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Bakhmut Battle Rages On; Germany Decision on Tanks to Ukraine; Nichols Family Views Police Video; New Survey of Business Economists. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, Germany says it will soon have a decision on whether to allowed Poland to deliver German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine ahead of what is expected to be an even more brutal spring of fighting. U.S. and western officials are now urging Ukraine to shift its battlefield tactics away from the grinding fight for the city of Bakhmut. Instead, focus on a potential offensive in the south.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Sources close to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, though, tell CNN it isn't clear whether he's prepared to abandon the fight for Bakhmut.

So, let's go straight to CNN's Ben Wedeman, who's on the ground in the embattled city where that fighting continues this morning.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eli Worth-Jones is a long way from his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. A medic, he's delivering supplies to residents just a few hundred yards from Russian lines in Bakhmut. He does it because he can.

ELI WORTH-JONES, FRONT LINES MEDIC: I'm young. I'm trained for this. You know, this is - this is what I do for a living. And there's a lot of people that need it here. And I don't like bullies very much. So, I have to be here, stand with the people that are being stepped on.

WEDEMAN: Eli is with a group called Front Line Medics. And you can't get much more front line than this. Fellow medic Kurt Eriksen from Norway explains how they work.

KURT ERIKSEN, FRONT LINE MEDICS: We've got a list of patients, but we don't really know what's wrong with them. So we don't have any idea before we see them and we do that assessment.

WEDEMAN: Our interview cut short by an incoming Russian round.

At a slightly safer distance from the fighting, they've parked their mobile clinic and treat who they can. Olexander (ph) says his feet are in pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you ask him which foot it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).



WEDEMAN: He lives in an unheated apartment, and he's suffering from frostbite. They'll take him to a hospital outside Bakhmut.


And he couldn't leave a moment sooner. The Russian noose is tightening.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Slowly Russian forces are gaining ground. They're on the high ground behind me. They're advancing from the north. And they're advancing from the south.

WEDEMAN (voice over): The worse is yet to come says British volunteer soldier Daniel Burke.

DANIEL BURKE, BRITISH VOLUNTEER SOLDIER: To take Soledad (ph) to the north. They're going to try to do a big pincer (ph) movement around Bakhmut. I don't think they're going to try to circle it, per se, but they're going to go try to go past it through the fields and just cut us off a bit by the (INAUDIBLE).

WEDEMAN: Yet residents stay on and volunteers of all stripes do what they can. Victoria Linnik is doing the rounds handing out food and water.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Are you a little nervous with this situation here?


WEDEMAN (voice over): Nerves of steel as the shelling goes on.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Bakhmut.


SCIUTTO: Quite a story and quite a view of the battle there.

Here with me now, CNN military analyst, former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark.

General Clark, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about the current debate over sending Leopard -- German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Ukraine wants them. I've spoken to U.S. officials who question whether this is the weapon system that Ukraine needs now. In your view, does Ukraine need these tanks now or should they be focusing on other weapon systems?

CLARK: Well, I need - I think Ukraine needs the tanks now, but they need a lot of other things now, too, Jim. What they've been asking for desperately is long-range drones. This is the switchblade 600 drone. It's held up in the department of the army in some sort of foreign military sales pipeline. If they had this, they could disrupt the ammunition and so forth behind them.

They need the Leopard tanks. They need self-propelled artillery. They probably need 300 to 500 main battle tanks. They're talking about maybe getting 100 Leopards from these other (INAUDIBLE). They're in a really tough position, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's the concern, right, is that the numbers - I mean Germany in total has 200 Leopard tanks in storage right now. Poland's talking about spending 14. And even if they do get them, given the numbers, the many hundreds of tanks that Russia has, and Russia's very capable anti-tank weapon systems, one U.S. military official said to me the U.S. concern is that Ukraine will have tank graveyards if they try to fight Russia in this style, much like we saw Russia have those tank graveyards early in the invasion.

CLARK: I wouldn't be too concerned about that because I think the Ukrainians will keep these tanks in a mobile reserve initially and use them only as necessary or in a counteroffensive role. But I do say this, Jim, the quantity of weapons that we've sent and the responsiveness of sending them is at every stage two steps behind. We say we're responsive to the battlefield, but we're not actually anticipating the battlefield. And so we've gotten Ukrainians perpetually (ph) on a strategic defensive. It's just a matter of time until Russia mobilizes its forces, masses and gets a breakthrough. It could be in Bakhmut. It could be further south. But the Ukrainians know this and they are fighting, struggling to maintain every inch of Ukraine because they know that Putin seeks a political victory and their military is not only working for military, it's not an abstract military problem. This is about their moral, their people, their nationhood.

So, these are some really tough questions. They deserve our help. They're fighting for us.


CLARK: And we should be giving them the quantities and types of systems they need, and do it now.

SCIUTTO: Well, to your point about anticipating the battlefield, it's CNN's reporting that that is exactly what the west is recommending now. In other words, don't pour so many resources and frankly so many lives and bodies into this war of attrition in Bakhmut. Focus on potential offensive in the south where Ukrainian tactics, Ukrainian forces might have more success.

CLARK: Sure. And I think, for as long as I've talked to the Ukrainians, they've looked at this. In Zaporizhzhia and going after the land bridge is really important. But if you can't hold the back door at Bakhmut, in Donetsk, and in Defka (ph), then that offensive in the south doesn't work. So, they've got to try to hold the back door on this.

Now, whether they hold it tactically, whether they give up 10 kilometers in Bakhmut or something, that's a tactical decision. But they can't simply pull out of this area to the east and they're locked in this battle with heavy artillery and waves of human assault.


It's a really tough tactical problem. And, obviously, as Americans, we don't like it, but that's the war they're fighting.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and I don't think Americans are quite aware of just the human cost of this, the many hundreds of casualties a day for those Ukrainian forces in that fight in the east.

General Wesley Clark, always good to have you on.

CLARK: Thank you, Jim.

HILL: A, quote, horrific video that no one, much less a mother, wants to see. The family of a man who died after being beaten by police has now seen footage of that arrest. Their message this morning is just ahead.



HILL: It was not just violent, it was savage. That is how an attorney for the family of Tyre Nichols explains the beating they say he suffered at the hands of Memphis police during a traffic stop and arrest earlier this month.

SCIUTTO: Nichols died days later. The family met with city officials yesterday for what I can only imagine was a difficult moment to view video of his arrest.


TONY ROMANUCCI, NICHOLS FAMILY ATTORNEY: He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human pinata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes.


SCIUTTO: A mother's got to hear those words. The five officers involved have since been fired for their jobs.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now with all we're learning here.

It's quite a case. I mean that account is disturbing. What do we know?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Erica, the video was so violent according to the family that the mother had trouble getting through the first minute of the video. Family attorney Ben Crump said after he watched it, it reminded him of the violent beating of Rodney King. And they say during those three minutes that Tyre Nichols was beaten repeatedly by the police officers in Memphis, they say Nichols asked, what did I do?

Now, police say that on January 7th Nichols was pulled over for reckless driving. And it was after he was pulled over there was some sort of physical confrontation. They say he then fled on foot and there was a second physical confrontation.

At the press conference, the stepfather of Nichols said it was clear to him after watching the video that his son fled because he was scared for his life.


RODNEY WELLS, STEPFATHER OF TYRE NICHOLS: Our son ran because he was scared for his life. He did not run because he was trying to get rid of no drugs, no guns, no any of that. He ran because he was scared for his life. And when you see the video, you will see why he was scared for his life.


VALENCIA: Nichols was transported from the scene in critical condition and died in the hospital three days later. Earlier this morning, the Shelby County district attorney, who's looking into this case, was on and asked, you know, now that the family has seen the video, why not release it to the public. He says it's not a matter of if but when this video gets released sometime in the next two weeks and he doesn't want to compromise the investigation. They're still interviewing witnesses, he says.

He also hopes that this leads to a conversation about reform in the Memphis Police Department. Five officers, all of whom are black, were terminated as the result of their involvement in their arrest, as well as two Memphis fire department personnel who were part of the initial response. The Shelby County district attorney tells me that they are considering charges against these individuals. And if any are leveled against them, they could come later this week.

Guys, the city is very tense right now. You get the impression talking to officials they're bracing for the public's reaction after they see this when it's made public.

Jim. Erica.


HILL: Yes, well, especially when you hear the way it is described. VALENCIA: Yes.

HILL: Nick, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

VALENCIA: You got it.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, a new warning from some top economists for the first time since the pandemic. Economists expect more companies to cut jobs in the coming months.



SCIUTTO: Elon Musk says that his 2018 tweet about taking Tesla private was not a joke about marijuana. Quite a thing to say in court.

HILL: Musk took the stand for a second day on Monday. This is in a class-action lawsuit which was filed by Tesla investors over that controversial social media post. So, in the tweet he also claimed he had, quote, funding secured and was considering a share price of $420. Well, the billionaire called the number 420, which in case you're unfamiliar, is a reference to marijuana, called that number total coincidence. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit has testified he lost more than 75 percent of his investments on the heels of that tweet.

SCIUTTO: All right, to economic news now.

For the first time since the Covid-19 crash in 2020, a survey of business economists found that more expect their own companies to cut jobs in the coming months than to add them.

HILL: CNN chief business correspondent Christine romans joining us now.

So, there have been so many mixed signals in terms of which way the economy is headed, partially because, you know, previous wisdom has sort of gone out the window at this point.

This survey, though, is really important because we're looking at more economists who are saying, yes, we do expect this super-hot jobs market to weaken.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this is another evidence of downgrading. These are business economists. These are the people whose job it is to survey what's happening out there and inform their companies about the macroeconomic landscape.

So now you have about 19 percent of these business economists expect that they will be cutting jobs. Only 12 percent expect employment to rise in the months ahead. So that's a flip. That's that the first time since the Covid crash that you've seen more expected job declines than employment to rise. So, that's notable here.

But also just a growing unease that there are higher costs, profit margins are getting crunched, that we're heading into 2023 with still a lot of headwinds overall for the American business community.

SCIUTTO: So, Christine, let me ask you. The Fed's been raising interest rates. They want to slow the economy. They don't want it to be too hot. Do they want the job picture, not just to cool, but actually to flip and, you know, go into the red in effect? I mean is that what they want because, as you're watching at home you're like, do they really want companies to be cutting so many jobs?

ROMANS: This is the - look, this is the good news, bad news part of how we cover this, right? I mean what the Fed wants to see is a cooling of the labor picture. The job market is hot. It matched the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. You know, you've got weekly jobless claims that are very low levels. They are pre-pandemic low levels. So you are not seeing widespread layoffs outside of what you're seeing in tech and media in some cases. But in the broader labor market, it is still a pretty strong job market. So, yes, the Fed has been raising interest rates and would like to see the job market cool a bit so the job market is not spinning off inflation.


We did see in this survey, by the way, Jim, that 63 percent of companies said wages were rising in the past few months at their firms.


ROMANS: So, they are paying people more because they're working hard to try to get and retain top talent. Even with all of those - all of those reports of layoffs in tech. And I'll point out about tech.


ROMANS: A lot of those CEO's are saying we hired too much.

SCIUTTO: That's a good point.

ROMANS: We went to crazy the last couple years.


ROMANS: This is unwinding. This isn't new weakness there.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Good point.

HILL: Christine Romans, always appreciate it. Thank you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

HILL: Three mass shootings in as many days in California. We are joined shortly by the sheriff from Half Moon Bay. What they are learning this morning about the suspect in that shooting where at least seven people were killed.



HILL: Top of the hour in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.