction between giving the Ukrainians information in order to target individual leaders and giving the Ukrainians information that helps them prosecute the conflict, which, by nature of conflict, will occasionally include senior commanders who are in the field.

BLACKWELL: Major, Sam Kiley just showed us how Russian forces are targeting civilians, residential areas. And we have watched this for two-and-a-half months now.

If you're the Ukrainian military, and you have this intel, and you are outgunned and outmanned and outmatched on paper, explain why, to the person sitting at home who doesn't know all the specifics of international law or U.S. policy, why it is egregious to use this to go after a dozen Russian generals.

MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, Victor, we don't want to target general officers. We don't want to talk to target specific people. That's really not what we want to do. That's not within the laws of land warfare.

But, to the point, these general officers have been forced out of places where they normally would be and much more forward with these Russian units if they have been failing. Now, they have been also terrible at operation security. They're probably getting frustrated, because they're not communicating, they're not being able to get their word out to their troops.

They're likely on their cell phones. We know that they have geotracked some of them just to their cell phones as well. So they have not been smart about that. And Ukraine has been 10 times smart to make sure that they have taken advantage as well.

It's not just the communications. It's the heat footprints, other things that give off -- you can tell where a command center is. It's got antennas. It's got things going around, generators. There's lots of things that give that away.

The bottom line is, because of the poor Russian military, the general officers have been forced forward, and they're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

BLACKWELL: David, should something change on the U.S.' part now that they know that likely the Ukrainians are using this to go after generals?

PRIESS: I'd suggest, Victor, the thing that should change is, senior administration officials shouldn't be talking about this kind of thing, because it can be so easily misinterpreted, and some of the headlines coming out of this reporting have been unfortunate, because they don't represent what I assume is the reality on the ground in terms of the intelligence-sharing.

Should they change the nature of the cooperation with the Ukrainians in terms of helping them defend their soil with their own troops and with their own equipment and the equipment provided to them by allied countries? Absolutely not.

This is exactly what we can do to assist Ukraine without involving U.S. and NATO forces directly into the fight. You give them the advantage that intelligence can provide in order to prevent more direct action.


But, for God's sakes, stop talking about it and stop allowing it to be misinterpreted.

BLACKWELL: Major, I want to show you some video here.

I want you to talk us through the significance of what we're watching. This was shot in by Russians. This is in Eastern Ukraine, extensive damage here from Russian artillery, appears to have been used here, this drone, to track down the last Ukrainian fighters in that area.

You can see Russian soldiers. They threw grenades, fired weapons in the sheds there. And then they take Ukrainians into custody, which we showed some of the video at the top of the show.

What do you make of what we're watching here?

LYONS: Yes, Victor, tough to watch.

But, finally, I'm seeing some competence in Russian military forces. And that's really what they should be doing, is firing artillery into these locations. You saw in some of those other videos there were trench lines that they had to go and try to clear. The Ukraine military is doing all they can to defend in these places.

You're seeing the Russian soldier, like right here, he has got to clear this one building one at a time, throw a hand grenade in, try to clear out that one building. This is where urban warfare is very difficult. We haven't seen the Russians do a lot of this. Maybe they took the drone shots of this to show -- give confidence and to show that they can do this.

But, again, this is the kind of competence they haven't displayed so far.

Popasna is a key location. It's in the southeastern portion, in the salient there. It's kind of on the tip of that crescent there. And the question is whether they're going to hold it. They have clearly destroyed the town. But in this case here, I'm just glad also they didn't shoot here. They didn't have drones on them. They didn't murder these soldiers while they tried to surrender, but tough to watch, but an unfortunate view of some perhaps small slice of Russian competency for when it comes to the military.

BLACKWELL: Yes, especially in the context of the reporting on what Russian forces are doing with Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Major Lyons, David Priess, thank you both.

Now, if the Supreme Court draft decision holds and Roe vs. Wade is overturned, several states have laws on the books that would sharply limit abortion access. Some of them are trigger laws. Michigan is one of those states, but the state's attorney general says that she will not enforce the law. We will talk with her next.

Plus, the former president's son Don Jr. meets with the House committee investigating the insurrection. We will talk about the importance of his testimony ahead.



BLACKWELL: Capitol Hill workers installed a tall non-scalable fence around the Supreme Court's perimeter. There have been, as you know, several protests since the draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he will hold a vote on codifying Roe next Wednesday. Now, 13 states have what are called trigger laws, and they would ban abortion if the court overturns Roe. Several other states have retained these pre-Roe bans that would sharply limit access if Roe is overturned.

Michigan is one of them.

My next guest is Dana Nessel. She is the attorney general of Michigan.

Thank you for being with me.

Let's start with this 90-year-old law that would ban most abortions, no rape or incest exceptions, one for the life of the mother. Is that one of these immediate trigger laws if Roe is overturned?

DANA NESSEL (D), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, it will go into effect immediately. The only reason that that 1931 law has been rendered unenforceable is

because of the ruling in Roe v. Wade. So, the instant that the Dobbs opinion is officially released, that very moment, prosecutors around the state could begin prosecuting doctors and, I would argue, potentially women as well, in the event that there's an abortion.

The way that the statute reads, it could be easily read that if a woman actually takes the medication herself, so if she's the one who induces the abortion, she could also be charged. And it is a felony in our state. So you could go to prison for up to four years.

And I think it's important to note I am running against my Republican opponent, who is a person who not only plans to vigorously enforce this law, should he succeed me in office, but he doesn't believe that there is any instance under which it's appropriate. He thinks that there is no instance in which a woman's life could be in peril due to a pregnancy.

BLACKWELL: Let's play that. Let's play that.

We have got Matt DePerno on tape here talking about exactly what you just referenced. Here is the Republican candidate for A.G. in Michigan.


MATT DEPERNO (R), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: And then they said, well, what about the life of the mother? OK. Do you have an exception for that?

I said, I do not, because there is literally no medical diagnosis that says that, if the mother's life is in danger, abort the baby. The medical diagnosis is, always deliver that baby in every single instance.

You cannot find anywhere in any medical book a diagnosis that says abort the baby. It doesn't exist.


BLACKWELL: He says he would enforce the law. And you say that you would not.

I know that you have -- and I'm always reluctant to bring up a person's trauma in these conversations, but you have used your own abortion as part of the context for why you have decided not to enforce this law should Roe be overturned.


Explain how that informs that decision.

NESSEL: Well, I had a situation where I was -- I had a multiple pregnancy. I was pregnant with triplets.

There were some significant issues with my pregnancy. And I was essentially told that the only chance I would have of saving any of my babies is if I aborted one, and it would possibly give the opportunity for the other two that were in my womb to survive.

So, I took my doctor's advice, because I'd rather have two children than none. And, as a result, my -- two of my kids actually survived. They were in the NICU for a long time. They were low birth weight. They had a host of complications, but they lived.

And now I have two beautiful sons, instead of having no children. And that's a choice, that no one should have to make that choice. But, sometimes, we do. Sometimes, these situations president themselves. And despite the fact that I didn't try to get pregnant so that I could later have an abortion, but it's sometimes what women are faced with.

And for our government to say, we know better than you as to how you should handle these complications with your pregnancy, it's something that, for 50 years in this country, we have had good -- we haven't had to worry about or deal with.

But we have people like my opponent, Matt DePerno, saying the government belongs in your doctor's office, the government belongs in your bedroom, and they are going to make the decision for women around our state and around this country, not us. And it's incredibly scary, especially when it puts our lives at risk, which is what Mr. DePerno thinks that it's perfectly fine to do so.

It's a very scary set of circumstances to know that women in our state could be left to die on an operating table, because doctors are so afraid of going to prison if they try to save their lives.

BLACKWELL: We know that the governor, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, has filed a lawsuit to try to get the state Supreme Court to overturn this '31 law.

What are the chances that will happen, from your perspective?

NESSEL: Well, that remains to be seen.

I can't predict it. I think she's made some very strong arguments. And I support her in that effort. But let me say this to the people. We have over 10 million people in the state of Michigan. We have, estimates are, 2.2 million women of reproductive age in our state. You got to come out and vote in the fall.

We have a ballot proposal that's being circulated right now that would make abortion and reproductive rights a constitutional provision of the Michigan Constitution. And we have a myriad of candidates on the Democratic side that want to ensure that this right is enshrined into our Constitution, and that we don't have this incredibly important and fundamental right stripped from us after half-a-century.

Women, doctors should not be going to prison for what is medical health care. And that's something people have to wake up and understand. It's all on the ballot this fall. There is a definitive choice between candidates. And you can see that between myself and the Republican who's running against me. BLACKWELL: Yes, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, thank you so much for your time.

NESSEL: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: A top member of the Oath Keepers is shedding some new light on January 6 and the extremist group's efforts to contact then- President Trump.

We have got more on that next.