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Ukraine: 15 Dead, 16 Wounded In Shelling Around Kharkiv; German Chancellor Vows Continued Support For Ukraine; Tensions Rise Over Blocked Sanctioned Goods To Kaliningrad; Election Officials: Trump's Lies Led To Violent Threats; State Officials Say Trump Pressured Them On Election. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 22, 2022 - 01:00   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. Live from Hong Kong, I'm Anna Coren and this is CNN Newsroom. Just ahead.


RUSTY BOWERS, ARIZONA STATE HOUSE SPEAKER: You're asking me to do something against my oath and I will not break my oath.


COREN: Day four of the U.S. Capitol riot hearings. Hear from the officials who told then President Trump no. New threat from the Kremlin over what could happen to Americans captured in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin spokesperson says they could face the death penalty. Anger and heartbreak in Uvalde, Texas as officials learn more about what did and didn't happen on that tragic day.

We begin in Ukraine where troops are trying to hold the line in the East despite Russian gains. On Tuesday, we learned Russian troops have now sees another village on the outskirts of Severodonetsk. Brutal fighting has raged there for weeks as Russian forces push to topple one of the last Ukrainian strongholds in the Luhansk region, part of a campaign to seize control of the wider Donbass.

To the north, Russia is intensifying its attacks near Kharkiv. Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, at least 15 people were killed and 16 wounded and shelling around the city. They say an eight-year-old girl is among the victims.

Elsewhere in the Kharkiv region, a massive fire at a gas factory is still burning out of control days after it was targeted by Russian missile strikes. In his nightly address, Ukraine's President accused Russian troops of attacking Kharkiv for no reason just to show they're doing something.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): In the Kharkiv region, there is brutal and cynical Russian artillery showing. It will not give anything to the occupiers, but the Russian army is deaf to any rationality. It simply destroys, simply kills. In this way, it shows us command that it is not standing still.


COREN: Mr. Zelenskyy also announced more support from European allies saying Luxembourg will commit 15 percent of its own defense budget to support Ukraine. The news came the same day Luxembourg's Prime Minister visited Kyiv as well as some of the suburbs that were the scenes of horrific violence early in the war.

Meanwhile, Germany's Chancellor says his country will continue supporting Ukraine as long as they need the help.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: Ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that Europe and the Western democracies as a whole do not accept the violent attack on Ukraine. Ukraine must be able to defend itself against this aggression. It is very clear that we will continue to support Ukraine also with weapons, and we will continue to do so for as long as Ukraine needs our support.


COREN: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland became the latest top ranking American official to visit Ukraine on Tuesday. Garland met near the Polish border with his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss efforts by the U.S. and others to prosecute war criminals. Here is the Attorney General's warning.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: United States is sending an unmistakable message. There is no place to hide. We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those were responsible for these atrocities are held accountable.


COREN: For more on developments in Ukraine, let's bring in CNN Salma Abdelaziz live for us in Kyiv. Salma, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister is pleading with hundreds of thousands of people in Russian occupied parts of southern Ukraine to evacuate in advance of a potential Ukrainian counter offensive. What are you learning?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. And all along that frontline, officials highly concerned about civilians. I think the situation in Severodonetsk, of course, the flashpoint right now in the Luhansk region has given weariness to Ukrainian officials about what happens when civilians are pinned down in this fighting. That city now, under constant bombardment for two months. Thousands of residents are still believed trapped, pinned down, hiding in basements, sorry, from constant shelling, from constant artillery. Now the situation on the frontline doesn't appear to have changed much. It is a war of attrition where you're seeing Russian forces not really using much imagination. It's quite a simple use of firepower, overwhelming indirect firepower, constant inconsistent and even with that, still unable to take this one city, this one town, Severodonetsk, two months into their offensive. So you can imagine the amount of resources that are being used on both sides. Ukrainian officials saying 100 or 200 soldiers a day dying on the frontlines.


And yesterday President Zelenskyy saying that hits focus right now is on the diplomatic activity. In his nightly address, he's described a marathon of phone calls speaking to multiple European partners calling for further sanctions from the E.U. And it comes on the week where European -- the European Union will be considering that candidacy status for Ukraine, a very important step towards potentially Ukraine joining the European Union, but it could take many more years before that happens.

Meanwhile, of course, as you mentioned there, all those resources being used on the frontline Ukraine desperate for more weaponry, Anna?

COREN: Salma Abdelaziz, great to get an update. Thank you.

Well, Ukraine's President is accusing Russia of an aggressive anti- European policy, noting Russia's angry response to Lithuania just this week. Well, that came after Lithuania blocked sanctioned goods from Europe into Kaliningrad, Russia's westernmost territory and the only part of the country surrounded by E.U. states. There is concerned Kaliningrad could become a flashpoint in tensions between Moscow and Europe. The EU is backing its member state for enforcing its sanctions. Russia, meantime, has called the action unprecedented and illegal and is vowing to respond.


NIKOLAI PATRUSHEV, RUSSIA'S SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY: This example shows that you cannot trust either verbal statements by the West or written ones. Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions. Appropriate measures are being worked out between departments and will be taken in the near future. Their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania.


COREN: Jill Dougherty is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She's also a CNN Contributor and former Moscow Bureau Chief. Jill, great to see you. Tell us the significance of Kaliningrad.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, when -- I think of Kaliningrad the first word that springs to mind is strategic, it is highly strategic for Russia. I mean, if you look at the map, it tells it all. It is the most western part of Russia. And it kind of -- the way it turned out to be Russian territory was after World War II Germany's defeated. This was the old Konigsberg which belonged to Germany.

And at the end of the war in 1946, it turns over to the Soviet Union. And then Germans move out, many of them fled, and then income Russians civilians, and essentially becomes a Russian territory, which it is legally. So why it's strategic, is because of its location on the Baltic Sea, it's an ice-free port. It has an ice free port. It's the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet, which is very important for Russia, of course.

It is -- it's central between Lithuania and Poland. So again, you're talking about a lot of strategic importance. And I think it's important to mention, they do have a lot of armaments, and they have nuclear capable missiles.

COREN: Jill, we know that Russia is furious about Lithuania's decision to ban passage of sanction goods across Kaliningrad. They are threatening retaliation. How do you see that playing out?

DOUGHERTY: You know, that's -- that really is the question because there are all sorts of possible scenarios, and none of them sound very good. I mean, remember, Lithuanian is a member of NATO. So you have the possibility of actually confrontation, direct confrontation between a NATO country and Russia. Then also I mentioned the nuclear possibility, they do have weapons that are capable of having nuclear warheads. That's another factor that could come into play.

Then you have the possibility. These are all possibilities, maybe I hope not probabilities, that Russia might decide to cut off the Baltic States, as has been talked about for quite a while. But, you know, we have to get to the core of this really, which is Ukraine, and the sanctions that have been imposed by the E.U. on Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine.

That's really at the core of this because Russia is saying, well, let's start with Ukraine -- with Lithuania. Lithuania is banning the transit of goods that are held under sanctions. In other words, Lithuania is implementing the sanctions by the E.U. against Russia.

Russia says if that is completely illegal, that it breaks in agreement that was signed, I think it was in 2004, if I'm not mistaken, so -- but Lithuania says, no, we are not banning all goods. We're banning the goods that the E.U. has sanctions on. Other goods can come through.


Now, the fight continues and then that threat, which really is quite serious, that Russia would take appropriate measures that really could have the quotas, serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania. We don't know what that will be. But we do believe it could come pretty soon.

COREN: Tell us about the potential fallout. I mean, you were recently in Lithuania, how are people there feeling about what is taking place on their doorstep? DOUGHERTY: You know, there's always a very high level, I would say, in the Baltic countries, level of concern, perhaps fear that Russia might do something, you know, invade, cut them off, et cetera. And so that continues. And now, I left just a few weeks ago. Now with this latest wrinkle, I would say the, you know, the sense of concern is even higher.

And the problem is, you can see the anger of Russia about this. This hurts Russia. You know, they buy in Kaliningrad, they buy their food from the European Union, that essentially all the big stuff, you know, construction equipment, energy supplies, you name it, they get it from Russia. And it comes in through unreal, through Lithuania. And also in connection with this, there is a ban on Russian airlines flying into that region.

So what's left, it's the water. So they would have to ship things by sea. This gets very complicated. It's going to hurt Russia, and that Russia is ready to respond. But again, we don't know precisely how.

COREN: Jill Dougherty, always great to get your perspective. Thanks so much for joining us.

DOUGHERTY: Thank you, Anna.

COREN: Well fears are growing about the fate of two Americans held by Russian or pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. The Kremlin has suggested the men could face the death penalty, a threat the White House calls, quote, appalling.

Several families of Americans wrongfully detained or held hostage have sent a letter to President Biden pleading for his help on bringing their loved ones home saying in part, "Mr. President, we need you. We need your clear leadership to prioritize the expeditious resolution of these cases. We are not indifferent to the moral and ethical questions posed by using trades and other tools, but we know you will understand that the value of bringing home an innocent American unjustly held abroad far outweighs anything else."

Still ahead, dramatic testimony before the U.S. Congress about harassment and death threats for officials who refuse to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election. Stay with CNN. Much more after the break.



COREN: Live pictures of the U.S. Capitol there where the January 6th committee next public hearing on Thursday. For now, witnesses are describing the violent threats they received as a result of Donald Trump's false claim that the 2020 election was stolen. The panel also heard from state election officials who said Trump and his attorneys asked them to break the law, overturn the vote and keep him in the White House.

CNN's Manu Raju reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a tyrant, you are felon and you must turn yourself into the authority immediately.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The January 6th committee laying out in stark terms, the intimidation and pressure campaign from then President Donald Trump and his allies against state officials who are attempting to uphold democracy in states where Joe Biden won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we going to do? What can you and I do to a state legislator? Precise, kill him?

RAJU (voice-over): Trump urging them to reverse the election results, even though he was told repeatedly it was illegal.

RICHARD DONOGHUE, FMR. U.S. ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: And I said something to the effect of, sir, we've done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed.

RAJU (voice-over): Rusty Bowers, the Republican Arizona State House Speaker testify that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Congressman Andy Biggs and others pressured him to decertify Biden's win in his state. Biggs ignored CNN questions about it. Bowers said Giuliani never provided evidence of their conspiracy theories, even admitting there was none.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE MEMBER: What exactly did he say, and how that came up?

BOWERS: My recollection, he said, we've got lots of theories, we just don't have the evidence. And I don't know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn't think through what he said to him afterwards. We kind of laughed about it. But I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner or a vengeful manner. I do not want to be a winner by cheating.

RAJU (voice-over): Trump's lawyer, John Eastman allegedly told Bowers to just replace the electors, even if he did not have the authority.

BOWERS: And he said, just do it and let the court sorted out. And I said, you're asking me to do something that's never been done in history, the history of the United States. And I'm going to put my state through that without sufficient proof?

RAJU (voice-over): But Trump pressed on, and the committee revealing his involvement in the Trump campaign effort to send a fake set of electors on January 6, to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the President say when he called you?

RONNA MCDANIEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing, change the result of any updates (ph).

RAJU (voice-over): Newly revealed text messages from the morning of January 6th, showed the apparent involvement of GOP Senator Ron Johnson. An exchanged between staffers for Johnson and Vice President Pence, shows Johnson wanted to give Pence an alternate slate of electors from Michigan and Wisconsin. Pence's staffer responded, do not give that to him.

Johnson's office contended on Tuesday, the senator was unaware of the effort. The pressure campaign extended to Georgia where Trump's chief of staff texted or called Brad Raffensperger 18 times to set up a phone call where he pressed the GOP election official to find the votes needed to overturn the election.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why would you want to find the right answer, Brad, instead of keep saying that the numbers are right. The real truth is I won by 400,000 votes, at least.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Every single allegation, we checked, we ran down the rabbit trail to make sure that our numbers were accurate.

RAJU (voice-over): Raffensperger described the threats against him and family after he disputed Trump's fraud claims.

RAFFENSPERGER: Eventually, my wife started getting the text and hers typically came in as sexualized attacks which were disgusting. Some people broke into my daughter-in-law' home and my son has passed and she's a widow and has two kids. And so we're very concerned about her safety also.

RAJU (voice-over): Former Georgia election official Wandrea Shaye Moss testifying about the threats she, her mother and her son received because of Donald Trump's persistent lies.

WANDREA "SHAYE" MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: Like be glad it's 2020 and not 1920. I just felt like it was my fault for putting my family in this situation.

RAJU (voice-over): Her mother saying her life was in danger.

RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: The FBI informed me that I needed to leave my home for safety. I felt homeless, I felt, you know, I can't believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family.



RAJU: Now I caught up with Senator Ron Johnson in the aftermath of that revelation, that one of his aides, his top aide had reached out to Mike Pence's office on the morning of January 6, trying to get him to accept an alternate set of electors from Michigan and Wisconsin in an apparent effort to overturn the electoral results. Now, Johnson confirmed that he was aware that this ask had been made to Mike Pence's office on January 6. But he also said that he was -- his office was simply relaying a message that was passed along to him by an individual, an individual who said he had no idea who that person is. Altogether, he dismissed this as a nonstory and contended he had no involvement in the effort to overturn the election.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

COREN: There are only two Republicans on the January 6th committee and the House have questions about criticism from Trump for his decision not to appoint more. Reporters asked Kevin McCarthy if he thinks Trump was right to pressure state officials and his Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election.


KEVIN MCCARTHY, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER: You know, the President always has a right to question an election, just as the Democrats question, just as Bennie Thompson voted against the electorate vote, just as Raskin who sits on this committee said President Trump should be impeached before the President was even sworn in. So look, I know you've got a lot of questions that hovered directly to your viewers, but I think your viewers also care more about inflation.


COREN: CNN Political Commentator Alice Stewart joins me now from New York. Alice, great to have you with us. You describe yourself as a rational Republican, but what is going on with the GOP? Some say it's divorced from reality.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We have seen evidence in these January 6th hearings that the former president is divorced from reality. Unfortunately, a lot of his devout followers and his solid base are the same. And what we're seeing is, with more of the evidence coming out of the January 6th hearings, a lot of Republicans are just indifferent about it. Some are even looking at it through a hostile lens.

Many that I speak with are concerned with the makeup of the January 6th hearing and concern that the fact there are no Trump allies on the hearing asking the question and in their minds putting the testimony or what we're hearing in a different context. But most people, rational Republicans are looking at the -- what we're hearing and seeing as really concerning, and damaging to our democracy. And seeing the former president have really credible, loyal and intelligent aides give him credible and important advice and him discredit that in exchange for someone like Rudy Giuliani, and really allowing him to continue the fraud of election, false election results, and it's really concerning.

And more importantly, what people that are looking at this with an open mind for rational answers out of this, we're seeing some of the most damaging testimony and evidence from Trump's own inner circle, from his own daughter, from high officials, Bill Stepien, Jason Miller, Bill Barr. And we're hearing damaging information from his own top officials, that's when a lot of people. I would like to think the more they see this are going to see the light of day.

COREN: You would hope so, Alice. But I wouldn't ask you why it's not resonating? Because we know that the January 6th committee hearings are for the history books and for the public to know what happened that day that, you know, democracy was, you know, clearly in danger. But it would seem that as you say, the testimony, whether it be from Trump's lawyers, his daughter, the former attorney general, just does not resonate with some Republicans. And the emotions, they range from indifference to outright hostility. So why is this?

STEWART: There's a big factor. I switch over every now and then to another network and another website where a lot of his face gets their news and information. They're barely covering it. So when their main source of news and Trump information is not covering this, like it should, they don't see the significance of this. And many of them have really resigned themselves to the fact that President Trump if he claimed that there -- that the election was stolen, and he, Joe Biden, is not the duly elected president, many of them are buying into that.

But also they are also looking at this as this is one of former president's past grievances. I'm more focused on the current economic situation in this country and future elections. So many people is important as this is to have a document, documentation of what happened on January 6th into our election process and to hold people accountable.


There are a lot of Republicans that are simply looking at this as something that happened in the past and they're focused on the future. There was an ABC poll that did come out recently and said that six out of 10, Americans believe that Donald Trump should be held accountable and possibly face charges for his involvement in January 6th, but only 20 percent of them are Republicans.

So we're seeing a very small fraction of Republicans who think that Donald Trump shouldn't be held accountable for what he did. I'm a firm believer, and that this was his party. He invited people there. And he should be held accountable for not just the destruction to our democracy, but as well as the damage to the Capitol. And people died on that day, and someone needs to be held accountable.

COREN: Yes, we cannot forget that. Alice, you mentioned media outlets, and the fact that they're not even giving any time, whatsoever, to these hearings. I mean, they are also perpetuating this big lie, Trump's big lie, which has become entrenched with the GOP. I mean, what do you believe? Will it take for it to be corrected?

STEWART: Well, look, what we're -- as I said, we're hearing from his own top aides that he had no credible advice before the election that he was going to lose and during the election, on election day, and after that he continued to double down into his false claims that the election was stolen. I'm going to keep my eyes open, Anna, for what we're going to see in the coming days of videotape of a documentary filmmaker who was in the room in the Oval Office on Election Day and leading up to January 6th.

This video has been subpoenaed. We are expected to see what Donald Trump was saying and doing and his mindset during that time. I would like to think that there will be some shred of information coming out of that video that will undoubtedly cause people to see that Donald Trump knew full well that the election was done full of integrity and that he lost the election. And these false claims of voter fraud and raising money on the backs of Americans based on a lie.

I would like to think that we're going to get a better glimpse of what exactly was going on and who knew what, when, when we do see that documentary film.

COREN: I mean, Alice you would hope common sense prevails but I'm not so sure. Alice Stewart, great to have you with us. Thank you for your insight.

STEWART: Thanks, Anna.

COREN: Coming up next, a top Texas official is sharing new details about the police response to the Uvalde School shooting. A response he calls an abject failure.



COREN: It's been nearly a month since a gunman opened fire inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas killing 19 students and two teachers. Well now, a new timeline and unsettling details are emerging about the police response.

CNN's Rosa Flores has this report.


COLONEL STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Three minutes would have made a difference. They'd been dead.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today, stunning new criticism of the police response to the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde.

MCCRAW: Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there were sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor to isolate, distract, and neutralize the subject.

FLORES: A surveillance photo obtained by the "Austin American- Statesman" showing 19 minutes after the gunman entered the school, three officers, two with rifles, and one with a ballistic shield. Depicting in full color the 77 minutes of horror children and teachers endured. Some calling for help while heavily armed police waited to enter their classroom.

According to the latest Texas Department of Public Safety timeline, at 11:33 a.m. within 24 seconds of entering Robb Elementary, the gunman started shooting. Just three minutes later, 11 officers also entered, two with rifles. 19 minutes in, the first ballistic shield arrives.

At 11:56, an officer is heard saying, if there is kids in there, we need to go in there.

MCCRAW: The law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure.

FLORES: Testifying before the Texas Senate Committee, Colonel Steven McCraw says one of the biggest failures: waiting.

MCCRAW: And while they waited, the on-scene commander waited for radio and rifles. Then he waited for shields. Then he waited for SWAT. Lastly, he waited for a key that was never needed.

FLORES: Despite earlier reports from the "Texas Tribune" that school district police chief Pete Arredondo tried dozens of keys that failed to work, McCraw today confirming the door to the was unlocked. The preliminary investigation suggests not one officer even attempted to open the door until it was breached at 12:50.

MCCRAW: The officers had weapons. The children had none. The officers had body armor. The children had none.

FLORES: In addition, the "Texas Tribune" obtained this screen grab from a Robb Elementary School surveillance camera, showing officers in the hallway at 12:04. According to documents obtained by the "Texas Tribune", chief Arredondo called at 11:40 am saying, "We have him in the room. He's got an AR-15. He has shot a lot. And they need to be outside the building prepared because we don't have firepower right now. It's all pistol."

But we now know at least two officers had rifles inside the school at the time. At 12:11 pm, the chief asks for a master key and it would take more than 30 minutes more for officers to breach the classroom.

MCCRAW: The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering Room 111 and 112 was the on scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN -- Uvalde, Texas.

COREN: In the wake of the Uvalde shooting, U.S. lawmakers vowed to take action. And now the Senate has taken a key step to advancing newly finalized bipartisan gun safety bill.

Leading Republican negotiator, Senator John Cornyn walked through what's in the legislation.

Among the items included: more money for mental health programs and school safety; more funding for crisis intervention programs which could also include money to implement so-called red flag laws. The bill would also close the so-called "boyfriend" loophole so that people convicted of domestic violence cannot own or purchase a gun.

Ahead of Tuesday night's vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this bill represents progress. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I am pleased that for the first time in nearly 30 years, Congress is back on the path, to take meaningful action to address gun violence.

I will now take the first steps to move this lifesaving legislation on the Senate floor for a vote with an initial procedural vote tonight. And following that, we will move to final passage as soon as possible. I expect the bill to pass the Senate by the week's end.



COREN: Singing in Paris on Tuesday where newly-elected left-wing lawmakers chanted "Macron, whether you like it or not, here we come".

The French president's centrists lost their absolute majority in parliament after Sunday's elections. And with the leftist set to become the main opposition bloc under Jean-Luc Melenchon, Mr. Macron is looking to make alliances to save his agenda.

He met with opposition leaders including his far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Tuesday. She sounded skeptical after the meeting.


MARINE LE PEN, FAR RIGHT FRENCH LEADER (through translator): We say what we think is right, we express what we are opposed against with the foremost firmness. And we contribute to trying, if possible, to improve the bills presented by the government for them to be as efficient as possible for the French.

Yes, Emmanuel Macron is a president who hears, he hears of course, but does he listen? That is what we will see.


COREN: Mr. Macron is set to hold more meetings in the coming hours.

Members of Israel's outgoing government are vowing to block a possible comeback by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The political maneuvering comes as the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is poised to dissolve parliament in the coming days.

Should that happen, Israeli voters are looking at their fifth election in under four years. The finance minister says he will not back Netanyahu's possible return to power as the former leader is on trial for corruption charges which he denies.


AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, ISRAELI FINANCE MINISTER (through translator): Tomorrow we will submit the bill to dissolve the Knesset. I hope that we will act today to ensure that together with the bill to dissolve parliament. The criminal charges law will come up as well to prevent someone who is facing criminal charges from running for the premiership. I hope that this law will win a majority.


COREN: Joining me from New York is Bobby Ghosh). He is a columnist and editorial board member for Bloomberg. Bobby, great to have you with us.

The paralysis of governance that we are seeing in places like Israel is frankly absurd. You know, governments are there to serve the people and they are doing anything but.

The way I guess the Knesset is set up makes it impossible to have effective governments and get legislation through. So let me ask you this, does the system need an overhaul?

BOBBY GHOSH, COLUMNIST/EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "BLOOMBERG": The Israeli Knesset is very much regional, Anna. Israel as a country has not had a single party image or big government as far back as anybody could remember. And that's not stopped Israel from getting a lot actually done, quite remarkably.

But that can't be said for many other countries including of course the country I am in right now, the United States where political divisions make any kind of legislation hard to pursue.

The Israelis have managed to pursue some important legislation particularly, in this past year, they managed to pass a budget. They managed to get through a couple of bad rounds of the COVID pandemic without announcing new lockdowns.

There is a sort of national consensus, despite the divisions between the political parties. There is a consensus about the big issues, about Israel's security. About more or less the management of the economy. That's not something we see in many other countries.

COREN: You mention this current government which is about to be dissolved. As you say, passing a budget that had not been passed for three years. Making key appointments. You know, firming up relations with other Arab states, something they had not done for a very long time.

So even though they seem to be getting things done, they cannot govern effectively.

Let me ask you this, do you see Benjamin Netanyahu returning to the prime ministership?

GHOSH: It would not be safe to rule him out. People have tried to do that for over ten years now and failed. And so, you know, it's a month's game to try and predict what Benjamin Netanyahu is going to do next.

It's going to be very difficult. He's tried several times to cobble together a coalition around his Likud party. That's not worked out. Other political parties that would need to join this alliance have made it clear that they will only do so if Netanyahu himself steps out of the way and if there is another figure.

But that figure has not emerged. Netanyahu has not shown any interest in stepping down. So it's going to be, I suspect, another long season of uncertainty for Israel.


GHOSH: We'll see wonders an election -- that's October, November. All indications are there will be another deeply divided mandate. No one party will have enough votes. And it will be, again, a very difficult time of coalition forming. So there will be months and months and months of uncertainty.

COREN: Bobby, as we know, and as you mentioned, Israel isn't alone. Places like the United States, where you are living, face these problems, this back and forth with gun control I guess is just the latest example.

What can the U.S. do to remedy congressional stalemate?

GHOSH: Well, the thing here is that in the U.S. it's getting much more difficult to govern. Whereas in Israel, as I was saying, there is a national consensus on the big issues. In the U.S. there is not. There is not a national consensus on almost any issue. Whether that's foreign policy or domestic policy, you mentioned gun violence. There is not even consensus on election reform.

So it's really -- it's really hard to see how you break this deadlock. You need a clear mandate for one party, it would appear that that's not likely to happen.

President Biden has had majorities in both houses of parliament. And he's had the presidency, but he's not had a strong enough majority to push through his agenda.

And until we see that situation change, I'm afraid, it's hard to be optimistic about the chances of a breakthrough in the U.S. too.

COREN: It's just a sad sight of affairs.

Bobby, there are places like New Zealand. You know, they get legislation through. They were able to pass gun control legislation in a matter of days, after a shooter attacked a mosque, killing 50 people. That vote, 119 to 1.

What is a country like New Zealand doing right that others are not?

GHOSH: Well, it helps to be a smaller country. Although that by itself is not enough. Israel is not a particularly large country. But it would appear that New Zealand has been fortunate with its politicians and you have a much more engaged electorate in that country that is putting these political figures into places of power.

You know, in the United States, particularly, you have a sort of perfect storm where you have quite a large proportion of the population of the country does not feel like it has any kind of representation and is not really engaged with the political process.

The result of that is that extremists, on both sides -- on the right, as well as the left -- have come to dominate the political discussion in the United States. And that's not a prescription for good governance or passing of legislation for moving ahead.

And that's why the United States finds itself in this political paralysis. And until that situation changes, we are not going to move forward.

COREN: Certainly not for the foreseeable future. Bobby Ghosh, great to you to put all of this into context for us. Thank you so much for your time.

GHOSH: Thank you for having me.

COREN: Coming up in the NEWSROOM, the U.K.'s biggest rail strike in decades leaves London's busiest stations deserted. How commuters could be facing even more delays for the summer months.

Plus, millions of people impacted by days of deadly flooding in India and Bangladesh. We are tracking the latest forecasts from our weather center.



COREN: A magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit parts of Afghanistan on Tuesday according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was registered in the southeastern province of Khost, near the country's border with Pakistan. The USGS has assigned it a yellow alert, meaning, casualties are possible.

Officials say flooding has killed at least 112 people across India and Bangladesh in recent days. This was the scene Tuesday, in India's hard-hit northeastern state of Assam.

An elephant and a rope were used to pull a submerged car out of the floodwaters. No one who had been inside was hurt.

Meanwhile, in southern China, officials say almost half a million people are being impacted by flooding in Guangdong Province. Officials estimate the financial loss of more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

Let's go to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. And this extreme weather is certainly causing a great deal of damage and loss of life, of course.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. Yes. Absolutely. You know, it's such a lifegiving amount of weather element that happens for some of these regions this time of the year. But at the same time it can be so destructive. And we have seen that destruction really take shape here with the amount of rainfall.

Got to notice the streets of Bangladesh here, as folks try to navigate on these canoes to get around. The communities in parts have been submerged. And of course, Bangladesh is a very prone area, whether it be for sea level rise, sitting just at nine meters above sea levels. Or just having so many rivers and tributaries, about 700 of which got this landscape.

So anytime you get significant rainfall, even if it's to the north, water wants to flow downstream, end up back in the Bay of Bengal. And guess what, the Ganges River Delta is one of the recipients here, and unfortunately the amount of rainfall that is going to be in that forecast es still pretty extensive here, across portions of Kolkata and just to the north around Bangladesh, west Bengal region of India. All of it underneath the monsoonal moisture here over the next several so we do expect the heavy rainfall to continue every single afternoon.

In fact, you look at the data for the first 21 days of the month of June. Notice the surplus here across this region of the east and northeast, 43 percent above normal where just about everyone else across the Indian subcontinent has remained below average in the rainfall department.

And kind of breaking it down further, the past ten monsoon seasons notice the deficits, seven of the last ten have seen deficits while two of the last three have seen a surplus. So certainly hoping to see that kind of close to average here moving forward.

But we know with climate change, the extremes certainly have kind of been amplified here where you have more frequent dry spells and then when it does rain you get more wet spells or wet periods here with intense rainfall.

In fact, the data shows just in the past couple of decades, about 75 percent there increase in frequency of heavy rainfall. which is designated as 150 millimeters or more which a lot of these storms in recent days, Anna, have brought in rainfall amounts that have exceeded 200 to 300 millimeters that has led to the flooding that we're seeing now across this region.

COREN: Extraordinary amount of water. Pedram Javaheri, good to see you. Appreciate the update, thank you.

In Montreal, Canadians lined up outside the passport office Monday for a chance to get their travel documents. The COVID pandemic caused months of delays in processing passports. And now that travel restrictions are being lifted, the office is facing a huge demand. Authorities and people on social media say there are also delays in Toronto, Vancouver, and the Ontario passport offices.

The morning commute is underway right now for many people in the U.K. And they are likely finding more train delays due to a national railway strike. Rail workers are asking for higher wages. And unions say conditions could get worse over the summer as teachers, medics, waste disposal workers, and even lawyers, look at labor action due to inflation. CNN's Scott McLean spoke to Londoners affected by the biggest rail strike in decades.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.K. has returned to relative normality for a long time now, but this week, it is feeling a lot like a day at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just a trickle of people coming through London Bridge station, one of the busiest stations in the entire United Kingdom.


MCLEAN: Most of the platforms closed off because only 20 percent or so of trains across all of England, Scotland and Wales are actually running because of the biggest rail strike in the U.K. in the last 30 years.

We've been talking to people here and many who have managed to make it to central London say they're finding it difficult, sometimes impossible to make it to their final destinations elsewhere in the city because this is also impacting the London underground. The tube system in the city where most people don't actually have a car.

What I found striking though is that most people have a lot of sympathy for these striking workers. The question though is how long will that sympathy last?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody has their own issues with pay but you know, it's not going to help if nobody can work, you know.

So because they're saying everything is increasing but we just have to go to work as well. Because if you don't work, you don't get paid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very inconsiderate. I'll support (INAUDIBLE) actions. It's like coming at the cost of everyday people.

MCLEAN: And do you think that you will make it at all today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so. I have patients waiting, I can't see now.

MCLEAN: Further strike action is set to take place Thursday and Saturday of this week. The unions are hinting that this could go on, potentially for months.

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, calls the strike wrong and unnecessary, especially since the government bailed out the rail industry, making sure that no workers lost their jobs during the pandemic.

The unions see things differently. They say, because of the pandemic, they've had two years of pay freezes, now they just want their wages to keep up with inflation. The difficulty is that inflation in this country, is now 7 percent, and forecast to get even worse before it starts to get better.

The government's concern is that a large pay rise, like that, would actually make inflation even worse.

Scott McLean, CNN, London.


COREN: Russia is known to quash dissent over its actions in Ukraine. But for this artist in St. Petersburg, even a battalion of riot police will not silence her creative mind.


COREN: We want to bring you an update now on that earthquake that we reported a short time ago in Afghanistan. The 5.9 earthquake has killed at least 255 people. And wounded more than 500. That is according to the state run news agency.

CNN is unable to independently confirm (INAUDIBLE) reporting. But just to repeat, 255 people, at least, have been killed in an earthquake that hit Afghanistan a short time ago.

In Russia, those who show dissent against what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine, can face arrests, fines, and imprisonment. But that isn't scaring everyone.

Fred Pleitgen speaks with an elderly St. Petersburg artist who is using her paintings to send a pointed message. A caution though, this report contains graphic images.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yelena Osipova might seem a bit frail, but her will is strong, and her creativity seems unstoppable.

The 76-year-old artist has been detained for several anti war protests since Russia began what it calls, its special military operation in Ukraine.


PLEITGEN: But when we visited her in her apartment in St. Petersburg, she showed no signs of feeling intimidated, instead complaining that police had taken her posters.

"They took some away, and haven't given them back, although they promised to give them back to me, she says. This has been going on for sometime.

So, she keeps painting more posters, like this one, a bird symbolizing Russia with the writing, "Russia is mourning and Russia is not Putin."

"It is a repentant bird," she says, a bird and morning and there are many such people in mourning here. Yelena Osipova is is not afraid to speak out about even the most difficult topics, like the massacre in Bucha where hundreds of dead bodies were found in the Kyiv suburb after Russian forces retreated from there in early April.

Ukraine and international investigators have launched investigations into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Moscow continues to reject its forces were responsible.

The very large poster shows dead people with huge piercing open eyes and the text says: "The eyes of the dead will remain open until Russia repents."

"For me, what was important on this poster, is this word, repent," she says, "It was important to me to emphasize it."

While some Russians took to the streets to protest Vladimir Putin's special military operation during its early days, authorities have now effectively stopped any larger movement from taking hold. Dismantling opposition groups and banning many media organizations not in line with the Kremlin's policies.

Yelena Osipova says, she understands people's fears.

"They are afraid of losing their jobs," she says, "being expelled from college," and there have been such incidents even if they see a photo on the Internet showing someone holding a Ukrainian flag. That is already grounds for sacking.

But Yelena Osipova isn't scared, she says. If the authorities keep taking her protest art, she will paint more and even a battalion of riot police won't silence her creative mind.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- St. Petersburg, Russia.


COREN: Well thank you so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with Lynda Kinkade after this short break. I'll see you tomorrow. You are watching CNN.