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NATO Defense Ministers Holding Next Round of Talks; Germany Take Political Heat Over Russian Energy Imports; FDA Advisers OK Vaccines for Kids Under 5; Bipartisan Deal Nears Deadline with Issues Unresolved; Actor Kevin Spacey Faces U.K. Court on Sexual Assault Charges. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 16, 2022 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: We'll have a live report from NATO headquarters. That's after a very short break. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.


SOARES: About an hour ago or so, NATO defense ministers began their latest strategy session over Russia's war in Ukraine. They gathered at NATO headquarters in Brussels where the secretary general warned the Russian invasion poses the gravest to Europe and its security in decades. Jens Stoltenberg adding that NATO has 40,000 troops under guided command and more on high alert but he said more needs to be done to keep people safe.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live for us this hour in Brussels. And Oren, from what I understand, the U.S. was pretty fast there announcing that billion dollars in military aid to Ukraine. What can we expect in terms of a commitment from the other NATO allies? Because I remember listening to Stoltenberg yesterday, he was pretty much saying that we will help Ukraine with what is needed for it to prevail here.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've already seen some small announcements. None as large as that billion dollars from the United States which includes howitzers, ammunition and more. For example, Germany announced that it would send in three multiple launch rocket systems. Not a large number, but that is one of the more advanced, powerful system that the U.S. or others have sent in. So that is significant. A key question, how fast will it arrive.

Will there be more announcements today. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg certainly seemed to indicate there may be as he indicated that NATO remains united behind helping Ukraine. So, we'll eye out for that.


But that's not just what this is all about, weapons, supplies, shipments, that was a big focus of the Ukraine contact group meeting yesterday. The NATO defense ministerial shifts. It will look at, amongst the defense ministers from all of the NATO countries, what changes need to take place in NATO force posture on the European continent in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in light of Russia's aggression that so on full display.

Does NATO need to move forces to the east? Does it need more forces? What type of forces? Who can provide the forces for those battle groups as well as the commanders for those battle groups? Those are some of the questions the NATO defense ministerial will deal with today.

And then of course another big issue here, is just simply getting set up for the NATO summit later this month. So that will also be part of the focus. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also talked a bit about Finland and Sweden expressing how welcoming he would be for those two countries to join, but they still haven't worked through the objections from Turkey and the issues that Turkey has with those countries joining NATO. So that too, likely seems to be one of the big issues that'll come up to see if they can work through that and make some sort of progress ahead of that summit in Madrid later on this month -- Isa.

SOARES: And a summit that Stoltenberg, I believe, said about an hour or so ago, would be transformative. We of course shall see that. Oren Liebermann for us in Brussels. Great to see you, Oren, thanks very much.

Well, as Ukraine's allies talk in Brussels, Russia keeps using energy exports to fill its war chest. A Finnish research group says Moscow raked in close to $100 billion in energy sales in the first 100 days of the war. More than 60 percent of those sales went to the European Union where the biggest buyer is Germany. And as Jake Tapper reports, Berlin is now facing accusations that it's not walking the walk on Ukraine.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: In the views of the Ukrainian government, the Germans have been a lot of talk --

OLAF SCHOLTZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Putin must not win his war and I am convinced he will not win.

TAPPER (voice-over): -- and not enough action. This week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a rare public rebuke of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying this to one German news outlet.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need Chancellor Schultz to give us certainty that they will support Ukraine. He and his government must choose not to do a balancing act between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, but to choose which is their priority.

TAPPER (voice-over): Because while it's true Scholz uses the right words, branding Putin a war monger and terming the invasion a "zeitenwende," meaning a turning point in the history of German Foreign Policy, a term not used lightly. Some critics feel it's different when it comes to German Chancellor Scholz's deeds. As one German political commentator recently wrote, quote, the chancellor, despite his strong talk at the beginning of the war, has chosen effectively to do nothing. His in decisiveness is more than a political failure. It amounts to a dangerous weakening of the resolve of those who oppose Russia's war, clearing the way for more brutality and violence.

So, critics argue as Russian stomp violently across Ukraine, Germany has been dragging its boots. Germany's economic might as the European Union's biggest economy makes it a critical player here. But instead of outright banning all oil and gas imports from Russia, Germany has opted to, quote, phase out those shipments. Continuing a revenue stream which some critics say helps fund Russian war efforts.

And while Germany reacted quickly vowing to send desperately needed tanks and antiaircraft systems to the Ukrainian frontlines, Scholz's government later backpedal, declaring that Germany needed to keep the weaponry and that anyway, Ukrainian soldiers were not sufficiently trained to handle such advanced technology. That's a criticism quickly rejected by Zelenskyy when I sat down with him in April.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): I have heard many times from certain states that did not want to give us weapons quickly because our soldiers are not ready from a technical standpoint to use them. But instructors of such equipment, our instructors will get our troops ready to fight in them.

TAPPER (voice-over): When pressed earlier this month, Scholz even made the bizarre and false claim that, quote: Nobody supplies on a similar scale as Germany does, unquote. Which is not true in any way. Not in total dollars, not in percentages.

And in the run up to Russia's invasion, Scholz initially rebuffed international pressure to commit to ending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a massive project that would funnel lucrative natural gas from Russia to Germany.

TAPPER: President Biden said that the Pipeline would not happen if Russia invades. You won't say that. How would President Biden stop the pipeline just by imposing severe sanctions? And why won't you explicitly say, Russia if you invade Ukraine, we're canceling the pipeline?

SCHOLZ: We are doing much more as one step. We are -- and all the steps we will take we will do together. As the president said, we are preparing for that. And you can understand and you can be absolutely sure that Germany will be -- together with all its allies and especially the United States.


TAPPER (voice-over): Under scrutiny from the U.S. and other NATO allies, though, Scholz did eventually suspend that project. And he has taken other steps to support Ukraine's efforts, such as a pledge to deliver two major weapons to its army, an air defense system and a tracking radar in addition to humanitarian and medical aid. SCHOLZ (through translator): After the Russian attack on Ukraine, Germany revised its decades long position, and for the first time, send weapons and military goods to a war zone.

TAPPER (voice-over): Domestically, Scholz is juggling pressure from multiple sides of his government, including those who want to do less, not more for Ukraine. And while many applaud the moves Germany has made under Scholz's leadership, others wish they had come sooner.

SCHOLZ (through translator): We need to do everything in order to stop the senseless killing.


SOARES: Well, the criticism comes as Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits the Ukrainian capital Kyiv today. He's been joined by French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian leader Mario Draghi, who arrived an hour or so ago at Kyiv. And this just into CNN, Romania's president has arrived in Kyiv to join the other leaders -- the other three leaders. Klaus Johannis says he plans to show support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and added that Russia's illegal aggression must stop. Of course, we'll stay on top of that visit by those for leaders there.

Now in Brazil, police finally have some answers in the case of two men who went missing in the Amazon more than a week ago. But they also have plenty more questions. Police say one of the suspects, a local fisherman, confessed to killing British journalist, Dom Phillips, as well as Brazilian indigenous expert, Bruno Pereira. The man showed police where the pair were killed in the jungle, also where they were buried. Brazil's justice minister confirmed human remains had been found while searching those sites and police say more arrests are imminent.

Phillip's wife, meanwhile, issued a statement saying there's an end to the anguish of not knowing what happened to the two men and now they can, quote, bring them home and say good-bye with love.

Still to come right here on the show, COVID vaccines head toward final approval for young children in the United States. But do they still need the shot? That's the question. That's next.



SOARES: Top U.S. disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has tested positive for COVID-19, his institute said on Wednesday. He's showing mild symptoms of the virus and is working from home. Dr. Fauci is fully vaccinated with two COVID booster shots. He was set to appear in a Senate hearing today on the U.S. response to COVID-19. That will most likely be a virtual appearance now.

Now a big step has been taken towards getting vaccines for young children in the United States. Advisors at the Food and Drug Administration are unanimously recommending the Moderna and Pfizer shots. If parents choose Pfizer, it would be a three dose series for babies as young as six months up to kids four years old. And if parents prefer Moderna, as you're seeing there on your screen, children six months to five years old would get two doses. But shots can't go into those little arms just yet. Both the full FDA and Center for Disease Control have to weigh in on the recommendation. But the White House says that the shots could begin next week. Many children have already been infected, so should parents get their little ones vaccinated?


DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Yes, many kids have been exposed to COVID already. But we know that the durability of those antibodies from natural infection is not strong and particularly during Omicron we're finding folks are getting reinfected. More over these studies occurred during the Omicron wave and they show that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine were effective both at preventing many infections not all but were really effective at preventing hospitalizations and God forbid ICU stays.


SOARES: Well additionally, Moderna is planning to study a vaccine for babies three to six months of age. An appropriateness dose level for babies this young has yet to be determined. The trial is expected to enroll as many as 700 babies and that begins in September.

The man accused of carrying out the last month mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York will appear in federal court today to answer to hate crime charges. 10 black people were killed in the massacre in what believed to have been a racially motivated targeted attack. Listen to the Attorney General Merrick Garland who met with families of the victims yesterday.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: His goal was to, quote, kill as many blacks as possible. The affidavit outlines how the defendant prepared for months to carry out this attack. It alleges that he selected the target in this ZIP Code because it has a highest percentage of black people close enough to where he lives. He selected Tops store because it is where a high percentage and high density of black people can be found. And he made a map of the inside of the Tops store, quote, and decided the best plan of attack for the highest chance of success.


SOARES: Well, after meeting with the victims' families, the Attorney General and other Justice Department officials visited a memorial next to the supermarket -- as you can see there. Garland laid 10 roses at the site, one for each victim.

Meantime U.S. lawmakers are still trying to find a way to finalize a bipartisan deal on guns by the end of the week. It is a self-imposed deadline to iron out the so-called red flag laws, but at least two glaring issues remain unresolved according to Republican Senator John Cornyn. One being the funding for such laws in each state and the other, finding a way to close the boyfriend loophole. An exception which currently allows some of those convicted of domestic violence to buy or possess firearms. One Democratic Senator says that he is confident that they'll meet the deadline. Have a listen.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I was, frankly, you know, somewhat pleased to hear that Senator Cornyn today thought that we only had two outstanding issues. We probably have lot more than two, but all of them can be settled. Because I think Senator Cornyn thinks what I believe, which is that the American public is not going to accept nothing as an answer. We cannot go back home over the course of July 4th and tell people that once again, we let politics get in the way of getting something done. So, I think that we're going to be able to wrap this up and get these final issues settled.


SOARES: And lawmakers will meet again in the coming hours to continue that very conversation.

And still to come right here on the show, actor Kevin Spacey will soon appear before a U.K. court on multiple charges of sexual assault. CNN is live outside the courthouse in London after this short break.



SOARES: Well, moments from now Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey is scheduled to appear before a U.K. court on charges of sexual assault. Police say the incidents took place between March 2005 and April 2013. And involved three different men. Spacey has previously denied all accusations of misconduct. CNN's Nina dos Santos joins us now from outside the court in London. And we did see -- my producer is telling -- arriving -- him arriving -- Kevin Spacey arriving in the last few moments. And this of course, Nina, is the actor's first appearance here. Talk us through the charges against him.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Kevin Spacey just arrived about 10 minutes ago and walked right here behind where I'm standing amidst intense media interest. He looked rather relaxed. He was wearing a mid-blue suit and his trademark black glasses. And he was accompanied by a rather large (INAUDIBLE) his legal team. And it has to be said he's coming here voluntarily to the U.K. to defend himself against these charges.

And in a statement to "Good Morning America" that he gave a few weeks ago, he said that he was confident he would be able to prove his innocence. He's facing four charges related to the time that he lived in the U.K. between the mid-2002 the mid-2010s when he was a rather influential figure here on the cultural scene.

[04:55:00] He was the artistic director of the theater company the Old Vic. And during this period, it is alleged that there were four counts of sexual assault that took place. Two of them on a man in his 40s in London, another one is 28. In 2008 with the man in his 30s. And another count of sexual assault on a man in his 30s that took place in April 2013. This is in the western part of the U.K. where many celebrities have their country houses.

As I said these charges that he denies. We're expecting this hearing to be very, very brief. It's just an initial one usually during which the accused will have the charges laid out against them, confirm their name, 62-years-old, Kevin Spacey Fowler and then there'll probably be various other dates that are going to be set from here.

But obviously, this is the first time that we've seen Kevin Spacey out in public since his career has faced and private life has faced intense scrutiny. Remember he's still facing charges in New York in a federal court over there as well -- Isa.

SOARES: I know you'll stay on top of this for us. Nina dos Santos outside the courthouse. Thanks very much, Nina.

Now, we are learning that cars made by Tesla and using its full self- driving autopilot software were involved in 273 crashes over a span of nine months. That is according to new U.S. government data released Wednesday. Tesla founder Elon Musk described autopilot technology as an unequivocally safer than normal driving. But some lawmakers are concerned about the danger the technology may pose. But don't cancel your Tesla order just yet. Federal officials advise caution before drawing conclusions.

And that does it here for me on CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you very much for your company. I'm Isa Soares in London. Our coverage continues on "EARLY START" with the lovely Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett. Do stay right here with CNN, bye-bye.