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Ukrainian Forces Target Russian Tank; Biden to Speak about Inflation; Economy Still Important for Americans; Baby Formula Shortage; Queen Misses Parliament Opening. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 10, 2022 - 09:30   ET



LULIIA MENDEL, FORMER SPOKESWOMAN FOR PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY: Lukashenko, Alexander Lukashenko, who says he's the president of Belarus, was sending really concerning messages about preparation of Belarusian troops to war. So, in this case, of course, we do not expect that anything -- that their attitude will be going milder, that they would like to move toward peace. But we also understand that if Putin does not see strength, if he sees that he can push and he can move forward, then he will not stop.

So, the -- only the best negotiator here is, of course, Ukrainian army. But the authorities of Ukraine also say that if he prefers peaceful talks, then, of course, we will move forward with this. But this means that we need ceasefire, and we need to stop this brutal killing, mass killing, of Ukrainians in our territory.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Luliia Mendel, good to have you back with us today. Thank you.

MENDEL: Thank you, Erica and Jim. Thank you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We do have new video today of a Ukrainian attack on a Russian tank near Kharkiv. Watch closely. You'll see the explosion there. This drone footage taken close to the location where Russian forces recently attacked a convoy -- and there it is -- of civilian vehicles, killing several people who were trying to flee to safety.

Joining me now to discuss the war in Ukraine, the latest, retired Army Major General Paul Eaton. He's the former commanding general of the coalition military assistance training team in Iraq.

General, good to have you back.


SCIUTTO: It strikes me, we see a lot of video like the one we just showed. And, understandably, the Ukrainian military wants to advertise its successes. I was speaking to a European diplomat last night who said, the truth is, we don't have great vision into the day-to-day status of the battlefield on the eastern front. That in some ways the U.S. and NATO share more intel with the Ukrainians in that direction than they share back. And I wonder if you agree with that view. Do we know definitively what's happening out there?

EATON: Jim, no, we don't. Certainly, I don't.

During the second gulf war, we had hundreds of embedded media and Mr. Rumsfeld (INAUDIBLE) called (INAUDIBLE) thousand soda straws looking at what's going on. But we did get real feedback from all of our very courageous reporters out there embedded with U.S. units. We don't have that now and the footage that we get is episodic, it does not create a whole (ph) picture of the battlefield that most of us would really like to see.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I was one of those embedded reporters in northern Iraq.

Let me ask you this. We have seen over the last 24 hours part of what has been an ongoing effort by Russia to punch through Ukrainian lines in the east there, punch through and then surround Ukrainian forces. And they crossed a key river out there near Severa (ph) Donetsk, and then apparently the Ukrainians had the ability to counterattack.

I just wonder, based on the soda straw view that you and I are getting of that battlefield, what's your assessment of where Russian efforts stand in the east right now?

EATON: They -- the Russians continue to be disorganized from a component of combined arms operations. A failure of indirect fires, direct fires, and aviation assets. So, it's a largely artillery based army, mass fires, less frequent use of precision weapons. And when we talk about mobility, counter mobility, when you're relied upon a single pontoon bridge, in the vicinity, that is a huge opportunity to exercise, by the Ukrainian army, to frustrate the Russian movement to the west.

So, I think that we've (INAUDIBLE) organized Russian army. They have failed to make good use of the time they took to reorganize, rearm and refit. So, it's a -- they have not fixed the sins of the past that existed in the initial assault onto Kyiv.

SCIUTTO: Just Soviet military strategy, just pound and pound and pound with artillery.

The U.K. defense minister, Ben Wallace, in a speech yesterday, he made an interesting point. He said that Russian soldiers are using pine logs, wood, as a sort of makeshift protection for their tanks. We're also hearing accounts, U.S. intel accounts, of Russian field commanders disobeying orders, in effect.

What does that tell you about the morale as we know it of Russian forces now?

Sorry, did you catch me there, General Eaton?

Ah, we lost him.

We'll continue to the conversation with General --

EATON: Yes, we broke the signal. [09:35:01]

SCIUTTO: With General Eaton and others as we get that fixed.

HILL: Still to come here, President Biden will address the nation's rising inflation and record gas prices this morning. He is putting a lot of the blame on President Vladimir Putin. Why? We'll discuss, next.


SCIUTTO: Later this morning, President Biden will lay out his midterm message on the economy. Of course, top of the list for many is the country's skyrocketing inflation and the steps his administration will try to take to ease those rising costs.


The message comes at a time gas prices have been hitting another new record -- not in real terms, but another new record this morning. The national average of $4.37 a gallon. That's driving up the price for everything from plane tickets to groceries. I'm sure you've been seeing it.

CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins me now.

Jeremy, listen, the White House knows it has no silver bullet on this. No administration does. There are a lot of global national issues here. Supply chain issues. But there is also funding and budgetary issues.

What specific steps is the administration planning to take?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Jim, it's important to note that this comes amid incredibly strong political headwinds, this speech that President Biden is going to deliver today. Only 23 percent of Americans, according to a CNN poll last week, think the economy is in good shape. About eight in 10 say they believe the government isn't doing enough to combat inflation. And so, today, President Biden is going to try and fight that perception, outlining some of the step that he has already taken to fight inflation, including high gas prices, talking about the release of a million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, gasoline with ethanol contents of 15 percent to help lower gas prices in the Midwest in particular. And he's also going to talk about some of the steps that he would like to take, including lowering costs for Americans on prescription drugs and child care. Many of those were included in the Build Back Better Act which failed in Congress amid opposition not only from Senate Republicans, but also from a couple of key Democrats, including Senator Joe Manchin.

But, ultimately, President Biden is also delivering a political speech here. And he's going to try and draw a contrast with what he is proposing, what he has done to combat inflation, with what the Republicans are proposing. And for that he's going to narrow in on a proposal by Senator Rick Scott from back in February that would require every single American to pay an income tax, effectively raising federal taxes on millions of Americans, 75 million Americans according to the White House's estimate. And it's also going to require funding for Social Security and Medicaid to be reapproved every five years, putting those programs in some kind of position of jeopardy.

So ultimately here President Biden about to slam what he is calling an ultra-MAGA proposal, that proposal from Senator Rick Scott, and challenging Republicans to use -- and to not just use inflation as a talking point, according to a White House official, but to ask them what they would actually do and to work with him on legislation to address these rising prices for Americans.


SCIUTTO: Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thanks so much.

HILL: Less than six months to go until the midterm elections. The economy is top of mind for American voters, as you likely know. And that is potentially a major liability for Democrats.

CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten joining me now.

So, Harry, the economy number one for most people. Who's getting the blame at this point?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, it is number one for most people. And, you know what, the buck stops here. The buck stops with the president.

So, if you ask people, what's the most important issue, economy, 50 percent, far and away the most.

You ask people, OK, how much is Joe Biden's policies helping or hurting? Fifty-five percent of Americans say his policies are actually hurting, hurting. That's insane.

Whose views are you closer to on the economy? The Republicans have a double digit advantage on that. So, if you have a double-digit advantage on the biggest issue, it's not much of a surprise if you look at the generic congressional ballot, who's favored on it.

Well, we asked -- CNN did a very interesting thing where we essentially asked it post and pre that Supreme Court leak that could, in fact, you know, overturn Roe v. Wade. And what actually happened was, though the change was within the margin of error, Republicans actually had a larger advantage post the leak than pre the leak, which I don't think is what most Democrats were hoping for. They were hoping that, you know, voters would say, oh my God, you know, abortion rights are in trouble in this country.

HILL: Right.

ENTEN: But that was not what happened. Republicans have a lead.

HILL: So then where does it figure in terms of abortion rights, in terms of importance for voters heading into the midterms?

ENTEN: Yes, I don't think it's actually particularly very important. But I would also say that I think that abortion views in this country are actually quite complicated where voters actually stand, right? So, you know, you can ask about abortion rights a lot of different ways. And I have essentially a slide that shows all the different ways you could ask it. You know, Overturning Roe v. Wade, not popular at all.


ENTEN: Two-thirds of Americans are against that.

But then you say, OK, should abortion be mostly legal or mostly illegal? Most Americans say mostly legal, but, again, it's lower than those who say that they want Roe v. Wade to stay.

Then you ask, are you pro-choice or pro-life? Less than a majority actually say that they're pro-choice. And when it comes to abortion in the second trimester, only about 34 percent of Americans actually want it to be legal.

Now, the question is, when you look at all those, OK, what's the best way of asking that question? What really gets to the heart of the issue? And there were five ballot measures since 2018 that essentially, you know, were limiting abortion rights. It passed in three states. It didn't pass in two states. And what you actually see is a very high correlation between that mostly legal and mostly illegal question where, in the five states what you see is, in the no's, where it was mostly legal, that was, of course, the states where those abortion measures failed.


In the three states where it said, OK, in fact, we want it to be mostly illegal, that is where it passed.

And if you look at the states overall, what you see is right now about 36 states it's where mostly legal outruns mostly illegal, but there are, in fact, 16 states where mostly illegal outruns mostly legal.

HILL: The bottom line is, while this may not be the most important topic for people when they're thinking about voting right now, it is certainly top of mind for many Americans.


HILL: And it's certainly being discussed.

ENTEN: I think that's exactly right.

HILL: Yes.

ENTEN: It's a big talker.

HILL: Yes, Harry, appreciate it. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

HILL: Well, parents say this worsening shortage of baby formula in the U.S. is actually turning into a crisis. The FDA pledging to help. What are they doing? That's next.



SCIUTTO: The White House says the FDA is now working around the clock as the nationwide baby formula shortage appears to be getting worse. Manufacturers say they are making as much formula as they can. Still not enough to meet demand.

HILL: This comes as new data shows the out of stock rate has reached 40 percent.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is following the latest for us.

So, this, obviously, putting a lot of stress on parents. What is the administration doing about it? How can they actually help?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica, we've been talking to parents who are really having a hard time finding the right formula for their baby, searching and searching, having friends search in other cities, going online. The White House says they're trying to increase production by various manufacturers, trying to get the supply lines going much faster. And they say that they are really trying their hardest to get these numbers up.

Let's take a listen to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But the FDA does -- does -- is not just their responsibility in their view to ensure that we're meeting our obligations to protect Americans. It is also their obligation to take steps to ensure supply can be met when they take these steps. So that is what they are very focused on.


COHEN: So, Psaki also said that the federal government is trying to put special emphasis on the product lines that are the most popular that sort of need the most help.

Now, let's take a look at how bad this shortage is right now. When you look at the out of stock rate according to Date Assembly, for infant formula it's usually sort of 2 to 8 percent. What they found was in April it was 31 percent. And when we looked earlier this month, in May, it was 40 percent. So, as you can see, it's going in the wrong direction. Parents really having a hard time.

And, you know, I know both of you are parents. And if you remember when your children were babies, children get used to a type of formula and other types really can bother their stomachs. We're talking to parents and hearing the kids screaming in the background. I mean it's not fun for parents right now.

SCIUTTO: Oh, yes, going to the store to find one particular kind, right?

HILL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And then imagine coming to the store and seeing those empty shelves.

COHEN: Right.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Up next, what caused Queen Elizabeth to miss the opening of parliament for the first time in nearly 60 years. We're going to be live from London right after the break.



HILL: For the first time in 59 years, Queen Elizabeth missed the ceremonial opening of parliament. Buckingham Palace blamed mobility issues. In her place, Prince Charles performed the duty doing that on her behalf this morning. And he was accompanied by his son, Prince William.

SCIUTTO: And the crown there too on a pillow.

CNN's Nina Dos Santos joins us now.

Nina, there have been genuine questions about Queen Elizabeth's health in recent months, including fears of Covid. So she's not there. Do we know where things stand?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Well, we know that Buckingham Palace issued a statement very late in the day on Monday, so, yesterday evening, announcing that she wouldn't be taking part in this crucial ceremonial role that monarchs play, opening the parliament here so that the legislative agenda can proceed and all those bills that the government wants to introduce, all 38 of them that were introduced today, can go through.

It was decided very late in the day due to mobility problems Buckingham Palace said, that she's suffering that she would have to pull out of that and instead be replaced by her son, Prince Charles, and also his heir apparent, Prince William as well.

But it does, you're right, raise questions about just how present the monarch is going to be in the months to come because we've got the platinum jubilee coming up in less than three weeks' time. There's going to be big celebrations, military parades, also a rock concert at Buckingham Palace. And, gradually, we're seeing the monarch remove herself from some of these big occasions, especially with these mobility issues, if she has to say, get up and down stairs and stand for long periods of time.

Remember, she's 96 years old. And perhaps what some royal watchers have been saying is that we're seeing the gradual optics of a transition of power here towards her son, the first time Prince Charles actually undertook this crucial moment of opening parliament and presenting the government's legislation, Jim and Erica.

HILL: So, Nina, that gradual transition of power, perhaps, to Prince Charles. But the fact that Prince Charles and William were jointly carrying out some of these duties today, I would imagine that must be a deliberate choice. What is that message supposed to be?

DOS SANTOS: That's an excellent point, Erica, and I'm really glad that you picked up on it.

What some people who spend a long time watching the monarchy and the signaling in particular of this, one of the longest monarchs we've ever seen, and one of the longest heir apparent, by the way, Prince Charles, have been saying is that this is very cleverly choreographed to make sure that there were two state counselors. The queen effectively yesterday evening had to sign a special decree saying that both Prince William and Prince Charles could be there to act on her behalf. As you saw there, the crown was there on a pillow or a cushion as a mark of the monarch's presence, but essentially it was up to her heirs apparent to, you know, deliver the message here.


This was also because people didn't want there to be an opportunity to talk about this being a regency.