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U.S. Negotiating a Prisoner Swap to Russia; Secretary Blinken Will Have Phone Call with Sergey Lavrov; Ukrainians Countering Russian Attacks; Countries Waiting for Ukraine's Grain; Beijing Rattled by Potential Visit by Speaker Pelosi to Taiwan. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, the United States offers to swap a convicted arms dealer for a basketball star and an ex-marine. Why Moscow may not have accepted the deal yet.

The latest U.S. showdown with China sparked by a possible trip to Taiwan by the U.S. House Speaker just hours before the country's leaders talk on the phone. We are live in Beijing.

And Pope Francis apologizes for the abuse of indigenous children at residential schools, why many say his words don't go far enough.

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom, with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Thanks for being with us.

One of the world's most notorious arms dealer could be soon free from a U.S. prison in exchange for two Americans detained in Russia. As first reported by CNN, the Biden administration has offered to trade Viktor Bout for American basketball star Brittney Griner, and ex- marine Paul Whelan.

Bout who has been nicknamed the merchant of death is serving a 25-year sentence for selling military grade weapons to terrorists and conspiring to kill Americans. The Kremlin has long called for Bout's release but has not yet agreed to this exchange.

The top U.S. diplomat says President Joe Biden was directly involved in the proposal and signed off on it.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have two objectives. We have course want to see those who were wrongfully detained be released and be able to return home. At the same time, it's important that we work to reinforce the global norm against these arbitrary detentions against what is truly a horrific practice. So, we are working concertedly on both.


CHURCH: Our Clare Sebastian is covering this story live from London. She joins us now. Good to see you again, Clare. So, this offer of a prisoner swap was made last month, so the U.S. is still waiting for a response from Russia. What is the latest on it?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary, I think that's on the striking things here, is that according to senior U.S. administration official, this offer was put on the table back in June. And another striking thing is the fact that it's becoming public now even before the negotiations are finished.

This is very unusual in cases like this. Usually something as sensitive as a prisoner swap would happen behind closed doors. Certainly, that was the case with Trevor Reed and other American citizens who was freed in a prisoner swap back in April.

But it seems that the U.S. is now trying to sort of kick start the negotiations. Bring the Russians to the table, not only perhaps by making its public. But also, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he expects in the coming days to speak to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

This would be extremely significant because the two men have not actually spoken since the start of the war in Ukraine. They would be speaking not only about this potential swap, but the grain deal that Russia and Ukraine have negotiated now with an international partner.

So that would be a significant moment. I think the question is, if Russia is waiting, why perhaps, because Brittney Griner's trial is still ongoing, and the Russian side is being very clear that no discussions on her future perhaps release from Russia could start until that trial is finished. So that is one thing to watch in the coming days. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to Clare Sebastian, joining us live from London.

Well, a little more background now on Viktor Bout, he is a former Soviet military officer, and Russian businessman. Starting in the 1990s, he was accused of assembling a fleet of cargo planes to traffic military grade weapon to conflict zones around the world.

He is allegedly fueled a bloody conflict in Liberia, Sierra Leon, and Afghanistan, earning him the nickname the merchant of death by his accusers. In 2002, CNN's Jill Dougherty met with Bout in Moscow and asked about the allegations, here's an excerpt.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CONTRIBUTOR: Viktor Bout is a wanted man, subject of an international arrest warrant, the charge, arm struggling around the world. That's a lie he tells me, he is an honest businessman.

VIKTOR BOUT, RUSSIAN ARMS DEALER: I'm not afraid. I don't need anything in my life of what I should be afraid. And this whole story it looks to me like a witch hunt. Look, I'm coming to your office. I have no problem. And I said, hey, who is looking for me? I'm here. I'm not hiding from nobody. I -- I'm having my normal life and I don't want this story going on.


CHURCH: Several years later, in 2008, Bout was several arrested in a sting operation home led by U.S. Drug Enforcement agents in Thailand posing as the revolutionary armed forces of Columbia known by the acronym FAC. The expeditionary case lasted more than two years. Bout was eventually transferred to New York where he was put on trial on charges of supplying weapons to FAC and intending to kill U.S. citizens.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: In a series of recorded meetings and telephone calls in South America, in Europe and in Asia, Bout and his associate allegedly made clear that they are ready, willing and able to provide a substantial arsenal to the FARC for use against the United States.

According to unsealed documents, here is just some of the deadly arsenal that Viktor Bout allegedly offered up. More than 700 surface- to-air missiles, 5,000 Ak-47 assault rifles, anti-personnel land mines, C4 explosives, and literally, millions of rounds of ammunition.


CHURCH: Bout maintained his innocence, but was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

David Sanger is a CNN political and national security analyst, he joins me now from San Diego, California. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: Noa according to CNN sources, the Biden administration is offering Moscow convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, an offer apparently made weeks ago. So how likely is it that Vladimir Putin will accept this exchange now that the ball is apparently in his court?

SANGER: Well, Rosemary, you have to think that if he was really planning to take it, he would've taken it by now, and perhaps he was waiting for Ms. Griner to be convicted and sentenced, but getting Viktor Bout out of an American prison, you think would be a pretty high priority for President Putin.

And so, it's a little bit surprising he didn't take it yet. Perhaps he is insisting, I don't know this for a fact, but, that if there would be two Americans released, that he would want two Russians released. But obviously, Viktor Bout is a huge figure, the arms dealer to many of the world's terrorists.

CHURCH: Right, and sources tell CNN that this prisoner exchange plan received the backing of President Joe Biden, overriding opposition from the Department of Justice, which opposes prisoner swaps because of concerns it encourages, or could encourage countries like Russia to detain Americans and use them as political pawns.

So, is this a wise exchange, and is it the only possible way that Griner and Whelan will ever be released from prison in Russia?

SANGER: Well, it may be the only way. We don't know what else the Russians may have up this sleeve, or whether other Russians may be arrested in the United State in the future. But it might be the best deal for now.

The Justice Department, as you know, doesn't like these except in cases where exchanges of spies versus spies. But in this case, none of them involved are spies. Not Griner, not Whelan, and not even Viktor Bout, who is an arms dealer to many terrorist organizations.

So I think the big question is, is this deal as proposed by Washington enough, or is there a reason we haven't heard back from the Russians that they're holding out for more. That they want more than just Viktor Bout, perhaps other Russians were in American jails.

CHURCH: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will apparently discuss this prisoner swap with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a phone call this week in the hope of course of bringing Griner and Whelan home. What are the possible scenarios here given this offer, as you point, was made last month, and nothing has happened so far?

SANGER: Well, I think that President Biden is under increasing pressure to do something in these two cases, the Griner case and the Whelan case. Of course, as soon as he does, he will be under pressure in other cases including many that don't involve Russia.


But we have detained journalists, political prisoners, dissidents, business people around the world. What will be interesting to see about the Lavrov call with Secretary of State Blinken, is first of all weather Lavrov, himself has the authority to negotiate here. He wasn't really aware of the plans to invade Ukraine until hours or days before it happened. It's not clear how much influence he has with Vladimir Putin.

CHURCH: So, David, if this prisoner swap does go ahead, it's clearly a very delicate situation. How do they do this? What is the process when it comes to exchanging these prisoners?

SANGER: It's a really good question. I mean, in the Cold War we had a system for exchanging spies, you know, in east and west Berlin, you know, right across the bridge, you've seen the movies and so forth. In this kind of case we probably have to pick a neutral country like Switzerland or some other place, where the exchange could take place.

CHURCH: David Sanger, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

SANGER: Great to be with you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: It's just after 10 a.m. in Ukraine, and several key regions are assessing the damage from a series of overnight Russian strikes. Ukrainian officials say the capital region was hit, along with Chernihiv and Kharkiv in the northeast. Powerful explosions were also heard in the southern city of Mykolaiv.

Meantime, the fight to control of the east and Donetsk region continues to intensify with the town of Bakhmut under relentless Russian shelling. Ukrainian officials say they have managed to repel some of the attacks.

Meantime, Ukraine is accusing Russia of staging attacks from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. A local mayor says Russia is using the facility like a fortress, safe from Ukrainian fire because of fears of damaging the plant. And that comes as the U.S. warns that Russia will soon make moves to annex Ukrainian territory that it's occupying.


BLINKEN: Here's what we expect to, see next. Russia installs leaders will hold sham referendums, to manufacture the fiction that the people in those places want to join Russia. Then, they will use those false votes to claim that the annexation of these regions is legitimate. We must and we will act quickly to make clear to Russia that these tactics will not work.


CHURCH: And Jason Carroll joins me now from Irpin in the Kyiv region. Good to see you, Jason. So, what is the latest on advances and losses on the front lines?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I heard you just talking about some of those strikes, Rosemary, overnight, also a strike this morning in the area around Kyiv. We're told that that strike hit some sort of an infrastructure facility. But as we say that many eyes on the south on the area of Kherson, military experts say that is where Ukrainians are making a real effort to push the Russians back.


CARROLL: These images that Ukrainian say are their strategy at work. Ukrainian long-range rockets struck a bridge in Kherson in the Russian occupied southern part of the country Tuesday night, targeting Russia supply lines.

By day, the damage done all too clear. The Antonivskyi Bridge not destroyed, still crossable, but the Ukrainian government say it's damaged enough to prevent Russians from using it to send in more heavy armor and other reinforcements.

The Russians admit the bridge is closed off, but downplayed the bombing. Local pro-Russian officials saying the attack will ultimately have no effect on the outcome of the war. This, as Ukrainian authorities say Russians are sending additional troops to the south.

Analysts say that Russia is preparing for a Ukrainian counter offensive that is slowly gathering strength in that part of the country. But in the eastern Donetsk region, it's the Russians on the front foot. These scenes from the town of Bakhmut under relentless shelling by Russian forces.

One man recorded the aftermath of strikes on nearby turrets and surveyed the damage. He says missile attack, everything is completely destroyed. The state of emergency service in Donetsk says as a result of the Russian shelling at least one person was killed at a nearby hotel.


Russian forces are trying to push further into the Donetsk region, they've captured a power station that had become a battlefield for weeks. But amid stiff Ukrainian resistance, they are making very slow progress.


CARROLL: And Rosemary, you know, talking about the shelling on the outskirts of Kyiv, the last time the area in Kyiv has been hit was back in June. But folks who are looking at this say this is just Moscow's attempt to once again show that they can strike anytime, anywhere. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Jason Carroll, many thanks to you joining us live from Irpin. I appreciate it.

Well, even as fighting rages, Ukraine is still moving closer to resuming grain exports that will help ease a global food crisis. It has restarted work at Black Sea ports to prepare for shipments under a deal with Russia that was signed in Turkey last week.

CNN's Nada Bashir joins us now from Istanbul to talk more on this. Good to see you again, Nada. So, what more are you learning about efforts to get this grain out to those in need, and the process involved?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Rosemary, this is come after weeks and weeks of negotiations brokered by the Turkish government and the United Nations with both Ukraine and Russia. And as we saw yesterday at the opening of that joint coordination center which is being held here in Istanbul, the Turkish government has bought together delegations from Russia and Ukraine as well as the U.N., to work together at the center to oversee the export of this vital grain shipments from Ukraine's southern Black Sea ports through the Black Sea, and through the Turkish straits. And of course, there have been concerns around the viability of this

agreement, we saw that Russian attack on the port of Odessa just a day after the deal was signed. And crucially, it's important to note that we heard from the Turkish defense ministry shortly after that attack, saying that they had heard from the Russian government, saying that they weren't responsible for that attack.

And later of course, that they did backtrack, the Russian Federation, claim that they targeted military infrastructure at the port. So, there are real concerns that have been expressed by Turkey's NATO allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom over whether Russia can be trusted.

But we went to visit that joint coordination center yesterday. And as we heard from both Turkish and U.N. officials, they both remain confident that all four parties will remain fully committed to the terms of this agreement. Take a look.


BASHIR: A landmark agreement now ready to be enacted, delegations from both Russia and Ukraine brought together again in Istanbul. This time, to mark the inaugural meeting of the joint coordination center.

HULUSI AKAR, TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The duty of the center is to ensure the safe sea transportation of grain and other supplies to be exported from Ukraine. It has become unnecessary to establish a sea corridor for the safe delivery of more than 25 million tons of grain, waiting in Ukrainian ports to the countries in need in a short period of time.

BASHIR: It's a deal which has taken weeks of negotiation to secure. And with the framework set to remain in place for at least four months, the work of this unprecedented collaboration could prove decisive in alleviating some of the pressures of the global food crisis.

Well, you can see the media storm behind me, and that's because this center here, the joint coordination center is set to be the heartbeat of the grain export initiative, bringing together representatives from Turkey and the United Nations but crucially from both Russia and Ukraine to oversee the export of grain and other vital agriculture goods through the Black Sea.

The real question now is whether all four parties, and in particular, whether the Russian Federation will commit to the framework outlined in this agreement.

But trust in Russia's intentions on the Black Sea is tenuous. Just a day after the deal was signed in Istanbul on Friday, Russian forces launched an attack on the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa. Raising concerns over the viability of the agreement. Now, Ukraine says it's placing its trust in Turkey and the United Nations.

FREDERICK KENNEY, U.N. INTERIM COORDINATOR, BLACK SEA GRAIN INITIATIVE: I can say that with all parties here have expressed their commitment to making this initiative a reality and getting it operational. I think that's demonstrated by the fact that all parties had a very senior person arrive here on extremely short notice.

BASHIR: Are you confident that Russia will commit, given the fact that we've already seen an attack?

KENNEY: I am confident that we will, this will be a successful mission. Yes. And we are going to work very hard to make sure that it does happen.


BASHIR: According to the Ukrainian government work is now underway to finalize safe corridors from three of Ukraine's Black Sea ports. And with no shortage of urgency around this initiative, officials say the first shipments could leave Ukraine by the end of this week.


BASHIR: And we continue to hear that message from the Turkish government, they are working closely with their counterparts in Ukraine to ensure those grain shipment -- shipments are able to leave Ukraine southern Black Sea ports as soon as possible.

We've repeatedly heard that message from the United Nations, from the World Programme -- Food Programme, urging for this to take place as soon as possible given the urgent need for millions of people across the globe on those grain exports.

We also heard from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking yesterday, saying that there's a difference between a deal on paper and a deal in practice normalize. We'll be waiting to see whether or not the Russian Federation, and of course Ukraine all remain committed to this agreement.

CHURCH: Are right. Nada Bashir, many thanks for bringing us up to date on that story.

Still to come, extreme security planning in the works ahead of a possible trip to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And as China fumes over Pelosi's possible trip, the U.S. and Chinese president's plan to talk.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not confirmed plans to her trip to Taiwan yet but just in case top American military officials have given her a security assessment of the visit and a security plan is being developed by the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific command.

Experts are divided on what China's reaction maybe if Pelosi makes the trip and many thinks there will be no military actions.

CNN's Selina Wang has details. SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taiwan is preparing for possible attack in its annual military drill as fears of aggression from across the strait grows. That fire coming from fire and fury from Beijing in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan.

China threatening to take resolute and powerful measures. A prominent hawkish voice in China even suggesting shocking military response, saying that PLA military aircraft will accompany Pelosi's plane to enter the island.

SUSAN SHIRK, PROFESSOR, 21ST CENTURY CHINA CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: Nancy Pelosi is the third public official in the line of succession, it connotes that we are treating Taiwan more like an independent country.

WANG: And independent is a red line for Beijing. There have been recent U.S. congressional visits but if Pelosi goes to Taiwan, she would be the highest-ranking U.S. official to travel there, since then House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.


This potential visit comes at an extremely sensitive time. Chinese military is celebrating its founding anniversary on August 1st. And we are just months away from a key political meeting when Xi Jinping is expected to seek an unprecedented third term.

From Beijing's perspective, a potential visit by Pelosi to Taiwan would be a reckless act that provokes Beijing at a time it's supposed to be projecting strength, control, and stability.

SHIRK: Having the Pelosi visit come now will make Xi Jinping fear that other people will see this as a humiliation of him and that will cause him to feel that he has to react very strongly. Given the overreaching that Xi Jinping has been doing, I don't think that we can count on his good judgment.

WANG: A U.S. official told CNN China could impose a no-fly zone around Taiwan. But the Chinese government hasn't announced details about how it could retaliate.


WANG: Biden has said several times that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China were to attack Taiwan.

BIDNE: Yes, we have a commitment.

WANG: Only to have the White House walk back those remarks each time. But as China's military might grows more are calling for the Biden administration to end the so-called strategic ambiguity. It's impossible to overstate how important Taiwan is to the communist party and its legitimacy. China sees the self-ruled island as a breakaway province that must be

reunified with the mainland, even by force if necessary. And a visit from one of America's most powerful politicians might just get Beijing the push to make a risky move.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


CHURCH: The U.S. hopes to better gauge China's reaction to Pelosi's possible trip after the U.S. and Chinese president speak on the phone in the coming hours. The conversation was in the works before the news about Pelosi's potential trip came out.

The Pentagon security plan for her could involve U.S. military. ships, planes, and even reconnaissance satellites.

And for more, Steven Jiang joins us now live from Beijing. Good to see you, Steven. So, what more are you learning about China's anger regarding Nancy Pelosi's possible trip to Taiwan. And also, this upcoming phone call between President Biden and his Chinese counterpart.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN Beijing BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Rosemary, you know, as much as U.S. officials try to characterize this phone call as a routine follow-up to the two leaders' last conversation back in March, this is really anything but routine given this latest showdown. Now it's all but certain that Xi Jinping would raise the issue of Pelosi's visit with Biden and asking him to stop her, especially because from the Chinese perspective both are from the same political party in the U.S.

The problem of course is there is separation of powers among different U.S. government branches. And for any U.S. President Biden included they simply does not want to be seen as caving in under Chinese pressure. So, if after this phone call Pelosi goes ahead with this visit, then from the Chinese perspective this would be considered even a bigger humiliation and insult to Xi Jinping which could in turn compel them to take even more forceful actions then if there is no such phone call.

As of now, as Selina was saying, there are no specifics that be mentioned by the Chinese military. And that is a challenge for both the U.S. and Taiwan as well as they try to prepare for potential threats from Beijing. Of course, as you heard, there are speculations that educated guest says that the People's Liberation Army could impose a no-fly zone around the time of her visit, planned visit or squarely jets to shadow her plane or even sending war planes to fly over Taiwan itself to try to prevent her plane from landing in Taipei.

But as of now, a direct attack on her plane just seems unthinkable. But the worry of course is what so many military assets from China and Taiwan from the U.S. are operating in this region. There is a growing possibility of miscalculations that could lead to actual conflict. That's why he stakes are so high at a time where no one can afford to look weak. And a lot is now writing on Pelosi's decision. Rosemary? CHURCH: Yes, absolutely, it's a big concern, watching those

developments very closely. Steven Jiang, joining us live from Beijing. Many thanks.

Well, President Biden says he feels great after his latest COVID test came back negative. The 79-year-old commander-in-chief is back at work in person addressing the nation from the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday. He reminded people to get their vaccines and boosters and take advantage of free testing.


BIDEN: But the reality is that BA.5 means many of us are still going to get COVID even if we take the precautions. That doesn't mean we are doing anything wrong. I got through it with no fear, a very mild discomfort because of these essential lifesaving tools.


And guess what? I want to remind everybody, they are free, they are convenience, and they are safe. And they work.


CHURCH: Mr. Biden tweeted a picture of his negative COVID result. He will be tested more frequently and wear a mask for the next 10 days as a precaution.

The World Health Organization is raising hopes that the monkeypox outbreak can be contained. It declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern on Saturday as more than 18,000 cases have been reported in 78 countries.

But now, mass vaccinations are not recommended but the WHO's chief outlined the steps needed to keep monkeypox from spreading.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: This is an outbreak that can be stopped if countries, communities, and individuals informed themselves, take the risk seriously, and take the steps needed to stop transmission, and protect vulnerable groups. The best way to do that is to reduce the risk of exposure. That means making safe choices for yourself and others.


CHURCH: Up rooted by five months of war, you will hear from an aid agency looking to provide relief to displaced Ukrainians. We'll have that in just a moment.


CHURCH: We want to focus now on the humanitarian toll of Russia's war on Ukraine as the conflict enters its sixth month. The U.N. says more than six million Ukrainians have poured into neighboring countries and millions more are internally displaced within Ukraine. Many don't know when they will be able to return home, or if there will even be a home to return to.

The aid agency, CORE, is among the groups stepping up to provide relief. Helping Ukrainians get basic necessities and shelter.

Ann Lee, the CEO and co-founder of CORE joins me now from Lviv in Ukraine. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, with millions of Ukrainian refugees pouring into neighboring countries, looking for food and shelter how does your organization go about finding homes for some of these people in such dire need, and what other assistance are you offering?


LEE: It's been incredible seeing the outpouring of support from these neighboring countries. A lot of informal and formal shelters have been created to kind of absorb the IP's or the refugees that have come in, hotels that have transformed into shelters. Folks who have just brought people home. I mean, the incredible support from regular citizens is quite overwhelming.

So, our work is really to support the formal shelters, as well as the informal shelters with everything from food, medicine, fuel, water, as well as, you know, basic supplies.

CHURCH: And your organization has worked on COVID relief here in the United States and around the world. So, how has that experience helped your approach in Ukraine?

LEE: For us, it's always been having and supporting the local response. I think people who are within the communities that responded the ones that saves lives first and know exactly how people need support. So, COVID really allowed us to kind of really work localized, and also to be able to pivot quickly as, you know, new things kind of came through with COVID.

In the same manner, you know, we have to pivot constantly based on what's happening on the ground. You know, there are still -- there are still bombings happening, there is still a lot of movement. Although the overall IDP, and the refugee population and movement have kind of stabilized, the need hasn't. And so being able to be flexible based on what the needs are at any given moment is very important.

CHURCH: Of course, and what are the most urgent humanitarian needs in Ukraine, and in border towns where Ukrainian refugees have been fleeing in Poland and Romania to seek safety and support.

LEE: Well, on the eastern front where the war is still very, very present, where bombings are still occurring, basic supplies and needs are so urgently needed. Food, water, just basic essentials. And that's what we're providing and continuing that support is going to be in the near future.

In the border towns, it's shelter, it's integration, it's getting kids back into school. Because we don't know how long this is going to take and kids and families need a sense of normalcy. Especially as the winter is coming again, making sure that these folks are in stable housing situations throughout the winter is quite important.

CHURCH: And how do you get donations and supplies and how big a challenge is that when you have so many Ukrainian refugees relying on your organization for help?

LEE: Really, it's through donations, you know, texting and looking us up at, we rely on donations from the public. Initially the outpouring is incredibly huge but it quiet, it peters off quite a bit. And that's why it's so important to remind people that despite the fact that the war isn't constantly on the news as much anymore, the need is still there and it's getting greater as winter approaches.

CHURCH: And what would you say to our viewers watching now who really want to help your organization, and of course these refugees that are trying to get out of Ukraine. What would you say to them on what the greatest need is?

LEE: I think the greatest needs to provide support right now throughout the winter, people want to get a sense of normalcy. It can be support through our organization, we support a lot of local based organizations as well with a lot less bureaucracy. And I think supporting our organization goes a long way.

You know, also looking at other local organizations who are very, very supportive of the incredible work that has come through with the Polish organizations, as well as Ukrainians. There's a lot happening on the ground, the need hasn't stopped, it's getting greater as winter approaches. So, I just recommend anyone who can get something to do something.

CHURCH: All right, Ann Lee, we all salute you for your heroic work. It is just incredible what you are doing for all of these refugees. Thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

And still to come, the Justice Department and the January 6 investigations into the riots at the U.S. Capitol are reaching into Donald Trump's inner circle. Details on who might testify next, that's ahead.

Plus, inflation in the U.S. is soaring, and the Federal Reserve is taking another unprecedented step to cool the economy and bring prices down.



CHURCH: Investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 elections and the riot at the U.S. Capitol appear to be gaining steam. On the congressional side, Donald Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, could appear for a closed-door deposition with the January 6th committee later this week, and the Justice Department is reaching out to more former White House officials.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has the details.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Department of Justice investigation into the events that led to January 6 is expanding at a rapid click.

ALYSSA FARAH, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I am aware of other White House officials who have been reached out to by DOJ and are planning to cooperate.

NOBLES: Former White House staffer Alyssa Farah telling CNN that DOJ has reach out to more former officials in the Trump White House. Beyond just Marc Short and Greg Jacob, two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence. CNN now learning that Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump's chief of staff is just the latest official from the last administration to start cooperating with the DOJ's criminal investigators.

FARAH: I think DOJ is keeping an eye out who is coming before January 6 and who may have helpful information.

NOBLES: The news comes at the same time, sources tell the Washington Post and New York Times that federal investigators have asked questions specifically about Donald Trump's actions, suggesting their probe is getting closer to the former president himself, all while a separate state level investigation is looking at Trump and election interference in Georgia.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You see Pence's movement on Donald Trump and perhaps, this will be the occasion in which he cannot dodge criminal liability.

NOBLES: The public posture of the DOJ is welcome news to members of the January 6th select committee who have been publicly pleading with federal prosecutors to take action.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): That encourages me or solidifies the understanding I've always operated with, which is that the Department of Justice has a vast arsenal of resources at their desk disposal. These are extremely competent effective lawyers. They know what they are doing.

NOBLES: However, there is no question the political calendar and a pending presidential announcement by Trump could complicate their plants. And Trump continues to show no sign he is backing down.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Now we have the January 6th unselect committee of political hoax and thugs.

NOBLES: But Attorney General Merrick Garland pledge that d nothing, including political pressure will impede their criminal investigation.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will hold accountable anyone who is criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer, legitimate lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.


NOBLES: And while there is no doubt that the Department of Justice investigation is expanding, we shouldn't take that to mean that the January 6th select committee is wrapping things up. In fact, they have now trained their focus on members of the Trump cabinet, and in particular the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Sources telling us he could sit for a closed-door deposition as soon as this week. The committee is centrally focused on conversations related to the 25th amendment after the capitol riot.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


CHURCH: The Commerce Department will release its latest report on the U.S. economy in just a few hours. And if the gross domestic product shrinks for a second straight quarter, that could be a major indication that the country is in a recession.

Economists surveyed by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal are predicting growth of less than 1 percent. The White House is pointing to falling gas prices, and the lowest unemployment in nearly 50 years as positive economic signs.

Another interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve has sent financial markets soaring. The Dow gained more than 400 points Wednesday, and the NASDAQ finished 4 percent higher. For the second straight month the Fed has raised rates by three quarters of a percentage point, an unprecedented effort to try to bring inflation under control.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell says he doesn't think the U.S. is currently in a recession. Take a listen.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD: We're trying to do just the right amount, right? We're not -- we're not trying to have a recession, and we don't think we have to. We think that there is a path for us to be able to bring inflation down, while sustaining a strong labor market.

As I mentioned, along with in all likelihood some softening in labor market conditions. So, that is, that's what we're trying to achieve and we continue to think that there's a path to that. We know that the path has clearly narrowed, really based on events that are outside or our control, and it may narrow further.


CHURCH: More now from CNN's Rahel Solomon.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Federal Reserve making history Wednesday to fight red hot inflation, the U.S. Central bank once again raising interest rates by three quarters of a percent. This is now the first time in modern history that policymakers have raised interest rates by three quarters of a percent consecutively before June. The last time we saw an increase of this magnitude was in 1994.

During a press conference Wednesday chairman Jerome Powell said that the committee is acutely aware that high inflation is a hardship for many Americans. But doing too little is a bigger threat, and potentially allows inflation to remain higher for longer.

When the Federal Reserve raises its benchmark interest rate, that then leads to higher borrowing costs and interest rates for everything from credit cards, and car loans, to mortgages. When borrowing costs go up, we consumers tend to spend less.

The hope is that if we spend less, that creates a bit more balance and the demand for goods and services, and the supply of those goods and services and prices come down. The concern, however, is the Fed raises rates so aggressively that it brings spending to a halt, and that triggers a recession and job loss.

Chairman Powell noted that while the path to avoid a recession may have narrowed, he does not believe the U.S. is currently in one, because many areas of the economy like the labor market are performing well. Unemployment is currently at 3.6 percent, and demand for workers is very strong.

The labor market, a silver lining in a period otherwise marked by decades high inflation, and the fight of central bankers to tame that inflation.

Rahel Solomon, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: A good part of the world's current economic troubles stem from Russia's war on Ukraine. Natural gas prices have soared 30 percent in two days. And electricity prices in Europe shot to a new record high on Wednesday, as Russia slashed natural gas deliveries through the Nord Stream pipeline.

E.E. energy ministers have agreed to a voluntary 15 percent cut in gas use in hopes of avoiding winter shortages. The E.U.'s energy commissioner tells CNN the continent should be able to weather the colds despite exemptions for some countries.


KADRI SIMSON, E.U. ENERGY COMMISSIONER: That 15 percent it's achievable, despite how big the consumption you do have. But many pointed out yesterday that it doesn't take into account the different circumstances. So yesterday, we added some flexibility to this framework to make sure these circumstances are reflected. But even if all of those exemptions, interrogations would be used, which is not likely, we will be able to cut the consumption enough.


CHURCH: Hungary leads E.U. countries getting 25 percent of its energy from Russian natural gas. Slovakia, Moldova, Austria, and Germany round up the top five.

Well, Pope Francis will celebrate mass in Quebec City today as he continues what the Vatican calls his pilgrimage of penance in Canada. Since Sunday, the pope has met with multiple indigenous groups, apologizing for the roles Christians played in the abuse of indigenous children at church run residential schools.


Prime Minister Trudeau praised the pontiff for acknowledging abuses, but said that his words were not the end but a starting point.

CNN's Delia Gallagher has that report.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: On Pope Francis's first day in Quebec, he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as the Governor General Mary Simon. She's the first indigenous governor general for Canada. And the pope spoke to political authorities here and reiterated his own request for forgiveness for so many Christians he said who had done wrong to the indigenous communities.

But he also asked the government to continue to address the goals set by the commission for truth and reconciliation and to help indigenous communities to thrive.

On Thursday, Francis meets with the Catholic community here in Quebec, and will say mass with them and on Friday, he will go north to the Arctic to meet with some members of the Inuit indigenous community.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Quebec City.

CHURCH: Blistering heat is wreaking the business for some cattle ranchers in the U.S. Now they have to make some tough choices to stay afloat. We will take a look at that on the other side of the break. Stay with us.


CHURCH: The new president of the Philippines is touring damage from Wednesday's powerful earthquake as residents are being warned to brace for aftershocks. The 7.o magnitude quake struck Luzon, the country's most populous island.

At least five people were killed and 130 others were hurt. The quake damaged hundreds of buildings including 61 schools, buckled roads and bridges, and triggered dozens of landslides. Authorities say more than 200 small towns have been affected.

At least 57 cities in China have issued their highest heat warning. Temperatures are expected to top 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit in the next 24 hours. More than 300 other cities and counties have issued the second highest warning.

The ongoing heat wave comes amid a struggle to contain COVID outbreaks. More than 500 new cases were reported on Thursday.

Extreme heat has also been scorching parts of the United States. In Texas, its collateral damage of the businesses of some cattle ranches as Ed Lavandera reports, they simply can't afford to keep all of their cattle anymore.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Summers are supposed to be quiet inside the Seguin Cattle Company auction barn in Texas, but manager Bryan Luensmann says the extreme heat and drought is forcing thousands of cattle ranchers to sell off their herds.

What's it been like being in the cattle business this summer?

BRYAN LUENSMANN, MANAGER, SEGUIN CATTLE COMPANY: Pretty much a roller coaster ride. I mean, it's been chaotic, it quit raining October of last year. So, I mean, it's just been desperate measures for people.

LAVANDERA: Cattle ranchers usually bring their herds to market in late fall, but the heat and lack of rain is making it financially impossible for many ranchers to keep sustaining the cows. That's why Luensmann says almost twice as many farmers as usual are lining up here to sell off portions of their cattle herds.


Federal forecasters say this is the second driest year around the Seguin area in the past 128 years. Priscilla McBee and her family have a small family operation of about 20 cattle.

You brought two cows and a calf.


LAVANDERA: Why did you have to get rid of them?

MCBEE: We are just trying to reduce number, trying to reduce how many we're feeding because there's no grass, and the hay we have is not going to last us through the winter.

LAVANDERA: She says her farm is running out of grass to keep the herd properly fed.

MCBEE: It's hard. You know, our fields are barren.

LAVANDERA: So, you're trying to save the rest of the herd.


LAVANDERA: Marty Schwarzkopf has a herd of 70 cattle. He brought one to sell today. He says he also usually sells four to 6,000 bales of hay every year to cattle ranchers. But this year, the ground is so dry he's only done about 300.

MARTY SCHWARZKOPF, CATTLE RANCHER: And I feel for a lot of people. You know, people they've been doing this for years and years, and now they don't have anything to, to hold on. You know, they're having to let go.

WADE MAIERHOFER, CATTLE RANCHER: We put these bales of hay out a couple of days ago and they're already gone and they're a hundred dollars apiece.

LAVANDERA: Wade Maierhofer is a fourth-generation cattle rancher on this land. He says this ranch field should be covered in lush green grass; a foot high. Now it's a sea of hard scrabbled brown dust. The remaining burnt grass crunches under your feet.

We talked under the shade of an oak tree as he explained he might have to sell more of his cows.

Do you get emotional thinking about that possibility?

MAIERHOFER: Yes. Yes, yes. Yes. You don't want to do it. You don't want to sell them. You, you know, most of these cattle, well, all of these cattle, we raised, we raised them from babies. If we -- if we have to get rid of the -- all of them it's painful.

LAVANDERA: This part of Texas usually gets 24 to 48 inches of rain a year. It's received just four inches so far this year. The pond Maierhofer's cows usually drink from is supposed to be seven feet deep. There's not even a drop of water left in it now.

Wade Maierhofer will face tough decision soon. He sold off 20 cows last week, and if it doesn't rain and cool off soon, he'll be back in the auction barn selling off more of his herd.

MAIERHOFER: I will sell them before -- before they're skin and bones, I will sell them. I mean, if we can't maintain them, then we'll get rid of them.

LAVANDERA: If cattle ranchers across the country don't get enough rain soon, they will have to continue selling off their herds earlier than usual, and if that happens, that means next year there will be a shortage of cattle on the market, and that means higher prices in the grocery store.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Seguin, Texas.


CHURCH: And thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN Newsroom Continues next with Christina Macfarlane.