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Trump Pressured Arizona Governor To Try To Find Fraud To Overturn 2020 Election; Do Legacy Admissions Give An Unfair Advantage To White Students?; CNN Interviews Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy; Fireworks Lead To Six Wildfires In Washington State Over the Weekend; Severe Weather May Impact July 4th. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired July 03, 2023 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, before we get to Pence's response to this call, I do want to give a little bit of context around these calls because we did know at the time that former President Donald Trump and then governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, did speak. We just didn't know the context of what exactly they spoke about.
Now, I learned over the weekend that Ducey has told people behind closed doors that it was essentially a pressure campaign from the former president to try and find widespread fraud to overturn the result of the 2020 election in the state of Arizona. As you will remember, Trump was losing by a small margin. It was about 11,000 votes.
We also learned that Pence made a series of calls to Governor Ducey at the same time. Now, I'm told by sources that this is not a pressure campaign, that Pence was reaching out to try and see if there was any evidence of widespread fraud and telling Ducey that if there was, to report it up the appropriate food chains. Now, Pence was asked about these calls specifically this weekend. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did check in with not only Governor Ducey but other governors in states that were going through the legal process of reviewing their election results. But there was no pressure involved. Margaret, I was -- I was calling to get an update. I passed along that information to the president and it was no more, no less than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: And Pence there is saying that there was no pressure from the former president on him to make those calls. But it is important to note something that has been widely reported, something that we read in these transcripts from Trump's aides at the time in the administration, there was enormous pressure on former Vice President Pence from the former president just overall to find widespread fraud, to overturn the 2020 election, and eventually not to certify that 2020 election. So that is important context there.
The other thing I want to point out about this call is that there's another call that we have reported extensively on. That's the one that is a recording of between Trump and the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in which he's essentially asking him to find votes to help him overturn the election in the state of Georgia.
That call has now been subject to the special counsel's investigation into Trump's handling of January 6th, 2020 election, and Brad Raffensperger has met with Jack Smith. Now, we have learned that Ducey has not been contacted by Jack Smith and that there is no recording of this call.
The other thing I want to say here is that we do have comment from the governor's spokesperson, a former governor spokesperson, on this call. He essentially just says that the governor stands by his action to certify the election and considers the issue to be in the rearview mirror, it's time to move on. But again, it is important to know that it is hard to move on because the former president is now running for office again.
A huge part of his platform is that 2020 election, saying that the 2020 election was rigged, a lot of his base still believes that, and it is still subject of this special counsel investigation, the 2020 election and Trump's handling of it. So, even though former Governor Ducey may be moving on, the country is not able to do so just yet. Alisyn?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for the reporting.
Back with me, "Vanity Fair" correspondent Molly Jong-Fast, "Rolling Stone" columnist Jay Michaelson, Republican strategist Jason Osborne, and constitutional law professor at John J. College of Criminal Justice, Gloria Browne-Marshall.
I don't know, Jay. Shouldn't Governor Ducey have mentioned this pressure campaign a little sooner than now?
JAY MICHAELSON, RABBI, WRITER FOR ROLLING STONE: You got to feel for the guy. I mean, it is kind of between a rock and a hard place. You know, he would love to move on so that he doesn't have to get any negatives, you know, from all the people who are still election deniers.
But I am struck really by some of the unlikely heroes in some of these stories, people who I may really disagree with strongly, ideologically. I would never think I would be, you know, praising, you know, Liz Cheney or Chris Christie or people like that.
CAMEROTA: Mike Pence.
MICHAELSON: And Mike Pence. But these are people who are standing up against someone who they kind of agree with. Maybe not on the election again but politically, they want the Republicans to succeed and yet they are taking really courageous stands. For me, rather than the kind of political football of, you know, who met with whom and whatever, I'm sort of struck really by the public ethics of this moment, that there are people standing up.
MOLLY JONG-FAST, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: I wouldn't be to struck. Okay? I mean, first of all, are we going take Mike Pence on his word? I mean --
CAMEROTA: He did -- he certified the election.
JONG-FAST: Right, but --
CAMEROTA: Didn't have to.
JONG-FAST: Right. Okay, he did the bare minimum --
MICHAELSON: Not the most --
JONG-FAST: He did the bare minimum because Dan Quayle told him he had to.
CAMEROTA: Okay. But he got there. I mean, he saved democracy.
JONG-FAST: Right. But I mean, I'm just saying like the idea that Trump, you know -- I mean, there are so many opportunities for Republicans to be brave and do the right thing. And then you have this Governor Ducey saying -- this former Governor Ducey saying this is all in the rearview. Like no, honey, this is how we got here.
It's Republicans saying this is all in the rearview, let him play golf. Remember, there were Republican officials who said it's not like he's trying to overturn the election. Right? Now, he's running on that.
CAMEROTA: Professor, this all rang a bail to me because we all remember the moment that Governor Gucey was, I think, certifying the election in his state, and his phone rang.
So, let's just play this because he had -- he had his phone specially designed to, when it was President Trump, it played "Hail to the Chief." So, let's listen for this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Okay, so professor, that was a moment where the president of the United States is calling, and he is like I will hold that call. And he doesn't answer, and he continues doing the work of the state to certify. Are you surprised that the special counsel, Jack Smith, has not spoken to Governor Ducey there?
GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, AUTHOR, PROFESSOR: I'm surprised because the special counsel has spoken to others and there have been this -- this -- this ongoing sense that there's a conspiracy, a national conspiracy, and Arizona would be a part of it.
The way that the former governor acted was like the teenager when a parent calls and they've called again and again, and I know what this is about. So, when I hear former Vice President Pence say there was no pressure, if one were to continue to call again and again asking the same question, that's harassment, that is pressure.
And even though they're asking, is there any fraud, they're actually understating -- the real question was, is there a vote you can find for me, are there 10,000 votes you can find for me in Arizona, which is what Donald Trump actually wanted.
So, yes, I believe that what Ducey did was courageous given the fact that, as was pointed out, the base will come for them and tear them to pieces, and Donald Trump then begins to have this harassment of Ducey on social media that then turns this man who had a presidential hopeful dream to say, I'm just going to leave office altogether.
CAMEROTA: Hmm. Jason, your thoughts?
JASON OSBORNE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First of, I don't know, I would say downloading a ring tone, especially designing a phone to --
CAMEROTA: Okay, yes, you're right. Thank you -- thank you for highlighting my technological know-how. But the point is it was designed to know when it was Donald Trump calling.
OSBORNE: Right. I mean -- look, I think it's a mistake to think that that was one -- just one call. Right? I think there were probably many calls. I not only fault President Trump for doing that. I think it was an act of desperation. You know, I think -- I would like to think that nobody else would act like that.
But he wasn't getting the answers from the people that were making those calls before him. So, I'd be curious to see if we can get a list of all the calls that were made in Ducey's office, all the back channels to everybody else in that office. And the other states, too.
And I think Mike Pence, to Molly's point, I have never once heard anybody claim that Mike Pence is a liar. I take him at his word. And I think Mike Pence, being a former governor, has a relationship with all the former governors.
And he wanted for himself to say, to empathize with Doug Ducey and what he was doing, just like he called -- I'm sure called Brian Kemp and other Republican governors to get what is the story on the ground and then be able to go back to the president and say there is nothing to be done. But yet Trump did not want to listen to any of that and he continued to do, to the previous person's comment, harass the governors and other elected officials.
CAMEROTA: Okay. Let's move on to what CNN's K-File has unearthed. And we all, I think, will remember that in 2016, Donald Trump as a candidate was very concerned about having a potential president who could be under indictment. He talked about it a lot. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial. It would grind government to a halt.
If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis that would cripple the operations of our government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Well, Jay, it settled. I mean, that's how he felt about Hillary Clinton. Obviously, he must feel that way about his own possible indictment.
MICHAELSON: I mean, is this even a gotcha? The guy himself is a walking constitutional crisis. We've lost track of how much of the Constitution -- he said he wants to suspend the Constitution, literally kind of a hallmark of fascism. He said he wants to weaponize the government to go against his political enemies. Literally, another hallmark of fascism.
So, I don't even know if this count as a gotcha, that he is a hypocrite, that he said one thing before. I mean, the threat that this individual poses to our way of life and our country should really -- it's July 4th, right? We should be celebrating and not being kept awake at night wondering which new article of the Constitution Donald Trump is going to try to violate.
CAMEROTA: Molly, former President Trump has really worn people down with saying two things at once because people like Jay and a lot of people say, well, there is Trump being Trump, but I mean he was quite crystal clear that the country could never have a president, a candidate running for president who was under indictment. That would be a constitutional crisis back then.
JONG-FAST: Imagine that he found out that there was someone who had been indicted twice on state charges and federal charges, and then impeached twice. And that person --
CAMEROTA: He would not have liked that, twice impeached.
JONG-FAST: He would not have liked that. But, you know, with Trump, a lot of the Trump stuff was projection. Right? Like that there -- you know, this kind of Hillary is dangerous for the reason -- I mean, he did everything.
And remember, I think part of what is sort of the hallmark of him was that he would also just, you know, lie and not tell the truth. And, you know, anything that would sort of serve his case, he would go along with.
CAMEROTA: Professor, you're our constitutional law expert. What do you think when you hear President Trump say that in 2016?
BROWNE-MARSHALL: I think about the 25th Amendment. I raised that many times before. I think he's emotionally troubled and there is the possibility, it has been raised before, that if he were to be in this particular position and for some reason, God help us all, becomes president again, that we would have to invoke the 25th Amendment because there are too many mental issues here telling us that this man should not be in office.
But I would have to also say, there is nothing that states that he can't run and there is nothing that states that someone who is indicted cannot run for office. And if it bogs down our democracy -- I'm someone who travels internationally and I've asked people outside of the country, what do you think of what's happening in this country?
We've lost so much credibility around the world because of Donald Trump and many issues, too, but because of Donald Trump and because of our system.
But I will say this one positive thing going back to July 4th. We are still here able to discuss democracy and there are nationalist presidents around the world. And the fact that we still have checks and balances in place, with a very conservative supermajority Supreme Court, with his appointees there, with so many issues.
So, I would say we really have to keep this idea of a democracy going and make sure that we understand that we have to be strong and not have him wear us down until we give up and say, you know, I'm tired of hearing about this man. What does he want and when can we give it to him?
CAMEROTA: I appreciate you saying all of that, professor, because I do think we need to keep in mind our patriotism and what we are proud of, and then we get to have these conversations every day on TV.
Jason, your thoughts?
OSBORNE: I'm waiting for the next show where Jay shows up in his "lock him up" t-shirt just to symbolize exactly what the Trump campaign theme was in 2016.
But, you know, loo, I would hope that he would acknowledge that what he said in the past was wrong. I think what he is going to say is that he meant legitimately indicted because he thinks all those indictments are not correct.
And then I also think that he, in his mind, or he has got people around him that are honestly saying, look, once you get elected, you can pardon yourself even though at least one of the indictments is a state charge. But he's going to try and find a way to convince New York that he can be -- he can pardon himself.
You know, look, there is going to be, we've got, I can't even count how many months we have left in this campaign, but at least in the primary season, this will not be the first time that his previous statements come back to bite him and are in direct contradiction to things that he is campaigning on now.
CAMEROTA: That's true. But he just felt so strongly about it. In 2016, it would be an unprecedented constitutional crisis that would cripple the operations of our government. But I take your point. Thank you all very much.
So, there's a lot of talk about affirmative actions since the Supreme Court did away with it on college campuses. But what about legacy admissions? Are those affirmative action for white students? My panel has thoughts, next.
CAMEROTA: A new lawsuit takes aim at Harvard's legacy admissions policy. This is hot on the heels of the Supreme Court decision to dismantle affirmative action.
This lawsuit brought by three Black and Latino groups accuses Harvard of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with their special consideration of legacy students and donor families in admissions.
The lawsuit argues that it gives unfair advantage to white students based on their connections. The lawsuit cites a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that found while 40% of Harvard applicants are typically white, 70% of legacy applicants are white. The report also found that legacy applicants are 67 times more likely to gain admission.
My panel is back to discuss. Jay, you are a legacy student at an Ivy League school. And at the time, it was a point of pride. Did anybody ever say to you, oh, I know how you got in, you don't deserve to be here?
MICHAELSON: No. I was a beneficiary of, you know, the old kind of affirmative action where if you had parents who went to the school, you got in. Unfortunately for me, my parents were not the wealthy donor of sorts to the Colombia University, but my father was a graduate there, my uncle was a graduate there.
CAMEROTA: So, it worked out --
MICHAELSON: -- but we didn't -- you know, I was really -- I was really moved. You know, I think it was Joy Reid who read a clip where she said -- you know, she was haunted by the fact that people thought like -- she was worried that people felt she didn't deserve to be there because she was a beneficiary of affirmative action.
But I can say, from my privilege point of view, we were -- I was proud of it. In fact, there was a whole sort of elitist fraternity just at Columbia only for the children of legacies. So, you know, when people say we should be color blind, it should be a two-way street, it was not a two-way street. This was the kind of extra bonus that people were proud of.
It was the opposite of stigma. It was seen as privilege. Absolutely, I was a beneficiary of that. When people think that there is some sort of a neutral ground -- I'm not commenting on the merits of the lawsuit, which I don't think are very significant. But certainly, it just does not matter, thinking that there is somehow -- everybody has equal access. That's ridiculous.
CAMEROTA: Molly, you -- I don't know if you treated this out, but you called it to our attention. This is JFK's Harvard application essay. Okay? So, former President Kennedy applied to Harvard with this argument.
I've always wanted to go there. I have always felt that it is not just another college, but it is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a "Harvard man" is an enviable distinction and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain. And he did.
JONG-FAST: As someone myself who has had a lot of advantages because of my mother, my grandfather successes, I think it is really important to not let people into college because of who their parents are. And, you know, I would go one further and say like we should be looking at, you know, athletes and musicians and the ways in which the administration gets around just looking at people for being capable.
But for sure, there is nothing to recommend this who legacy application. The reason that it's done is for donations, right, because they think that they can get more alumni giving if there's a legacy.
CAMEROTA: If there is a family legacy. Maybe that is true. But it's an advantage to the students.
JONG-FAST: Right. And also, many, many of these schools have -- I mean, the very elite colleges have millions, billions of dollar endowments. They're fine. They're going to be fine.
CAMEROTA: Professor, it is so eye-opening to look at it through this lens. I mean, this is the conversation that has happened, you know -- I mean, more acutely, I should say, since the Supreme Court ruling last week of just what is affirmative action, what is an unfair advantage? When you look at it this way, how's legacy not in that, you know, in that category?
BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, it's very interesting listening to the conversation of the other panelists and hearing how they can so, you know, casually speak of their advantage because now, it has been years later when Justice Clarence Thomas is still struggling with what he considers a stigma that he encountered as someone who gained office and gained college admission and other privileges based on affirmative action, and now regrets that he has had these privileges, but he never gave any of them up.
I think one of my major concerns is, what is the educational connection to legacy? Because that is what the Supreme Court is saying about affirmative action. The diversity has no educational component. That's what Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion.
So, what is the educational benefit to the college and to the other students in the classroom for legacy applicants? Once again, it goes back to the money that they bring in and maybe the prestige being a second and third generation. The connections that are being made in these schools is priceless. That is what the parents want. The parents want their children to be in classrooms and dormitories to share space with future leaders.
And so, the education can be the same, great education found somewhere else. But the benefits of being in that environment go well beyond anything that we can find in another situation. I have to say that last fall, I was a fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School, and I was also a visiting professor there. I saw the resources that Harvard had to offer its students.
It's not saying that the students there were all brilliant. Some of them were very smart, but they were not all brilliant. But the aspect now is, how much more are they going to get because they are brushing shoulders with other people who are going to be those future leaders?
And so, yes, legacy is something that is inheritance. I believe that there is a racial component to it since -- for so many generations. People of color were not allowed to attend the schools. Of course, they did not have the legacy advantage that white students and then white alumni have.
But I also believe that as long as there are people getting in criminal jeopardy because they're trying to buy their way in to these schools, since that what the schools offer is beyond an education, it is a step into the direction of being one of the top tier people in this county and being in the 1% --
BROWNE-MARSHALL: -- as far as political, economic, and social achievement goes.
CAMEROTA: You're so right, it is the network. That it exposes students, too, that, I should say, is priceless. Jason, we have a statement from Harvard. So, the senior communications officer at Harvard College, Nicole Rura, says the school will not comment on this specific lawsuit. [23:25:03]
Quote -- "As we said in the weeks and months ahead, the university will determine how to preserve our essential values, consistent with the court's new precedent." That is what she said to CNN in an email.
But it is interesting, Jason, to think that affirmative action has been stigmatizing to people. And it's not just Clarence Thomas. Other people have said that they got -- they felt as if people looked at them, oh, I know you how you got there, and legacy was a badge of honor.
OSBORNE: Right. I mean, I think I would be hypocritical if I agreed with the Supreme Court decision but did not agree with the lawsuit coming forward here. I think that if we're going to have an even playing field, as much as possible, because we all realize it's not always an even playing field, I think they will find ways to get around folks that want to go there that have legacy. They are going to find a way to get around it.
We had the case a few years ago with folks getting into rowing or tennis or faking surfing to be able to get in to the school. They will find a way. But I think this case, I would like to see it go all the way. I'm curious to see how the Supreme Court will rule on it.
But I also read something earlier today, too, that somebody suggested that they look at the beneficiaries of faculty members and their kids getting into the schools as well. Are they getting an inherent advantage because their parents are teaching at those schools?
CAMEROTA: Hmm. Okay. There are apparently a lot of interesting ways to get into college. They have nothing to do with your grades and achievements. So, I will keep exploring all of that. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, we have an exclusive interview with Ukraine's president. What he is saying about his country's attempt to kick Russian occupiers out of Crimea. How realistic is that goal?
CAMEROTA: Russia deploying more than 180,000 troops to two major eastern fronts in Ukraine. A spokesperson for the Ukrainian armed forces says that these are air assault and mechanized units and a new "Storm Z" assault companies are recruited that count people with criminal records in their recruits.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy speaking with CNN's Erin Burnett today about how far Ukraine will go to take back their territory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (Through translator): We cannot imagine Ukraine without Crimea. Now, Crimea is under the Russian occupation. It means only one thing. War is not over yet.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: To be clear, in victory, in peace, is there any scenario where Crimea is not part of Ukraine?
ZELENSKYY (Through translator): It will not be victory then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Let's bring in CNN national security analyst Steve Hall and retired lieutenant general Mark Hertling, who is a CNN military analyst. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here this evening.
Steve, you heard President Zelenskyy there. So, Ukraine will fight until they get Crimea back. So, does that suggest that any hope of some sort of broker deal, which was spoken of months ago, not lately, is off the table?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, I don't think it's necessarily off the table. I mean, it is obviously a decision that the Ukrainians themselves have to make. It is a very difficult geopolitical decision and obviously very difficult wartime decision. Does one decide at the end of the day as a country, a sovereign country, which Crimea is definitely part of Ukraine? Still is, as far as the international community is concerned. But do you, as a country, Ukraine, say, I am going to exchange land so that we can end a war?
Clearly, Ukraine is not at that particular point yet geopolitically. That is what, I think, you heard the president say, what you heard Zelenskyy say. Will it come to that point? It is too hard to say and only Ukrainians can make that decision.
I think that when you hear western policy makers, whether it is Americans or others, say that it is the Ukrainians' decision, that's not just a political statement. That is actually the truth. They do have to make that decision. They're not there yet clearly, but we'll see what happens as the war continues.
CAMEROTA: General, we have heard for the better part of a month now about Ukraine's big counteroffensive that they were going to be planning. And now, we hear 180,000 Russian troops moving in to this eastern front. So, what does that mean for the Ukrainian counteroffensive?
MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED LIEUTENANT GENERAL: It is not that they're moving in, Alisyn. It is that Ukrainian commander suggested that he had estimated there were 150,000 troops in the eastern part of the country.
There are military reasons for that. There are tactical operational reasons for that. I believe that what the Russians are doing is trying to shore up the central part because Mr. Putin cannot afford to lose the Donbas. That was the first area that he attacked in 2014. There have been some gains by the Ukrainian forces in gaining back territory in the east, in the Donbas region.
Ukraine also wants to liberate Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces in the southeast. So, by the Russians moving more and more forces into the east, Ukraine has to stay there to defend against that. They cannot reinforce some of their actions in the southeast.
So, what we are seeing is what normally plays out on the battlefield: Moves, countermoves by enemies to try and gain ground. In this case, Ukraine is attempting to truthfully operationalize along a 600- kilometer front. Where are the best places to attack?
Where are the best places are to gain ground first? They would like to do it in some ways to the disadvantage of the Russians. The Russians are reinforcing their lines in the east to prevent them from doing that. This is typical combat activity.
CAMEROTA: It was very interesting to hear Erin talk to President Zelenskyy about the short-lived coup, the Wagner uprising. So, here is what President Zelenskyy describe -- here is how he described Russia's grip on power after that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENSKYY (through translator): We see Putin's reaction. It is weak. Firstly, we see he doesn't control everything. Wagner moving deep into Russia and taking certain regions shows how easy it is to do. Putin doesn't control the situation in the region. He doesn't control the security situation.
All of us understand that his whole army is in Ukraine. Almost entire army is there. That's why it's so easy for the Wagner troops to march through Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Steve, is that true? That Putin doesn't control some territories?
HALL: Alisyn, let's start with the fact that it's extremely difficult to determine what was precisely going on inside the kremlin. The reason that I say that is because the first question that pops up, I think this is what Zelenskyy was trying to get at, how could have this happened?
I think that he's saying a lot of things that are correct. I think that it is the case that there are so much -- there are so much Russian focus. And so many Russian troops in Ukraine right now, to include his internal security services like the FSB, that its primary responsibility in the past has been to project the regime. The FSB's focus now apparently shifted into Ukraine which, of course, has indeed -- I think Zelenskyy is right -- made some parts of Russia less secure than they were before.
So, I think that he's right. Putin is weakened here. There are a lot of people who are saying, well, let us be careful when we talk about Putin being weak. Nevertheless, there are some facts on the ground. One of them is that a mutinous group of Russian military guys, the Wagner Group, almost made it to Moscow, to the gates of Moscow, under Putin's watch.
You know, I think just a couple of weeks ago, many of us would've said, well, that is virtually unthinkable, that couldn't happen. So, Zelenskyy is right, he is not as strong inside of Russia as he was before this happened.
CAMEROTA: What do you think, general?
HERTLING: I think the same thing. Steve is exactly right. Remember, Alisyn, we haven't just seen the Prigozhin troops, the Wagner Group, heading back into Russia, toward (INAUDIBLE), north toward Moscow, unimpeded by any Russian security forces.
But let's go back about a month. We had the Russian victory core, the so-called mutiny years that had decided to invade Belgorod and Kursk and Sloviansk. These -- these were other forces that weren't stopped by any security detail as they went back toward Moscow, into Russian Oblast.
So, I believe that Zelenskyy is right on target. The Russian army is mostly in Ukraine right now. The very fact you mentioned early on in the program about how there were more airborne and air assault troops in the east, that is an indicator. Like Steve said, those guys are usually the palace guards. Those are the most elite troops.
So, if he is trying to put them in defensive positions, something that they are not really good at, these are people that jump out of airplanes and attack targets, if he is putting them in defensive positions, that means that he is hurting.
We have seen all along that even though the defensive battle is going to be very tough for Ukraine, they've succeeded. They have regained territory. You know, Russia started this war with 200,000 soldiers going into Ukraine. Now, they're saying, well, we got 150,000 in the Donbas. Ukraine did very well at the beginning against a much larger force, spread out over much larger territory.
I have high hopes for what the Ukrainians are going to do. It will take time. It will certainly take time and there will be a lot of casualties, but this is a tough fight.
CAMEROTA: Hmm. General Hertling, Steve Hall, thank you both very much.
HALL: Thanks, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Okay, back here, think twice before setting off fireworks this 4th of July. They are responsible for at least six wildfires in Washington State this weekend. That story, next.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CAMEROTA: Firefighters in Washington State are battling a wildfire that has been burning since early Sunday morning. It covers more than 500 acres. It is the "Tunnel Five Fire" and it has forced hundreds of people to flee their neighborhoods.
So far, it has destroyed ten homes. It threatens 250 more. This fire is currently 0% contained. And the cause is still unknown. And it was not the only fire in Washington State this weekend. Fireworks sparked six smaller fires in the Pacific Cascade region.
Joining me now is Washington's commissioner of public lands Hilary Franz. Hilary, thank you so much for being here. How worried are you about the 4th of July celebrations with fireworks tomorrow?
HILARY FRANZ, WASHINGTON COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC LANDS: Extremely worried. Right now, our landscape is extremely hot. It is extremely dry. We have winds down in those conditions. You can see on the screen right there. And all it takes is literally one spark in these areas. We 100,000 -- it could be a 100,000-acre fire -- 100,000-acre fires in very few little days.
CAMEROTA: So, what is the balance between -- what are you telling people?
Because, obviously, everybody wants to celebrate the 4th of July, but they want to be safe. What is the balance?
FRANZ: I mean, the 4th of July represents truly the best of America and no one personifies these American values more than our firefighters. If you really think about it, our firefighters are people of service, dedication, and courage. They put their lives on the line every single day. Fighting to protect the lives of strangers they will never meet. They are really the best of the best, our role models, our heroes.
And honestly, this is a time where we need to celebrate them and protect them. That means across Washington State, across our country, we need to take care of them by being one less spark. We're urging people, please do not light fireworks. Go to a firework show that is set up by a professional. Watch it. Keep yourself safe, keep your neighbors safe, keep our firefighters safe.
Those images you just saw of that community, it was just a few years ago where a firework literally sparked a fire that burned tens of thousands of acres. It was just a foolish air. They thought no big deal. Unfortunately, it truly threatened lives and damaged that entire landscape and that community, and our firefighters were fighting it for days and weeks.
CAMEROTA: So, the professional firework shows have not caused any fires. Everything that the firefighters are battling, in terms of fireworks, those were just amateurs?
FRANZ: That's right. What's really happening, as people are out having fun, we understand it. They are out in the communities, they are wanting to celebrate this beautiful holiday weekend, celebrate America. We understand that.
Unfortunately, right now, especially in Washington State, we are seeing extremely hot weather and we've had significant period of time with no moisture. And so, our landscapes are extremely. You mentioned six fires. The reality is all it takes is one spark and we will have 50 fires quickly, and then that leads to reduced resources.
So, if you're looking at a number of fires, you have five on the landscape. It is taking, on this particular fires, 8 to 10 air resources. Thousands of firefighters. We will have engines. All of those fires take an enormous amount of resources and they get very, very stretched when we have so many fires happening on the landscape, state-by-state, community by community.
CAMEROTA: It's incredible, Hilary, how much the weather pattern in Washington State has changed over the past decades. It used to be known for rain. It used to be known for being wet, so many months per year. It has really changed now.
This Tunnel Fire, so, talk about that. It scorched, as we reported, more than 500 acres of land. Is it still 0% contained at this hour?
FRANZ: It is. It is not to any factor than of our firefighters and our air resources. We have had over -- literally eight plus air resources, scoopers, fire bosses as well as thousands of firefighters on that fire with dozer operators and engines fighting the blazes. Unfortunately, what you have is hot dry conditions.
You also have an area that has amazing wind. It is known for its wind surfing and kite surfing. But unfortunately, when you take fire and you take fuel and you add wind, you have an enormously dangerous situation. Sadly, we have thousands of people whose homes are at risk. We have thousands of people who are at risk.
So, we are urging people to take every step. We are on this fire, we have been working it morning until night starting yesterday when it started. We are working as hard as we can. But unfortunately, it gets very, very difficult with those winds. We are hoping that we will get some breath of fresh air. of reduced wind, and hopefully some moisture. But unfortunately, there is none on the horizon.
CAMEROTA: Well, we know the people appreciate everything that you are doing. Thanks for letting us help you get the message out tonight about what you are hoping for 4th of July. Hilary Franz, thanks so much for being here.
FRANZ: Thank you so much. Be safe everyone.
CAMEROTA: You, too. Well, parts of the country can expect thunderstorms and other severe weather to impact 4th of July celebrations tomorrow. Chad Myers is at the National Weather Map when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CAMEROTA: Thunderstorms, lightning, and other severe weather could affect your 4th of July celebrations. Meteorologist Chad Myers is here to tell us what to expect. Hi, Chad.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Alisyn, two areas of concern for your 4th of July. The major threat back out to the west here in the yellow, that is where there could be hail, severe weather, could be lightning and thunder, and also severe gusty winds out there.
Across the Deep South and up the east coast, this is where I'm more concerned about lightning from the sky to the ground, and that is where people will be outside. So, you have to watch this.
The storms that we had earlier today have now moved offshore. They are moving very quickly offshore. By 3:00, they are all gone. But you will notice, a few more showers and storms pop up throughout the heat of the day in the northeast. So, there will be some thunder and lightning there.
Not as much as probably as down across the Deep South where storms fired all day on Monday in some spots. They will go in the overnight hours but then will be back again in the heat of the day with more lightning from cloud to ground, with people outside. By Wednesday morning, it is all over, but somewhere around that 7:00 or 8:00 area for tomorrow night, that is when things could get a little bit exciting.
Back out here towards the Midwest where the severe weather or the severest weather will be, Minneapolis, back down to into Omaha, Lincoln. This is where a line of weather will push through with wind, hail, and possibly severe thunderstorms right around sunset and the like where you might want to be outside watching fireworks.
This is going to be a place to watch closely. Neither could be shower in D.C. in the heat of day but really things calm down certainly by nightfall. The heat is going to be across the Deep South where it is going to be muggy, but the temperatures are going to be the warmest out in the southwest where we still have heat advisories. I mean, Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, all above 100 degrees throughout the afternoon.
So, 90% of the country has a very nice 4th of July. There are a few little spots that will sprinkle around that will certainly get interesting at times. Just make sure you have a way to get warnings either on your phone or however you do it. Just make sure that if you are outside tomorrow, you have a way to know that a thunderstorm is coming.
CAMEROTA: Right. Hail and wind sound too exciting. Chad, thank you.
Okay, CNN's 4th of July special returns with an all-star lineup. Celebrate with spectacular professional fireworks and the awesome musical performances in store. You can watch CNN's "Fourth in America" live, July 4th, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.
Thank you so much for watching CNN TONIGHT. Our coverage continues now.