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Happening Now, Evacuations From Mariupol Steel Plant As Fighting Rages; U.S Economy Adds 428,000 Jobs in April, Unemployment Stable At 3.6 Percent; Fears of Violence in D.C. After Leaked Draft Overturning Roe V. Wade. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 10:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning on this Friday, I'm Erica Hill.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. A good Friday morning to you.

Happening now, the next stage of evacuations from the Azovstal steel plant is underway in Mariupol, Ukraine, desperately trying to free hundreds of civilians, including women and children who have been trapped in the basement of that burning plant for weeks now. Officials say, some 500 people have been rescued from not just the plant, Mariupol, in recent days, that's for the whole city, frankly, thousands still there. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says relentless shelling by Russia is making the task dangerous. He warns that attacks on the plant are not stopping. And, Erica, this is something we've seen, Russia will claim to allow humanitarian corridors and then attack at the same time.

HILL: Yes, something a number of our military analysts have said is clear psychological warfare when they do that.

President Zelenskyy, for his part, not letting up on his pleas for help from western allies. He sets to hold a conference with G7 leaders on Sunday.

Russian ground attacks, meantime, do appear to have eased temporarily in the east and the south. The Ukrainian military reporting fewer of them in the last 24 hours.

CNN International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh is in the southeastern part of the country for us this morning.

So, give us a sense, when we talk about this potential evacuation effort for the civilians there at the Azovstal plant, what is that next stage, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. I mean, obviously, a cease-fire has to be in effect for them to have even half a chance of getting out of the kind of rubble and destruction that Azovstal has now become. I have to be honest with you, I mean, since we saw the first hundred emerge, it must have been phenomenally difficult task to get anybody out over the past couple of days.

And certainly the 500 or so that the U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, has suggested have emerged recently. I think that is a cumulative number of civilians from across Mariupol. Remember, this is sort of two separate possibilities here that the U.N. are trying to engage with, getting people out of Azovstal, the hundreds trapped in there, who the Russian defense minister said a few days ago were reliably blocked, who were purportedly part of a humanitarian corridor that should have opened in the past days, but who are know, according to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, being heavily shelled. And that hasn't stopped.

Getting them out is one task and exceptionally difficult one, and then there are the rest of the civilians around Mariupol, possibly as many as a hundred thousand. And given that enormous number, given the sheer volume of people that we know are clogging gathering points and the villages and roads heading out, simply trying to get out, the fact that only 500 have emerged in this United Nations/Red Cross mechanism, that, I have to say, suggests things are exceptionally difficult for these humanitarian corridors.

But it's utterly vital and clearly the focus to get people out of Azovstal for Ukraine, to show they can be rescued. And probably you might think for Russia to close this chapter of their fight for Mariupol but it's obviously clear decency doesn't extend that far to Moscow and they are continuing to bombard and besiege. Jim, Erica?

SCIUTTO: Nick Paton Walsh, good to have you there, thank you so much.

HILL: There are new details this morning about how the U.S. is helping Ukraine. CNN has learned that Ukraine successfully targeted Russia's prized warship last month, the Moskva, after the U.S. helped to confirm its identity. Sources are telling CNN the U.S. also provided intelligence about its location.

SCIUTTO: Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby responded to that report on CNN earlier this morning. Have a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I am not going to get into the specifics about the intelligence that we provide, Brianna. And we talked about this Russian story as well. We are not providing specific targeted information to help Ukrainians go after senior military leaders on the battlefield. We give them information. Other partners give them information.

And, oh, by the way, they have terrific intelligence of their own. They corroborate all that together and then they make the decisions they are going to make and they take the actions they're going to take. It's not just about the United States providing a specific piece of data. They pull all these things together and they make their own decisions and take their own actions. And let's not forget, they're under an invasion right now. They have been invaded by Russia. Russia is the aggressor. So, when we talk about these operations, and I frankly don't wish that we would, but when we do, let's remember who the aggressor here. It's Russia.


SCIUTTO: That's a fact.

Joining me now to discuss is Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. He is the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator, thanks for taking the time this morning.

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS): Well, thank you for having me and let me say hello from Mississippi and I have to do a shout-out to my friends down at the barbershop who I saw just a few moments ago and who I hope are listening from the barbershop.


SCIUTTO: Fantastic. Well, I'm sending my hello to them as well from here in Washington.

You have been sounding the alarm on Ukraine for some time. You were supporter of additional military and financial assistance. As you know, there's $33 billion that President Biden has proposed. You have Democrats considering tying this to COVID relief. If that were to happen, you have some Republicans who would want some sort of line in there about Title 42.

I wonder, given the urgency, should this bill come to the floor clean and independent of any other provisions?

WICKER: It should come to the floor clean without any unrelated issues. What you just described, adding border-type issues, adding COVID-type issues is a good way to slow it down. And on a bipartisan basis, we need to get this $33 billion. We need to vet it and make sure it's all good spending and good aid for our friends in Ukraine but we need to do it quickly. I'd like to see it done next week. And the way to do that is to leave unrelated issues for another day.

SCIUTTO: There's a dynamic to this war, as I've been covering it, my colleagues, and I've been to Ukraine a couple of times, that's changed in terms of the rhetoric on both sides in recent weeks. You have the defense secretary, Lloyd Auston, talking not just about defending Ukraine but weakening Russia so it can't attack other countries and you have Russia, in turn, describing this now as a proxy war between NATO and the U.S. and Russia.

I wonder, are you concerned that this war -- that the danger of this war escalating beyond Ukraine is growing?

WICKER: Well, we're always mindful that a war could escalate. The reason that it's taking place at all, of course, is the war crimes by Vladimir Putin and the completely unprovoked invasion of neighboring countries. So, yes, there's a risk. We need to be careful about that. I would say probably the secretary of defense chose his words carefully, and, frankly, to the extent that Russia is less able to continue invading neighbors, as they've done in Georgia, as they've done in other places in Eastern Europe, that's a good thing if Russia isn't strong enough to invade neighbors anymore.

SCIUTTO: You have written extensively about China and Taiwan and how that relates to what we've seen with Russia and Ukraine and encouraging arming Taiwan now, in effect, not waiting to flood with weapons until later.

I wonder, the U.S. has said explicitly regarding the war in Ukraine that it will not get into conflict with Russian forces. Is that a mistake when it comes to China and Taiwan? Given China's aspirations and threats, should the U.S. state explicitly it would not defend Taiwan or state the opposite, in fact?

WICKER: Okay. Well, our policy in Republican and Democratic administrations has been one of ambiguity and we're staying with that. I think that's probably going to be our policy for a while.

Now, there's no secret in Beijing that the United States wants Taiwan to be defended, and we're making no secret of that. The point that Senator Graham and I were making earlier this week in our op-ed in The Wall Street Journal is that with a country like China, sanctions aren't going to work very well.

But with just one more percent of gross domestic product in Taiwan, we can sell them the weapons they need to basically discourage the Chinese invasion. It's a hundred miles of sea, not very far, they're way away from us and hard to resupply.

So, what we ought to be doing immediately is helping China get ready for an attack, an invasion which we hope will never happen because Taiwan is strong enough to defend it.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Back to domestic issues here, one that I'm sure folks in the barbershop top of mind for them, and that is inflation. You've been critical of inflation rates and you blame the Biden administration for that.

I wonder, if Republicans win control of the House, perhaps the Senate, in the fall, what practical changes, practical policies will Republicans implement to bring down inflation?

WICKER: Well, it would really help to have a president who wasn't at war with American oil and gas. I mean, really, here's what happened. The first month of the Biden administration, this country was poised to come out of the pandemic. The economy was ready to roar. And what did Biden and the Democrats do? They poured $1.9 trillion on to an already heated economy, and everyone, Democrat and Republican that had watched history could predict this was going to give us this huge inflation.


So, now, we have wage growth at 5.5 percent but inflation at 8.5 percent, so it's a 3 percent reduction for every working American. So, the one thing we would do is try to open up oil and gas exploration and development here in the United States, where we're blessed beyond measure by leading the world there and also quit pouring new money on an already overheated economy.

Frankly --

SCIUTTO: But to be fair, Senator --

WICKER: (INAUDIBLE) the Fed is now involved.

SCIUTTO: The profligate spending did not begin on January 21st, 2021. As you know, the national debt grew by almost $ 8 trillion during Trump's time in office. There were tax cuts. There were also COVID relief bills then. Is this a multi-administration problem here? In other words, did two administrations pour too much money in?

WICKER: We passed unanimously, Republican and Democrat, almost unanimously, with one or two dissenting votes, the COVID relief packages that were needed in the year 2020 when the economy was falling like a rock, and I don't think anybody apologizes for that. Then at the end of the year, we had the vaccines, we were coming out of it and we were learning to reopen the economy.

The spending that occurred in January and February of 2021 was entirely different. And so, yes, absolutely, we all were involved in rescuing the economy from falling off a cliff in 2020. That's an entirely different matter.

SCIUTTO: Senator Roger Wicker, I enjoyed the conversation. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

WICKER: Thank you.

HILL: new this morning, the economy added 428,000 jobs in April. That is certainly above expectations. So, what does it mean for the economy? I'll ask Labor Secretary Marty Walsh ahead.

Also ahead, stunning revelations from former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, hear the, quote, absurd instructions he says he got from former President Donald Trump, including launching missiles at Mexican drug labs.

SCIUTTO: And later, we have new images of the corrections officer accused of helping a murder suspect escape. Could this be what she looks like now? We're live in Alabama with the latest on the ongoing manhunt.



HILL: Absolutely appalling, that is how Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts described the leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe versus Wade. Roberts spoke yesterday at his first public appearance since that leak. He's ordered an investigation, of course, into who is behind it and has also called that person foolish if they think that this will affect the Supreme Court's work.

SCIUTTO: Hillary Clinton is also weighing in for the first time on the potential end of abortion rights. Here she is in an interview with CBS News.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This opinion is dark, it is incredibly dangerous and it is not just about a woman's right to choose, it is about much more than that.

And any American says, look, I'm not a woman, that doesn't affect me, I'm not black, that doesn't affect me, I'm not gay, that doesn't affect me. Once you allow this kind of extreme power to take hold, you have no idea who they will come for next.


HILL: Hillary Clinton weighing in there. We'll continue to follow that, of course, as there are more developments.

We also want to take a closer look at what's happening with the economy today, 428,000 new jobs added in April. That does beat predictions slightly. The U.S. is really beginning to see a slowdown in the pace job growth as the labor market inches closer to those pre- pandemic employment levels. The economists expected the unemployment rate to fall to a new pandemic era low. It did hold steady though at 3.6 percent, still pretty good.

Joining me now to discuss, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. Mr. Secretary, nice to have you back with us today.

As we point those job gains for April, this is the 12th straight month that the U.S. added 400,000 jobs or more. It's interesting. Mark Zandi told my colleague, Christine Romans, earlier this morning that you may want the job market to slow down a little bit. Would you agree with that?

MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: Well, I heard that report this morning. I think what we're going to see is we're going to see a normalization of job gain here in the United States at some point. I mean, we can't continue to gain at 400,000 to 500,000 jobs per month. I think the report was a little different but I think we will start to see some changes here over time. I mean, obviously, with 95 percent -- we're back to 95 percent of employment in America from pre-pandemic levels.

There is some work that we have to do as far as workforce development and job training. We saw a little tick down in the labor participation rate. And we have to dive into those numbers a little more to see exactly what that is. But I think for the future economy of America, we need to help skill up people and give them the ability to get into better paying jobs.

HILL: And those better paying jobs are key, right, as we look at inflation, which we know is hitting so many people. And that's what they see when they go to the grocery store. That's what they see when they pay their bills. Even as we saw an increase in wages, when you factor in inflation, it feels like a negative, almost.


So, how are you helping to counter that? What are your conversations with CEOs, with employers because they're feeling the pinch too?

WALSH: Well, let me just try and -- there's a little bit of two questions in there. One is we have to do everything we can and the president has given us the directive to do everything we can to bring down inflationary pressures, whether that's work on supply chain, working with the Fed, doing all -- he's in Ohio today talking about the bipartisan innovation act, about creating more opportunities, number one.

The second piece of that is when I talked about job training and skills, as we think about more manufacturing and high-tech manufacturing in the United States in America, we think about more need for engineers and we need more need for the tech industry. We need to really build a bench for folks in that industry. So as they think to invest in cities, in towns all across America, they actually have the workers in those areas that we're seeing to be able to access those jobs. And I think that that's really important.

We saw a lot of people leaving lower wage jobs looking for better opportunities. It's easy for somebody to say, well, I want to leave my job over here because I'm not making enough money. But if they don't have the ability to get into good workforce development and job training programs, then we're not going to get them into better paying jobs.

So, I think there's two things here. So, increase better paying jobs but also continue to battle and bring inflation down.

HILL: And so you talk about those opportunities, the battle to bring inflation down. Look, you know what the numbers tell us in terms of polling, in terms of how people are feeling about this economy. Latest polling, I'm just making sure I have this correct, so I need the reading glasses, 55 percent say that President Biden's policies have worsened economic conditions in this country, only 19 percent believe they've improved.

You talk about -- the administration talks about trying to tackle high gas prices, trying to tackle inflation, but you and I have talked before about the need to tack that will messaging. Even when you have things like 12 months of incredible job growth and near full employment, it's the perception and the reality of people's daily lives that really informs how they feel about the economy. How is this administration working to change that?

WALSH: You're absolutely right. And it's not just about telling a good story on T.V. so people feel good about themselves in their home when inflation is high or when they're working in a job, quite honestly, they're not happy about. So, I think there's a couple things we have to do here.

Number one, we as an administration, and when I say administration, I'm talking about myself and other members of the administration, because the president is out there every day, need to do a better job of talking to the American people about actually what we are doing on their behalf, number one. And, number two, we have to do a job of lowering down, get more labor participation rate in there, helping people transition into good jobs or better jobs, helping businesses in America, quite honestly, making sure they have the support they need to be successful.

And then also we need to continue to work on bringing down these costs, whether it's the gas at the pump, whether it's the cost of milk and food at the kitchen table, all the other costs that are out there. And we need to continue to make sure that our supply chain issues continue to bring supply chains into America so we're not seeing costs.

And also housing, we have to work to make sure we're creating more supply of housing on the market to level off some of those pricing. I mean, we have not had a real significant housing plan in this country for decades. And I think when you see the cost of housing in lots of this country, particularly urban parts of this country, seeing costs go through the roof, the number one -- one of the number one reasons -- the number one reason is there's not enough supply. There's a lot of demand, not enough of supply.

HILL: Really quickly when we talk about supply, CNN has some great new reporting looking at the numbers about how shut downs in China are leading again to supply chain issues. How prepared are you based on what we already went through to deal with those issues?

WALSH: Well, that's certainly concerning to me. We have 27 ships at least as of two weeks ago off the coast of the west coast of the ports coming in. Three months before that -- two months before that, there were 67 ships. So, we're releasing the valve, if you will, the pressure valve, on the supply chain getting ships into the shore.

Once China starts manufacturing again, there's going to be another large influx of ships coming into the United States of America. I think that folks in the ports and our longshoremen are going to be prepared for getting these ships, get them unloaded quickly and move the supplies into the states faster than before.

When it first happened, it was kind of coming out of a pandemic. Now, we've gone through this exercise of easing the burden. I think that we'll be very prepared for it but, again, depending on how quickly we can start to get goods from other parts of the world.

HILL: Secretary Marty Walsh, good to have you back with us this morning. Thank you.

WALSH: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, launching missiles at Mexico, dipping an ISIS leader's head in pig's blood and parading it. More on the bizarre, dangerous, outrageous proposals that former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is revealing he faced from the president and his advisers during the Trump administration. [10:25:00]


SCIUTTO: This morning, law enforcement officials are preparing for potential violence in the Capitol and nationwide after the leak of that Supreme Court draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade after 50 years. Capitol police are warning the far-right is calling for violence against a religious group planning to rally for abortion rights.


Whitney Wild is live outside the Supreme Court. Listen, seeing fences go up there, it's sort of like post-January 6th.