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Erin Burnett Outfront

Official: Police Chief Not Responding To Investigators' Request; Texas Official Now Says Teacher Did Not Leave Door Propped Open; Sen. Murphy: Bipartisan Group Is Discussing Red Flag Laws, Background Checks, School Security And Mental Health; Source: Key Senators Meeting Again On Gun Reform Tomorrow; Treasury Secretary Yellen To CNN: "I Was Wrong" On Inflation; Protests Escalate In Southern Ukrainian Town Captured By Russia; Shanghai Eases COVID Restrictions After Two-Month Lockdown. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 31, 2022 - 19:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the shocking admission from Texas officials, we now know the teacher who propped open the door before the school massacre closed that door before the gunman entered that directly contradicts what police told the public days ago.

Also, a Texas Republican and longtime gun owner turning in his AR-15, a weapon similar to the weapon used by the Uvalde gunman to police. Why now, and what new gun laws does he think our nation needs? He is my guest tonight.

Plus, celebrations in Shanghai. Millions now able to move about freely after two months of brutal lockdowns, but will newfound freedoms last?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, several major developments in the investigation in the elementary school massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Texas officials tonight revealing the incident commander during that shooting, Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, is now not responding to investigator's request for a follow up interview.

This also comes as the Texas Department of Public Safety tonight confirms the elementary school teacher who propped open the door right before the attack did in fact close it before the gunman entered. The teacher initially propped open the door with a rock then ran back inside to get her phone when the gunman crashed his truck and according to the official, she then removed the rock, closed the door, it just didn't lock and now investigators are looking into why. This information is not what police originally said during their press conference on Friday.


COL. STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: We know from video evidence, 11:27, the exterior door, suspected, of where we knew the shooter entered, Ramos, was propped open by a teacher.


HARLOW: This is a major discrepancy and it comes as we're also getting a clearer picture of exactly what police may have known during the massacre in Uvalde, CNN obtaining a Facebook live video recorded outside the school during the shooting and it appears to include a radio call of a child saying that they have been shot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you injured?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They shot a kid?


HARLOW: Now it's unclear at what point during the shooting that video was taken but raises serious questions about why police waited more than an hour to enter the classroom where the 18-year-old gunman was held up with children pleading for help.

These are questions that haunt the community now, saying its final goodbyes to the young victim.

Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT tonight in Uvalde, Texas.

Omar, what more are you learning?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, despite reports to the contrary, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson is now saying both the Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde Independent School District are still cooperating with state investigators. However, the chief of police for the school district has not responded to any follow-up requests for an interview and it has now been days.

Today, also, though, begins the funerals for 19 children that were killed and the two adults, the beginning of what is going to be a long process here in this town.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): One week ago, 19 families sent their children to school and they never came home, leaving loved ones only memories as community members, even actor Matthew McConaughey whose hometown is Uvalde come to pay their respects. Those close to the 21 killed can't help but think about those last moments as they prepare to lay their own to rest, a funeral for 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez is the first. She's remembered by family as sweet, charismatic and loving as seen in this video with her cousin.

DESTINY ESQUIVEL, COUSIN OF SHOOTING VICTIM MAITE RODRIGUEZ: Her classmates say she was grabbing all the other student and see telling them where to hide before the gunman turned on her but that she was so brave and courageous to tell the kids to hide.

JIMENEZ: A heartbroken community, attending five services today, two funerals and three visitations for four children and one teacher among the 21 killed, as more details come to light. It's unclear at what point during the shooting this video was taken. The apparent radio call was videotaped by a man who told CNN he heard the dispatch from radio of the Customs and Border Patrol vehicle outside the school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you injured?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid got shot?

JIMENEZ: The radio traffic audio adding new concerns about what law enforcement knew during that hour they were still waiting to enter the classroom, and before they killed the gunman.

One off-duty Customs and Border Patrol agent ran to the school when he heard about shots fired.

JACOB ALBARADO, OFF-DUTY CUSTOMS AND BORDER PATROL OFFICER: The kids -- the police were on the windows outside and the kids were jumping out the window.

JIMENEZ: Officials say at least two children called 911 multiple times begging police to come while the gunman was still inside their classroom.

ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D), TEXAS STATE SENATE: The information is flowing in. Why doesn't DPS have that information, the sheriff's office, the federal guys, the local police, this is a failure at every level.

JIMENEZ: The Texas Department of Public Safety director says one child told the 911 operator eight or nine students were still alive.

Audio from the unconfirmed source revealing at some point, law enforcement was aware kids were inside the classroom.

DISPATCHER: Child is advising he is in the room full of victims.

GUTIERREZ: At what point do people not use common sense here, listen to 911 calls coming in, know kids are still alive inside and know they have to go in there and do their jobs under the active shooter protocol.

JIMENEZ: One teacher who escaped the shooting said she wants the blame to focus on the gunman.

NICOLE OGBURN, TEACHER, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: I just hate that we have to look for blame to somebody else besides the person that actually did this to us.

JIMENEZ: But the families are now left with more questions than answers as they focus on the lives that are lost.

ESQUIVEL: She isn't just another victim. She's a hero. And that ten years wasn't enough.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And the funeral for young Maite should be starting around now.

And even as I walked around today was hard to find people who were not affected by this, if not directly, they knew someone who was. They grew up with someone who was. They went to school at Robb Elementary.

So, while in the near future we are going to see families mourning, it is not an under statement to say that this community will be mourning right there with them -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course, they will. Omar Jimenez, thank you so much for your reporting.

And OUTFRONT now, former acting Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony Barksdale, and Kenneth Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, and a former Cleveland school security director.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with me.

Commissioner Barksdale, the news that we got tonight that the Texas Department of Public Safety says the school district police chief, the man who was in charge of everything that day, Chief Arredondo as the incident commander has not responded to incident request for follow-up interview, that request made days ago. How can that happen?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it happens when you've screwed up. It happens when you've let so many kids and teachers die because you did the wrong thing as the incident commander. You wanted to be incident commander, a lot of accountability comes with it.

So I'm not surprised that he's now become silent or uncooperative. I would guess, based on my experience, that he may have found a lawyer that told him to shut up and don't say anything. So, it's disturbing, it's not right, it's not fair to those that lost their lives or their families.

We need answers and I don't think we're going to get anything from him right now.

HARLOW: You know, Kenneth, you're nodding and one of the real concerns here is the information that keeps changing and directly contradicting what officials said, you know, previously. The director of Texas DPS said multiple times, look, the shooter entered a building propped open door by a teacher. Tonight, that same agency is admitting surveillance video shows the teacher removed the rock that was propping open the door and closed it, but that door didn't lock.

That's very different and it's just not the first major detail that officials have gotten wrong.

KENNETH TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY SERVICES: Right. This is one of the most chaotic communication situations I have seen if more than three decades, not only firsthand experience but my research at Johns Hopkins on the intersection of strategic crisis leadership and risk communications.

Bottom line is this: you get small chunks of information as you're absolutely confident that you got it right. I think the first press conference was a disaster that still haunting them now, and the only thing that's more tragic and stressful to an anxious school community is mixed information, mixed messages on top of an already tragic situation.

HARLOW: Commissioner Barksdale, you asked U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agent Jacob Albarado was off-duty at the time of the shooting but we know he rushed in to help his wife, who's a teacher at the school, texted him to tell him what was happening.


Listen to what he told NBC News when he saw what was happening and when he ended up outside of the door of the room where the shooter was.


JACOB ALBARADO, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION AGENT: I was there at the door, fixing to go in, but once again, didn't have any of my gear, it wouldn't have been a smart move for me. All those guys had their gear and stuff. I believe everyone there was doing everything in their power.


HARLOW: And he said that those 19 officers waiting outside the classroom door had all their gear, but we know it was over an hour before anyone breached the door, confronted the shooter, still said I think everyone did what was in their power. What do you think when you hear that?

BARKSDALE: That's -- that's disturbing because we were told they were waiting for equipment to come. And now, this -- he is saying that they had their gear. He knows gear. So gear is whatever weapons you need, maybe ballistic shields, whatever. So if they had it, then why weren't they engaging?

HARLOW: But --


BARKSDALE: I'm sorry, go ahead.

HARLOW: No, I apologize for interrupting, I'm thinking even if they didn't have their gear, the children had no gear.

BARKSDALE: You know, gear, no gear, if you've got a gun, you go. It's just -- I'm trying to make sense of this story now, and it's too much. If they have gear, engage, if you don't have all your equipment and you can exchange back and forth with this killer, then exchange with him, draw his attention to you and try to kill him. Try to put him down. It's just a complete failure.

HARLOW: Kenneth, we played a little bit earlier, a few minutes of that video that captured what appears to be a radio call from a student inside of the school in the middle of this and you hear someone say, I got shot.

Now, it is unclear, we don't know at what point in the shooting this took place. But the man who recorded that video said the audio came from the radio and a Customs and Border Patrol vehicle outside the school. What does that tell you?

TRUMP: When you get calls from children begging for help, somebody needs to respond. There have been a number of reports, still many things that need to be confirmed or dismissed, reported that the school police chief, the incident commander, may not have had his walkie-talkie, his two-way radio on him which is another issue.

But the key is the amount of time here. 30 minutes, 60 minutes, we can see the fog of war additionally as you roll up, and that 30, 60 minutes later. I have tried for days took of some possible legitimate answer to be fair and objective on this, and I just can't have it.

And when you hear those kids calling, the fact that they called, as a parent, you just, you don't know what to say because you can't think of anything that would be an excuse on, for not going in.

Look, if there are small departments, which is something we often here, small communities, that's more the reason to beef up your training, have as much gear as you can to at least make an entry, have some tools in your hand and be able to go, because you know, ahead of time, that you're going to have a delayed response in getting your mutual aid from other people.

That is not an excuse for not acting. It's -- and it's not an excuse for not being prepared, to have something in your trunk, in your gear, in your tactics to know, look, it's going to take a while. We might, we're small, but we need to go.

That's more the reason than perhaps if you had a large metro area where you had more resources already in place. HARLOW: Kenneth Trump, thank you. Anthony Barksdale, we appreciate it

very much tonight. So many questions remaining.

Well, OUTFRONT next, he has been NRA member for most of his life, but after the massacre in Uvalde, he turned in his AR-15 to police, a weapon similar to the one used by the Texas gunman. Why did he do it? He is my guest next.

Also, President Biden met with Fed Chair Jerome Powell today, as recession fears grow. What can the president really do though to tame inflation now?

And Russian forces tightening their grip in Eastern Ukraine, as we're getting new video of what appears to be a huge strike in a chemical plant.



HARLOW: Tonight, key Democrat negotiating with Republicans over potential bipartisan gun control reforms laying out what actions are under consideration after both sides met today.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): You know, on the table, are red flag laws, changes to our background checks systems, safe storage, investments in mental health, investments in school security.


HARLOW: This comes as President Biden promises to meet with Congress to discuss possible gun reforms but is not saying when that meeting might be.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT tonight on Capitol Hill.

What are you learning about these talks?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these talks aren't just initial, expected to continue in the days ahead because there is significant work ahead if there is to be a bipartisan deal and not guaranteed there will be a bipartisan deal.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas who's one of the four members who partook in these talks today issued a statement saying that staff level discussions will continue in the days ahead. They will try to hammer out some of the details the came in the discussion between him, Kyrsten Sinema, the other Democrat in the talk, along with Chris Murphy and Thom Tillis, who's a Republican.

Now, this is a subset of a larger group of senators who are trying to hammer out a deal that would implement narrowly changes to gun laws if it were to be implemented, everything as you mentioned from changes to how the background system would work, and reporting mental health cases, bolstering states and red flag laws, but going on as far as some Democrats would like such as banning high capacity magazines or even AR-15s, potential raising the age of AR-15 purchase to 21 -- unlikely to happen in this package.


Democrats, though, in the House do plan to move forward with sweeping set of gun control measures, but, Poppy, that bill almost certainly will pass the House and the House Judiciary Committee as soon as Thursday. But the problem remains in the United States Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome any filibuster attempt, 50 Democrats need to get ten Republicans on board, which is why these bipartisan talk seems to be the only place where a possible law can be made, if a deal can first be reached.

So all focus, all eyes are on that as talks will continue into next week, the deadline set for the Senate majority leader for the GOP reached -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Right. They can do it. Will they do it? Huge question. Manu, thanks very much for the reporting.

And now, let me bring in Richard Small. He is a longtime gun owner, a former schoolteacher from Texas, who after the Uvalde massacre gave up his AR-15, a weapon similar to the one used by the gunman in Uvalde.

Richard, thank you so much for joining me tonight.


HARLOW: You call yourself a devout NRA Republican. Those are your words. Someone who has owned guns for many years, been a member of the NRA for most of your adult life.

SMALL: I was raised that way. And I'm a member every year. Like clockwork.

HARLOW: So why did you give up your AR-15 after this massacre?

SMALL: In the massacre, my wife and I went to Uvalde because she wanted to pay respect as a mother. She understood the pain that they are probably going through after having lost her son to illness. And so, her heart was just open.

And so I, of course, told her yes, sure, we'll go. So we went the following day. And she paid her respects, and so did I. In the process, as the crowds grew, I backed off and stepped aside and I was watching.

And that moment, I pretty much started questioning myself, the fact that this weapon that I know about, the capacity that it can do, the damage that it can do, and I started second guessing myself like, why in the world would I have such a weapon? That was the moment.

HARLOW: I know you have had the gun for many years, after the Newtown shooting and Sandy Hook, for example, that did not move you to do this. But it was this shooting, so close to home, followed by the mass shooting in a church so close to home, and then one picture of a little victim, a little victim really moved you.

SMALL: Yes. Rojelio Torres. His -- his face, his picture, my wife was watching this whole thing on TV, and I turned and looked at her, and I said, babe, he looks like William, which is my grandson. And that pinched a nerve, if you will, and made me realize the magnitude of a young boy that age, his life being ended by such a travesty as this. And it just mushroomed after that.

HARLOW: To be clear, for our viewers, I mean, you are still a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but you said earlier this week, laws have to change.


HARLOW: What laws?

SMALL: I'm all about the Constitution, the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. But this weapon, people need to realized, cannot be compared to the common arms that we have. This is an assault rifle. And I don't care what anybody says, and they say, no, that's not what it is -- but it is.

And I keep bringing up the fact that on the side of my AR, it actually has engraved, "for law enforcement only".


SMALL: When I purchased this Bushmaster in the early years when it became legal, I bought it as a -- I'm sorry to say, as a novelty. Oh, I like to have this in my collection. And so, I bought one.

And -- but at this point, I might have taken it out of my safe two or three times, that's it. It -- you don't hunt with it. If anybody tells you that it's a hunting, it isn't. It's not a long gun. It's a weapon of war.

It's a weapon -- this is why it's a weapon of choice in these massacres, you know? I mean, these people know what they're doing. They know what weapon to go to.

So, you know, time and time and time again, it happens, and we're still arguing and pointing fingers at each other.


HARLOW: You know, Richard, you voted numerous times for Governor Abbott. Will you support him again if he does not support any new gun laws or regulations in the wake of this shooting?

SMALL: His -- his reaction to this event has opened my eyes somewhat.

No, I'm not going to, out of just pure conscience. And I did -- I do that because I don't care about the -- I'm a Republican, I'm a Democrat. I want common sense. I want them to come together and come to some kind of -- agreed to make some changes.

The fact that you can go in and buy an AR with the -- with the ability that it has, at the age of 18, with no license, with no background check, pretty much, with no fingerprinting, and registration.

And -- you know, 18 years old -- I mean, people need to realize, think about it, when you're 18, you know, they're still -- 18-year-old are still living at home. They're not self supporting. You know, they're still trying to get on their feet. They're still trying to struggle and find themselves.

It's ridiculous. The age is ridiculous.

HARLOW: Will you --

SMALL: Uh-huh?

HARLOW: I'm sorry to interrupt, I just wonder, because you are still, though, an active NRA member or an MRA -- an NRA member. Will you stay one?

SMALL: I'm not going to -- I am not going to renew.


SMALL: I am not going to renew. I mean -- and I'm not saying that because of, you know, grandstanding. And I didn't turn my weapon in because I wanted to make, you know, a stand-your-ground type thing.

I did it for my conscience. I did it because I wanted to. I did it because I am tired of it. I don't want to be associated with the weapon. And so, therefore, I donated it to our police department.

HARLOW: Richard Small, thank you for your time tonight and for your candor. We appreciate it.

SMALL: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, OUTFRONT next, President Biden calls inflation his top priority, as a new poll reveals what voters think of the economy.

Also, a chilling video of what Ukraine says was an attack on a chemical plant.



HARLOW: New tonight, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just told our own Wolf Blitzer that she was, quote, wrong to downplay the threat of inflation last year and telling Americans it only posed a small risk. Listen.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take. As I mentioned, there been an anticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices, and supply bottlenecks, that have affected our economy badly that I didn't -- at the time -- didn't fully understand.


HARLOW: This just hours after President Biden met with Federal Reserve Chairman, Jay Powell, and said his top priority is addressing inflation.

MJ Lee is OUTFRONT at the White House.

It's really important when we all say we were wrong and we learn from that and we move forward. But I think you hear so rarely from administration officials. How significant it is what we just heard from Janet Yellen?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it goes to show that the White House and administration acknowledges and knows that inflation is such a huge problem for right now, at a moment when the American public, as we have seen, is deeply pessimistic about the state of the economy. As you know very well, there are certain genuinely positive economic data like jobs growth, like low unemployment rate that has had a hard time breaking through because people go to the store, when they go to the to fill up their gas tank, everything cost so much more.

And, Poppy, this is part of the reason why we are seeing the White House once again try to pivot to this issue and really focus on the issue. You know, one thing they are doing is trying to sort of be empathetic and really try to communicate to the American people that they really do understand what they're going through.

The other thing is trying to communicate that they do have a plan they are trying to execute. And a big part of all this is addressing the fact that President Biden and other top officials, going back to last year, had at one point said that they believed inflation would be temporary, that it would be transitory.

And this is a part of the reason that we saw Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen saying that looking back she did think she was wrong on the trajectory of inflation. She said things last year like that inflation would be a small risk, that it would be manageable. She also said there were some unanticipated events, of course, the Ukraine war being one of them.

But I think critics are going to be sure to point out that there were many other things that were baked into the economy last year and they're going to say that the administration should have acted sooner and should have acted more aggressively.

HARLOW: That's right. MJ Lee, thanks so much for the reporting outside the White House tonight.

Let me bring in Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, and Paul Begala, former counselor to President Clinton. Great to have you both.

Paul, let me begin with you. I mean, Treasury Secretary Yellen with words you rarely here in Washington, right? I was wrong. It's important, right, to say it.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. It's what you said MJ is that we all make mistakes. Now, Janet Yellen, there's a reason she's the most consequential, powerful woman in American economic history, chair of the council of economic advisers, chair of the Federal Reserve, now treasury secretary.

She's like the smartest person in the world on economy. Even she gets it wrong as well and she admitted it because she's not a politician. She's actually a really confident economic leader.

I -- to me, it buys you credibility.


BEGALA: It doesn't solve the problem.

HARLOW: Right.

BEGALA: But it buys you credibility, and that's important.

HARLOW: So, let's talk about, Mark, solving the problem, right? The reality is there's very little any president can do to fight inflation. There's actually only so much the Fed can do at this point to fight it. But you've got to acknowledge the pain and the White House is doing that.

But this morning, I asked the deputy treasury secretary a few times, when will we get back to healthy level of inflation around 2 percent, part of the Fed mandate.


He said, look, I'm not going to make predictions.

When you think, what is your outlook? I mean, are we looking at years, 2023, 2024?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, not years, but a year or two, probably.

I mean, in my view, the reason why inflation is so painfully high is the pandemic. It's scrambled global supply chains, it scrambled labor markets. Of course, the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent gasoline prices skyward, natural gas prices, agricultural prices, other commodity prices. And it won't be until we're in the on the other side of the pandemic and the Russian invasion that inflation will moderate to a significant degree, to get back to something that is more comfortable.

Now, that's why there's so much uncertainty here. I mean, predict the pandemic, predict the Russian -- what's going to happen with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Very, very difficult, impossible.


ZANDI: That's why Secretary Yellen got it wrong. I mean, she got the pandemic wrong and invasion wrong.

HARLOW: Except, Mark -- it was during the pandemic that they kept using the word transitory over and over.

ZANDI: Now, remember back, Poppy, now, look, remember back in a year ago, a year ago now, we thought the pandemic was over. We had vaccines that have been rolled out. And you remember the president gave a speech on July 4th, go enjoy your holiday with your family, it's freedom day.

So, we all thought that the pandemic was over, but it wasn't obviously. The delta wave hit, you know, soon thereafter --


ZANDI: -- and scrimped (ph) the supply chains.

HARLOW: Paul, this comes not at a great time for the White House, for the president, for other Democrats. There's a new Gallup poll that shows us just 14 percent of Americans think the economy is in good or excellent shape. That's down eight points for March. More than three quarters of Americans think the economy is getting worse, just days after the latest CNN poll found nearly 60 percent of Americans say the economy is their most important issue.

I mean, you cannot sugarcoat those numbers. How much time is left for Democrats to change this outlook in a major way ahead of the midterms?

BEGALA: Well, there's 160 days until the midterms but they can't use every one of those days. I think the next 30 or 60 will be critical. You are right --

HARLOW: I think we lost Paul.

There you go. You're back. Continue your thought.

BEGALA: Oh I'm back. I was about to use bad language but I won't, President Johnson used to say, LBJ, you can't shine a cow patty.

And, by the way, the administration tried that. They tried denial. Inflation is transitory. The job numbers are good. Don't worry about -- now, look at that op-ed today the president wrote.

It is dialed in on -- it's a three-part message. First, I feel your pain, that empathy you talked about. He talked about growing up in a family where gas prices and food prices really hurt them.

Second, I can heal your pain, here's my plan. Then there's a third piece he kind of winked at that I want him to develop more which is the other guys will increase your pain. He talked about Senator Rick Scott's proposal to raise taxes on 75 million working and poor Americans and then perhaps sunset Social Security and Medicare. That's something -- that's an economic platform Democrats can run against.

They need all three legs of that stool.

HARLOW: Mark, let me ask you about something the White House could do now that's not a panacea but it would likely help. It's lift at least some of, if not all the Trump-era China tariffs, right? The president said three weeks ago he was considering it.

You've got economists at the Peterson Institute saying if you do that rule reduce inflation more than a full percentage point in a year. You're going to bring some immediate relief. "The Washington Post" editorial board said the White House has to do it, has to evolve from a, you know, tough on China standpoint to a smart on China standpoint, and roll back some costly tariffs.

Are they right?

ZANDI: Yeah, you know, there's no easy solution here. There's downsides to all these things. Obviously, if you eliminate the tariffs on China you're reducing some of the leverage the administration has in negotiations with China to get them to do the right things on trade and intellectual property and cyber and all the things that we -- that are very important for us in the long run.

But I -- you know, if I were king for the day, I would say, you know, look, I'd take a percentage point off of inflation at this point and cut those tariffs. And if China doesn't, you know, behave and do the right thing down the road, you can reimpose them. Just do it down the road.

Right now, American people are suffering with very high inflation, and obviously, it's got them very depressed and rightfully so, and we got to do everything we can, cutting the tariffs makes a lot of sense to me.

HARLOW: And China is not living up to that trade agreement anyways.

ZANDI: No, no, it's not.

HARLOW: All right. Mark Zandi, Paul Begala, thanks, gentlemen, both very, very much.

OUTFRONT next, deadly battles breaking out across the entire frontline in eastern Ukraine has Russia is now accused of striking a chemical plant.

Also this. Look at those images from Shanghai tonight. Millions finally allowed to leave their homes after two months of brutal COVID lockdowns.



BOLDUAN: New video from Ukraine tonight shows a massive gas cloud following an air strike in Severodonetsk. Ukrainian officials say a Russian missile hit a chemical plant there. The region has been the focus of Vladimir Putin's advances in the eastern part of the country.

A Ukrainian official conceding tonight Russian forces now control most of that city and the surrounding settlements but denying that Russians have them completely surrounded. It's another example of Ukrainians continuing to maintain their resistance.

Melissa Bell is OUTFRONT.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An explosion in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, blamed by Moscow on Ukrainian resisters.

And on Sunday, Melitopol is Ukraine, chanted in the heart of a town that's been in Russian hands for nearly three months. Yellow ribbons were defiantly displayed than elsewhere in southern Ukraine.

From Crimea to Kherson, symbols of silent resistance.


But Melitopol noisily resisted from the start. After the early chants of its people were silenced and the town's mayor was kidnapped by Russian forces in early March, some locals turned to armed resistance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very dangerous --

BELL: Now in Ukrainian government held Zaporizhzhia, Ivan Federov says Melitopol will never get up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can kidnap, they can kill, but we can't give support because our citizens don't want to leave to Russia. I know it.

BELL: Mariupol fell quickly and even as Russian forces fell back to the south and east of the country, remained on the wrong side of a line that has hardened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Russia is using hybrid methods of occupation. That means the Russian Federation is trying to identify and destroy sensitive resistance, Ukrainian partisans. Such people are often uncovered and will sometimes disappear in Russian prisons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Idea of the yellow ribbon was --

BELL: Which is why the yellow ribbon movement became key according to a spokesperson in Kyiv.

He tells me the ribbons allow people to pass on the message that Ukraine is present here, that there is no other south than under the Ukrainian flag.

Here in Zaporizhzhia, there's also a sense that that line between Russian-controlled Ukraine and the rest of the country is hardening even as it continues to move forward. We can hear here the regular sound of outgoing artillery fire, but we can also see an emerging refugee crisis.

Hundreds of families living in their cars as they try to get back to their homes, now, in Russian-controlled cities.


BELL: Those city -- those people, hoping to get back to their cities on the other side of that line tonight, poppy, no longer able to speak to their relatives. There's been communications blackout with Internet down, telephone down as well, making that story harder to tell. The free press simply hasn't had access to. Those images you saw at the beginning of the port, the car bomb in Mariupol, broadcast by Russian TV.

Otherwise, it is from people like that man, the mayor of Melitopol now in exile here in Zaporizhzhia to know what was happening. He said that since the start of the invasion, there have been hundreds of Russian soldiers killed by Ukrainian resistors in Melitopol alone, Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow. Incredibly important reporting on the ground tonight -- Melissa Bell, thank you to you and your team.

OUTFRONT next, Putin's top critic, Alexey Navalny, who is already in prison says he could face another 15 years behind bars. Why?

Plus, freedom for millions of people in shanghai. The city's brutal lockdown lifted. And tonight, incredible images of the literal mad dash to leave the city.



HARLOW: Millions in Shanghai are waking up with the freedom to move freely after two months of strict lockdown.

Selina Wang is OUTFRONT.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sprinting with shopping bags, residents racing to get out. After more than two months of a brutal city-wide lock down, Shanghai is finally cracking open the seal. The city's main train station, packed with people trying to escape.

But actually getting out of here is a treacherous journey. The city says it will fully resume transportation today but earlier, people have been seen trekking miles across highways, dragging their luggage or strapping it to bikes, even journeys of dozens of miles or more, not swaying their determination .

The train station parking lot has become a campsite, some leaving days earlier than their departure time, terrified they could be locked down again if they stay at home. The masses outside the train station, a stark contrast to the rest of

Shanghai, hundreds of thousands still remained locked in but even the lucky ones allowed out face a laundry list of restrictions. There are check points everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is definitely not freedom.

WANG: This Shanghai resident and her son who wish to remain anonymous for fear of persecution from authorities were finally allowed out after 80 days. Her only solace is seeing her son outside and smiling for the first time in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My child now has depression because of the lockdown. He started waking up at night and crying and shouting and saying there were people wearing masks in his bedroom and he stopped eating.

WANG: That harsh reality, miles away from what the government wants to show. Watch this state TV reporter pull the microphone and camera away during a live interview, when the resident starts to complain about the lockdown. She says I've never lived through anything like this, being locked inside your home and not allowed to go out, what a big joke.

Officials say the city will start returning to normal in June but residents are doubtful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this does feel like endless, endless nightmare.

WANG: Her freedom lasted less than a week, one COVID case found near her so she's back to lockdown. For over two months, Shanghai had its freedom taken away, residents imprisoned at home or forced into quarantine centers like these. No one knows when this nightmare will fully end.


WANG (on camera): Poppy, I've got a TV right next to me and actually this report was just censored in China. These past few months of lockdown have really eroded people's trust in the government and it's left them -- many of them traumatized. Today, there is a feeling of relief, some people saying they feel like they just finished a prison sentence, but also disbelief because as you saw in the images from our story, these past few days have been chaotic.


And important to mention here, Poppy, that still, more than half a million people are still locked in -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And to see the effect on that eight-year-old boy, it said so much.

Selina Wang, thank you for your reporting.

OUTFRONT next, Putin's top critic, Alexey Navalny says Putin wants to keep him behind bars for another 15 years.


HARLOW: Well, Putin's nemesis, potentially facing another 15 years in prison. In a statement, Alexey Navalny, who's behind bars already, says he's been hit by new charges, writing, quote: It turns out I created an extremist group to incite hatred towards officials and oligarchs. For this, they are supposed to add another 15 years.

Navalny was arrested in 2021 after returning from Germany, where he'd been remarking from poison that he blames on the Kremlin.

He spoke about the attempted assassination in the CNN film, "Navalny".


ALEXEY NAVALNY, TOP PUTIN CRITIC: It's kind of stupid, the whole idea of poisoning with a chemical weapon. This is why, this is how smart, because even reasonable people they refuse to be like, what, come on, poisoned? Seriously?


HARLOW: Kremlin and Russia security services deny they played any role in Navalny's poisoning.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts now.