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Zelenskyy: Over 1,000 Ukrainian Villages Liberated; Moldova And Georgia See Familiar Russia Playbook; First Russian Soldier Tried For War Crimes; Israeli Police Beat Mourners Carrying Journalist's Casket; Ukrainians Destroy Pontoon Bridges At Key River Crossing; U.S. Parents Desperate To Find Formula; Chief Justice Warned Other Justices About Ignoring Precedents; Some California Homes Still Under Evac Order. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 14, 2022 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world, this is CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Kim Brunhuber. Just ahead.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia has lost more than 3,000 tanks, armored combat vehicles, a large number of conventional military vehicles.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Ukraine's president reveals what he calls the extent of Russia's losses in Putin's war of choice. This as the first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier begins.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Plus, amidst the world's harshest lockdown, we get a glimpse of the toll that it is taking on families.

And as parents in the U.S. struggle to find baby formula, we will tell you how the White House is responding to the shortage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says more than 1,000 towns and villages has been retaken so far from Russian forces, including six more over the past 24 hours. He says the Russians are paying a heavy price for their aggression.


ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia has lost almost 27,000 soldiers, many of them young conscripts. Russia has lost more than 3,000 tanks, armored combat vehicles, a large number of conventional military vehicles, helicopters, drones and all of its prospects as a state.


BRUNHUBER: Ukraine also says Russian troops continue to retreat from around the city of Kharkiv in the north. Farther south, Ukraine claims it successfully blocked a Russian advance on a key river in the Donbas. Drone video shows destroyed pontoon bridges and tanks.

Russia's top general and the U.S. Defense Secretary spoke by phone for an hour on Friday, the first conversation since before the war. The Pentagon says Secretary Lloyd Austin again appealed for a cease-fire and to keep the lines of communication open.

In the Donbas, Ukrainian forces claim to have stopped an attempted Russian advance across a key river. CNN's Sam Kiley explains.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This tank has come from Bilohorivka. That has been the scene of some intense fighting over the last few days; 60 civilians were killed there in an airstrike, hiding in the basement of an abandoned school.

And the Ukrainians are claiming that they killed a really large number, possibly many hundreds of Russian troops, who were part of an attempt to cross the Donetsk River using a pontoon bridge system.

The Ukrainians have released satellite images that show a scene of complete devastation of that Russian crossing. They say that they have knocked out a number of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, other multiple rocket launching systems.

But it hasn't been without cost .The Ukrainians have also clearly lost soldiers. They've had a number of injured and we have seen some of them earlier on in the week.

We've also just seen a Grad multiple rocket launching system drive past with clearly the signs of shrapnel damage and explosive damage that has been done to it.

Almost as quickly, though, reinforcements are being rushed into this very important front because this is very strongly about trying to ensure that the Russians are not able to cross the Donetsk River.

There are a number of key bridges but clearly the Russians are trying to avoid using the Ukrainian bridges, which they know are mined and ready to be detonated if they fall into Russian hands by using these pontoon systems.

But this is a tank battle. It is an artillery battle. And it's a bloody battle -- Sam Kiley, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BRUNHUBER: Russian military aims in Ukraine are now focusing on the eastern regions that have been controlled by pro Kremlin separatists since 2014. That was also the year that Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula, raising fears that these separatist areas in the Donbas might fall permanently under Russian control.

Two other former Soviet republics know what that's like. Moldova butts up against Ukraine to the West. Some 1,500 Russian troops are based in the breakaway Transnistria region, which is run by a pro Russian administration. And to Russia's south, the Republic of Georgia is watching Ukraine with a strong sense of deja vu.

Simmering tensions in that former Soviet republic came to a head in 2008 when Russia and Georgia fought a brief war over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are recognized by Moscow as independent.



BRUNHUBER: Natia Seskuria is with the Royal United Services Institute of British Defense think tank and she joins us now from Tbilisi, Georgia.

Thank you so much for being with us. From a Georgian perspective, you must look at Ukraine and say, we have seen this playbook before. Before the war in Ukraine even started, you wrote about the fact that history seemed to be repeating itself.

Tell me about what you are seeing now and how it is reminding you of the echoes you saw in that country.

NATIA SESKURIA, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: Thank you very much for having me. Indeed, this seems like a very familiar Russian playbook that has been played out 15 years ago in Georgia.

Of course the scale of this war in Ukraine is much different than what we have seen and experienced in Georgia. However, the pretext for invasion was pretty much similar. We have heard that Russians were using the so-called accusation of agenda (ph) against the Russian speaking population.

A number of accusations have been made in order to (INAUDIBLE). However, I will say that the major difference is the Western response. As a Georgian, it is very -- I am very pleased to see that people of the West is not turning a blind eye toward the Russian aggression and Russia is already paying a very heavy cost for its aggression in Ukraine.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. As we look back to what's happened in Georgia, Georgia lost about a fifth of its territory to Russia. Tell me about how that affects the country now having such a huge part of the country run by the Kremlin in terms of the political and economical stability of your country.

How has that affected you?

SESKURIA: It's a major security challenge for Georgia. Russia has taken these territories of (INAUDIBLE) as hostages, really. Because about nowadays 20 percent of Georgia's territory is -- are occupied by Russians and war is not -- is far from being over, I would say.

Despite the fact that cease-fire agreement has been signed between the parties, the (INAUDIBLE) cease-fire agreement, we see that Russia violates constant (INAUDIBLE) territorial integrity.

And the situation, the humanitarian situation is heavily deteriorating on the ground. We see that Russian forces, Russian-backed forces are illegally pushing the so-called administrative (INAUDIBLE) lines into the Georgian territory.

And they are leading a policy of creeping occupation and the attempts toward (INAUDIBLE) of these territories are increasing. That's why it represents a major challenge for Georgia.

Both territories, as you know, are run by de facto regimes that are Putin subordinated and are lacking any leverage at all. The occupation of Georgian territories remains I would say not the most efficient instrument to exercise pressure over (INAUDIBLE) and the most efficient hybrid tool of warfare.

BRUNHUBER: So do you think that is what Ukraine can expect?

Should it lose even more territories in the south, the east, even if the war ends, sort of a never-ending destabilization campaign?

SESKURIA: I think what we see now in Ukraine is much different in the sense that Russian troops have heavily underperformed in the battle for Kyiv (INAUDIBLE) first couple of weeks of war.

But for a couple of weeks of war (ph) have shown a large incompetence, lack of planning, poor intelligence from the Russian side (INAUDIBLE). So this is, I think, the Ukrainian performance as well, of resistance and (INAUDIBLE) is a game-changer, I would say, with the help of the West, of course.

However, I would expect that Russia will continue the destabilizing efforts. But I think if we compare the Ukrainian experience to the Georgian experience, in Ukraine this time, Russia has far-reaching aims, which (INAUDIBLE) toward the regime change and the reversal of Ukraine's democratic aspirations.

And that is directly linked to the aspirations of the current government to join NATO and the European Union.

BRUNHUBER: All right, we will have to leave it there but thank you so much for your expertise. Natia Seskuria in Tbilisi. We appreciate it.


BRUNHUBER: As Ukraine fights Russian troops in the east, it's also starting a high-profile war crimes trial in its capital. A 21-year-old soldier is the first Russian to face war crimes charges since the war began. But as Melissa Bell reports, Ukraine is suggesting there will be many more to come. Just a warning: some images in the report are graphic.



MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Still at war with Russia but already fighting for justice. Ukraine's opened its first war crimes trial. A 21-year-old Russian soldier, Vadim Shysimarin, accused of shooting an unarmed civilian, on the fourth day of the war.

So far, Ukraine has identified 11,239 alleged war crimes, according to the country's prosecutor. They include the massacre of 300 unarmed civilians, in Bucha and the killing of many hundreds of civilians, mainly women and children, in the more than two-month-long siege of Kharkiv.

IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINE'S PROSECUTOR GENERAL: We have now some evidences that commanders gave the orders, shot civilians. But from other side, we understand that ordinary soldiers have their own responsibility, for this atrocity.

BELL (voice-over): And that, says Iryna Venediktova, is a message that needs to be sent now, so that Russian soldiers understand, there will be no impunity, even as the fighting, in regions, like Luhansk, continues.

She says she's been helped in gathering facts, by the many foreign forensic teams, working in towns, like Bucha, evidence that will also be used by the International Criminal Court, as it investigates both Russia's overall aggression, in Ukraine and the individual war crimes, allegedly committed, by Russian soldiers, which Russia denies.

LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: And they have to understand, they cannot use the armies, to invade another country and they cannot use the army, to kill civilians.

BELL (voice-over): For now though, it is in this small courthouse, in Kyiv that Ukrainian justice will have its first say. But can a trial be fair during a war?

Shysimarin's Ukrainian lawyer says he has faith in the impartiality of the country's judiciary and that the court can be trusted, to make a reasoned decision. He has yet to enter a plea.

The Kremlin spokesman says he has no information about the case. But the size of the media pack inside, spoke to the interest and emotion involved, on all sides.

Shysimarin's court translator, telling CNN at the end of the hearing that she, for her part, felt no anger toward the 21-year old, who could face life in jail.

"After all," she told us, "the tears of Russian mothers are salty, too." -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Kyiv.


BRUNHUBER: Earlier Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. spoke with CNN about the importance of the first war crimes trial. She says the proceedings aren't just about prosecuting the suspect but also about exposing what Russian troops have done to her country. Here she is.


OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: I think it is very important, it's very important for Ukrainian people but very important for everyone in the world.

And also I think very important for Russia, because we will get to here in an open court hearing, according to all the rules, what exactly he and so many like him did in Ukraine, about all the horrible war crimes. That it's not a war, it is essentially war crimes committed over and over and over again against children and just peaceful citizens.


BRUNHUBER: Ukraine will soon be receiving more desperately needed support from Europe. The European Union's foreign policy chief says the bloc would provide $521 million in military aid. It made the announcement at the G7 foreign ministers' meeting.

Meanwhile, Finland says Russia is cutting off electricity exports to the country. Russia claims it is due to late payments but it comes a day after Finland's leaders announced support for joining NATO. Moscow only provides about 10 percent of Finland's total power consumption.

There is a glimmer of hope for a Chinese city that has been under COVID lockdown for weeks. Still ahead, officials in Shanghai talk about reopening but the timeline is far from clear.

Plus the funeral for a journalist is marred by violence as Israel confronts mourners. More from Jerusalem after the break.






BRUNHUBER (voice-over): There is shock and outrage following the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, after Israeli police beat and shoved mourners gathered in Jerusalem. This video comes from the scene. It shows officers using batons to hit those carrying the casket of the Palestinian American reporter. At one point, the casket even slipped out of the pallbearers' hands,

almost falling to the ground. Israeli forces say they were forced to act, because some people threw stones. Police were also seen ripping Palestinian flags from a hearse carrying her coffin.

She was fatally shot while reporting on an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday. Palestinian leaders say they hold Israeli forces solely responsible for her death and have rejected calls from Israel's government for a joint investigation.


BRUNHUBER: Here in the U.S., a new study suggests the Pfizer vaccine rapidly loses its effectiveness in children who get the Omicron variant. The vaccine was more than 90 percent effective against the original virus for kids between 5 and 15 years old.

But once Omicron kicked in, the efficacy dropped to less than 29 percent for kids between 5 and 11. The effectiveness was measured two months after receiving the second dose.

But the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows boosters restore much of the vaccine's protection.


BRUNHUBER: Officials in Shanghai say they're working on plans to reopen the city after weeks of strict COVID lockdowns. That's according to their statement posted on social media on Saturday.

Officials also say the city's overall COVID trend is improving and the future reopening will be gradual. There's no word on a possible timeline. Officials also say they're hoping to reach what they call social zero COVID in the city by mid May. But that timeframe is unclear, because we're nearly halfway through the month.

Chinese president Xi Jinping's zero COVID-19 policy has sparked discontent at home and criticism from abroad. Selina Wang shows us how the heavy-handed approach sparked a backlash in one of the world's largest cities.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Clouds of disinfectant sprayed over every surface. This is what's happening, to the homes of people, who test positive, for COVID, in Shanghai.

The metropolis has been under the world's strictest lockdown, for more than a month. But the rules are only getting more extreme.

Before, only positive COVID cases and close contacts, were sent to quarantine facilities, like these, thousands of beds crammed together or just camping on the floor.

But now, entire apartment blocks, are being forced out of their homes, over just one positive COVID case, sent to prison like facilities, like these.

This video shows Shanghai residents, arguing with police officers, who showed up to take them to quarantine, after someone on their floor tested positive.

The officer says, while spraying disinfectant, quote, "It's not that you can do whatever you want, unless you are in America. This is China. Don't ask us why."

Residents, who've tested negative and are vaccinated and boosted, are terrified, of being rounded up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, our neighbors do not want to go. None of us want to go.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we don't want to get COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's safe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are putting us in danger.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are endangering us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is this (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your CDC does not know how to run a country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want us to (INAUDIBLE) die in China?

To get COVID and die because you think this is the right way to make us go with other sick people?

WANG (voice-over): CNN cannot verify the identity of the speakers or authenticity of this call that went viral, on Chinese social media.

Police have even kicked people's doors, to pieces, to take them away, to quarantine. Some buildings are banned, from placing any online orders, even food.

Chaos and fighting, outside of this Shanghai apartment. Residents claimed, they weren't given enough food. And some of the COVID workers, beating the residents, to the ground.

As outrage grows over new restrictions that crushed the last bit of freedom people had left, China's Supreme Leader Xi Jinping has vowed to double down on its zero COVID strategy and punish anyone who doubts it. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: When we talk about the zero COVID strategy, we don't think that it's sustainable.

WANG (voice-over): The World Health Organization Chief's comments were swiftly censored, in China, along with the desperation people have shared online.

In China, zero COVID has turned into an ideological campaign, to show loyalty, to the Communist Party. At least 31 cities, in China, are under full or partial lockdown, impacting up to 214 million people, turning cities into virtual prisons, all in the name of zero COVID-19 -- Selina Wang, CNN, China.


BRUNHUBER: A building fire in India's capital killed at least 27 people on Friday. Officials warn that number will rise after the discovery of more remains on Saturday morning.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): At least 12 people were injured, according to authorities, and dozens were rescued. Officials say the blaze started because of a fault in an electric cable. Two people have been arrested so far. Police are searching for the building's owner, who they say failed to clear fire prevention provisions.



BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Have a look at this extraordinary video. This is the Hassanabad Bridge in northern Pakistan. It collapsed last Saturday after a local glacier melted. This happened as Pakistan and India are both experiencing a heat wave that has reached record temperatures throughout the subcontinent.

(INAUDIBLE) Pakistani cities reported temperatures of 47 degrees Celsius. Pakistan's minister for climate change called the climate crisis a national security issue.


BRUNHUBER: Queen Elizabeth attended the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Friday. It was the 96-year-old monarch's first public appearance since March. She watched her horses compete in the private grounds of Windsor Castle.

The queen had missed the opening of Parliament earlier this week due to, quote, "mobility issues."

Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For our international viewers, "AFRICAN VOICES: CHANGEMAKERS" is next.

[03:25:00] BRUNHUBER: But if you're watching from here in the United States and Canada, I'll be back with more news after a short break. Please do stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States and Canada. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

We're learning more about Russia's disastrous attempts to cross a key river in Ukraine's Donbas region this week.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Analysis of footage like this shows that Russian forces may have lost as many as 70 armored vehicles and other equipment when Ukrainian forces took out pontoon bridges over the Donetsk River.

A senior U.S. Defense official says Russian forces haven't made as much ground as a result, though here is how the Pentagon press secretary sums up Ukraine's progress so far.



ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They have prevented the Russians from achieving virtually any of their strategic objectives thus far in the war.


BRUNHUBER: A Ukrainian official says fighting is raging around a belt of industrial towns in the Luhansk region. The latest Russian shelling has destroyed more than 50 houses. He also says 10 Russian attacks have been successfully repelled over the past day in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

A Russian court extended U.S. Olympian Brittney Griner's detention until at least June 18th.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): This court hearing in Moscow on Friday was the first time Griner has been seen publicly since her arrest back in February. She was able to speak to an American official on the sidelines, who said Griner is doing as well as can be expected under difficult circumstances.


BRUNHUBER: White House secretary Jen Psaki addressed the Griner case from the podium on Friday. Here she is.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner. We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they're subject to legal processes overseas.


BRUNHUBER: Because the State Department has classified Griner's case as wrongfully detained, it's being handled by the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

The Biden administration is on the defensive and scrambling to deal with the nationwide shortage of baby formula as increasingly desperate parents plead for answers.

On Friday, the president pushed back on criticism his administration was caught flat-footed on a crisis that has been building for weeks and struggling to answer the questions and fears of families across the country.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Could you have taken those steps sooner before parents got to these shelves and couldn't find formula?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we had been better mind readers I guess we could have but we moved as quickly as the problem became apparent to us.


BRUNHUBER: Some manufacturers are warning that the shortfall may continue for some time to come. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus talks to parents who are taking steps to feed their children.


COLLEEN HAFENCHER, MOTHER SEARCHING FOR FORMULA: Like I don't care if they say they'll have it in stock --

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's another full- time job --

HAFENCHER: -- I'm up with him at 2:00 in the morning and looking for formula.

BROADDUS (voice-over): -- searching 10 hours every week. HAFENCHER: I start with the Similac website and then after that, I go to Target. After that, I go to Mariano's, Jewel, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS.

BROADDUS: Colleen Hafencher is one of many parents on the hunt for baby formula across the nation.

HAFENCHER: This is really anxiety provoking and it's really worrisome. When I get to work in the morning, I look for formula. When we're finally sitting on the couch for an hour at night, we are looking for formula.

So I haven't found any in about three weeks.

BROADDUS: She has supply for three weeks, thanks to a friend and her aunt. But the shortage is affecting parents coast to coast, including those who can't and choose not to breastfeed and other children who need specialty formula.

ANGELA KONCZAK, MOTHER SEARCHING FOR FORMULA: I spy with my little my eye something brown.

BROADDUS: Angela Konczak's daughter depends on specialty formula and is tube fed.

KONCZAK: So her body can't break down animal fats and proteins and the Neocate Junior is amino acid-based and it's been the only formula that she has been able to tolerate and actually gained weight and thrives on. And the fact that it's not available anywhere is very scary.

BROADDUS: Nationwide, 43 percent of baby formula was out of stock for the weekend of May 8th. And in these eight states, that number and more than 50 percent, according to figures provided to CNN by Datasembly. The problem caused by several factors, including a recall, inflation and the supply chain snag.

The Biden administration says it's working 24/7 to help ease the shortage, including importing formula from overseas. The Defense Production Act could be an option, too.


BROADDUS: But the government doesn't know when it will get better.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I'm not going to stand here and tell your audience that I can give you a hard timeline that I can't give you. We are being candid about moving as quickly as possible and relentlessly focused on this.

BROADDUS: However, Republicans say the Biden administration should have acted sooner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is sadly Joe Biden's America.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): This is not a third world country. This should never happen in the United States of America.

BROADDUS: While politicians play the blame game, parents are the ones left worried.

KONCZAK: My daughter, actually, so with her disease, she was just on life support two weeks ago. She had gotten a cold and collapsed both of her lungs.

So we just got out of the hospital. And to have her go back to the hospital just for nutrition -- her grandmother, it was $349. Normally a case of four is $168, so finding it is a necessity, even if that means not paying my bills.

BROADDUS: Not paying your bills.

KONCZAK: Yes. It's what that means.

BROADDUS: And the CEO of one formula company tells Reuters he expects to see a shortage until the end of the year. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it's not OK for parents to add additional water to their formula and they should avoid making their own -- Adrienne Broaddus, CNN, Chicago.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up, if loose lips sink ships, then what do loose tweets do to a publicly traded company's shares while in the middle of a multibillion takeover?

Elon Musk learned that lesson on Friday.

And after the bombshell leak of a draft opinion, U.S. Justice John Roberts finds himself in the hot seat in the wake of that shocking breach of confidentiality. We'll have that story ahead. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: U.S. markets ended higher on Friday but it wasn't enough to erase days of heavy losses. The Dow closed up nearly 1.5 percent, the Nasdaq nearly 4 percent and the S&P nearly 2.5 percent.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk caused a stir when he said his $44 billion bid for Twitter was temporarily on hold. Twitter shares went down almost 10 percent.

Musk says the hold was to conduct due to due diligence about the actual number of users on the platform. He tried to clean up the comment, saying he was still committed to the deal.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the steps of the U.S. Capitol to kick off a weekend of nationwide abortion rights protests. The demonstrations are taking place amid the anger over a leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion.

If the court rules as the opinion indicates, it would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that enshrined the right to abortion. Pelosi warned that the leaked rulings could be used as a legal framework to undo other rights and protections. Here she is.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Once Republicans shed long- standing precedent and privacy rights, they intend to wage an all-out assault on more of our rights, including access to contraception and marriage equality.


BRUNHUBER: In the aftermath of that bombshell leak, the Supreme Court's chief justice John Roberts has two difficult challenges ahead of him. He needs to restore public faith in the high court and he needs to lead it in the wake of this unprecedented breach. Paula Reid has the story.


CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms. We do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Known for brokering compromises, Chief Justice John Roberts appears to be the only route, to a deal?


REID (voice-over): That preserves some nationwide right to abortion.

Sources tell CNN that Roberts did not vote, with fellow conservatives, who signed on to a draft opinion, reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. That and the draft's unprecedented leak suggest Roberts has lost control of the court, he's led, for nearly 17 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you plan to investigate the leak?

REID (voice-over): Roberts says the court is investigating the leak. And he's called the breach absolutely appalling and says he's worried one bad apple, had tainted people's perception, of the nation's highest court.

On Thursday, at a D.C. area law school, Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion, didn't address the draft. But a student asked, how the justices were getting along, in these challenging times.

Alito dodged, saying "This is a subject I told myself I wasn't going to talk about today regarding, you know - given all the circumstances. The court right now, we had our conference this morning. We're doing our work. We're taking new cases. We're heading toward the end of the term, which is always a frenetic time as we get our opinions out."

Now Roberts is on the defensive, a place he has rarely occupied, during his undaunted ascent to the court.

Growing up in Indiana and educated at Catholic institutions, he attended Harvard, for undergrad and law school. Roberts became a star appellate advocate.


REID (voice-over): And, in 2005, President George W. Bush, nominated him, to the Supreme Court.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that Democrats and Republicans alike will see the strong qualifications of this fine judge.

REID (voice-over): During his confirmation hearing, Roberts laid out his view, on the role of a judge.

ROBERTS: They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.

REID (voice-over): In his first decade, as Chief Justice, Roberts led the 5-to-4 conservative bloc, as it lifted campaign finance regulations, in the 2010 Citizens United case and rolled back voting rights protections.

His first major clash, with fellow conservatives, on the bench, came in 2012, when he cast the vote that saved former President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act.

Then, former President Trump transformed the court, with the appointment of justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like him and I respect him. But I think we have to use some commonsense.

REID (voice-over): Trump repeatedly disparaged the judiciary and undercut Roberts and his message of impartiality.

TRUMP: This was an Obama judge.

REID (voice-over): Prompting Roberts to issue an unusual rebuke, of a sitting president. "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges."

With a 6-to-3 conservative super-majority, Roberts will have an even tougher time, convincing colleagues.

REID (voice-over): Not to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, despite his warnings, during oral arguments, about ignoring long-standing precedents.

ROBERTS: If we look at it from today's perspective, it's going to be a long list of cases that we're going to say were wrongly decided.

REID: The court insists this draft is not the final decision. And base on his past patterns, Roberts could still be privately writing an alternative opinion and sharing it with some of the other justices to see if they could sign on.

The court is expected to issue orders and opinions Monday but it's highly unlikely they would release this abortion opinion. All eyes continue to be on justices for the next 1.5 months as they finish out their term for this big decision -- Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Hot, dry conditions are about to get even worse in the Western U.S. and that's bad news for the crews fighting dangerous wildfires. We'll get an update from CNN Weather Center after the break. Please stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Dozens of homes in Orange County, California, are still under evacuation orders as the Coastal fire continues to burn. County officials say the blaze destroyed at least 20 homes and damaged about a dozen others.

The state's prolonged drought is driving the brush fire. It burned roughly 200 acres in about three days and is only 25 percent contained.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Have a look here. This is some of the damage left behind by the many recent wildfires in New Mexico. Experts say at least 377,000 acres have been scorched in the state this year, which is more than any full year in the past decade. And it's unlikely to stop any time soon.

May, June and July are typically the most active months for wildfires in New Mexico.




BRUNHUBER: Well, that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more news. Please do stay with us.