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Russian Missile Strikes Kill Civilians, Hit Power Grid; McConnell Hospitalized After Fall at Hotel; DOJ: Louisville Police Unlawfully Discriminate against Black People. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 06:00   ET


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This rain is going to fall on the snow that's still on the roofs of these houses, and these houses are going to be in peril, with this very heavy snow on top.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, yes. OK. Chad Myers, thank you.

And thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We're glad you're with us. It is a very busy morning. A lot developed overnight.

New overnight, mass missile strikes across Ukraine. Civilians reported dead, the energy infrastructure severely damaged. We are live in Kyiv with the fallout.

Also overnight, Senator Mitch McConnell hospitalized after a trip and a fall. What we're learning about his condition.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The death toll rising in California. The historic snowstorm blamed for more bodies being found and now a new warning to residents: prepare for floods.

An NBA legend arrested. Shawn Kemp charged in connection with a drive- by shooting. What police say happened.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And President Biden going big, seeking to cut the deficit by nearly $3 trillion. Details on his plan to do it. Why Republicans say it will never happen.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: We do begin this morning with the war in Ukraine. Russia launching a barrage of missiles overnight across Ukraine. Power knocked out. Innocent civilians killed. It is the largest scale bombardment we have seen in nearly a month.

The Russians struck several major cities, including the capital, Kyiv, far away from the front lines. Ukrainian officials say a Russian missile obliterated these homes and killed at least five people in the Western city of Lviv, which is right on NATO's doorstep. This is a photo of Russian missiles rising up into the sky in the

predawn hours. Ukraine's military says Russia launched more than 80 missiles in all.

And Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia has been completely disconnected now from Ukraine's power grid because of that Russian shelling. That's according to the energy company that runs it.

So we do begin with our Ivan Watson. He is live on the ground in Kyiv. Just a barrage overnight and so far West. What can you tell us?


And according to the Ukrainian military command, this was a massive missile attack on Ukraine's critical infrastructure. And I'm just going to give you a little image of some of the consequences of this.

A security source in Ukraine says that this was a piece of a missile that burned out these cars. It hit around 6 a.m. this morning, before dawn, and would have been absolutely terrifying, the blast, for residents of this enormous apartment block up here. There are shattered windows and things like that.

This is just one of the impact points. It does appear, judging by what the Ukrainian military said, that this was a coordinated Russian missile attack. At least 81 missiles of different kinds -- cruise missiles, air launch missiles, sea-launched missiles, as well, those Iranian-made Shaheed drones -- that hit in cities from Kyiv here, the capital, to Lviv in the West where at least five people were reported killed. The Southern city of Odessa, the Northern city of Kharkiv.

And that the power infrastructure appears to have been one of the targets of these strikes. And that is a trend that we have seen for months now, with Russia apparently trying to knock out power in this country.

And 15 percent of power was, for example, knocked out here in Kyiv. In another town, Zhytomyr, about 150,000 people without electricity.

But I can just describe you to, traveling around Kyiv today, it's business as usual. The restaurants are open. Businesses are open, as well.

But I think what we see here just underscores how haphazard and dangerous and scary it is when the Russians fire these missiles.

Tom's just going spin around over here real fast. I mean, there's a -- there's a children's playground right here. Fortunately, no kids would have been here at 6 a.m. in the morning.

The Ukrainian military says that they were able to use their air defense to knock down at least 34 of the cruise missiles and four of those Iranian-made Shaheed so-called suicide drones.

But take a listen to what a spokesperson for Ukraine's air force has to say about the vulnerability they have to some of these Russian missiles.


YURII IHNAT, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE SPOKESPERSON (through translator): As you can see, the attack is really large-scale and, for the first time, using such different types of missiles.

We see that this time as many as six Kinzhal were used. This is an attack like I don't remember seeing before.

Different types of aircraft were used. Strategic, long-range, MiG-31. There were 81 missile launches. There were X-22, which we can't shoot down. We can't shoot down the Kinzhal either.



WATSON: As he says, they have no defenses against some of these Russian missiles.

Back to you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Ivan, before you go, I mean, we just heard from the director of national intelligence, Admiral Haines, testifying before Congress yesterday, talking about real concerns about Russia unlikely to make major gains but to continue this war of attrition, to continue killing civilians, to continue trying to make this impossible for Ukraine to live through.

And also real concerns about, you know, Ukraine's efforts and a counteroffensive. And you're seeing that play out on the ground right now.

WATSON: Yes, I mean, well, let's just consider this -- this missile barrage. What does it accomplish? The power is still on in much of Ukraine. This is just the most recent of a series of these kind of missile attacks. So what does it really accomplish?

It, you know, keeps the air defenses active. It definitely terrifies local people. I was talking to an elderly lady who walked past, and she said, I have no words for how frightening it was at 6 a.m. in the morning when this missile part smashed down here.

But to date, the -- the Russian military has not been able to knock out the electricity in Ukraine, despite the scale of the destruction and the battle that's been going on. They have not succeeded in this, though they try again and again and again.

I'll leave that to you to judge how effective this strategy is, unless it is to terrify the --

HARLOW: Terrorize.

WATSON: -- population and try to hobble the economy here. HARLOW: Yes, terrify and terrorize, and it's so striking to see you

right in front of the children's playground there, where it's all playing out.

Ivan, thank you for the reporting.

LEMON: Joining us now this morning, CNN military analyst and former member of the joint staff at the Pentagon, retired Col. Cedric Leighton.

Colonel, thank you for joining us this morning. Let's talk about the scale of this attack. It really spans the full interior of Ukraine. Talk about where these strikes hit and why Russia chose these particular targets.


Well, you know, as Ivan mentioned in his report, it really struck all across Ukraine. You can see from the West in Lviv all the way to the Northeast in Kharkiv and then down South in Odessa, plus, of course, the capital in Kyiv.

All of these areas are critical to Ukraine from an economic standpoint. Many of them do not have military installations. But the very fact that they're being hit indicates that the Russian strategy is one in which they're going after all the different civilian infrastructure installations that they can hit.

You know, the key fact, of course, they're going after power. Not very effective, as Ivan mentioned, you know, in the aggregate, but it's still, at the very least, an inconvenience and, of course, can be a fatal inconvenience when these missiles strike in apartment areas and in other inhabited areas.

LEMON: Well, let's talk about Lviv. I remember being there, and Lviv seemed to be as, you know, a safe space here. This is one of the five areas there. So this is a residential area, thought to be a safe space. Why would Russia strike there?

LEIGHTON: So the reason for that, Don, besides spreading terror and really indicating to Ukrainians that there is no safe haven, notice how close Lviv is to the Polish border.

Lviv is the main supply route in for a lot of the weapons that NATO and the U.S. are supplying to the Ukrainians.

So it's a warning, in some respects, to Ukraine that their supply chain can be hit by the Russians, and Lviv, of course, is right smack in the middle of that.

LEMON: All right. Let's look at now the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The state of emergency. This -- this company says that Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has once again been completely disconnected. It's an emergency for them.

It's been disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid, due to Russian shelling. That continues to be major concern here.

LEIGHTON: Yes, it sure does, Don. And of course, you know, if there's no power to the nuclear power plant, that limits the ability and actually makes it impossible to cool the reactor. So if the reactor is not cooled, then the possibility exists of a nuclear accident of one type or another.

And to use the term "accident" is probably overstating things. But it is definitely a serious concern and could result in some radiation leaving the area, kind of like Fukushima in -- in Japan a few years ago.

LEMON: This is your expertise. We've been discussing, you and I, and you with other members of our network have been talking about the -- the types of weapons that Russia is using here in these strikes, including cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles. What do you know about it?

LEIGHTON: Yes. So there are a lot of different weapons systems. As the Ukrainian spokesman mentioned, there were a lot of them. So let's look into a couple of these.

The X-22 air-launched cruise missile. This is something that is designed by the Russians to go after ships. This is something that is not designed to attack civilian targets. It is not designed to even attack formations on the ground.


But that is, you know, one of the key things.

And then right under that, the X-47 Kinzhal. That's an air-launched cruise missile. It is a hypersonic missile, can travel up to 12 times the speed of sound. And it is also -- actually, both of these missiles are actually nuclear-capable. Now, they don't have nuclear warheads in this case, but the conventional warheads have caused a lot of damage, and the Ukrainians have no air defenses against them.

LEMON: All right, Colonel Cedric Leighton, we appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

Later on in the show, we're going to speak with the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House. And that is none other than John Kirby.

COLLINS: Also overnight, we're tracking breaking news out of Washington after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been hospitalized after he tripped and fell at a hotel in Washington.

I want to bring in our CNN congressional correspondent, Lauren Fox. Lauren, what do we know, what do we not know from McConnell's team so far about what happened?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What we know at this moment, Kaitlan, is that he did suffer a fall at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel following a private dinner. I want to read this statement from his office, 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."

Now McConnell is 81 years old. He is the top Republican in the U.S. Senate and the longest serving Republican leader in that body.

But there's just a lot we don't know right now about his condition, about how long he'll have to be at the hospital. It also comes at a time, Kaitlan, when the Senate is narrowly divided right now. And there are two Democratic senators who are also out for health reasons.

You have Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is dealing with shingles. You also have Senator John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania Democrat, who is receiving treatment for clinical depression at Walter Reed right now.

So, you know, there's just a lot of questions. I will keep you updated as we get more information this morning. But right now, what we know is that McConnell suffered a fall last night and was hospitalized after that fall -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: He's obviously in our thoughts. We're hoping for a quick recovery for him.

But Lauren, in the broader impact of what this means, we've had these conversations when Senator Fetterman was hospitalized. Senator Feinstein. What does it mean for Senate leadership, given, you know, if he does need quite some time to recover?

FOX: Well, I think there's just a lot we don't know right now. But obviously, it's a narrowly-divided body. It is a body in which McConnell has a lot of jurisdiction over his conference. He is somebody who is revered within his conference, trusted, someone that lawmakers go to for advice, someone who decides the Republican strategy in the U.S. Senate.

So obviously, his absence for any period of time will have an impact on the Republican conference.

Of course, you also have Senator John Thune, who is the next in line. He is the Republican whip who, you know, would be expected to fill that vacuum.

But we just don't know right now how long McConnell would be hospitalized for and how serious of a fall this was -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: All right. Lauren Fox, keep us updated. Thank you so much.

I want to bring in CNN's political commentator, Errol Louis, for more on this. Errol, obviously, we are -- we don't know a lot. We're hoping to learn more, and we're, you know, wishing for the best for Senator McConnell.

But this does have a significant impact, potentially, on how things work in Washington for any senator, but especially one as powerful in his caucus as Mitch McConnell. ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: For sure. We should keep in

mind that it is still a closely-divided Senate. We had the vice president come in and break some ties on judicial nominations of no particular moment. That's how closely we still have to keep in mind. Fifty-one/forty-nine is nothing to sneeze at. And all it takes is one or two to be incapacitated or not in the chamber, and all of a sudden, a lot of things can change.

But I think your larger point, though, the interesting thing about McConnell is that we don't know where the Senate would go without him. He's, you know, he's the longest-serving Republican leader in history. And where they might go.

You look at somebody like senator Rick Scott, who made an abortive challenge to maybe take the leadership away. And he put forward some policies that were dramatically unpopular and was sort of shunted aside and so forth.

But we don't know where that conference would go without the leadership of Mitch McConnell. We may find -- find out in the next few weeks.

LEMON: Is --

COLLINS: Is -- Go ahead.

LEMON: I'm sorry, go on. Is there anything that they're working on now that would be in jeopardy because of a Mitch McConnell absence that is of critical importance at this morning?

LOUIS: I think -- I think, you know, broadly speaking, trying to figure out what the strategy is going to be. I mean, you snow, Senator Biden -- I mean, I should say President Biden, is -- is putting together and getting ready to announce -- he's making a speech today that is going to really, I think, sort of lay the groundwork, set the table for an announcement for president. Where are the Republicans going to go? What's their answer going to be?

There's a relative amount of chaos over on the House side. And so you would try and look to the Senate. What are the policies that we're going to pick on?

Again, you know, Senator Scott talks about, you know, budget deficit reduction, and it strayed into maybe we need to cut Medicare and maybe we need to cut Social Security. Third rail in politics, a disaster. Sort of swept aside.


Where do they go now? We don't know.

HARLOW: I just was going to say, I mean, obviously, we know the longest serving, you know, Senate Republican leader in history, but also an important voice this week following that FOX News report trying to whitewash January 6th. When it came out, what he said. Just, you know, thinking about that in the context of where he is now. LOUIS: Sure. This is what the Senate is. This is what the Senate is

supposed to be.

You know, look, the median age in the U.S. Senate is close to 65. There are a lot of older members there. But they represent an -- you know, whatever their politics, they represent sort of institutional continuity, a sort of way of cooling off some of the passions that are dividing the nation and so forth. And we already saw just a little bit of that.

You know, the whole question of trying to relitigate January 6 and this attack, you know, you're relying on elders like Mitch McConnell to say, again, even if you don't like his politics, to stand up and say, No, that was a disaster. That was something where we're going to stick to the facts. We're not going to see a repeat of this. We have to safeguard the institutions of the country.


LEMON: And you're right. He's saying that what -- it was critical what he, what Mitch McConnell said, that he's standing by police --

HARLOW: Yes, that he did it --

LEMON: -- and the police assessment and rather than the FOX News assessment.

HARLOW: -- in front of the cameras. Yes.

COLLINS: That was quite outspoken. And there's still a lot we don't know. He was at the Capitol until late last night, because they were turning -- overturning that D.C. Crime Bill that was passed. We know they were working until late in the evening. We're waiting to learning more.

Errol Louis, stay with us. We want to bring you back -- back to talk about more news that has been happening. There's so much breaking overnight.

Coming up, the Louisville Police Department routinely used, quote, "unreasonable tactics," including unjustified neck restraints, police dogs and tasers. That is all according to a scathing new report from the Justice Department. We're going to tell you more of what this investigation found.

LEMON: Plus, former NBA star Shawn Kemp arrested in connection with a drive-by shooting incident. We're going to have details straight ahead.



HARLOW: This just in. South Korea says North Korea fired one short- range ballistic missile this morning from the Nampo area toward the water off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. This was fired toward the Yellow Sea, between the Korean Peninsula and China. It happened around 6:20 p.m. local time.

South Korea says it's working closely with the United States, trying to strengthen surveillance and, of course, vigilance. We'll keep you posted.

LEMON: A new Justice Department report issuing a staging rebuke of the Louisville Police Department, three years after the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor. It paints a portrait of routinely racist and abusive conduct that violates citizens' constitutional rights, particularly black Americans.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. 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.


LEMON: It is a scathing report. CNN's Ryan Young live for us in Atlanta with more.

Ryan, good morning to you. It's also, I mean --


LEMON: -- a fulsome, long report that he laid out. And the specifics what he talked about, calling people monkeys and outside of their name. What's the -- what's the response been like?

YOUNG: Don, that's one of the things that stands out to me. If you think about it, we're saying out loud that a report says that officers videotaped themselves calling black people "monkey" and "boy."

And when you put this all together in this report, it now shows you what some citizens have been telling us for quite some time in that area, that they don't feel like they're respected by the police department.

It goes on to say that -- and it talks about the fact of a lack of leadership and the fact that a lot of times, officers weren't held accountable for some of their actions.

We should put on the screen for you some of the things that this report also highlighted. Because what we do know now is there was also a use of excessive force; unjustified neck restraints; unreasonable use of police dogs, tasers; and searches based on invalid warrants.

One of the things that stands out to us about the warrants is in this report, it says sometimes when they show up to private homes, they did not always knock and identify themselves as police officers. Obviously, that stands out to us.

And then you can see, it discriminates against people with disabilities.

And as you talk to people in the black community, they say for a long time, when they had issues with this police department in particular, they had no one to go to, as they were complaining to city hall and community leaders about changing things within the police force.

We now know this report is scathing. And there are people on ground who are hoping things change pretty quickly -- Don.

LEMON: Breonna Taylor's family, what are they saying about these findings?

YOUNG: Yes, you can obviously understand why they would be in shock and disbelief about this. They are happy to have this report, obviously. But when you see the carnage that this has created, the demonstrations that were there, and the fact they lost a loved one, you can understand the pain in the mother's voice. Take a listen.


TAMIKA PALMER, BREONNA TAYLOR'S MOTHER: It's heart-breaking to know that everything you've been saying from day one has to be said again through this manner, you know? That it took this to even have somebody look into this department.


YOUNG: Yes, Don, obviously, the Justice Department has drilled down on this. Now it's probably time for the community and reporters, quite honestly, to go in and drill on what's going on in that police department right now and what changes will be made for that community.

LEMON: All right. Ryan Young. Thank you very much for that. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right. So Errol Louis is back with us.

Reading through this is just -- 90-page report is stunning because of what seems to me the lack of change and lack of accountability that happened, even after Breonna Taylor was killed. We heard her mother say yesterday it will not be in vain.

But a few months after she was killed, in 2020, the mayor of Louisville told me this is a time for change, and it will happen. Did it happen in the city?

LOUIS: Look, this is a country that went through tremendous trauma in 2020 over exactly these kinds of issues. Remember those historic George Floyd killing protests.

And there were a lot of different departments that made a lot of changes. Some big, some small.

This tool, the outside look by the federal Justice Department of the consent decrees that make departments change, in Cleveland and New Orleans and all over the country -- HARLOW: Yes.

LOUIS: -- this is an essential tool. And it really sort of shows that departments cannot just reform themselves. Even with the best of intentions, even with the prettiest words from the mayor or the local elected leadership. It really does take outside force.


There are 18,000 police departments in this country. Each of them has their own sort of dynamic, bias that shot through so many of them, especially in some of the big cities.

It really is incumbent on, I think, Congress, frankly, to put something in place that's a little bit more permanent. Because what's done by a Justice Department can be undone by the next one.

Remember, during the Trump administration --


LOUIS: -- these consent decrees --

HARLOW: That's right.

LOUIS: -- these outside looks is one of the first things that they did --

HARLOW: Under Jeff Sessions.

LOUIS: Under Jeff Sessions, one of the first things they did was remove them and announce that it was bad policy --


LOUIS: -- and that they weren't going to do it anymore. You know, arguably, that sort of sets the stage for a dysfunctional department like Louisville --

HARLOW: They also only happen, guys --

LOUIS: -- to go off the rails.

HARLOW: -- after something bad happens.

LEMON: Yes. But this is -- Look, I think you bring up a very good point. This is way beyond Louisville. And it's beyond Memphis. It's beyond Minneapolis. And it's beyond Ferguson. But it is the entire country.

In 2020, it was in front of us. We had three very high-profile case that's we can remember at this point. We had Breonna Taylor. We had Ahmaud Arbery and we had George Floyd, all in our faces and right in the middle of COVID.

And I remember writing about this, and what stuck out to me is, as I spoke to experts and talked about the history of policing in this country and the patience that people of color have had with people saying go slow. And one expert that I wrote in my book says from the beginning, police as we know it has not been about maintaining public safety but about maintaining public order. And with that comes militarized police departments and police officers who feel, as you see in Memphis with these units, as you saw in Louisville, that basically, they can do anything, especially to people who have no power.

LOUIS: That's right. I mean, we know that the scrutiny has never been there the way it's supposed to. And, you know, one fact that always bowls me over, in the 1994 crime bill, going all the way back to 1994, there's a provision that says we must get an annual report through the Justice Department from local departments about how many people have been killed by the police. It's never been enforced.

So, you know, year after year after year, since 1994, even now, it's, you know, it's "The Washington Post," or it's "The Guardian," it's media organizations, it's activists who are out there piecing together bits of local news that they pick up by scanning Google or something to try and figure out just where we are right now.

The fact that the -- the country hasn't really sort of figured out how to be serious about this in an institutionalized, sustained way. It's OK to go out and protest. It's OK to sort of make some changes. Name a black police chief is another big strategy if you look city by city. You see, gee, there seem to be a lot of black police chiefs out there. Isn't that great? It doesn't seem to have moved the needle in too many cases.

COLLINS: Yes. And such a good point. I mean, this is, likely not the last report. Because the Justice Department is investigating discriminatory practices in several other major cities.

LEMON: Well, Memphis. That's the main one that's starting now.


LEMON: It's the next one. Very similar thing that the Justice Department is doing.



COLLINS: Great questions. Great commentary. Errol Louis, thank you for that.

Also this morning, the state of California has cut ties with Walgreens over access to an abortion pill. We're going to tell you how much the pharmacy chain is just about to lose.

LEMON: Speaking of what's happening in Washington, especially with Mitch McConnell, now out for health reasons. We're going to go live to Washington, where the White House, the president is -- President Biden is about to unveil his plan to reduce the federal deficit by nearly $3 trillion. How Republicans are likely to respond to that. It's coming up.