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Supreme Court Meets; January 6 Committee Subpoenas Five Republican Lawmakers; U.S. Reaches One Million COVID Deaths; Finland Seeks to Join NATO. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired May 12, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Thanks for joining us today. We will see you back here this time tomorrow, I hope.
Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thank you so much for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Decades of neutrality no more, it could be the latest casualty of Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Today, the leaders of Finland defied Moscow and announced their support for joining NATO. Russia is calling this a threat and warns of retaliation.
Putin's goal of destabilizing NATO is actually making the Western military alliance bigger, stronger and closer to Russia. Finland's president today had a pointed message for Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: Well, if that would be the case that we joined, well, my response would be that you caused this.
Look at the mirror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Back in the U.S., a milestone almost unthinkable just a few years ago. One million Americans have died of COVID. The president ordering flags lowered to half-staff in a country changed forever.
We're also learning more today about this amazing story involving nerves of steel and an emergency landing soft as a pillow. What happened minutes before a passenger had no choice but to take controls?
Let's begin with Finland's landmark decision to pursue NATO membership. And CNN's Nic Robertson is in the capital, Helsinki.
Nic, is there any doubt that NATO would rush to approve Finland's application?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They have already given them a very green light, if you will.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg today said that they will be warmly welcomed. There's been a lot going on behind the scenes in Brussels at NATO headquarters, a lot of conversations between different nations, and all of it coming to the same point, that, if Sweden, if Finland opt to join NATO, which is absolutely on track to happen at the moment, then they would be allowed in, they would be given NATO membership.
It may take a little while. It may take a few months. But all the indications have been that these are nations that have trained regularly, have gone on military operations with NATO countries, that they meet all the sort of democratic and financial requirements. So it is a process that should happen much faster than for anyone else wanting to join NATO.
CABRERA: And Sweden could follow suit, right?
ROBERTSON: This is the expectation.
In fact, what is actually happening at the moment, Finland in a way has sort of slowed down its process just a little bit by a few days, from what we understood a week or so ago from government officials, so they could time this out so that Finland -- so that Sweden could announce pretty much the same time that Finland does.
And we know that the Finnish president is going to Sweden on Tuesday. And I think there's a real expectation here both announcements will come at the same time, so they can sort of twin-track through NATO pretty much in parallel.
CABRERA: We will be watching it all very closely. Nic Robertson, thank you for that reporting.
On the ground, Russia is making headway in the east. Ukrainian armed forces they Putin's troops are advancing in some areas, as more border villages close to Russia come under fire. And for the first time, a Russian civilian has reportedly been killed on Russian soil by cross- border shelling from Ukraine.
Joining us now is retired Major General James "Spider" Marks. He's a CNN military analyst and the head of geopolitical strategy for Academy Securities.
General, always good to have you.
BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: First, on this Russian being killed during cross-border shelling, how do you think this could impact the battle?
MARKS: Well, I don't know that it impacts the battle.
But, clearly, nobody celebrates the killing of civilians. It's -- these are certainly not targets. They are outside the realm of military targeting. In fact, I would suggest that the Ukrainians, having been trained by NATO and the United States, go through a very robust collateral damage assessment calculation before they deliver any rounds to make sure you minimize or at least you totally avoid civilian casualties.
So it doesn't affect the fighting. I think the Ukrainians are doing everything in their power to avoid that. And I don't know what the Russians will make of it.
But let's be frank. Nothing in Russia, especially along the border, should be considered a sanctuary. The Ukrainians need to get after those military targets that are refitting, refueling, assembly areas. They're putting petrol into their vehicles. They're communicating. They have headquarters.
The Ukrainians needs to get after those things, irrespective of the fact that they're in Russia.
CABRERA: I can't help but just wonder, though, if Putin will use that to his advantage to try to sell his military or justify his military operation, as he calls it, in Ukraine, and -- or if the Russia people will see this civilian death and now feel even more impacted by this, again, unprovoked war that Putin has begun and lead to more turmoil internally there in Russia.
But, again, you -- like you said, we don't know just yet.
CABRERA: So let's turn to the big announcement here by Finland, saying it plans to apply for NATO membership.
The significance of this cannot be overstated. Finland shares an 800- mile border with Russia. And Russia is already threatening retaliatory action if this happens.
General, isn't this exactly what Putin didn't want to happen?
MARKS: It is.
And he thought that, by blustering and by provoking, he might, in fact, try to have various nations be submissive. And that's clearly not the case at all. Finland shares this border. They have a very long history with Russia incursion.
I mean, this has been wide open forever. Just go through history, and the Russians and the Finns and the Swedes have always had very tough relationships. But, I mean, he created this conflict in Ukraine. Clearly, there's a legitimate reason for Finland, because, as Nic Robertson indicated, they meet the democratic requirements.
They have trained with NATO forces before. They have got the finances. They can ask to join, and it would appear to me that NATO would say, sure, looks good. Looks like a good selection. Makes perfect sense.
CABRERA: Now, today, the president of the European Commission called Russia the most direct threat to the world order. Do you agree?
MARKS: Well, let's look at China. We have got some issues with China.
When I look at Ukraine, I can't help but looking over at China to see what Xi Jinping is thinking about, what his -- what are his intentions vis-a-vis Taiwan? I think they are far different today than they might have been three or four months ago, right?
He's got to look at his military to make sure it's not as screwed up as Putin's military if he wants to conduct a military operation. Plus, he's got to go across 100 miles of open ocean to try to conduct this military operation and subjugate an island.
So my point is, we have got to keep our eyes on China. But Russia is so incredibly disruptive right now. Putin is such a despicable global pariah. The challenge that we have is, if Putin suddenly leaves the scene for whatever reason, for -- I mean, we can get into a whole bunch of scenarios.
But if he leaves the scene, is the world suddenly going to embrace Russia and say, the bad man is gone, let's have this normal relationship with Russia? We know that Putin is going to be replaced by one of his elites and one of his cronies.
We have got to be very cautious about this.
CABRERA: Well, General Spider Marks, thank you very much for your insights and expertise. It's good to have you here.
Now a CNN exclusive, Russian soldiers carrying out what appears to be the cold-blooded murder of two unarmed civilians in Ukraine. Prosecutors there are investigating this as a war crime.
CNN has obtained the surveillance video. And I have to warn you, the images are disturbing.
CNN Sara Sidner reports.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a stark example of a potential war crime perpetrated by Russian forces, an example the world has not yet seen, Russian soldiers shooting into civilians in the back.
CNN obtained a surveillance video taken from this vehicle dealership that sits along the main highway to Kyiv. The video is from the beginning of the war, as Russians tried and failed to shell their way to the capital. The fight along this road was clearly fierce.
But what happened outside this business was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded killing of unarmed men by Russian forces. The soldiers show up and begin breaking in. Inside of a guard shack, two Ukrainian men prepare to meet them.
We tracked down the men's identities. One is the owner of the business, whose family did not want him named. The other was hired to guard it.
YULIA PLYATS, FATHER KILLED BY RUSSIANS (through translator): My father's name is Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats.
SIDNER: His daughter Yulia wanted the world to know his name and what the Russians did to him, both civilians, both unarmed. We know this because the video shows them greening and getting frisked by the Russian soldiers, and then casually walking away. Neither seemed to suspect what it was about to happen.
That is what a member of the civilian fighting force who talked to the men a couple of days before the attack told CNN. He did not want to be identified for security reasons.
LAMABA, VOLUNTEER CIVILIAN FIGHTER (through translator): We came there earlier, warned people to leave that place. We also hope for the humanity of Russian soldiers. But, unfortunately, they have no humanity.
SIDNER: You see the two men walking in the shadows towards the camera. Behind them, the soldiers they were just talking to emerge. A few more steps, and their bodies drop the ground. Dust shoots up from the bullets hitting the pavement. The soldiers have opened fire.
Minutes later, the guard, Leonid, gets up, limping, but alive. He manages to get inside the guard booth to make a call to the local guys for help. This is one of those guys, a Ukrainian-truck-driver-turned- civilian-soldier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): First of all, we felt a big responsibility. We knew we should go there because a man needed our help. He was still alive.
SIDNER: He's the commander of a ragtag team of civilians who took up arms to fight for Ukraine and tried to save the men. When the guard called them, he explained what transpired with the soldiers. He said the soldiers as who they were and asked for cigarettes, then let them go, before shooting them in the back.
When his men finally got to Leonid, he had lost massive amounts of blood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One man from our group went there, and the guy was still alive. He gave him bandages and tried to perform first aid, but the Russians started shooting.
SIDNER: They tried to fight back, but were unsuccessful. They didn't have the firepower to save the countrymen.
(on camera): Yulia, have you seen the video?
PLYATS (through translator): I can't watch it now. I will save it to the crowd and leave it for my grandchildren and children. They should know about this crime, and always remember who our neighbors are.
SIDNER (voice-over): Her neighbors to the north, these Russian soldiers, showed just how callous they are, drinking, toasting one another and looting the place minutes after slaying the two men.
(on camera): What were the last words that you remember he said to you?
PLYATS: "Bye-bye. Kisses. Say hello to your boys."
SIDNER (voice-over): Her boys will be left with a terrible lasting memory, the death of their grandfather, now being investigated as a war crime by prosecutors.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Kyiv.
CABRERA: It's all so awful.
Ten days after a Supreme Court leak stunned the nation, all nine justices meet for the first time. We have those details.
And it just gets more miraculous. New details about what happened inside the plane before a passenger with no experience was forced to take control and land it.
Plus, if this is a preview of the coming fire season in California, it is not good, homes swallowed by flames and people nearby forced to leave ASAP. We have the latest.
Stay with us. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go anywhere.
CABRERA: Welcome back.
Security has been extra tight today with Supreme Court justices meeting face to face for the first time since the leak. Of course, we're talking about that draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
The stunning breach rocked the court. It reignited fierce debate on abortion rights all across the nation. That leak is under investigation and was likely a key topic in this meeting. It was supposed to focus on petitions and outstanding cases.
Irin Carmon is joining us now. She is a senior correspondent for "New York Magazine" and co-author of "Notorious RBG." Also with us is CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.
Ariane, let me start with you.
We know only the justices were in the room, no clerks, no staff. Any insight on how today's meeting went?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right.
This was the first meeting. They went into their conference room. And they sit usually in order of seniority and go around the room, unless someone has to call in because they're out of town. And we didn't get an exact readout of what happened, although we know that there are going to be opinions next week.
But it's really likely that they discussed the leak, because it's really going to change the way they do business going forward. You can't underestimate the impact of the leak on the court's procedures. And yesterday, Ana, I was talking to a former clerk and she said there's always been leaks at the Supreme Court. But here it's like someone just turned on the faucet. That's what they're dealing with.
CABRERA: Ladies, stand by, we have breaking news.
And this is about the January 6 investigation. The committee investigating the Capitol attack issued subpoenas to five sitting members of Congress. They're all Republicans. Let's bring up their names, their pictures, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio.
There you see their faces.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is following the breaking details for us.
Ryan, what do you know about this? Why these five congressmen?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this is a group of congressmen that the January 6 Select Committee has been very interested from almost the very beginning of their investigation.
As we reported over the summer, when they initially began looking for information related to what happened here on January 6, they asked the courts to preserve or they asked their telecommunications companies to preserve the records of a number of Republican House members.
And this group of five were in that discussion. And, in addition, they sent letters to six Republican members, and this five were all in that group, asking them to voluntarily cooperate with the committee's investigation. All six of them -- and that included this five that have now been issued subpoenas -- all turned down that request. But this is something that the committee has wrestled with for many, many months. They knew that these Republican members were not going to be willing to participate in the investigation. They were hopeful that they might be. But they were very concerned and they remain concerned that these subpoenas may not be enforceable.
There is not a lot of precedent to the idea of sitting members of Congress being subpoenaed for an investigation that's being conducted by fellow members of the same body.
So we have already seen the committee have some difficulty in enforcing subpoenas from members of the Trump administration. This is an entirely different conversation about actually sitting members of Congress.
And, of course, Ana, the biggest name in this group is the current minority leader of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, from California, who is hoping and vying to be the next speaker of the House, should the Republicans take control of the House in the fall midterm elections.
McCarthy has been a target of this investigation from the beginning. You will remember that he stood in the way of attempts to create an independent, bipartisan commission that would have been conducted outside the Congress. He also stood in the way of the attempts to create this select committee, even pulling certain members of the committee off of the initial formation of the committee after the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, had blocked some of the names that he had added to it.
So this is going to create a lot of tension, potentially drama between Republicans and Democrats in the House. And it's already somewhat of a toxic environment here in Washington, Ana. This is only going to add to that.
And then the big question is, how does this impact their upcoming hearings that are scheduled to take place in June? We're going to have to wait and see how these Republican members react to this very aggressive and extraordinary move by the January 6 Select Committee to issue subpoenas to sitting members of Congress -- Ana.
CABRERA: And that is a huge move.
Ryan, please stand by.
I want to bring in special correspondent Jamie Gangel.
Jamie, are you surprised by this move?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's been a lot of talk about it.
I think there were a lot of people who thought they were not going to do this. This is -- as Ryan just said, it is a political tsunami. My understanding is that it is unprecedented to subpoena fellow members of Congress. There are times when someone might be called in front of the Ethics Committee.
But this is, as Ryan said, a very aggressive move. You have to ask a couple of questions. Practically, will it change anything? Will these subpoenas matter to these five Republican members? Or are they going to ignore it? Will they be enforceable?
You have to wonder whether the committee is doing this to make a point that they went as far as they could. Or do they have some information that one or more of these five members might be willing to testify ,that a member is going to say, I am not going to defy a congressional subpoena?
But -- so they want the cover of the subpoena, which we have talked about. But the political fallout of this, Ana, is huge, because, if the polls are correct, and the Republicans take back the House in the midterms in 2020, this sets up the potential of the Republicans then going after the Democrats.
Will they want to subpoena Nancy Pelosi or someone else? So I think there was a red line here that some members of the committee did not want to cross. They have decided they're going to cross it.
CABRERA: And I'm hoping we can put that graphic back up with the pictures of all the members now...
CABRERA: ... who have been subpoenaed here so we can kind of tick through what we know of some of their involvement.
And, of course, Kevin McCarthy is there at the top. He's the House minority leader right now. You will recall we have previously reported about that expletive-laced phone call between McCarthy and Trump that happened while the Capitol was under attack on January 6. So he has insight into perhaps Trump's state of mind during the Capitol attack.
When you look at Scott Perry, who's next on the list there, he was asked, by the way, back in December to voluntarily sit for an interview, and he rejected that. So he had an opportunity to kind of tell his side of the story to the committee previously. But they want to talk to him about the attempted effort to install that former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark as acting A.G.
And it was Jeffrey Clark who was willing, as our reporting goes, to go along with Trump's plan and the Trump ally plan to try to overturn the election. Andy Biggs there from Arizona, we have learned he participated in meetings at the White House, had direct conversations with President Trump leading up to and during the Capitol attack.
And there was a December meeting involving Andy Biggs in which he and other members at the White House discussed a plan to have Pence take action to try to refuse to certify states' electoral votes. Mo Brooks, you will recall, was at the rally before the Capitol attack and had the now infamous quote about needing to start taking down names and kicking ass.
And he told the crowd to carry that message to Capitol Hill. And then, of course, Jim Jordan there, we have learned, even though he has tried to deny at one point, that he and Trump spoke at length on January 6, and turns out it was around 10 minutes, at least, that they had...
CABRERA: ... a phone conversation that day. So, a lot of questions about what was discussed in that phone call.
Please stay with me, Jamie.
I want to bring in our legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers.
And, Jen, first just your reaction to this action taken by the committee to subpoena fellow members of Congress?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a big deal, Ana, because they typically don't do this.
There's a lot of kind of gentlemen's agreements with the way that congressional members treat each other, even when things get kind of nasty. And so the fact that they have gone ahead and subpoenaed these lawmakers really means that the gloves are off. I think that the folks in charge of the committee realize that, no matter what they do, Republicans are going to do everything they can to thwart their mission of bringing the truth to the American people.
They are going to try to retaliate if they take the Congress during the next session. So it really doesn't matter. And given that, I think that they're smart to go ahead and put the subpoena on these five lawmakers. I don't think that they will voluntarily comply. But at least they have taken that next step, which is important.
CABRERA: I do wonder, Ryan Nobles, if, of these five, Mo Brooks might be somebody who is willing to cooperate, given he and Trump have had a recent falling out.
NOBLES: Well, I think that's certainly part of what the committee is speculating.
And there was this interesting period of time where, after the former president rescinded his endorsement of Mo Brooks in the Alabama Senate race, where Brooks was very critical of what Trump had to say, and then even went as far as to claim that Trump was asking him to find a way to rescind the election results in September of 2021, long after the inauguration of Joe Biden had taken place.
And the committee seemed to have some interest in him at that time. And he almost seemed to open to that conversation. He shut that down right away when they sent him a letter asking him to voluntarily cooperate. But what I think is interesting about the timing of all of this, Ana, is what we have heard from the committee just in the past few weeks when we have pressed them on this specific question of how you're going to get this information from these members of Congress that you're in search of.
And what Bennie Thompson told me about a week ago was that they have learned so much about this investigation from the time that it launched last summer, over the period of time that they have brought in hundreds of witnesses to be deposed by the committee, that they have collected these records, like these text messages from Mark Meadows, the e-mails from John Eastman, the thousands of documents from the National Archives from the Trump White House.
And what Thompson said is that they have learned information about the role that these members of Congress may have played in the days leading up to January 6 and January 6 itself, and the committee wants to give them an opportunity to explain that conduct.
So, to Jamie's point about filling in gaps here, in asking them, exactly what role did you play here, almost trying to offer them the opportunity to give their side of the story, the committee believes that's important. And so that's part of the reason that they're issuing the subpoena, because they have just been reluctant to do so.
And I think what the committee is saying here is, we have got some information that is valuable to our investigation, and you can either be a part of it or not be a part of it, but we're going to present it anyway.
CABRERA: Let me read the statement we just got from Chairman Bennie Thompson on this committee.
And I quote: "The select committee has learned that several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack on January 6 and the events leading up to it. Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily.
"Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused, and we are forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6. We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty and cooperate with our investigation, as hundreds of other witnesses have done."
Ryan Nobles, Jamie Gangel, and Jennifer Rodgers, thank you all for joining us, as we have tried to process this developing story, the breaking news, five members of Congress, all Republicans, now subpoenaed by the January 6 Select Committee. We will stay on top of this and bring you more details as we're gathering additional information.
In the meantime, we keep hearing the U.S. is learning to live with COVID. But, for the friends and the loved ones of the one million Americans who have died in this pandemic, life will never be the same.
What's clear is, this virus is still very much a part of our days. So, what protocols should we be following?