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Reports: 2 Dead After Rockets Or Missiles Hit NATO Member Poland; McCarthy Nominated For Speaker As GOP Nears House Majority; Infighting Builds As Republicans Inch Toward House Majority. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired November 15, 2022 - 15:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.


Right now the leadership and NATO member Poland is convening its National Security Council, after reports of two rockets and missiles landing on Polish territory and reportedly killing two people.

CAMEROTA: It is not confirmed where the projectiles came from or who fired them, but they apparently hit a farm near Poland's border with Ukraine. Let's bring in CNN Senior International Correspondent, Sam Kiley. He's following this breaking story from Ukraine. Also with us, CNN Anchor and CNN Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Also CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, who's traveling with President Biden in Asia and we have CNN Military Analyst and retired Air Force, Col. Cedric Leighton.

Sam, I want to start with you. You're on the ground in Ukraine, what have you been able to learn about this?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just as we were coming to air there, I don't know if you notice, but the lights went out here in Kryvyi Rih and that is because we are now a city that is joining 7 million other people around the Ukrainian nation who've been cut off from the electrical supply by this massive bombardment of cruise and other missiles fired by Russia against Ukraine.

Now, we know that whilst this has been going on, two projectiles have landed inside Polish territory, causing a considerable devastation on a farm killing two people in or near that location. We understand it's about five kilometers from the Ukrainian border, so inevitably, the speculation will be and this will be what the Polish Security Council is meeting to discuss it them. They'll have their experts already on the ground assessing how or rather what these missiles were and where they came from. And then also NATO's had aircraft in the air, monitoring the airspace over Poland, a NATO country.

So that information as to whether who's fired these missiles and how did these missiles or these projectiles end up in Poland, killing people. Now, that is critical, because if they were to assess, for example, that these missiles were fired deliberately against Poland, that would be an act of war that would trigger Article Five of the NATO convention. That would be the one for all and all for one Convention, which means that the other member states of NATO would be committed to whatever Poland would want to do in recompense against whoever fired that missile, the assumption would be Russia.

I think that is the doomsday most unlikely scenario, based on what I've seen here, many, many missile interception, sadly, over the - many months I've been covering the war here. The likelihood is that this is the remains of a missile that's been shot down by Ukraine. It doesn't necessarily mean that the Russians will get off on this is a mere accident, because this is a missile that if it landed five kilometers inside Ukrainian territory was very, very close, arguably even already inside Polish territory, if, indeed it was shot down.

So this is the areas of speculation and investigation that the experts will be getting into. But just as this has all unfolded, we've already heard from Lithuania, Estonia, two Baltic nations very, very anxious indeed, about this kind of a scenario, reinforcing their commitment right off the bat, ahead of any kind of conclusion reached by the polls, that they are fully committed to the one for all and all for one Article Five convention within NATO.

So this is a moment of extreme international tension, not one, frankly, that people who've been involved in this war feel is particularly unexpected, but one that is going to send shockwaves around the world - right around the world from China to Washington as people try to figure out what happens next.

BLACKWELL: Phil, let's come to you now. It is the very early morning there in Bali where the President's attending the G20. Are we hearing anything yet from the White House?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is 4 am here, obviously. Most White House officials not awake or at least weren't before this all happened. And I think what this moment underscores when you talk to White House officials is kind of exactly what Sam was saying, they understand the stakes, the tension is very real. But more than anything else, they need information.

We just got a tweet from the National Security Council spokeswoman kind of underscoring this point, Adrienne Watson, tweeting: "We've seen these reports out of Poland and are working with the Polish government to gather more information. We cannot confirm reports or any of the details at this time. We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be.

Now it's worth noting President Biden has two more events on his schedule later today before he departs Bali to head back to Washington. This is the final day of his six-day foreign trip across three different summits. And it is here in Bali at the G20 Summit, where Russia's war against Ukraine has really been a central focus.

U.S. officials have been working furiously behind the scenes to try and get as many of the G20 members as possible to sign on to a declaration condemning Russia's actions. Much of the kind of side discussions here if they aren't related specific Typically on the military side of things have been working on the economic side of things, on the energy side, on the food supply side of things.


All kind of aftershocks of Russia's invasion over the course of the last nine months.

This has been the central focus of this G20 Summit and that will obviously be ramped up as world leaders wake up or as they're grappling with this new information right now. One thing to be sure of, according to the White House officials I've spoken to, they are very intensely focused on this. They do not have the final answers yet, but they are absolutely searching for them at this moment. They know the stakes even, guys, President Biden was in Poland in March of this year, just seven months ago, visiting U.S. troops that are stationed there as part of the NATO defense front lines, and making very clear this, the commitment to Article Five that no inch of NATO territory should be a bridge basically, whether or not this encompasses that still very much an open question, guys.

CAMEROTA: So Colonel, I mean, it's hard to imagine, I think, tell me if I'm wrong, that Russia would intentionally fire a missile into Poland. They know the consequences of that. So if this were, as Sam was laying out. If this were the scenario that a Russian missile was lobbed, Ukraine shot at down projectiles or shrapnel from that came down in Poland and killed two people, then what is the response from Poland?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, that presents a few problems, doesn't it, Alisyn? And that is probably a likely scenario at this point. What would happen, I think (inaudible) of course, would express a great regret at this situation if they were actually shooting down these missiles. If the missiles were shot down and they were Russian missiles without any interference, if you will, from a Ukrainian Air Defense, then, of course, that's a completely different issue.

So the Poles and the Ukrainians would work something out if it were the first scenario. If it's the second scenario, then I think the Poles would - at the very least use diplomatic efforts to go after the Russians and it could potentially escalate into something where NATO develops a coherent response, whether that's a military or an economic or diplomatic response. Of course, it's another issue, but I suspect what we're seeing here is we're going to stay in the lane of the diplomatic and to the economic, at least, for now.

BLACKWELL: Jim, to you, many questions still to be answered the most important: who and what. Who's responsible and exactly what happened. But does these eight months into this war fit Putin's MO, that this would be an intentional rocket or missile fired over into NATO territory?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Frankly, no. First of all, let's just caution here that it's very early, even the U.S. military and NATO officials are making very clear they don't know exactly the circumstances here. If you look at the information we have so far, the more likely scenario is that this was accidental, as opposed to intentional and possibly, as Sam referenced, a Russian missile that was hit by an air defense system and then came down on Polish territory, more likely.

No one is confirming that is - or the circumstances here, but that is a likely scenario. I spoke to a U.S. lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee a few minutes ago, who said that that kind of circumstance, he surprised it hasn't happened yet, in fact, in some nine months of war now, since the Russian invasion, going back to February, given the volume, the many hundreds of missiles that Russia has fired at Ukrainian territory, including in the western part of the country, very close to the Polish border here. Given the number of missiles in the air, the number of getting shot at and shot down that this hasn't happened yet, right, more likely than not accidental as opposed to intentional strike, given that volume.

And as a U.S. military official, I've known for a number of years, reminded me a short time ago, the Russians don't always have the greatest aim, right? And we've seen that with some of their strikes before intended for military facilities that hit non-military facilities, et cetera. So we have to factor that in and I think take a moment before we discuss scenarios where NATO is invoking Article Five to go to war against Russia, right, to defend one of their out, we're not there yet.

That said, this shows the tremendous danger of waging a war on Europe's largest country and firing an incredible amount of munitions at that country with frequency and not always the accuracy that you would like. Frankly, Russia often doesn't care what it hits, right, on Ukrainian territory. They deliberately target civilians and other targets, so that's something to keep in mind.

But before we get to a space here where we have NATO declaring war on Russia or a coordinated military response, that the facts don't justify that at this point. Now, we do know that U.S. officials, NATO officials are looking at this very closely to know exactly what happened and even short of say invoking Article Five given that two citizens of Poland appear to have died in this attack, you can expect some response. And I think once they have the facts determined, that's what you should be - what we should be looking for as the most likely outcome here.


CAMEROTA: We're getting a little bit of new information here, Sam, that I'll read to you. The Russia defense ministry has just come out with a statement. They say the statements of the Polish media and officials about the alleged fall of Russian and "missiles" in the area of the settlement of that farm is a deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation. They go on to say there were no strikes made on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border. Your response?

KILEY: Well, that's not true. It's absolutely not true. We know that there was strikes, attempted strikes, and I believe actual strikes, not very far from Lviv, the first that have been seen there for some time. Lviv is not very far from the Polish border.

I think what is also troubling about this statement is that it has come out very, very quickly and it means that the Russians have claimed very long way up the tree of denial. A denial that is going to be very difficult for them to reverse, but it could well be that this is some other kind of military accident. As Jim was absolutely right to point out, we don't know even the much more than the barest facts, which is that two projectiles have landed inside Polish territory, a NATO member, killing two Poles on a farm not very far from the border. Excuse me, back to you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let me come to you, Colonel, on this what we're learning from this short statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, where they say that there was this deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation. Frankly, Colonel, that is what we've heard from the Russians at every turn of this invasion. They called the atrocities in Bucha and in Mariupol, and, frankly, the hits on residential buildings and schools and hospitals, they blame those on others when it is clear that the Russians have been responsible for those.

So that the line of this is a deliberate provocation is undermined by everything we've seen throughout this invasion over the last eight months.

LEIGHTON: It certainly is undermined by that, Victor. There's no question that the Russians will obfuscate (ph) and they'll try to make things seem different from what they actually are. The fact of the matter is, as Sam pointed out, it's very clear that the Russians were attacking targets in western Ukraine. They were attacking targets near Lviv, which is not too far from this Polish village that was hit.

And it's very clear also that they've attacked these areas before, so it's highly likely that this Russian missile - that this missile is a Russian missile, first of all. And that secondly that - either it hit a target that it may not have intended to hit or that it was shot down by Ukrainian Air Defense or something happened to it in mid flight.

But a regardless of what happened, the Russians are clearly responsible for this kind of an attack and they were responsible for this missile being launched in the first place. There's no other source where that missile would have come from. There's no logic to the idea that say Ukraine would have done something like this way or whether the Poles would have done to themselves.

So those things would be discarded right away in terms of any investigation of this from an intelligence perspective.


CAMEROTA: We have to believe, of course, that the Pentagon and the White House have war gamed out a scenario like this even if it were an accident. And so has President Biden ever talked about what the U.S. would response would be to something like this?

MATTINGLY: I mean, I think the ambiguity about what actually happened kind of makes it a little bit difficult to exactly identify where the President would come down on this, where allies would come down on this. Obviously, if this were a deliberate or intentional attack on NATO ally, the President has been unequivocal about what the response would be in terms of triggering the Article Five commitments.

He did it on the ground in Poland. He's done it several times since. And, obviously, the fact that U.S. troops are on the ground in Poland as well who the President actually visited in March, when he was there seem to underscore that point.

I would note, though, as everybody has laid out, Sam and Jim, the Colonel, the facts here are extraordinarily important, because this is a very, very tense situation. I think Jim noted this as well. There has been - there have been White House officials I've spoken to over the last several months, that have been keenly aware that this was a possibility, not necessarily any intentional act, but because of the lack of targeting, because of the just sheer amount of munitions and missiles that have been fired over the course of the last several months that something like an accident or something like - something that wasn't intended, could actually happen and what would they do in that case.

I think it's fair to say that Pentagon officials, White House officials, National Security Council officials have been gaming out any number of scenarios over the course of the last eight or nine months. But I think in this one in particular, now that we've seen something actually happened.


White House officials are extremely focused on finding out just exactly what happened. Once they find out what happened, they obviously are already in communication with Polish allies. They will speak to NATO allies. Obviously, the President is on the ground here with a number of world leaders, all the G7 leaders are here as well, before there's any kind of response.

One thing that we know from this president and the way his foreign policy team has operated is they don't want to do anything unilaterally. They definitely don't want to do anything before they'd have all the answers and so I think the idea that anything that they do would be done in a united manner would be done in consultation, not just with Poland, but also with the other leaders that have been kind of so closely unified and aligned over the course of the last eight or nine months in response to Russia's actions. That is almost a guaranteed path forward.

But again, the big wildcard here is finding out exactly what happened. And as everyone has noted, that is the primary number one focus at the moment before they figure out what they're going to be doing next.

CAMEROTA: Sure. Understood. Okay. Sam Kiley, Jim Sciutto, Phil Mattingly, Col. Leighton, thank you all very much.

BLACKWELL: Just one more thing which is the State Department briefing and much like what we heard from the Department of Defense in the White House that they are still looking into that. They are in communication with allies, no confirmation yet even from the State Department of what happened across the border there in Poland. Again, as we get more, we'll bring it to you.

Now, here on stateside, Kevin McCarthy has been nominated to be the next Speaker of the House if the Republican Party gets the majority. We'll have more on that just ahead.

CAMEROTA: Also on Capitol Hill today, the FBI director and the Homeland Security Chief warned lawmakers that anti-government extremism is still a risk and that domestic violent extremism is the most lethal threat right now, more on that.



BLACKWELL: Republicans appear close to securing control of the House and if that happens California Republican, the current Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, looks likely to become the next Speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency. The Congressman won an internal party election, that was in the last hour, but his party still has not secured control of the House. They are just a few races shy though of winning a majority.

CAMEROTA: The GOP underperformed expectations in the midterms. They failed to win back the Senate and their expected majority in the lower chamber will be smaller than they'd hoped. So that disappointment has one Republican senator now saying this:


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): I think that this election was the funeral for the Republican Party as we know it. The Republican Party, as we have known it, is dead and voters have made that clear. We need to have a conversation about our core convictions to the party. And clearly this party is going to have to actually - it's going to have to be different or we're not going to be a majority party in this country.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's go now to CNN Congressional Correspondent, Jessica Dean. What was the vote on Kevin McCarthy's win?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So that was 188 to 31. And remember, Victor and Alisyn, he just needed a simple majority to get through to this phase and then he will need the full 218 in January. So those 31 votes he didn't get it really shows you just how much work Kevin McCarthy has to do between now and then. A member of the Freedom Caucus, Andy Biggs, running against him.

But again, he is poised to be the Speaker of the House should the Republicans take control, but he is going to have to do some cobbling together to get to that 218 and make some deals. It was - he was always expected to have to do deals with the House Freedom Caucus. But with this margin, likely to be so small, it really makes it all the harder he's going to need the support from nearly every person he can get to get where he wants to go in terms of being Speaker of the House.

And I'd also like to take us back to the Senate for one second. I just came over from their policy lunch. They normally meet both parties on Tuesdays. Normally they'd been over by - for hours now. This is the Republican policy lunch is now stretching into its second hour. It's going on much longer than it normally does.

Sen. Kevin Cramer telling CNN that it's largely about whether or not to delay the vote on their leadership, which is slated to take place tomorrow. And my colleague, Manu Raju, reporting that Florida senator, Rick Scott, has decided to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It's really more of a protest that he's doing. That's still a long shot that Scott would beat McConnell, but it is the first real challenger that he's ever had as GOP leader and it really underscores that as we stand here today, a week after these elections that Republicans both on the House and the Senate are simply not where they thought they would be.

They thought they would be in much different positions. There's a lot of blame to go around. And there is a lot of back and forth over what the way forward should be. So it remains to be seen if they will decide to delay those elections tomorrow for the Senate or if they will keep that on task and go forward with it on Wednesday, Victor and Alisyn. We'll, of course, keep our eye on that.

We're expecting to hear from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of leadership soon.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Jessica Dean, thank you very much for all the latest from Capitol Hill.

All right. Let's check in now to see just how close Republicans are to winning the house. CNN anchor, John Berman has been tracking the election count. Okay, what are the latest numbers, John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN: I think they're wickedly close is the clinical term ...

CAMEROTA: I know. I understand that.

BERMAN: ...I think that I'll give you right now. They have 215 seats called for them right now. They're just three seats away from clinching the majority. There are 16 uncalled races at this point. Of those 16 uncalled races, Republicans lead in six, Democrats lead in 10. So they only need three of the six they currently lead in, one of the six maybe most likely well, there's a lot going on in California. We think of California as a blue state, but it's such a big state with so many districts, There are plenty of Republican leaning districts here as well, including down here not terribly far from San Diego.


This is California's 41st District. You can see Ken Calvert who's a three decades serving Republican in the House. He's ahead by some 5,000 votes at this point, 82 percent and things look good for him. Not terribly far away, south of Los Angeles. You have this district here. This is California's 45th. Incumbent Michelle Steel is leading Jay Chen, 13,000 vote margin here, 78 percent reporting.

This is actually a Democratic-leaning district, but turnout often favors the Republicans there. And then you go to the border with Nevada up here and there's another district which actually tilts Republican. This is an R plus one district. And Kevin Kiley is leading Kermit Jones by 9,000 votes or so, 52 percent in. A lot of vote left to count, but leaning his way. So I just identified three. Three California races that would get Republicans over the top, they'd be fine.

Then you go to Colorado right now, you have Lauren Boebert, of course, the election denying conservative. She is leading by about 1,100 votes, 99 percent reporting, almost everything counted except for overseas absentee.

Democrats are kind of clinging on to hope that maybe that will help him, but that would be a tall, tall climb for the Democrats at this point. So you can see Republicans, they just have to win where they're currently now leading and that would give them the majority that they need, guys?

BLACKWELL: Democrats winning mathematically possible, but as you show us throughout the map across the country, it's likely that the Republicans will cross that threshold soon.

BERMAN: Yes. Look, the Democrats would need - they would need to win 14 seats right now. They're currently leading in 10, so they would need to hold every blue seat and some of these are getting a little tight, and then somehow flip four of the ones leaning red at this point in none of them, honestly.

this one may be the best chance for them. This is David Valadao's district. He was actually a Republican incumbent who voted for impeachment. But this is a very democratic district, it's plus 12 D. The Democrats still have a chance here even though they're down 3,000 But just 40 percent in. this may give them one to get them the other four that they would need. It is a steep climb still mathematically possible, but tough, guys.

BLACKWELL: All right. John Berman, thank you.

Let's discuss further now, Nia Malika Henderson is CNN Senior Political Analyst, Olivia Troye is a former Homeland Security official and counterterrorism adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence. Nia, let me start with you.

And the reporting from Jessica Dean that Mitch McConnell will have a challenge, symbolic, because it doesn't look like at this point that Rick Scott has enough votes to actually win the minority leader role, but what do you make of that news?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Listen, before the midterm results came in for the Senate. You had Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell trying to figure out who's going to get the most credit for the Senate going back over to Republican hands, right. That was the discussion going on between their two camps.

And now you got disarray in some ways in terms of the Republican Party, in terms of what happened not only in the House, but the Senate as well. And so I think in Rick Scott, you have someone who has designs on running for the White House in 2024. He very much wants to use his position in the Senate.

And as the leader of the reelection campaign for Senators and the attempts to capture the Senate, he wanted to use that as a springboard to run for president and now that plan looks like it's in shambles. But I think he still wants to establish himself as sort of the anti- Mitch McConnell, anti-establishment. We'll see where this goes likely up in flames.

He's not someone who's very well liked by the Republican conference there in the Senate. And certainly, I think people have much more confidence in Mitch McConnell, because Mitch McConnell didn't like all of the Trump candidates, right? He's sort of grudgingly backed those people whereas Rick Scott was very much all in on those candidates, but messy, messy, messy over on the Senate side as far as Republicans are concerned.

CAMEROTA: Olivia, let's talk about what's going to happen tonight. Donald Trump is expected to make a big announcement of some kind. It could be anything as we know, he's unpredictable. But the reporting is that he will be announcing a third try for the presidency. It's interesting, because Republicans - other elected Republicans are now saying out loud that they don't necessarily like this idea.

They used to say it, as you well know, behind the scenes, but they are sounding emboldened. So here is just a few examples of people speaking out.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: And when you learned later that he was watching all this unfold on TV?

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't account for what the president was doing that day. I was at a loading dock in the Capitol where the riot taking place.

MUIR: Do you believe that Donald Trump should ever be president again?


PENCE: David, I think that's up to the American people but I think we'll have better choices in the future.