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CNN Tonight

Montana GOP Rebukes Former Governor Racicot; Emotions Running High Three Weeks After Train Derailment; Bodycam Video Shows Arrest Of Orlando Shooting Spree Suspect; Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Hits One- Year Mark. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 23, 2023 - 23:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: My next guest has an unimpeachable conservative resume: Serving two terms as the Republican governor of Montana, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and serving as chair of President George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.

So, it was notable when, in 2016, he said that Americans can do better than Donald Trump, and when, in 2020, he endorsed Joe Biden, writing -- quote -- "The content of a man's character or a woman's character to serve in that capacity is more important than any other issue that I have to consider as a matter of conscience."

Now, his state GOP is rebuking him and saying -- quote -- "Marc Racicot is not considered by the Montana GOP to be a Republican; that he cannot claim with any authority to speak on behalf of Montana Republicans, it is recognized that he took action to damage, undercut, and defeat the efforts of the elected officials of the Montana GOP and the Republican Party in general, and therefore disqualifies himself by these actions from being considered a Republican."

Here now with me to respond is governor -- former Governor Marc Racicot. Governor, great to see you. Are -- would you -- like I said, are you surprised that you have been excommunicated from the state Republican Party?

MARC RACICOT, FORMER MONTANA GOVERNOR: Well, I don't know if it's surprise. Maybe a little bit sad that things have come to this point. In times in the past, I was often or not often. But now and again, at this point, you know, I tended to try to focus on the issues as they were to as a matter of principle.

The values, Alisyn, that I had when I was in office were always to try to do the right things as you're supposed to do and to make certain that I was loyal to, first, to my country, then to my state, and then to my party. And if those things all happily coincided, that was wonderful.

But there were occasions where it did not, and I felt like I had to follow what I perceived to be the right thing to do as a matter of principle. So, I didn't expect it, but I'm not surprised.

CAMEROTA: Doing the right thing, according to your principles, that will never work, governor. What were you thinking?

RACICOT: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear your question. We were a little garbled.


CAMEROTA: There wasn't -- there wasn't a question. I'm just so astonished to talk to you because -- so, it feels, I guess, not in vogue right now to stand on one's principles. So often, we speak to politicians who do anything for political expediency or have principles one day, and then a month later, they say something completely different, or we hear them lying. I mean, what you're saying is so honorable, and yet, you know, you've been punished for it.

Do you still consider yourself a Republican?

RACICOT: Alisyn, I hate to tell you this, but I just really want to have this conversation with you, but I can't understand the -- the audio is just not serving me well. I only hear about every second or third word.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Can you hear me now? Testing? Can you hear me now if I speak like this or is it still garbled?

RACICOT: Well, you know, I think I -- I think heard what you said, but you have to correct me if I misheard because I missed several words as you were talking. You know, the bottom line is this, that the country, I think, is feeling substantial tension.

At least the citizens I talk to, I've been all over the state of Montana and around the country, there's a great deal of concern about whether or not we're falling apart as a democracy, as a nation. And a lot of that has to do with the extremism of the Republican Party and the service of Donald Trump. He was a devastatingly, I think, impactful in a negative way on the United States of America, our Constitution, and our way of life.


So, I knew that I was probably disappointing some people because I would not support him. I would not support candidates that were supported by him because I felt he was that much of a danger to the United States.

I think that sentiment is spreading across the country. I think you can see it measured in polls and from those who are willing to contribute and those who have an interest.

I'm not uncertain that Donald Trump has an interest in his own campaign, at least not the kind that I was a witness to in the past.

CAMEROTA: Governor, thank you very much. I'm sorry for the audio issues. It is great --

RACICOT: I'm terribly sorry. I would love to have this conversation.

CAMEROTA: We will. We will have many more conversations as well. You're a delight to talk to. Thank you so much for your time, and we'll fix the audio issues. Thank you.

RACICOT: You're a good sport. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: You, too. Here with me in the studio is Dan Harris, host of the "Ten Percent Happier" podcast. We also have Republican strategist Joe Pinion, Lauren Leader, founder and CEO of "All In Together," and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

What a lovely man right there and so patient right there. Joe, can you believe that? He was following his principles. That's what he was doing. Have you heard of such a thing from a politician?

JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think that, one, he's no longer a politician. I think most Americans follow their principles when they go into that voting booth. I think we have to find a way to be more accepting and understanding of those who disagree with us politically.

I'll just remind people that, again, each state has their own party, they have their own Democratic Party, they have their own Republican Party, there is a national party. So, decisions of the Montana GOP are not necessarily representative of every other state's GOP, of the national GOP as well.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, but the state Republican Party is not being tolerant of his principles?

PINION: Look, I think if we're going to call ourselves the big tent party, then we should be welcoming to all individuals who are going to say that they want to uphold our values. But I do think it is the prerogative of the party to simply state that this is a person that is not speaking for us.

But I don't think you can unilaterally cast people out of a party, any party. I think that is a bit too far. I think that where it strains credulity and undermines the public discourse as required for us to have the more perfect union, I think, all of us seek.

CAMEROTA: What did you hear there, Dan?

DAN HARRIS, PODCAST HOST: This is not a new observation, but it's deeply true, which is that we have the structural dysfunction in American politics where the extreme wings of both parties are super empowered largely by social media, then they feed off of one another, and the rest of us are stuck in the middle. I think this is just an exhibit Z in this ongoing process.

LAUREN LEADER, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, ALL IN TOGETHER: I disagree, though, because I think there is actually a very dramatic difference between what's happening on the extreme side of the Democratic Party and what happens on the extreme side of the Republican Party.

On the Democratic Party, The Squad, which is arguably the most left leaning wing of the party, has never once hijacked legislation. Nancy Pelosi, when she was speaker, passed every major bill that she was ought to pass and they were never able to hijack the party or the agenda because of those four or five votes. They pass the bills they want to pass.

On the right, unfortunately, you have the most extremist members, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert who hijacked the speaker process. And you've got a national sort of trend around fealty to Donald Trump, which is starting to wane, but that has been for the last number of years, you know, the absolute.

You look at what happened to Liz Cheney, what happened to people like Rusty Bowers and Cassidy Hutchinson, people who stood up for their principles for democracy, stood up for their values in the extent to which they were not only castigated but threatened. And it's a problem because every -- both parties should be big tent parties. We can't function as a democracy if they're not.

PINION: I just think that, one, I don't think the right-wing has hijacked the speaker fight. The speaker fight was contentious because of the fact that it is one of the slimmest majorities since World War II. That is the only body -- last majority that we have with Nancy Pelosi. So, I think that is probably more a testament to the strength of Nancy Pelosi than it is to the actual waning of a particular party.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, you saw the (INAUDIBLE) 18 times. I mean, they were going out and --

LEADER: And Marjorie Taylor Greene leadership position on committee --

PINION: We can't live in this world where all of a sudden where if one Republican, anywhere, says or does anything, then the entire party is responsible for it.

CAMEROTA: I agree with that.

PINION: But if 20% of Democrats are in an agreement on something, that somehow -- that is not reflective of the actual trajectory of the party. So, I think ultimately, when you get back to this conversation, we should be simply talking about how do we have a functioning government, how do we make sure that the will of the people is actually being realized in the policy.


PINION: And from my perspective right now, to your point, the policies that Americans want to see traction on, the education of our children, the economy that is effectively (INAUDIBLE). None of those things actually get priority because we're stuck here with the culture wars, the infighting, the backbiting --

LEADER: Yeah. HARRIS: But it's bigger than that.

CAMEROTA: Hold on. Hold on. Good news. We have Governor Racicot parachuting in --


CAMEROTA: -- via phone.


You know what, we've just gone old school, back to phone technology, which should work. Governor, can you hear us?

RACICOT: I can, yes. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, governor, the question -- our question now is, do you still consider yourself a Republican, though you've been cast out of the state party?

RACICOT (via telephone): To be honest with you, the journey has revealed to me. I don't think it matters. I think there's a transcendent question here in front of the both parties, especially mine at the moment. And the fact of the matter is we have to learn how to live by the virtues that are better than the Constitution.

What that means is very simply. Everything from good manners to trusting each other, respecting each other, believing in the possibilities of the country, recognizing that moderation is required, that compromise is required, that we have -- we don't get everything we want every single day.

I don't know any relationship than a human relationship that works that way. And what we have is a bunch of people yelling and screaming at each other, instead of respecting and trusting each other.

This is a massive issue across the country. And frankly, I think it's one that can tear the democracy apart. The FEC (ph) is brittle. The communications are absolutely fierce and ferocious, directed at one another, tearing each other down.

We've got to re-find our connections with each other. And that means, in these deliberative bodies, they respect what's going on in the rest of the country. So, these competitions, the screaming and yelling and forcing legislation on the basis of numbers, constantly looking to accumulate power and control and make our pitches, this has all become a performance art --


RACICOT (via telephone): -- instead of a dedication to try and get something done on behalf of the people in this country.

CAMEROTA: Governor, that was worth it. Thank you for calling in. I appreciate those notes that you're sounding and that final wrap up. We're all talking about civil discourse. Everybody agrees. Can he just call in and be our life coach every night?

HARRIS: Answers are going to come via Morse code, I think.


HARRIS: Keep progressing technologically, yes.

CAMEROTA: That's right. Stick around, everybody. Coming up, the NTSB has written a report. They say that the toxic derailment in Ohio was 100 percent preventable. So, what will it take to get accountability? Next, we're going to talk to two people who live in East Palestine and want answers.




CAMEROTA: Frustration is still boiling over an East Palestine almost three weeks after that train full of dangerous chemicals derailed, spewing toxic fumes and driving people out of their homes. Residents there had a lot to say last night in our CNN town hall with Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you do not feel safe living in East Palestine, raise your hand.

JESSICA CONARD, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: I don't know what the future holds for my town. This has the potential to really decimate a small town like us.

JIM STEWART, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: I'm 65 years old, a diabetic, heart disease, everything. Did you shorten my life now? I want to retire and enjoy it. How are we going to enjoy it? You -- you burned me.


CAMEROTA: Joining me now are those two residents, Jessica Conard and Jim Stewart. Guys, great to see you. You were so powerful last night.


CONARD: Thank you. Thank you for having us.


CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here. So, Jim, what's the past 24 hours been like for you now?


(LAUGHTER) STEWART: I'll tell you what, I feel like -- I heard a lot of heroes. You're our hero now. You made the voice for East Palestine. You said what we all want to say. And I'm glad I did because that's why I'm here, for East Palestine, our good little town. We all live here. It is great. We love it here.

CAMEROTA: Hmm. I'm so glad that people felt that you are the voice that they needed to speak out for them because you did it so powerfully. At one point, you know, you were talking to the CEO of Norfolk Southern, Alan Shaw, and you're just telling him that you -- you -- this is your home, you've been there forever, you want to retire there, and you feel robbed.

Some of your fellow panelists yelled out that Norfolk Southern should buy your home from you. Is that what you want? I mean, what do you want out of this from them?

STEWART: I want to live on with my home and my house and everything. We love East Palestine. I say we. I've been there forever. You know, I've known all kinds of people. I've coach sports in kids. I've enjoyed the life there. I'd like to be safe.

I'm scared. Like I said, we got issues still that need to be cleared up. And it takes time. I understand it takes time. Something has to be done. And like I said, if we don't get the voice out there and people -- believe me, I've got people calling from Canada and everything. They want interviews and things. It's great, but we want work done on this. We want to get it done fast and get it done right.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. Did you connect with Norfolk Southern today? Did the CEO reach out to you?

STEWART: No. I heard nothing from nobody from Norfolk. I don't know if I -- I hit him too hard. I don't know. He was listening. Believe me, he heard every word. He might be a great man. I'm not turning him down. I'm just saying his company is weak there. They got to get some work done and get it taken care of now.

I mean, trains are coming through 50 a day now already, three weeks ago. It's crazy. I know that their business, but we have a problem. They damaged our area. That damage needs to be done. It's not a train derailment. Like I said yesterday, you know, it's -- it's a disaster and they got to pay for it and get it right.

CAMEROTA: So, Jessica, how about you? What's your life been like in the past 24 hours? Have you connected with Norfolk Southern again?


CONARD: I have made attempts to connect directly with Alan Shaw, working with a couple different connections. I was unable to make contact. I did actually receive a phone call to get my well tested today, which -- my phone call out to them to get that scheduled was on the 15th. So, I was really happy that that did happen today. It felt a little suspicious since, you know, I did speak with him directly on national television. But, you know, I think it's a step in the right direction. You know, I think there is a time and a place to call people out and to make people accountable. I think we're at the point in this where there's been such an outpouring of support for what we did yesterday, from our town, from the community, from surrounding communities.

He had people reaching out from all over the world yesterday, which was so humbling. I'm just a mom from East Palestine and, you know, a town where really nothing -- nothing really ever happens there except, you know, we're safe and family-oriented.

So, you know, I think now is the time to unify. We need Alan Shaw and Mr. Regan and Governor DeWine. And Pete Buttigieg was there today. You know, we need all of these people on our side. And I will be the biggest advocate if -- Mr. Shaw, if you trust us, we will trust you and we will work with you. I think that's my message today. It's time to unify and get the work done.

CAMEROTA: You're looking for cooperation. I think that's what you even said last night. I mean, that's what you -- you're willing to work together. You just need help. There was a moment last night, Jessica, where you had this exchange with Alan Shaw. I want to play it for everybody because I want to see if there has been any movement on that.


CONARD: It's the oil that's seeping into our ground that you chose not to dig up and just put your tracks right over top of it. She's asking you specifically, what led you to that decision?

ALAN SHAW, CEO, NORFOLK SOUTHERN: Ma'am, we made a lot of progress on remediation. We've dug up 4,600 cubic yards of soil and collected 1.7 million gallons of water. We will continue with the environmental remediation. In early March, we will start by tearing up the tracks and digging up the soil underneath the tracks.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Six weeks, oil is going to be sinking into our soil.

CONARD: So, until then, we'll just have it keep going down --

UNKNOWN: Keep it in our soils.


CAMEROTA: Jessica, then, last night, Norfolk Southern sent out this tweet. We will now excavate the soil and replace the tracks in response to feedback from the citizens of East Palestine. Work on the first rail line will begin immediately with the second line to be replaced directly after.

So, that was right as you were -- that was as the town hall was beginning. So, had he heard you? I mean, what's the timing of that happening there?

CONARD: You know, I think Mr. Shaw had every opportunity to bring that up during the town hall, and he chose not to. So, I do find the timing quite suspicious. But here's the thing, I'm ready to move forward. And if that's the plan and they're willing to do that immediately, let's get it done.

CAMEROTA: Jessica, Jim, thank you very much for the update.


CAMEROTA: It sounds like there's still a lot we need to learn and you need answers and a lot of work that needs to be done, but we will continually check with you to see what progress is being made. So, thanks so much for your time and for sharing all of this with us.

CONARD: Thank you, Alisyn.

STEWART: Thank you for having us.

CAMEROTA: Next, a 19-year-old accused of going on a killing spree in Orlando, killing a young reporter and a nine-year-old girl. Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings joins us next.




CAMEROTA: Tonight, new bodycam video shows the moment that Florida deputies took down the alleged gunman, suspected of killing three people in Orlando. The video shows the suspect struggling as officers subdue him, eventually pulling a gun out of his pocket. One of the officers notes the gun is -- quote -- "still hot." The 19-year-old suspect is now in custody.

Authorities allege that on Wednesday morning, the suspect first fatally shot a 38-year-old woman, then returned to the scene of the crime hours later, continuing the shooting spree that killed a T.V. reporter and a nine-year-old girl.

Joining me now is former Orlando police chief and former Florida Congresswoman Val Demings. Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here. What an awful story. I mean, this shooting spree, it killed people, it has people who are still critically wounded in the hospital. Do you have any thoughts on how this all unfolded and why?

VAL DEMINGS, FORMER FLORIDA REPRESENTATIVE: Well, Alisyn, look, we are still trying to figure out the why, but this is such a horrible tragedy for this community. It's such a sad story on so many levels. Five people shot. Three of them dead. As you've indicated, a nine- year-old child, a news reporter. You know, I served as the public information officer at the police department for a while, so I had an opportunity to work very closely with the media.

[23:30:04] A 19-year-old in possession of a gun, who has a very expensive criminal history. This story investigation is still unfolding. We are desperately -- I know the detectives and the sheriff are desperately, in this community, trying to find out why did this happen.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, can we just zero in on that part that you just mentioned? He was 19 years old. He had an extensive rap sheet, as you just said, for things like aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon, gun violations, grand theft. How is he not in prison?

DEMINGS: The question is, why is he not in prison and how can he be in possession of a gun? The prevalence of guns in the wrong hands leads to shooting sprees like this almost on a daily basis now in this country.

And while, you know, we were pleased with the Safer Communities Act that was passed in Congress, there had been 30 years before we passed any legislation, we know there's still much more work to be done. We've got to have federal legislation that can hopefully help to prevent mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting from happening.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the state of being a police officer right now and what Governor Ron DeSantis is doing to seize on the -- it sounds like low morale and disenchantment by some police officers. He has traveled to typically blue states. He went to Illinois, he went to New York, he went to Philadelphia, and he made this pitch to police officers there to come to Florida. So, here it is.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We created a program that if you come from out of state in one of these agencies and you go any agency in Florida, city, county state, you get $5,000 signing bonus right off the top.

My message is if you're disenchanted, if you don't think things are going to turn around, wherever you are, not just in New York, wherever, just know that there is a state that's doing it right, there's a state that will value your service.


CAMEROTA: What do you think of that pitch, congresswoman?

DEMINGS: You know, Alisyn, it's really pretty sad. I know Governor DeSantis wants to run. I think he's running for president. But what he has demonstrated is he believes that any group can be bought and sold.

And let's just think about this now. He is asking out of state law enforcement officers to leave the communities that they love. Yeah, it's a tough job. I know it's a tough job. But he is asking them to leave the communities that they love, the communities that they protect and serve every day to uproot their families, to leave their extended families, maybe the places where they grew up, and come to Florida for $5,000. It just demonstrates to me that he really doesn't know much at all about law enforcement officers. The overwhelming majority are good, decent people who risked their lives every day to serve their communities.


DEMINGS: So, to suggest that they would give up their home states, the states where they're serving, for $5,000 to move to Florida because he's promising them something as a presidential candidate is really pretty sad to me. It's almost insulting.

CAMEROTA: But congresswoman, don't you think what he's saying is partially true? I mean, they are disenchanted. I'm just looking at the statistics here. In terms of U.S. police departments around the country, retirements are up 40% in the past two years, resignations up 30%. In New York, the New York Police Department with about 34,000 officers has seen more resignations this year than any time in the past two decades.

So, isn't he fastening on something that's true in terms of police officers wanting out?

DEMINGS: The only thing he is talking about is low morale and be disenchanted. There are a lot of reasons why police officers retire. Look, I spent 27 years there, served as the chief of police. Many of them have served their time and it is time for them to retire. Many of them are injured on the job and need to retire.

And so, to suggest that the overwhelming reason why police officers, the men and women who wear that badge and are dedicated to protecting and serving their communities, to suggest that the only reason they're retiring is because they're all frustrated and disenchanted and the only thing that matters to them is $5,000 signing bonus, I think really underestimates the dedication and commitment that the men and women in blue have for the job.


CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Val Demings, we really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks so much for talking.

DEMINGS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Okay, back with me now, we have Dan Harris, Joe Pinion, Lauren Leader, and Joey Jackson. Joey, you and I were just talking about how -- about that Orlando case. Nineteen years old with a long rap sheet, not in prison.

I mean, this is so tragic, this case in particular, because this violence cuts across every element of life. A mom is shot, a nine- year- old is shot, a young, budding journalist who just got engaged is shot. I mean, it is ruining lives across the board, and he's 19 years old with a long rap sheet.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: With an extensive record. How did you get an extensive record when you're 19 years old? But it's a larger problem than that. Right? We can talk about this community or we can talk about so many other communities throughout the country that are experiencing horrific gun violence, and you ask yourself, what is it going to take?

And I thought about this, Alisyn. Is it legislation? Do we -- can we legislate morality? Can we legislate proper conduct? Can we legislate humanity? Can we legislate people behaving like human beings and respecting one another? I just don't know.

It starts in so many places. Right? It starts at homes, it starts around kitchen tables, it starts around schools, it starts with mothers and fathers, it starts with, yes, respecting the right to freedom to bear arms, but with that comes certain responsibilities, and when it's not exercised properly, we get these mass shootings. Very sad.

LEADER: I didn't grow up with active shooter drills. I didn't grow up with daily mass shootings as part of my life. I'm not that old. This is directly tied to the continual rollback of gun legislation, which worked in the 70s, 80s, 90s until the assault weapons ban, which was ultimately repealed. There's, of course, a direct correlation.

And the only -- we are the only nation in the world who has such permissive gun laws and also the only nation in the world that experiences these kinds of multiple times a day mass shooting.

Americans have had it. Americans agree on this. Eighty plus percent of Americans want to see common sense gun control.

CAMEROTA: I want to get to another story that is connected to guns because I think that this -- I think so many people are frustrated and don't know what to do, including the superintendent in the small town in Texas. He is -- it's outside of Abilene. After Uvalde, this superintendent and principal decided to arm themselves because they did not want to be at the mercy of some crazed, unhinged, you know, young man who comes in. So, they carry guns now. They took it upon themselves. They decided to do that.

And the superintendent, who is apparently beloved in the community, left his gun in a school bathroom for 15 minutes. A third-grader stumbled upon it and found it. And thank God nothing tragic happened. The third-grader went to the office, reported it. Obviously, it could've gone badly. This superintendent was trying to protect the kids.

PINION: Well, look, I think, first and foremost, we're grateful that that child is okay. And I think it just means that we have to have a greater level of vigilance. I think, you know, to Joey's point, we're talking about in some ways two different issues. On one hand, we're talking about what is the response that we should be having with this acceleration of mass shootings, with this acceleration of violence in our communities.

But the other part, again, getting to the core issue of the fact that criminality is run amok. Yes, we have a problem with guns, but we have a problem with illegal guns, not just guns in general.

And so, I think we're not having, I think, the very focused conversation about what we do about the scourge of illegal guns, what we do about making sure that we have 21st century best practices to protect our children.

I'll remind people that there are best practices for the children of power. If you're child of a president, if you're a child of a diplomat, they come in the middle of the night, they change the windows, they change the doors, and they put an armed guard there who dresses up like a janitor. So, I just think, again --

CAMEROTA: What does that mean for the rest of everybody?

PINION: I think what it means is that we should be asking the question, why are we not having the same standard for everyone else's children?

LEADER: We're supposed to live in an armored house now because Americans treasure their guns more than the safety of my family, my children?

PINION: I didn't say anything about your home, I'm talking about schools. I think, again, it's an infrastructure problem as well. I'm from Yonkers, New York. We are close to a billion dollars behind on school renovations. The average school building in my home town is seven years old. It is not equipped to deal with the modern-day threats to those children's everyday liberties.

I just think, on some basic level, yes, we have to deal with the fact that we have those illegal guns. We have to deal with the fact that we have these communities --

CAMEROTA: I want to get to Dan.

HARRIS: I just -- to go back to the point you made earlier, about the pain and (INAUDIBLE) here of the story. There is so much pain to go around here.

In particular, I'm thinking tonight about our fellow journalists. You know, journalists are not the most popular people in our culture, let's just be open about that, and yet they, especially at a local level, are risking their lives all the time to tell stories that matter in their community. This is what happens.


Journalists have been under siege increasingly, not only here, but around the world. And that's an important story.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. More journalists killed, I think, in the past year than in recent years, and he was 24 years old and just getting his start being a reporter.

Friends, thank you very much. Now to this, when Russia launched its war in Ukraine one year ago today, one Ukrainian couple moved up their wedding date. They got married that very day, then joined the fight to save their country. We are going to talk to them, next.



CAMEROTA: Vladimir Putin launched his war on Ukraine one year ago today. Here is the moment that CNN's team in Kyiv first heard the sounds of projectiles flying overhead as they rushed to put on protective gear, and that is when they knew the war had begun.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it is relatively safe at the moment. I've got to --


CHANCE: Oh! I got a flak jacket right here. Let me just get it on. I'm being told by our security that we need to get our flak jackets on, which we are doing.


CAMEROTA: For one Ukrainian couple, the beginning of the war prompted them to get married. So, on the day the war started, they tied the knot. And right after the wedding, that same day, they signed up to volunteer with their local territorial defense force.

Sviatoslav Fursin and Yaryna Arieva join me now. Guys, thanks so much for being here. Happy anniversary.



ARIEVA: This is not the kind of anniversary we would celebrate, but still, it is really strange that the year has passed and it was so long and so quick at the same time.

CAMEROTA: I can understand. So, when you look at the pictures that we just showed of your wedding day, Yaryna, what do you see? What do you think when you see that picture?

ARIEVA: I feel that kind of fear and not understanding what will be or what is to -- what we are going to expect, what will be to our land or our country in a few days. I was afraid kind of but, still, we are going to protect our country. There is no, like, question for us to go to the territorial defense after the wedding.

So, we have made decision to marry, like, in one hour because we have decided before, like, that we could do it. And when the war started, it was just the only way to do it because, you know, war can separate people or it can make them, like, stick together.

So, I didn't want to lose my husband because of the war, because of all the terrible things which we had to go through this year. But still, yes, the year has passed.

CAMEROTA: And so, what has this year been like for both of you?

ARIEVA: At the beginning, it was really hard because we were in the territorial defense. My husband was going to be in combat mission. It was really hard for me psychologically because I did not know what to expect. I couldn't hear from him. I couldn't call him. Every minute, I was afraid that maybe he could get injured or die. That really terrified me much.

Then it became a little easier psychologically and we were at the territorial defense for one month and maybe one week, I think. Just before -- we have left before the moment the Russians have left the key region.


ARIEVA: After (INAUDIBLE), yes. And then we have been volunteering. We have been bringing humanitarian aid to people in Kyiv region, the occupied territories. We still are volunteering and using (ph) the moment. I would say that we are collecting donations through (ph) bus because our car was broken, so we could bring humanitarian help and also help the -- aid for soldiers, again.

It will be very helpful because it is very important for people to remember about Ukraine, to remember about this war, how important this war is because this is a war between two worlds, between democratic world and authoritarian world.


ARIEVA: You know, we have to win this war because we have no other option. Other option is just Russia moving further and further, bringing destruction, terrors, deaths and horrors of hate.

CAMEROTA: I mean, you two have certainly sacrificed a lot and sacrificed your, you know, the first year of your marriage. Obviously, it wasn't supposed to be spent like this. But you have done this for your country and it is really honorable. We are glad that you are together and not apart, and that you got married. So, congratulations on your anniversary. It is great to see you both, and we will check in with you again soon.

ARIEVA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Interestingly, when President Biden just went to Kyiv, he went to the church where they got married.


There is video, I think, of him visiting that church where exactly a year ago, these two got married. I hope that we can pull that up. Can you imagine -- can you imagine being a young person and deciding on the day that you get married that you're also going to sign up to volunteer to fight?

HARRIS: The first year of marriage is always hard.


CAMEROTA: Exactly.

HARRIS: This is unimaginable, what they're having to put themselves through. I get a little disappointed with myself, honestly, for finding that I am not as drawn to these headlines about the war as I was a year ago. It does say something about human nature, in some ways. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Nuclear Armageddon is on the line, and yet I find myself scrolling back and buy some of these stories. It reminds me of something that a young Senator Barack Obama said in (INAUDIBLE). I think he was talking about Hurricane Katrina and the lack of attention to that. He said, America goes from shock to trance faster than any nation on earth.

LEADER: That's what's so powerful about Biden going to Kyiv this week. I mean, to turn the eyes of the world back in the way that only the American president can is riveting. It was just the most incredible demonstration of American resolve and really force Americans to face what is such a critical --

HARRIS: And yet, if you look at screenshots of the front page on the websites of local news from around the country, it wasn't on there. So, that tells you something about where our attentions are.

JACKSON: You have to really give a lot to the Ukrainian people, what they have gone through. Their resilience, their ability to fight back and to really protect what is so near and dear to them. And so, I think, even with Biden going there means an awful lot.

CAMEROTA: Every single time we speak to one of these Ukrainians, it is inspirational. It gives everybody strength, what they have lived through. We will be right back.




CAMEROTA: One programming note for you, join Dana Bash as she goes inside the fight against the world's oldest prejudice. This CNN special report "Rising Hate: Antisemitism in America" begins Friday night at 9:00.

Thanks so much for watching tonight. Our coverage continues.