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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Arrives At G7; U.S. Debt Ceiling Looms Large Over G7 Summit; Ukraine Seeks To Avoid Zaporizhzhya Plant In Offensive; Turkish President Touts "Positive" Ties With The Kremlin; Dianne Feinstein's Health In Spotlight After Long Absence; Historic Floods In Northern Italy Claim 14 Lives; NFL Great Jim Brown Dies At 87. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 20, 2023 - 04:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And a warm welcome to our viewers watching us from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now in Japan for the G7 summit. He says the meetings will bring peace closer. We go live to Hiroshima in a few moments.

President Biden believes the country will not default on its debt but the two sides stopped talking late Friday night. We'll have more.

And later, Florida governor Ron DeSantis takes a swipe at his potential rival for the White House, Donald Trump, saying it would be easy to be the front-runner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Paula Newton.

NEWTON: Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now in Japan, where he will be meeting with world leaders at the G7 summit. He arrived a short time ago, you see him there, tweeting, he'll be having important meetings and that, quote, "peace will become closer today."

He's there to boost support ahead of Ukraine's expected counteroffensive. Now ahead of his visit, U.S. President Joe Biden agreed to support efforts to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and several allies have, in fact, expressed interest in transferring their own jets to Ukraine. Listen.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We've reached a moment where it is time to look down the road and to say what is Ukraine going to need as part of a future force to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression as we go forward. F-16s, fourth generation fighter aircraft, are part of that mix. The obvious first step is to do the training and then to work with allies and partners and the Ukrainians to determine how to do the actual provision of planes as we move forward.


NEWTON: CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak joins me from Hiroshima.

This is quite a busy G7. We have Zelenskyy who just landed; his words, he means what he says when peace will become closer today. He has always said that robustly armed Ukraine and this war will end more quickly.

The issue of fighter jets, this would seem a significant reversal. I'm curious to hear your opinion. You've been following it so closely.

This is quite a pivot for Biden, isn't it?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president's aides said this morning this was essentially a down payment on the long-term deterrence plan for Ukraine. They maintain Ukraine doesn't need the fighter jets in action at this very moment, that they need other things like missiles, artillery, that sort of thing.

But down the road, they say these jets will prove useful for Ukraine as it continues to work to deter Russia's aggressions. And President Biden did inform his fellow leaders at the G7 yesterday that he would be making this change.

It follows a number of other reversals the president has made when it comes to military aid, including Abrams tanks. The Pentagon said those weren't necessary; they did end up sending them; longer-range missiles, same thing. The president does want to ensure has this capability moving forward.

But it does bolster Zelenskyy as he arrives at the G7 tomorrow. He stepped off the plane in his signature drab sweatshirt and now he's at a hotel here in the city center. Of course you can't separate the fact that he is arriving here in Hiroshima. It lends new significance to Zelenskyy's warnings of Russian escalation.

Aside from the G7, there are a number of other leaders here, from countries like India, Brazil; they've been invited to participate on the sidelines. Those countries haven't necessarily been as forthright in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And I think it could prove difficult for them, when they're sitting there talking to Zelenskyy face to face, to maintain that position. But certainly a very historic moment in Hiroshima as Zelenskyy touched down.

It was less than 10 years ago that Russia was a member of then the G8. They were expelled because of the invasion of Crimea. Now it's President Zelenskyy who's meeting with the G7, a significant moment here in Japan. NEWTON: We await more events there in the day to come, with Zelenskyy

now there in person in Japan. I want to ask you about an agreement on China as well. And to be clear, we've covered it.


NEWTON: E.U. allies at times diverge from U.S. policy on China.

How significant do you expect the statements about China to be?

LIPTAK: Yes, and we did actually just see the statement come out. And it does have some of its unifying language, trying to present a common front between the G7 members about this idea of economic coercion.

Really trying to make the point that they will stand against efforts to coerce other countries, apply economic pressures on countries that don't share China's political views.

And this was a matter of intense wrangling between the countries. As you mentioned, the G7 members are not always on the same page.

These are seven different countries; each of them maintains their own relationship with Beijing and it's hard for them at moments to separate some of these economic relationships with the matter of trying to push back against Beijing's aggressions.

They were able to do that in the statement. It said that they wanted to enhance supply chain resilience, go after harmful industrial subsidies, really trying to lay out in broad strokes the issues where they are aligned.

But there are significant other differences as well, particularly when it comes to the security situation in the region, when it comes to Taiwan, how much these countries are willing to back Taiwan in the event of a potential Chinese invasion. Those differences remain. But certainly trying to get more on the same page at this very summit, Paula.

NEWTON: As you've pointed out, some of it's the difference in the language. They used to say decoupling with China and now they're saying derisking and we'll see where that goes. Kevin Liptak for us in Hiroshima, Japan, we'll touch base with you as things develop.

Fresh sanctions have been announced at the G7 summit, including the European Union. CNN spoke with European Commission president Ursula van der Leyen earlier about these new measures, listen.


URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: If you have sanctions, there are always some who try to do a sanctions circumvention or evasion. And therefore we now issue the 11th package of sanctions that focuses on circumventions.

So we are discussing how to target companies, entities, where we see literally that they buy goods in the European Union and, by a third country, bring them to Russia. But we also target the transit via Russia that might contribute to circumvention of sanctions.

So there's a whole package that looks at these evasion, this sanction evasion, and this is a package we're going to issue in a few days.



NEWTON: For more on this I'm joined by Maria Snegovaya, a senior fellow with the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Good to have you here, especially as G7 leaders pledge to sharpen sanctions. They're talking about restricting more industrial exports, tools, tech, metals, diamonds. But at the end of the day, these sanctions need enforcement.

How difficult has that been and do you think it will change?

MARIA SNEGOVAYA, SENIOR FELLOW, EUROPE, RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Yes, thank you for having me. Definitely good to hear that G7 allies are still committed to continuing exercise extra pressure on Russia.

And in some ways what we see is that the major part of the sanctions has already been passed, right. The important next steps that are being done right now, they're closing smaller sort of areas, rather than essentially (INAUDIBLE).


NEWTON: And we interrupt that interview to bring you now more developments from Japan. This is the family photo of the leaders. We should be seeing the leaders walk out now.

Remember, we just told you a couple of hours ago, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy also arrived at the G7 summit. Emmanuel Macron taking the stage, waiting for his fellow leaders to join him.

That is President Modi from India, who joined him on the stage and will be part of the family photo. As this continues, we will see what unfolds here at this meeting. A lot was on the table, a lot has already been discussed. In fact, a lot on the statements here that have to do with both Ukraine and China.

If we begin with Ukraine, though, a big pivot from the United States, that, in fact, has allowed E.U. allies to perhaps be able to give their jets to Ukraine. That deal has made been possible because they're allowing it. The United States is now allowing that training of Ukrainian pilots.

And that is quite a pivot for the Biden administration.

Joining me is Kevin Liptak, our White House reporter, with the leaders there in Japan.

Kevin, I'm seeing this is a very large photo, family photo, as they call it.


NEWTON: And we're going to wait to see if there is a special guest. As of now, this is the original group supposed to be gathering. As you pointed out, Kevin, President Zelenskyy is supposedly right now at a hotel, waiting to have bilateral meetings and a group meeting.

LIPTAK: Exactly, yes. And I don't think that we were initially expecting Zelenskyy to participate in this photo. He will be participating in some of the leader summits tomorrow.

But I think when you look at this image you're seeing on the screen, this is the G7 members but it's also a number of invited guests, including Modi from India. You see the president of Indonesia there in the middle. You also will see the president of Brazil.

Those are countries that have not necessarily been as forthright in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They have not necessarily joined the Western sanctions that have been applied onto Moscow.

And I think seeing them all there as part of this larger gathering, that the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida orchestrated as part of the summit, the implicit message to them, inviting Zelenskyy as well, is that their support is needed.

That in order to fully cut off Russia from the global system, their support will be needed as well in order to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. So they are not meeting at this very moment with Zelenskyy.

But it is an important symbolic measure for them to be in the same city with him. And I think it will potentially make their positions much more difficult going forward if they are able to hear from the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy directly about the plight of his country. He's been so effective in talking to leaders previously on that matter.

NEWTON: That is at least the hope. Prime minister Modi walking off the stage there. We are watching Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden arm in arm, walking off the stage there. Significant because they did have divergent opinions where China should go, maybe not so much on defense but the economy.

Going back to Ukraine for a moment as well, Kevin, that, you know, you had president Lula there from Brazil. He doesn't buy what the G7 is doing here. He believes there have to be points of dialogue to continue and that his government will continue to have relations with Russia.

In terms of the actual scene, President Zelenskyy in front of all of them, what American officials have told you, what kind of difference do you think it will make?

They've been talking about this, trying to bring those allies, like India and like Brazil, on board with this for quite some time already. LIPTAK: Yes, and I think that the real hope is that hearing from him

directly will prove effective. And you've seen this before President Zelenskyy really making very strident efforts to talk to these leaders face to face, particularly as this war enters a more uncertain phase.

He's been traveling outside of his country much more. He just completed that whistle stop tour of Europe. And I think implicit in his appeals is this fear that you hear from officials, is that support for Ukraine could potentially be waning.

You know, as fatigue sets in, I think his mission and his task is to ensure that that doesn't happen, along with bringing in these other countries, who do feel that they need to maintain a relationship with Russia.

And some White House officials, American officials, call them fence sitters in a way, trying to strike a balance between those two things.

I think the goal for this summit and sort of the challenge for this summit is trying to find a way for all of those opinions to coexist and potentially bring some of those leaders into the fold in terms of the West condemnation of Russia.

NEWTON: So in fact, Kevin, arguably more striking, we're seeing Zelenskyy there at the Arab meeting a day ago, again with some countries who have decided to keep very close relations with Russia. Kevin, thanks again for jumping on with us as we follow those live developments in Japan, appreciate it.

The White House is blasting House Republicans for refusing to budge on debt ceiling talks as negotiations, yes, again, go down to the wire.

Now in a statement, communications director Ben Lebeau said Republicans are taking the economy hostage and pushing us to the brink of default, which could cost millions of jobs and tip the country into recession after two years of steady job and wage growth.

Speaking from the G7 summit in Japan, President Biden said he isn't concerned at all, in his words, about the state of negotiations. Listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It goes in stages. And what happens is, the first meetings weren't all that productive. The second ones were; the third one was.

And then what happens is the carriers go back to the principals and say, this is what we're thinking about.


BIDEN: And then people put down new claims. I still believe we'll be able to avoid a default and we'll get something decent done.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: OK, now meantime, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says

there's not enough movement from the White House on negotiations. CNN's Melisa Raney has our latest.


MELISA RANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A setback in the critical talks to find a compromise in debt ceiling talks.

On Friday, high stakes negotiations between the White House and Republicans suddenly broke down, pausing talks at least for now.

QUESTION: Do you think you'll be meeting in person this weekend?


RANEY (voice-over): Friday's roadblock crushes what had seemed to be growing optimism from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, that a framework for a deal could be produced as early as this weekend.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I really felt we were at the location where I could see the path. The White House is just -- look, we can't be spending more money next year.

RANEY (voice-over): If no deal is reached before the June 1st deadline, the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills and deliver a devastating blow to the U.S. and global economies.

The debt ceiling has been raised without much fuss in previous years. But Republicans want to tie that to budget cuts. And the White House and Republican leaders are still very far apart when it comes to spending levels.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I don't think we should be negotiating in this country about whether we pay our past bills. It's patriotic for America to keep its word and pay the debt.

RANEY (voice-over): Meanwhile President Biden cut short his dinner with G7 leaders in Japan for a virtual briefing with his negotiators in D.C. Economists say the longer this stretches out, the greater the impact on the economy. For you, economists say, a breach of the debt limit could put your job, security checks and retirement fund at risk.

MARK ZANDI, ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: You go back to 2011, the last time we had this kind of very difficult drama and the stock market fell 17 percent.

RANEY (voice-over): I'm Melisa Raney reporting.


NEWTON: A federal judge has ruled the U.S. airman accused of leaking classified documents will be detained while he awaits trial. The suspect, Jack Teixeira, appeared in court Friday.

In his ruling, the judge said the 21-year-old showed a lack of integrity. The judge also said that Teixeira posed a flight risk. He was arrested in April and charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly removing a trove of classified military documents and posting them on social media.

Now the judge said Teixeira's alleged actions put countless people in the U.S. and abroad at risk. The suspect's family said they were disappointed with the outcome of the hearing. Teixeira's not entered a formal plea as of yet.

Still ahead for us this hour, Russia's defense minister appears to visit Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya as troops try to hang onto captured land. We'll explain why the controlled region is so important to both sides.

And a fast-moving wildfire forces hundreds to evacuate. We'll have the latest.





NEWTON: Before Ukraine's president traveled to Japan for the G7 summit, he was in Saudi Arabia Friday, attending a very different gathering, the Arab League summit. He spoke with regional leaders in an effort to gain support.

He accused some of them of turning a blind eye to Ukraine's suffering and urged them to take an honest look at the situation.

Mr. Zelenskyy also held a meeting with the Saudi crown prince, where he outlined his plan to end the conflict.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials have reported several explosions in the Russian occupied city of Mariupol. The blast on Friday night hit a base that Russian forces use to install air defense systems.

The city council added that the occupiers, quote, "should have suffered significant losses."

More fighting meantime was reported in and around the city of Bakhmut. Ukrainian officials say their forces still control parts of the city and continue to conduct counterattacks.

But Ukraine's deputy defense minister acknowledges that Russian forces have made advances in that area. Russia, meantime, says its defense minister has visited Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya region to inspect a Russian command post.

Officials he met with -- several officials say he met with several commanders and awarded medals to troops. It comes as Russian forces are trying to defend the areas they've occupied and have been shelling nearby towns. CNN's Sam Kiley has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carried on a gun ship, escorted by another, Russia's defense minister, we're told, is visiting Russian troops in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya province.

"These high awards reflect high appreciation for your military work," Sergei Shoigu says, handing out medals.

Across the Dnieper River from the Russian-held parts of Zaporizhzhya, the director of Nikopol Children's Hospital isn't impressed by his performance.

He says, "They're not brave, hiding in that bank between houses. They shoot at us."

KILEY: What do you think when you see pictures of him like that?

KILEY (voice-over): Then he replies, "I think they're both, Shoigu and Putin, such cowards, it's more likely I'd say 90 percent that they're hiding somewhere in Crimea, at least very far from us."

That would probably be wise, given that, across the river from Nikopol, Russian troops have turned a nuclear power station into a front line redoubt.

KILEY: That is the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power station behind me. It's going now a fire base for Russian forces. Nearly every day they're shelling this town from over there.

It's going to be a major problem in any future Ukrainian offensive because that is the biggest nuclear power station in the whole of Europe and it's a target.

KILEY (voice-over): Ukrainian officials say they hope to bypass the nuclear plant during any offensive to avoid a nuclear catastrophe.

In the mayor's office across the river, boarded windows and shrapnel scars tell of Russian rocket attacks.


KILEY (voice-over): Avoiding disaster will depend on the Russians.

He says, "I think it's important for them to hold the nuclear power station and they will do everything to hold it as long as they can. First of all, it's the biggest nuclear facility in Europe. And, second, it's a very important base for the military and their artillery."

Russian military ambitions drove Maria (ph) literally underground, where she's been sheltering in a hospital bunker.

KILEY: How have things been in this town with the threat coming from the power station across the river for a whole year? MARIA (PH), NIKOPOL SHELLING SURVIVOR (through translator): Not very good. I gave birth in a basement. It's fine. We survived somehow.

KILEY: And how have the children been affected by the war?

MARIA (PH) (through translator): They're worried that something might happen to them.

KILEY (voice-over): And those fears won't go, not until the Russians are gone -- Sam Kiley, CNN. Nikopol.


NEWTON: CNN's Nada Bashir joins us with more on the fighting in Ukraine.

Again, Nada, it was a busy night in the skies, with debris from an air attack falling really indiscriminately.

What more are we learning at this hour?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Paula. We are learning from regional military officials in Kyiv that Russia launched a massive drone attack on the capital overnight, Thursday into Saturday morning. As you mentioned, some of that debris landing in residential areas.

Now, according to those regional military officials in a statement, Ukraine was successful in targeting and destroying all of those drones overhead. This does mark the 11th round of airstrikes by the Russian armed forces on Kyiv just since the beginning of May. So we are really seeing a ratcheting up of those attacks on the capital.

The Ukrainian armed forces say they believe Russia is attempting to deplete Ukraine of its air defense resources but also to place civilians in a state of sustained psychological distress.

Now, of course, there were those warnings and air raid sirens across the capital, calling on citizens to remain in their shelters. At this stage, authorities say they are still carrying out assessments. There have been no casualties reported, although some infrastructural damage has been reported.

With that debris falling from those air attacks that were destroyed, including one residential block in which the roof sustained some fire damage but that was quickly extinguished. But of course, this is a huge concern, given the civilian population across Kyiv.

NEWTON: With those missiles being intercepted, these are terrifying things. I want to turn to Russia now.

What more are we learning about moves they've made in retaliation for the new sanctions launched against Russia?

BASHIR: We've seen Russia in the past banning individuals, particularly journalists from entering the country. This is in addition to that, a further 500 this time, American citizens have been added to a list banned from the country, according to the Russian foreign ministry, in response to sanctions.

Russia-targeted sanctions put in place by the Biden administration. This list includes some pretty notable figures, including former President Barack Obama as well as a number of U.S. senators but it also includes late night show hosts, including Jimmy Kimmel, Steven Colbert, Seth Meyers, as well as other journalists, including our own Erin Burnett.

There was attached to this announcement a warning from the Russian foreign ministry that any actions deemed to be hostile by the Kremlin with regards to the U.S. government actions would in turn be met by a strong response from Moscow. Paula.

NEWTON: I will note that "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich remains in custody and that the United States has told Americans to avoid going to Russia, period. Thanks for your update there, Nada Bashir in London, appreciate it.


NEWTON: Now while Western allies continue to ratchet up sanctions aimed at isolating Russia, one NATO member, Turkiye, has been pursuing closer ties with the Kremlin. Now in an exclusive interview with CNN's Becky Anderson, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's defended what he called a positive relationship with Moscow.

He said he feels no obligation to impose sanctions. His comments come ahead of a crucial presidential runoff on May 28th that could shape the region for decades to come.

By contrast, Erdogan's opponent has publicly accused Russia of meddling in the Turkish election, which the Kremlin flatly denied. In this exclusive interview, CNN's Becky Anderson asked President Erdogan about the upcoming election and his desire to rewrite Turkiye's constitution if he does win a second term. Listen.



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: This is a very simple question. If re- elected, you've said that you want to completely overhaul the existing constitution introduced in the 1980s and modified since, if you were to get the required parliamentary support and you have significant seats in parliament at present, not the 400 that you would need.

But you already have a coalition of 321-odd seats.

If you were to get the required parliamentary support that could conceivably put you in play as president, as I understand it, until 2033, is that what you want?

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): If there are certain items we are lacking in the constitution, then we should get together as the parliament; 322 votes in the parliament will not be enough, will not be adequate.

But I'm hoping we will consult with other parties to take the necessary steps without disturbing the people, without disturbing the nation.

ANDERSON: Given an opportunity, would you lead this country until 2033?

ERDOGAN (through translator): According to the current structure, the president can only be elected twice. The first term is already over. And this is the second one. With the election of the second term, this process will conclude auspiciously.


NEWTON: Now official results from last Sunday's vote show Erdogan fell just shy of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, with 49.5 percent. That was about 5 points higher, in fact, than his opponent.

OK, ahead for us, Ron DeSantis isn't officially a presidential candidate yet. But yes, you guessed it, he's looking like one there, isn't he?

Just ahead what the Florida governor was doing in New Hampshire, an early primary state.





NEWTON: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Paula Newton.

As Florida governor Ron DeSantis turns attention from Disney World to Trump world, he took an early swipe at the former president ahead of his own expected announcement that, yes, he is indeed running for the White House. Listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's easy to be a front-runner to go out and take positions that are popular at the time. It's hard to dig in and cut against the grain, not easy but I honestly believe we have an opportunity to right the ship and to get this whole country going.


NEWTON: OK, now, we hear from CNN's Jeff Zeleny. After months of shadow boxing, the two most likely contenders for the Oval Office are getting ready to take the gloves off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DESANTIS: How are you doing?

It smells really good, I'll tell you that.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is hitting the campaign trail.

DESANTIS: Is that a milkshake?

ZELENY: Gearing up to launch his White House bid next week. He is sharpening his electability argument against Donald Trump, telling Republicans, it's time to shed their loyalty to the former president if they hope to win back the White House.

DESANTIS: It's going to require a lot of fight. It is going to require that we do a lot of things.

ZELENY: In a visit to New Hampshire today, DeSantis touted his Florida record as a conservative blueprint for the nation.

DESANTIS: We passed that in Florida.

ZELENY: Even as fallout intensified from his escalating fight with Disney, which pulled the plug on a one billion dollar office complex development in Florida. Republican rivals blasted the governor's feud, with Trump suggesting DeSantis had been caught in the mouse trap. DeSantis defended his oversight of the entertainment giant and his Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics have dubbed the "don't say gay" bill, that first sparked his battle with Disney.

DESANTIS: I know people try to interpret and say this or that. The chance from both sides exactly down from that is zero.

ZELENY: After months of flirting with a campaign, DeSantis is poised to formally join the Republican contest next week, convening top donors to a meeting in Miami. Today, he got an early taste of the fight awaiting him.


ZELENY (voice-over): As the Trump super PAC took aim at DeSantis for supporting a national sales tax during his years in Congress, DeSantis brushed aside the criticism and pointed Republicans to his record as governor.

DESANTIS: It's easy to be a front runner. It's easy to go out and take positions that are really popular at the time. It's harder to dig in and really cut against the grain.

ZELENY: The field of GOP presidential candidates is swiftly growing. But Senator Tim Scott filing paperwork today ahead of a formal campaign announcement Monday in South Carolina.

Fred Plett, a New Hampshire state representative, said Republicans are sizing up the contenders. FRED PLETT (R-NH), STATE REPRESENTATIVE: They are looking for a candidate I think with less baggage that Trump is carrying with him now.

ZELENY: You think Republicans also are looking for a candidate who can win back the White House.

PLETT: Yes, it's not clear who that is right now. And, frankly, even though Trump has got strong his supporters, he may take the primary, I'm not sure he can win in the general election.

ZELENY: And Republican voters say they are indeed looking for a winner. That is one of the leading criteria as they begin sorting through this growing field of candidates.

Of course, the question of who that is is going to be determined by this campaign. With governor DeSantis announcing next week at that donor meeting in Miami, this field is quickly growing; the first Republican debate, only three months away -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: Now there's a new twist in the saga of embattled U.S. Congress man George Santos. In a filing with the Federal Election Commission late Friday, Santos named himself as treasurer of his reelection campaign committee.

While this is not illegal, it is rare for candidates to do that. The latest move comes more than a week after federal prosecutors unveiling 13 count indictment, criminal indictment against Santos, including charges of wire fraud and lying about his personal finances. The New York Republican congressman has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Dianne Feinstein's return to the U.S. Senate after a lengthy medical absence should have been a happy homecoming. But some of her colleagues are now openly wondering if the 89-year-old senator from California is just too frail to be back at work. Take a listen to what one fellow Democrat had to say.


REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): It is painful to watch and I just wish people who are close to her, who have been friends of hers and her family will talk to her --


KHANNA: -- about doing the right thing and stepping down with dignity.


NEWTON: CNN's Brian Todd has the latest now from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Dianne Feinstein's positions on crucial committees, like the Judiciary, Select Intelligence and Appropriations panels remain intact, despite growing pressure for her to resign because of her declining health.

A resoluteness that has been more than four decades in the making, November 27th, 1978, the moment that catapulted Feinstein as a national political figure.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed.

TODD: As leader of San Francisco's board of supervisors, Feinstein had to announce the assassination of the city's mayor, George Moscone and a popular fellow board member, Harvey Milk, at the hands of a disgruntled former board member.

Her suit stained with Milk's blood after she tried to administer aid to him, a moment that changed the trajectory of Feinstein's own life.

ANNIE KARNI, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": She was actually stepping away from politics at that moment but she ended up being elected mayor of San Francisco's and it vaulted her into that position.

TODD: She was San Francisco's first female mayor, a position she held for nearly a decade. Then another first: Feinstein and fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer were elected as California's first female senators.

Feinstein proved crucial in getting an assault weapons ban passed in 1994. Years after that ban expired, she tried and failed to get it passed again after the Sandy Hook school massacre.

FEINSTEIN: I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I've looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons.

TODD: Feinstein became the first woman seated on the Senate Judiciary Committee. As the first to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee, many believe her crowning achievement was a 6,700-page report in 2014 on the CIA's role in torturing terror suspects, the subject of the movie, "The Report," Feinstein played by Annette Bening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you need to do it 183 times?

TODD: More recently, Feinstein was criticized by fellow Democrats for praising Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's handling of the Judiciary Committee's 2020 confirmation hearings for Conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Feinstein remained tenacious through that, just as she is now with this controversy surrounding her health, the kind of grit, some say stubbornness, that's led to multiple accounts that Feinstein is demanding of her own staff.

KARNI: She's very, very tough person to work for. I mean, again, this is a person who doesn't take vacations, whose whole life is devoted to work. I think people like that expect the same of the people who work for them.

TODD: Annie Karni of "The New York Times" says this current swirling controversy over Senator Feinstein's cognitive ability and her fitness to serve could hurt Feinstein's legacy.

But Karni believes that if Feinstein can still help Senate Democrats push through the nominations of progressive judges where they're trying to place on the bench, her legacy will be harmed a little bit less -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: Northern Italy is under warning for more heavy rainfall on Saturday, adding, in fact, more misery to the already flooded region, where more than a dozen people have been killed. A live report from Rome, coming up.





NEWTON: Northwest Italy is under an orange level warning for heavy rainfall in the coming hours, troubling news for the people in the region already struggling with what experts say is a once in a century flood.

On Friday, the death toll from the flooding rose to 14 and up to 20,000 people have been forced to leave their homes because of those rising waters. The intense flooding is a sign of the accelerating climate crisis, with rising temperatures intensifying years of severe drought in that region.

Joining us now from Rome is CNN's Barbie Nadeau.

These are tough hours and days ahead. I cannot believe how devastating these floods have been, the loss of life as well already alarming. And now we have more rain on the way.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's raining there now. We're seeing not as hard rain as we saw earlier in the week. They got six months of rain in just 36 hours earlier this week.

But the problem now is more of a logistic one. People are running out of food and water for themselves and for their livestock. This is a very important agricultural area. And the rivers are cresting now.

And that, you know, 500 roads have been wiped out. The mayor of a small town called Russi, where two people, an elderly couple, were found dead in their home, warned people they can't get out. They have to find higher ground. Let's hear what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR VALENTINA PALLI, RUSSI, ITALY (through translator): We have staff who have decided that you must go to the upper floor of your home. I repeat, go to the upper floor. Only those who don't have an upper floor must evacuate their home.


NADEAU: You know, Paula, when you listen to that, can you imagine the desperation of those people, some with small children, some with elderly parents, how that is your option?

Get up to the higher floor of your house, hope you have some food with you and just ride out this storm.

NEWTON: Yes, and to be exposed to the elements, I mean, we've seen rescues from rooftops. And we certainly hope it doesn't go in that direction, as we await some very tense hours and days ahead. There in Italy, Barbie Nadeau for us, appreciate it.

In Europe, a fast moving wildfire forced 600 people to evacuate from their villages in Western Spain. Strong winds and a prolonged drought have made extinguishing the fire more difficult.

It appears someone started the fire intentionally. April was the hottest and driest month on the Spanish mainland since recordkeeping began in 1961.

And smoke from wildfires in Canada has prompted air quality alerts across the central United States. Officials warn the smoke and haze could linger through the weekend. The warnings of dangerous air quality stretch across parts of Washington state, Montana, Minnesota and Nebraska.

There is so much smoke covering such a large area that it was visible from satellites.

OK, still ahead for us, an emotional moment in the WNBA. Brittney Griner makes her return to the starting lineup after 10 months detained in Russia. And there was a high level VIP in the crowd cheering her on.





NEWTON: We are getting our first look there at Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. And he will continue to take in bilateral meetings with the prime minister of Italy.

Given he's been on quite a travel spree, Mr. Zelenskyy will continue to try and solidify military support, as he and his country get ready for what is a much anticipated counteroffensive on the ground in Ukraine. We will continue to bring you live developments there from Japan as we follow President Zelenskyy's movements there.

Now Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner made her long awaited return to the WNBA on Friday night in the season opener. It was her first regular season game since being detained for 10 months in Russia last year.

The two-time Olympic medalist received a standing ovation from the crowd as she was introduced. Griner scored 18 points in just 25 minutes of playing action. Phoenix, though, fell to the Los Angeles Sparks, 94-71. Griner had major support in the crowd as you can imagine.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and the second gentleman met with the Phoenix Mercury in the locker room and gave the team a pre-game speech. Good to see.

Jim Brown, one of the most memorable and powerful players in the NFL, in NFL's history, has died. Brown made his mark in an era when the Super Bowl did not yet exist and retired with a rushing record that stood for years.


NEWTON: CNN's Andy Scholes has a look back at Brown's storied career.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jim Brown's name no longer dominates the NFL record books but many still consider him to be the best running back of all time.

The former All-American football and lacrosse player at Syracuse was the top draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1957. He led the team to league championship game that same season, earning the Rookie of the Year award. Brown never missed a game but abruptly retired after just nine seasons.

JIM BROWN, NFL LEGEND: My attitude is that as a champion, I only relate to my level of performance, I must remain pure in that and I am pure in that and I live that way. What I've done speaks for itself and I will talk about it when asked about it.

SCHOLES: He walked away from the game as the all-time leading rusher, a record that would stand for nearly 20 years.

BROWN: At the intensity level that I carried in my numbers, in nine years, are going to be hard for anyone to match.

SCHOLES: After football, Brown caught the acting bug, starring in the 1967 movie "The Dirty Dozen," he went on to appear in more than 50 films.

Brown also made his mark as a civil rights activist, working with inner-city gang members and prison inmates but Brown had his own demons. He spent four months behind bars for refusing to accept the terms of his probation for vandalizing his wife's car in 1999.

BROWN: I turned down three deals, then when I was sentenced and given a ridiculous sentence, I turned that down, what you think I did that?

Because I'm afraid to go to jail?

Hell, no, I'm not afraid to go to jail.

SCHOLES: Through it all, he remained a sports icon, the only man to be enshrined in the Pro Football, College Football and Lacrosse Halls of Fame.


NEWTON: Extraordinary life there. I'm Paula Newton, I'll be back in just a moment with more "CNN NEWSROOM," stay with us.