Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Five Killed in Lviv After Russia Launches Wave of New Attacks; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Hospitalized After Fall at D.C. Hotel; DOJ Says, Discrimination, Abuse, Excessive Force Routine by Louisville P.D. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 10:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour here in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Erica Hill.


In the next half hour, President Joe Biden will head to Philadelphia to unveil his budget blueprints. It will out billions of for child care, tax hike on big earners and big corporations. The White House also says the proposal would cut federal deficit by nearly $3 trillion over the next decade. These are just proposals for now. We will have the details just ahead.

Plus right now, lawmakers are set to ask questions of Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw after the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, last month, the pressing questions that they and residents there want answers to.

HILL: And this morning, we know at least 11 people are dead, more than 20 injured after a deadly barrage of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine, and we do want to begin there.

SCIUTTO: Russia reportedly launched at least 81 missiles from the land, sea and the air, they struck multiple targets across the entire country. In the western city of Lviv, I spent a lot of time there, five people were killed from fragments from a missile that was actually hit by air defense then came down and set homes on fire.

HILL: Several missiles also terrifying people in the capital city of Kyiv, those missiles raining for hours overnight. CNN's Ivan Watson is on the ground there. So, Ivan, what more do we know this morning?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Erica and Jim, this is not the first time that Russia has fired large numbers of missiles aimed at Ukraine's electric power grid but the commander of Ukraine's armed forces has described this attack as massive and that it was targeting critical infrastructure.

As you pointed out 81 missiles, the Ukrainian say, fired as well as those Iranian-made Shaheed drones. And they spread out all across the country. They were fired from land, sea and air, from planes, from the Russian warships in Black Sea, from mainland Russia as well, spreading all across the country.

Now, the Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense succeeded, the Ukrainian military says, in shooting it down, at least 34 of these missiles, and four of the Iranian suicide drones, but other deadly projectiles did, in fact, get through and hit everywhere, from the northern city of Kharkiv to the port city of Odessa in the south, and from here, Kyiv, the capital, to, as you mentioned, Jim, the western city of Lviv, where two women and at least three men were killed in the strikes there.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed responsibility for this, saying that it was a retaliation for this shadowy incident that took place on March 2nd, which the Kremlin calls a terrorist attack in Russia's Bryansk Region. CNN has never been able to confirm what exactly happened. Russian claims it was some kind of cross border attack. The Ukrainians never claimed responsibility for it, we never even saw images of what, in fact, happened there.

But the end result is a massive attack that succeeded in temporarily knocking out power to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, knocking out power to about 150,000 people in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr and knocking about 15 percent of power to the capital here, Kyiv.

That said, life does go on here. And I've spoken to civilians living next to one garage, car park that got hit by parts of a missile destroying several cars there, breaking the windows in a neighboring apartment block, and those people, after these early morning explosions, 7:00 A.M., they still went to work. The Pizza Hut across -- sorry, the Domino's Pizza across the street was still working, restaurants, bars, supermarkets here still working. So, whatever Russia is trying to do has not succeeded in bringing the economy to a halt, it has succeeded in frightening some Ukrainian civilians.

Back to you.

SCIUTTO: That appears to be the aim, and yet, remarkably, Ukraine lives through it, right, and tries to keep life going.


Ivan Watson in Kyiv, thanks so much.

Well, this morning, back home, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he is being treated at a Washington, D.C., hospital after he tripped and fell at a hotel event last night.

HILL: CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox joining us now live from Capitol Hill with more. So, what more do we k now about the senator's condition this morning, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We still don't have many details about what exactly occurred and what condition the minority leader is currently in. What we do know is, last night, his office issued this statement saying, this evening, Leader McConnell tripped at a local hotel during a private dinner. He has been admitted to the hospital where he is receiving treatment.

We know that this fall occurred at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Washington, D.C., but I have been talking with some of his Republican colleagues, including close allies, like Roger Wicker, this morning, who said he still does not have any further information on McConnell's condition.

McConnell is 81 years old. He is the longest serving Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, and he is obviously a close adviser to lawmakers, someone who leads his conference through both partisan and bipartisan battles up here on Capitol Hill. Obviously, his colleagues wishing him a speedy recovery, but we will keep you updated on what more information we get. Jim and Erica?

SCIUTTO: Yes. We wish him a speedy recovery. Lauren Fox on the Hill, thanks so much.

All right, race for 2024, Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley made some big waves this morning by calling some real changes to social security and Medicare.

HILL: Haley noting the programs are, in her words, going bankrupt. And so here is a little bit more of what she is floating. Here is what she had to say to a group of supporters in Iowa yesterday.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden now is basically saying the only way to deal with entitlements is to raise taxes. He does not care if it runs out in five or ten years, he is not going to be there anymore.

So, first thing you do is you change the retirement age of the young people coming up so that we can try and have some sort of system for them. The second thing is you go and you limit the benefits for wealthy people.


HILL: CNN's Eva McKend following these developments for us. So, we know here, this is going to be a major part of what we are going to hear in 2024. This is a big part of President Biden's budget set to be released yesterday. He wants to hit the Republicans here, Haley offering some thoughts. What more do we know about that plan she is putting out?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Jim and Erica. She is clearly staking out a position here on this politically explosive issue, but the details really are still unclear beyond what you heard there. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment on what age she is honing in on here.

She also called for expanding packages from Medicare advantage plans, which are run by private health care insurers in order to increase the competition, and she additionally criticized a new proposal that is set to be part of Biden's 2024 budget that would shore up a key Medicare trust fund by raising taxes on those earning more than $400,000 a year and by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for even more drugs.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's notable because this is exactly what President Biden said at the state of the union, that Republicans are discussing the possibility of limiting benefits in Medicare. We'll see where that debate goes and what effect that has on her campaign. Eva McKend, thanks so much.

HILL: Well, in terms of that budget, we know the president is set to unveil his proposal today in Philadelphia. That budget proposal, frankly, is also a look at Biden's political priorities ahead of an expected re-election campaign. The budget plan itself expected to include nearly $3trillion tax cut to U.S. deficits over the next decade, as well as shoring up support, as we just discussed, for some of these entitlement programs, social security, Medicare.

Joining us now to discuss, National Political Writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer Jonathan Tamari. Jonathan, great to have you with us this morning.

I don't think that we can ignore the optics here that President Biden is headed back there to Philadelphia once again, returning to Pennsylvania. I am curious, how is this sitting with voters? Do they ever start to feel like a political prop?

JONATHAN TAMARI, NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITER, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Well, I think the Pennsylvanians are welcoming the attention that they get from presidential candidates from across the spectrum. It is certainly a unique position. There are very few states that get as much attention. The president has been to Philadelphia frequently and today he is coming to Northeast Philadelphia, which is a particular place. It's an area of a lot of white working class voters, a place that even within a deep blue city actually trended pretty well for Donald Trump, and it is the kind of place that the Democrats want to win back and know they need to perform well in, in statewide elections, including the presidential election that we're going to have next year.

HILL: And that's certainly the reporting that we have from our CNN teams as well. We know that Democrats really feel that they need to win back that voting bloc that President Biden in particular really wants to reach out to, connect with, and in some cases, reconnect with a number of working class voters.


When we look at this in the context of the budget, too, in terms of what we are going to see today, this is, in many ways, also a blueprint perhaps for a re-election campaign, puts in the spotlight the president's political priorities, his vision for America, it also, to a certain extent, put Republicans on the defense. How are those two actions, I guess, being received in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia this morning? TAMARI: Well, I think that we will see this play out more -- the reaction, I think, is going to take some time. I mean, right now, we are still in the rollout phase of the budget. I don't know how many regular people are paying attention at this stage of the game right now when it is just getting started, but I do think he is laying down a marker, because we know there is a major debate coming in the coming months over the country's debt ceiling. And I think he is laying down a marker and following up on kind of what he said in the state of the union speech recently to kind of say, listen, I am the one -- in his mind, I am the one protecting Medicare and social security, I'm raising taxes on wealthy people, not middle class people, and that is part of his pitch to kind of win back this voter block what we've been talking about.

HILL: You are going to be busy. I don't need to tell you that Pennsylvania -- to your point, there is so much in Pennsylvania. And Pennsylvania, in many ways, says so much about this country itself just in terms of how diverse the voters can be even in just a city like Philadelphia, let alone the whole state.

There has also been renewed focus on Pennsylvania because of one of your senators, John Fetterman, who is being treated for clinical depression. His office putting out some photos, also continuing to update folks on what he's doing, right, in terms of his job as U.S. senator while he is in treatment there. And what are you hearing from constituents? How are they reacting to both just how public he's been with this battle? I know a lot of folks understandably praising the decision for him to be so public, weighing that, balancing that with they're hearing from his office in terms of what he is getting done, what the senator is working on.

TAMARI: Yes. I think a lot of it has broken down along the political lines. There are a lot of people who are very sympathetic, who say that they known people who've had their own health issues to work through and get through and return to work and then be productive, as they manage those health issues. There are people, conservatives, a lot of people who voted against Senator Fetterman who believe that he disguised the depth of his health problems during his campaign, did not talk about an issue with depression, which his aides now say is something he has dealt with for a long time.

But, look, they are putting forward evidence or trying to put forward evidence of the work that he is doing, including co-sponsoring a bill. He has his chief of staff, meets with him most mornings for about an hour. The senator is pretty much not in touch with his staff otherwise, although people will tell you the Senate -- much of the work in the Senate is done by the aides. And, in fact, this morning, there is a hearing on that derailment in East Palestine, and the senator has submitted a statement for the record, and has submitted questions that will be read by the chairman as part of that hearing.

HILL: It's interesting. As you note, a lot of the reactions falling along party lines.

I'm wondering, do you get the sense, though, that this really important nationwide conversation about mental health, about depression, do you get a sense that that may break through, that that could be perhaps more important in 2024?

TAMARI: I think it is something that having such a high-profile person kind of talk about it and be sidelined for a time by it, I think it will certainly raise the profile of that discussion, it think particularly when the senator does return to work and his staff is saying that should be in a matter of weeks. So, they do expect him to continue with his term in the near future here.

So, I think that that will be a big piece of the discussion. He is not up for election for a little bit again, so I'm not sure politically how much it will be in the talk. But I think more widely, having a senator talk about this, someone as high-profile as him, I think that will ripple into other areas of discussion.

HILL: Jonathan Tamari, I really appreciate your insight. Thanks for joining us today.

TAMARI: Thanks for having me.

HILL: Still to come here, a scathing report on the Louisville Police Department revealing regular discrimination, use of excessive force and unreasonable tactics especially against black people. We are going to dive into these alarming findings.

SCIUTTO: Plus, new potential legal troubles for Tiger Woods. His former girlfriend is now asking a court to throw out her nondisclosure agreement with the golfer. The details behind all this ahead.

And Norfolk Southern in the hot seat again, this time facing lawmakers on Capitol Hill after last month's toxic train wreck, as East Palestine, Ohio residents say they still don't have the answers they are looking for.



SCIUTTO: After a nearly two-year investigation, the Justice Department has released a damning assessment of the Louisville Metro Police Department. The DOJ found police there routinely used excessive force and aggressive style of policing and unreasonable tactics specifically against black people. And when these reports were brought to police leadership over the years, that same leadership buried them. This is how the attorney general described it.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some officers have demonstrated disrespect for the people they are sworn to protect. Some have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, insulted people with disabilities and called black people monkeys, animal and boy.


This conduct is unacceptable. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Important to note, though, in that -- in addition in this report, they say in the present tense that a lot of this is happening, not in the past tense. The DOJ launched this investigation, of course, after the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor three years ago next week. Said in the report, the Justice Department made 36 recommendations for change within the department. The mayor and the interim police chief say they are on board and that they've actually started implementing change.


INTERIM CHIEF JACKIE GWINN-VILLAROEL, LOUSVILLE METRO POLICE: I think we are moving aggressively ahead, because, let me say this, whether the DOJ was here or not, we should be a premier department, we should be a department that the citizens of Louisville can be proud of and, guess what, for us, internally, to be proud of ourselves. So, no, we are not waiting, we are moving forward.

MAYOR CRAGI GREENBERG (D-LOUISVILLE, KY): And as the Department of Justice themselves said, the vast majority of our officers are good and honorable people who are in their public service roles for the right reasons that are doing their job, working to keep everybody safe. And so we are building on that with that team.


HILL: Joining us now, Howard University Law Professor Justin Hansford and former Executive Director of the National Black Police Association Ronald Hampton. Good to have both of you with us this morning.

We should note in the report, they did say that LMPD was not waiting around, that they have made some changes since 2020. But what stood out to me is a statement here, a leader in the report says, Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years. Ronald, so much of what we see in these instances in terms of a response is reactive. It is not proactive. Are you seeing efforts that are more proactive to actually address this major reform?

RONALD HAMPTON, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL BLACK POLICE ASSOCIATION: Let me say this. Eric Holder, the former attorney general, once said that we keep talking about bad apples. When are we going to start to examine the tree? And I think that that is what this is. There is no way that you can have the history that a Louisville Police Department had then somehow never talk about that you have got good officers. You can have good officers working in a bad institutional agency, and that has been the issue.

I was a police officer myself from 1970 to 1994 in Washington, D.C. And during that time, Louisville had a black police association, and the members of the black police association of Louisville have had a variety over years, lawsuits against the police department for racism, discrimination in a variety of areas. So, I am not surprised that the department hasn't changed in all these years. SCIUTTO: Justin, in the wake of these things, we see folks calling for a better response from the courts, right, prosecution where warranted, we have seen some of that, people talking about improved training. But it struck me that the police chief in Memphis following Tyre Nichols' case said it was also in part a culture issue. The DOJ and Louisville saying it's a culture issue. Is that a broader problem in police departments across the country, and how do you address that? I see you nodding, Ronald, I want to get your thoughts, too. Justin, perhaps your thoughts and then you as well, Ronald.

PROF. JUSTIN HANSFORD, HOWARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, the thread that runs throughout these reports is the hyper violence created by the specialized units. In Louisville, they called it VIPER, in Memphis, they called it SCORPION, and both of these acronyms, just like the snakes that they were named after, these organizations are dangerous and venomous. What they are doing is they're pushing police culture in such a way that you are rewarding the most aggressive, the most oftentimes violent stop and frisk tactics, by putting people in a division that is seen as a badge of honor by being in these special units.

And what we are doing at the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, actually, my colleague, Marcus Banks, is working on a report showing just how violent these specialized units can be. And they're easy come and easy go too often for mayors and police chiefs whenever there's a -- seen as a rise in crime in the city, most recently in New York, even though they dismantled the specialized units since 2020, the mayor has talked about bringing back the specialized unit back to address the crime wave. So, this is a major problem and it's pushing police culture in the wrong direction.

HAMPTON: And, yes, sir, it is a part of the culture, the organization. In Atlanta, it was called Red Dog. In Washington, D.C., it is called the Jumpouts. If you are entrusted with the responsibility of public safety in the city and to create units that have the responsibility of engaging and working with the community, then you don't call those units by those kind of names, because they are not going to go over well with the public.


And their behavior is not going to go over well either.

And that's what Attorney General Eric Holder was talking about when he said we must begin to examine the tree. We're talking about the culture of these institutions and agencies as it relates to what is going on, because the changes have been superficial at best, superficial at best. And sometimes you really have to throw the baby out with a bathwater.

HILL: Justin, I'm struck. Errol Louis made an excellent point, I thought, this morning here on CNN. He was talking about the 1994 crime bill. And he noted that there is a provision that says there has to be an annual report through the Justice Department, from local departments, about the number of people who have been killed by the police. He says that has never been enforced. That has been up to activists. That has been up to journalists to compile some of that.

You talked about the work that you're doing in terms of that data. Do you sense that there has been a resistance to data to accountability and actually keeping track of what's happened that would perhaps lead to more proactive change or at least acknowledgment?

HANSFORD: Well, yes, more than a sense. We know that it is a fact, that oftentimes the federal government has called for this data and local police departments just have not provided it, and there has not been any will to have any enforcement mechanism in terms of collecting this data.

So, this is -- we have to talk about the finding other ways to approach public safety as opposed to depending on violence or depending on some Mad Dog or Viper Unit. And I think that if you were to actually keep those pieces of data on not just killings but every single use of violence that happens in the police department, what would happen is the nation will be shocked. We probably would see maybe a movement to abolish these specialized units as opposed to just provide more oversight with them and really change the way we enforce public safety.

So, it is one of the situations where until we are really willing to stand up for our belief in human rights of our citizens, we're going to see the same things the happen over and over again.

HILL: Yes. And there also is the issue of trust that we don't have time to get to today, unfortunately, but we will need to, because building trust with the community is going to be key with any reforms moving forward.

Justin Hansford, Ronald Hampton, I really appreciate both of you joining us this morning. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next overseas, protesters demonstrating against Prime Benjamin Netanyahu. They blocked a major highway in Tel Aviv, you could see there. It comes as the U.S. secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, is in Israel. We are going to take you there live.