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U.S. Signals It Won't Block Allies from Sending F-16s to Ukraine; Feinstein's Bout with Shingles Included Contracting Encephalitis; DeSantis Tells Donors Trump Can't Win. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2023 - 06:00   ET







All right. Thanks for joining me this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans. Have a great weekend, everybody. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning, everyone. We are glad you are with us. Again, a really busy news day to end the week.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Always. Always good on a Friday, too.

HARLOW: Always good, what's happening. I love when the president's on a trip, because then all the developments happening are happening during our show.

COLLINS: Exactly. There's a lot happening at the G-7. We're going to get to that and a lot more domestic news. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Friday, May 19.

New overnight, CNN learning that Ukraine's President Zelenskyy will attend that G-7 summit we just spoke about in Japan in person. Russia's war set to be a top agenda item as world leaders vow to step up sanctions.

COLLINS: And new reporting, the Biden administration signaling it won't stop allies from sending F-16 jets to Ukraine. That's according to sources familiar with the discussions. We'll see what they say today.

Also happening today, the suspect charged with leaking military secrets will be back in court as a judge is expected to rule whether Jack Teixeira will remain behind bars while he awaits trial.

HARLOW: Also, another round of Disney versus DeSantis. This time, it's Disney canceling plans to open a new billion-dollar campus in Florida, costing the state an estimated 2,000 jobs.

A spokesman for the governor called it unsurprising, given the company's financial challenges. I think Disney would see it another way.

COLLINS: And a film festival celebrating Harrison Ford last night with a lifetime achievement honor. An emotional Ford thanks the crowd as he premiered his latest and final Indiana Jones film.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: Did you see the Harrison Ford moment? I haven't seen it yet.

COLLINS: It's really -- it's really nice. We'll show it to you. It's really -- it's a great moment.

HARLOW: We'll see it. We'll show it to all of you.

We begin, though, of course, with a big development overnight. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making a surprise trip to the G-7 summit in Japan. He will meet there face-to-face with President Biden and those other world leaders you see right there in Hiroshima right now.

Sources tell CNN he'll be arriving Saturday night, and he'll meet with those leaders on Sunday.

Russia's brutal war in Ukraine is at the top of the G-7 agenda. We're told some of the major topics will be, of course, whether to send those F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine's air force. And also cracking down on Russia and Russia evading sanctions.

A senior Ukrainian defense official says it's extremely important for Zelenskyy to be there, because very important things will be decided, that official said, at the summit.

COLLINS: Yes. We know F-16s are on the agenda. Right now, it is a critical moment in the war. And that is why Zelenskyy has been on the world tour that he's gone on in recent days, meeting with allies from France to the U.K.

He's been pleading for more weapons, as his own forces are preparing for a major counteroffensive.

One of Zelenskyy's biggest asks so far has been for those fighter jets. Sources do tell CNN now that the Biden administration is signaling it will allow European allies to send F-16 fighter jets, which are made by Lockheed Martin, to the Ukrainian military.

CNN chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly is live in Hiroshima.

Phil, obviously, this is a notable development as we are seeing all these world leaders gathered. We've seen Zelenskyy address them in virtual forums before, but now he is going to be there in person. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan. And

over the course of the last several days, U.S. officials have been this cagey about the format through which President Zelenskyy would appear at this G- summit.

Now we know why. He'll be here in person, and this will follow multiple trips. He's been kind of on a tour over the course of the last several weeks of European capitals, expected at the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia before he comes here to Hiroshima.

And it underscores the reality of this moment, an absolutely crucial moment in the ongoing war. Russia's invasion now more than a year -- nearly a year and a half old at this point. And with Ukraine heading towards or moving towards their counteroffensive.

This is the moment where Zelenskyy has made very clear they need more of just about everything. But as you noted, Kaitlan, certainly on the defense capability side, one thing you've seen in all of his stops, going back to when he visited Washington back in December and throughout the course of his travels through European capitals, he is securing commitments for war.

That is critical here, especially. These G-7 countries have really been the full crumb of the Western alliance that has been so durable, so steadfast in its support of Ukraine over the course of the last year. Plus, that is something that needs to be maintained.

Zelenskyy and U.S. officials very cognizant of the fact that there are very much crosscutting domestic pressures that each of the leaders face, particularly on the economy. And maintaining both support within the leaders' group but also back home is absolutely critical.


Zelenskyy will try and hammer that point home.

Now, one other thing: the G-7 leaders agreeing to that sanctions package. Both targeting tightening the sanctions regime that's already in place, a sweeping one at that in terms of evasion, but also targeting critical components that the Russian government and Russian military can use for its defense industrial capacity.

That is one element of this. But this will certainly be a theme from a very critical meeting with the leaders of the G-7, which will include on Sunday, President Zelenskyy.

HARLOW: And, wow, Phil. The leaders are meeting with Zelenskyy and focused on all of that. President Biden is also focused on what's happening at home with the days ticking by until we could possibly default.

Your reporting is that the White House officials in general are pretty happy with the progress made so far in these negotiations. Is that right?

MATTINGLY: They believe it's been productive. And I think this morning, the president had a Zoom meeting with his lead negotiators, his White House chief of staff, one of his top communications advisors, to get briefed on the latest talks.

His top team met with Republican negotiators for several hours yesterday. They feel like they are making progress. They're moving towards a direction.

Make no mistake about it. There's a lot more work to do. And they haven't even started the process of trying to actually whip the votes to get something passed. They don't have a proposal to do so yet.

But given where things were just a few days ago, White House officials feeling like they are on the path right now. It's not something that's coming up in the meeting so far. But it's certainly something when you talk to European officials or other G-7 delegations, they're aware of. They're cognizant of. They would like this to be resolved sooner, rather than later -- guys.

HARLOW: All right. Let's hope. Phil Mattingly, thanks for the reporting from Hiroshima, Japan.

COLLINS: Also, we're tracking new developments overnight, as Ukraine may be getting one step closer to receiving those U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets.

Officials are now telling CNN that the Biden administration has signaled to European allies that the U.S. would approve the export of the jets to Ukraine if that's what they decide to do with their supply. The White House has been under increasing pressure from allies and members of Congress to help Ukraine secure the planes as Russia's aerial attacks have only continued to intensify, especially this month alone.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live at the Pentagon. Natasha, obviously, we've seen the U.S. initially say, you know, we're not going to send tanks. We're not going to send rocket launchers. We're not going to send these air defense missiles, only to later relent. And so the question is, is that what think is going to happen here?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there certainly have been many lines that the administration said it previously would not cross that it has now crossed with regard to many weapons it has sent to Ukraine.

But right now, we're still seeing a lot of reluctance by the U.S. to signal that it would send its own F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Of course, the U.S. has a large stockpile of those.

Instead, they are telling us, officials are telling us that they will not block European allies who have these supply of F-16 fighter jets from exporting them to Ukraine themselves if that is what they want to do.

And this is really significant, because the U.S. has to approve any transfer of these F-16 jets to Ukraine or to any third country at all because of sensitive U.S. technology that is in those jets. So previously, it was unclear whether the administration would approve the export of these fighter jets.

Now we are hearing that they have signaled to the allies that, if that is what they want to do with their jets, then the U.S. is not going to stand in their way.

And this is really significant also, because the Ukrainians, without these fighter jets, they've had to improvise. We are told that the Ukrainians have used a Patriot missile at least once to shoot down a Russian fighter jet, which is not necessarily what they're designed to do.

So with these jets, the administration and officials argue it will be a lot easier for them to counter the Russian jets, potentially gain superiority in their skies.

Now all of this comes as the administration is telling us that there's actually an accounting error in the military aid funding over the last couple months that they have just discovered that actually frees up an additional $3 billion they can draw down authorities.

So the Ukrainians really anticipate a boom to U.S. aid so the Ukrainians could be coming quite soon.

COLLINS: Yes, and I know lawmakers have a lot of questions about how that accounting error happened. But we'll get to that.

But also, this other story that's on the front page of "The Washington Post" today caught my eye. There was a missile -- a strike that happened in Syria earlier this month that the U.S. said took out an influential Al Qaeda leader.

And now we're hearing from Central Command that they are investigating it, saying it may have resulted in a civilian that was killed in Syria. What do you know about this?

BERTRAND: Kaitlan, so according to a statement overnight from Central Command, they are investigating whether an air strike, a U.S. air strike on May 3 in Northwest Syria actually did not kill a senior al Qaeda leader, as Central Command had previously stated in a tweet earlier this month.

But that it actually resulted in the death of a civilian.

Now, it had been very unclear earlier this month when Central Command announced that they had conducted this strike who the target actually was.


Because they had never identified the supposed senior al Qaeda leader that they had allegedly killed. Well, now we're learning that it may not have been a senior al Qaeda figure at all that they killed, but it was actually a civilian farmer.

So they are investigating that now, Kaitlan. And we'll wait for those results. COLLINS: Yes. And certainly why people ask for evidence when they

boast about something like this.

Natasha, keep us updated. Thank you.

HARLOW: We have new revelations this morning about the recent health struggles of 89-year-old Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The senator's office confirmed that she suffered broader health complications from shingles than initially stated. After a denial, her office confirmed she had encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. They note that it resolved by itself after Feinstein left the hospital in March.

Let's go to Melanie Zanona, live on the Hill.

And Melanie, look, you've got to think about the context of this. This comes in the same week that her exchange -- Senator Feinstein's exchange with reporters raised a lot of alarm bells about whether she knew that she had been gone for 2 1/2 months.

And her office also confirmed that she continues to suffer from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which can cause several issues. What can you tell us?


In talking to both Senate Republicans and Democrats here on Capitol Hill, they're showing compassion and sympathy towards Senator Feinstein. And they have said that they think she can still continue to do her job.

But you are absolutely right, that this has raised broader questions about her mental capacity and her ability to serve in this very demanding job after initially telling reporters that she just had a really bad flu and that nothing had really been diagnosed.

Her office confirmed she suffered several complications in relation to her shingles diagnosis. I want to read you what her statement told us.

They said, "The senator previously disclosed that she had several complications related to her shingles diagnosis. Those complications included Ramsey Hunt Syndrome and encephalitis. The encephalitis resolved itself shortly after released from the hospital in March. She continues to have complications from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome."

Now, since returning to the Senate, we have seen her in a wheelchair. There's been a number of aides and other people helping her, including actually Nancy Pelosi's daughter.

But, you know, she also has really taken on a lighter work schedule. She hasn't been attending caucus meetings. Really only attending votes where her vote is needed.

So she has been able to help break that logjam of judicial nominations which is a reason why there is so much pressure on her to return -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Right. Melanie, thank you. Appreciate the reporting.

COLLINS: Also this morning, authorities have released new body camera footage from Monday's mass shooting. That happened in Farmington, New Mexico, when an 18-year-old gunman shot nine people, ultimately killing three, before police shot and killed him.

You're about to see the moment when a police sergeant was hit as he was responding to the scene. But first, I do want to warn you, you might find this video disturbing.





COLLINS: That officer, now recovering at home, as the suspect continued walking through the neighborhood, opening fire during this.

Here's the moment the police ultimately took the shooter down. And a warning, it is a volley of gun shots that will be heard in this audio.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back inside, people!

A gun!

Subject down! Subject is down.


COLLINS: Just an absolutely chaotic scene. Ultimately, 79-year-old Shirley Voita was driving in the area when she was shot and fell out of her vehicle.

Gwendolyn Schofield and Melody Ivie, a mother and daughter, drove up and were attempting to render aid when they were also shot and killed. You can see their photos here.

Police say that the shooter purchased the rifle legally just one month after his 18th birthday. The motive, though, remains under investigation.

HARLOW: We'll keep following that, of course.

Meantime, Disney escalating its battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, scrapping plans to build a billion-dollar office complex in the state. Could this impact DeSantis' much-anticipated presidential run?

COLLINS: Plus, another Republican Governor, this Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, released a campaign-style video, raising questions of whether or not he's going to join the race. We'll talk about that next.



HARLOW: The bitter feud between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is escalating again, just as DeSantis is expected to launch his bid for the White House.

Disney is scrapping plans to build a billion-dollar office complex in central Florida. It would have brought 2,000 jobs to the state.

Now Disney did not exactly call out DeSantis by name with this decision, citing instead "challenging business conditions" for canceling those plans for that campus near Lake Nona, which is near Orlando.

Now, a spokesperson for DeSantis called the move unsurprising and said that Disney would cancel the project, quote, "given the company's financial straits, falling market cap, and declining stock price."

COLLINS: Disney's decision comes as, of course, Governor DeSantis is expected to officially enter the race next week. He has been long speculating to be running for the GOP nomination. Now it is official next week.

According to "The New York Times," the Florida governor told donors on a call yesterday he sees that there are only three credible candidates in this 2024 race. I'm quoting Governor DeSantis now: "Biden, Trump and me."

He added, quote, "I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president. Biden and me. Based on all the data in the swing states, which is not great for the former president and probably insurmountable, because people aren't going to change their view of him."

Sources tell CNN that Governor DeSantis will file the presidential campaign paperwork next week. That is something he must do in order to solicit those campaign donations.

His plan to defeat former President Trump: running to the right of the former president when it comes to abortion, guns, and transgender rights.

Joining us now with his reporting on all this is CNN's chief national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, I noticed that, in the reporting from this call when DeSantis was speaking with donors, he didn't really talk about these Disney, these culture wars, of course, that he's been talking about when he's on the trail otherwise.

[06:20:08] JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He didn't. And that, of course, complicates his entire argument.

So the reality is the message that he was making yesterday to donors privately, that he is the only one who can win on the Republican side, in fact, is a message that his advisors and his team has been making, really, for several months.

They believe that his strength in some of these states where voters have already sort of given their opinion on the former president, that that's a place he can win.

But the reality is everything that he has done that has strengthened him in the Republican primary presents a complication for him in a general election if he ever gets there. So, no, he did not mention Disney.

But Kaitlan, of course, one person who did mention Disney was Donald Trump. He was out yesterday with a series of messages on social media. And look for the potential television ads and other things on this, as well, really going after the Florida governor for potentially losing all these jobs in the state.

So we should point out, this is the very beginning of the process with -- with Ron DeSantis versus Donald Trump. So he can say that he wins. But the Republican voters will have the final say on that.

And everything that has strengthened him with this Florida blueprint, as he calls it, all these laws that he has signed in Florida, certainly makes a challenge for him if he ever makes it to a general election.

HARLOW: Yes. And that is, I think, where this can get pretty complicated for DeSantis.

ZELENY: Right.

HARLOW: Just because he's untested and really untested in front of unfriendly audiences. He really only does interview with friendly media, you know, not really objective reporters often.

And so one of the real questions is how would he do in front of different audiences, whether it's in a town hall, whether it's in a debate, whether it's in a difficult interview?

ZELENY: There's no doubt about it. And also, independent voters. I mean, to win the White House, to win the presidency, you must get those independent voters, and that is something that really, he has not shown an interest in doing.

We should point out, six months or so ago last fall, he won Florida. He won reelection by some 19 points.

HARLOW: Right.

ZELENY: But things have changed dramatically since then for him. So he is starting this from the very beginning, from scratch. We will

see how he does with tougher audiences. And sometimes those tougher audiences can come from questions from voters.


ZELENY: He's going to be in New Hampshire later this morning, meeting with legislators and others. I was in New Hampshire this week, and a lot of Republicans there want to know specifically if he will confront questions about the Trump electability face-to-face. Is he going to be sort of making these arguments to Republican voters or simply on a phone call with donors?

So it is far, far, far too early to say that this is a two-man race on the Republican side. Absolutely. There are several candidates who are jumping in.

Tim Scott on Monday. He has more money than anyone else in the Republican side in terms of hard dollars to spend. So again, should all exhale, take a deep breath, enjoy the uncertainty of this. We're at the beginning of this primary road, not the end.

COLLINS: And, Jeff, also, you know, speaking of governors that make it in, Governor Youngkin of Virginia has just tweeted this video that is also fueling some questions about whether or not he's going to get in this race.


GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): President Ronald Reagan changed lives. Now it's our turn. A time to choose life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness over oppression, dictatorial rule. The stakes are high.


HARLOW: It's also, by the way, big piece in the "Washington Post" this morning. What does it tell you? Because I thought our reporting a few weeks ago was not this time; he's probably not going to run.

ZELENY: And that's still what they say. The still say, look, he has no plans of jumping into this race. But what I see when I see that ad, it's an insurance policy. Everyone, or a lot of governors, and he probably leads the list.

Look, if things don't go so well in this Republican primary for a Governor DeSantis and others, would they be there to sort of jump in at the end?

He's been talking about wanting to focus on Virginia. That video does not look very focused on Virginia. In fact, it was filmed at the Reagan Library, where he gave a speech earlier this year.

So, look, it's one more sign that a lot of uncertainty in this race, and he is certainly watching from the sidelines.

HARLOW: We should all heed your advice. Welcome the uncertainty. COLLINS: And my earpiece said, did we mention the fact that one thing,

of course, Virginia's home to a lot of military bases.

HARLOW: That's a great point.

COLLINS: In this video, one of the mistakes that they made, they showed a European foreign fighter jet and seemed to imply that it was an American one and said it is one that they would have to fix.

Jeff Zeleny --

ZELENY: Always a good eye, Kaitlan. You're right.

COLLINS: Thank you, Jeff.

All right. Coming up, we have a CNN exclusive interview with Turkey's long-time President Erdogan, who is now fighting for his political life as he is heading into his nation's first ever runoff election in nine days.


What he says about President Biden.


HARLOW: All right. Welcome back to CNN THIS MORNING.

Happening overnight, a man has been arrested after driving through a security gate at the Vatican. This is according to the Vatican press room. Let me show you.

You can see here, the car driving around the square. Security guards reportedly stopped him from entering. But moments later, he returned and just rammed through the gates. That's what you're seeing right now.

Security shot at the tires, but the car managed to continue on. He made it to a courtyard where he was eventually arrested.

The Vatican news reported that the 40-year-old man was experiencing a serious state of psychophysical alteration. That's what they called it, according to a doctor's assessment.

COLLINS: Also this morning, Turkey's long-time president, President Erdogan, says he is feeling confident as he is headed into the nation's first ever runoff election just nine days from now. That is what he told CNN's Becky Anderson in an exclusive interview.

Of course, Turkey is a key NATO ally that has rankled other NATO allies. The outcome of this race could have major implications beyond Turkey for the entire NATO alliance, and for the war in Ukraine, but even Turkey's democracy.

Erdogan has been in power for 20 years now. If he won re-election, that would only go even further. But on Sunday, he failed to secure 50 percent.