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CNN This Morning

Protesters Attack Site of Future Police Training Facility in Atlanta; Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Rev Up for Possible 2024 Showdown; Russians on Cusp of Taking a Ukrainian City for First Time in Eight Months. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 06, 2023 - 07:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: They hurled bricks, rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails, also torched police and construction vehicles along with a trailer. Opponents of the proposed training facility have nicknamed it Cop City.

Here, you can see fireworks explode next to a police officer, there it is right there. Tensions have been building for months between police and protesters. Environmental advocates have been fighting to preserve the force while oOther protesters say the facility could increase the militarization of police.

Let me get now to Atlanta, CNN's Nick Valencia with more this morning. Nick, good morning. Police say that they detained 35 people. What else do you know this morning?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don, good morning. Police are calling this a coordinated attack and it occurred during what protesters were promoting as a week of protests and festivities with the goal of stopping this proposed 85-acre $90 million facility, police and fire training facility, it would be the biggest of its kind if it's completed.

And on Sunday, police say 35 people were taken into custody after throwing fireworks, large rocks, large bricks and Molotov cocktails at police. Police say no officers were injured but they did say some protesters suffered some minor injuries.

Listen to the police chief at a press conference late last night characterized it, saying that this wasn't about the protests of a propose police and fire training facility, in their eyes, they say, this was about anarchy.


CHIEF DARIN SCHIERBAUM, ATLANTA POLICE: Actions such as this will not be tolerated. When you attack law enforcement officers, when you damage equipment, you are breaking the law. And this was a very violent attack that occurred this evening, very violent attack. This wasn't about a public safety training center. This was about anarchy and this was about the attempt to destabilize.


VALENCIA: In recent months, this site is the target of a robust coalition of activists, some who say that this is further militarize the police. This is an effort, they say, by Atlanta, to further militarize the police, others who say that they're compromising their environment in a site that should be preserved.

In January, a Georgia State Trooper was shot and wounded and a demonstrator was shot and killed by police, further fueling an already tense situation in something that we're continuing to keep an eye on. Don?

LEMON: So, now that we're here, should we expect more?

VALENCIA: Well, it's certainly not -- you know, the tension is not calming down. It seems as though this site and this facility, Don, is continuing to be actions of violent attacks by protesters, police underscoring that many of those who were arrested last night were from outside of Atlanta. Don?

LEMON: Nick Valencia in Atlanta, thank you, Nick.

VALENCIA: You bet.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This morning, to that Southwest Airlines flight, they're apologizing, the airline, after passengers on their flight Ft. Lauderdale were forced to return to Havana. The airline says birds hit the plane's engine and nose. Look at that. That is video of the cabin filling up with smoke. Everyone was safely evacuated.

Our Carlos Suarez is in Miami with more. Terrifying to be in and have that happen. Luckily, everyone is safe. I understand they went out through slides, I believe. What happened?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Poppy. Good morning. Talk about a frightening few minutes for folks that were onboard that Southwest Airlines flight. Cell phone video from inside the cabin of that aircraft captured just the terrifying minutes right after that airplane that took off from Havana's international airport. In the video, you can hear a flight attendant telling passengers to please put on their oxygen mask on their face as that smoke filled that cabin.

So, according to the airline, right after that 737 took off from Havana's international airport, it hit a number of birds. One of the birds hit the plane's engine. The other hit the aircraft's nose.

Now, in the minutes right after that strike, well, that's when all of that smoke began filling the cabin. And so by the time the aircraft made its emergency landing at the airport, there were already crews waiting for that flight to get up.

Now, we're told that passengers were able to get off that plane using the emergency chutes. And from there, they were taken back to a terminal. Now, according to Southwest Airlines, they were able to check everyone out. No one onboard the plane was hurt and then they made some additional steps to make sure that folks that were trying to get to Ft. Lauderdale were able to do so. Poppy?

HARLOW: And what is Southwest saying about this incident? I mean, I think we all think about miracle on the Hudson and what happened here in New York. Sometimes these things are unavoidable, right?

SUAREZ: Yes, that's exactly right. So, the airline was quick to command the actions of not only the pilots but, of course, the flight attendants, as you heard in the video. You can see that they're trying to keep everyone calm. They're trying to get them to do what they need to do.

Now, in a statement to CNN, the airline said, quote, we commend the swift professional actions of our pilots and flight attendants in responding to this event. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and we have reached out to address t heir needs offer support.

One final note, Poppy, according to Cuban state-run media, it appears that the engine that was hit by that bird may have suffered some sort of engine failure. However, the airline said they were still looking into that. But, again, the good news at this hour this morning is no one was hurt onboard that Southwest Airlines flight.


Several passengers were able to get on to a flight late last night. The rest of them, we're told, will most likely be able to make it here to South Florida either today or tomorrow.

HARLOW: Okay. Carlos, thanks for the reporting.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The state of the race for the 2024 Republican nomination was on full display this weekend as former President Trump and Florida governor both appeared in dueling high- profile appearances. Trump headlining the conservative conference, known as CPAC, as Governor DeSantis, who has not yet formally announced that he's running, made the pilgrimage to Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think these liberal states have gotten it wrong. And why are they getting it wrong? I think it all goes back to ideology. I think it goes back to this woke mind virus that has infected the left and all the other institutions.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neo-cons, globalists, open borders zealots and fools. But we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush.


COLLINS: Those weren't the only two that you heard from. GOP Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley also spoke at CPAC as did former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is said to be considering a run but he hasn't announced yet. Both of them took veiled jabs at Trump and declined to actually name their former boss. At least one potential candidate has decided not to run, former Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan says he was considering it but is no longer considering doing so because he didn't want to risk being part of, quote, another multicar pileup that he believes could lead to another Trump nomination. Former Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison seemed disagreed with that line of reasoning though.


FMR. GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Larry Hogan is a star. He's governed well in Maryland, elected in a blue state. He did say he wanted to avoid a multicar pileup. I got a kick out of that reference. And I actually think that more voices right now in opposition or providing an alternative to Donald Trump is the best thing in the right direction.


COLLINS: Joining us now is the person who conducted that interview, CNN's Chief Political Correspondent and co-Anchor of State of the Union Dana Bash. Dana, really interesting comments there from Asa Hutchinson basically saying he thinks Larry Hogan is wrong, that a bigger field is going to help Trump. But that does seem to be the conventional wisdom here.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And it's not just the conventional wisdom because people are trying to read the tea leaves. It's because people are looking at 2016. That is exactly what happened in 2016. You well know covering that campaign that what happened was Donald Trump never got a majority of the votes during the primaries. He just got a lot more than the others because the others split the vote because there were so many people in the field.

What former Governor Hutchison said to me was that, yes, that could happen in some ways, but that he is fundamentally convinced that this time around is different than last time. The dynamics about Trump, Trumpism, what we know about him since he was the president, and, of course, because of January 6, it changes things.

But one thing that he did indicate, he didn't say this, but indicated, which I've heard from others in and around potential Republican candidates, is that it is early. You could potentially see some of these candidates getting into try to shift the message, the anti-Trump message but maybe not staying in very long to the point where they -- if they don't take off to the point where they hand Donald Trump the nomination because they are splitting the vote, like 2016.

HARLOW: Dana, can we talk about your interview with New York's Mayor Eric Adams yesterday on the show? It was fascinating for a number of reasons, particularly, I thought, your broader question to him on whether Lori Lightfoot's loss in the mayoral race in Chicago is a warning sign across the country. So, let's take a listen and then talk about it on the other side. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): I think this is a warning sign for the country. Eric Adams hasn't been talking about public safety not only on the campaign trail but for the first year.

Public safety is a prerequisite to prosperity. Same is Chicago, like New York and many of our big cities across America.


HARLOW: I wonder what you make of that.

BASH: He has been talking as loudly as anybody could -- as anybody could and he wants as many people, particularly Democrats, to listen to him about the notion of crime. You know, especially as to New York City residence, and you are consumers of the news up there, that has really angered some of his fellow Democrats, particularly in the wake of the 2022 midterms.


Because a lot of Democrats think that one of the reasons that they did so poorly in the key congressional races, that maybe even cost the Democrats the majority is because crime was such a big issue and that Eric Adams was contributing to that, kind of sounding more like Republicans about the concern about crime. His argument is it doesn't even matter what I say. What matters is what people feel and people don't feel as safe as they should.

He did note that crime has come down. We had a notice from the NYPD last week across the board but he is trying to sort of -- it's a clarion call to Democrats. And all you need to know and all you need to have witnessed was what happened here in Washington last week with President Biden suddenly shifting his position, again, angering Democrats in the House by saying that he would likely support, actually sign a Republican bill to override a crime -- a piece of crime legislation here in D.C. that could have been perceived as soft on crime. That tells you everything you need to know about how potent this issue still is for Democrats. If you look at the guy who is going to be at the top of the ticket, at least that's what we think, that tells you a lot.

LEMON: Well, it's interesting. It is the same issue, I believe, Dana, that President Biden has with getting his message out. He's accomplished a lot, a lot of headwinds, same thing with crime. Crime is down in many areas, right. It's up. And it is indeed an issue. But it is hard to establish what is real and what's not. But what matters is perception is reality, right? And whether people feel safe and whether people feel Joe Biden on the other hand has accomplished much. He has accomplished much. Crime is down.

So, then what happens during the election? How do Democrats get their message out having issues with that the same as Joe Biden gets his message out that he's actually accomplishing something or Democrats that crime is actually down rather than up in many areas? It is an issue though.

BASH: It is. And Mondaire, who is now a CNN contributor, was a member of Congress serving from New York, he has been very vocal about the fact that he -- he thinks it's very detrimental not just to the Democratic Party but sort of to the broader society to keep talking about crime as a major problem that exceeds really what the numbers show, which is kind of the point you're making, Don.

And, yes, of course, people don't feel safe. That is all that matters. But it's like that balance between telling people I feel your pain, I know that you don't feel safe, versus telling people maybe that is a little bit misdirected if you look at the numbers where they are right now. And, again, just New York City as the example that we're talking about right now, numbers are down.

But you can't ignore what happened in Chicago last week. And that's what the basis of my conversation with the New York City mayor. He's very close with Lori Lightfoot, who is now on her way out because she lost and, by and large, a big, big reason for that was the issue of crime.

Yes. Dana, I have to point this out, that you covered it as well, just to show the pictures. This is Selma, the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. There was a historic demonstration there, black civil rights leaders and activists were attacked there in 1965. The president joining many other leaders to mark the commemoration, 58 years ago. Dana, thank you. Always a pleasure, good to see you. Thank you.

BASH: Thanks.

LEMON: So, this morning, the former president, Trump, filing a motion seeking to block former Vice President Mike Pence from speaking to a grand jury about efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trump claims that the issues are protected by executive privilege.

Let's go now to CNN's Katelyn Polantz. She joins us now. Good morning to you, Katelyn. Realistically, will Trump get his way?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, we'll have to see, Don. Right now, this filing is under seal. But this is the third time that Donald Trump has tried to make a claim like this under seal in this investigation, trying to claim that his presidential communications should be secret from criminal investigators looking at January 6th.

And there's a long history here whenever you look back not just in the history of the United States, where courts have really not ruled in favor of executive privilege claims whenever there is criminal investigators wanting to get information, but there's a long history even before this judge in this particular investigation related to January 6th where Donald Trump has lost now every time he's tried to make this claim that we know of.

[07:15:01] And so it is very possible he could lose again. It does make it a little big different that this is about a communication between the vice president and the former president himself while they're both in office. But, Don, on the whole, executive privilege does tend to fall away whenever a criminal investigator says we really want an answer here.

LEMON: Katelyn, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told Meet the Press that they have gotten, quote, a flavor of the contents of classified documents obtained from Trump, Biden and Pence. Listen to this.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: Right now, you have no idea whether these were the highest level or the mid-level?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): We didn't say, no idea. Again, we can't get too into the details. We got a flavor for what was there. And I won't speak for Mike but I'll tell you, having been given a flavor, this is a very serious issue. This was not stuff that we can say clearly doesn't matter. It matters.

TODD: In all three cases?

HIMES: Well, again, we don't know yet.


LEMON: The question is what is the flavor?

POLANTZ: Well, the flavor is it's not the whole thing. It's a taste of what it is. They clearly are saying that they believe that there is a serious issue here, as intelligence committee members, Republican and Democrats, standing together and speaking about what they've learned in this first crucial briefing. But they are also, in the rest of that interview, indicating that they are not satisfied with the amount of information that they have gotten so far about these classified documents issues. They also say that they don't know the classification levels of the documents that were being kept outside of secured facilities in any of these investigations. And they indicate that the FBI investigation is ongoing.

At least with Donald Trump, we also know that it's ongoing with Joe Biden. There are special counsels looking at both of those things. And whatever the FBI and the intelligence community finds, how secure these documents were, how they were being kept, who may have looked at them after they were outside of the hands of the federal government, all of that is going to play into charging decisions and the criminal investigations. Don?

LEMON: Yes. I'm not sure it's going to be in the back burner. It may actually overshadow what happens in 2024. Katelyn, thank you.

HARLOW: Ukrainian forces pushing back this morning on Russian fighters as they surround cities in the east. Ahead, a look at how this is all shaping up. Major Mike Lyons is here with the breakdown.



LEMON: This morning, Russian forces are making gradual gains as they try to encircle Ukrainian fighters in Bakhmut. President Zelenskyy is calling it, quote, one of the toughest battles yet. Despite the Russian blitz, Ukrainian forces say that they are still holding on to a key highway in the fiercely contested city.

Just a short time ago, the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, said it would not be a strategic setback if Ukrainians decide to reposition in some areas to the west of Bakhmut. The town's deputy mayor telling CNN there are about 4,500 Ukrainian residents still in the city and in harm's way.

So, let's bring in retired U.S. Army Major General Mike Lyons. Good morning to you. Let's focus on Bakhmut here. So, the secretary is saying that it would not be a strategic setback for Ukraine if they lose this city. Is that true? And what is the significant of Bakhmut?

MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, I think it is true. I think the bottom line is both sides are using this battle to grind the other side down. And Ukraine is winning in that regard. They're about a 7-1 ratio, 7-1, Russia is down for one Ukraine. However, they still don't have enough manpower there.

Here's really what is happening on the ground right now. The Russians, from what we can tell, are kind of envelopment to try to envelope the city here, a very kind of wide circle here. Why hasn't Russia taken it directly? And I'll tell you why. There is a river. Ukrainians use incredible amount of obstacles in order to protect the city. There is a river that goes through that Russians can't navigate at all. And so we can tell what either side is doing by how they drop bridge across rivers.

So, for example, the Ukrainian military just dropped that river, which tells me now they're retreating back into the town Bakhmut and eventually taking this. This is the 504, the T504 road back to Ivanivske, let's say. But the Russians now, they drop a bridge here in Khromove. So, they're trying to prevent the Ukrainians from escaping from this route there as well. So, we're seeing now actually what both sides are going to do and likely where Ukraine will be able to evade Russian forces to leave the city.

LEMON: So, considering what you just said and how they're surrounding, how much longer do you think Ukrainian forces can hold on?

LYONS: So, they've got to decide how more casualties they really want to take. And both sides have been grinding each other down here at this point, I think they're going to do this for the next 24 to 48 hours. And there is no loss in that for them. Evade when the enemy is stronger at this point. I think that's really what the decision that they're making. LEMON: Can we talk about the Wagner group, because they have been spearheading this push for Bakhmut? Can you explain to us their involvement here?

LYONS: They're mercenaries, about 50,000 troops, we know, in the Donbas region, 10,000 regular contractors, about 40,000 penal colony prisoners, people that have made this choices to come join the battle here, because as because as opposed to sitting in a Russian penal colony, they're unbounded by the laws of the land on warfare. Russia uses use them for plausible deniability. They were first deployed back in 2014 in Crimea as the little green men. They're not really warriors. Their head, Prigozhin, is a former caterer of Vladimir Putin.

But here's the deal. We now see that he is now complaining about the situation in Bakhmut. He says they're not getting enough ammo. So, he is now sensing a loss. He is sensing that they're not going to be able to hold it. And, really, what they've been done to the city, the city is in rubble. 4,500 left from what was 80,000 civilians. They've nearly not gained any victory.

LEMON: So, since they're not bound by sort of traditional rules, is this why they're involved instead of Russian troops?

LYONS: They can't muster enough Russian troops that want to do this fight. This is a suicide mission. Again, the frontal assaults on locations and trench warfare with all the different obstacles, the Russian soldiers are smart, they recognize they're not going to survive those battles.


LEMON: Thank you, Major Mike Lyons. I appreciate it. Good to see you this morning. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. Ahead, we will discuss this, how China is building up its military. We're going to be joined by National Security Adviser John Bolton.

We're waiting in line at the grocery store to spending hours in a mile long food drive. Ahead, the impact of food stamp benefits being cut.

COLLINS: And what is next for NBA star Ja Morant after a video showed him appearing to flash a gun inside of a nightclub?


COLLINS: This morning, the FBI is asking for the public's help in the search for four Americans who have been assaulted and kidnapped in Mexico. Officials say they were taken on Friday after they crossed into Mexico driving a white minivan that had North Carolina license plate.

Shortly after entering Mexico, gunmen fired at the passenger and all four Americans were taken, put into another vehicle and taken by the armed men. Investigators are offering a $50,000 reward in the case as the details remain to be seen.


LEMON: All right. Everybody take a look at this.