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NASA Launches Artemis Moon Rocket In Historic Leap Forward; Rick Scott To Challenge Mitch McConnell For GOP Senate Leader; Trump, After Coup Attempt & Insurrection, Says He's Running Again. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2022 - 08:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Russia denied any involvement from the outset, and now Poland's president just declared that he believes the tragedy was probably an accident.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Polish authorities are still investigating the incident. Our Matthew Chance joins us live from the Polish village where this all happened, Melissa Bell also standing by for us this morning at NATO headquarters in Brussels. But Matthew, first good morning to you. You've made it there with your team. What can you tell us?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Well, it's still a very tight security operation here. We can't get any closer than this, a couple of hundred yards away from where the missiles struck and exploded and caused that damage, and really set the world on edge because there were concerns this could have been a deliberate or a deliberate accident by Russia to strike a NATO country. That does not, fortunately, seem to be the case right now, because we're getting a whole lot of officials from the United States, from Europe, and from Poland as well that are suggesting that this is more likely to have been a Ukrainian missile that struck this territory of Poland and unfortunately killed those two people.

You have to remember the context, though, and that's that when yesterday this missile struck Polish territory, it was during a time when Ukraine itself was being absolutely bombarded with Russian missiles, cruise missiles, other types of missiles as well across targets across the country, up to 100 according to Ukrainian officials. And the Ukrainian military was desperately attempting to defend the country from those missile strikes.

And so in that scenario it's easy to imagine how a Ukrainian interceptor could have overshot its target and landed on Polish territory. And even though it's not been confirmed yet because there are still experts on the ground trying to literally piece together exactly what happened and piece together the bits of the missiles together to get a definitive answer on this, the general view at the moment is tending toward that this was not a Russian-fired missile, but it was more likely to be a Ukrainian interceptor that overshot its target. And of course, that's serious. It's terrible for the people, the two

people who were killed here, but it doesn't necessarily lead us down the road of broadening, fortunately, this conflict beyond the Ukraine to potentially bring in the NATO military alliance.

HARLOW: Matthew Chance on the ground for us, thank you very much for that reporting. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And on that note, leaders from the G-7 and NATO are holding an emergency meeting this morning to discuss that missile that killed two people, as Matthew noted. Just moments ago we heard from the head of the military alliance know as NATO addressing the incident, the explosion, at a news conference.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We have no indication that this was the result of a deliberate attack. And we have no indication that Russia is preparing offensive military actions against NATO.


COLLINS: And CNN's Melissa Bell is live at the NATO headquarters. Melissa, that is a critical update that we are getting, that this does not appear to be any kind of deliberate attack here.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Jens Stoltenberg speaking there, Kaitlan, after that emergency meeting of ambassadors to NATO, the 30 ambassadors that represent its members. And of course, it was looking at that intelligence, which was their priority, in order to understand what needed to be done next, whether Article Four or Article Five needed to be invoked.

And there's, of course, very reassuring words. Jens Stoltenberg went on to explain that what they believe as part of their preliminary investigation is that this was a Ukrainian air defense missile used to try and counter Russian cruise missiles. Plus, the investigation continues.

But it was interesting to watch until we got that assessment the very cautious language being used, not just by President Biden speaking in Bali before he left there at that G-20 summit, but all the other leaders of the countries involved because, of course, of the dangers of what we've long suspected could happen, a mistake, a missile overshooting its target, something that could bring this NATO alliance into direct confrontation with Russia.

Now, this has increased calls from those countries on the eastern flank of Russia for something they've long been asking form, which is a no-fly zone, immediately batted back by Germany, which believes with other NATO members that this would bring NATO forces in much more direct contact with Russian air forces which could, of course, bring mistakes of their own.

So for the time being, no suggestion there's going to be a bolstering of defenses on the eastern flank. More than that, what we've heard from Jens Stoltenberg and other officials here Kaitlan, beyond that assessment, are calls for calm, for acting together but in a very measured way and trying not to escalate the rhetoric or, indeed, the military buildup itself, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, certainly a welcome relief from a lot of these leaders. Melissa Bell, thanks for that update.

LEMON: I want to bring in now the former Defense Secretary under President Trump Mark Esper. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. This is important. Let's get to the most important part here.


And that is that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is saying Wednesday that there is no indication that Poland, that the missile that landed in Poland, that it was intentional. It was not the result of a deliberate act they don't believe at this point. They think it was an accident. What's your assessment?

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, that was my suspicion yesterday afternoon when I spoke on your network then, that it was likely an accidental Russian firing into Poland and that, second, maybe a spillover from a Ukrainian air defense system that were trying to knock out the missiles and drones that were fired indiscriminately into Ukraine yesterday. So I'm glad to hear that they've done the investigatory work and they' concluded mostly, it seems at this point, that it was an accident, fired by a Ukrainian air defense system.

LEMON: So there has been talk about Article Four, but nothing yet. So where does this put those discussions about invoking Article Four?

ESPER: I don't think it's necessary at this point if the determination has been it's an accident caused by Ukrainian air defense. I would stand down on that. I do think it's important to make assessments about going forward, how do we prevent such accidents. I think there needs to be a discussion, clearly, between Ukraine and NATO about the air defense systems.

Look, Ukraine is using old Russian air defense systems. So an S-300 missile, for example, can travel over 90s mils. And Lviv, which was probably targeted, is only 40 miles from the Russian border. So do the math. I think there needs to be a discussion about air defense placements, and I think there needs to be a continued discussion about the United States and its NATO allies providing more and more capable air defense systems to the Ukrainians to defend against this unwarranted Russian onslaught.

LEMON: And it's right there, it's literally on the border, it is a border town.

ESPER: Right. I was there in 2018 to see U.S. forces and allied forces training Ukrainians, and arguably I think it's made the difference, all the difference here in the conflict. But look, it's very close. And when you're shooting missiles, if they go up and they miss, they're going to come down somewhere. And so I'm just surprised this hasn't happened earlier, frankly.

HARLOW: Secretary, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I'm going to ask you a question that Kaitlan asked Senator Chris Murphy who is on the Foreign Relations Committee that I think is really important, and that is do you think it's important for President Zelenskyy to come out and publicly acknowledge what intelligence now indicates this was, to make it very clear, for people to hear it from him?

ESPER: Absolutely. I think he should come out and speak to it. I think he should apologize, and I think there needs to be some discussion, as well, with regard to reparations for the families who were tragically harmed in Ukraine by this. And I think there needs to be a discussion, too, at the technical level about how do we prevent this from happening in the future. So with regards to the placement of Ukrainian air defense systems, where they aim those systems, what is the range of those systems, because, again, these are long range weapons that can travel far, and at some point, if you miss, they're going to fall. And we want to prevent other accidents and tragedies in the future.

HARLOW: And I wonder if you think this changes the war in Ukraine at all, because the Ukrainians indicated this morning that be we wouldn't be in this scenario if it weren't for Russia, right. And so regardless of who -- and it's important there's clarity about who and what and why and how, but do you think this fundamentally changes the conflict?

ESPER: I don't. Look, they're right, we wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for the Russian attack that began nine months ago. But we are where we are. And I don't think it fundamentally changes it. The fact is we know the Ukrainians are desperate for NATO to get move involved, and we understand why. But I think the important thing now is to look ahead. We need to help the Ukrainians defeat this Russian onslaught of their infrastructure, particularly their energy infrastructure, because Vladimir Putin is trying to do a few things. He's trying to break the will of the Ukrainian people heading into the winter. He's trying to get NATO to buckle with regard to energy supplies. And I think the more we can help the Ukrainians defend themselves, which means urgently rushing a variety of short, medium range, and long range air defense systems to that country, we can help the Ukrainians defend themselves, defend their infrastructure, and then allow them to continue the tactical, the offensive to push Russia out of their territory.

COLLINS: Secretary Esper, in addition to those developments last night, you also saw another development happening in Florida when it comes to your former boss, former President Trump, announcing he is running for president. What's your reaction?

ESPER: I wish he wouldn't. I think he's unfit for office. I thought his remarks were very subdued and uninspiring, and I think it's time for the Republican Party, and frankly both parties, to move on to a next generation of leaders, and particularly leaders that can unify our country and get us back to a more normal governance where we treat each other with dignity and respect, and we work on policy issues and not on personal attacks. [08:10:05]

COLLINS: What would you say to any of your former colleagues who might go work for him again, either in his campaign or if he is ultimately reelected?

ESPER: My message to all Republicans has been all along that there were accomplishments in the Trump administration, better border security, conservative judges, lower taxes, deregulation. I think that you can get all those things with a new generation of Republican leaders who may be more in line with what I consider myself, a Reagan Republican, who can do so without the baggage and the personal attacks and the self-centeredness of Donald Trump, and that can really grow lead our nation forward, and can the Republican base as well.

The election last week was an example that Donald Trump is incapable of winning election. He's done more to help the Democrats than he has Republicans. And there's no reason why we shouldn't have a bigger margin in the House, and we should have taken the Senate, and yet we haven't. And so I think if you want to govern, if you want to govern with conservative principles, then you have to win elections, and Donald Trump can't win elections.

COLLINS: Who do you think can win an election? Governor Ron DeSantis, what Republicans do you want to see run?

ESPER: I think there are a number of candidates out there who continue to announce. DeSantis obviously is at the top of that list right now. He did a great job in Florida. He brought more Hispanics on board. So he appears to me to be the front-runner. But I think we need to have a primary, and we need to see who emerges and who can really, again, rally Republicans, grow the base, and really reach to independents and others out there across the country and allow Republicans to return to White House in 2024.

LEMON: You said you think he's unfit for office. Why?

ESPER: Look, he puts himself before country. His actions are all about him and not about the country. And we saw last week they were about him and not about the party. So to me that's shortcoming number one. And then, of course, I believe he has integrity and character issues as well.

LEMON: Like what do you mean?

ESPER: I don't think he's an honest prn. We saw the falsehoods that came out of his remarks last night with regard to this. and American need a leader that they can trust, that they have confidence in, that is putting them above an individual's own self-interest. And that's what we need from leadership. That's what -- I've mentioned Ronald Reagan. That's what Ronald Reagan gave us.

LEMON: Thank you, Defense Secretary, we appreciate you joining us, the former defense secretary, Mark Esper.

ESPER: Thank you. LEMON: Thank you very much.

HARLOW: After months of setbacks, it finally happened, while you were sleeping. The Artemis One mission finally took flight overnight and is paving the way for the first manned trip to the moon, I should say woman trip to the moon, in more than 50 years. We will geek out with an astrophysicist, Janna Levin, ahead.






LEMON: I mean, Kristin with the excitement and the bad words. We didn't say a bad word this morning, too, Poppy, you know?

HARLOW: No, I told someone else not to say a bad word.

LEMON: All right, she's overjoyed. I mean, listen, it is pretty exciting. I said to her earlier that I was jealous of her assignment. Overjoyed this morning when NASA launched a historic mission. Finally launching the Artemis I Mission following several days of delays -- or several delays, I should say. The unmanned spacecraft is set to take a trip to the moon and beyond over the next 25 days, paving the way for astronauts to set -- step foot on the moon for the first time in 50 years. As soon as 2024, NASA already sharing images captured by the spacecraft, including these incredible views of the Earth.

Joining our conversation now is Janna Levin, an astrophysicist and astronomy professor at Columbia. Gees, that means she's really smart. Because she's also an author of the book "Black Hole Survival Guide." So, thank you so much for joining. We appreciate it.

COLLINS: Good evening.


LEMON: I'm assuming you're excited about this, right?

LEVIN: I'm very excited. I don't think they're going to encounter a black hole. But that's OK.

LEMON: I want to ask you. You know, I -- it was weird. I had to do a story in my previous life at night, about stepping foot on the moon. And people forget -- I forget, like, we haven't been on the moon in a long time.

LEVIN: So long, it's 50 years.

LEMON: This is really, really important.

LEVIN: Yes, it's a very exciting time, because we're also thinking about staying on the moon. So, a lot of this was really preparation to figure out if we can use minerals and resources on the moon to build things while we're there. And not always to bring modular things all the way to the moon, but actually build them.

HARLOW: Isn't the ultimate goal here of the Artemis, because there's Artemis I, and then Artemis III will bring humans, first woman, first person of color to the moon. It's ultimately about Mars, right?

LEVIN: Yes, a lot of this is about an ambition to go to Mars. And Mars is pretty inhospitable, it doesn't have a good magnetic field to protect us from dangerous rays. And we don't think we have enough fuel to come back. So, you really have to go to Mars with the intention of surviving there somehow, with the conditions that are available, which is going to be a big challenge. So, in the meantime, we're going to set up kind of a waste station around the moon, to be able to begin to see if we can live on other celestial bodies.

LEMON: Can I just jump in real quick.

LEVIN: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: You said the conditions that are available. What do you mean by that?

LEVIN: Well, Mars doesn't have the same atmosphere, obviously. And because it doesn't have a lot of protection from the sun's rays, it's actually very damaging to human DNA to be on the Martian surface. And it is quite far, it's, you know, 50 million miles away. And so, it's much harder to send in a fuel to get people back. So, people are concerned about a one-way ticket to Mars. So, the idea is to give them a ticket back and to create an environment where robots and humans can build a station on Mars itself. We'll try the moon first.

COLLINS: And there's also geopolitical aspect to this, right, of what other nations are also trying to do. It's not just the United States. And I know you've had some concerns about China and what they're trying to do when it comes to essentially setting up camp on the moon.


LEVIN: Yes, it's very interesting because we were in a space race in the 50s, and 60s, and 70s, during a Cold War, mostly with the Soviet Union. And that provoked an incredible amount of anxiety that the Russians were the first to launch anything into space. Sputnik is a little volleyball. Of course, Americans got to the moon and landed on the moon, and that's tremendous. But right now, we're in the same kind of a tension, where there's a tension between political parties that don't want to work together. So, there is in fact, an Artemis accord, which is an attempt to get a bunch of countries into the same attitude about having a peaceful exploration of space, and making it an international collaboration. And China's resistant to that. So, we'll see.

LEMON: Yes. Awesome, space, the final frontier.

LEVIN: Yes. Space.

HARLOW: Thank you.

COLLINS: It's so fascinating.

LEVIN: Thanks so much for having me.

LEMON: Artemis II.

HARLOW: You should narrate the (INAUDIBLE)

LEVIN: Apollo sister, as we send a woman to the moon.

COLLINS: I can't wait to go --

LEMON: I'll only go where other men have gone before, but not for a long time. Thank you. It was a pleasure having you here.

LEVIN: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: We really appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right, to politics now. A Republican Senate showdown, Mitch McConnell facing a challenge to his leadership from Florida Senator Rick Scott.


LEMON: That was fantastic. Would you like to go to space? Would you like to go to the moon?



COLLINS: All right, the Republican Civil War moving to the Senate this morning. Florida Senator Rick Scott has announced a bid to challenge Mitch McConnell for the top GOP leadership role that he has held for the last 15 years. Scott saying that, quote, a big change is needed, and it's time for new leadership in the Senate. McConnell says this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think the outcome is pretty clear. I want to repeat again, I have the votes, I will be elected.


COLLINS: The tension between the two senators is heating up as the GOP's shortcoming in the Midterm Elections is on full display.


MCCONNELL: I never predicted a red wave. We never saw that in any of our polling.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Here's what happened to us. Election Day, our voters didn't show up. We didn't get enough voters. It's a complete disappointment.

MCCONNELL: It's pretty obvious. And all of you have been writing about it of what happened. We underperformed among Independents and Moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party and leadership roles is that they're engulfed in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks.

SCOTT: What are we running on? What do we stand for? What are we hell bent to get done? What we, you know -- you know, there's no plan to do that. The leadership in the Republican Senate says we -- no, you cannot have a plan. We're just going to run against how bad the Democrats are. And actually, then they cave into the Democrats. The Republican leadership caved in on the debt ceiling, caved in on the gun bill, caved in on a fake infrastructure bill, and then we make it difficult for our candidates.

MCCONNELL: Candidate quality you recall, I said in August, is important. And in most of our states, we met that test, and a few of them we did not.


COLLINS: Joining us now, Dana Bash, CNN chief political correspondent and co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION." Dana, you know as well as I know, usually Rick's --

LEMON: I'm so happy you're here.


LEMON: Hi live. I just -- I just love Dana Bash.

COLLINS: Can I -- I got to --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's mutual. I'm so happy to be here.

LEMON: I'm sorry, go on.

COLLINS: I got to say, you know, as well as I do.

BASH: That was in -- sorry, yes.

COLLINS: In typically standing right over Mitch McConnell's shoulder is one Rick Scott. I noticed he was not there yesterday.

BASH: Disinvited.

COLLINS: Disinvited.

BASH: It wasn't an accident. He was disinvited after they had words in a private meeting, their lunch that their Senate Republicans had. Look, what you just -- first, that was so well done, because it really illustrates --

HARLOW: We have pretty great producers on this team if you hadn't notice.

BASH: Yes, I did notice. Really illustrates what the divide is. The divide is between Mitch McConnell, who is arguing facts. And the facts are that the candidates who -- a lot of the candidates who lost were supported by Donald Trump, supported the whole notion of election lies and everything that has to do with the past, and not necessarily the future. Not all of them, but a lot of them. And what Rick Scott is talking about is Donald Trump's talking points, and it's not just Donald Trump, it's the base's talking points.

It's -- what he was criticizing McConnell for was legislating, infrastructure, other issues that he worked across the aisle with the Democrats on. And that is where the Republican Party is right now. They -- the base doesn't want any to give even an inch to Joe Biden. And that is why -- one of the reasons why they're very mad at Mitch McConnell. The other main reason is because Donald Trump is mad at Mitch McConnell and attacks him all of the time, sometimes with pretty racist language about his wife. And so, they're following suit.

LEMON: Suit of not giving an inch. I mean, the New York Post barely gave an inch to the former president's announcement. Do you see that? Do you see that? What'd it say?

BASH: Florida man makes announcement.

LEMON: OK. But that's not the -- that's not the --

COLLINS: This is like size 12 font.

LEMON: You know, it's not on page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. It's on page 26. And it says, then, just please just give me some moment, producer reasons. Read this. Been there, done that. D-O-N that. With just 720 days to go before the next election, a Florida retiree made the surprise announcement Tuesday night that he was running for president. In a move no political pundit saw coming, avid golfer Donald J. Trump kicked things off at Mar-a-Lago, his resort and classified documents library. Trump famous for gold-plated lobbies and for firing people on reality television, will be 78 in 2024. If elected, Trump would tie Joe Biden as the oldest president to take office. His cholesterol levels are unknown, but his favorite food is a charred steak with ketchup.

HARLOW: Not the onion.