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Pennsylvania GOP Senate Primary Too Close to Call; Russia Targeting New Howitzers U.S. Gave to Ukraine; Judge Signs Off on Plan to Get Abbott Plant Running Again. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Results at this hour still rolling in from the biggest primary night of the year thus far, we do, though, have some pretty significant insights into what is shaping up for this year's midterms.

This morning, we are keeping a close eye on Pennsylvania's state GOP primary where Trump-endorsed celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz is still locked in a basically neck and neck battle, as you see there, with retired hedge fund executive David McCormick.


MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: We are making a ferocious charge but when it's this close, what would you expect? Everything about this campaign has been tight.

DAVID MCCORMICK (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: We knew our message was resonating with the voters of Pennsylvania and they showed it today and we are so incredibly grateful.


HILL: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell breathing a sigh of relief this morning, actually pretending to wipe sweat off his brow when asked by CNN about his reaction to Pennsylvania, saying the GOP is, quote, ready to win in November.

SCIUTTO: Yes. He had serious reservations about Barnette.

In North Carolina, Congressman Madison Cawthorn, he's on his way out. The Trump favorite conceded late last night.

CNN National Correspondents Athena Jones and Dianne Gallagher are on the trail this morning. Let's begin though with Athena in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. So, here we are, Pennsylvania, tight race, mail-in ballots could determine things, but this time within the Republican Party, the Senate GOP primary there. What do we know happens next and over what period of time will we know the winner?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. We know that there are outstanding ballots and counties all across the state, but one of the key issues is right here in Lancaster County, where there were about 22,000 misprinted ballots. They were printed with the wrong code on the side, and so they couldn't be read by the scanning machines. This is something that was a problem that was discovered Tuesday morning, yesterday morning at 7:00 A.M. because under state law, that's when they can begin opening these ballots. And so they began correcting this issue yesterday.

Yesterday, they were able to rescan or remark and rescan about 7,000 votes. So, there's still about 15,000 to go. They're just getting under way here at the voting behind me. I just spoke with the elections chief here and a member of the Board of Commissioners who say that it could take until Friday to clear the rest of the ballots, it could be shorter. This problem, similar problem, happened a year ago and it took several days, but it was a longer ballot. These ballots are being remarked in teams of three. Someone reads it, someone marks it, someone is observing. And, of course, both parties and all the campaigns who want to can have observers in the room.

It's really important to them, they say, to be transparent. And that's why we're allowed in when we're able to get back inside.

Listen to what Christa Miller, the Lancaster County elections chief, had to say about this whole process.


CHRISTA MILLER, CHIEF REGISTRAR AND CHIEF CLERK OF ELECTIONS, LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: Every ballot that we have received will be counted. There will not be a ballot out there that is not counted that is supposed to be. It will take us a few extra days and we may have to remark it but we will take care of it. Everybody's ballot that we got will count.


JONES: And just so we're clear, they're doing this precinct by precinct, so there's no way to say how many of these ballots are Democratic ballots or Republican ballots. We'll just have to wait and see. Jim and Erica?

HILL: We'll have to wait and see, which is, as we know, increasingly difficult in these times where we expect immediate gratification.

Dianne, meantime, you are there in North Carolina, outside the headquarters of Chuck Edwards, who was able to oust Congressman Madison Cawthorn, Cawthorn conceding to him overnight. What more are you hearing from voters about why they chose Edwards over Madison Cawthorn? DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Erica, a lot of people have said this is essentially a mistake of Cawthorn's own making, that he was his own undoing in this race. And it's not just the multiple scandals, the run-ins with law enforcement, insulting members of his own party that turned them against him, it's also the fact that when the new maps were redrawn in North Carolina, he left this district for another one, and then when they were thrown out by the court, he came back. It was that point that State Senator Chuck Edwards jumped in to what he thought at the time was an open race.

And since that point, Madison Cawthorn, even though there were eight people in this race, it was almost a two-person race between he and Chuck Edwards on name, I.D. but also on both of them campaigning on similar political platforms.


Chuck Edwards essentially saying, I am just as conservative, just not as MAGA -- excuse me, just not as embarrassing. Chuck Edwards saying that he supports Trump but Madison Cawthorn was the one to that got that Trump endorsement as well as sort of a get out the vote push from Trump on his truth social platform the night before the election, but that didn't seem to help him the same way it did candidates like Bo Hines in the 13th or U.S. Senator Ted Budd.

Cawthorn called Edwards to concede in the late 10:00 hour last night, but also stuck up for President Trump when he spoke to supporters.


CHUCK EDWARDS (R), WINNER OF NORTH CAROLINA GOP HOUSE PRIMARY: He presented himself in a very classy and humble way and offered his support to our campaign in absolutely any way we could use him.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): You know what? The thing that I love about President Trump is when you get your back pushed up against the wall, or I found that most people in politics, if it's not politically expedient to them, they'll turn your back in a heartbeat. But no matter what you are facing, when Donald Trump has your back, he has your back to the end.


GALLAGHER: Now, Cawthorn did not get one of those emails that Trump had been sending around endorsing many of the candidates here in the state of North Carolina and across the country, but he was endorsed back in March of 2021 by the former president.

Also at play here is all the money that people put into this, including a super PAC tied to U.S. Senator Thom Tillis in attack ads against Cawthorn over the past few months here.

SCIUTTO: Dianne Gallagher, Athena Jones, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss what to take away from all of this, what it means for the fall, CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis and Political Anchor for New York News 1 and CNN Political Director David Chalian.

David, I mean, look at that race, Madison Cawthorn, 1,300 votes to determine the outcome, about 60,000 voters, voters from one party, small percentage. We like to make national conclusions from individual races, but politics has a million factors that go into it, right? And I think there's a tendency to say, well, this is all about Trump's endorsement, they're all about scandal, et cetera. Help people at home right now look at this slate of races and see what the big takeaways are for you.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think the big takeaway in the results last night is that in the Republican primaries, Jim, you didn't see a Republican candidate out there running who was in contention either winning their race or tied or coming into close second who was running as sort after a Mitt Romney Republican. That didn't exist, right?

So, you could spend time on whether Trump has backed a candidate or not and no doubt Trump will spend time on that and use his own scorecard as a calling card to Republican elected officials and grassroots alike. But I think the larger thing looking across the landscape is just how alive Trumpism is in the Republican Party that this is a party very much in the former president's image.

HILL: What sticks out to me too, just sort of picking up on what Dianne was saying there, about the money that was poured in in North Carolina, Errol, is the money that was poured in from outside, right? And as we look at more and more in these races, I was talking about this yesterday with some folks, that there is this increasing, right -- we want to draw national headlines, which is hard to do from a primary, and yet, it is this sort of national flow of money that's going into a lot of these races, Errol.

And I wonder as we look at that, are some of the issues being lost here and what's the real impact?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, sure. A lot of the issues are lost. In fact, I mean, look, Madison Cawthorn, one way to look at it from a distance from the outside, is that this is somebody who was beaten by a successful businessman who was more than twice his age, right? Madison Cawthorn made a lot of rookie mistakes. He was acting like a very young man, being very young and foolish in a lot of ways and to a certain extent, the story doesn't go much further than that. But outside, money is there because they know that we're going to be talking about it. And they want to try and create some sense that there's momentum gathering in one direction or another.

The problem with that analysis, of course, Erica, is that just as David suggested, this is the party of Trump, period. I mean, the national party has said formally and officially that they have no policy positions other than what Donald Trump tells them will be their positions. And so if you want to get somewhere in politics and running on the Republican line, you have to try and align yourself with Donald Trump because there are no other positions to cling to that have any real stability. SCIUTTO: Yes. It is interesting sometimes. You flood a lot of money, it doesn't make a difference. I mean, think of all the money against Susan Collins in the last Senate cycle. She still won. Or Beto O'Rourke's money in Texas, and he still lost there.

David Chalian, okay, so we have the Donald Trump effect here. I mean, you look at someone like Doug Mastriano, Trump wanted state officials who would be willing to do his bidding, possibly in overturning the election. That's all he needed in 2020. And folks like Brad Raffensperger stood up to him.

Mastriano was a2020 election denier. If he does win -- by the way, we're a million miles from there, but if he were to become governor, he would have the power, would he not, to just flip the state?


CHALIAN: Well, he would certainly have the power to appoint the secretary of state. One would imagine the secretary of state would be someone that he would appoint someone to that job that he's aligned with in these baseless claims about the election.

The thing about Doug Mastriano, I think, that is going to be really interesting to watch, obviously, the Republican establishment is quite worried. They think that this state became a little further out of reach in the governor's office there. If you looked at the Republican Governor's Association statement last night, they didn't actually even fully endorsed Mastriano or at least say they did not say they're going to get in there and support him for now. That's my point.

I mean, we know what the political climate looks like, the economy, inflation, Joe Biden's low standing. This is a year that is going to be advantageous for Republicans. So, how does Doug Mastriano take advantage of that? Do we see him talking about the economy or is he only going to run now through November on repeating lies about the 2020 election? I think that's something that will determine, perhaps, his fate in November.

SCIUTTO: Or perhaps both, right? He could run on both.

HILL: David Chalian, Errol Louis, great to see you both this morning. Thank you for both this morning.

Still to come here, Russian tanks abandoned and shelled. CNN crews get a firsthand look at what was left behind in a major defeat to a Russian battle group.

Plus, Congress now demanding answers, even mulling consequences as the baby formula shortage drags on. We're going to speak with the congresswoman leading next week's congressional hearing.

SCIUTTO: And later this hour, the Justice Department has uncovered a tunnel straight from Tijuana, Mexico, to a warehouse outside of San Diego. More evidence of the challenge officials face at the border. We have a CNN exclusive with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SCIUTTO: This morning, the Russian military is claiming that it targeted and hit a battery of U.S.-made supply of howitzers near Ukraine's border with Poland. That's way on the western side of the country.

HILL: Very far to the west. Important to note too, that news comes as Russia is also seeing setbacks on the battlefield. Yesterday, a CNN team found the charred remains of Russian armored vehicles after what's believed to be one of the biggest single defeats of this war for the Russian military.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley was there.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The first signs of a Russian disaster, a Z-marked Russian tank being salvaged by Ukrainian troops. A few days ago, this was the scene on the edge of these woods, Russian pontoon bridges under ferocious Ukrainian artillery attack.

The Ukrainian commander with us casts an eye to the sky looking for Russian drones. This is no place for complacency.

Ukraine and NATO have claimed that Russia suffered badly here. They estimate 70 to 80 vehicles destroyed and a whole Russian battle group of a thousand men mauled.

So, we're at the edge now of the area where the Russian armor was caught after it had crossed the pontoon river. You can see down here there's a destroyed tank next to it, an armored personnel carrier. And if you look down the road here, we've got another armored personnel carrier and another and another.

The Ukrainians were able, they say, due to their superior reconnaissance and intelligence to work out where the Russians were going to cross and then bring in devastating levels of artillery. And this is the result. This is only the edge of it.

Russia has now shifted its attacks elsewhere, at least for now.

When you see this, how do you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Super, great. I understand our artillery is working and our troops are working too because there was both artillery and ground fire. The units in cooperation with other troops were pushing the enemy across the river on foot.

KILEY: Shattered Russian armor is scattered along this path through the woodland. On the ground, we can't move forward. The track is mined. A real disaster for the Russians, but something that the Ukrainians now are saying here that means that the pressure is off this particular front for now, and that they believe that the Russians are focusing more of their efforts elsewhere.

Ukrainian soldiers pick over the debris of this victory but the chilling truth is that many of the comrades have ended up like this. And while this is a success in the grinding war for Ukraine, Russia remains an immediate threat.

And they asked us to get out of here with their military commander because they're worried that our cars are going to attract attention and, therefore, attracting coming. This is still clearly an extremely active area.

And one, as it was for the Russians, that a considerable relief to leave.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Bilohorivka.


SCIUTTO: Shocking view of the battlefield there. Sam Kiley, thanks so much.

With me now to discuss, Jennifer Cafarella, she's chief of staff and inaugural national security fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, that's been following this conflict very closely. Jennifer, good to have you back.


SCIUTTO: So, you see there, you see the enormous losses of the Russian military in what was a key front in their attack. They're trying to cross the river to get across and try to surround Ukrainian forces in the east. They already had to retrieve from Kyiv. Now they're retreating from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, and now they are at least stalling in the east.

And I wonder, when you look at the whole picture, does that show you the Russian military is losing in Ukraine?


CAFARELLA: I do think the Russian military is losing and I think you've framed it right. There were four initial axis of advance of which Kyiv, the capital, was initially the main effort. The fact that the main effort failed is significant. And now what we're seeing in Eastern Ukraine is the Russians attempting to set a new main effort to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Donbas and take the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. And even that now main effort, their second attempt, is stalling and they're revising down their objectives once again.

SCIUTTO: So, Ukrainians in the midst of this have been on the advance in some areas, right? I mean, they push back and removed Russian forces from around Kyiv, same around Kharkiv, and they're attempting counteroffensives further in the east here to gain back some of that territory rather than what had been the conventional wisdom is just cede that to Russia and that will be enough. I mean, do Ukrainian forces have the ability not just to hold off Russian advances but to take back territory that had already been gained?

CAFARELLA: We're starting to see the Ukrainians develop operational momentum, which means it is possible they're going to be able to take the fight back into areas that the Russians have seized and are attempting to annex.

Now, nothing is certain in this war and Ukraine still needs a lot of western support in order to be able to sustain what is a very grinding battle of attrition, but we're continuing to see the Russians take very high losses to suffer morale problems and to struggle to actually cohere a capable offensive. And that does bode well for Ukraine's ability to push into occupied areas.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So, with that military side in mind, there is still this talk about some sort of face-saving move for Putin to allow him to withdraw, to retreat from Ukraine completely, to, listen Ukrainians, just grant him a little bit more of the east and forget about Crimea and we can reach some sort of agreement here.

But given that Putin does not abide by agreements, he hasn't, going back to Bucharest from the '90s, that guaranteed Ukraine's sovereignty to the Minsk Accords, et cetera, and, by the way, makes up his own reality at home, he'll claim victory no matter what happens, right, I mean, is talk of a face-saving move a waste of time?

CAFARELLA: Look, I do think it is counterproductive. And the reality here is that Putin will stop when he is stopped. Ukraine is fighting that fight. All that it has asked for is western support. And I think it is crucial that the west not lose resolve to enable Ukraine in its defense of its territorial integrity and its sovereignty.

And I think the other reality here is that we are only beginning to learn of the war crimes and the atrocities that are happening in occupied areas of Ukraine and that itself argues against any kind of concession to Putin.

SCIUTTO: Final question here. We see what appears to be the end to this final stand in the Azovstal steel plant, which was the final stand for the city of Mariupol, with the possibility that many hundreds of Ukrainian forces will end up in Russian hands here. We know Russia's track record, right, in terms of war crimes, attacks on civilians and prisoners of war, et cetera. Was this a failure by the west to let this happen, to not make some sort of attempt, granted, risky to rescue those people rather than leave them to the fate that these soldiers were showing here on screen likely face?

CAFARELLA: Look, I think at the time that the encirclement in the siege of that facility was secured by the Russians, it's very difficult to intervene, especially if the Russians don't intend to negotiate, which we know that they don't. But I do think the west could have done more to enable the Ukrainians to fight for Mariupol.

And it is essential, again, that the west continue to support Ukraine and that we acknowledge that the one axis of advance that the Russians did succeed on is that southern axis of advance out of Crimea as commanded by the Russian military commander who previously led military operations in Syria and it's one of the more cohesive and effective Russian lines of advance and that's where the Ukrainians are going to need help in pushing back.

SCIUTTO: And it's important to recognize that because, yes, a lot of Ukrainian wins, Russian losses, but also that can be characterized as a Russian win there. Jennifer Cafarella, thanks so much for joining us again.


HILL: Still ahead, two children hospitalized as a result of the ongoing baby formula shortage. Congress is now demanding answers. We'll speak with the lawmaker leading those hearings, next.



HILL: A federal judge signed off on a consent decree to offset the nationwide baby formula shortage, laying out a path for Abbott to being reopen its Michigan plant and start manufacturing formula again in the coming weeks, and this, of course, after a recall forced the company to stop production.

Executives from Abbott and two other major formula manufacturers are now set to appear before Congress next week along with the FDA commissioner who will also be facing questions.

Joining me to discuss, Congressman Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado. She chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committees, Oversight and Investigations panel. It's good to have you with us this morning.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO): Good morning.

HILL: Good morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also suggested an indictment may be necessary after all is said and done.


Could criminal charges be on the table here?

DEGETTE: Well, we need to investigate what really happened here.