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Snowstorm Pummels New York State; Investigating Trump; Power Coming Back Across Ukraine; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Steps Down; Putin Attends Security Council Meeting; World Cup 2022. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired November 19, 2022 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak.
Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the U.S. attorney general appoints a special counsel to oversee Mr. Trump's criminal investigations. Well, take a look at who the new counsel is.
Plus, the new timeline into the stabbing deaths of four Idaho college students as we also learn at least one victim tried to fight back.
And Ukrainians bracing for a cold winter as Russian attacks put the country's power grid at risk. We're live in Kyiv with the latest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Laila Harrak.
HARRAK: Donald Trump and other Republicans are lashing out against the latest move to oversee the criminal investigations he faces. The U.S. Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to take over two of the most sensitive probes involving the former president.
On Friday, U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland named veteran prosecutor Jack Smith to take over the Mar-a-Lago investigation. He'll also handle key elements of the January 6th investigation as they relate to Mr. Trump.
Mr. Smith has held numerous posts at the Justice Department and has served as chief prosecutor in a special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes. For more on Friday's announcement from the Justice Department, here is CNN's Evan Perez in Washington.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SR. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Attorney general Merrick Garland appointed war crimes prosecutor Jack Smith to serve as special counsel to oversee two criminal investigations related to Donald Trump. The decision was triggered in part by the former president's decision
in recent days to declare a third run as a presidential candidate. Smith most recently worked as a prosecutor in The Hague, overseeing Kosovo war crimes.
He'll take over investigations stemming from the alleged mishandling of classified documents, which the FBI retrieved in a search from Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, as well as portions of the January 6th investigation, dealing with Trump's efforts to impede the transfer of power after the 2020 election.
Garland said the appointment was intended to show that the investigations will be done with independence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Based on recent developments, including the former president's announcement that he is a candidate for the next election and sitting president's stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.
Such an appointment underscores the department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: Smith is expected to set up an office separate from the Justice Department, with prosecution teams and FBI agents currently handling the investigation reporting directly to him.
In a statement, Smith said, "The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate."
HARRAK: And Evan Perez reporting for you from Washington.
Trump is giving every indication he intends to ignore the new special counsel, calling him the quote, "super radical left." Even though the DOJ investigations have been going on for months, the former president acted surprised they're still very active. Here's what he told a crowd on Friday night at his Florida resort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before we begin, I want to address the appalling announcement, today, by the egregiously corrupt Biden administration and their weaponized Department of Justice.
Would you like me to talk about that?
Larry, would you like me to talk about that? TRUMP: This horrendous abuse of power is the latest in a long series of witch hunts that started a long time ago. I thought the investigation with the document hoax was dying or dead or over.
And the investigation into January 6, in my very peaceful and patriotic speech, remember, peaceful and patriotically, was dead, especially after the record-setting 40 point loss of Liz Cheney, in the great State of Wyoming. I thought it was dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRAK: Well, earlier I spoke about the special counsel appointment with Jessica Levinson, a professor of law at Loyola Law School. I asked her how the move could impact Trump's presidential campaign. Here's what she said.
JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: I don't know it will that much. We've heard him say all of this is illegitimate, any sort of indictment, he'll say, is just a political witch hunt.
So the decision to appoint a special counsel, I think it's important for the Department of Justice, it's important for people who believe in the rule of law and the independence of the Department of Justice.
But for the former president and his campaign, he's just going to keep feeding people the same diet of disinformation and say there's no there there.
HARRAK: But why bring in a special counsel right now?
Why not allow the DOJ to move forward with its investigations?
LEVINSON: I think because two things have happened. One, the midterms are now over and, two, the former president said I am a candidate for the presidency again.
And so what we see here is potentially another matchup between President Biden and former president Trump. And we have an attorney general who is appointed by one of those two men, obviously who is appointed by President Biden.
So while the Department of Justice is independent, what I think Merrick Garland recognized today is that he doesn't want it to look like a political appointee of one of the candidates.
President Biden is just trying to take down the other candidate, former president Trump. The other thing is this actually insulates attorney general Merrick Garland a little bit because now that House Republicans will be in control, they're going to have a lot of hearings about these investigations.
And if he has a special counsel, he can say, you know what, I'm not involved in these investigations anymore, I can't answer your questions. So I think there are a number of reasons why this is the timing he chose.
HARRAK: Talk to us a little bit about who is the counsel.
Who is the counsel and what can you tell us about Mr. Jack Smith?
LEVINSON: He is a former federal prosecutor. That means he worked in the Department of Justice and it would be very surprising not to have somebody without that baseline of experience.
But we also know he has experience in the public integrity unit, dealing with public corruption crimes. I think that's really significant.
He's also been abroad, working the International Criminal Court, dealing with war crimes, corruption and investigations and charges against former government officials of foreign states.
That's about as close to the experience of investigating a former president as you can possibly get. So I think, for those reasons, this particular decision makes a lot of sense.
HARRAK: I'm sure we'll be talking again soon. Jessica Levinson, thank you so much.
LEVINSON: Thank you.
HARRAK: Some Republicans want the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel in another investigation, its probe into the foreign business dealings of President Biden's son, Hunter Biden.
Senator John Cornyn tweeted, by appointing a counsel in the Trump case, the DOJ admitted that was a conflict of interest. And he says the department must admit there's also a conflict in the Hunter Biden probe and that a special counsel should oversee it.
A potentially historic winter storm is pounding parts of the Great Lakes region. Two people in Erie County died after suffering cardiac events related to clearing snow. The storm has canceled flights, halted traffic on major roadways and knocked out power as temperatures plunge.
And the region is bracing for more. Officials warn the storm could be life threatening and have called on residents to be prepared.
Buffalo's mayor told CNN they are prepared for what comes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BYRON BROWN (D-NY), BUFFALO: So we do have the resources that we need to fight the storm which has been pretty unpredictable with the snow band hovering over the south, getting ready to move back north. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRAK: The University of Idaho says it will hold a candlelight vigil at the end of the month in remembrance of the four students who were killed last weekend.
The four, all in their early 20s, were found stabbed to death in off- campus housing on Sunday in a crime that has left the university's community in shock and grief. We'll get more on the details and investigate from CNN's Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Critical new information tonight as investigators continue to hunt for the killer or killers of four University of Idaho students. Police now saying where in the house the bodies were discovered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the chief provided that information and I believe it was the top floor and the middle floor. So the third floor and the second floor.
TODD: Scenes of horrific violence described by the Latah County coroner.
CATHY MABBUTT, LATAH COUNTY CORONER, IDAHO: I saw lots of blood on the wall.
TODD: Investigators also today releasing a map and a timeline of the students' movements the night they were murdered. Two of them, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle, police say, attended a fraternity part last Saturday night.
They say Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen were at a sports bar between 10:30 pm and at 1:30 am Police say all four victims were back at the house sometime after 1:45 Sunday morning.
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You look for cameras. You look for Ring doorbells. You look for anything that you might pick up that shows the movement of these individuals and whether or not was there somebody following them?
You know, were they driving?
Were they walking?
TODD: Police say this was a targeted attack. The four victims stabbed to death inside their shared off-campus home Sunday morning.
Adding to the mystery, there are no named suspects, no murder weapon and two additional roommates were inside the home at the time of the murders, police say, neither of whom were injured or held hostage. Police say the roommates have been fully cooperative but won't say if they're witnesses, suspects or neither. The coroner says there were no signs of sexual assault on any of the bodies but she did give new information on the nature of the wounds of at least one victim.
MABBUTT: There were stab wounds on the hands of at least one of the students that make it appear that it would be defensive wounds.
TODD: Jeffrey Kernodle, the father of victim Xana Kernodle, told a CNN affiliate he believes his daughter fought her killer to the very end.
JEFFREY KERNODLE, XANA'S FATHER: Bruises, you know, maybe, torn by the knife or whatever. She's a tough kid.
TODD: But former D.C. and Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey says new questions are raised by the indication that at least one victim fought their attacker.
RAMSEY: Which means, there was noise. This wasn't quiet. I don't know how you could quietly kill four people with a knife and no one in the house would hear anything. And so, it's very important that we know more about the roommates.
TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
HARRAK: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, a bit of life from before the war is back on track in the Ukrainian city of Kherson as the Russians pull out.
Plus, technicians are working to get the nation's power grid back online following recent Russian attacks. And now it's coming under new pressure from the bitter winter cold. That's ahead.
HARRAK: Ukraine is grappling with shortages of electricity after a barrage of Russian strikes on its electrical system. The attacks knocked out almost half of the nation's energy system earlier this week, leaving 10 million people in the dark.
President Zelenskyy now says the electrical supply is an issue in 17 regions and the capital of Kyiv. It's all happening as temperatures are dropping across Ukraine, just putting the power system under even bigger strain.
Well, for more, Nic Robertson joins us now live from Kyiv.
Nic, what impact are these strikes on Ukraine's power grid having on everyday life?
How are people preparing for the months to come?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the energy sector is trying to prepare for the next round of strikes.
It was very interesting to hear from one of the city officials within that energy sector yesterday, say they need a 10- to 12-day pause in the Russian missile strike campaign so that they can get the electrical system back to the position where it can withstands the next round of attacks.
Of course, Russia doesn't wait that long. Each time is attritional and further degrades the system when missiles came in Thursday. They completely threw the power grid across the country out of kilter.
That's what took those 10 million homes offline. Although the power grid is more stable now, stabilized across the country, it is not able to deliver power to everybody all the time.
So there are, as President Zelenskyy said, 17 different regions in this country where they are power outages in homes from four to eight hours. But some of the worst affected places are places where the war has already rolled through, where Ukrainian forces have retaken territory from the Russians.
Towns and villages there, they will take far, far longer to be reconnected to the grid. And they themselves, in those towns, really right now -- and we were visiting one just before the snows came -- already in a difficult situation.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The road into Bohorodychne is a prelude for the destruction to come. Russian troops turned the church into a military base as Ukrainians forced them from the eastern village six weeks ago.
Mykola, a former firefighter, stayed, survived the Russians. Surviving the coming winter his next challenge.
ROBERTSON: He's going to show us where he's stocked the wood for the winter.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Winter here can be brutal. He's proud. He's been working hard.
ROBERTSON: All the wood's stacked up at the back there. There's a little generator here as well because there's no electricity in the village.
We'll survive. We survived the Germans," he tells us, a reference to World War II. "I must stay, though. The Russians killed my brother. I buried him. He
needs a proper service in the cemetery."
He shows me his destroyed house, tells me he'll rebuild. Mostly self- sufficient, he has his own well; although, he says the water must be boiled. His 91-year-old mother, who also refuses to leave, plans to survive the winter as she lived through the fighting in their bunker.
When she comes out, she tells us she worries about the cold, too.
"How much can you suffer?" she says.
"The matches are wet, the candles are bad. This is a torment."
Across town, Yuri is back for the first time since he left in May. His house and everything in it, 55 years of memories, destroyed.
"We had plans. We'll rebuild," he says, getting emotional and turning away.
As deminers clear his house of explosives, he sees his long lost cat. It's scared but comes back for food. They show them a grenade they found, gently tell him his beehives are all smashed.
Yuri wants to show us where he used to fish, a place of happy childhood memories, takes us onto the blown bridge. Up river, the water pumping plant he used to work at.
Can it restart, I ask?
"In principle, yes."
ROBERTSON: So what are the problems going to be?
ROBERTSON (voice-over): "The high voltage cables across the river and the transformers powering it are destroyed," he says. "It can be done if there is funding."
ROBERTSON: Every house here destroyed or heavily damaged; no water, no electricity, no shops. It's what awaits every town and village in this country if the war front rolls through them.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Dozens around here, likely hundreds around the country, battered by each wave of this war.
ROBERTSON: So in all those villages there are still handsful of people living, trying to hold on, stay in their property, waiting for deminers to come along, waiting for the army to better secure the area.
ROBERTSON: For them to be going into the snowy period now, the heavy cold of winter is very hard to imagine. When you see these houses, when you see the level of destruction, it's hard to understand how that actually happened through the course of the war.
But it has. And this is replicated in so many places. I think perhaps the fortune of Kherson, if one could call it fortune, where we were last weekend, the first railway -- the first train has gone from Kyiv to Kherson today.
They've managed to get electricity to their train station in Kherson. There have been power banks set up there, places for people to go and get warm, to charge their phones, to try to get some sanctuary from this cold weather.
The government in Kherson, trying to sort of do what it can there. But you can see from the number of places around the country and the scale of the problem, staying on top of and maintaining and repairing the power grid across the country is only a tiny fraction of trying to sustain the lives of people across the whole country through this winter.
And of course, those where the war has been, absolutely the worst affected.
HARRAK: Nic Robertson, reporting, thank you, so much, Nic.
Well, Ukrainian officials are now taking part in the investigation into a deadly missile blast in Poland. Ukraine's foreign minister said they've joined the U.S. and Polish investigators at the site of the explosion.
Ukraine has been pushing to join the probe after a missile hit a Polish border village on Tuesday, killing two people. Poland and NATO said the blast was likely an accident caused by a stray Ukrainian missile. But Western officials also said that Russia is ultimately to blame because it started the war in Ukraine.
There is no letup in Russian efforts to gain ground in Eastern Ukraine. Kyiv says that Russian troops launched new attacks across the front lines, including in Bakhmut. Despite the Russian pressure, President Zelenskyy says the defense
lines are holding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Military action of extreme violence is still ongoing in the Donetsk region. No softening of the fighting or lulls. In the past 24 hours, about 100 Russian assaults have been aborted in the Donetsk region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRAK: Meanwhile, a sign of some semblance of ordinary life is coming back to the newly liberated city of Kherson. The first train bound for that city left the capital, Kyiv, on Friday, just a week after a Russian pullout from Kherson.
One longtime Kremlin watcher says Russia has more than one reason for locking in on Ukraine's power grid. CNN contributor and former Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty will talk about that in about 15 minutes.
A dramatic turn in the numerous criminal probes into Donald Trump, the Justice Department says a special counsel will take over two of those investigations, now that the former president is again running for the White House.
Plus, the U.S. House is poised for new leadership. Republican Kevin McCarthy faces hurdles on the path to being the next speaker while Democrats look to who will succeed Nancy Pelosi as party leader.
And North Korea's leader introduces his young daughter to the world. But he picks an unusual setting for her first ever public appearance. Details after the break.
HARRAK: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
Donald Trump is lashing out after a special counsel was appointed to take over two major investigations into the former president. He called the move the latest in a series of witch hunts, even though the investigations have been underway for months.
Well, attorney general Merrick Garland said he made the call, in part, because of Trump's announcement this week to run for the White House again. Well, now veteran prosecutor Jack Smith will oversee the Mar-a- Lago documents case.
And he'll handle key aspects of the January 6th probe. Mr. Trump falsely described Mr. Smith's appointment as a horrendous abuse of power and vowed not to cooperate.
More Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have announced they'll run for top leadership spots. Hakeem Jeffries has launched his bid for House minority leader, while Katherine Clark will seek the House minority whip position and Pete Aguilar will run for Democratic caucus chairman.
If Jeffries is elected, he will be the first-ever Black party leader in Congress. CNN's Manu Raju has more on the leadership races, including the obstacles House Republicans are facing.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now Kevin McCarthy wants to be the next Speaker of the House. But he still does not have the votes to get there. He did get the support from the House Republican conference earlier in the week, when 188 of his members voted to nominate him to be the speaker. But that doesn't make you the Speaker. In order to get the gavel, you
need to be elected by a majority of the full House. That means 218 votes you'll need in January to get there. Right now he's working behind the scenes to lock down the votes.
But he had a problem, a math problem he's trying to resolve, because there are some members of the hard right faction known as the Freedom Caucus that are withholding the support.
In fact there are two members considered hardnosed right now, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona. Both say they cannot support the speaker. Others voting against McCarthy as well, Matt Rosendale of Montana. Also Bob Goode, a Virginia Republican telling me that McCarthy does not have the votes to get there.
But they have not completely shut the door to ultimately supporting him. The reason this is an issue for McCarthy is he's expected to have a narrow majority. We don't know the final numbers yet but could be in the 220-222 range, which means he can only lose a handful of votes to become the speaker. That is what's happening on the Republican side.
On the Democratic side, things are bit smoother in the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi's decision to step aside after 20 years of dominating and running her caucus.
RAJU (voice-over): Now there's a leadership transition underway. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, is poised to become the first Black leader of any party in Congress.
Now his party is getting behind him for the top job as the Democratic leader in the minority in the new Congress. And we expect number 2 to be Katherine Clark from Massachusetts and number 3 to be Pete Aguilar, all members of a different generation than the current trio, Pelosi, Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Clyburn himself wants to be the number 4 leader in the new Congress. Those issues will play out November 30th, when the Democrats elect their new leadership team.
After internal feuding led to Mitch McConnell ultimately once again being re-elected as Republican leader after their disappointing performance and the Democrats retaining control of the U.S. Senate, all this playing out in the final days here of this Congress before the new Congress comes in January -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.
HARRAK: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to be meeting this morning with Thailand's prime minister. She's been in Bangkok at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit which just concluded. Chinese president Xi Jinping is also there and the two spoke briefly.
Afterwards, the vice president tweeted she reiterated the importance of open communications to manage competition between the two countries. Harris also condemned North Korea's latest missile launch on Friday.
The young daughter of North Korea's leader made her first public appearance during that launch. These images appear to show them holding hands as they inspect a powerful intercontinental ballistic missile. CNN's Will Ripley has more.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Chinese president Xi Jinping exchanged brief words on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bangkok, talking about the importance of avoiding conflict and encouraging cooperation on issues of global concern.
That's according to Chinese state media's readout of the brief conversation. One issue that the United States and China are not really cooperating on is the issue of North Korea, which has been launching missiles at an unprecedented pace throughout the year.
Including this ICBM launch of what North Korea calls a new kind of long-range missile, capable of striking, according to the Japanese government, pretty much anywhere in the United States and potentially most of the world, excluding some portions of South America.
If you look at the possible trajectory distance of this missile that was tested, the missile test was pretty striking when you look at the photos released by North Korean state media on Saturday morning.
It was rising up over the Sunan area of Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un was there with his wife and, for the first time, his daughter, believed to be around 9 years old, appearing right alongside her dad as they walked around this gigantic missile.
Dwarfed by the size of the transporter erector launch vehicle that was used to fire the missile basically more than 3,700 miles or 6,000 kilometers up into space before it splashed down in the waters near Japan.
Had the trajectory been different, the missile could have traveled much farther, the Japanese government warns. Yet there has been little in terms of substantive consequences this year, with all of these North Korean missile launch events, at least 34.
North Korea claiming to have launched around 50 ballistic missiles so far this year. That's more than any other year in North Korean history. And certainly it comes at a time that there are growing concerns about a seventh underground nuclear test.
The fact of the matter is China, which does have the ability to heavily enforce sanctions and put pressure on North Korea, from the perspective of the U.S. and its allies, it's simply not doing that.
China and Russia with veto power at the U.N. Security Council are basically saying all sides need to remain calm even though the U.S. says it's North Korea that continues to provoke the situation -- Will Ripley, CNN, Bangkok. (END VIDEOTAPE)
HARRAK: Vladimir Putin makes a rare in-person appearance at his security council, the first time that the Russian president has attended since the war in Ukraine began.
HARRAK: Russian president Vladimir Putin made a rare in-person appearance at a meeting of his Security Council for the first time since he invaded Ukraine in February.
Well, aside from a brief clip of the meeting that aired on state television, showing Mr. Putin with key members of his inner circle, the rest of the discussion took place behind closed doors.
Well, this comes as Ukraine has been under a barrage of missile strikes, many of them targeting its energy infrastructure.
CNN contributor and former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty joins me now from Washington, D.C. She's also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.
So good to see you, Jill. A number of Ukrainian cities including Kyiv have come under attack from Russian missiles again, hitting critical energy infrastructure. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now warning up to 10 million people are in the dark with no power.
Now the prime minister is warning that the capital could face a complete shutdown of its power grid just as temperatures are expected to drop to -10 degrees Celsius.
What's your read on Mr. Putin's plan hitting the critical civilian infrastructure in this phase of the war?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, this is obviously, Laila, part of his plan, both to decimate the possibility that Ukraine can really respond very strongly; after all, this is affecting any type of power.
And that affects civilians as well as the military but especially civilians. And then I think also what he's doing is sending a message to the West, you know, that the price that you're going to pay for supporting Ukraine is going to be very, very high.
So it's really a dastardly approach, to, you know, attacking civilians. But that is the war that he is waging right now. So it's very difficult, because, even though they try -- and I saw some reports that they have been very quickly trying to restore power in many cases -- it's going to be a very brutal sand difficult winter for Ukrainians.
HARRAK: In a striking development, Jill, Russian state television aired images of Russian president Vladimir Putin of a meeting of his security council, the first since -- a long time, since February, when this all began.
Especially coming after the setback in Kherson, what message, do you think, this is meant to send?
DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, when he was -- when he was last, personally, at a meeting with his security council, it was precisely, as you said, at the beginning of the war.
And then after that, he would participate but he would participate virtually. And, of course, there was a lot of concern and a lot of protection for President Putin in terms of COVID. They've been very, very worried about exposing him to anything.
You remember those pictures of him at the very long table. Well, I think, physically being there is probably a sign to show that he's on the case; he is, you know, talking with the -- with his security council that he's controlling things.
I think it's a symbol of what they're trying to get across is some type of stability and strength on the part of the president.
HARRAK: I know it's very difficult to gauge.
But do we have any way of knowing whether there is dissent within his inner circle, especially seeing what has happened in this past week?
DOUGHERTY: Yes, that is always hard to gauge. I mean, we do know that there is some second thought -- there are some second thoughts about this among some members of the elite. But when you get into Putin's inner circle, it's very hard to say precisely what is going on.
And that is one of the problems, is, his inner circle is very small or at least we are led to believe that. But the people really he is surrounded by are people from security forces, from the military and, you know, police, FSB, et cetera.
So a lot of those people, obviously, you know, are many times on the side of Putin in terms of really taking the war to the Ukrainians and sometimes even harsher than Mr. Putin himself. But it's very hard to gauge that.
We do know, however, that we have some people in the business community, who have spoken out. And certainly there is, you know, protests, diminishing protests, among the people themselves.
HARRAK: And in conclusion, Jill, what does the state of play on the battlefield do for the influence of oligarchs like Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner group of mercenaries, is now on the literally on the front lines? DOUGHERTY: Well, with Prigozhin and the Wagner group, I think it gives him business. His people are being hired to fight. But also that gives him political clout. He already had it. But now in the war, he's a very important element of the way the Russians are fighting the war.
So I think his influence certainly has increased; that would be one thing. But you know, whether or not that really is what's driving things, perhaps it is but I think a lot of this is simply driven by Putin himself, who shows no sign of going back.
You know, there's a debate in the United States right now, in the Biden administration, as to whether or not, you know, they would urge Ukraine to come to the negotiating table.
And I think, you know, the division there is that some people feel the Ukrainians actually have been doing very well. And maybe now is the time to lock in some of those gains. But there are others who look, as we've just been discussing, at this, you know, prospect of a very long war and say, well, you know, the Ukrainians ought to just continue.
But we cannot tell them what to do. That's the mantra from this administration. And the phrase, again, you know, is nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. And they continue to say they really mean it.
HARRAK: Jill Dougherty, thank you so much.
Family and friends are preparing to bid goodbye to one of the two people killed in a missile blast in Poland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRAK (voice-over): These are live pictures from the border town in eastern Poland, where a man who was killed in Tuesday's blast will be laid to rest. NATO and Poland said the explosion was likely an accident caused by a stray Ukrainian missile. The investigation into the explosion is still underway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRAK: We'll be right back.
HARRAK: I'm Laila Harrak. Thank you so much for your company. "CNN THIS MORNING WEEKEND" with Martin Savidge and Amara Walker is up next. And I'll see you tomorrow.