Return to Transcripts main page
CNN This Morning
800+ Evacuated as Ukraine Blames Russia for Destroyed Dam; Mar- a-Lago Pool Flood Raises Suspicion in Docs Probe; Chris Christie, Mike Pence to Announce Presidential Bids; Family Wants Neighbor Arrested after Mother of 4 Killed. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired June 06, 2023 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They want to stay indoors today, because that is not healthy air to breathe.
It's all a product of the weather pattern. Right? We have this low pressure just off the Canadian Maritimes and this cold front that continues to draw the smoke from the North to the South. And it looks like we won't have much relief in the coming days, because more Canadian wildfire smoke is on its way.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wow. All right, everybody. Be careful out there. All right. Thanks, Derek. Nice to see you this morning.
Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Tuesday morning, everyone. We are so glad you're with us. Look who's here. Welcome back.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Glad to come back.
HARLOW: I let you come back. You were in Japan.
MATTINGLY: And Paris.
HARLOW: And you met Beyonce?
MATTINGLY: Spiritually. Yes, spiritually, absolutely.
HARLOW: We're so happy to have Phil Mattingly back with us. Good to have you this week. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Tuesday, June 6th.
This really significant news in Ukraine. Breaking overnight, Ukraine accusing Russia of blowing up a major dam. You can see the water pouring through a gap in the wall there. Hundreds of people have already been evacuated as flooding hits along the Dnipro River. Eighty settlements are in this flood zone, according to the Ukrainian president, and the water could reach a, quote, "critical level" very soon. MATTINGLY: And a CNN exclusive: flooded at a Mar-a-Lago in the room
where surveillance video logs were kept. Federal prosecutors say it's suspicious as former President Trump's attorneys meet with the special counsel.
And two more former Trump allies set to clash with the former president in the race for the White House. Chris Christie gets ready to announce his run today, as Mike Pence files his own paperwork.
HARLOW: And the pilot who flew that plane that crashed in Virginia was seen slumped over in his seat by fighter jets that raced to catch up with it. The FAA lost contact with the plane only 15 minutes after it took off from Tennessee, and the pilot and three others died when the plane crashed.
MATTINGLY: And a record number of women are working right now. Economists are scratching their heads. Is it inflation, hybrid work opportunities? Well, we've got the answers.
(MUSIC: SHEELA EASTON, "SHE WORKS HARD FOR THE MONEY")
MATTINGLY: CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.
HARLOW: That song is --
But here's where we begin: with this breaking news overnight in Ukraine. Ukraine accusing Russian forces of blowing up a critical dam near the front lines of the war in a Russian-controlled area of the Kherson region.
This is new video, and it shows an underwater explosion -- Look at that -- right near the dam. The surging waters leading to fears of large-scale devastation and the country warning of an environmental disaster.
Settlements downstream are flooding. Residents in the danger zone are being urged to evacuate. You can see water creeping into Kherson City. That's what's happening right now. There are more than 800 people in the region who have already been forced to leave their homes.
And officials are warning people, do everything you can to save your life.
Ukraine's president holding an emergency meeting with top officials to address this crisis.
So let's begin this hour with our Sam Kiley. He is live in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Sam, walk us through how many are in immediate danger.
SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the numbers of people in immediate danger are concentrated, really, potentially on the Russian-occupied side of the river. This is still Ukrainian territory on the Eastern side, because the higher ground is to the West.
Now, the biggest city downriver from this dam is obviously Kherson City. Local authorities there have begun evacuating significant numbers of people, laying on trains. Also putting out messages to say to people, get your essential documents, release your pets, get onto high ground and get out of the areas likely to be affected.
Because it's not just that, the Dnipro River downstream, but the rivers -- the tributaries, too, that big water cause.
But the numbers they have yet to release in terms of likely affected, because the floodwaters are still draining, effectively, in that direction. It will be greater numbers will be -- more accurate numbers will be coming through but there are many thousands of people likely to be affected on both sides.
Now, the Ukrainian government accusing the Russians of what they say is ecocide, an environmental catastrophe, as well as a humanitarian disaster. We've yet to see really convincing evidence one way or the other as to exactly how this dam was breached.
There had been some evidence in previous days that because of the Russians controlling the dam were not allowing the water to drain from the lake above, that it was overfilling it. And it had, indeed, flooded some villages upstream from there. And the road across it had been breached a few days ago.
So this is all in that context, though, an act that ultimately if it was found to be deliberate would in many quarters be described as yet another war crime committed by the Russian occupiers here in Ukraine.
But the Ukrainian authorities scrambling really hard to try to get people away from those floodwaters.
And above all, the problem is that this is a water source and a source of power for communities on both sides of the river. And whatever happens, they are going to be desperately short of those important humanitarian resources.
HARLOW: I thought it was interesting that Ukraine's ministry of defense said that this was Russia acting in a panic. That's the word they used. How is Russia responding to these accusations?
KILEY: Well, the Russians are saying that they didn't blow the bridge -- blow the dam, and obviously, they're saying they didn't panic.
But both sides are involved in an information war. The Ukrainians in terms of the ministry of defense are making the point, trying to make the point that they think the Russians blew this dam in order to flood the valley below, the river valley below, which would make it harder for the Ukrainians to prosecute a cross-river assault.
That has always been -- the Dnipro River has always been a formidable natural barrier. And the Ukrainians have said if that was their intent, that will be no problem for us.
The spokeswoman for the Southern Command saying that they have the capacity to get across those river crossings, regardless of the level of flooding.
But I think ultimately, the -- there may well be a question here as to whether or not this was something of a kind of predictable accident, because the areas most dangerously affected in many ways are Russian- occupied areas, including areas where, at least until very recently, they had some significant concentrations of artillery that they were using to pound Ukrainian positions, particularly in Kherson City itself.
HARLOW: That raises a very important question. We'll get into it all now. Sam, thank you for the reporting on the ground.
MATTINGLY: Joining us now is retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Steve Anderson.
And Steve, I want to pick up where Poppy and Sam left off. Talking about what Ukrainian officials are saying at this point in time, blaming Russia or Russian-occupied forces, saying Russians are panicked.
You can't separate this from what we saw over the course of the last 24 hours or so. An uptick in the tempo of potential offensive actions from Ukraine. Do you think these are connected and how does this affect the battlefield?
BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, this probably is connected. I do believe it is an indication that there is some panic in the Russian lines.
But I mean, it's another page out of their playbook. They're trying to wreak havoc. They're trying to hurt the civilian population there. And they're just not going to be successful, I think, in degrading the will of the Ukrainian people to conduct this fight or to conduct any kind of a river crossing operation that they need down there.
My major concern with the blowing up of this dam is the impact on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is upriver from this dam about 50 miles. And they desperately need cooling water in order to cool those six active reactors they have up there. None of them are online right now.
But they still need cooling water in order to, you know, to prevent some kind of a catastrophe up there. So that's my big concern, is on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
HARLOW: And for people who don't know, you are an expert in energy issues and environmental issues. We remember when the power -- that power plant you're talking about, the nuclear power plant was shelled. We saw hole -- like bullet holes and casing holes in the roof.
Would this be the only water supply to cool that plant? Wouldn't you think they would have backup options, or no?
ANDERSON: They do have backup options. They have reservoirs up there. But you still need to get fresh water into the reservoirs to circulate the water. Otherwise the reservoir water will get too hot and you could have some kind of a potential meltdown.
So yes, it's very critical that they continue to get freshwater upstream to support these nuclear reactors.
MATTINGLY: Steve, to pull back a little bit and talk about some of the actions we've seen from Ukrainian forces, or appear to be seeing from Ukrainian forces.
This has been an expectation that there would be a counteroffensive for months. It has been telegraphed; it has been talked about. It has been predicted. What do you think the misconceptions are right now about what that will actually look like in practice as opposed to kind of the theoretical exercise everybody's been playing?
ANDERSON: Well, my concern is that they're not really ready. I mean, I know that General Milley and others have said that they are, but I just don't think that they have the firepower that they need to be able to conduct this counteroffensive. Remember, we're talking about Russians, 200,000 soldiers, that have been dug in now for over a year, preparing defensive positions.
This is going to be a very difficult fight. They can't possibly go toe-to-toe with these folks. The only way they're going to be able to do anything, to be able to conduct a successful counteroffensive, is to going to have to have -- be able to conduct mobile operations, maneuver warfare. The integration of indirect fire, direct fire an aviation.
And quite frankly, I just don't think they have the equipment and the logistics to sustain a long-term offensive that's going to be required in order to get the Russians out of there.
HARLOW: What would they need to be prepared, then? That they don't have now?
ANDERSON: They would need -- what they don't have is equipment. OK, remember, we promised them 300 tanks. They've got about 100 right now. We being U.S. and NATO.
We promised them 700 infantry fighting vehicles. They got about 300.
We promised them equipment that they could maintain. And essentially, what we've done, we've given them a lot of equipment, but we've never provided the repair parts and the maintenance expertise that they need in order to sustain this equipment.
My understanding anecdotally is less than half of the equipment that we have given the Ukrainians is fully mission-capable. It's not operational.
You cannot go into a war fight, you know, like this. They need to outnumber in terms of firepower -- the defending force needs to be outnumbered by the attacker by a ratio of three to one. And I just don't think that they can do that. Their only hope is to be able to conduct offensive maneuver warfare to
seek some sort of a penetration and then attack from the rear areas and the francs and come from behind. And hope they can get tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Russians to surrender. That's their only hope.
But there's no way they can go toe-to-toe with the Russians. They're dug in. It's too big of an area. The size of Pennsylvania we're talking about, in order to try to get the Russians out. They just simply can't do it right now.
MATTINGLY: Brigadier General Steve Anderson, thanks so much for your expertise.
HARLOW: Now to the CNN exclusive reporting. Sources say that a flood, a flood of a very different type, in Mar-a-Lago raised suspicions among federal investigators in the classified documents probe.
So we're told that a maintenance worker drained the club's swimming pool back in October. That actually flooded a room where surveillance videos are stored on computer servers.
This happened about two months after FBI agents executed a search warrant and found hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, and surveillance footage has played a crucial role, of course, in Jack Smith's special counsel probe of these classified documents.
And we know that they were moved around multiple times before investigators came.
MATTINGLY: Now, we're told the maintenance worker who drained the pool is the same worker who was spotted on security video moving boxes ahead of the FBI search. Investigators have seized his phone.
This new revelation came on the same day that Trump's legal team met with Justice Department officials to complain about the special counsel's probe of Donald Trump's handling of those top-secret documents.
Let's bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. And Evan, it's unclear right now if the surveillance video room being flooded was a mistake or intentional. What exactly were prosecutors looking at here?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, good morning.
The reason why this matters is that, you know, this is a data point, another data point in the overall investigation of obstruction, which is one of the reasons why the former president is in the legal jeopardy that he is.
And according to, you know, sources who talked to Katelyn Polantz and Kaitlan Collins, you know, witnesses are being asked by prosecutors about this incident. It's all about the timing. Right? The -- the first subpoena that comes
to -- to the Trump team is in the early summer. They provide some documents. And then the FBI goes and does a search in August.
And it is after this that they get another subpoena for more surveillance video, for them to turn over surveillance video, again, from Mar-a-Lago.
This happens in October during the time, again, where prosecutors are serving additional subpoenas for surveillance video, and of course, another one in late October, where they get a preservation order.
All of this adds up to the prosecutors trying to understand whether, again, this flooding incident that happened, which affected a room where surveillance logs are being kept, whether this was intentional, whether this was a mistake.
Now, some testimony that came in to prosecutors indicated that the I.T. room was not affected by this. But again, just the idea that this happened in the middle of all that timing is why prosecutors are asking these questions.
HARLOW: OK. Also a really critical meeting that Trump's legal team had been asking for. They wanted to meet with Attorney General Merrick Garland. They didn't get that. But they did meet with Lisa Monaco and other top prosecutors at DOJ about these two federal probes, and Jack Smith came, the special counsel. What do we know?
PEREZ: Yes. That was a bit of -- a bit of a surprise, Poppy. The lawyers arrived. They were there for about an hour and a half. We were running around, trying to figure out where they went. You can see me there in that, looking a little bit goofy, trying to figure out when they were leaving the Justice Department.
But, you know, they had a meeting with the top career official at the Justice Department. This is all part of what, you know, Merrick Garland, the attorney general, is trying to keep this investigation in the hands of the special counsel, trying to make sure that there is no political interference.
However, Smith did show up to this meeting.
We know that one of the things that the Trump team wanted to bring up was their belief that there's been prosecutorial misconduct.
PEREZ: We don't know exactly what that is, but we know that they're complaining that, for instance, prosecutors have obtained attorney/client privileged material, stuff that they usually cannot obtain.
We don't know exactly what happens next. We do know that they were not told that any charges are imminent -- guys. MATTINGLY: Can I just say, I love the image of our calm, cool, collected, and coifed colleague, Evan Perez, sprinting around the Justice Department, trying to find where these lawyers are?
HARLOW: If that's you running around looking goofy --
PEREZ: I wore Nikes to work.
HARLOW: -- you're so -- you're so calm.
There we see the Trump legal team behind you. That is -- that's really, really interesting, especially given the way that the judge, Beryl Howell, how she had ruled, saying, Look, you don't have attorney/client here.
HARLOW: The special counsel can see this stuff because of the crime- fraud exception.
But we'll see what happens. Thank you, Evan. Appreciate it.
PEREZ: Thanks. Good morning.
MATTINGLY: All right. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie set to announce he's running for president today, and he's vowing to take down his former ally, Donald Trump. We'll take you live to New Hampshire, next.
HARLOW: Also right now, demonstrators in France once again taking to the streets, protesting that new increase in the retirement age, that change in the law. So we'll take you to Paris in our next hour.
Did you see --
[06:15:05] MATTINGLY: Well, just in just a matter of hours, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to officially jump into the 2024 presidential race.
The former Trump ally is set to host a town hall event in the early- voting state of New Hampshire tonight. Three sources familiar with his plan say he'll make the big announcement there and take questions from voters in the audience, as one does in New Hampshire.
Now Christie is jumping into an already very crowded field of GOP candidates one day before we expect Vice President Mike Pence to announce his own White House bid.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is live outside Manchester, New Hampshire, colloquially known as Manch-Vegas, this morning.
Omar, I covered former Governor Christie's 2016 campaign. We spent a lot of time in New Hampshire. So get comfortable there. It's a wonderful place. Why is this time different? What's his theory of the case this time around?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, at this time -- and, look, I'm not going to pretend I can keep up with Phil Mattingly, but I'm going to do my best this time around. But his case, I think, this time is going to be, he's been candid about it in the past, that he's not just some "never Trumper" Republican coming into this.
He's framed it in previous town halls as someone who's worked with the former president, thought he could make him better, and then, in Christie's words, former President Trump failed him and the country. And that if he were to get in the race, he would do something directly about it.
And we seem to be at this point. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie expected to announce his run for president today. He's hosting a town hall tonight at St. Anselm College here in New Hampshire, where he's expected to make brief remarks and then answer questions from the audience.
But the key message, the key moment for tonight will be he will set the tone for what his campaign will be in what we know is a crowded GOP primary field.
MATTINGLY: Yes, and he hasn't been subtle in the leadup to this moment about what that tone will be.
I find it fascinating that he's announcing just a day after we learned, in an interview with our colleague Dana Bash, that New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu will not run. And it's fascinating because of Sununu's reasoning for not running. What was it?
JIMENEZ: Well, part of the reasoning is, you know, he would have been grow -- joining a growing GOP field. And it's part of why, in that answer, he said that he really wants those that are in the race right now to consider the responsibility they have when something, or their campaign is not working, to get out and get out quickly.
He also doesn't believe President Trump is the ticket to a win in November 2024. Take a listen to some of what he told Dana Bash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): If Republicans nominate him, then we're saying a vote for him in the primary is effectively a vote for Joe Biden. I mean, that's ultimately how the math will play out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: And that said, Trump does remain the person to beat in this race. He's polled higher than other candidates at these very early stages. Obviously, a lot can change as people like the soon-to-be candidate Chris Christie try to break through and make it to the coveted debate stage in August.
But the election's in 2024. Campaign season, it's well under way.
MATTINGLY: No question about that. Omar Jimenez, great stuff, as always. Thanks, buddy.
And don't forget: Tomorrow Dana Bash moderates a CNN Republican presidential town hall, live from Iowa with former Vice President Mike Pence. It airs at 9 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
HARLOW: All right. Next, this story. An ongoing feud between neighbors ends with a mother of four shot and killed just feet away from her home. What led to this deadly encounter. We'll explain.
MATTINGLY: And we're learning new details this morning about the moments before a private jet went down in Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY THOMAS, FAMILY ATTORNEY FOR FLORIDA MOTHER KILLED: These children who lost their mother in cold blood, we need answers. We need an arrest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: That is the attorney for a woman shot and killed in Florida by her neighbor. Well, they're demanding an arrest, as you heard.
They say that A.J. Owens, a black mother of four young children, died Friday night after a dispute with her neighbor, who shot her through a front door.
According to a family lawyer, Owens' children were playing outside when the neighbor engaged them and threw a pair of skates at them. The lawyer says she also shouted racial slurs.
And when Owens went to confront her, that woman shot and killed her.
Carlos Suarez is in Miami, following all of this. And there are so many questions this morning, but key for the legal team is why this woman hasn't been arrested. Do we know?
CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, the sheriff's office is saying that they're looking into whether this shooting was in self- defense. But that's an argument that the victim's family says is just not possible.
Thirty-five-year-old A.J. Owens, as you said, was killed on Friday North of Orlando in Ocala, Florida. Authorities said that Owens knocked on the door of a neighbor who minutes earlier had an issue with Owens' children that were playing outside.
Now, the victim's family said that the woman had previously harassed the children, calling them racial slurs, and the "N" word. Owens' mother said her daughter wanted to know why the woman kept an iPad that the children left behind and why she threw a pair of skates at them.
Here's more of what that mother said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA DIAS, VICTIM'S MOTHER: She knocked on Souza's (ph) door, a closed, locked door. Door never opened. My daughter, my grandchildren's mother, was shot and killed.
She had no weapon. She posed no imminent threat to anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUAREZ: All right. So the sheriff of Marion County said that the two women were yelling at each other through that front door and that authorities haven't made an arrest yet because of Florida's stand- your-ground law, adding that authorities, they're still interviewing other neighbors and Owens' 9-year-old son, who was standing next to his mom when she was shot through that door.
Here's the sheriff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF BILLY WOODS, MARION COUNTY, FLORIDA: What we have to rule out is whether the deadly force was justified --
(END VIDEO CLIP)