Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

CNN Reports From Frontline Of Ukrainian Counteroffensive; NATO Official: War At Standstill, But Momentum Favors Ukraine; U.S. Retailers Target And Walmart Post Losses Amid Inflation; Pennsylvania Republican Senate Race Still Too Close To Call. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Ahead this hour, standstill, Russia's Eastern defense appears to have stalled in Ukraine with NATO saying Ukrainian forces may soon have the upper hand and could try and take back all territory occupied by Russia.

The plummet continues, stock markets in Asia sharply lower following a big fall on Wall Street, all triggered by dismal earnings reports by big retailers and fears of record high inflation.

And still too early to call in the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary, but not too early for Donald Trump to urge the candidate he endorsed to declare victory.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Vladimir Putin's three-day war is now today 85 and appears to be going nowhere with one NATO official saying momentum is shifting in favor of Ukraine with Ukrainian troops now on the offensive at the east.

A raw NATO says the war is at a standstill for now, neither side expected to make major gains in the coming weeks.

One area of progress though for Ukraine is a counter offensive in the Kharkiv region. Ukraine's military says another settlement has been retaken and Russian forces continue to be pushed back.

Just eight miles from the Russian border in the Kharkiv region, this video we're about to see shows a Russian tank on fire and then it was hit by Ukrainian fighters.

Further south in the Luhansk region, Ukraine has destroyed a number of bridges to slower Russian advance.

Meantime, Russia says nearly a thousand fighters have surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Most of them now held in Russian controlled territory in Donetsk, Ukraine has been negotiating in the hopes of a prisoner exchange with the Russians.

The Ukrainian counter-offensive around the northern city of Kharkiv has driven Russian troops back to within 10 miles or 16 kilometers of their border.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is on the frontlines.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Every inch of respite from Russian shelling here comes at grotesque cost. What once rained down on the second city of Kharkiv now lands here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep the distance, OK?

WALSH: Ukraine declared here (INAUDIBLE) liberated over two weeks ago, but it's never simple.

These tiny villages, which before the war were places you wouldn't notice driving through have now become the key battlegrounds to defend vital cities like Kharkiv.

While the fight to protect Kharkiv still rages with every step fast and cautious because of mines, Russia's border is now just nine miles away.

Did you ever think you would be this close to the Russia in nearly three months?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be honest, no. Quiet doesn't happen here. but that's good for the mood.

WALSH: But Russian troops are even closer.

It's in the forest across the field over this wall that they say frequently at nights Russian reconnaissance groups try and move in on the village.

The next tiny hamlet is being fought over. And this is where Kharkiv's defense cannot fail.

The U.S.'s most effective gifts in some of Ukraine's youngest hands.


WALSH: Anton (PH) says he did not expect to be at war age 19. Have you been scared, I asked.

ANTON: Yes, but not a lot.

WALSH: Shelling here is a constant, even though everywhere seems to already have been hit. This is a homegrown defense. Volunteers, software engineers, economists, funded mostly by our guide, a farming millionaire.

Russia's brief occupation never planned to leave anything of value here. (INAUDIBLE) on a van full of T.V.s for looting.

VSEVOLOD KOZHEMYAKO, UKRAINIAN BUSINESSMAN: They see that we live better and they do not even think that something is wrong with them. Not with us, you know? They are saying that because America gives us everything for free. And they hate us for that. And they rob us and they kill us.

WALSH: Men and women who have in three months learned courage only comes after knowing fear up close.

IVAN, UKRAINIAN MILITARY MEDIC: The muscular moment was on the view of the day of the war. I was at the medical center at one of the posts in Kyiv and now (INAUDIBLE) and he told us that Russian special forces are going to come and try to attack us from behind.

We were not trained to do this. We were not armed to do this. That was basically the most scary moment for me.

WALSH: But you survived?

IVAN: Yes, we survived. Everybody made OK, I made it OK. And I think that is that moment that killed fear in me.

WALSH: Here they hold back an enemy that slowly proving as inept as it is immoral by placing incredible value on the smallest patches of their land. Nick Payton Walsh, CNN, Ruska Lozova, Ukraine.


VAUSE: CNN military analyst Dana Pittard is a retired U.S. Army two- star general and co-author of Hunting the Caliphate. He joins us this hour from Indianapolis. General, thank you for being with us.

MAJ. GEN. DANA PITTARD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Hello, John. Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: You bet. Now, the assessment from NATO for the next few weeks, at least is that this war in Ukraine is going nowhere. But in the bigger picture, CNN is reporting the current NATO discussion is that the momentum has shifted significantly in favor of Ukraine. The debate within NATO circles is now over on whether it is possible for Kyiv to retake Crimea and the Donbas territories.

So well, Ukraine has every right to try and regain its entire territorial sovereignty, is that necessarily the smartest decision at this point? Could they risk losing all that they've won so far?

PITTARD: Well, in war momentum often ebbs and flows and shifts. And at this point, Ukraine has momentum. And so, oftentimes in war, it's best to continue with that momentum, that offensive momentum as much as you can.

But Ukraine must be careful, they must be careful with offensive overreach, which could -- which could result in at least a near term offensive combination. They have rocked and pushed the Russians on their heels. But the Russians are consolidated in places like Crimea and in eastern Ukraine. So, Ukraine must be careful on that.

So, if I were to recommend anything from Ukraine at this point, it would be to consolidate what they have, gain strength, gain offensive weaponry, such as the MiG-29 jets, and or more tanks to help them to continue the next phase.

But if Ukraine is not careful, they will have an overreach and end up being offensively culminated because they are not ready to be able to take the Crimea and other territory that the Russians took in 2014.

VAUSE: So, Russians watching state T.V. on Monday may have been surprised to learn the war in Ukraine is not going so well, that Frank assessment came from a now retired but once very senior Russian military official, here it is.


COL. MIKHAIL KHODARYONOK (RET.), RUSSIAN DEFENSE COLUMNIST (through translator): I must say, let's not drink information tranquilizers. Because sometimes information is spread about hearing some moral or psychological breakdown of Ukraine's armed forces, as if they are nearing a crisis of morale or a fracture. None of this is close to reality.


VAUSE: This goes in part to what NATO's assessment about the momentum and high morale on the Ukrainian side. But again, what are the risks here in reaching for the gold ring of total victory? Is it overconfidence by Ukraine, being overly confident by those early successes, which does not guarantee ongoing success?


PITTARD: No, in fact, early successes can be certainly very helpful. But Ukraine and Russia must be prepared for a long conflict. This is just the early stages of this conflict, in my opinion.

So, what the Ukrainians must do, as I mentioned, is to gain offensive strength, offensive weaponry, and really plan to take back the territory that they have lost in this conflict in 2022, and then look to regain the territory they lost in 2014. But that will take a long effort, a long hard effort.

VAUSE: We're at the point where NATO and the U.S. maybe needs to have a conversation with Kyiv, with President Zelenskyy. Maybe suggest that it's a, you know, a pragmatic conversation, that it may be time to trim those war aims that, again, lock in those wins, instead of taking this bigger gambit in trying to, you know, push Russia out of all of Ukraine.

Because regardless if Putin is pushed out or whether he stays, I mean, he will continue to fight on. PITTARD: That's true, but the Ukrainians have the will to fight. They want to regain their territory. That's like someone -- some outside country telling the United States, it's OK that you've lost the eastern United States, just be satisfied with what you have.

I don't think the Ukrainians will ever be satisfied that the Russians have taken their territory. So, they will be -- they will want to move to gain back that territory there, either militarily or diplomatically. But they'll want to get back to that territory.

VAUSE: Dana Pittard retired U.S. Army two-star general, sir, thank you for being with us.

PITTARD: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Now that both Finland and Sweden have formally applied for NATO membership, the leaders of both countries will travel to Washington Thursday to meet with the U.S. president.

The White House says this is a watershed moment in European security. Turkey though is the lone NATO voice opposed to their membership. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses both countries of harboring Kurdish separatists, the Ankara, considered terrorists.

President Biden though remains optimistic that those objections by Turkey can be resolved.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Both the leader of Finland and Sweden are coming to see me on Thursday. I think we're going to be OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can convince Turkey to accept their bid?

BIDEN: I think -- I am not going to Turkey, but I think we're going to be OK.


VAUSE: A dismal day for Wall Street Wednesday as the rollercoaster ride on the U.S. stock markets continued. The Dow tumbled more than 1,100 points, its worst trading day since June 2020. The S&P was down four percent, putting it on the precipice of bear market territory, and the NASDAQ lost almost 4.8 percent.

Markets in Asia also trending downwards this Thursday, with worries over rising global inflation. China's zero COVID policy, the Ukraine conflict, global economic slowdown, all those numbers, they are all in the red. The Nikkei in Tokyo close to two percent down, Seoul just over 1-1/4 percent -- almost 1-1/4 percent. Everyone in the red.

CNN's Economics and Political commentator Catherine Rampell joins us this hour now from New York. Welcome back. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, so the results for corporate earnings are coming in and the numbers are not looking good. Here's how CNN's Matt Egan has been reporting the news.


MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: The big concern here is that high inflation isn't just bad for consumers. It's starting to eat into corporate profits that perhaps very fat profit margins may have peaked here and that is starting to unnerve investors.


VAUSE: This is what he's talking about, retail target reported profits down by more than 50 percent for the first quarter, badly missing forecasts and blaming high costs caused by supply chain problems, as well as consumers holding back on buying non essentials because of inflation.

Just a day earlier, Walmart missed expectations in terms of revenue, which saw the stock price fall more than 11 percent Tuesday, its worst day in more than 30 years. And then, full again, seven percent Wednesday.

It does seem however that this day of reckoning for the corporate profits -- mega corporate profits has been, you know, long in the making.

So, how much of the volatility now has been driven by a lack of confidence that the Federal Reserve cannot battle inflation without sparking recession?

RAMPELL: Well, businesses right now are dealing with multiple risks of which the Fed is involved and is trying to control but will have its work cut out for it.

One, of course, is the fact that prices are very high, their costs are very high, shipping, all other kinds of fulfillment in logistics costs are quite high, labor costs are high. So, it's -- that's eating into these companies' profits.

And then, the other major risk is that consumption may slow down, consumers may eventually decide, hey, I don't really want to buy as much stuff right now because prices have gone up because interest rates have gone up as well. And so, it's more expensive to borrow, it's more expensive to load up your credit card if you're not paying it off every month, etcetera.


VAUSE: An e-mail to CNN, the head of global oil and commodities research at JP Morgan had this outlook for gasoline prices: "There is a real risk the price could reach $6.00 plus a gallon by August", but California is already there with AAA reporting the statewide average just over $6.00, $6.05 for regular. Look at those prices, that's incredible. And that's a 19 percent increase in a week.

OK, so right now, the national average is around $4.60. But what happens when that national average hits $6.00 in August?

RAMPELL: Well, again, going to weigh on consumer spending. Because with a lot of other kinds of goods, when prices go up, consumers might be able to cut back, right? If the cost of going out to a restaurant gets more expensive, maybe you can substitute a way to more food at home.

But your commute is your commute, you know, your kids trip to school, if you're -- if you're driving your child rather than having them on the bus, for example, that is a fixed cost that you can't really cut back on.

So, what's going to happen, it's going to eat into consumers budgets, they're going to have to spend more on gas and less on everything else that they buy if they can. Cut back on all sorts of discretionary spending. And that goes back to what we're seeing with these retailers, right?

That as long as consumers are really feeling the pain of higher energy prices, higher gas prices, that's going to make them much more reluctant to spend on discretionary items like clothing and toys and sports equipment and all the things that they've been gobbling up for the last two years.

VAUSE: OK, so the White House like any White House has limited options here in trying to bring down inflation but is not helpless.

And on Wednesday, the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was talking tariffs, "Some of the tariffs that were imposed by President Trump in retaliation for China's unfair trade practices. Some of them to me, she says, seem as though they imposed more harm on consumers and businesses".

So, what would be the effect of lifting all of those Trump era tariffs right now?

RAMPELL: It would have a modest one time effect on prices. So, it's not going to, you know, bring down price growth month after month. But remember, all of -- a lot of goods that we're buying from China have like a 25 percent tariff. So, if you just repeal that, you would have this one time cut in the cost of the things from China.

Now, some of that might be captured by the producers. Some of it might be captured by businesses, some of it by consumers. So, I'm not saying you're going to actually see a one for one 25 percent decrease, but you would see some drop in prices.

And we're not just tariffing things from China. We're also placing tariffs on washing machines, on solar panels, on steel and aluminum. Those are all of these tariffs that Trump put in place. That recall, Democrats gave him help for essentially, when Trump put them in place, and then for some reason, Biden has kept most of them around despite the fact that inflation price increases, in my view represent the number one economic and political risk to Democrats control of the economic agenda.

VAUSE: Thank you. Good to see.

RAMPELL: Good to see you.

VAUSE: Well, in Pennsylvania's biggest primary race that Trump endorsed candidate leads by just a handful of votes. While official results could still be days away. The former U.S. president is urging his candidate TV's Dr. Oz to declare victory anyway, details on that when we come back.



VAUSE: It's still too close to call in the race for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, and could be days before a winner is actually known. T.V. Dr. Mehmet Oz has a razor thin lead, some 1,200 votes over former hedge fund executive David McCormick, but former U.S. President Donald Trump who endorsed Dr. Oz is urging him not to wait for those official results, just go ahead and declare victory anyway.

CNN's Athena Jones has details.


DAVID MCCORMICK (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE FOR PENNSYLVANIA: We can see the path ahead, we can see victory ahead and it's all because of you. So, thank you, Pennsylvania.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A fight to the finish in the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, with thousands of votes still left to be counted.

DR. MEHMET OZ (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE FOR PENNSYLVANIA: When it's this close, what else would you expect? Everything about this campaign has been tight.

JONES: The deadlock between former hedge fund executive David McCormick and celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz could trigger an automatic recount.

RAY D'AGOSTINO, CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, LANCASTER COUNTY: We want to make sure we have integrity, veracity and transparency. So, in order to have that in a process like this, we have teams of three people each.

JONES: Ballots remained to be counted across the state and in Lancaster County, about 22,000 mail-in ballots were misprinted with an incorrect barcode and are now being remarked by hand in order to be scanned. There would be an automatic recount if the margin is half a percent or less once the counting is complete.

LEIGH CHAPMAN, PENNSYLVANIA ACTING SECRETARY OF STATE: By next Tuesday, we'll have a good sense as far as whether or not there will be an automatic recount.

JONES: The now two way fight for the Republican nomination will see a nasty primary battle extended. But without Kathy Barnette, the conservative commentator who saw a late surge in the race, but fell short of her rivals in Tuesday's results.

KATHY BARNETTE (R-PA), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm so grateful. So, do not be discouraged. Because we have a country to save.

JONES: All three candidates align themselves with Donald Trump, but it was Oz who scored the coveted endorsement from the former president.

OZ: Do we love President Trump in Pennsylvania?

JONES: Even while votes were still being counted.

OZ: When all the votes are tallied, I am confident we will win.

JONES: Trump today encouraging Oz to declare victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to miss (INAUDIBLE), let's be honest here.

JONES: The eventual winner will face current Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who cruised to victory from a hospital bed after suffering a stroke late last week and having a defibrillator implanted on Election Day.

GISELE FETTERMAN, WIFE OF JOHN FETTERMAN: Now, you may have noticed I am not John Fetterman, the next senator of our great state.


JONES (on camera): The ballot counting here in Lancaster is over for now. And we'll pick back up at 9:00 a.m. Thursday. Right around 4,000 ballots still remain to be counted and officials expect to finish that count at some point Thursday.

Athena Jones, CNN, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, a funny thing happened on Russian state T.V. this week, a former senior Russian military official turned defense analysts had a brutal assessment of the war in Ukraine and a stark warning of much worse to come.


VAUSE: The first Russian soldier to stand trial for war crimes in Ukraine has pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a 62-year-old civilian. 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin, a tank commander appeared in a district court in Kyiv Wednesday. Prosecutors say the unarmed man was murdered to prevent him from telling Ukrainian forces about the location of Shishimarin's unit, who at the time were trying to escape a Ukrainian attack. In the coming hours, the court will hear from the widow of the victim

as well as the Russian soldier himself, who faces a maximum of life in prison.

So far, Ukraine has recorded more than 12,000 possible war crimes --

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: -- court will hear from the widow of the victim, as well as the Russian soldier himself, who faces a maximum of life in prison.


So far, Ukraine has recorded more than 12,000 possible war crimes committed by Russian troops.

Well, to the surprise of absolutely no one, a retired Russian colonel who made some statements on state television about the war not going so well for Moscow is now backtracking on those comments.

He returned to state TV Wednesday to say that any talk about Ukraine being able to counterattack is just a big exaggeration. He also said Russia still has air and naval supremacy.

But as CNN's Matthew Chance reports, that's a different story from two days ago, when the colonel deflated Russia's information bubble.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defenders of Ukraine turned prisoners of war, the latest images released by the Russian military of Ukrainian forces surrendering after their defiant stand, some limping with wounds or exhaustion, as one of this conflict's most grueling battles at the Azovstal Steel works in Mariupol finally draws to a close.

"Nearly 1000 Ukrainians have surrendered so far," Russia's defense ministry spokesman announces triumphantly, before detailing Russia's latest rocket attacks on what he says are U.S.-supplied weapons on the battlefield.

As ever, no hint of any problems or setbacks in what Russia still refuses to even call a war.

Shocking, then, that Kremlin-controlled television would allow Russia's special military operation to be ripped apart on air by a respected military commentator and former Russian colonel. He pulls no punches.

"Let's not take information tranquilizers," the retired colonel advises, "and pretend Ukraine's armed forces are nearing a crisis of morale, because that's not even close to reality," he says.

The pro-Kremlin anchor pushes back, saying there have been individual cases that show otherwise.

But the colonel is insistent. "With European military aid now coming into full effect," he says, "a million Ukrainian soldiers could soon join the fight, while frankly, the situation for Russia," he says, "will get worse." It is scathing.

But he went on: "We are geopolitically isolated. The whole world is against us, even if we don't want to admit it," he says, telling millions of Russians who get their news from this state channel what many of them, given the international sanctions on Russia, must already suspect.

Recent days have seen the official veil of denial slip, too, like when the pro-Kremlin Chechen leader, whose forces have been fighting in Ukraine, tried to tell Russian students what's really going on there.

"We are fighting Ukrainian nationalists backed by NATO, and the West is arming them," he says. "That's why our country is finding it so difficult there," he reveals, "though it's a good experience," he says.

Not the experience, though, Vladimir Putin, who presided over a slightly muted annual Victory Day parade earlier this month, is likely to have expected when he sent his troops across the border. Russia hasn't lost its latest war, but expectations of a quick and easy win are being rolled back.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Well, the U.S. embassy has now reopened in the Ukrainian capital after closing three months ago ahead of the Russian invasion. This was a symbolic moment and a sign of confidence in Ukraine's continued military success.

The announcement came from the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, insisting the U.S. will continue to support and stand with the Ukrainian government and the people as they defend their country.

Still to come here on CNN, new evidence suggests a China Eastern flight was deliberately crashed back in March. We'll have the very latest on the investigation in just a moment.



VAUSE: There's new reporting about a China Eastern flight which crossed back in March after losing contact with air traffic control. According to "The Wall Street Journal," data from the black box suggests China's worst aviation accident in a decade may have been no accident.

CNN's Pete Muntean has our report.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the deadly final moments of China Eastern Flight 5735. Now, new details suggest this vertical dive was done on purpose.

"The Wall Street Journal" says an early review of data recovered from the crash site "suggests inputs to the controls pushed the plane into the fatal dive."

"The Journal" cites those familiar with the American assessment of the flight's data recorder, sent by the Chinese to Washington for analysis.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz says the new details only confirm his suspicions.

Initial flight tracking data showed the Boeing 737-800 leveling off at its cruising altitude of 29,000 feet, then starting a dive at extreme speed. Less than two minutes later, all 132 people on board were killed.

GOELZ: You've really got to make it do that. Ordinarily, the plane's nose wants to come up. It doesn't want to dive into the ground. And it takes a lot of energy and a lot of concentration to keep a plane in that kind of suicidal dive.

MARK WEISS, DREAM AERO: This is what they would've heard in the cockpit.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The Boeing 737-800 is replicated at the Dream Aero flight simulator at the Montgomery Mall in Maryland. Retired Captain Mark Weiss says it's notable that since the crash, there have been no major safety directives or groundings issued for the Boeing 737-800.


WEISS: Airplanes don't fall out of the sky. I mean, wings are made to generate lift. That airplane, even if it had lost both of its engines, would have glided. It would not have come down in the trajectory that apparently it had.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): One source told the "Wall Street Journal" the China Eastern "plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit."

The question now, whether that person was a passenger or one of the pilots.

China is still investigating.

GOELZ: I believe that unless some dramatic piece of new evidence appears, this was an intentional act. MUNTEAN: China Eastern airline, insists its pilots were in good health

before the crash and that there was no family or financial drama for them at home.

Of course, there's the international element to all of this. The Chinese are leading this investigation, and the black boxes are only a part of it.

The civil aviation authority of China says its process is rigorous and scientific. And it's cooperating with all parties involved, including those here in the U.S.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport.


VAUSE: I'm John Vause at the CNN Center. Coming up next for our viewers in North America, what was the suspect in the racist shooting in Buffalo doing shortly before the attack? New details on that, in just a moment.

And for our CNN International audience, WORLD SPORT starts after the break.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

An investigation will soon be under way into social media sites used by the suspect in Saturday's racially-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo.

The attorney general for New York state says that includes the communications at Discord. It's believed the alleged gunman revealed his plan in a private chat room on that site just 30 minutes before the killing spree.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz spoke with one survivor about the terrifying moments inside that supermarket when the shooting started.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Did you think you were going to die when you were in the break room and you're hearing all these gunshots?


PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Jerome Bridges, an employee at the Tops market, was inside the store when the suspected gunman opened fire, and ran for the break room.

BRIDGES: I thought to myself, he might come busting through the door, so there's an old oak table back there that I put up to the door with one arm and barricaded the door.

PROKUPECZ: You grabbed customers?

BRIDGES: Actually, I told them -- I told the customers to get inside, some customers to get inside the break room.

I had to tell them to be quiet and just lay down on the ground, because he was getting closer and closer to the back, to the point where he was actually shooting at the displays.

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): According to posts on social media, the 18- year-old suspected gunman publicly revealed his attack plans on the communication app Discord shortly before the shooting on Saturday.

In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Discord says his online chat logs were visible to some people about 30 minutes before the shooting began, saying, quote, "What we know at this time is that a private invite-only server was created by the suspect to serve as a personal diary chat log."

CNN analyzed the posts shared on Discord and other social media sites, revealing troubling warning signs from the alleged shooter. They show the suspect made three visits to the supermarket in Buffalo in March, doing reconnaissance and writing about the activity inside the store, including how many black and white people were inside.

PROKUPECZ: Do you remember seeing him in March?

BRIDGES: Yes. He had on those same exact clothes: them ugly green pants and them ugly -- that ugly green fatigues.

PROKUPECZ: And no one thought -- just no one thought anything of it or people did or?

BRIDGES: No, I didn't think nothing of it. I thought he was a lost shopper. I didn't realize he was sitting up there sconing out the store for something like this.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Days after the massacre, Jerome Bridges can't bring himself to remove his name tag. The Buffalo, New York, supermarket, just a few blocks from his home, was more than a job, he says.

PROKUPECZ: You still wear this?

BRIDGES: Yes. Because I'm going eventually, if they do decide to open up the store, I'm going back. I'm not going to let nobody scare me. We're all family.

PROKUPECZ: You lost them.


PROKUPECZ (voice-over): Tonight, the New York state attorney general says she's launching an investigation into the social media companies used by the suspect to "plan, promote, and stream his attack," as authorities search for answers.

BRIDGES: He killed so many innocent people. Every night, I've been going in the house crying for hours and hours and hours.

PROKUPECZ: He could potentially face the death penalty.

BRIDGES: If he gets the death penalty, I will clap. I would be happy. Then everybody can go on about their -- go on about their lives, knowing that justice was served, because he wanted to be an idiot.

PROKUPECZ: Jerome Bridges tells us that his 15-year-old son was calling him on the day of the shooting while he was trapped inside that room and that he was afraid to answer the phone, because he thought the gunman would hear him.

Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Buffalo, New York.


VAUSE: Public health officials in the U.S. are investigating the first case of the rare, potentially serious monkeypox virus in the country this year. The virus was detected in a Massachusetts man who had recently traveled to Canada, and they're now going through the process of contact tracing.

Here's now more about the disease from a health official.


DR. ERICA SHENOY, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: It is a rare infection, originally identified in the 1950s in monkeys and then the first human case in 1970.

Most of the cases have been reported, really, out of West Africa or Central -- or Central Africa. The cases that have been outside of that area have been reported to be related to travel or to animals.


VAUSE: The CDC also tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox reported in Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. A CDC spokesperson told CNN that it's monitoring six more people for possible infection after their shared a flight with a British patient who tested positive for the virus, as well.


Well, the White House is taking a more direct approach to addressing the baby formula shortage in the U.S.

On Wednesday, President Biden announced the government would be taking more control over the production of formula ingredients and provide more ways to import formula from abroad. CNN's Arlette Saenz has more now, reporting in from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden is invoking the Defense Production Act to try to alleviate the baby formula shortage, a major step as the White House has scrambled to try to address this issue causing so much anxiety for American families.

SAENZ (voice-over): Now, the Defense Production Act is a 1950s-era law that allows the federal government to have more control over industrial domestic production. And what the president is doing is he is directing suppliers to provide the resources needed to manufacture formula, things like ingredients.

Additionally, the administration is starting Operation Fly Formula. The president sending a letter to the secretaries of agriculture, as well as health and human services, telling them to utilize commercial Defense Department planes to try to import formula product from overseas into the U.S.

The FDA earlier this week had already announced that they were making it easier for overseas companies to send their formula to the United States, but those approval processes are still underway.

Now, this comes as the administration, over the past two weeks, has really been scrambling to try to address this crunch that American families are feeling with lack of access, in some areas, to baby formula.

On Thursday, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf will be up on Capitol Hill, testifying before a House committee, talking about the overnight of infant formula, as the administration still faces so many questions about how the shortage came to be and the steps they are taking to alleviate it.

Now, officials have said that they expect the shortage to really begin to gradually improve over the course of the next few weeks. But they have yet to offer a definitive time line of when things will get back to normal.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


VAUSE: Well, the latest now on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. The CDC reporting nearly one-third of Americans are living in areas with medium to high levels of COVID-19. On Wednesday, they urged those communities to mask up.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: In areas where community levels are high, everyone should be using prevention measures and wearing a mask in public indoor settings.

In areas with medium COVID-19 community levels in yellow, individuals should consider taking prevention measures based on their own risk, like avoiding crowds, wearing a mask, increasing their testing, especially before gathering with others indoors. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Even though cases are still much lower than during the Omicron surge this past winter, the number of infections have tripled, according to the CDC, in just the past month.

U.S. Women's Soccer has scored a major victory in its fight for equal pay. After years of pressure from female players, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced a new deal Wednesday, ensuring women will be paid the same as men.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has more on what is an historic agreement.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a game changing deal.

CINDY PARLOW CONE, PRESIDENT, U.S. SOCCER FEDERATION: I am just so incredibly proud of what we have achieved.

GINGRAS (voice-over): In a new contract, U.S. Somer women and men's player associations agreeing to equal pay for all players.

CONE: This is just a really historic moment that will hopefully lead to meaningful changes and progress not only here at home in the U.S. but around the world.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Both men and women will now get around $450,000 a year. Commercial and event revenue will be divvied up.

The teams also shaking hands on sharing World Cup prize money, a first of any soccer organization in the world. That part of today's agreement especially notable, as the women's team clinched the last two World Cups, four overall. The men haven't won yet but were still making more money just for playing.

The women's 2015 win netted less than $2 million, while the men made more than $5 million losing in the round of 16 the year before. That propelled a movement for equal pay, captured in the CNN film, "LFG".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard people chanting --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Equal pay! Equal pay!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Equal pay! Equal pay!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Equal pay! Equal pay!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. That's when I felt the movement. It's not just us, but it looks as if the world is on our side.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Today's deal is the culmination of that battle between the U.S. Soccer Federation and prominent members of the U.S. women's team, who filed a federal wage complaint in 2016 and a gender discrimination lawsuit in 2019. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every time a woman is not paid equally, sort of

everybody is not, and nobody's potential is able to be reached.


GINGRAS (voice-over): Players settled the suit earlier this year for $24 million.

ALEX MORGAN, PLAYER: It is a huge win for us, for women's sports, for women in general. And it's a moment that we can all celebrate.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The men's team backed the women's efforts in that lawsuit and today, player Walker Zimmerman saying --

WALKER ZIMMERMAN, PLAYER: Sure, there was a potential chance of making less money. No doubt about it. But we also believe so much in the women's team. We believe in the whole premise of equal pay. And ultimately, that was a big driving force for us.

GINGRAS (voice-over): This comes as a pivotal time as the men head to Qatar later this year for the 2022 World Cup. The hope is this deal sets precedent in international sports and beyond.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: I'm John Vause, at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'll be back with a lot more news after a very short break. Please stay with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.