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Volodymyr Zelenskyy: Occupiers Being Pushed Away From Kharkiv; Ukrainians Use Captured Russian Tank To Fight Invaders; U.S. President: Top Domestic Priority Is Fighting Inflation; Ukrainian Troops Retake Key Village on Dnipro River; WHO: China's 'Zero-COVID' Policy is Not Sustainable; Police Capture Escaped Inmate in Indiana after 11 Days; U.S. Intelligence: China Poses 'Acute' Threat to Taiwan. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 11, 2022 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Ahead this hour, stalled or just slow going? Russia's military offensive in eastern Ukraine has only made incremental progress, as word comes of what could be a major counter offensive by Ukrainian forces.

The don't blame me, it's not my fault approach to tackling record high inflation, as U.S. President Joe Biden declares soaring prices, his top domestic priority.

And the World Health Organization calls out Beijing for its overzealous zero COVID policy, calling it unsustainable, time for a rethink.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Three weeks now into Russia's much touted Eastern offensive in Ukraine and by many accounts, Ukrainian forces are mostly holding their ground, as well as retaking territory lost in the early days of the war around the city of Kharkiv.

Ukraine's second biggest city has been the scene of intense fighting, but according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Russian occupiers are gradually being pushed out.

Ukraine's military believes Russia redeployed about 500 troops from Donetsk and Luhansk to Kharkiv, a move which analysts say is likely meant to protect rare supply lines from Russia as well as to prevent cross border attacks.

Ukraine's General Staff says the country's armed forces are resisting on most fronts. And four more settlements near Kharkiv are now under Ukrainian control. But Russia is fairly (PH) on the battlefield could lead to a dangerous

new phase according to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, who appeared before the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.


AVRIL HAINES, U.S. 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.


VAUSE: We have CNN's Melissa Bell live this hour in Lviv, Ukraine. So, Melissa, what do we know about any Ukrainian gains in the east?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): So, what is -- what matters here is their location, when you look at a map of the area around Kharkiv and specifically, its proximity of course at the Russian border, it is those four villages just to the north, in between Kharkiv and the border that have been taken back as a result of that Ukrainian counter offensive.

And that is crucial, first of all, John, because what Ukrainians have been trying to do is essentially protect Kharkiv from some of that artillery that's been powering the city so harshly for so much of the last couple of months, pushing back the forces is crucial with regard to that.

But of course, as you mentioned a moment ago, there's crucial supply lines that Russia needs to keep open in order to get to its troops to help them kept up with provisions to the south of their border.

So, in terms of that, that is why Ukrainian forces are particularly happy about those gains. And there'll be looking at to continue that.

You mentioned, of course, there's 500 troops that have been moved north from Luhansk and Donetsk region to help with the Russian offensive try and push back in reaction that counter offensive.

What we understand from the Institute for the Study of War is that many of those troops are near the region now waiting, now trying to regroup, restock in order to pick up some steam and get back into that fight successfully.

But it is that part of the country that we're looking at very specifically to see how careful -- how successful rather, Ukrainians can be in terms of their counter offensive.

As you were just hearing from Avril Haines there speaking to the Senate Armed Forces Committee yesterday, it is that particularly unpredictable phase that we're now getting and I think that is of particular concern. That mismatch between Vladimir Putin wants to do and in areas like those just north of Kharkiv, what he is failing to do. As he seize towns that had been under his control now lost, John.


VAUSE: Melissa, thank you. Melissa Bell live for us there in Lviv, Ukraine. We appreciate that.

In just the last few hours, House lawmakers have approved a major aid package for Ukraine roughly $40 billion. The bill passed 368 in favor, 57 opposed. All the no votes coming from Republicans.

The bill now heads to the Senate and it passed, will be signed into law by U.S. President Joe Biden.

For 77 days, Ukrainian fighters have fought the Russian military to a standstill, defended their capital and forced a retreat in the north. But what makes this David and Goliath battle even more remarkable are the Ukrainian conscripts and volunteers just 78 days ago, though regular people in regular jobs.

CNN's Sam Kiley spoke to volunteers on the front lines in eastern Ukraine.




KILEY: Bunny is a tank.

ALEX: Yes, so, bunny is a tank.

KILEY: He's got quite a carrot.

ALEX: Yes.

KILEY (voice-over): Bunny's got a very big stick. This T-80 tank was built two years ago and was until March in the vanguard of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

ALEX: So, down below, you see an autoloader, it's also slightly modernized to shoot more like advanced and like better rounds. It can shoot guided missiles.

KILEY: Alex was on a sniper team when he discovered Bunny. Stuck and abandoned in a field in March, eight days into Russia's assault.

Within days, the tank was back in action, against Russians.

ALEX: This is like my personal tank. I am tank commander and tank owner.

KILEY: In March, he says, the tank destroyed 24 Russian vehicles and two tanks.

ALEX: We are fighting, like, we resumed, so here we already destroyed three or four enemy tanks. We had three confirmed and four is like not fully confirmed that it was our kill.

KILEY: That was in the previous couple of days when Russian forces tried to break through Ukraine's lines in the bitter battle for the east.

Alex isn't a professional soldier. He's a software engineer who lived in the now smashed I.T. hub of Kharkiv. His home has been destroyed.

Bunny is being serviced as the battle rages a few miles away. Burning fields encroach on the tank's hideout. The front line in Ukraine is hundreds of miles long.

For many Ukrainian soldiers on this front line, there's a sense that perhaps the Russians haven't yet brought their full destructive power to bear. But they expect to find out this week.

Russia's artillery is relentless, and Putin's tanks are massing, this army of volunteers is expecting a hard Russian push.

Anna is 22, she's been a soldier for a month and now she's a driver in a reconnaissance unit.

ANNA, DRIVER IN THE UKRAINIAN ARMY: There is a lot of opportunities to be killed.

KILEY: She just graduated from university.

ANNA: The thing that makes me the angriest is the raped children and women.

KILEY: Is that something that you're afraid of happening to you?

ANNA: I can't say that I'm afraid of something like that. I'm afraid of being not useful for my country, for my people.

KILEY: This is what being useful here means, killing Russians, Russians Anna's age.

But this is a war thrust upon Ukrainians. Anna works with Vlad, a poet, author, publisher, and war vet.

Reconnaissance is a highly dangerous work. Have you lost many comrades, friends?

Vlad said, since 2014, so many of my friends, people I knew, comrades have died. So far, the people I came with since the beginning of the latest invasion have not died and I'm very happy, it's cool. These people are still fighting. They're already in charge of units, it's awesome. The best of the best are here.

His books are dark fantasies set in this war with Russia, an all too rich source of material.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Eastern Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Well, to Washington now and CNN military Analyst, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, so if the Ukrainians have in fact retaken this real estate on the outskirts of Kharkiv, it puts them within striking distance of Russia's rare supply lines. Is this looking like the Ukrainians are about to begin some kind of major counter offensive?

LEIGHTON: Well, it could be that. I think that they may not have all the things that they need in order to mount a counter offensive like that. But if they can, I think they would certainly be well advised to do something like this, especially given the fact that the Russians have had some difficulty getting their logistics lines of supply line situated properly. And that's -- this I think would be a good time for them to do that, actually,


VAUSE: Well, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence appearing before the Senate Armed Services hearing had this outlook for the next month, here she is.


HAINES: The next month or two of fighting will be significant as the Russians attempt to reinvigorate their efforts. But even if they are successful, we are not confident that the fight in the Donbas will effectively end the war.


VAUSE: So, we're looking at a period of time when this could escalate quite significantly. So, how crucial will this next month be for the Ukrainians? I mean, would you expect them to continue on maybe with this counter offensive or dig in and go toe to toe with the Russians?

LEIGHTON: I think that, you know, part of it is going to be, of course, what the Russians do in response, John. But I think that the Ukrainians will try to take things to the Russians in an offensive way.

But if they do that, they have to expect some pushback from the Russians. And that pushback could be fairly substantial.

Having said that, though, I think this is a very opportune time for the Ukrainians to muster their forces, put them in a position where they can actually cause significant damage to the Russian supply lines, and the Russian forces that are still on Ukrainian soil, especially in the area around Kharkiv.

So, this would be the time to do that. If they don't do that, then they are in for a much longer war of attrition at this point. VAUSE: A guy called Igor Girkin, a Russian Army veteran who played a key role in the illegal annexation of Crimea had this assessment of the Russian campaign in Donbas: The general conclusion, unfortunately, is bleak. The best case scenario, the enemy will be slowly pushed out of the Donbas with large losses for both sides, of course. Across many weeks and possibly many months.

Overall, the enemy is defending competently, fiercely, it controls the situation and its troops.

So, I guess the question is this Russian offensive? Is it failing? Why are the Russians doing so badly yet again? Or is this just an offensive which is moving very, very slowly? It doesn't matter either way?

LEIGHTON: Well, it certainly matters. I think that you know, the fact that they are having difficulties like this on the Russian side, it speaks to their lack of momentum, and any army that has a lack of momentum is going to have difficulty achieving victory.

Momentum is I think, a key component of warfare. When you look at what the Russians have been doing -- were failing to do, I think what you see, John, is a real possibility that they are going to grind themselves into the eastern Ukrainian territories, especially the Donbas region, and kind of forcing war of attrition onto themselves and onto the Ukrainians.

So, it's very likely that even though they have every intent of making offensive operations a reality, I think, what really is going to happen is that they are going to end up having almost World War I style situation or Donbas style situation 2014. And that could be a significant drain on Russian resources. Will also, of course, be a significant drain on Ukrainian resources. But that is something that I think is highly likely given the lack of speed, the lack of precision on the part of the Russians when it comes to mounting these operations.

VAUSE: But with that, in mind, the latest assessment from British military intelligence says, as this conflict continues beyond Russian prewar expectations, Russia's stockpile of precision guided munitions has likely been heavily depleted. I think that Moscow will struggle to replenish its stockpile. So, what does that actually mean in the big picture?

LEIGHTON: So, what that could mean is that there might be two extremes of weaponry used by the Russians. On the one hand, you would have instead of precision guided munitions, you would have the so called dumb bombs, the ones that aren't guided by any PGM type system.

The other possibility is, of course, they would use hypersonics, like they've used against Odessa. And that is something that is, of course, not only dangerous, but it's also a disproportionate use of military force, since they're striking, principally civilian targets with these hypersonic weapons.

So, you might have almost a dichotomy. On the one hand, you have these very sophisticated weapons being used. On the other hand, you have some very unsophisticated weapons being used and that I could kind of speak to the lack of preparation and the lack of logistical support and industrial support for the Russian war effort.

VAUSE: Colonel, as always, thank you so much. Good to have you with us.

LEIGHTON: Thank you, John. Good to be with you.

VAUSE: Well, to U.S. politics now, two primary races are being closely watched to gauge just how influential former President Donald Trump is with his party.

CNN projects that Trump-backed West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney has handily defeated Congressman David McKinley in the Republican primary for a newly created district.


VAUSE: But Trump's preferred candidate for Nebraska Republican primary for governor did not come out ahead. CNN projects that Jim Pillen has won that race over the Trump-backed Charles Herbster.

Rising inflation, soaring gasoline, prices soaring prices for pretty much everything. What can the White House do to turn this around? Why are Democrats so nervous now about those November elections? More on that when we come back.


VAUSE: 19 minutes past the hour. Welcome back everyone.

The U.S. Consumer Price Index report will be released in the next few hours. Most expectations are it will not be good news.

Ahead of the report, the U.S. president says fighting inflation is his top domestic priority. He blames the pandemic and Russia's war in Ukraine for the economic troubles which includes soaring gas prices.

Joe Biden acknowledged that families all across America are hurting.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I know you've got to be frustrated. I know, I can taste it, frustrated by high prices, by gridlock in Congress, by the time it takes to get anything done. Believe me, I understand the frustration.


VAUSE: David Sanger is a CNN Political and National Security Analyst, as well as a correspondent for The New York Times covering the White House and national security. He joins us now from the U.S. Capitol.

David, it's good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, so inflation comes with politics, but there's also some cold hard realities. And in the real world, U.S. presidents, regardless of party, don't have a lot of leverage when it comes to lowering inflation. That's where the Federal Reserve comes in and interest rates.

So, when Joe Biden says fighting inflation is his number one domestic priority, what does that actually mean?

SANGER: Well, it means that he knows that between now and the midterm elections, he's got to go turn this around. And certainly, he's got to turn it around before he may be running in 2024.

But you know, it is difficult because while there are elements of the inflationary spiral that you could certainly blame on President Biden, there are elements that you can't.

So, obviously, the pandemic helped contribute to supply chain issues that drove up prices, particularly as soon as demand has picked up.

Second thing that's done it is the war in Ukraine, not Joe Biden's fault. But once the United States had to go after oil production in Russia, that pushed up prices. And of course, Ukraine is a big provider of wheat, other food, stuff, so that contributes as well.

And you know, thirdly, you have to remember that Biden's own stimulus plan from a year ago probably contributed somewhat significantly to inflationary pressures along the way, that is -- that's certainly on him.

VAUSE: Which then brings us to the politics. And I'd like you to listen to the U.S. president, here he is.


BIDEN: I understand the frustration, but the fact is Congressional Republicans, not all of them, but the MAGA Republicans, are counting on you to be as frustrated by the pace of progress, which they have everything -- they've done everything they can to slow down, that you will hand power over to them and enact -- so they can enact their extreme agenda.


VAUSE: Just in terms of politics, is this a good move to try and blame Trump Republicans for the pain that many voters are feeling right now? Could that backfire?

SANGER: I guess it could, but the fact of the matter is, they are slowing down a lot of big initiatives, including initiatives that make great sense. It's been a year, a year since the Senate passed the CHIPS Act, the

industrial policy bill that will help the United States try to make up some ground with China and semiconductors, and pour more money into quantum computing, artificial intelligence, battery production for electric cars.

This is one of the few areas where Republicans and Democrats have actually been in agreement, because it goes to core competitiveness of the economy. And they're still arguing about it. And here we are nearly a year since the Senate acted.

So, he does have reasons for complaint. But every president will say that or some version of it.

VAUSE: I want you to now listen to the Minority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, on the Republican pushback, here he is.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): They took an economy that was ready to soar, turned it around, and drove it into the ground.

American families are being crushed by 8.5 percent inflation. Democrats policies have unleashed the worst inflation in more than 40 years.


VAUSE: Whether or not the economy was ready to soar at the beginning of Biden's term, I guess is another question. And McConnell sort of ignores that inflation is happening all around the world. But how vulnerable are Democrats to that sort of attack less than six months from the midterms?

SANGER: Pretty vulnerable. I mean, one of the oddities of this particular moment is that people feel like the economy is awful, because of the inflation, but the other elements of the economy are doing pretty well. Growth has been pretty good. Unemployment has just been down at record lows, as you've seen.

In fact, the low unemployment is part of what is pushing up wages. And that is part of what's pushing up inflation. So, the two go hand in hand.

Now, it is fair to say that President Biden didn't really see this coming. There were some economists La Lawrence Summers at Harvard, former Treasury Secretary, among others who have predicted this, but and I think you could well argue that Biden should have been probably better prepared and maybe a little more cautious in the economic stimulus.


SANGER: But he had risk at the downside too which was the economy could actually have just slown -- slow down. That didn't happen.

VAUSE: You don't get rewards for what didn't happen I think in politics.

SANGER: Absolutely. You got that right.

VAUSE: As always, it's so good to see you. Thank you, sir.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

VAUSE: Still ahead, Ukrainian troops regaining ground in the south, but at what cost? Why suspicions are running high in one liberated village.


VAUSE: At least 100 Ukrainian civilians remain inside the Azovstal steel plant, the last holdout of resistance in the port city of Mariupol. According to city officials, there's been no let-up in Russian attacks on the plant.


A warning: the net images you're about to see are graphic but reveal the brutal reality of what life has been like for so many at the steelworks.

Some of the hundreds of badly-wounded Ukrainian soldiers can be seen here, stuck in unsanitary conditions, bandaged with rags. Food and medicine are in short supply, yet these soldiers have refused to surrender, including a young medic who released a defiant message on social media.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Can I say that I will do the shoot to the knees of those who spread information that I am gone? People, we're t war. I will outlive you all. Mariupol, we are fighting here. People, do recompose yourselves. How do you like Azovstal? The only thing that I can say is that Azovstal is holding onto the Russians. While they are here, we are fighting to the last.


VAUSE: And to the West, Ukrainian forces are pushing back, retaking a crucial village which was under Russian control for weeks. But as CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports, those gains have come at a devastatingly high price.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Racing under the tree line, changing their path every time, with Russian troops often from just meters away. This is the fight for Ukraine's most important riverbank.

And this is the place where Moscow's brutal advance has been stopped. Olsakorevka (ph) was held by Russian troops for weeks, but now the Russians shell where they once hid and probe the outskirts daily. Vladimir (ph) and his men have been alert since 4 a.m., fearing a

Russian attack and more of the cluster bombs they say tore down this tree.


WALSH: They are about two miles in that direction, he says.


WALSH: So occasionally, they get what Russians call diversionary groups, which are kind of scouting groups to try and probe their defenses. But so far, he says they've been successful fighting them.

WALSH (voice-over): Fresh flowers laid at the monument to the last war's dead, but broken glass here, where this war's living shelter. Faces that seem beyond caring who is in control.

And dust that makes you wonder, who will come back if it ever gets normal again? In these endless idyllic villages, it bends belief to see the quiet life forced underground like this.


WALSH: He is saying that the rocket landed during lunchtime when there was nobody in there.


WALSH: Forty, 50 people have been there at one point. You see the rooms there.

WALSH (voice-over): But it is not an easy job taking back these villages.


WALSH (voice-over): Loyalties have evaporated in some cases. The troops say they found traitors here but lack evidence to prosecute, citing one case.

WALSH: A guy on the phone here. There's a guy on the phone.

WALSH (voice-over): And now, a local on the phone is reason for suspicion.


WALSH (voice-over): "Russian troops came to one man's home," he says, "and offered to make him a local leader. It's not at all simple. He was the local mayor for them. That's why they never touched him. And there's also a formal Russian colonel living here." They say they have reason to know they're being watched.

"I'll only say that when we first came here," he says, "it was in the morning when there was a fog, and it was impossible to see us. But the Russians shot at us, which means someone give us up.

As we emerge, a puff of smoke in the sky, an explosive or a flare.


WALSH: Two blasts, leading them to think the cluster bombs may follow again. Vladimir stays in place. The back and forth persists for places that cease to exist in the fight (ph).

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Olsakorevka (ph), Ukraine.


VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, the head of the WHO says some chief advice -- or free advice for China. Given the current knowledge of the COVID-19 virus and the Omicron variant, it's time for Beijing to change its zero-COVID strategy.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

Well, the head of the World Health Organization has some advice for Beijing, and its zealous zero-COVID policy: It won't work, and it's time for Plan B.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: When we talk about the zero-COVID strategy, we don't think that it's sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future.


VAUSE: Let's go now to CNN's Steven Jiang, live in Beijing.

So Steven, this is an interesting play here -- or play, rather, by the head of the WHO, because we know just how much Xi Jinping has invested into zero-COVID. You're not even really allowed to criticize the policy without being frowned upon.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: That's why, John, you know, so far the government here has not responded officially to Mr. Tedros's remarks, but their ever-diligent censors have acted a lot more quickly and forcefully, erasing almost all traces of Mr. Tedros's remarks from Chinese social media after the story actually went viral early Wednesday.

This, of course, is not surprising, given what we have seen since late last week. That's when Xi Jinping made clear that China is not only sticking to zero-COVID but also with him urging officials across the country to, in his words, resolutely fights with any distortion, doubts and rejection of this policy.


So I think it's very likely, in the coming hours, we will see Chinese officials in state media come out strongly to push back on Mr. Tedros's assessment, which is very unfortunate, because what he said really is representing growing international consensus about this issue, given the evolving nature of this virus, given the availability of more tools for governments. It just makes less and less sense to continue harsh lockdowns and other zero-COVID measures.

And many critics have also pointed out if the authorities have been devoting more time and prioritizing getting its elderly citizens vaccinated, or allowing imported mRNA vaccines, you know, for its general population, things may have turned out differently.

But of course, you know, COVID containment here is no longer about public health policy. This is now a political campaign, launched by Xi Jinping, who demands absolute loyalty from his underlings, leaving them with very little choice.

That's why we are seeing local officials across the country, John, doubling down on their increasingly brutal enforcement of the many measures, especially in Shanghai and increasingly here in Beijing, as well -- John.

VAUSE: Well, the days of Chairman Mao may be on the way back, it sounds like.

Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang, live for us in Beijing.

I'm John Vause at the CNN in enter in Atlanta. WORLD SPORT is next here on CNN International.



VAUSE: Well, here in the United States, a passenger with absolutely no flight experience managed to land that small plane. Now, you can see it right here. It was a shaky touchdown.

After the pilot became unable to fly, a passenger onboard the private flight contacted air control -- air-traffic control. Here's part of the conversation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane but I maintain it at 9,100.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Caravan 333LD, roger. What's your position?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. I see the coast of Florida in front of me and I have no idea. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the situation with the pilot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is incoherent. He is out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 3LD, Roger. Try to hold the wings level and see if you can start descending for me. Push forward on the controls and descend at a very slow rate.


VAUSE: Well, the Federal Aviation Authority said the pilot had a possible medical issue. An investigation is underway. There's no update yet on the condition of the pilot.

Well, law enforcement in Indiana say a recaptured fugitive was planning a shootout with police before his car was forced off the road during a chase. Inmate Casey White was transported back to Alabama, where he escaped with the now-deceased corrections officer, Vicky White.

The two were not related but were romantically involved, according to officials. CNN's Miguel Marquez has the latest.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new details on how an 11-day nationwide manhunt came to a violent end.

SHERIFF DAVE WEDDING, VANDERBURGH COUNTY, INDIANA: I want to bring my people home, and I can't care about the fugitives' lives, if it protects my people's lives. And here, I commend them for a job well done.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Law enforcement's aggressive investigating and pursuit, says the sheriff, saved lives.

WEDDING: Members of the U.S. task force basically rammed the vehicle and pushed it into a ditch. We later found out, had they not done that, the fugitive was going to engage in a shootout with law enforcement.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Found in the car, guns: four hand guns and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, along with weed (ph) and nearly $30,000 in cash.

WEDDING: It was just hard to believe they were here. I wouldn't think somebody on the run would stay in a community like Evansville for six days.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Investigators caught a break, they say, when Casey and Vicky White abandoned an F-150 pickup truck in a local car wash. Their get-away car, a gray Cadillac, was spotted leaving the car wash.

That Cadillac led police to this nearby hotel, where officials say the pair planned to stay for 14 days. Authorities are investigating whether the couple paid someone to rent

the room for them, because they did not have identification.

WEDDING: We were fortunate that during our investigation yesterday -- and that was a police officer who was just doing his good diligence of patrolling and being smart -- noticed the vehicle in the parking lot of the hotel and notified us immediately.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Police surveilling the motel spotted the couple leaving, leading to the chase.

Officers removed the escaped inmate Casey White from the wrecked car at the scene. Former corrections officer Vicky White was pinned inside the vehicle with a gunshot wound to her head.

WEDDING: Once the vehicle crashed, the female suspect shot herself. We don't believe he shot her.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Officials believe a 911 dispatcher was on the phone with Vicky White before the crash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're calling into 911. We could hear her on the line, saying she had her finger on the trigger.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): She later died from her injuries at a nearby hospital.

WEDDING: Their plan was pretty faulty. They're criminals. Their plan was faulty, and it failed.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Her former colleagues in Alabama left wondering what happened to a friend they thought they knew.

SHERIFF RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: You know, then finding out that, you know, she was basically the mastermind behind the whole plan, then finding out she lost her life. It's just been a roller coaster.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Miguel Marquez, CNN, Evansville, Indiana.


VAUSE: Celebrity chef Mario Batali has been found not guilty of indecent assault after allegedly groping a woman at a Boston restaurant in 2017.


The judge said Batali's conduct was not befitting of a public person of his stature but added the accuser had significant credibility issues. Her motivation was financial gain.

Natali Tent -- Tene, I should say, had accused Batali of groping her during an impromptu selfie session, an allegation Batali denied.

Well, if Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gets control of Twitter, his main goal, he says, will be to encourage free speech, and to that end, he would reverse a permanent ban on former U.S. president, Donald Trump. Take a listen.


ELON MUSK, CEO, TESLA AND SPACEX: I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump. I think that was -- that was a mistake. Because it -- it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.


VAUSE: Musk says Twitter should be very cautious with permanent bans, and removing Trump's account may have amplified his voice among the right wing.

Growing tensions among China and Taiwan. Top U.S. intelligence officials are now warning Taiwan will face an acute threat by the end of the decade. They told lawmakers China likely wants to avoid a military conflict over Taiwan, but is still working to build a military that can take over the self-governing island.


AVRIL HAINES, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It's our view that they are working hard to effectively put themselves into a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our intervention.


VAUSE: Like to Taipei for more on the story. CNN's Will Ripley joins us live. How did this report go down with Taipei?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's no secret to the leaders of this island that when it comes to hard power, military versus military, there's no contest between the People's Liberation Army and the military here in Taiwan, which is significantly smaller and has a defense budget that's about a 17th of the size.

But there's hard power, and then there is soft power. And soft power is a totally different ball game. Because Taiwan -- a lot of people don't know this -- it plays a crucial role in the world getting its cutting-edge technology. And if there were any sort of disruption, it could have global ramifications.

That makes Taiwan very valuable to China, yes, but also the United States, its allies and much of the world.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Taiwan's first line of defense from a Chinese invasion. Billions spent on missiles, new warships and submarines, an upgraded fleet of fighter jets. Expanded training for reserve soldiers, all of it dwarfed by the mainland's massive military. China's defense budget 17 times bigger than Taiwan. Experts say the

island's best defense, its biggest weapon against China, is technology so small you need a microscope. Super tiny, super powerful semiconductors. This tiny tech powers products you probably use every day.

Taiwan produces about 70 percent of the world's semiconductor chips, most of them made by TSMC, Asia's most valuable company, making chips for companies around the world like Apple and Intel.

Experts warn any disruption to Taiwan's chip supply could paralyze global production, impacting almost everyone.

J. MICHAEL COLE, SENIOR FELLOW, GLOBAL TAIWAN INSTITUTE: People like to say, Well, Taiwan should be defended by virtue of it being a democracy. This is oftentimes too abstract. If there is war, an invasion in the Taiwan Strait, and immediately, the price of computers would increase. Your cell phones would become more expensive. It helps people make that self-serving but emotional connection with a society that otherwise would be abstract to them.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is raising questions about the future of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, claimed but never controlled by Beijing's communist rulers.

RIPLEY: Well, what makes Taiwan different from Ukraine, right, is the economic levers?

ROY LEE, CHUNG-HUA INSTITUTION FOR ECONOMIC RESEARCH: Taiwan is much more relevant to the global economy than Ukraine. That is true.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Even China relies on chips from Taiwan. More than 50 percent of the island's exports to the mainland: semiconductors. China is Taiwan's top trading partner.

RIPLEY: So what does it mean economically for Taiwan and China if there was some sort of conflict to break out?

LEE: It would be disastrous, not only for Taiwan, not only for China, but also for the U.S. and the E.U., and everybody.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Chinese President Xi Jinping had vowed to reunify with Taiwan at any cost. Taiwan's chip industry could make the cost of any invasion far too steep.


RIPLEY (on camera): So when there are comparisons that are drawn, John, between Kyiv and Taipei, these two democracies purportedly under this looming threat, or in the case of Ukraine, under an actual threat of invasion by an authoritarian power, the government here in Taipei is quick to point out the strategic importance of their semiconductor industry.

[00:55:00] Things like, hey, if there was an invasion of Taiwan, people might have to wait over a year to get their new cell phone, even longer for a new laptop. I mean, those are the kind of things that can make other countries wake up and realize that it's not just this island that would be affected. It would be devastating for the whole world.

Now, the problem for Taiwan, or the challenge moving forward is that a lot of other countries are now scrambling to reduce their dependence on the semiconductor industry here by building and developing their own technology, their own factories.

But TSMC, the company that we just showed you, they are light years ahead of everyone else, in terms of being able to build these really high-end chips that are so valuable for companies like Apple, Tesla, I mean, really companies around the world.

And so at least in the short term, that keeps Taiwan safer, but they have a real challenge, experts say, of maintaining that economic leverage but also continuing to train themselves militarily for the possibility of a conflict with China down the road.

VAUSE: So if you don't care about Taiwan, you may care about the cost of your iPhone. Pretty basic sense. Will, thank you. Will Ripley, live for us in Taipei.

Well, I'm John Vause at the CNN Center here in Atlanta. Please stay with us. I'll be back with a lot more news after a very short break.