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Ukraine Says, Russia Used Hypersonic Missiles in Attack on Odessa; Ex-Corrections Officer Dead, Inmate Captured After Police Chase; Today, Biden Speaks on His Plan to Fight Inflation. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired May 10, 2022 - 10:00   ET



NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: This was also because people didn't want there to be an opportunity to talk about this being a regency, if you like. I should also point out that there are only four state counselors who can take up this role, one of them, of course, is Prince Andrew and the other one is Prince Harry, neither of them at the moment undertaking royal duties.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Nina dos Santos, I appreciate it, thank you.

Good morning, top of the hour here, I'm Erica Hill.


We are following several major stories this morning. In Odessa, Ukraine, Russian forces struck the region with hypersonic missiles, some of the most advanced weapons. This is what's left of a shopping mall there. That's right, hypersonic missiles striking a shopping mall, two hotels also damaged as well, at least one person dead, several others injured. The mayor there just stunned by these attacks.


MAYOR GENNADIY TRUKHANOV, ODESSA, UKRAINE: Regular peace process was taking place. The curfew introduced saved us all. Some people ask why do we need these excessive have measures of precaution. We can see now that they are not excessive.


SCIUTTO: One characteristic of the war, repeated Russian attacks on civilians. We will have more from Ukraine in just a moment.

HILL: We are also following closely this morning the latest developments after escaped Alabama Inmate Casey White was taken into custody, former Corrections Officer Vicky White is dead following a dramatic ending to an 11-day manhunt for the pair. Officials now say Vicky White was basically the mastermind behind the whole plan. We're going to bring you a live update from Indiana just ahead.

And next hour, President Biden will speak from the White House where he is expected to outline new steps in the fight against inflation and also efforts to lower costs for Americans, this as gas prices see yet another increase.

We do want to begin, though, this morning in Ukraine. CNN International Correspondent Scott McLean is reporting from Lviv.

SCIUTTO: So, Scott, tell us about this attack on Odessa, basically the latest in a series of attacks on Odessa from afar. How devastating, how extensive is the damage?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is remarkable that there were not more people killed, Jim, but the strikes here sort of leaves you scratching your head wondering what exactly that they were after. We've seen targets in the past couple of weeks on infrastructure, but these ones are something entirely different.

There was a warehouse, a series of warehouses that caught fire, but there was also a shopping mall, as you mentioned, where seven missiles were fired, according to the mayor there. This is an American-style mall, big parking lot, a lot of international brands there. Only one person was killed. Some security guards were injured, and the reason being is because there was a government imposed curfew at the time anticipating these missile strikes on May the 9, Russia's Victory Day.

There were also two hotels that you mentioned. One was a seaside resort in the southern part of Odessa right on the beach owned by a pro-Russian businessman frequented often by some Russian elites as well. There was also a hotel struck south of the city, in a small village very close to a very key bridge that connects the far southwestern region of Ukraine to the rest of the country. So, again, unclear whether that hotel in particular was the actual target, and if so, why?

We're also obviously keeping our eye on Mariupol because of the situation there. There are hundreds of soldiers who are trapped there. We are also hearing from the mayor's office who says that there are a hundred civilians, possibly more, still there as well. The government has said previously that all of the women, children and elderly people were successfully evacuated, so we can only assume that these civilians are men.

The mayor's office says that the Azovstal steel plant has been shelled relentlessly on Monday with heavy artillery fire, but those soldiers who are still there, many of whom are wounded, say that they will fight to the death. Obviously, President Zelenskyy has said that he is trying to broker some kind of an arrangement to get those soldiers out alive, but they will not leave without their guns and failing that, they're prepared to fight until the end. Jim, Erica?

HILL: Scott McLean with the latest for us, Scott, thank you.

Well, today, Congress is set to vote on a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. While western allies push to provide uninterrupted supplies to the country, NATO partners remain on guard and continue training exercises in the region.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Fred Pleitgen has been covering, and he has more.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jim and Erica. There's a lot of concern here on NATO's eastern flank, of course, about the war that's going on in Ukraine. And, really, there's very few countries that support Ukraine more than, for instance, Latvia does.

But Romania on the Black Sea is also an extremely important country because it borders Ukraine. We were able to get on an exercise of Special Forces that involved not just Romanian Special forces but the Navy SEALs as well on the Black Sea, very close to where the Ukraine is taking place. Here's what we saw.



PLEITGEN (voice over): On high alert in the Black Sea, U.S. Navy SEALs, Romanian and British Special Forces practice raiding an enemy ship, an exercise that requires a lot of skill, but also strong cooperation, a member of the Romanian Special Forces tells me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The helicopter session and the boating session, the synchronization is very important so all the teams can get on board in the ship in the exact time they should.

PLEITGEN: These are among NATO's most elite unit and they allowed us to film on the condition we would not reveal their identities. The raid involves both fast, rigid inflatable boats as well as a chopper to land troops on the ship, search it and detain would be enemy combatants. This drill is part of a much larger Special Forces exercise called Trojan Footprint, involving some 30 countries, both NATO and non-NATO allies.

On the face of it, this exercise has nothing to do with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but we're not very far from Ukraine's borders at all. And the U.S. has been very keen to strengthen the NATO alliance and show that it's committed to collective security here in Europe.

Romania directly borders Ukraine, where the war is raging both on land and at sea. The exercise took place not far from Snake Island, which the Russians raided in late February and are occupying. The Ukrainians, though, have struck back managing to it had the flagship Moskva cruiser and sink it. In the past few days, they released video of their forces allegedly hitting both a Russian landing vessel and a Russian chopper unloading troops on Snake Island. The Russians, for their part, claimed to have hit Ukrainian strike aircraft and a helicopter.

Romanian forces telling us they recently had to destroy a sea mine that floated here from Ukrainian waters. But the commander in charge of this drill says they keep the war next door off their minds and focus on getting better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important on the level of training that you reach. PLEITGEN: But it is quite real right now. I mean, it's next door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it is real and we are prepared for anything.

PLEITGEN: The U.S. says exercises like this one have become even more important since Russia's invasion of Ukraine to strengthen the NATO alliance and deter Moscow from aggressive moves against member countries.


PLEITGEN: And, of course, guys, one of the reasons why it is so important is that President Biden has been saying, he believes that Vladimir Putin thought that the U.S. and its allies would be divided and said they are very much united. He also believes that Vladimir Putin thought NATO would be weakened. However, NATO is indeed very strong and could become a lot stronger in the not too distant future with possibly Sweden and Finland asking to join as well. Guys?

SCIUTTO: A lot stronger, a lot bigger. Thanks to Fred Pleitgen for that report.

Right now, the director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, is testifying on Capitol Hill about Russia's war on Ukraine. She says, in the short-term at least, she and others do not see viable negotiating path forward, assessing that even if Putin wins in the Donbas, Russia would not end the fighting.


AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The uncertain nature of the battle, which is developing into a war of attrition, combined with the reality that Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia's current conventional military capabilities likely means the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now to discuss, Jennifer Cafarella, she's Chief of Staff and National Security Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War. Jennifer, good to have you.


SCIUTTO: So, this has been a concern and Haines is not alone in expressing this, we heard similar from the CIA director on the weekend and others we've spoken to on this broadcast, that as Putin loses or doesn't advance, it's a corner kind of scenario, he cannot lose and, therefore, pushes back harder. I wonder if you share that view.

CAFARELLA: Look, I think it's important to note that he can lose this war. In fact, he's on track in my view to lose this war, whether he will accept that loss is a different story. And I think so far we still see him imagining that he can conquer Ukraine and eliminate Ukraine as a nation and as a people. That's not a reality.

But I think it does in some respects pose an opportunity for Ukraine because it means he's miscalculating. He's been miscalculating since the start of the war by thinking he can break Ukrainian will to resist and I think expecting he can do more than sustain his current gains is another miscalculation.

SCIUTTO: Break Ukrainian will, break NATO unity, break E.U. unity, all those proved to be miscalculations.

Tell me your view of the view on the eastern front right now, because officials I speak to say Russia is attempting to punch through and specifically to break supply lines there and also to attempt to surround Ukrainian forces in that area. When they do, in general, Ukrainian forces strike back, have had some success pushing them back. What is your sense of is that a static border? Is it sort of verging towards a frozen conflict the term that you hear?

CAFARELLA: We are in basically an attrition stage of the fight in Eastern Ukraine.


I think that's an important term because it does not mean stalemate in a way that ends the fighting, right? The Russians are continuing to try to push forward. They're not having much success in part because they have not recovered from their initial failures in this war to actually marshal a coherent operational, you know, plan. Whereas the Ukrainians are actually beginning to gain some momentum in a counteroffensive and are able to stitch together some of these tactical attacks into what could be a wider campaign.

SCIUTTO: Does a Putin who is cornered and not making the gains he wanted at the speed he wanted and, in effect, losing, in your view, is he more likely to take a catastrophic step like the use, for instance, of a battlefield nuclear weapon?

CAFARELLA: It's an important question and I think this is where the NATO unity and deterrence really comes into play. I think the fact that we haven't seen Putin try yet to escalate against NATO countries or to punish directly NATO member states for supporting Ukraine demonstrates that that deterrence is having an effect. We need to strengthen it and make sure that we sustain that over the long-term.

SCIUTTO: I spoke to a European diplomat last night who said that at the end of the day, we don't really know the status of the fight on the eastern front. To some degree, we have better insight into Russian losses than Ukrainian advances. And we see -- we played it earlier, Ukrainians will release a lot of successful attacks on Russian tanks and ships, et cetera. And they've had enormous success, we've seen that. But is it possible we don't know the true state of the battle there?

CAFARELLA: We have a partial picture. And I think part of that is because of the operational security that the Ukrainians are maintaining and the decisions that we at the Institution for the Study of War and others have made, you know, not to publish on what the Ukrainian attempt at advance is, what their operational plans are, you know, insofar as they can be discerned, and that's important.

But what we can tell is an aggregate picture, right? We can see the fighting day in and day out and you can layer that and get a sense that the Russian military, again, still is not bringing any operational coherence to this fight.

SCIUTTO: Can Ukrainians not just hold the line there but push Russian forces further back? Because you hear this discussion as well, recapturing parts of Donbas, even some say Crimea. And that's a more optimistic view, but is that a realistic view?

CAFARELLA: I think it depends on part on whether and to what extent the U.S. and Nato continue to support Ukraine, but the next weeks, I think, are going to be in some ways decisive. The Ukrainians have begun to sustain some momentum in a counteroffensive and they have some decisions to make now that they've pushed the Russians out of the perimeter of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, where might they open a new front.

That's a political decision as much as it is a military one, right, because the Russians are now attempting to layer in their own form of governance and the Ukrainians need to contest that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, no question, raising the Russian flag, sometimes even the Soviet flag in some of these cities.

Jennifer Cafarella, thanks so much for joining us.

CAFARELLA: Thank you.


HILL: After 11 days on the run, Casey White is now said to be cooperating, described as being pretty candid with investigators, this after he was captured last night following a police chase in Indiana and following the death of a former corrections officer who helped him escape.

That manhunt ending dramatically after a tip led police to the pair. Investigators say Vicky White shot herself while in the car. She later died from the wound. Alabama Sheriff Rick Singleton says his former employee was basically the mastermind here for the jailbreak.


SHERIFF RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: It's just been an emotional roller coaster for our employees, you know, day one thinking she'd been kidnapped and maybe, you know, in danger for her life, and then finding out that she took him out willingly and trying to determine, well, was she threatened in some way or coerced to do that or because it just didn't sound like the Vicky we knew, and then finding out that she was basically the mastermind behind the whole plan.


HILL: CNN Senior National Correspondent Miguel Marquez is live in Evansville, Indiana this morning. So, Miguel, at this point what happens next for Casey White?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he will either face charges here in Evansville depending upon what their investigation leads them to, or he will be possibly extradited quickly, depending upon whether or not he fights that extradition back to Alabama, but there is a bit of a long road ahead.

I mean, we are finding out when you said this was a dramatic end to this, that is almost an understatement. It wasn't a very long chase when officials got on to them and they knew where they were, they knew which cars they had. They had two different cars here, a Ford F-150 and a Cadillac. They went to a hotel, they tagged that Cadillac to a hotel. They went there. When they went to that hotel, they were getting into the car. They gave chase, it didn't go very long.

But during that chase, Vicky White called 911 and was on the phone with them, says the sheriff here, saying that she had a gun, saying that she had it to her head. He also believes at this point that she pulled the trigger before they were able to stop that car and get Casey White out.


Casey White, for his part, has been now moved here to the jail in the county near Evansville, and he says the sheriff is cooperating.


SHERIFF DAVE WEDDING, VANDERBURGH COUNTY, INDIANA: He was pretty candid with the investigators last night. They had a fairly lengthy interview. I wasn't there so I don't know the exchange, but he was cooperative during the investigation.

The criminal minds operate different than the average person. I don't know what his endgame is, and I was shocked that he was so cooperative.


MARQUEZ: So, a couple of things happening, Casey White may be in court today. It's not clear there will be an extradition hearing, but the sheriff says that they have to figure out whether he had any hand in her death and whether they'll have to charge him here with possibly another murder charge of some sort or if he will face extradition back to Alabama, then he would either allow that or fight that, and then that would go on for quite some time.

We expect a press conference here in the next couple of hours at the sheriff's office, so we hope to learn more. Back to you.

HILL: Miguel Marquez, I appreciate it. Thank you. SCIUTTO: Still ahead, President Biden set to offer up his plan to help curb inflation in the next hour as the latest poll shows 80 percent of Americans say the federal government is not doing enough yet to help.

HILL: Plus, outrage in China over strict government-enforced coronavirus protocols, entering people's homes to, quote, disinfect, sending residents to quarantine if their neighbor tests positive. We are live in China.

And later --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because his face pressed up against mine, and he's pulling my body closer towards his.


HILL: Celebrity Chef Mario Batali back in court today, he's facing a sexual assault allegation from a woman who says he groped her as they took a selfie at his restaurant. His surprising request for the trial, that's a bit later this hour.



HILL: Next hour, President Biden will outline the steps his administration is taking to fight inflation from the White House.

SCIUTTO: They know they got to do something. A CNN poll last week found that 50 percent of Americans felt the economy was the most important issue ahead of the midterms and a majority said the president's policies so far have hurt the economy.

CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood joins us now. John, they know they have a problem on the economic issues, particularly inflation. They know this can be a big issue in the midterms. They also know that they can't fix this with a magic wand. So, what's the plan in effect?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're going to hear, Jim, is the president play his part in a political game that involves all of us. Let me explain. When you're the president, you acquire ownership of all the country's problems, whether or not you have the ability to solve them or not. So, inflation is the number one problem Americans are feeling right now, so Republicans say you're not stopping inflation. Those of us in the press say, what are you going to do about inflation. Voters say, what are you going to do about inflation.

The reality is that's the Federal Reserve's job principally at this point. President Biden's policies are likely one of multiple factors that have contributed to the level of inflation that we have, but he can't simply say nothing. So, as you indicated, he's going to talk about things that he has done, like release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to bring gas prices down, smooth out supply chains to bring prices of consumer products down, talk about things he wants to do, trying to temper prescription drug prices, try to encourage semiconductor manufacturing to help more with supply chains, other steps the president would take in his legislative agenda that stalled.

He is also going to answer the political fire he's taking with political shots of his own. He got a gift from Rick Scott, the head of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, who proposed a plan that's pretty much the opposite of what would help the American people with inflation in the sense that what Scott wants to do is raise taxes on people who don't make enough right now to pay taxes, sunset a whole lot of government programs, which tend to help people who don't have much money and slash the budget for the Internal Revenue Service, which is in charge of collecting taxes from high income people and auditing high income people.

Now, that plan is so politically unattractive that Mitch McConnell has walked away from it, said it's not going to happen. But, nevertheless, we're going to hear a lot more of this for the six months until the election unless inflation starts coming down. We've got a big inflation report that the government is going to put out tomorrow. Some economists think that inflation is peaking and about to go down. We will see tomorrow what the next sign is.

HILL: We'll be watching, but I think we should all buckle up for the politics no matter what heading into the next several months. John Harwood, I appreciate it, thank you.

Joining us now is Stacey Vanek Smith, co-Host of NPR's Planet Money and a Business and Economics Correspondent. Great to have you with us this morning.

Picking up where our colleague, John Harwood, just left off, we know what things look like, right? We know who is going to be held responsible and who is being held responsible for the state of the economy, inflation, prices at this point. Realistically, what can be done at this point by the president or lawmakers to really bring prices down?

STACEY VANEK SMITH, CO-HOST, NPR'S THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY: Well, like you say, inflation is basically a fancy word for prices rising, and there are some things that lawmakers can do.


Obviously, the Federal Reserve has the big mechanism to bring down prices, that is raising interest rates, and that is being done. I'm sure President Biden will talk about that.

Otherwise, the things that the president can do include tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to put more gas on the market, to try to bring down gas prices, which are up 48 percent, so it's pretty big. Also things like capping drug prices to help maybe control those prices. The president has talked about increasing the supply of homes in the

U.S. and that should hopefully bring prices for homes down. Those have been up 34 percent, so enormously up. And, again, infrastructure plans, the idea being that that could help some of the supply chain issues, which have also pushed prices up.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So, we know that inflation has a lot of factors. Some of this is years of easy money, right, that went too long into a growing economy. Some of it is pandemic stuff, supply shortages and that sort of thing. Some of it was a lot of the COVID relief money thrown into an already hot economy. But we also know that companies are raising prices probably because it increases their profit margins beyond what they have to raise.

And by the way, some of them are stating it outright in their earnings report. I'm going to quote one from Shake Shack. They're CFO says, we're encouraged by the results of our October price increase, believe our brand has pricing power. The extent of inflation remains uncertain and we may take additional price later this year to help build back margins.

So, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it's wrong to blame price hikes on companies and we know there are multiple factors, but is it correct to say that some companies are taking advantage of this?

SMITH: Well, certainly. And I don't even know if it falls in the category of taking advantage of it. I think one thing we know is that expectations play such a powerful role in inflation and in prices rising. And if you're running a company and it seems like prices are rising and the prices for the raw materials you use or the, you know, beef that you use in your hamburgers is going up, you're going to want to raise prices in anticipation of that.

That can sort of start this chain reaction that trickles up through the whole economy, and I think even companies that are not trying to take advantage of the situation -- and I'm sure that there are companies that are taking advantage of the situation -- but even if you're just trying to sort of anticipate what your costs are and bring in a profit for shareholders, those expectations are incredibly powerful.

So, that's probably part of what President Biden is doing right now, is trying to create the expectation that prices are stabilizing.

HILL: There is also we can't ignore the fear of recession, right, and discussion that maybe the Fed missed its window with these hikes, made them a little bit too late. Is recession inevitable?

SMITH: I definitely don't think it's inevitable. I mean, certainly, we're seeing a lot of very confusing economic indicators right now. The jobs numbers that we got for the month of April were really fantastic. We added more than 400,000 jobs. That's really wonderful. The unemployment rate is very low. On the other hand, the economy is shrinking a little bit. Prices are rising.

It's a moment, I think, of great confusion, and people don't really know what direction it will take. So, this is probably a powerful moment for policies to hopefully steer the country and the economy in the right direction so we can avoid a recession.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We'll see if the Fed can catch up with it. A lot of folks argue the Fed will slow to keeping rates low, again, through a hot economy and, by the way, through multiple administrations.

Stacey Vanek Smith, thanks so much for joining us.

SMITH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, we will go live to West Virginia, just one of the states where primary voting now underway. The candidates Donald Trump is watching, next.