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Any Moment: Biden Touts Billions Of Dollars In COVID Relief Funds To Bolster Public Safety; Russia Retreating Near Kharkiv, Ukraine's Second-Largest City; House Oversight CMTE Launches Investigation, Sends Letters To Four Companies. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 13, 2022 - 15:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell and we're going to be with you.

Any moment now, President Biden will speak in the White House Rose Garden. He's expected to highlight the billions of dollars his administration has committed to crime prevention. He just wrapped up a meeting with law enforcement leaders and mayors where he highlighted cities and states that have committed to use $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan to reduce crime and hire more police officers.

CAMEROTA: President Biden is also challenging other communities to tap into the billions of unspent COVID relief funds to help pay for more crime prevention.

BLACKWELL: We'll look at more now from Jeremy Diamond at the White House. So what do we expect to hear from the President today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Victor and Alisyn. President Biden expected here to highlight these $10 billion of funds from the American Rescue Plan. That's that COVID Relief bill that was authorized to be used for public safety measures as well and this is $10 billion that has been committed to public safety funding, $6.5 billion of which, according to the White House has been spent in the last year by states and local communities.

And this is part of a broader attempt by the White House to talk about how they have been trying to address crime in the country, an issue that is sure to be close to the minds of many voters heading into these 2020 midterms. Here's the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki talking about that just moments ago.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've inherited from the previous administration, the largest year-over-year jumped in murders in record history in 2020. The - our focus from here has been putting more cops on the beat in cities like Detroit and Houston who have both used rescue plan funds to invest in fighting crime. We've seen declines in certain categories, because our view and the President's view is if you fund and have more cops on the beat working with communities, that is going to help address this issue.


DIAMOND: And you can hear there in the rhetoric from the White House Press Secretary that there's a clear attempt to push back on Republicans' attempts to paint President Biden and other Democrats as anti-police. President Biden, of course, has repeatedly talked about stepping up funding for police officers.

And in that $10 billion dollars, you have funding, including bonuses for police officers and other public safety workers, as well as community violence intervention programs funding for mental health counselors. So this is kind of an all of the above approach that the White House is looking to highlight here, increased funding for police, but also looking at alternative methods to help police and make communities safer across the country. All of this ahead, of course, of what could potentially be an uptick in crime during the summer.

CAMEROTA: Jeremy, let's also talk about the baby formula shortage that's on the minds of so many parents. What's the White House saying today?

DIAMOND: Yes. Well, we heard the White House announced just moments ago that the Department of Health and Human Services now has a website up where parents can go and find information about baby formula, what kinds of baby formula they can use. If they're not able to find the ones that they're typically using and where they can try and find a formula if their local grocery store, for example, has empty shelves, it's I think you may have the website up on the screen now.

And we heard the White House really talking about what it has been doing over the last several weeks to increase production with manufacturers of other baby formula producers beyond Abbott, which, of course, had that issue with one of its facilities back in February.

Now, I did ask the White House Press Secretary today whether the White House would have done more earlier, including these steps next week that they plan to announce to streamline the process to import baby formula from abroad to ease some of those regulations. That's something that the FDA is expected to announce next week.

But when I asked the White House Press Secretary whether that's something they should have done sooner before parents got to the grocery store and found empty shelves, she said, listen, hindsight is 2020, but she insisted that they have been on top of this for weeks now, which is why you've seen the increase in production at some of these other facilities. The FDA predicting that this issue could be resolved within weeks, Alisyn? Victor:

CAMEROTA: Okay. Jeremy, we'll let you get back to that and we will bring you the President's remarks live as soon as they begin. Now to Ukraine, the hell inside that steel plant in Mariupol is not over. A Ukrainian official is describing the negotiations to save the scores of wounded fighters inside the Azovstal complex as 'difficult'. New images show how Russians are still trying to demolish the factory.

This is video of a bomb strike posted today on a pro-Russian social media channel. It is believed that all of the civilians are now out.


This image also posted online appears to show Russians trying to breach an Azovstal barrier.

BLACKWELL: And while Russians are trying to advance there, they are retreating near Kharkiv. Ukraine's second largest city. In fact, the Russians appear to have destroyed several bridges to stop Ukrainian troops from advancing. That's according to an analysis of satellite images.

However, elsewhere in the East Ukrainians are not experiencing the same success. For more on that we go now to CNN's Sam Kiley in Kramatorsk there in the east. Sam, what are you seeing?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Alisyn, as you rightly point out there, there are bridges been destroyed northeast of Kharkiv as part of the Russian retreat. Now, that means that they have no intention at all of returning to that front line, they've given up their attempts to capture that city. One of the key parts of that original invasion as ordered by Vladimir Putin on February 24th some time ago now.

They're very different picture here further south, essentially part of the same frontline where the Russians really are focused on trying to capture the city I'm in right now, Kramatorsk, as part of their stated aim, reduced aim to capture what they call the Donbas region, essentially the provinces of the Luhansk and Donetsk. They own or control significant chunks of them, but not Kramatorsk nearby Slovyansk.

So they have been trying to push across the Donets River. They unsuccessfully established a pontoon bridge which the Ukrainians destroyed. They're killing a large number they claim of Russian soldiers and certainly destroying a lot of armor. I was up - relatively near to that location today. There was a lot of shelling in both directions.

But essentially the frontlines in this part of the battle space are largely frozen with any concentration on bridge destruction will be from the Ukrainians trying to prevent the Russians crossing that all important Donets River, Alisyn? Victor?

CAMEROTA: Sam, let's talk about Kherson, that was the first major city under Russian control. What's happening there today?

KILEY: Well, the importance of Kherson cannot be exaggerated from the Russian perspective, because it essentially controls the head of a canal that delivers water, fresh water into the Crimean peninsula, which, of course, the Russians have illegally annexed after their invasion in 2014.

Now, Kherson is at the same time - there's been a lot of effort being put in by the Russians to establish a local administration, there's been perpetual attempts or rumors of attempts to try to conduct some kind of bogus referendum because ultimately, they're trying to carve Kherson off as perhaps a third so-called independent or Russian- recognized republic.

That is because they really desperately need to control that water supply going into Crimea. Arguably, it's their most important prize of this whole invasion. But at the same time, the local officials who were based there are saying that the people are trying to flood out, these allegations that a convoy of some 5,000 people trying to get out of Kherson was attacked by the Russians, who then stopped the convoy, they've been letting the convoy of people escape in dribs and drabs. Two people were reportedly injured in that attack on the convoy and this is because there is a severe shortage, according to Ukrainian officials, of food, of fuel and of course of money in that location.

BLACKWELL: All right. Sam Kiley in Kramatorsk. Thank you. Let's bring in now Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson to discuss. General, welcome back. Big picture here, before we get into the specifics, what's your assessment of the Ukrainian forces? Are they - do they have some momentum? Are they gaining important advantages here?

BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Victor, yes, I think that they are gaining some momentum. They've done a remarkable job up here in Kharkiv. This counter offensive has been significant and why is that is because of logistics. They've forced now the Russians that had pushed all the way down into this area in Izyum to go back to defend their supply lines, because they're up here in Belgorod. That's where their logistics base is.

So they continue to do a very, very good job of putting the Russians at risk logistically and they're doing a good job, I think, of pushing as much as they can on the rail and the road networks out here into this area, Kramatorsk, where Sam just was is a very, very key spot. That's where the Russians want to be and that's where the Ukrainians are right now and they want to keep the Russians out, so they're doing everything they can to beef up their situation in Kramatorsk and to prevent any further penetrations into that area.

CAMEROTA: Okay, General, show us now where the Russians are making strides.

ANDERSON: Well, where they've made strides is in this area right here in Luhansk and in this area, pushing into this area right here. Okay. This is about still 50 miles from Kramatorsk and way that - the reason that they are being successful is once again logistics. They have secure supply lines here from Russia.


They have friendly troops. They already occupied that area. Their supply lines are not subject to interdiction. And so what they're able to do is bring up massive amounts of artillery because the artillery assets they have up there are probably about eight to 10 battalion task groups up there. They're firing massive amounts of artillery and they're just trying to blow the smithereens on everything that's in front of them right now.

So in the town of Rubizhne, they've been able to do that and they push forward to this area right here, so they've continued to leverage their logistics to get a little bit of success, where they failed elsewhere in Kharkiv and Kyiv. They failed because of logistics. The reason they're succeeding right now somewhat is because of their better logistics, secure supply lines, internal lines and they're able to deliver to the soldiers what they need.

BLACKWELL: General, Ukraine has released this video showing their forces destroying a Russian helicopter on Snake Island. How effective can Ukrainians be in the Black Sea considering what we've seen of the Russian maritime resources there and not so many of the Ukrainian?

ANDERSON: Well, they've been very successful down there. They've knocked out 13 ships now, not just the Moskva, but they've knocked out for transport ships. So the amphibious capabilities of the Russians have been severely degraded. So the helicopter that was knocked out down here in Snake Island is very, very key that shows that the Ukrainians continue to have missile capability, drone capability, intelligence that tells them where they are and how they can knock them out. Like I said, 13 have been knocked down.

It's so important here this fight because of course, Odessa is such a key port, 400 million people throughout the world depend upon the wheat, the corn, the grain products that are being grown up here in Ukraine. They've got to be able to get them out. And if that port continues to be shut down, blockaded, as it is right now, there's still 20 ships out there in the Black Sea, well, then that's going to have a major impact on world hunger and it's going to have a tremendous input impact on this war and the hurt that's being delivered to people all over the world.

CAMEROTA: General, how about the bridges that we're seeing destroyed? The satellite images we've seen? Are the Russians destroying these or the Ukrainians?

ANDERSON: Well, you're seeing quite a few bridges that are being knocked out. Now, these two right here were knocked out by the Russians. Okay. That was in order to prevent the Ukrainians from falling them on their counter attack and being able to cut off their supply lines. But we've also seen the Ukrainians knockout bridges, the pontoon bridges, in the vicinity of the Donbas, the Donets River that Sam talked about earlier. That's very, very important because if you can knock out those bridges, you can trap a lot of battalion task groups that might have gotten across the river and the Ukrainians are probably taking them out right now. But it's a very, very difficult place.

If you look at some of the terrain out there. I mean, look at this, the meandering nature of this river and how it's very, very difficult to get through, I mean, you cross one part of the river and you might have to cross another part of the river. This is very, very difficult terrain. So crossing this river has been very, very important.

The Russians had been spending about seven weeks now trying to get across this because, of course, they want to get down to where Sam is, Kramatorsk, they're still 50 miles away. They got a long way to go and a lot of rivers to cross.

CAMEROTA: Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson, thank you very much for explaining all that to us, really helpful.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, General.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So the White House is trying to figure out the baby formula shortage, how to get food to the parents and the parents are trying to figure out what to do when their supply runs out. Next, we're going to speak with two mothers who are struggling to find that formula.

CAMEROTA: And investigators subpoena the National Archives to get access to the classified documents that former President Trump took to Mar-A-Lago, that's ahead.



BLACKWELL: This baby formula shortage has gone from concerning to critical. So last week, store shelves were down 43 percent in a lot of places and supply was down by 50 percent in at least eight states in Washington, D.C. Now, a big part of this was that February recall and shutdown of a factory in Michigan and that then created a domino effect and made even worse by a pandemic supply chain problem.

CAMEROTA: So today the House Oversight Committee launched an investigation and sent letters to the four biggest companies that manufacture 90 percent of American baby formula demanding answers to these big questions.


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): The thing we can do the most is to get our four major producers of infant formula, help them through the steps to get it resupplied as quickly as possible. We are asking when will they have the shelves filled again, when will they have enough product to restock the shelves for our parents.


CAMEROTA: Well, the FDA says it's working around the clock and will announce plans to streamline the imports of formula next week.

So joining us now are two mothers who are searching for formula. Jen Kistler-McCoy has an 11-month-old twin boys in Sacramento and Mott McIntosh (ph) has a 10-month-old. She's in Dahlonega, wherever that is.


CAMEROTA: Georgia, thank you very much.

Jen, I want to start with you, how much formula do you have right now at this hour?

JEN KISTLER-MCCOY, STRUGGLING TO FIND BABY FORMULA FOR HER 11-MONTH- OLD TWINS: Well, right now we have enough to get through the rest of the day and then probably bottles in the morning.

CAMEROTA: Okay. And tell us about how you have spent some nights, as we understand it, driving around looking for other formula, what's that been like?


KISTLER-MCCOY: Yes. There have been a couple of nights where I couldn't find formula at any store, so going to several different Targets, several different grocery stores and trying to order online, but having orders cancelled. That was our experience last night, actually. And today, my husband and I are going to be going on the hunt again to try to find some more tomorrow.

BLACKWELL: Mott, what is this period of this shortage been like for you?

All right. Mott, maybe having some issues there with technical issues. Let me ask you, Jen. It's not just about getting formula, any formula, babies and this is an education for someone who doesn't have children and it is for a lot of people. Babies don't accept all formulas, you have to find the one that has the right nutrients.

KISTLER-MCCOY: Yes, that's exactly true. And ones that they like to are going to protest, sometimes. So my boys kind of have a little bit of a sensitivity, so some sensitive formula has been the best for them. They don't spit up as much if they drink that. So trying to be able to find something that agrees with their tummies helps.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, look at your sons. They are so beautiful.


CAMEROTA: These are incredible pictures of them. But Jen, I mean, when you're driving around at night, how far are you going? What - just explained to us what this kind of pilgrimage is that you're on? You go to different pharmacies and you think they're going to have formula, but they don't?

KISTLER-MCCOY: Yes, I mean - exactly, you hope they do. I mean, I've gone as far as just a couple of towns over to try to find some. But I actually have friends and family that are on the hunt for me, so I have some. My in-laws live about 40 minutes away and they're trying to find formula for us. And then I have a sister who lives in Las Vegas, who is looking for some as well, she found two cans for me that she's going to mail to me, so we can have some.

BLACKWELL: We just had on Senior Advisor to the President who says this - they are working on it, but it's not a switch that can be flipped and there will be formula on the shelves tomorrow, this could take weeks. If this stretches on for the rest of this month and into June, what then for your family?

KISTLER-MCCOY: It's very stressful thinking - going forward. I am in a somewhat lucky position, because my boys are 11 months old, so we are introducing foods. So right now what we're trying to do is give them food first, so they can kind of fill up a little bit with that and then supplement with formula afterwards and just try to move them more towards being comfortable eating more varieties of food and hopefully we'll be able to make it through the next couple of months.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, we have heard that other parents are having to water down the formula to ration it, to stretch it out and, of course, that's problematic nutritionally for the babies. That's not - that's them not getting enough.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Also these homemade recipes that doctors say you should not give to your children either. Jen Kistler-McCoy, thank you so much for sharing your story. We, of course, wish you the best. We couldn't reconnect with Mott Macintosh (ph), but we thank her as well.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much, Jen.


CAMEROTA: All right. So many Republican lawmakers are rooting for Madison Cawthorn to lose in his upcoming primary and they have a plan if he gets to keep his seat in Congress.



CAMEROTA: Okay. Let's go to the White House. This is President Biden delivering remarks on how COVID relief funds can be used to boost public safety and reduce crime.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you know who owns a local liquor store, know who the pastor of the church is, it makes a big difference when you know the community. And that's been my approach from day one.

That's why we designed the American Rescue Plan not only to beat the pandemic, but to rebuild our economy, but to restore public safety. And we understood the challenge from the beginning.

Communities were facing a rising tide of violence that coincided with this pandemic we went through over the last two years. And it was happening at a time when state and local budgets were under tremendous strain.

Because of the pandemic, so many people laid off, their revenue was not coming in. They were firing everyone from police officers to school teachers to first responders.

But before the American Rescue Plan, these - their budgets were in deep distress in the states and localities.

One study sounded before - found that before the Rescue Plan was passed, 27 percent of the mayors in America were having to cut - make deep cuts and layoffs in law enforcement as well as other areas. So we made sure that the American Rescue Plan provided substantial resources to keep that from happening.

Through the law, we provided $350 billion - let me say that again - $350 billion directly - not to the legislatures - directly to cities, counties and states independently of one another - money that could be used to hire back police officers, to invest in proven strategies like community violence interruption and prevention programs, and to keep their cities and counties safe, and ease the burden on law enforcement.

Because of that funding, states and cities were able to add back 460,000 jobs, including police officers, in addition to firefighters, educators, and other critically important roles.