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National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby Interviewed on Providing Ukraine with Military Aid to Defend against Ongoing Russian Invasion; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Hospitalized after Fall; California Preparing for Possible Flooding Due to Storm; Stranded Man Ties Cellphone to Drone to Send Message Asking for Help. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 08:00   ET



JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: They have done a remarkable job with the various tools and capabilities they've been getting on air defense from short and medium-range kinds of systems. It's important to note that here we are a year into this war, and the Russians have still not achieved anything close to air superiority in the skies over Ukraine, and that's because the Ukrainians have been very, very effective at air defense.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but John, would it have helped if they had the Patriot missile battery system in this situation, which they still don't have?

KIRBY: The Patriot battery system, the Patriot missile system is really designed to go after ballistic missiles. And it's not as effective on cruise missiles, and it's certainly not going to be effective against drones. So it's doubtful you could say if they had the Patriots it would make a huge difference in this particular type of barrage, because this was largely cruise missiles and drones.

COLLINS: Any indication they are using Iranian missiles yet, John?

KIRBY: No indications that they have purchased or are using missiles from Iran. We suspect, we believe that most of what they are using are those drones.

COLLINS: OK, John, I want to get you to respond, because we are hearing from the Russian Ministry of Defense. They are saying that they launched this massive retaliation strike for an alleged attack in Bryansk in Russia. Can you respond to is that? Is that what you're seeing here?

KIRBY: It's difficult to know. I certainly can't confirm the Russians' account of this, and I think we need to all take whatever the Russians are saying with a huge grain of salt here in terms of their justification. These kinds of -- these strikes, while they were certainly massive, are very much a piece of the kinds of brutalizing tactics that Mr. Putin has been visiting upon the Ukrainian people for several months now, in terms of hitting civilian infrastructure, targeting the kinds of facilities that the Ukrainians need just to subsist.

COLLINS: President Zelenskyy was speaking with Wolf last night. He told him that they still want the F-16 fighter jets. They at least want the Ukrainians being trained on them. Is it under discussion either giving them the F-16s or training Ukrainian pilots at least on how to use them?

KIRBY: There's no plans to train Ukrainian pilots right now on the F- 16. And as you heard the president say, this is not a topic right now that we are seriously talking about and considering for the Ukrainians. We are working with them in lockstep every day to try to get them the capabilities that they need for the weeks and months ahead. And really, there's four categories. It's air defense, it's armor, it's artillery, and it's ammunition. And that's what we are focused on providing them.

COLLINS: But Zelenskyy says that he actually kind of thinks the president is wrong when he says they don't need the F-16s. He said that they would help us defend ourselves. He said we need it urgently. And he actually believes they could make or break the war.

KIRBY: Yes, look, you can't blame President Zelenskyy for wanting more advanced capabilities, as much as he can get and as fast as he can get it. And certainly, we see that there is a real air defense need. And that's why we are trying to focus on the kind of air defense capabilities, short and medium range, that the Ukrainians really could use to help knock down some of these missiles. And they were successful in knocking down quite a few of these from last night.

COLLINS: President Zelenskyy also said that Russia must leave all Ukrainian territory before they can talk about diplomacy. Is that something the U.S. agrees with, that only after the Russians have left all Ukrainian territory, then they can have conversations?

KIRBY: We believe President Zelenskyy gets to determine the conditions under which he would be willing to negotiate with Mr. Putin. He's the commander in chief. It's his country that's been invaded. It's his citizens that are being brutally slaughtered. He gets to determine if and when he is going to be ready to sit down at the table and under what circumstances and what he might be willing to negotiate.

I'll tell you this. We're going to make sure that he continues to be able to succeed on the battlefield so that if and when he is ready to sit down at that table he can do it from a position of strength.

COLLINS: John Kirby, very important developments overnight. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

KIRBY: You bet. Glad to be with you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Really important conversation to start the hour.

Also, this overnight. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is being treated this morning in a hospital. He took a fall last night in a hotel in Washington, D.C. His spokesman says the 81-year-old senator was attending a private dinner when he tripped. McConnell previously did suffer a fall in August of 2019 when he fractured a shoulder.

Let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Lauren Fox has more. Obviously, we are wishing the best for him, hopefully, a speedy recovery. But do we know how severe this was?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right now, Poppy, we don't have any more information about the extent of any injuries suffered from that fall. What we do have is a statement from his office. His spokesman 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."

This fall happened, we have now confirmed, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Washington, D.C. Like you mentioned, Mitch McConnell is 81 years old. He is the longer serving Republican leader in the history of the U.S. Senate, and he is someone that his colleagues look to for advice, someone that leads the conference through battles with Democrats as well as bipartisan negotiations.


And he is someone that we are going to be keeping a close eye on. But this comes, of course, as the Senate is narrowly divided already, and as two Democrat senators are out receiving treatment for their own health issues, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is dealing with shingles, as well as Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania who is at Walter Reed Medical Center receiving treatment for clinical depression. So a lot of questions right now about how long Mitch McConnell will be out. We will keep you posted as we get more information. Poppy?

HARLOW: Lauren, thank you very much.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: California bracing for yet another powerful storm this morning known as an atmospheric river. And it could bring with it more devastating flooding. State of emergency declared for 21 more counties in addition to 13 from last week. Some San Bernardino County residents are still trapped in their homes with dwindling supplies waiting for huge snowbanks to be cleared.

I want to get to the ground now. CNN's Natasha Chen joins us live from Sacramento. What are residents being told, to prepare, but for how long?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, the California residents here have gotten just storm after storm. The couple of days of break here, and we are expecting the rain to really come in later this evening. So officials in many counties have been telling people yesterday and today early this morning, if you have got snow on top of your roofs, to try and clear that as best as possible because another storm is coming in.


CHEN: California already reeling from a season of deadly storms is staring down the threat of more extreme weather.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rains are coming. There is nowhere for the rain to go.

And all I know is the culverts are completely blocked with ice and snow piled high.

CHEN: More than 100 inches of snow has already fallen in the San Bernardino mountains where 12 deaths have been reported since February 25th. According to the county sheriff's department, only one death appears to be officially weather-related from a traffic accident. Many survivors are trapped in their homes without food. Sheriff's deputies are going door-to-door to deliver boxes of essentials to those who cannot get out. Now parts of the state are preparing for a strong string of storms known as an atmospheric river.

LINDA GLENN, FELTON, CALIFORNIA, RESIDENT: I am afraid of the wind mostly, because the wind causes trees to just snap.

CHEN: The Weather Prediction Center says heavy torrential rain and all that melting snow could cause major flooding. More than 17 million people across central and northern California, including the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento and parts of Nevada, are under flood watches ahead of today's storm.

JASON HOPPIN, SPOKESMAN, SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: We have saturated ground still from all the weather that we have seen over the last two months. And then when you add in some strong winds, those will take down trees. The trees will take down wires. That leads to power outages.

CHEN: Some people in Monterey County were told by emergency services to have two weeks of essentials stocked up ahead of the storm. In places like Santa Cruz County, emergency services are telling residents to get ready for any evacuation orders as rivers and creeks are expected to overflow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there is an evacuation warning, we will take the cats and go to a friend's house.


CHEN (on camera): The North Tahoe area has seen an increase in emergency calls for gas leaks and carbon monoxide following recent storms delivering heavy snow. And officials say this freeze and thaw cycle along with the weight of the heavy snowpack is causing some stress on tanks and plumbing, causing dangerous leaks. And of course, with the rain coming in, that snow could melt on top of structures, causing potential collapses in the next few days, Don.

LEMON: Natasha, thank you.

COLLINS: OK, we have covered a lot of interesting survival stories here on this show, but the next one is really something remarkable. Picture this. You are trapped in your car. You're on a snowy road in the middle of nowhere. Your phone doesn't have any service. There is no way for you to call for help. That is what happened to a man in Oregon back in January. This is the road that he was stuck on in the Willamette National Forest.

The local sheriff's office says the man came up with a very clever way to save himself. It turns out he had a drone in his car, so he tied his phone to it, as you can see here with some blue string, and this is a reenactment provided by the sheriff's office. But we have CNN's drone operator live in studio right now. What would that even look like? You can see there the phone is attached to the drone. According to the sheriff's office, this man in Oregon hit send on text that had his location on it to a friend, and then he flew the drone high enough in the sky that the phone received service and the text for help actually went through. That friend, a very good friend, then contacted the authorities, and they sent a rescue team to go and save him. All because of a drone and a phone. That's pretty smart.


HARLOW: I love this story. Everything worked out right for him. He had a drone. He had a good friend. They found him.

LEMON: I am waiting to see this on the next episode of "MacGyver."

COLLINS: I know. I'm bringing him with me if I ever go driving through the forest.

LEMON: This is the drone camera? Oh, that could be dangerous. That could be dangerous. I think it's a little dangerous.

HARLOW: They were texting this in the last block. Look what it does. They are all concerned it was going to fall on us.

COLLINS: Truly incredible, though. It's such a smart thing for him to do.

LEMON: You know, to part with your phone, I would be like, do I want to part with maybe the only means of communication?

COLLINS: Yes, it's risky. It's risky.

LEMON: He took a risk, right, a calculated risk. What if it fallen off then he had no communication? Unless it's like take the drone and do it like a puppy.

COLLINS: Love this story. It's amazing.

HARLOW: All right, coming up, it has been 30 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law. There is still no family paid leave in American. Two members in the House, one Republican, one Democrat, say it is finally time that that will change. Will it? We will ask Congresswomen Stephanie Bice and Chrissy Houlahan next.

LEMON: I hope they could hear that over the drone.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delivering the first piece of social legislation promised during the campaign, President Clinton has signed into law the Family and Medical Leave bill. Mr. Clinton used the ceremony to say that legislative gridlock has come to an end.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Now that we have won in difficult battle, let me ask all of you to think about what we must do ahead to put the public interest ahead of special interests.



HARLOW: Right. What must we do ahead? That was our very own Wolf Blitzer reporting back in 1993. As then President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law for 30 years. It is guaranteed certain employees up to 12 weeks of leave for the birth of a new child or serious illness. But it is clear it does not go far enough for almost every family, because it doesn't mean you get paid. Dr. Elizabeth Slagle, an OB-GYN in Minnesota just wrote this in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week, quote, "While groundbreaking 30 years ago, FMLA leaves out millions of private sector employees, it doesn't provide pay during leave, leaving employees with a job to come back to but no paycheck."

A bipartisan group of lawmakers think that they finally do, though, have a path forward to make this a reality. The leaders of that group are in the house Stephanie Bice, Republican from Oklahoma, and a member of the appropriations and budget committees, and Chrissy Houlahan, Democrat from Pennsylvania, a member of the armed services and intelligence committees. They wrote an op-ed together in the hill, let me read you this. "To reach its potential, paid leave policy must be durable. It must be bipartisan, which is why our focus on finding consensus will be unwavering. A policy that depends on the party in power is in constant jeopardy, and therefore hardly a policy at all. We can and we must do better." Well, they join me now. Good morning and thank you.

REP. STEPHANIE BICE (R-OK): Good morning.


HARLOW: You're both mothers of daughters, and you share a hallway. And you're working together on this. But it never seems to be enough. Right? Can you let me just begin with you Representative Bice and what brought you together on this?

BICE: You know, Christy and I got to know each other last Congress after I was elected, and we just kind of bonded. As you mentioned, we both have daughters and really, this started when we ran legislation to allow for armed service men and women to be able to take family leave. And we felt like that this is something that every family should have the opportunity to partake in. And so that really began this journey of us searching to find a way to get paid family leave across the finish line, finally.

HARLOW: It's extraordinary that only one in four working Americans right now even has access to paid leave. It's something everyone should have, it should not be a privilege in this country. And what I think is interesting, Representative Houlahan, as you said, there's just a lack of focus on the family. Those are your words, and one of the reasons you left the armed services was in part because of the lack of this. Why do you think this country puts such a lack of value on caregiving?

HOULAHAN: You know, I can't answer that question, it's confounding to me, to be honest, we are a country that really does care about our families and our children. But we haven't, you know, put our money where our mouth is historically. And as you mentioned, the FMLA is 30 years old, my daughter, my oldest is 30 years old. And so, it's been decades and decades of us saying that we will work for the family and not as you said, you know, kind of making it happen.

And you said one in four, 75 percent of American families do not have access to paid leave. And that puts us in the bottom of, you know, developed nations in terms of what we do to provide help for our families. You also brought up importantly childcare as well, these are inextricably bound to one another to. So, we need to be working on first paid family leave, and then making sure that we're rounding it out with all the other critical care issues.

HARLOW: Representative Bice, you in the private sector 20 years ago. You actually got this paid leave, which was rather unheard of, then certainly not the norm. I wonder if you would have left your job at the time without it?

BISE: Likely I would have. I would have exited the workforce for some time. But the company that I worked for provided a short-term disability option, that allowed me to take eight weeks off, and additionally a vacation time afterwards. And so, as you mentioned, it was highly unusual back then. And right now, 65 percent of working parents, I'm sorry of parents are working both parents working in a household. And so, making sure that we're allowing the opportunity for them to stay home with newborn children or adopted children is really critical. And as Republicans, we talk about making sure we're supporting the family, and this is one way that we can do that.

HARLOW: But the philosophical divide between your parties has been how do you pay for it and that is a divide that has been impassable. It has been something you guys have not been able to figure out the Washington Post notes of your plan that there's quote, "no firm goal, and there's a reluctance to talk about specifics." Representative Houlahan, what is the specific goal and are you to -- do agree on how to pay for it?

HOULAHAN: So, our specific goal and we've talked about this is to have open eyes, open ears, open mind to sort of hit. Reset on how we think about this and not think R and D and to really importantly advanced paid leave for more people. Whether or not we're going to solve for the rest of the 75 percent of the universe that doesn't have paid leave right now, remains to be seen. But this is early days, we're only, you know, month and a half into this.


And we're making sure that we set level set our expectations and that we level set our information so that we can actually work together collaboratively. As importantly, we're working with the Senate as well, because as you probably remember, with your Schoolhouse Rock, nothing happens with one side of the Capitol. And so, we need to make sure that we're --


HOULAHAN: -- also working collaboratively --

HARLOW: Right.

HOULAHAN: -- with both sides of the aisle over there.

HARLOW: And you've got senators who are on board in terms of, you know, supporting this Republican senator like Bill Cassidy, but Representative Bice, I just want to press on the paying for it issue. Because as great as it sounds, it goes nowhere if you guys can't figure out how to pay for it. Are the two of you on the same page on do you raise taxes to pay for it? What do you do to pay for it?

BICE: Look, I think that we have to examine all of the options. And there have been a lot of proposals that have been put out there by Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate. And our goal is to really take a step back, look at all of the things that have been put on the table and sort of figure out. How can we tweak these to be more effective? You know, the tax and jobs cuts act of 2017 had a provision in it, that allowed for companies to get a tax credit. If they offered paid family leave to their employees. We want to look at, is that effective?

How many people are taking advantage of that? What's the outcome? And so, we're going to really look deep dive into all of these options and figure out, how do we pay for it? Look, as a Republican, it would be very difficult for me to say I would be, you know, supportive of some sort of paid leave program that was a government program. I can't do that, we can't afford it. But there are things that we can do involving the government and private sector that can actually move this issue forward.

HARLOW: We all hope that you guys can come to an agreement. Thanks for the time very much, this morning. And good luck.

HOULAHAN: Thank you.

BICE: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you, Don?

LEMON: Excessive force, aggressive style of policing and unreasonable tactics. More on the Justice Department's report on the Louisville Police Department, and how the city is responding. The police chief and the mayor of Louisville. They're going to join us live next.



LEMON: Coming up in just minutes. We're going to talk to Senator Joe Manchin. Kaitlan is over there getting ready for that. But first, this morning we're getting a blistering report on the police department in Louisville, Kentucky.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This conduct is unacceptable, is heartbreaking. It erodes the Community Trust necessary for effective policing. And it is an affront to the vast majority of officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve Louisville with honor.


LEMON: So, the Department of Justice detailing how officers routinely used excessive force, discriminated against minorities, and violated their constitutional rights. The nearly 90-page report was the culmination of an investigation launched after the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor in March of 2020. Now, according to the report, DOJ investigators found that "For years, LMPD has practice and aggressive style of policing, that it deploys selectively, especially against Black people, but also against vulnerable people throughout the city. Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, and assaulted people with disabilities, and called Black people monkeys, animal, and boy." Here's how Breonna Taylor's mom is reacting.


TAMIKA PALMER, MOTHER OF BREONNA TAYLOR: I don't even know how to think, to know that this thing should never happen. And that it took three years for anybody else to say that it shouldn't have. It's heartbreaking to know that everything you've been saying from day one has to be said again. Through this manner, you know, it -- that it took this to even have somebody look into this department.


LEMON: So, the investigation which culminated in this report is focused on incidents from 2016 until the end of 2021, which was under the city's previous administration and police chiefs. So, joining us now to discuss the DOJ findings is Mayor of Louisville Craig Greenberg, and the Interim Police Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel. Thank you both for joining us. We really appreciate it. Chief, I'm going to start with you because you were sworn in at the beginning of the year along with, I should say, Mayor, you were sworn in. You inherited this situation. So, chief, should your citizens have any reason now to trust this police department?

JACKIE GWINN-VILLAROEL, INTERIM CHIEF OF LOUISVILLE METRO POLICE: Well, first of all, good morning. The report is very troubling and there's actions in those in the report that we must address, and we will address. But I want to speak to the community and just reassure them that we're going to do everything we possibly can, to rebuild the trust that is needed. The citizens of Louisville are wonderful people.

But we have to be intentional and thoughtful as how we engage the community and ensure that we are here to protect and serve them, they deserve that. And so, every day we're building upon the relationships that we've built, but we need to strengthen them. And as the leader, it starts with me to model that and for my command staff to also demonstrate that. So, the troops and actually can implement that throughout this city. Same question to you, Mayor. Why should people trust this police department?

MAYOR CRAIG GREENBERG (D-LOUISVILLE, KY): Well, the chief and I knew when we assumed our offices two months ago. We knew this report was underway, but we didn't know what the findings would be. But we took our offices ready to embrace reform, ready to embrace improvement. Because we both believe that -- while this report is infuriating, it's difficult to read, about these painful incidents. We need -- it was an important day. We needed to address what's happened in the past so that we can move forward into the future with progress, with reform, with improved --