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Trump Switches Alabama Endorsement From Brooks to Britt; Growing Fears of Food Crisis Due to Russian Blockade; Russia Ramps Up Attacks in Push to Take Severodonetsk; Oklahoma Mom Describes Choice to Terminate Wanted Pregnancy; South Korea Launches Nuri Space Rocket. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 21, 2022 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares. If you are just joining us, let me bring you up-to-date with the top stories this hour. Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have agreed to hold a vote to dissolve the Knesset next week. The government's collapse will set up a fifth round of elections in just four years.

And the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot is holding a fourth day of hearings in the coming hours. Former President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results will be front and center. Coverage begins right here on CNN at 1:00 p.m. in Washington, about 6:00 p.m. if you are watching us here in London.

Well, the power of Donald Trump's endorsement will be put to the test today in Alabama as Republicans make their choice for the U.S. Senate. The former president initially backed one candidate then switched to another. CNN's Kristen Holmes reports.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was one of former President Donald Trump's staunchest allies.


HOLMES (voice-over): A leading promoter of Trump's 2020 election lies.

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Joe Biden lost and President Trump won the Electoral College.

HOLMES (voice-over): Even delivering a speech at the now infamous Stop the Steal rally that preceded the deadly January 6 riot at the Capitol.

BROOKS: Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.

HOLMES (voice-over): But as Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks heads into Tuesday's runoff to be the state's Republican candidate for Senate, he's doing so without the support of the former president. Learning the hard way that when it comes to Trump loyalty --

TRUMP: If given the opportunity, I will get even with some people that were disloyal to me.

HOLMES (voice-over): -- is not always a two-way street. After initially endorsing the conservative firebrand --

TRUMP: We're going to elect our friend Mo Brooks to the U.S. Senate.

HOLMES (voice-over): -- now Trump is backing Brooks rival Katie Britt, the former chief of staff to retiring Republican Senator Richard Shelby. The former president once claimed Britt was, quote, not in any way qualified for the job. But that was when he was behind Brooks. As Brooks campaign struggled, Trump jumped ship and accused Brooks of going, quote, woke for these comments.

BROOKS: There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you. Yes.

HOLMES (voice-over): Brook says he learned of Trump's decision from a reporter seeking comments.

BROOKS: He didn't have the courtesy or the chutzpah or whatever to let me know first, so it somewhat blindsided me this morning.


HOLMES (voice-over): Despite the embarrassing episode, Brooks has continued to run as MAGA Mo and insisting his refusal to say the 2020 results could be overturned was partly to blame.

BROOKS: I knew that when I gave him straight shooting legal advice, that it would perturb him because it's not what he wanted to hear, and I knew it would put my endorsement at risk, but I thought it was the honorable thing to do, so I did it.

HOLMES (voice-over): Even so, Brooks still tried to win back Trump support ahead of the runoff.


HOLMES (voice-over): But Trump ultimately sided with Britt who was widely seen as the favorite on Tuesday after receiving the most votes in the May primary.


SOARES: Our thanks to Kristen Holmes for that report.

We'll take you now to Ukraine where Russian forces are stepping up the pressure in a grinding battle for the eastern city of Severodonetsk. For weeks the city has been the epicenter of fighting in the east, a really key battleground in Russia's push to seize control of the wider Donbas region. As you see there on your map. To the north though shelling sparked a massive fire at a factory in

Ukraine's second largest city and Ukrainian officials say at least three civilians were killed in shelling across the wider Kharkiv region. CNN teams on the ground have also reported hearing some explosions -- more explosions than normal.

But the war isn't just devastate devastating Ukraine, it's also propelling, as we've shown you, a global food crisis while Russia and Ukraine have both blamed each other for the paralysis at Ukrainian ports. One fact hasn't changed, millions of tons of grain are currently stranded inside the country and that is putting millions of people at risk of food shortages especially in Africa where many countries rely on both Russia and Ukraine for their wheat imports.

CNN's David McKenzie is standing by for us in Johannesburg with those details. But first I want to go to our Salma Abdelaziz who joins me from Kyiv for the latest on the fighting. And Salma, what me pick up on Severodonetsk because the picture you have been painting, you know, kind of every day here on the show is really Ukraine on the back foot but really trying to hold the line. What is the latest assessment by the Ukrainians as to how long they can sustain this?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: The latest assessment is extremely worrying, Isa. Ukrainian officials say that Russia is still capable of launching a large assault on Severodonetsk and the assaults that have already been hitting that city have been enormous, an enormous amount of firepower. Most of the city right now is under the control of Russian forces. Ukrainian troops say that artillery shelling is constant. It's 24/7. Most of the city now of course destroyed in that never ending bombardment. We know that there's thousands of civilians potentially still trapped inside that city.

There's a key chemical plant where a few hundred are sheltered in the basement and officials say they cannot be reached because of the fighting but also because the three bridges leading out of that city of Severodonetsk are now impassable. They been so badly damaged, so badly destroyed. Ukrainian forces saying they are running out of weapons, running out of artillery, that they are trying to hold this line, but they are desperate for more help.

And the fear is -- you brought up Kharkiv, the north of the country where Ukrainian forces say they fear that Russian troops are trying to open yet another frontline. So, to stretch Ukrainian forces that are already very thin even thinner.

Look, this is a war of attrition that has dragged out. Neither side really strong enough here to win in Severodonetsk but neither side weak enough to lose. President Zelenskyy has insisted that his fighters will not back down but it's hard to imagine how that city won't fall -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, stay with us, Salma. I want to go to David because one aspect of course of this war that is having global repercussions -- that Salma's reported on, that I reported on, is really this grain blockade that we are seeing across Ukraine's ports, David. I know that President Zelenskyy addressed the African Union about it. What did he say in terms of the logistics of what is being done behind the scenes here?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, his main ploy was to I think try and appeal to the African nations to support Ukraine politically because of the ramifications of this conflict on many countries on this continent, Isa. He said that countries have been taken hostage by the Russians because of their continued blockade of Odesa and other ports where millions of tons of grain is stuck that should be exported out to countries like Somalia, like Egypt, Tunisia, all across the African continent, Middle East and parts of central Asia.

That will have an effect in the coming weeks on food prices, potentially in the coming months on food availability. Now the Russian President Putin has blamed the shortage on Western powers. He says because of sanctions.


And the head of the EU Foreign Policy Team said that that is like blaming something on something you created. Take a listen.


JOSEP BORRELL, EU HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Russia blockading Ukrainian exports, Russia, not us, Russia. Russia is destroying ports and destroys food stocks. They are destroying transporting infrastructure. Russia, not us.


MCKENZIE: The tricky situation now of course is that grain is still sitting there as Ukrainian farmers look to harvest their harvest at the moment. There are plans from the European Union and U.S. White House to try and figure out how to get some of that grain by land on rail out through Poland and other nations. But everyone assumes that that will never get close to getting all of that grain out. It's really that sea route which is critical. And with the defensive minds in place and the warships from Russia surrounding those ports, there doesn't seem to be an easy solution to this problem which could have very real world consequences in the months ahead -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, months and in fact years because farmers of course can't plant their crops and they can't actually sell them, then that's a huge problem in itself. David McKenzie for us there and Salma Abdelaziz, thank you to you both.

And still ahead right here on the show, as the U.S. awaits for the Supreme Court ruling on abortion. CNN goes to a state with one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. How it is forcing women to make costly decisions. That story just ahead.


SOARES: The U.S. Supreme Court could deliver a landmark decision on abortion as soon as today. It's unclear exactly when the court will announce its opinion but it's widely expected to overturn a 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in the United States. [04:45:00]

Some states have already enacted strict laws banning the procedure even before the court makes an announcement. Among them Oklahoma which has some of the strictest laws on the books. CNN's Lucy Kafanov has the story of one woman who was forced to travel out of state to get the care she needed.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joy and eager anticipation, as one Oklahoma family prepared to welcome its newest member into the world.

LORI BROWN-LOFTIS, FORCED TO SEEK ABORTION OUT OF STATE: You are safe to share your news, you get excited. We had the nursery like getting started.

KAFANOV(voice-over): What should've been a happy time for Lori Brown- Loftis, soon turned to crushing devastation. An ultrasound revealed a rare genetic disorder.

BROWN-LOFTIS: The doctor kind of explained that this disorder is not compatible with life. It was a little girl that, you know, she would not be viable, and that most children either died during childbirth or shortly after.

KAFANOV (voice-over): With no chance of the baby surviving outside the womb, Lori made the painful choice to have an abortion.

BROWN-LOFTIS: That is one of the most difficult things that I've ever had to do. It was the hardest decision. Had I been forced to carry that pregnancy knowing that I would not get to bring that child home, would have caused so much trauma.

KAFANOV: This was not a decision you took lightly.

BROWN-LOFTIS: I didn't make that decision lightly or easily.

KAFANOV (voice-over): At 23 weeks pregnant, Lori was forced to travel out of state for the three day invasive procedure at significant financial and emotional cost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to pay with hellfire.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Visibly pregnant, she describes being harassed by protesters.

BROWN-LOFTIS: Just the assumption that I didn't want my baby, you know, I think that was probably the hardest part.

KAFANOV: This was a long dead child.

BROWN-LOFTIS: Yeah, absolutely.

KAFANOV (voice-over): This was in January when Oklahoma had allowed abortions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Today, the state has one of the most far-reaching abortion bans in the nation, prohibiting the procedure and moment of fertilization, with very narrow exceptions.

GOVERNOR KEVIN STITT (R), OKLAHOMA: I don't know how much clearer we can be. We don't believe in abortion in Oklahoma. We don't want it in our state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That put us in a dangerous position here in Oklahoma. It is life or death for women.

DR. ELI RESHEF, REPRODUCTIVE SPECIALIST: Your lining looks great. That's the bladder. That's the uterus. That's the cervix.

KAFANOV (voice-over): As a fertility doctor, Eli Reshef's mission is to bring life into the world.

RESHEF: It looks great.

KAFANOV (voice-over): But he worries Oklahoma's antiabortion law allowing private citizens to sue anyone who helps women terminate a pregnancy could have unintended consequences, impacting services like in vitro fertilization.

RESHEF: There is a sense of panic among patients. Patients are very concerned that they will have access to in vitro fertilization because it's very difficult to read the law and even if you read it as I did, it's hard to interpret it. There are a lot of ambiguities.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Abortion is now effectively outlawed in Oklahoma, with all four of its clinics no longer providing the service. If they can afford it, women seeking an abortion will now need to travel out of state, just like Lori Brown-Loftis did.

BROWN-LOFTIS: It was incredibly difficult. I mean, I still have flashbacks and nightmares and it is hard, and it is -- it will impact me for the rest of my life.

KAFANOV (voice-over): One woman sharing her painful journey, trying to end the stigma around abortion and help others feel less alone.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Tulsa, Oklahoma.


SOARES: Well, more than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, children under five years old will finally be able to get vaccinated in the United States. Pharmacies across the country will begin giving the Pfizer and Moderna shots to kids as young as six months old starting today. U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are set to visit a vaccine clinic in Washington, D.C. as the rollout gets under way. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the vaccines over the weekend -- if you remember. Mr. Biden praised the decision calling it a monumental step forward. Will stay on top of that story for you of course.

And still to come right here on the show, the newest space rocket takes off successfully from South Korea. Can it finish the mission originally started last year? We'll have the latest after a very short break. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.



SOARES: South Korea's Nuri rocket has begun its second mission into space. The craft had its first successful launch last October but failed his overall mission of placing a dummy satellite into orbit. Taking off just a short time ago with a dummy satellite and other research satellites on board, there is still time for the mission to be a success. CNN's Blake Essig joins me now from Tokyo with more. So far so good I understand -- Blake.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So far so good. Look, after a failure, weather delay and last minute technical glitch, today was a turning point for South Korea's space program, Isa. After successfully launching its first homegrown rocket into outer space and it was made official just an hour ago making South Korea the seventh country including the United States and Japan to have developed a space launch vehicle that can carry more than one ton satellite.

Now the goal of today's launch was to put satellites in to low orbit about 700 kilometers or 430 miles into the air at the right speed and then see if the performance verification satellite function properly by communicating with the space station in Antarctica. All of which has been sent to confirm as a success by South Korea's government. Now this domestically produced rocket is called the Nuri and was topped with six satellites, five it will carry out earth monitoring missions for the next 6 to 24 months in a 1.3 ton dummy satellite to be put into orbit.


Since 2010, South Korea has invested nearly 2 trillion won, or about $1.5 billion on this program using its own design and technology that officials with the Korean Aerospace Research Institute say will open the door to a range of future satellites missions and allow the country more autonomy in its space observe. Now following today's launch, South Korea plan to conduct another four Nuri rocket launches by 2027. And is worth noting, Isa, that to date South Korea has struggled to keep up with its Asian neighbors in the space race previously relying on Russian technology to send carrier rockets in to low orbit, but as of today the past is a distant memory and South Korea has a lot to be excited about -- Isa.

SOARES: And before we go, are you a fan of Queen B or Beyonce -- I should say?

ESSIG: Oh, of course, of course. I have two daughters. You know, whether it's BTS or Beyonce, that's all that's played in this house.

SOARES: Well, this story is for you. Thanks very much, Blake.

Before we go get ready for Beyonce fans -- and at least Blake of course -- on all to collectively lose their minds.


BEYONCE SINGER: And I'm on that new vibration I'm building my own foundation Yeah. Oh, Baby you won't break my soul.


SOARES: Queen B dropped a new single called "Break My Soul." Three hours before it was supposed to hit at midnight U.S. Eastern time, it has a driving dance beat, as you heard, and heavily samples a 1993 Robin S Hit "Show Me Love." The song will be on her -- it will be her seventh album of Renaissance which is due out on July 29th. And sources say the album will feature both dance as well as country music tracks. Beyonce's last solo studio album was "Lemonade", if you remember, back in 2016. And that was a great album.

And that does it here for me on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares in London. Our coverage continues on "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett. Do keep in touch and I shall see you tomorrow, bye- bye.