Return to Transcripts main page
CNN This Morning
Outer Bands of Powerful Storm Hitting New England; FlightAware: 25 percent of Flights OUt of Boston Cancelled; Boebert Apologizes For Vaping And Disrupting Beetlejuice Musical; Ukraine's Counteroffensive Makes Slow Progress. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired September 16, 2023 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you all. Welcome to CNN this morning. I'm Amara Walker.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. So good to be with you this Saturday. Tropical storm warnings are in effect this morning as Lee is downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone. New England starting now to feel the impact of the massive storm. Boston Logan International Airport is experiencing a spike in flight cancellations.
So far, 25 percent of flights leaving Boston have been canceled, that's according to FlightAware. Lee is not expected to make landfall in the U.S. But coastal cities can still expect powerful 50 to 60- mile-per-hour winds from outer bands of the massive storm. Heavy rain and storm surges could also cause flooding along the New England coast.
WALKER: Authorities are telling people to prepare to hunker down as the storm pushes north through the day. Lee is also expected to cause dangerous rip currents along the Atlantic Coast with many states warning people to stay out of the ocean this weekend because of those dangerous surf conditions. We are covering all parts of the storm with Derek Van Dam, and Cape Cod, and Allison Chinchar in the weather center.
Derek, let's start with you. How are the conditions so far?
DEREK VAN DAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Amara, and yes, hunkered down we have done. That's -- that's kind of the name of the game here in Cape Cod. They are familiar with this type of weather. They handled Nor'easters. And that's how they're handling this storm as well even though it's a post-tropical hurricane.
We really, really got lucky here because often these hurricanes are a game of miles, right? So if we had a little bit of a westward shift with this, it'd be a completely different scenario for Cape Cod where I'm at. But you can see some of the bed and breakfasts, the hospitality homes here, the inns have taken in all their furniture. They prepped for this type of events, tropical storm force winds, and I'm going to bring you down here just to show you a view of the Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and Hurricane Lee, several 100 miles over my shoulder.
By the way, Nantucket Island is very close to where I'm standing to here in Barnstable County, and they just had a wind gusts of 55 miles per hour with sustained winds tropical storm force. And I want my cameraman to kind of pan over the scene here because the clouds there have been doing some very interesting things that -- to just kind of show you how turbulent the skies are and how turbulent the weather actually is. You see those kind of undulations in the --- in the weather there that's showing some different kinds of wind speeds at different altitudes showing just how tumultuous this weather actually is.
And the storm really ballooned over the past week and -- and why that's important it's because the impacts are being felt well outside of the center. And we know that here in Cape Cod because we're over 400 miles from the center of Hurricane Lee, well, post-Hurricane Lee. And that's important because all along the New England coastline, we're going to continue to feel these impacts for the next 8 to 12 hours before this thing finally makes landfall.
And kind of zooming in closer to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Downeast Maine and you'd start talking about the tides. And well, this is important as well because we didn't receive the strongest winds coinciding with the high tide so the timing is everything for these. So we haven't seen or experienced the inundation from storm surge like we had had hoped and so that's good, okay. So we're going to continue on with these coastal waves though because the -- the wave machine that was Hurricane Lee has just sent all that energy in from the Atlantic Ocean. So Nantucket Island had waves approaching 20 feet just a few hours ago. That will continue for the next foreseeable future as well.
And we talked about the wind gusts. They have easily been topping tropical storm force occasionally here in Cape Cod but certainly on these outer islands like Nantucket. And Martha's Vineyard, you can see some of the gusts there, 48 miles per hour right now in Nantucket. That will be the case before the storm finally makes landfall in Nova Scotia.
So really, what's happened here is they've prepared for a Nor'easter. That's what it feels like. If I start mentioning the word wind chill and the name Hurricane Lee at the same time, well, that'll be a first for this weather and that's for sure. Allison, I think you've got a broader scope of where the storm is going. I know it's pretty nasty. And, you know, Bar Harbor, Maine all the way to Nova Scotia, what are you seeing?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. So yes, we are. That's, you know, where you are located you're seeing the impacts but it's not the only location behind me this is a live look at Bar Harbor, Maine. And you can see the water droplets sticking to the camera from time to time and those rain bands are pushing in. Also the trees in the distance, you can see them whipping as those wind gusts continue to get up around that 50 to 60 mile per hour range. That's going to continue through the day today. Again, you can see some of the heavier bands beginning to make their way into Northern Maine but also portions of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. You still do have some rain bands for places like Boston and Providence. Those will be off and on throughout much of the day today.
The storm itself has not changed. We got a brand new update at the top of the 8:00 o'clock hour. Sustained winds still 80 miles per hour. So even though the name has changed, it is now post Tropical Cyclone Lee instead of Hurricane Lee. The main point of the storm has not changed. The impacts have not changed. Sustained winds of 80 gusting up to 100 miles per hour. It has picked up speed moving to the north at about 25 miles per hour.
All that really means is those impacts that are going to arrive a little bit earlier than anticipated but they'll also move out a little bit earlier than anticipated. We do expect that this will make landfall likely over southern Nova Scotia at some point this afternoon. Those wind gusts are going to continue not just in Canada but also along the East Coast. So from Massachusetts, up to Maine, still looking at those wind gusts possibly at 50 to 60 mile per hour range.
At that range, power outages are still possible. You're going to have some of those trees come down because the thing to note is a lot of this area has been saturated. They had very wet summer. Now you add two, three, even four inches of rain on top of that and you saturate the ground. it may only take a 30 or even 40-mile-per-hour wind to bring some trees down. So power outages are still going to be a problem not just in Maine but for other states like New Hampshire, portions of Massachusetts as well.
The bulk of the rain is going to push out by late this afternoon and early this evening. But this is 1:00, 2:00 o'clock. And you can see still some of those light rain bands impacting areas of Rhode Island, Massachusetts. Most of the rain exits Maine once we get to late this evening. And then by tomorrow morning, most of the rain is really just focused over portions of Canada.
In the short term however, because of the amount of rain that's expected on top of the already saturated ground, from Caribou down through Bar Harbor and just East of Portland, we do -- we do have the potential for some flooding. So you've got a slight risk there as we go through the overnight hours tonight and even into the early morning hours tomorrow so do keep that in mind.
I guess the main takeaways here, Victor and Amara, is that we are still going to be looking at gusty winds and the potential for very heavy rainfall even though the center of the storm itself is likely going to make landfall over Canada.
BLACKWELL: We know you will be watching it. Thank you so much. Also our thanks to Derek Van Dam up on the Cape. United Auto Workers and the big three car makers expected to continue negotiations today. This is day two of the UAW targeted strike. Targeted because thousands of the members are walking the picket lines in three specific cities at very targeted locations.
WALKER: They are and they're demanding pay increases, a return to traditional pensions, and protections against job losses as the industry shifts to electric vehicles. President Biden has not endorsed this strike explicitly but says the big automakers should do more to meet the worker's demands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one wants a strike. I'll say it again. No one wants a strike. But I respect workers right to use their options under the collective bargaining system. They've been around the clock and the companies have made some significant offers. But I believe that should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: This is the first time in UAW history that it has struck at all three of America's unionized automakers at the same time. CNN's Gabe Cohen reports.
GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Amara, the sides are headed back to the bargaining table today with the worker's union telling CNN that it has sent each of the big three auto manufacturers a counteroffer and is now waiting for a response. What's in that offer is unclear at this hour, but we know it is going to take a lot to bridge the divide that we have seen up to this point. And in the meantime, until a deal is reached, you're going to see picket lines like the one behind me operating 24 hours a day here in Toledo, outside this Stellantis factory where they build jeeps as well as a Ford factory in Michigan and a General Motors factory in Missouri.
There are 13,000 autoworkers currently on strike, making $100 a day in strike pay, and yet so many here in Toledo today told me they're preparing for the long haul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our members are willing to stay in for the long haul. When we came out of bankruptcy, our starting pay a jeep was $15.78. 14 years later it's $15.78. There's something wrong with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: And Shawn Fate, the head of the Auto Workers Union told me on the picket line that it is possible that an additional facility could strike in the coming days depending on how long this lasts. Either way, we are likely to start seeing more of a ripple effect to additional manufacturing facilities and factories that are struggling to get parts or even move their own materials and may have to shut down operation and even lay off workers. Victor. Amara.
[08:10:23] WALKER: Okay. Gabe Cohen, thank you for that. Joining me now is industry consultant, Jeff Schuster. He's the Global Head of Automotive for Global Data. Jeff, appreciate you joining us this morning. This strike is different, right?
JEFF SCHUSTER, GLOBAL HEAD AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL DATA AUTOMOTIVE: Thanks for having me.
WALKER: This strike is different, right? I mean, it's -- it's very limited in scope. You have 13,000 UAW members who are walking out compared to the 145,000 members nationwide at very specific plants. But you say that we could see widespread impacts, this impacting other plants as well across the country but also our economy.
SCHUSTER: Yes. There are no question about it. I think when you look at -- at this year and the negotiations, everything about it have -- has really been unconventional. And I think the approach taken certainly are -- it's -- it's an approach to keep the automakers guessing. But it's keeping everyone else guessing, I think as well. So we as we look at the at the impact -- impact absolutely could be widespread, depending on the duration. We're already starting to hear some other plants that would likely go down in the coming days and just because of the three plants that have been on strike already. And as that moves into the next wave or the next stage, which we would expect, if there isn't a settlement over the weekend, here. Early next week, we're likely to see the -- the beginning of the next wave of these strikes, which would again, each wave get more --you know, getting more severe and taking additional assembly down and ultimately costing the economy and the automakers significant levels of money now.
WALKER: How do you see the strategy with the union starting still limited in scope, but obviously, leaving the door open to expand the strike and, you know, affecting more and more plants?
SCHUSTER: I suppose there's a couple tactics here. One, certainly, the -- the limited strike initially, I think, is to send the signal that they're willing to walk and, maybe get those -- those new offers on the table. And I think that's what we're starting to see is movement from the automakers to increase their offers. What we haven't seen is a massive change from the union side in terms of finding that -- that middle ground. So I think that's likely the next stage that we'll see as we see these additional offers come in. But it also gives them a lot of opportunity, too, to navigate and adjust along the way and flexibility there.
They have a significant strike fund, over $800 million around 825. This is a way to protect that strike fund as well with a limited number of walker -- workers walking
WALKER: Jeff, your job is in collecting data and also forecasting, right? So what is your sense of how long this strike can go on for?
SCHUSTER: Well, if we look at history, 2019, the -- the strike against GM went 40 days. But I think as you know, as we lead in this segment, this is a very different period. And unprecedented negotiations when looking at going after all three of the automakers at the same time, essentially getting them to -- to compete with their offers and see who comes in first with the best offer and likely set the tone for the other. So this has the making of because of the gap between the two sides of going significantly longer than that. But I guess only time will tell.
The longer it goes obviously the more negative impact it is across the board and -- and ultimately it affects consumers as well with availability and -- and likely higher prices.
WALKER: Yes. Yes, because you know, we're all very much aware if you were in the market for a car during the pandemic, we saw just into that -- that microchip shortage impacting car sales. I mean, they skyrocketed to points where even used cars became hyper-unaffordable. Tell us about that, the consumer impact, and at what point would consumers walking into a dealership you know of GM, Ford, or -- or Stellantis-owned cars? What -- when they -- when they would see the impacts?
SCHUSTER: Sure. Obviously, this is limited so far. So it's only going to really impact the -- the models that are assembled at those at those plants right now. But if you just were to look at that across the industry and -- and if we were to see a more severe walkout, you're really looking at about 30 days before you see a significant impact at dealerships.
The -- the vehicle sitting in dealerships now, the -- the -- the situation with inventory with vehicles on lots, it's improved. But it's nowhere near where it was prior to the pandemic. So the industry was in this period of recovery, coming off of a -- the chip shortage and starting to really get some -- some -- some stride in getting vehicles back and dealers lots and the idea was to see the prices that -- the hope anyway was to see prices start to come down. This puts us all in jeopardy, at least at this stage.
WALKE: Yes. And in terms of the negotiations and I'm not asking you to specifically weigh in on the negotiations and how they're going. But, of course, you know, the question is, well, what could the realistic middle ground be, right? And we're hearing from the union. I mean, they have quite ambitious demands, a 40 percent wage increase over the next four years, including a four-day work week at 40 hours, a week pay. But on the flip side, we also know as President Biden noted that the auto industry has raked in record profits in 2022.
But you also hear the argument from the automakers, look, hey, despite these high profits, you know, we can't afford to meet these union -- the union's demands, because it's going to cost us a lot of money to make this transition to electric vehicles. So I guess the question is, what can the industry afford, and is that an accurate statement from the -- at least the big three?
SCHUSTER: Yes, I -- you know, honestly, I think -- I think there's accuracy on both sides of the negotiations right now. I think and I don't think there's anyone that says suggest the -- the UAW shouldn't participate in the profits that -- that have happened in recent years and certainly the current environment. I think, as you look forward, part of this is looking forward and looking at the investment required for electrification. And those, by the way, are coming from the -- the regulatory bodies that are saying the automakers have to be electrified by a period in time and we're looking out to 2030 and beyond.
The numbers go up exponentially and -- and there is a massive shift taking place in the industry from a cost standpoint of retrofitting or -- or changing factories over to electrification, vehicle development, and electrification. There's a lot at stake here. And certainly, on the union side, there are less you -- there are likely less workers required for electrification because the -- there are less parts involved and less moving parts. So there's certainly movement on both sides. Likely, if we look at it, we're likely to see something we would expect in the -- the mid-20 percent range, maybe a little bit more than that. And we're starting to see those -- those offers, get up in -- in close to that range.
So that's likely where we'll end up but it really is going to come down to union -- the union accepting those offers as they come in.
WALKER: Yes. Well, let's hope this is resolved before that 30-day period you mentioned. Jeff Schuster, appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.
All right. Still to come, Hunter Biden's lawyer speaking out on the new indictment against the President's son weeks after a plea deal fell apart. Why he says this is all just politics.
BLACKWELL: Plus, the company formerly known as Twitter gave at least 32 of Trump's private messages to the Special Counsel. We'll discuss what this means for the Federal Election subversion case.
WALKER: Also the latest on the fighting in Southern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces claimed they have achieved an important objective in their months-long counter-offensive.
WALKER: Just days after he was indicted, we're learning that President Biden's son Hunter could face more Federal charges. Special Counsel David Weiss has a roughly a one-month window to decide whether or not he will file tax charges against Biden in California or Washington D.C.
BLACKWELL: Now Weiss indicated Biden on three felony gun charges just weeks after a plea deal fell apart. CNN's Cara Scannell joins us now with more on the possible charges. Cara, good morning.
CARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Amara. Well, there's a new potential deadline in the Special Counsel's investigation into Hunter Biden. Investigators are examining whether Hunter Biden failed to pay his taxes on time over a several-year period. For one of those years, the deadline to bring charges or the statute of limitations expires next month. Prosecutors with Special Counsel David Weiss's office have said they may bring tax charges in Washington D.C. or California, meaning charges could be announced within the next four weeks.
The potential charges come on the heels of the federal indictment announced Thursday charging Hunter Biden with lying on an ATF form when he said he wasn't using or addicted to illegal drugs and for possessing the firearm while using or being addicted to a controlled substance. It's a dramatic reversal when only several weeks ago Hunter Biden had a deal to avoid prosecution on the gun charges if he abided by certain conditions for two years. He had also agreed to plead guilty to two tax misdemeanor charges. But that deal fell apart under a Federal judge's scrutiny.
Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell says prosecutors cowl to political pressure from Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBE LOWELL, HUNTER BIDEN'S ATTORNEY: You have to ask what changed? And what changed? You also just talked about. It is the folks like Chairman Comer and the Republican Maga crazies who have been pressuring this U.S. attorney to do something to vindicate their political position and guess what? They succeeded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: Lowell has vowed to fight the charges saying they maybe unconstitutional. Hunter Biden is expected to be arraigned in court soon on the gun charges. And he now faces the prospect of going on trial in the middle of his father's Presidential campaign. Amara, Victor.
BLACKWELL: Cara Scannell, thanks so much. Joining me now is CNN Political Analyst and White House reporter for the Associated Press, Seung Min Kim. Good morning to you.
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.
BLACKWELL: So since the indictment more than Karine Jean-Pierre saying that the President will not pardon his son if he's convicted. We've not heard much, especially from the President and the First Lady themselves. Is that how they will navigate this entire saga as it gets, you know, continues through the courts and potentially more charges? Should we expect to hear anything from the President about this?
MIN KIM: I mean, I think that's the way -- this is the only way that the President or the White House feels they can respond to this, because in the eyes of Republicans and -- and this overall case involving his son Hunter has become so politicized. And he really wants to be seen, sort of as kind of separate and away from these legal issues. It is obviously his own Justice Department, through a Special Counsel that is pursuing these charges. But it's also a very personal difficult issue for President Joe Biden.
You know, he -- when he has been asked a little bit about his son's legal troubles, he has said that he loves his son, supports his son, but he doesn't really weigh into it further. And that's been sort of the standard, the -- the MO of this administration when it comes to any sort of pending criminal cases. They stay out of it. They leave everything to the Justice Department. And I think you can expect to see that going forward, continue to see that going forward.
BLACKWELL: Let's turn to the UAW strike now. The President is on the side of the Union but he's not endorsing the strike. He says that record corporate profits should mean record contracts. What informs or what should we know about this line the White House is walking? And he's not going as far as some other Congressional Democrats that I should say, are going in support of the union? He's on their side but not as far as others. What do we need to know?
MIN KIM: Right. Well, obviously, like you said, he does have this very careful line to navigate. You know, he knows -- the White House is very aware that how much of a damage the economy, that are prolonged or even a targeted strike, can have. And obviously, one of those strikes is in the state of Michigan, a very critical political state for the President. And it was critical in 2020. It will be critical again for him in 2024. But he -- and his remarks yesterday, he really went as far as he could in support of the workers beyond, you know, before taking an explicit side. He actually -- he -- he sort of noted and he referred to the offers that the companies have made, and basically said, you have to do more. You have to go further. You were making record profits and the companies and the workers should be allowed to share on that.
But you do see some unhappiness still coming from unions. You had the UAW President Sean Fain yesterday saying after those remarks that look, the White House is afraid. So I don't -- I am not quite sure that's what the White House wanted to hear at that moment. But they certainly do you have a fine line to walk here.
BLACKWELL: Yes, the -- the unions have been disappointed. It was when the President was in Philly around Labor Day and he said, I don't think there's going to be a strike. I don't -- you know, I don't fear that there will be a strike. We had some strong reaction from Fain and other Democrats.
MIN KIM: Right.
BLACKWELL: Does the White House envision that there is some role for the President for the administration in mediating a conclusion, some agreement here? And does his putting the finger on the scale impede that ability?
MIN KIM: In terms of mediating, no. The White House has made it clear that the negotiations are between the companies and the unions and the workers. And it's not like some of the other strikes that we've seen in the past where the White House legally does have a role where the President or his emissaries can step in. So in this case, what they're doing is they're sending two top advisors to President Biden. So you have an advisor in the White House, Gene Sperling, and acting labor -- sorry, acting Labor Secretary Julie Sue. They are going to be dispatched to Michigan to sort of be there to help. They are sort of there to provide information, to keep an eye on things. But they are not the negotiators here. And the White House doesn't want to get involved in negotiations. They really want to just do whatever they can to encourage both sides to get a deal.
BLACKWELL: Seung Min Kim, up early for us on Saturday morning. We appreciate it. Thank you.
Still to come Lauren Boebert. She's apologizing now after she was booted from Beetlejuice. She was vaping in the theater, disturbing others, and then she was escorted out. She initially denied the vaping There video. We'll tell you what she's saying now.
WALKER: New video into CNN this morning showing Congresswoman Lauren Boebert vaping inside a Denver theater during a performance of a Bettlejuice musical after she was previously -- after she previously denied doing so.
BLACKWELL: Boebert was escorted from the theater after patrons complained about vaping and taking flash photographs during the show causing a disturbance. The Congresswoman, that wasn't a wave by the way, the Congresswoman is apologizing now for the incident. She says she fell short of her values, and it was not her intention to mislead or to bring unwanted attention to the community.
A batch of Donald Trump's Twitter DMs are now in the hands of the special counsel investigating Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
WALKER: Newly unsealed court filings show the social media company handed over at least 32 of the former president's direct messages after getting a search warrant earlier a secret search warrant I should say earlier this year. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more. Jessica.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Victor and Amara, the special counsel's team is really laying out a long list of reasons why they want the judge to step in immediately in order for Donald Trump to stop making statements both online and in person that could end up intimidating witnesses, court officials or even the jury pool.
The Special Counsel did reveal on Friday that numerous witnesses have faced threats and intimidation because of various statements from Donald Trump. So now they're asking the Judge Tanya Chutkan, to do something about Trump's words. And they're laying it out this way, saying that defendants repeated
inflammatory public statements regarding the District of Columbia. The Court, prosecutors and potential witnesses are substantially likely to materially prejudice the jury pool, create fear among potential jurors and result in threats or harassment to individuals he singles out.
Put simply, those involved in the criminal justice process, who read and hear the defendant's disparaging and inflammatory messages from court personnel to prosecutors to witness to potential jurors may reasonably fear that they could be the next targets of the defendants attacks.
And because of that, the Special Counsel wants Judge Chutkan can to issue an order restricting Trump from making certain comments. The Special Counsel, they've really laid out a number of social media posts and comments from Trump over recent weeks that have targeted not only the Special Counsel Jack Smith, but also former Vice President Mike Pence, and even an attorney a prosecutor on Jack Smith's team.
So now Judge Chutkan, she has to make that determination. She already ordered Trump to refrain from disparaging comments that was during his arraignment. But now the Special Counsel does want the Judge to issue this official order in writing prohibiting Trump from naming witnesses, making statements about them are really making any statements about anyone, including attorneys, and maybe even potential jurors that are disparaging or intimidating. And this is significant.
It's a significant request from the Special Counsel because even though the judge had warned Trump once, this is really asking the judge to make this order ironclad against Trump. And there could be repercussions if he violates this order. Guys.
BLACKWELL: Thank you, Jessica. Tomorrow, our special Champions for Change series began to feature stories that spotlight everyday people. Now these are not people who are making headlines, but they're smashing barriers and inspiring others to do the same. Here's a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. Here we go. Come on, let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was about how many people can't help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Join us for Champions for Change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a source of inspiration and pride just coming together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you guys to truly forget the word can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As CNN journalist spotlight, the changemakers who inspire them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She teaches you to break through that fear to get to where you need to be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turns out that one human being can do a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's opening a door for people that are desperate for freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These aren't throwaway animals. These are precious beans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See how these community champions use creativity, heart and grit to lift society.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the music starts, something happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I surround myself with positive people. They helped me be that inspiration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Champions for Change starting tomorrow on CNN.
BLACKWELL: It is slow but Ukraine says it is gradually making advances against Russian forces. Right now troops are focusing on Crimea, which is now serving as the logistics hub for Russia's war efforts.
WALKER: This morning, CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is joining us from key. Fred, what is the latest?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Amara. Well, you guys are perfectly right, first of all to say that the Ukrainians in the past couple of days have indeed been focusing on Crimea. We saw some of those long distance attacks, missile attacks and also some drone attacks as well. That certainly is an important front for the Ukrainians.
But the other two on the ground really are the ones in the south and the ones in the east and the south has been pretty tough going for the Ukrainians. But in the east, they have managed to win some pretty important battles for them and also win back some territory. It's small villages, but the Ukrainian say for them it's very important because they are able to hit Russian supply lines from there.
Here's what we're learning.
PLEITGEN (voiceover): Ukrainian forces on the attack on the crack of dawn. Kyiv says its troops ousted the Russians from two villages on the Eastern Front in the past days. One of the units involved releasing this video purportedly showing one of their drones hitting a Russian vehicle carrying an officer. Ukraine attacking not just on land but from the sea and the air as well.
This video purporting to show unmanned sea drones trying to ramp a Russian warship just hours after the Ukrainian say they hit a Russian sub and the landing ship in the key port of Sevastopol as well as the sophisticated surface to air missile system all in occupied Crimea.
Thank you for today's triumph, the Ukrainian president says, the invaders air defense system in the Crimean land was destroyed, very significant well done.
In occupied Crimea, some residents seem increasingly concerned about Ukraine's attacks both on the peninsula and the bridge that links it to the Russian mainland.
When it was attacked for the first time I was worried so much this man says, nevertheless, Russia is still strong. And he says times are turbulent now. Of course I'm worried but in general, driving over the bridge is okay.
Under Pressure, Vladimir Putin continues to court North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un. Kim visiting a plant that makes Sukhoi fighter jets during his ongoing trip to Russia.
And while the Russians claim no deals have been signed for the North Koreans to provide ammo to Moscow, Putin admits he wants to deepen ties with Pyongyang.
We have never violated anything. And in this instance, we are not going to violate anything Putin says. But of course, we will look for opportunities to develop Russian-North Korean relations.
But the Russians also touting their own military industry, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, on a visit to a shipyard for nuclear submarines, saying Russia will not only develop new nuclear submarines, but underwater drones as well.
Well, the Russians showcase their strategic weapons manufacturing, the Ukrainian state, their forces are the ones with the initiative on almost all battlefront.
PLEITGEN: And guys, I was speaking earlier today to a presidential advisor here in Kyiv. And he said, look, they understand that the counter offensive that they've launched is going, you know, somewhat slower than the Ukrainians had anticipated, and certainly a lot slower than they want it to go.
But at the same time, he also says the fact of the matter is right now, the Ukrainians have the initiative on pretty much all front lines on the battlefield, and the Russians aren't advancing pretty much anywhere. So they say there is that and of course, your small victories like the ones that the Ukrainians are talking about now. Those are also very important, for instance, for their president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as he heads to the U.S. next week, with this coming week to New York for the U.N. General Assembly, but also he's meeting with President Biden of course the Ukrainians wanting that U.S. support to continue, guys.
WALKER: Yes, the small victory is also important for morale there on the ground. Frederik, appreciate you staying on top of this. Thank you very much.
Still to come, Lee is now a post tropical cyclone as it hits the Northeast and the flight cancellations are piling up.
BLACKWELL: We are tracking post tropical cyclone Lee as it continues up the New England coast. The huge storm continues to bring 50 to 60 mile per hour winds and heavy rain and storm surges to the New England coast.
WALKER: And CNN's Gary Tuchman got to close with the storm while on board a plane that is tracking it.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The Gulfstream Four is typically a business jet, but this one is reconfigured.
And its business is to help protect lives. These are the hurricane hunters, eight scientists, engineers, pilots. They work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration known as NOAA. Paul Flaherty is the flight director and a flight meteorologist.
PAUL FLAHERTY, FLIGHT DIRECTOR: We want to make sure we're collecting data in data sparse areas in which there's currently no data available or very little data available for the weather models to use to make forecasts.
TUCHMAN (on camera): For this mission, this aircraft flies at altitudes between 41 and 45,000 feet. It travels around 500 miles per hour. This is essentially a flying weather station, a weather station that goes to the weather.
TUCHMAN (voiceover): For the next eight hours the men and women of the NOAA Corps will fly in this high altitude reconnaissance jet above below, around and in front of hurricane Lee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think for now we'll be fine but --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, looks like plenty of space to maneuver around things.
TUCHMAN: After the jet leaves Lakeland, Florida skies are clear. At this high altitude you can clearly see storm turn whitecaps in the ocean. It doesn't take long though for the sunshine to disappear. The flight gets turbulent as Hurricane Lee lurks ominously below us all the while science is taking place.
This screen shows 34 locations where to notice a dropsonde or sonde will be dropped out of the plane.
TUCHMAN (on camera): So this is the next dropsonde it's going to be drops. Rebecca Keller, NOAA engineer. What is in the dropsonde?
REBECCA KELLER, NOAA ENGINEER: So the dropsonde consists of a sensor and we have a circuit board inside as well as a battery and the sensor is picking up humidity, air temperature, pressure, wind direction and wind speed.
TUCHMAN (voiceover0: And about every 10 minutes, another dropsonde with a parachute that is deployed is launched to the ground. Along with the sondes, the plane also has radar and its nose, Doppler radar and its tail and two pilots up front flying with a deep sense of purpose.
LT. COMMANDER DANIELLE VARWIG, NOAA PILOT: I joined the NOAA Corps as it all of my counterparts because we love to serve our country we care about our citizens. And so it's really rewarding to know that I am like right at the front lines and risking my life in order to help the lives of everyone else that are back home.
TUCHMAN: The marathon flight is almost over.
VARWIG: All right. So that is the last sonde of the -- Woo hoo. Woo hoo, indeed.
TUCHMAN: And as the plane heads back to Florida out the window --
VARWIG: Looking good.
TUCHMAN: -- a spectacular sunset.
VARWIG: Yes, so we're out of the storm environment obviously. This will be just fair weather cumulus on our way back to Florida.
TUCHMAN: As the plane gets ready to land time for the hurricane hunters to decompress and get mentally ready for more eight hour trips to come.
LT. COMMANDER RICK DE TRIQUET, NOAA AIRCRAFT COMMANDER: So yes, we kind of live up here spend more time together than we do at home. Go home sleep, eat and repeat, you know, and get back up here start collecting the data again.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Anderson, the aircraft we were on is not NOAA's only hurricane hunter. They also fly the P3 Orion, it's a larger plane it fits more people It flies low altitudes it flies through hurricane eye walls. I've been on it before needless to say the turbulence is intense.
Either way, the important data gathered from both these planes and both these missions that is then embedded into computer models makes it much easier for meteorologists to give accurate forecasts.
WALKER: What a cool assignment, one that I'm glad I didn't have to do.
BLACKWELL: Yes, I know. I mean, now that everybody's back on the ground and safe, it's like, oh, that was an excellent idea to send Gary up on that plane. Gary Tuchman, thanks so much.
All right, join us again in an hour.
WALKER: Smerconish is up next. We'll see you back here at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.