Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Poland Calls a Crisis Meeting After Blast Kills Two Near Ukraine; Former President Donald Trump Announces A White House Bid For 2024. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired November 16, 2022 - 01:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber live from CNN Center in Atlanta.

We're following two big stories this hour. World leaders hold an emergency meeting after a missile described as being Russian made falls inside of NATO territory, and Donald Trump announces his third run for the White House claiming he's the candidate who can bring people together.

A missile that hit Poland Tuesday left two people dead and as raising fears that Russia's war on Ukraine could spill over into NATO territory. Now it's not clear where the missile was fired from and why it fell on Poland but officials say it was Russian made.

Poland has raised its military alert status and summoned the Russian ambassador for an explanation. It's also considering whether to invoke NATO's Article 4 which would trigger talks with the Alliance's decision making body.

Now that missile fell in a village about six and a half kilometers or four miles west of Poland's border with Ukraine. It's also set off a storm of diplomatic activity.

In the coming hours, NATO will hold an emergency meeting in Brussels and G7 and NATO leaders met on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Afterward, President Joe Biden struck a cautious tone. Here he is.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm going to make sure we figure out exactly what happened. It's unlikely in the minds of the trajectory that it was fired from Russia, but we'll see.


BRUNHUBER: All right, let's go live now to CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak in Bali, Indonesia. And Kevin, what more do we know about the origin of that missile?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we know what President Biden has said, which is that he doesn't believe that the intelligence shows now that it could have been fired from Russia. His words were that it was unlikely. But he cared couched that by saying that he didn't want to say definitively because he wanted to see all of the intelligence first.

But I do think his remarks do demonstrate the extreme level of caution with which he and other officials here at the G-20 are approaching the situation of because of course, Poland is a member of NATO. An attack on Polish soil has the potential to trigger Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, essentially an attack on one member as an attack on all members. And that would amount to an extremely, extremely large escalation in this conflict. And the President doesn't want to get anywhere near doing that before all of the information is in.

Now, you did see him early this morning speak to the Polish president. That was after his National Security Adviser spoke to his counterpart in Poland all trying to gather more information about what has happened. They do know that this is a Russian made missile, but that doesn't necessarily indicate where it was fired from.

And so the President convening these crisis talks with other G7 leaders, also leaders from NATO who are here in Bali for the G-20. Those leaders are now starting to head back to their capitals. Some of them are heading to the APEC summit in Thailand, but this will be a continuing discussion.

Now in Brussels today, ambassadors from those countries are meeting, the NATO ambassadors under what's known as Article 4. You hear a lot about Article 5, Article 4 is the NATO provision for collective consultations. And that will -- those will be critical over the next hours and days as leaders gather more information about what precisely happened.

Now, American officials do say that their intelligence on this sort of thing would be fairly strong. They do have the ability to look at the trajectory of these missiles to determine where they were fired from. So it's not necessarily clear that this is going to be an extended drawn out process.

I don't think that President Biden would want it to be a drawn out process just because of the stakes of this moment. And so President Biden, he has finished his final engagement on the ground here in Bali.


He is on his way to the airport now to get on what is an extremely long flight back to Washington but he will remain in touch with his counterparts as they learn more as they determine what their response will be going forward. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, we'll stay on top of this developing story. Kevin Liptak in Bali Indonesia. Thanks so much. On we're barely a week past the U.S. midterm elections. But the 2024 race for the White House already has its first contestant. Donald Trump announced his candidacy Tuesday night in Florida, promising to defeat Joe Biden and the quote, radical Democrats with his America first agenda.

The former president vowed to bring down inflation, make the U.S. energy independent and secure the border with Mexico.

Now if he wins, Trump would be the first U.S. president elected to non-consecutive terms since Grover Cleveland in 1892. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The decline of America is being forced upon us by Biden and the radical left lunatics running our government right into the ground. This decline is not a fate, we must accept. When given the choice boldly, clearly and directly, I believe the American people will overwhelmingly reject the left's platform of national ruin. And they will embrace our platform of national greatness and glory to America.


BRUNHUBER: Now, CNN fact checking team is hard at work poring over Trump's speech announcing his White House bid. And here's Daniel Dale with what he found.


DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Former President Trump started his campaign for the presidency in 2024 just as he ended his presidency in 2021 with a whole lot of inaccuracy to be generous or dishonesty, if you're feeling less generous.

Trump claimed, for example, that he had completed the wall on the border with Mexico, one of his signature policies, that's not even close to true. In fact, there were still about 280 miles or 450 kilometers not completed when he left office.

Trump was complaining about the criminal investigation into how he had taken presidential documents to his home. And he said, Well, look, Obama did it too. He said Obama took lots of things with him. That is also not true. Obama simply did not do so. And this claim was publicly debunked by the U.S. National Archives when Trump first made the claim in August.

Trump said he was the first president to get any revenue from tariffs on China. In fact, such tariffs generated billions per year before Trump, he falsely downplayed the issue of climate change, grossly understating the amount of sea level rise that experts expect. And as usual, he made false claims even when the facts were in his favor.

For example, U.S. officials have concluded that about $7 billion worth of military equipment that had been given to the Afghan government was left behind upon the chaotic U.S. withdrawal. So Trump could have accurately complained about that. Instead, he said it was $85 billion left behind. So exaggeration after exaggeration, false claim after false claim. Daniel Dale, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: And joining me now from Cambridge, Massachusetts, CNN political commentator, and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart, and from Los Angeles Democratic strategist and Occidental College professor Caroline Heldman, thank you so much for being here with us.

So let's start with you, Alice, no surprise that Donald Trump was formally announced maybe surprising the way he did it, what stood out to you?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, it's no surprise, this was the worst kept secret in politics, but he did it in, you know, Trump style at Mar-a-Lago around his great admirers. The problem is, he doesn't have widespread support among the party, and certainly doesn't have widespread support among a general electorate, which he would face in a national election.

And one thing that stood out with me and what he said is, obviously, his efforts to make America great again, but he also said we need to go far fast. The problem is he has gone far and he failed. He lost The White House, he lost the House and the Senate. And Republicans had tremendous losses, this cycle in large part due to canvass that he nominated, and their insistence to relitigate 2020 and election deniers and conspiracy theories.

And look, I applaud his objectives when he talked about it in his speech to reduce inflation and secure the border and gain energy independence. That's what we need to do. But I think there are plenty of other positive Republicans that can do just the same and also win a general election at the same time.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, Caroline, Alice just mentioned there, the losses there that the Republicans, you know, they were supposed to do a lot better. Donald Trump tried his best to deflect it deny any responsibility for the Republicans who are showing in the midterms.

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, He absolutely has responsibility. In fact, this is the third election cycle, as Alice pointed out, it's been a few election cycles now that he has cost of elections in swing states and in swing districts, so anything purple mean it was a 40 seat loss in 2018.


He lost by almost 8 million votes in 2020 inaccurate down tickets. He certainly had losses in the midterm elections that he should be personally held responsible for not only the weak candidates in the Senate that Mitch McConnell for half a year has been saying would cost in the Senate, but also the election deniers and close races, they lost two to one.

So yes, Donald Trump and Trumpism is absolutely not working with independent voters and in purple areas. So him running for the ticket, it's not good news for the Republican Party.

BRUNHUBER: But maybe good news for Democrats. I mean, they're already turning the announcement into a fundraising opportunity. Are they rubbing their hands at the chance possibly to run against him in 2024 to make that election a referendum on Donald Trump?

HELDMAN: I would imagine that Democrats are very happy right now. It's going to be a bloodbath between DeSantis and Trump. I would imagine that it very -- they will weaken each other and whoever makes it to the final will -- yes, this is a dream for Democrats.

BRUNHUBER: So, Alice, I mean, what -- go ahead. Go ahead.

STEWART: No, I just I agree completely. Look, Democrats would love nothing more than Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee. I mean, they basically ran this midterm election against Donald Trump and he wasn't even on the ticket. And they realized that his brand of extremism has expired, and people are tired of that. And they would love to have him be the person that they run their general election against.

And the truth is speaking with many people up and down the Republican Party, whether they're in Washington DC or the middle America, look, Donald Trump deserves a lot of credit for reenergizing the base of the Republican Party, but they realize that it's time to turn the page.

He has -- we have lost many people because of his rhetoric and his focus on his past grievances instead of voter's future promises. And people that have been diehard Trump supporters, they're ready to turn the page and put someone else at the top of the ticket who could truly be a viable candidate against the Democratic nominee.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, I don't know about diehard Trump supporters turning the page, but we shall see.

So we heard our reporter mentioned this, the Senate race here in Georgia, what do you think, you know, Donald Trump throwing his hat in the ring? Will mean we heard him in a speech name check Herschel Walker and urged his supporters to vote for him. But will Trump's announcement be a factor here?

HELDMAN: I think it will be a fact you'll notice. Republicans worked so hard to get them to not do that. Right. They were very interested in making sure that Donald Trump waited to announce because it will absolutely affect the Georgia election.

At this point in time, you have both Trumpism which people are pushing back against, as Alice pointed out, and in fact, in polling 53 percent of Americans say that Trump a new Morning Consult poll says 53 percent say Trump should absolutely not run, 65 percent say he probably shouldn't run.

But on top of that, you also have this massive swing with Roe that everybody discounted because they weren't looking at this as a long term issue, which I think that you know, 51 percent of the American population, women absolutely view it as a long term issue. And so, Trump is only going to make matters worse. I think Georgia has already favored for Warnock, and Trump putting his hat in the ring makes this probably something that will happen for Warnock.

BRUNHUBER: Alice, you agree?

STEWART: I do. Look, I'm from Georgia. I know the people of Georgia. I understand what's going in their heads right now. And I believe the runoff elections we had two years ago, were lost in large part because of Trump's involvement in that race, and he would be better served to sit on the sidelines.

That being said, he will more than likely interject himself and he can be helpful outside of the Atlanta area in the very democratic areas. He can be helpful in parts of rural Georgia to encourage people that may not feel the need to get out and vote encourage them to get out and vote.

And I've spoken with the Walker campaign, they're happy to take help from anyone who can turn out voters but they're going to rely more on people like Ron DeSantis and Glen Youngkin, and people that are proven Republican leaders that have a positive vision for the future as opposed to someone who has a successful record of electoral losses like Donald Trump.

BRUNHUBER: Should it be fascinating to see it play out. We'll have to leave it there. Alice Stewart and Caroline Heldman, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

HELDMAN: Thank you.

STEWART: Thank you, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Well, just ahead. We have our -- we're going to have pictures of President Biden. He's getting a about to depart on Air Force One.


He's in Bali right now. Then he's going to head to Washington. He's been in Bali for the G-20 Summit but he spent plenty of time meeting with G7 and NATO leaders on the sidelines to discuss what Poland is calling a Russian made missile which landed in Poland killing two people. Much more on that story coming up. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Back to our top story, the explosion that killed two people in a Polish village on Tuesday. Poland says it was caused by a Russian made missile. Now this hour is still not clear who fired it and where it was fired from.


The missile landed about six and a half kilometers or four miles west of the Ukrainian border. And roughly the same time Russia launched its biggest wave of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities in a month. A NATO official tells CNN that a NATO aircraft flying in Polish airspace, track the missile, the Polish president says his country is trying to determine who's responsible are. Our Matthew Chance followed this report from near the scene in the blast in Poland.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, dramatic scenes taking place here in this relatively remote village close to the border of Ukraine on Polish territory where the Polish authorities have confirmed to people killed in that explosion caused by rockets or missiles that fell on Polish territory earlier at a farm just a short distance from here.

It's a one street tank essentially. And that street has been sealed off all night by the Polish authorities preventing us from actually getting to the scene because they've got specialists on the ground there, literally trying to piece together the fragments of the ordinance to try and work out where it's from, and who fired it.

The Polish authorities have come out and said it's a Russian made missile. But of course, it doesn't necessarily mean it was fired by Russia. Ukrainian military forces also have missiles that were originally made by Russia, that some of the anti-aircraft missiles, for instance, fall into that category.

What we do know is that two people have been killed. And that's caused enormous trauma to the local community here, which is obviously a very small, a very close knit. There were farm workers working on that farm a short distance from here, when the explosions took place.

We also know there's going to be an emergency meeting now of NATO very shortly to discuss what the response should be by Poland and its NATO allies to this explosion taking place. We also know that the Pols are pointing the finger of blame to a certain extent, directly at Moscow already calling the Russian ambassador into the foreign ministry here for consultations. And again, designating this ordinance as Russian made.

The Russians for their parts have categorically denied involvement, the Kremlin telling me that they've got no information on any Russian military strike on territory of Poland. And the Russian Defense Ministry issuing a statement saying it's a provocation to suggest this is a Russian attack.

And so still some questions about what's taken place here. But in the hours ahead, there will be a response from Poland, and its NATO allies. Matthew Chance, CNN, near the border of Ukraine and Poland.


BRUNHUBER: The identity explosion sparked a world of diplomatic activity G7 and NATO leaders met on the sidelines of the G 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia to discuss the situation. And NATO has called an emergency meeting in Brussels in the coming hours. So for more, let's go to Ivan Watson in Bali, where the G-20 Summit is wrapping up. So Ivan, take us through how world leaders have been reacting to this.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, first of all, U.S. President Joe Biden just stepped aboard Air Force One and will probably be taking off any minute now. We have just received the G-20 Bali Leaders Declaration. So this is the final document that comes out of this gathering of leaders. It's enormous. It's, I believe, more than 1,100 pages long.

But on the very first page, what's notable is that the third article includes discussion of the Ukraine war with this important statement, quote, most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine, and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy. The next article says that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.

But I think the takeaway here is they're saying most members, so Russia is a member of the G-20. It is not going to condemn itself. And it has close allies like China. We do not know what China's official position was here. But we noted that Chinese officials were reluctant to use the word war when discussing as they put it, the crisis in Ukraine.

When it comes to this deadly missile strike in Poland, it is worth noting that the President of Poland is so far holding off casting blame. Take a listen to what he had to say from Warsaw.


ANDREJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): Of course, we know that all day today Russia was attacking Ukraine with rockets, but we do will not have any conclusive evidence at the moment as to who launched this missile. The investigation is underway.


WATSON: Now amid the enormous Russian missile salvo against Ukraine on Tuesday, and then the subsequent incident deadly incident that is being investigated in eastern Poland, President Biden this morning held an emergency roundtable he gathered the leaders of Canada, the EU, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain and the UK. It's much easier to conduct emergency consultations when all these leaders were already here, apparently something that the Kremlin didn't care about.

And they put out a statement condemning the attacks against Ukraine and vowing to work together to investigate the deadly missile strike in eastern Poland and to work in concert to respond to it.

I think it's worth noting that there is now been just a flurry of diplomacy now with leaders here reaching out to the Polish leadership in solidarity vowing to help and notable vet you have the Prime Minister of Japan who was part of this and a top Japanese official had this further to say from Tokyo. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HIROKAZU MATSUNO, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (through translator): We are also very concerned to hear that a missile has landed in Poland. We express our condolences for the deaths in Poland and are closely monitoring the progress of the investigation. Precisely because of such a situation. Japan would like to work even more closely with the G7 and other like-minded countries.


WATSON: If Moscow wanted to create cracks in this pro-Ukrainian coalition that President Biden has been leading that didn't happen at this G-20 Summit. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. So much at stake here as the world hopes the tensions will cool. Appreciate your reporting out there. Ivan Watson in Bali Indonesia.

All right. Still to come, they used to be the major political allies as Donald Trump makes another bid for the White House. You could face some major political heat from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

One week after Republicans underwhelmed in the midterm elections, they're now looking to choose their leader for the next Congress. In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is poised to retake the speakership in January, assuming his party gains enough seats to control the chamber. The GOP conference in the house chose McCarthy by a simple majority, despite a challenge from Arizona congressman Andy Biggs.

It was always a long shot that Biggs could take the reins from McCarthy. The fact that he did get some votes shows how unhappy congressional Republicans are with the outcome from last week's midterms.

Now, we already know Republicans won't retake control of the Senate. That's prompted Florida Senator Rick Scott to challenge Mitch McConnell for the minority leader position. Senate Republicans are expected to vote on leadership, sometime Wednesday.

Now, we are still two years away from the next presidential election, but we already have our first candidate. Donald Trump said he's running for president in 2024 and if he's successful, he will become the first president to win non consecutive terms since Grover Cleveland in 1892.

Trump says Joe Biden and the Democrats have ruined the country with crime and inflation out of control. And he's promising to put America first and, quote, "make America glorious again". Well, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used to be one of Donald Trump's

most prominent allies. But in recent months, the relationship has gone from warm to cool to down right icy.

And with the 2024 presidential election looming on the horizon, well, things could take an ugly turn as many expect DeSantis to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination.

Sunlen Serfaty reports.


GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-FL): What you learn is all of that is just noise.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dismissing former President Trump's new criticism.

DESANTIS: We focus on results and leadership. And you know, at the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.

SERFATY: DeSantis' pointed response on the day Trump is set to make a major announcement, just a preview of the two Floridians' potential 2024 primary face-off.

DESANTIS: It was a hugely underwhelming disappointing performance.

SERFATY: Without naming Trump, DeSantis highlighting the Republican losses in the midterms, losses from many Trump-backed candidates.

Former President Trump has recently taken a flurry of swipes at the Florida governor. Debuting a nickname, typically only given to his rivals.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's say, there it is, Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10 percent.

SERFATY: Calling him average, suggesting that he knows things about DeSantis that won't be very flattering and saying of his potential run, "I think the base would not like. I don't think it would be good for the party."

Trump firing some not so subtle warning shots, saying, if DeSantis does run for president he would be making a mistake. A cautioning echoed recently by Trump's family.

LARA TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER IN-LAW: So wouldn't it be nicer for him, and I think he knows this, to wait until 2028?

SERFATY: The fresh tension rising between them is in sharp contrast to their cozy relationship of years past. Trump calling DeSantis, brilliant and a true fighter, endorsing his first bid for governor. And appearing with him on the campaign trail.

[01:35:00] TRUMP: He's a nice man. You know what, they're doing a great job?

SERFATY: DeSantis has been one of Trump's most vocal supporters and allies.

DESANTIS: I would like to thank our president for standing by me, I think we'll have a great partnership.

SERFATY: Pushing Trump's policies and rhetoric.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron loves playing with the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Build the wall.

SERFATY: DeSantis, just 44 years old, was first elected to Congress in 2012. He went on to become a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

DESANTIS: Thank you Mr. Speaker.

SERFATY: He won his bid for governor Florida by just 42,000 votes in 2018.

DESANTIS: Thank you Florida for your support.

SERFATY: And elevated his national prominence through his management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Becoming an outspoken proxy for Republican anger over mask mandates and schools closing.

DESANTIS: If they want to shut down businesses, I'm going to stand in the way.

SERFATY: Not shying away from wading into controversial culture war fights and praised by conservative like legislation critics have dubbed, the "don't say gay" law.

DESANTIS: Americans oppose injecting this type of material into the classroom of young kids.

SERFATY: The Yale and Harvard Law graduate has a charismatic family with three young children. His wife is a former journalist and cancer survivor.

DeSantis's huge reelection win last week winning by 1.5 million votes only intensifying speculation about his next political quest.

DESANTIS: And I have only begun to fight.

SERFATY: And what comes next for DeSantis is certainly the big question for him. Sources tell CNN that allies of Ron DeSantis are indeed huddling about this. And even before election day, the strong sense was that he would likely launch regardless of what Trump does.

Many sources telling CNN that the argument that DeSantis is making privately to donors is about Trump's divisiveness and how that stands in the way he says of conservatives making progress. Sunlen Serfaty, CNN -- Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp spent three hours on Tuesday testifying before an Atlanta area grand jury. Prosecutors are investigating whether then President Donald Trump and his allies tried to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

Now, the questioning focused largely on a phone call weeks after the election in which Trump allegedly tried to push Kemp and convince state lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden's win in Georgia.

Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson is scheduled to offer her testimony before the grand jury on Wednesday, with Senator Lindsey Graham set to testify on Thursday.

And a Florida judge has ordered that former national security adviser Michael Flynn has to testify before the grand jury. The judge denied Flynn's request to defer his testimony while he appeals the ruling.

Well, the third attempt to launch the Artemis 1 moon rocket is already facing delays. We'll look at the new technical issues NASA is facing and what it means for today's launch window, coming up.

Please stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: A court in Iran has sentenced the second person to death for participating in the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.

State media says the protester was sentenced for, quote, "war against God" but added that sentences can be appealed.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has the details.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Iran sentenced a second protester to death on Tuesday, according to state media. They say a revolutionary court in Tehran issued that verdict.

According to that court, the protester, this defendants say created terror on the streets, accused of using a knife against an injured person, setting someone's motorcycle on fire. And this protester received the death penalty for raging "war against God".

This is a second protester. The first one was sentenced to death over the weekend, also for similar charges. A number of other protesters receiving jail sentences between 5 to 10 years for taking part in what the government describes as "these riots". Now, these verdicts can be appealed according to state media.

Now, despite these harsh sentences, the threat of these trials, the ongoing brutal crackdown -- that hasn't stopped the protests. We have been seeing protests continuing across the country on Tuesday. This comes after calls for three days of national protests and a strike to mark the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on protests that took place in 2019.

Short lived protests, but human rights organization at the time reported that hundreds of people were killed in that bloody crackdown.

And we saw protests taking place in different cities on Tuesday in the capital Tehran. Some shops also closed in some parts of the country after calls for a strike.

Protesters are vowing to continue these protests, this week and to continue with the protests in general and to continue with their demands for regime change.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN -- Istanbul.


BRUNHUBER: All right, we're looking at live pictures now of the Artemis 1 moon rocket, which is now a go for launch at Florida's Kennedy Space Center despite some delays earlier due to technical glitches.

The team had to address an ethernet issue tied to a crucial radar system. They all had to fix another liquid hydrogen leak.

This is the third attempt to launch this rocket, the most powerful one NASA has ever built. The first phase of the Artemis mission will be an unmanned test flight, the ultimate goal is to return astronauts to the mood and someday send humans to Mars.


BRUNHUBER: For more on this I'm joined by CNN space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher, and retired astronaut Leroy Chiao. Thanks so much for being here with us.

So Kristin, we could just see it over your shoulder there, lit up we are waiting for the countdown here. It's going on here.

So, let me start with you Kristin, it has been touch and go to get to this point right now.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Kim, this is it. These are the final few minutes of this countdown, most likely. Two minutes and 41 seconds on the clock, and we are about to see something that's never been seen before.

The most powerful rocket ever built is about to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center bound for the moon. And Kim, you know, this comes after so much stress for NASA. This rocket had to be rolled back because of Hurricane Ian. Then it got hit by Hurricane Nicole, a category one hurricane while this rocket was at the pad just five days ago. And now, here we are, there was a very clean countdown during the

beginning of fueling. But then, at the end, we run into key issues. Another hydrogen leak, they had to send out a team called the red crew, two people, three people to actually go up to the launchpad while the rocket was fully fueled. Basically a sitting bomb and they had to tighten some bolts, they fixed it, got the hydrogen leak fixed, and then there was a problem with, believe it or, not an Internet connector with the U.S. Space Force -- the reins, the flight safety termination system, absolutely critical for this launch.

They have fixed it just in time and now, Kim, look at the clock, a minute and 30 seconds left and what we are about to see, if all goes according to plan and inside mission control they have just given all systems go for launch.

So unless something just absolutely crazy happens this thing is about to light and lift off and it's going to head for the moon. It is going to go on a 26-day mission. It's going to circle the moon and then land back splash, down sometime around mid December in the pacific ocean.

And if all goes well, that paves the way to return American astronauts to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program. And put the very first woman and the first person of color ever on the lunar surface.

So, there is so much at stake here tonight, Kim. You also have to think about the geopolitical implications, the U.S., and NASA now in a space race, according to the NASA administrator who I just interviewed earlier tonight.

He is confident that this team is ready to go. They have been preparing, literally, for more than a decade since the retirement of the space shuttle program, for this moment.

And so Kim, I am just going to pipe down for a minute because I think we should all just kind of take a deep breath and get goose bumps together as we watch the final 15 seconds of this countdown. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here we go.

Hydrogen burn off igniters an issue.

7, 6, 5, 4 stage, engines start -- 3, 2, 1. Boosters and ignitions. And lift off of Artemis 1. We rise together. Back to the moon and beyond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five engines on the core stage. Rocket boosters now propelling the vehicle at 128 miles per hour.

We have good control on the road from team (INAUDIBLE), all good calls so far.

30 seconds into the flight Artemis 1. The first milestone would be four (INAUDIBLE) through the about one minute and nine (ph) seconds into launch. This is the greatest period (ph) of atmosphere force on the rocket.

Artemis now traveling 607 miles per hour. You're looking at 8.8 million pounds of maximum thrust right here and in the loops (ph) of mission control.

Four core stages throttling down ahead passing through (INAUDIBLE).

Now one minute, 21 seconds into the flight, traveling at 1,420 miles per hour. The four core stage engines are back at maximum thrust. The next major milestone will be for the solid rocket boosters to cut off and jettison about two minutes and 11 seconds into the flight, so about 30 seconds from now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again quiet here in Mission Control Houston, as teams continue monitoring the flight of Artemis 1. We are now 16 miles down range from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, traveling over 2,800 miles per hour.

Standing by for solid rocket booster jettison and shortly thereafter --

Confirmation that the solid rocket boosters have separated. These 177 foot boosters --

BRUNHUBER: And you can hear the cheers there from NASA as we see Artemis 1 lifting off.

Leroy, the word from NASA, "we rise together back to the moon and beyond". What are those words and the pictures that you're seeing now. What do they mean for you?

Can you hear me, Leroy?

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Oh yes. Sorry, I didn't know that was for me. Yes, this is obviously a very exciting moment, the launch of a new vehicle. This is the beginning of the hopefully the effort to return humans to the moon and so an exciting evening for everyone.

BRUNHUBER: But one, you know, we saw lots of problems and so what we're seeing now with Artemis 1, it is autonomous, there is no one in there.

But, the next one, Artemis 2 would be crewed with astronaut. So how worried should we be about all of these hydrogen leaks that we've been seeing?

CHIAO: Hydrogen leaks are something that have been going on since we've been using these kinds of cryogenic propellants. Of course, over the 30 year lives of the space shuttle program, we've had our share of hydrogen problems, liquid oxygen leaks.

But you know, we've been able to surmount that for the shuttle program. Part of what you're seeing now is a new vehicle that has many components that are either directly from or derived from the space shuttle program.

But we've got also people that have are dealing with this for the first time. So there have been quite a gap between the end of the shuttle program and this launch tonight. But you can see that the teams are coming up to speed and they're able to now deal with the same problems that we had with the shuttle program. And so I'm confident that these folks will be able to continue to get it done.

BRUNHUBER: Now Kristin the space launch system, it never flown before, so talk to me about what they're testing on it and what they will be testing on the Orion spacecraft, as well.

FISHER: Sure. Well Kim, you know, this is -- yes, it's the first test flight of this rocket. And so there's a few things that they're looking at. One of them, does it actually work? So, far so good. All systems nominal as the rocket has now passed max q. That is the moment when the rocket is under the most stress during launch. So, so far it has passed that test but there are many more in store.

One of the other big things that they're going to be looking at, is you know, is the Orion capsule which sits on top of this rocket, is it safe to actually put people inside.

And so one of the biggest things that they're looking for, is on the way back to earth, how is that heat shield? How does that heat shield perform as the capsule re-enters the earth's atmosphere and hits those incredibly high temperatures.

But Kim, can I just say, for all of you watching this, it is something else to see this thing. And, actually feel it lift off in person here. I mean it was so loud, you felt the vibrations shake your chest.

I mean this is more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket which took all the Apollo astronauts to the moon, the most powerful rocket in operation right now.

And just huge cheers from all the media. There's tons of astronauts gathered over here watching this thing go. Many of them know that they could be named to this Artemis 2 crew.

And I spoke with NASA administrator, Bill Nelson earlier this morning and he said that if Artemis 1, if this mission is a success, then they're going to name the all-important crew of Artemis 2 likely in just a few months.

So a lot of very excited astronauts here because, I mean just think about this, Kim. They have not had a NASA-made rocket for them to fly on since the space shuttle which retired way back in 2011, it's been more than a decade.

And so up until now they've been totally reliant upon SpaceX rockets or Russian Soyuz rockets to get them up into space. This is the first time that they are seeing a new rocket, one of their own rockets, that they may get to fly very soon. [01:54:48]

FISHER: So really a special moment for them. And, also for the entire NASA team because, you know, Kim, as we've been talking about all night, they have had to troubleshoot so many different issues, technical issues, hydrogen leaks, hurricanes -- they have battled, you know, political issues and potential budget shortfalls.

For them to get to this point tonight, just five days after a hurricane truly quite a moment.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, it is. And you were talking about testing it for future astronauts. I understand there are mannequins actually, on board that spacecraft to do that.

Leroy, so if it makes it, it will be a very unusual journey to the moon and back. Talk to me about what makes this different from previous journeys to the moon.

CHIAO: Sure. Well, this is a very different test flight. It's much longer than the other lunar program test flights, so this is around 25 days. We're going to see the spacecraft, the Orion spacecraft enter into a different kind of an orbit around the moon. It's going to be much farther than some of the previous missions.

And, as it was pointed out, one of the big crucial test is going to be the heat shield when we come back from the lower orbit, we are coming back at a speed of about 17,500 miles an hour. Coming back from the moon, it's going to be more around 25,000 miles an hour.

So heat shields are going to be under much higher load, much higher temperature, previous tests have shown that this should work out. But of, course there's nothing like the real thing.

And so hopefully all will go well and the spacecraft will perform well and also come back intact.

BRUNHUBER: Yes despite all of the challenges, all of the problems, lift off for Artemis 1.

We'll have to leave it there. It's been a pleasure watching it here tonight this morning with you guys, Leroy Chiao and Kristin Fisher.

Thanks so much.

And thank all of you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

The news continues on CNN with Rosemary Church right after this.