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Ukrainians Make Last Stand at Mariupol Steel Plant; Chief Justice Roberts Call Leak of Supreme Court Draft on Abortion "Absolutely Appalling"; Economist Predict Dip in Job Growth as Pandemic Recovery Slows. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 15:00   ET



PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Remember, this was the last major fatal plane crash in the United States of a commercial airliner. Fifty people in total were killed, including one on the ground -- Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Pete Muntean for us in Washington. Thank you.


BLACKWELL: Top of a brand-new hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Victor Blackwell. Thank you for staying with us.

We are starting with the war in Ukraine and the bloody battles happening in Mariupol. The commander inside said the Russians had breached the perimeter. Now on the outside, Ukrainians are being bombarded with non-stop shelling from Russian forces.

The commander said that Russians again broke the promise of a truce to allow for evacuations. A short time ago, a U.N. official said it's unclear how many fighters and civilians are inside that compound. Ukrainian officials say more than 300 were rescued yesterday from the Mariupol area.

Ukrainian armed forces also say that over the past 24 hours, Russians have had no success trying to break through the front lines into Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

And take a look at this drone video from a pro-Russian social channel. It gives extraordinary perspective of the fighting. The drone appears to be used by Russian infantry to hunt down the last Ukrainian fighters in that area.

If you look closely, a soldier throws at least four grenades into or near this shed. You saw one detonate. Ukrainian forces are sheltering inside. It's unclear whether anyone was hurt.

Now, in other footage, you see Ukrainian fighters on the ground face down apparently cornered in a yard there. At least six of them later surrendered.

CNN Scott McLean is in Lviv.

So, breaking developments, Scott, I understand, on evacuations from Azovstal. You just got an update.

What do you know?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor, yeah. So, this is an update from the governor of the Donetsk oblast who says that the rescue operations, its evacuation mission, it is under way. He doesn't want to say any more than that, though, until he has some good news to report.

And part of the reason is because, of course, Ukrainian officials don't want to do anything to potentially jeopardize the success of the operation, but he also says that it's a little touch and go considering that the U.N. and the Red Cross helping to organize this are dealing with Russia, which he says continue to sort of change the rules and the conditions as to how exactly they will allow this evacuation to take place.

So nothing is guaranteed at this stage. But as you mentioned, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine says an evacuation convoy is en route to the plant right now to get people out of that particularly bleep hell that they have been living through.

You also mentioned that President Zelenskyy said that almost 350 people were evacuated yesterday. That's not from the plant, though. That is from the wider city. The plant is a lot more complicated.

Yesterday, Russia did offer this olive branch saying that people would be allowed to get out of a plant today, tomorrow or Saturday. But it seems at this point that is impossible, given what Ukrainian troops on the ground they're saying, which is that the Russians have not lived up to their ceasefire that they were supposedly going to enact for these three days. They say Russians continue to try to storm the plant for the third straight day. There are some pretty heavy fighting continuing to go on today.

A deputy commander of the Azov regiment, which is a part of the Ukrainian military that is leading in there, says that it's not just civilians that need to get out to put out a plea to President Zelenskyy to broker some kind of an arrangement to get wounded soldiers out of there who he says are dying in agony.

As for the rest of them, they say they will stay and fight. They would like to have some kind of an arrangement to walk out of there. A truce, to walk out of there and live to fight another day without surrendering. The chances of that seems slim. They say they won't leave without a weapon in their hands, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Conditions in that facility unimaginable as they have been there for weeks as Russian forces have surrounded the compound.

Let's turn to Kramatorsk, a Russian missile strike hit the town. People may remember, that's where this -- the devastating railway attack killed dozens of people. What do you know? MCLEAN: It's pretty remarkable actually. So, this was a missile strike

on Kramatorsk earlier today and what is especially remarkable is that no one was killed considering the really vast scale of the destruction, at least what it appears. My colleague Sam Kiley was there earlier today. The trees were completely stripped of their leaves, windows were blown out in three direction.

There were three buildings took heavy damage. One is a school. Another is a kindergarten.


And this goes back to your earlier point which is that the Ukrainians say that the Russians are having a heck of a time actually breaking through the front lines of this war, in the eastern part of the country, Victor. So, instead, they're going back to their old strategy, which is to bombard areas with missile strikes and artillery shells.

BLACKWELL: Scott McLean with the latest there from Lviv -- Scott, thank you very much.

The president of the European Commission said that Russia is committing war crimes on an every day basics including in Mariupol, where we just discussed, many civilians are trapped inside that Azovstal plant and continues to be the site of this intense Russian bombardment.

Joining me now is a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst. He's also the senior director for the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center.

Mr. Ambassador, good to have you back. Let's start there at Azovstal. How do you reconcile this commitment, this promise, and I put that in air quotes from Russia to allow people who are inside the civilians to get out with the constant bombardment? Even now with the U.N. and Red Cross assisting. How much of this can they trust?

JOHN HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I think you almost answered your own question, by putting the guarantees and the promises in quotation marks.


HERBST: That's right. Moscow -- Moscow has conducted a war of daily war crimes and everyone has been saying they offer safe passage, then shooting people to take advantage of it. It is true some hundreds of people got out of Mariupol, so there has been a little Russian cooperation. But by and large, that cooperation is not normal. It's the exception.

BLACKWELL: We are just getting new reaction in from the Pentagon. A spokesman John Kirby is responding to that "New York Times" report about the Ukrainians using U.S. intelligence that's being shared to target and kill Russian generals, Ukrainians say they have killed 12 thus far in the invasion. Here's what John Kirby said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We do not provide intelligence on a location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decision of the Ukrainian military. The Ukrainians have, quite frankly, a lot more information than we do. This is their country, their territory. And they have capable collection abilities of their own.


BLACKWELL: I want to get your reaction to that. But also the hardware and the intel have been important to the Ukrainians, obviously, to defend themselves. Should something change based on what the Ukrainians are doing with it?

HERBST: Okay. We have provided important hardware and important intel support but not enough of either and we have been slowing late with both. But it's gotten better late with me. Ukraine has performed bravely and greatly. With our support, we have not been as effective. If we provide more support, Ukraine will do even better.

BLACKWELL: Do you think that the use of the in intel to target generals is problematic?

HERBST: I don't know if that's what's happened. Certainly, this should not be discussed publicly. Our intel should make it easy for Ukraine to defeat Russian aggression, and I think it does. But we have been also a little bit wary about providing intel as fast and as detailed as we should. But I think that's improving.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about this call about the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Putin. Now, this account is from Israeli prime minister in which he says that President Putin apologized. That's not something we say often, for the comments made by his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov said over the weekend into the beginning of the week that Hitler had, quote, Jewish blood and the current Israeli government supports the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv.

Now, of course, we all know by now that President Zelenskyy himself is Jewish.

Putin and Lavrov have made a lot of just flat out wrong and offensive and racist comments. But according to Naftali Bennett, Putin apologize for this one. What do you make of that apology?

HERBST: I don't know if it's true or not. Israel has been criticized. But Israeli is our great democratic ally in the Middle East. But it's been kind of more or less on the side lines with the Russia side in this fight of Ukraine democracy.

So when Lavrov said made these crazy anti-Semitic comments, it put Bennett in the vulnerable position. I would believe that Putin apologized if we saw a statement on the website. Bennett has reasons to try to paint this in as woozy a color as possible given his own vulnerability.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, and we heard no confirmation from the Kremlin that that apology actually happened.

Ambassador Herbst, thanks so much.

HERBST: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Breaking news, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts just called the draft opinion leak on abortion rights absolutely appalling.


We got more next.


BLACKWELL: The breaking news, chief justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts just addressed the leak of the Supreme Court draft decision that if upheld would overturn Roe v. Wade. He calls the leak absolutely appalling.

CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic with us now.

Remarkable comments from the chief justice. What else did he say?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yeah, good afternoon, Victor, in fact, as we speak now, Chief Justice Roberts is still speaking to a group of lawyers and judges down in Atlanta. This is his first public appearance since Monday night when that draft of reversal of Roe v. Wade was disclosed by "Politico".


And what he said as you mentioned to our viewers is it was absolutely appalling. And he says that the people who did this, the person or people who did this might believe it could affect the court's work, they're foolish to think that. It will not affect the court's work.

He also lamented the fact this could have a wrong impression of the workforce and said this is likely one bad apple and he doesn't want to diminish the effectiveness of the court or how people look at its workforce.

The strongest words came in what you said first to our viewers, is that he sounded absolutely appalling. I have to say, the chief justice is someone who usually doesn't want to put himself out much, but he was here in -- he was in Atlanta for this previously scheduled appearance. He says right off the top, that he was going to address the elephant in the room.

You know what that elephant is. Two nights ago, we discovered there was a first draft by likely conservative majority of the Supreme Court ready to overturn a half century of abortion rights in America, to reverse the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade and what was almost as startling is the way this information came out through a disclosure revealed by a news organization, obviously, this case is still being worked on behind the scenes by the court.

Chief Justice Roberts put out a public statement saying that draft published by politico is authentic. It doesn't reflect where they are at in the process. It's really remarkable to have him now in person still talking to this group of lawyers and judges, but at least at the outset, Victor, telling the American people how he views what has transpired and he referred to it as, he was speaking about the leak.

He was talking about the person, as if this was a deliberate thing. It sound like his assessment is there was nothing that was accidental or sloppy behind the scenes, is that someone was out to assess the court's work. The message he had in response was, it will not affect the court's work. They will go on as planned, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, we'll see if he has more to say as he continues to talk to this group in Atlanta. And as you said, remarkable the chief justice is making his comments. We've known since the Trump impeachment trial that this is someone who does not want to be at the center of politics. We'll see if there is anything else he has to say.

Joan Biskupic, thank you so much.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: The Dow is down more than 1,300 points one day after the Fed raised rates by a half percentage point.

The thing goes well beyond Wall Street. The gas prices are back on the rise across the country. The average price per gallon of regular now $4.25, up more than a dime from a week ago. The mortgage rates -- they are also reaching the highest levels since 2009 with the average 30- year fixed rate standing at 5.27 percent.

Meanwhile, the April jobs report comes out tomorrow. Economists project employers added an estimated 400,000 jobs.

Let's discuss now with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

Secretary Walsh, thank you so much being back with me.

Let's start here with the numbers we had today. Weekly jobless claims up 19,000, the biggest weekly jump since last July. Are we entering a new phase of this recovery?

MARTY WALSH, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, yeah, I think we ought to see tomorrow what the job numbers look like. And I think we have been in a very strong and steady and consistent in adding jobs back to the economy. We're still looking at people still are leaving their jobs, looking for a better opportunity.

So, I think we are in an economy, at least for the worker's economy that is very, very interesting. We're seeing higher wages. We are seeing people leaving their jobs with different numbers. We're seeing record people going back to work, if you can compare it to any other time in the history of our country.

But, clearly, there is more to do. And in the Department of Labor, we are looking at, you know, workforce development and job training as opportunities and working with businesses, quite honestly. I spent a lot of my time talking to businesses as well across the country to see what the needs are, and what they are seeing, and what we can do to help them.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. You mention people leaving their job. There's great resignation, the big quit as it's called -- 4.5 million people left their jobs in March. You see here on the screen the last six months or so, more than 4 million a month.

We know this is good for the worker who thinks he or she can get a better job or better pay somewhere, wages going up. But is this for the broader labor market a good thing as you're talking with these business owners?

WALSH: Well, I think it's good for workers you just said. It's good to get more wages. What we need to do is make sure the companies looking for workers have the workers that have the ability and skills they need to perform those jobs.

And I think it's incumbent upon all of us here at the federal government, the state and the local, as well as the private industry, to continue to work together, to help people scale up and get better knowledge and better ability to go on to better paying jobs.


That, overall, will help our economy. It will help our people -- communities all across America and allow people hope for the opportunity to get into the middle class.

I think with the Great Quit, I think that's -- I like that -- a better name than the Great Resignation, certainly, what we are seeing is people are working in two or three jobs, and they're just not making ends meet or they're not being satisfied. And they're seeing better opportunities.

What we have to do now is work collectively to make sure we're scaling people up for the jobs that are opened in our country and the emerging jobs that are happening in our country.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, the latest polling, though, shows that the American people believe that what this administration is doing is not helping. Let's put up the numbers. This came out in the last 24 hours.

How have Biden's policies affected U.S. economic conditions? Let's put up full screen one, guys. Fifty-five percent said that they've worsened conditions, 26 percent say they have no effect. Only 19 percent believe that they have improved conditions.

We can go back to that other one where they were asked the current economic conditions -- 23 percent believe that they're good across this country. That's the lowest number in a CNN poll of the Biden administration. More than three-quarters, 77 percent say they're poor. I mean, the president came out and sold improving economic picture for the country.

What's the disconnect here?

WALSH: Well, first and foremost, I mean, I think that we can't lose sight of the fact that we're still living within a pandemic. I think that that certainly has a lot to do, a lot of the emotions and feelings people have, number one.

Number two, President Biden has been in office since January of 2021, many of his policies, whether it's American Rescue Plan that he passed right away that actually hit the streets right away, the infrastructure law, that's going to -- people are going to be seeing benefits of that, and the work that we're doing in commerce, and labor, and education across the board, we're still working on getting these policies and these ideas out to the American people. So, people aren't going to see it instantaneously happening.

But we have pay very close attention to what the American people are saying. And, you know, when people say 50, I think you said, I don't see the screen because I'm in the studio. But 53 percent of the people say they don't think the economy is going the right way, we know that there are challenges.

You mentioned at the top of this before you brought me on, talking about higher gas prices, higher prices, inflation. Those are things that we're working on every single day to bring those costs down.

This is something that the president when he came into office, it wasn't quite those numbers. But we knew we were headed in that direction. But as an administration, we're going to continue to do everything within our power to bring those prices down, whether it's working at supply chain, creating more opportunities here in the United States of America, and really solving the issue both short term and long term.

BLACKWELL: Two things, the number 55 percent believe that the Biden policies have worsened conditions economically in the country, just for the specificity of the number. And when you say that some of the things have not gone into affect, this president has been in office for what now? Fifteen months?

WALSH: Fifteen months.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. The "we just got here" explanation, though, that may not hold for the American people --

WALSH: No --

BLACKWELL: -- that some of the policies have not gone into effect and they haven't seen them yet.

WALSH: And I don't mean it way. Let me correct what I said. You know, when I think about job training work, first of all, and when I think about what we are doing at the Department of Labor, we're working closely with community colleges. We're working probably closer from the Department of Labor standpoint, with businesses across America that haven't happened in the past.

We're working to make sure that we're ensuring -- I'm listening -- listening to people and companies. I travel all across the country. I was in Oklahoma yesterday as a matter of fact, talking to workers in Oklahoma about what's needed for America and for the workers in America. And we need to continue to make those investments.

The president, you know, has a bill right now going to Congress, the Innovation Act, that's really bipartisan Innovation Act, that really helps bring more manufacturing and microchip production to the United States of America.

Those shouldn't be caught up in politics. What we should be doing is we should be looking collectively together how we address what the American people are saying and the concerns they have. And we need to -- we need to hear what the American people are saying. We need to listen to what the American people are saying.

And I would -- I would say that that's what this administration is doing and that's certainly what I'm doing at the Department of Labor.

BLACKWELL: On the path forward, there was just this -- there's a labor meeting where you're talking about ways to move the economy forward. What's the fruit expected out of that?

WALSH: Well, you know, again, we had a meeting talking about organizing, a lot of workers were talking about -- individuals were talking about their opportunities and what they did through collect -- not through collective bargaining but organizing.

And certainly there is an energy right now in America of people -- I think the last poll -- roughly 65, 70 percent of people in this country are looking favorable on organizing and looking to bring unions in.

What unions do, quite honestly, is they bring in stability. They bring in good wages or the ability to negotiate good wages. They bring in health plans. They bring in pensions. They bring in good work rules for people.

I think when you think of people leaving that job, the great resignation or the changing of jobs, whatever we want to call it, quite honestly, it's people leaving those jobs. Some of that 55 percent that said they're not happy with the economy, are also the same people that were leaving their jobs because they feel like they don't -- they're looking for better opportunities.


BLACKWELL: All right. And it's the Big Quit. And you can feel free to use that --

WALSH: Big Quit.

BLACKWELL: You can feel free to use that, Mr. Secretary.

WALSH: I'm going to steal that from you, if that's all right.

BLACKWELL: It's all right with me.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, thanks so much.

WALSH: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Listen, there is even more audio now of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, this time discussing the 25th Amendment just days after the January 6th insurrection. You'll hear what he said, next.