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CNN This Morning

Russia's Wagner Arming Militia in Sudan; Plans in Motion for Biden Announcement; California's Wildflower Takeover; Death Row Inmate Appeals to the Supreme Court. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 21, 2023 - 06:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Tens of thousands of people to flee the country. Yesterday, the Defense Department announced the United States military will be deploying, quote, additional capabilities near Sudan.

Here's what the National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, said about President Biden's role in this decision.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: He's been, obviously, following this very, very closely, the events in Khartoum and in Sudan.

He authorized the military to move forward with prepositioning forces and to develop options in case -- and I want to stress right now -- in case there's a need for an evacuation.


HARLOW: So, the U.S. clearly on alert.

The additional capabilities include hundreds of Marines and an aircraft that could bring in ground units if necessary.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: As the nation teeters on the brink of a civil war, CNN has learned the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, is trying to tip the scales, providing Sudan's paramilitary group with missiles in its fight against the nation's army. Wagner, which has been repeatedly accused of committing atrocities, has played a pivotal role in Russia's foreign military campaigns, including and especially in Ukraine where it stands on the front lines.

In Africa, the group has helped prop up Russia's influence and seized resources.

CNN chief international investigative correspondent Nima Elbagir joins us now with more on the group's role in Sudan.

Hello, Nima. What do you know?


Well, we have been seeing this entrenchment of the two generals, positions in Sudan, and many concerns about how the RSF was continuing to resupply itself in the intensifying fighting. We have uncovered evidence that shows that Russia via air bases -- sorry, the Wagner group, via air bases in laboring -- in neighboring Libya, has been able to provide them with support.

Take a look at this.


ELBAGIR: The Sudanese and the Libyan army celebrated a successful joint operation Wednesday, April 19th, near the remote desert border between Libya and Sudan, having captured the Chevrolet Garrison belonging to the rival Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, the RSF.

But why is this military base so important given how far it is from the existential fight in Sudan's capital Khartoum? Because CNN can reveal that the fight in Khartoum is being influenced by what was happening at that garrison. A Russian resupply campaign, backed by a key regional players, aimed at turning the tide in Sudan's war in favor of the RSF, who have been a key recipient of Russian training and military aid. In collaboration with all eyes on Wagner, a research group focusing on Russian proxy Wagner, CNN investigated the group's current presence in Libya.

You can see here, on April 16th, one day after the fighting began in Khartoum, a Russian Ilyushin 76 transport plane at the Al Jufra base in Libya, previously identified by American intelligence as a Wagner base. Three days later, this same plane is spotted by flight tracker aviation expert Gourgeon (ph) coming back from the Russian airbase in Latakia, Syria, before returning to the Libyan air base in Khadim.

Images of that same plane began circulating online April 17th, heading in the direction of Sudan. Sudanese and regional sources tell CNN that weaponry was air dropped to the RSF within that time frame. April 15th to April 18th, to the Chevrolet Garrison, during a period of fierce fighting, boosting the RSF.

ELBAGIR (on camera): The al Khadim and Al Jufra bases, where the Wagner planes departed from in Libya, are under the control of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who commands territory in the east of Libya. Haftar, and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hemedti, have in common strategic alliances, one with Wagner, who Haftar is hosting in his territory in Libya, and whom a previous CNN investigation exposed as working with Hemedti to extract Sudanese gold, a second with the United Arab Emirates, who tapped Hemedti to send forces to the conflict in Yemen and backed Haftar in the fighting in Libya.

ELBAGIR (voice over): What does it all mean for the ongoing misery and conflict in Sudan? It means that both a regional Libyan General Haftar and a global player, Russia, are putting their thumbs on the scale, which raises the stakes for the region, for the global balance of power and for the people of Sudan caught in the crossfire.


ELBAGIR: Neither Field Marshal Haftar, nor Wagner responded to our request for comment, but an RSF spokesperson told us that they do not currently receive support from Libya or Wagner. I think it's important to note that in our previous investigation, when we exposed that they had received training and support, the RSF denied and then subsequently admitted that in the past they have received it. So, I think that's important for the audience to know when they take into account this latest comment, Don.


LEMON: Nima, I'm so glad you're covering this very important story. Thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

ELBAGIR: Thank you.



REP. JEFF JACKSON (D-NC): It's really clear from working there for just a few months that most of the really angry voices in Congress are totally faking it.


LEMON: Wow. Freshman Congressman Jeff Jackson calling out his colleagues for faking outrage for the cameras. Who was he talking about? He's going to join us live, next.

Plus -

HARLOW: Clickbait fashion is taking over your feet. Audie Cornish takes a deep dive on to how social media algorithms affect trends and help us understand the state of the economy.


HARLOW: There could be a very big announcement on Tuesday.


President Biden is expected to officially -- to make it official that he's running for re-election in 2024. This is according to sources who tells CNN that Tuesday is an important milestone for Biden. It will mark four years to the day when then candidate Joe Biden launched his bid for the White House against Donald Trump in 2020.

Let's talk with this and a whole lot more with CNN anchor and correspondent and host of the great podcast "The Assignment with Audie Cornish."

Good morning. LEMON: Hi, Audie.


HARLOW: Good morning.

I think we know it, but he's going to make it official.

CORNISH: Yes, it's one of those big if true kind of things, which we've known for a while.

HARLOW: Tuesday's a meaningful day, obviously, marking four years since he got in the race against Trump. What do you think?

CORNISH: I think it's interesting that there's still so much hand wringing about it, right? At this point you do hear this conversation about, number one, his age and, number two, people who are concerned that there's polling that shows that Democrats might like an alternative to Biden. The problem is, they haven't actually coalesced around any -

HARLOW: Anyone.

CORNISH: And alternative voice. And some of the people -- some of the names that are in existence, right, people who have run before, their numbers aren't very good. It doesn't show that they would outperform him.

So, on the one hand, that does, in a way, leave a lane open for a surprise type candidate or challenger. But what he does not have that, of course, the former president has is a kind of person waiting in the wings starting to suck up some of the air in terms of media or donor attention. And in this case it would be Ron DeSantis, who's not declared or anything like that, but the name, the buzz around the name is happening. Biden doesn't have that. And as far as he's concerned, his lane is clear.

LEMON: Yes. And - but he always, you know, surpasses people's expectation of him. And as far as legislative wins -- as legislative wins - it's early - during his first term include passing the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, but his critics would point to stubborn inflation, border issues and so on. So, what should -

CORNISH: With more to come, right?

LEMON: More to come, yes.

CORNISH: Between the debt ceiling. We don't know what the economy is going to do. We don't know the effect of changes on interest rates. We don't know what's going to happen in Ukraine or with China. So, there's a lot of variables.

One sort of unfounded thesis I'll put out there is that the first time Biden was in the White House, it was as someone's vice president. And the second time it was as an alternative to an incredibly disliked incumbent. He may want to win this sort of -

HARLOW: Because of him.

CORNISH: On his own, so to speak, that people would say, I want Joe Biden, not that I don't want Donald Trump.

HARLOW: So interesting.

CORNISH: And I think that sometimes we need to keep that in mind with people like him who are what I would call institutionalist. They care about their legacy. They care about these offices. They care about their sort of place in history. And it will be interesting to see the argument he makes to the public for why it should be him.

LEMON: Can I just ask you something real quick before I -- because I know you want to move on to other stuff. Is it real, though -- you know how we get this whole social media thing and Twitter, and it turns out in the -- it doesn't -- it's not actually real. When you look at Biden's accomplishments, when you, you know, look at -

CORNISH: Do you mean is it real -

LEMON: Well, people saying, well, you know, I'm concerned because of the border, I'm concerned because of this. Those are real issues, but when -- as -- when it comes to an election, will that prevent people from voting for Joe Biden or having enthusiasm, because every president has their issues.

CORNISH: Yes. I mean, I won't answer this question, not to be coy, but because it is so early.

LEMON: Right. No, you're right.

CORNISH: You know, the rest of the summer people are going to be resolutely not paying attention to this, and then all of a sudden fall will hit and it's going to be all we can hear about. And, as I said, there are these very serious variables and I do think, do not underestimate the concern about the economy.

LEMON: Right.

CORNISH: Everyone has been talking about a recession happening. It is not officially declared a recession yet. If and when that happens, of course that is an issue for an incumbent president.


CORNISH: Especially when there has been so much chatter about it for so long.


HARLOW: It's the economy, stupid.

CORNISH: Yes. Exactly.


HARLOW: And just don't say the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

CORNISH: Yes. Many lessons have been learned.

HARLOW: Right.

You're - I cannot wait to listen to the latest episode of "The Assignment," "Clickbait Fashion."

CORNISH: I know. It seems silly, but after the pandemic, people came -- they did some revenge shopping, they were saying. Like, you know, we spent money and we spent money on clothes and we were just fascinated at the show at like why there were so many trends that were being launched apparently online, and we were trying to get to the bottom of it.

HARLOW: Should we talk about some of them?

LEMON: I think the -- did you have a -- let's hear it. Let's hear it.



AGUSTINA PANZONI, HEAD OF TRENDS AT DEATH TO STOCK: Algorithms are playing a big role in fashion discovery right now. And that is allowing people to find things that they like and share it faster than before. So, the runways, they're losing relevance.


LEMON: All right, so what are -- what is this clickbait fashion? What are the trends?

CORNISH: What it means is that instead of you flipping open a fashion magazine and saying, oh, I guess we're all going to wear soft purple this season, instead you have the power yourself to go online, see what's happening on TikTok, see what's -- and they might have influence on how things are talked about.


LEMON: This is clown core (ph)?

CORNISH: Well, I don't know.

LEMON: Yes, that's -

CORNISH: It might be clown core (ph). We talked about a couple of things on the episode, clown core, mermaid core, ballerina sleaze, business core is coming back. So, you guys are - you're on it.

HARLOW: All right.

CORNISH: Poppy, you're ahead f the trend. But the point is, it's put the fashion houses on the back foot,

meaning when you see Fashion Week, all of a sudden they're sending, you know, robots down the runway. They're sending a dress on fire down the runway. They're having these performative aspects because they have to punch through and capture your attention.


CORNISH: And they can't do that compared to some kid practically on TikTok.

HARLOW: What are those boots?

LEMON: Those are boots.

CORNISH: These -- the big, red boots are from an art collective called Mischief. And this is a really -- this is a pivotal kind of moment, I'll say, because they're not functional. Wearing them in real life is difficult. It takes other people to get them off of your feet.

HARLOW: Kind of like my shoes today.

CORNISH: Exactly. But one of the things that our experts said is, you know, in an era when we're doing so much online, what does it mean for close to be functional? If the function is to be seen, right?


CORNISH: If the function is just your image, then maybe that's OK. And all of this is happening in a moment where we have a generation that's questioning how much should we be spending on clothes? Should any of us be buying any more clothes given what they do to the environment, et cetera.


CORNISH: But clothes are so inexpensive. So it's this kind of -- it's a combination of fast fashion, the algorithm and cheap clothing that are pushing a cycle of trends much faster.

LEMON: Yes. I like the sort of casual business that you do, and then there's casual chic. You have a -

CORNISH: This is business core.

HARLOW: She's always -

LEMON: That's business core?

CORNISH: This is business core.

HARLOW: She's always -


CORNISH: You can tell I am a -- if I had a mug, it just - HARLOW: I'm looking something up to bring up.

LEMON: We were talking - this is - you said this was "To Kill a Mockingbird" core, giving Atticus Finch -

HARLOW: Clark (ph) you said -- what's - what's the name? The actor.

CORNISH: Gregory Peck.

LEMON: Oh, Gregory Peck.

HARLOW: Gregory Peck.

LEMON: And this is just chic.

CORNISH: It's giving (ph) Turner Classics let's call it.

LEMON: It is Turner Classic movies, and that's what I've been stuck on for -- lately. So, yes.


HARLOW: I -- I was looking up about how bad buying closes is for the environment. My friend Maxine Bedat wrote this great book "Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment." Everyone should read it before you buy more.

LEMON: Interesting.

HARLOW: That's all I'm saying.

CORNISH: I need to read that (ph).

HARLOW: Thanks, Audie.

LEMON: Audie Cornish, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Listen to "The Assignment" wherever you get your podcasts. I miss when people used to dress up just to get on airplanes.

HARLOW: A wildflower takeover covering California's hillside after epic rainfall. The super bloom is so large you can see it from space.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Super bloom.


HARLOW: I love this song.

LEMON: Oh, the hills are alive. Not with the sound of music, but with wildflowers. HARLOW: What are those flowers, Don Lemon?

LEMON: Those are wildflowers - those are wildflowers.

It's called a super bloom. After one of the wettest winters on record, California hillsides are exploding with color. Look how beautiful that is. Swaths of yellow, orange and blue, purple flowers taking over the landscape this month and visible even from space.

Have you seen Park Avenue, by the way?

HARLOW: No, I don't live on Park Avenue.

LEMON: No, Park Avenue - no, but speaking of - Park Avenue has -


LEMON: Tulips of different colors that line Park Avenue. It's really, really beautiful.

HARLOW: Oh, I love that.

I was saying, do you know what flowers those are?

LEMON: Those are poppies.

HARLOW: They're poppies, Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know that. How does it feel to share the same name as the state flower of California that is so beautiful right now, Poppy?

HARLOW: Pretty good. No one's ever given me a poppy, ever, because apparently they don't live well if you cut them. Just saying.

VAN DAM: Consider this my gift to you, OK?

HARLOW: Thank you.

VAN DAM: This is wonderful. I love having a good - feel-good story on a Friday, right? This is so good.

I've heard -- I've been told, I have not seen this with my own eyes, but if you drive down some of the local highways and the roads in California right now you hear a couple of extra oohs and aahs. This wildflower takeover has dominated the hillsides, that canyons. It's even visible from space. This is a satellite image. Look at those yellows and the oranges and the violets. Just wonderful.

And you know what? It wasn't that long ago it was a dry, barren landscape across California. But with all the rain, we're left with this. It's Earth Day tomorrow, Poppy. I'm going camping to celebrate. Do you have any plans?

HARLOW: I'm taking the kids to volunteer in the Brooklyn park, whether they want to go or not. That's what we're doing. VAN DAM: Go look for flowers.

LEMON: Oh, mom.

HARLOW: Thank you. That's beautiful. Thanks, Derek.

LEMON: All right.

VAN DAM: A California poppy.

HARLOW: Oh, you made my morning.

LEMON: Got to get a little -- doing a little dance their.

President Biden set to announce he will run for a second term next week. What new polls reveal about how Democrats feel about Biden remaining in the White House.



HARLOW: Now to a story we've been following very closely on this show. A death row inmate in Oklahoma will appeal his case to the Supreme Court after a lower court refused to throw out his murder conviction. His name is Richard Glossip. And his lawyer yesterday called the ruling devastating. His client is now set to be executed within a month. The decision comes just two weeks after the state's attorney general recommended that Glossip get a new trial. He was convicted of murder in 1998, accused of ordering the killing of his boss, but he has maintained his innocence the whole time and the attorney general of the state even said there's new evidence in this case and that's why he deserves a new trial. But he's not getting one.

Brynn Gingras is here to explain why.

Good morning.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the clock is ticking, right? And you just talked about that new evidence. That really centers around what they were appealing to the criminal court of appeals in Oklahoma. It was a box of evidence who -- which basically had paperwork that included the fact that the person who actually did the killing admitted to it, and in exchange for his testimony against Glossip in these trials essentially wanted to recanted his statement. That was what was among the evidence. And what we talked about, Poppy, was - has - as we've continued to follow this case. But the justices in a 5-0 decisions said it wasn't enough evidence to bring this case to the lower courts and have another trial.

An, as Poppy said, it's devastating. I want you to hear from Richard Glossip's attorney about how he reacted to this news.


DON KNIGHT, ATTORNEY FOR RICHARD GLOSSIP: He said today to me, Don, you know, should I be prepared to be killed on May 18th? And that was about as low a point as I've seen him. And this is his ninth execution date. This is -- this is tough. He's -- he's been down this road far too many times. No one should have to endure that.


GINGRAS: OK, so what comes next? We said that his attorney is going to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but also the Oklahoma legislature has been so much involved in this case.


And we just learned that Kevin McDugle, the representative who's really been the leader of that -- this, you know, effort.