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Elon Musk's Twitter Deal on Hold; Baby Formula Scramble; Brittney Griner's Detention in Russia Extended; Ukraine Begins First War Crimes Trial. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 13, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you have a peaceful weekend.

Bianna Golodryga picks up our coverage right now.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga. Ana Cabrera is off today.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an interview today says that he is ready to meet with Vladimir Putin one-on-one. However, he also said that the starting point for any discussion should be a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine.

Now, this comes as Ukraine's military continues its counteroffensive against Russian fighters, pushing them from the areas around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. In its retreat, Russian forces appear to have blown up three bridges vital to Ukraine's success, as seen here on these new satellite images provided to CNN.

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin met with his Security Council over Finland and Sweden inching closer to applying for NATO membership. The Kremlin is calling that a threat and warns now of retaliation.

And this all comes the same day as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart. It was their first call in almost three months, since before the invasion.

And also today, Ukraine began its first war crimes trial. A 21-year- old Russian soldier is accused of murdering an unarmed civilian.

CNN's Melissa Bell is at the courthouse in Kyiv.

Melissa, Ukraine's prosecutor says Russia has committed more than 11,000 war crimes thus far. So how significant is this first trial?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think what's so significant about this, Bianna, is that it's taking place even while the war rages on. And that's what's so extraordinary about it. Since war crimes have

been prosecuted at an international level -- and this is going to be the case in Ukraine, given the sheer number, given the number of teams that are on the ground here trying to gather evidence -- those war crimes, both the ones that relate to Russia's aggression to begin with that will judge whether the war has been just under international law at the International Criminal Court, but also those that will look up against alleged war crimes against individual Russian soldiers, those international trials are still to come.

But they will take time. And that is what the gathering of evidence is about. What Ukraine's chief prosecutor told us today is that the gathering of evidence by those international teams has been essential to allowing her to get Ukrainian justice, to begin looking at these war crimes in the context of the civilian court.

And she says that she wants Ukraine to show that the war, the way war is waged can change, because, by prosecuting crimes even as the war goes on, this means that Russian soldiers are going to think twice about how they prosecute the rest of the war. Have a listen to what she told us earlier today.


IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL: These proceedings now can save lives of our Ukrainian civilians on the south and eastern part of Ukraine, because these perpetrators who are now fighting will see that we will find all of them, we will identify all of them, and we will start to prosecute all of them.


BELL: Now, she told us that she believes that Ukrainian justice will be transparent. It is basing itself on those facts uncovered by international investigative teams. She says the whole world will be able to watch the process.

We spoke also to the defense attorney for the young man, the 21-year- old whose preliminary hearing was held today in Kyiv. He said he also had faith in the Ukrainian justice system. And, of course, this matters, Bianna.

That point she was making about the way the war is prosecuted matters because, until now, because international law has been so slow, wars have taken place, then crimes have been prosecuted.

This time, she says, with that fighting in the east, and specifically in towns like Severodonetsk, where some 15,000 civilians are even now cowering in basements as Ukrainian forces try and fight off Russian forces, but it's looking like they're on the back foot, it's going to force them, even as they try and fight their war, to try and stick to what they believe they can defend.

And she thinks that can be a lesson for the whole world in what can happen next and a return to a sense of humanity and the respecting of laws, even in the middle of war Bianna. GOLODRYGA: Yes, really interesting that this trial is taking place in

real time, as the war progresses there.

Melissa Bell, thank you.

Well, now to a notable development out of Sweden, the government there today paving the way for their application to join NATO. Neighboring Finland is expected to propose joining the alliance as soon as Sunday.

This morning, President Biden spoke to leaders of both countries.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Helsinki.

So, Nic, a surprise today, though, in the form of a potential holdup from Turkish President Erdogan. He indicated that he is not in support of Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members. How big of a setback could this be, given that NATO requires unanimous consent for expansion?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, it looks like a wrinkle. It probably will be a wrinkle.


I think, when you're dealing with President Erdogan -- and, certainly, Turkey -- certainly, NATO has a lot of experience -- he's a bit of a wild card. Look, he was the one that went out and bought the Russian- made surface-to-air missile systems, which are totally out with the bounds of how NATO operates, that you just buy -- you don't buy equipment from Russia, for a start. And that stopped him getting the U.S. made F-35 fighter jets.

So, that's Erdogan. That's what you're dealing with there. And he said, he's looked at this. He's looked at what they're doing, and he doesn't feel comfortable about it.

Well, what we have heard from the Swedish foreign minister, Ann Linde, has said, look, I haven't heard this directly from the Turkish officials myself, and she said, we're going to be in Berlin at the weekend. The NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Berlin at the weekend. The Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers are both invited there.

And they do expect to have a conversation with the Turkish minister -- Turkish foreign minister while they're there. How the secretary- general of NATO wrangles this isn't clear. When, I think -- when you're looking at this as well, when you watch what Erdogan says, he is playing to several audiences, domestic constituency, to NATO, for leverage for what he may want to get.

He says the Swedes have homes for terror leaders, terror organizers. He is talking about the Kurdish separatists who want a chunk of Turkey. Some of them live in Sweden, and that's what he's talking about. Is there a quid pro quo there?

And, again, on top of that, when Erdogan speaks, he's also speaking to Russia.


ROBERTSON: He is signaling to Putin that is not so happy with this move. And he also wants kind of to be the mediator between Russia and Ukraine at the moment.

So, I think, with Erdogan, there's a bunch of stuff going on. It's a wrinkle, and it -- at this moment, it seems that it can be worked out.

GOLODRYGA: A bit of a wild card is a good way to describe him. He's also been providing Ukraine with those really effective drones that they have been using against Russian forces throughout this war as well.

Nic Robertson, thank you, as always.

Well, American basketball player Brittney Griner will stay in Russian custody for at least another month. Russia's state news agency says her arrest has been extended now until June 18.

The WNBA star was arrested in February and accused of smuggling hashish oil.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joins us now.

So, Polo, what more are we hearing from Russian officials? And why are they prolonging this now until next month?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, it's an interesting development.

The WNBA spokesperson actually said that today's news is not unexpected, meaning that they saw this coming. Obviously, that's one of the big questions, especially as we near a potential trial. So, will we get to that point? Or will we see her potentially be returned to the United States before that happens?

That's one of the big -- big, key questions here. But, as you said, that -- Russian state media now announcing or at least reporting that extension of her -- of her detention there. We do understand, based on information from a spokesperson at the State Department, that a consular officer had an opportunity to even speak with the player earlier today during that court hearing.

And it was a very short sideline conversation that that officer had with Brittney Griner. But, during that time, one of the key points -- or at least a key takeaway is that she seemed to be doing as well as can be expected, obviously, given the exceedingly difficult circumstances. Been in custody now for three months.

Let's take a look back at how we got to this point. You recall that Griner was initially arrested February 17. Cannabis oil had been found in her luggage after landing in Moscow. She was charged with smuggling narcotics, faces up to 10 years if convicted. And one of the big significant developments also happened last week,

when the Biden administration basically escalated their response, stating that the 31-year-old basketball player was -- quote -- "wrongfully detained."

And that then resulted in the case being forwarded over to the president's special envoy for hostage affairs to begin those conversations with their Russian counterparts. And important remember too, this -- these were the same folks or this was the same interagency that was largely responsible for the safe return of Trevor Reed not too long ago.

So they're certainly hopeful that that will be following a similar direction here when it comes to this case. As for Russia's Foreign Ministry, they maintain that this detention is based on objective facts and on evidence and that she -- they say she broke the law.

So it'll be interesting to see how this actually plays out. And then when you hear from her support system, including her family, obviously, the WNBA, who we just mentioned a little while ago, they have been really concerned that she would be used as a political pawn as those tensions continue between the United States and Russia.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, her family, her friends just desperate to get her home as soon as possible.


GOLODRYGA: Polo Sandoval, continue to cover this story for us.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.

Well, in Washington, two major intelligence failures have prompted a sweeping internal review. The U.S. intel community is performing a self-audit after crucial miscalculations in the past year, in Afghanistan, severely overestimating the government's ability to fight off the Taliban, and now, in Ukraine, underestimating the Ukrainians' ability to fight off a Russian invasion.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is tracking this all.

So, Natasha, let's isolate Ukraine here, because I think there's no denying that the U.S. assessment of Afghan fighters was just wrong.


But, just this week, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency testified that he believed that intel agencies had done a great job in Ukraine. So was he speaking off-message there?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we have to separate this into two separate assessments, right?

So the intelligence community was actually pretty spot on in their assessments that Russia was planning an attack against Ukraine. That was something that they had been predicting for months and months leading up to the actual invasion. They believed that Russia was massing troops at the border because it intended to launch a full- scale invasion of Ukraine.

So, in that sense, they did get that prediction right. And that is what largely the lieutenant general there was referring to. But then there's another aspect of this, which is very important as well, which is, how long can Ukrainians actually hold out against the Russians, given this attack?

And what they predicted largely, broadly, within the I.C. is that not -- they would not last very long, that Kyiv, the capital city, could actually fall within three to four days. That's what one assessment found.

So, they did not believe that the Ukrainians really stood a fighting chance here against the Russians, who had a much bigger army, of course, who had a lot more manpower and more sophisticated weaponry. And that, of course, according to some critics, and particularly Senator Angus King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was really catastrophic for the United States' ability to respond effectively to the Russian onslaught and to arm and prepare the Ukrainians a lot earlier for the Russian attack.

He says that, had they known that the Ukrainians actually stood a fighting chance here, that they could repel the Russians as effectively as they did, then maybe things would have been done differently, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And, to be fair, other European intel agencies also were of the mind that this would have been a few days, at most, in terms of Russia being able to conquer Kyiv. They were proven wrong as well.

But we have learned that there was one office in U.S. intelligence that accurately predicted how effective Ukraine's resistance would be. Tell us about that office.

BERTRAND: This is so interesting, Bianna.

So this is the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. And it's a small intelligence arm of the State Department. And they were actually a lot more optimistic about the Ukrainians' ability to resist a Russian invasion. They predicted that Ukraine would not fall in a matter of three to four days, and that the Ukrainian will to fight would be much stronger than other agencies were assessing at the time.

They also were more confident that the Russians would launch a full- scale invasion other -- than other agencies. But it's really interesting because the State Department kind of focuses on different things, right? They focus less on kind of that pure, kind of data- driven, hard-numbers-on-paper kind of assessment, like, for example, the Defense Department does and the CIA does, and more on kind of historical and cultural context, in making these assessments. And that is really important when you're assessing something like will to fight, because, of course, that is an art, we're told, and not a science, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, well, we will be paying much closer attention to this agency going forward.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you, as always.

Well, an all-out scramble to get baby formula back on store shelves, but the crisis keeps getting worse. And Congress is now investigating. We will have more on what the White House might do up next.

Plus, deal or no deal? Elon Musk's Twitter takeover is on hold, for now, at least -- why the billionaire is hitting the pause button.



GOLODRYGA: Some parents are in a state of panic, as the baby formula shortage seems to be getting worse.

Supply issues, combined with a recall, are keeping nearly half the formula stocks off store shelves nationwide. And Congress is now getting involved. Pressure is mounting on the White House as well to fix the problem.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

So, Elizabeth, people really want to know, how did it end up getting to this point of near crisis? And what is the fastest way to fix it?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Bianna, this shortage actually started about six months ago. We didn't hear much.

But there were shortages because of supply chain issues. In the beginning, it was maybe 17 percent of the product was off the shelf. It wasn't as big of a deal. But then it got worse and worse. And then there was the recall that happened in January of Similac products. Let's take a look.

These are just some of the similar products that have been recalled. And there were just lots of these that were recalled, not necessarily all of it. But there were even more products than what you're -- what we're showing you here. So that's caused huge shortages, 43 percent nationwide.

And let's take a look. In these eight metropolitan areas, according to Datasembly, they have more than 50 percent out-of-stock rates. What that means is that more than 50 percent of the stock is missing. So, you can see that some parts of the U.S. are really being especially hard-hit.

Now, as far as what can be done to fix this, Abbott says that they have air-shipped millions of cans of formula from a plant in Ireland. And they also say that they have taken a plant in the U.S. that is still up and operating, taken some of the lines away from other products and dedicated them to infant formula.

The White House says they're working with Abbott and other manufacturers to increase supply. And also, of course, they're working to try to open up that plant in Michigan that's been closed, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

Even if that were to happen, let's say, two weeks from now, which is sort of an optimistic date, it would still take six to eight weeks for that to get up and running and get products on shelves -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Six to eight weeks is just not nearly enough time now to get this problem resolved for so many parents that are desperate.

COHEN: Right.

GOLODRYGA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

Let's break down the do's and don'ts for parents right now.

Dr. Elizabeth Murray is a pediatric emergency medicine physician.


Dr. Murray, thank you so much for joining us, this really important story.

Parents are understandably anxious. First, you are the parent of an infant right now -- if you're a parent of an infant right now, you're struggling to find formula, what are some safe options you have out there?


And we certainly understand that parenting is the hardest, most scary job any of us are going to ever have. So, first and foremost, if you have questions or concerns, reach out to your child's physician. We know that there are regions of the country much harder-hit than other regions. And so pediatricians really have a good finger on the pulse of what's happening in their community.

And so many doctors have created cheat sheets for families, meaning, if you normally use this formula, these are safe exchanges. So, your pediatrician is going to have a lot of information for you, and guide you through some safe switches, because there are a lot of options out there for most families.

GOLODRYGA: A lot of options, but not that many companies are actually manufacturing baby food and baby formula. And switching formulas, as you know, and switching brands is easier for some babies than others.

What about infants who need a specialty formula, like Alimentum, because perhaps they have allergies or just rejecting the formula that they are trying? MURRAY: Yes, so there are two major manufacturers. In this situation,

one manufacturer has been harder-hit, the Abbott line, more so than the other. And then there's a handful of smaller manufacturers out there.

The good news is, is, since there's two major companies that make formula, they have always been competing with each other, meaning, if one company produces a new type of formula, that other company is going to catch up and produce the same thing, just with a different name.

So there are Alimentum equivalents made by the other manufacturers that are perfectly safe to switch and use. But, again, any time your child is needing a highly specialized formula due to a medical condition or is followed by a specialist who states they need a special formula, talk to that doctor about your switch. But there are options available even for those highly specialized formulas.

It certainly is scarier for those families, but we can find solutions for them.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, it's so important. The doctor should be your first call there.

When it comes to people trying to make homemade formulas, for example, you say no. Why is this so dangerous?

MURRAY: Yes, the babies, especially the younger, newborn infants, their bodies are not designed to tolerate a lot of variability. And they're also at greater risk for infections from germs that just don't bother older kids and adults.

So, the pasteurization, the sterilization, the production of that formula is critically important. And the ratios of the fats and proteins and sugars in that formula is also incredibly important. So, there are a lot of social media posts saying, oh, no big deal, you can make it at home, but that really is just not a safe option.

We do have abilities to get formula to most families. Again, it's going to be a little bit of work for some families, but the make-it- home option is really not safe.

GOLODRYGA: Such an important point there.

As you heard, this shortage could go on for six to eight weeks. Is it safe to use overseas options?

MURRAY: If they are being manufactured by the same company and being brought into the country under established protocols, then, yes, it should be.

I think that it's great that there are strides being made by the government to improve this. But you're exactly right. This is not going to be fixed overnight. This is certainly not a time to stockpile formula, because that will certainly just make it worse for all of the families out there. There is a slow trickle of supply still coming in. It's not that the

supply has been completely shut off. So, while it's tempting to go out and buy two months' worth of formula. If you can really just not do that, and buy what you need a week at a time, it is going to make it better for everybody.

The improvements are coming. We will get out of this. It will take some time. But improvements are coming.

GOLODRYGA: And I'm just now hearing our producers telling us that the FDA, clearly under a lot of pressure here, will announce new plans starting next week to streamline the distribution of formula out there, clearly hearing the concern from parents across the country.

Dr. Elizabeth Murray, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Well, they say breaking up is hard to do, but, in this case, it could be really, really pricey. Elon Musk says his Twitter deal is on hold for now. But is there really a chance that he calls it all off?



GOLODRYGA: Well, now to the new twist and the Twitter takeover plan.

Elon Musk says he's pumping the brakes on the $44 billion deal. He made the announcement, where else, but on Twitter.

Musk posted this: "Twitter deal temporarily on hold, pending details supporting calculation that spam or fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5 percent of users."

For more on what all of this means -- God help you with answering this for us -- CNN's Rahel Solomon.


GOLODRYGA: So, Rahel, he followed up that tweet with another tweet saying that the deal, he's still committed to.

So, what is going on?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been a wild morning in the Twitter land, Bianna. Good to be with you.

Yes, as one analyst told me this morning, look, that would be like saying the dog ate your homework. There is not a ton of support in the markets right now for this sort of reasoning. Impossible to know for sure Musk's motivation, but not a ton of support.