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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Senior NATO Official: Signs Pointing To A Stalemate In Ukraine; Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC): U.S. Should Expedite Adoption Of Ukrainian Orphans; Today: Jackson Faces First Questions In Confirmation Hearing. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 22, 2022 - 05:30   ET



PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: EF-3 tornadoes into the afternoon and evening hours in this landscape. Certainly, a day to take very -- weather very seriously and follow all the guidelines across this region as well -- Laura.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Pedram. Thank you for that update.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, just about 30 minutes past the hour.

March Madness mom addition. Notre Dame's coach says her team's run to the Sweet 16 was a lot less stressful than watching her son win in the men's tournament.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So, Niele Ivey -- she played at Notre Dame and is now in her second year of coaching the Irish. And her son Jaden is Purdue's star guard and he led the Boilermakers to the Sweet 16 on Sunday with a win over Texas.

But last night, Niele's team did the same, and boy, did they do it in style. The fifth-seeded Irish completely dominating the number-four Sooners on Oklahoma's home floor. Dara Mabrey scored 17 of her season- high 29 points in the first quarter, outscoring the Sooners singlehandedly. Notre Dame would go on to win 108-64, becoming the first team, men's or women's, to beat a higher-seeded team by at least 40 points.

And Ivey saying afterwards she was much less nervous Monday night than on Sunday watching her son advance.


NIELE IVEY, NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH: My stress is as a mom. Like, today, I was relaxed. Last night I was stressed.

So, I was just so happy that, you know, he's living out his dreams, I'm living out my dreams, and to watch him help his team get to the Sweet 16 was just so special for me. It was -- it's hard not being there but he knows that I have a job to do as well.


SCHOLES: All right, to the NBA where LeBron James got a thunderous ovation from the fans in Cleveland and he put on a show against his old team, the Cavs. Check out James late in the second quarter just flying through the air, throwing down a monster dunk over his old buddy Kevin Love.

And after halftime ended, Love made sure to retaliate. He went and put LeBron in a headlock. But it was all smiles and hugs at the end between the two friends.

LeBron ending the game with 38 points with 12 assists and 11 rebounds. The Lakers got the win 131-120.

All right, and finally, a U.S. Appeals Court ruling that a 2017 letter from baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to the Yankees regarding the team's alleged involvement in a sign-stealing scandal will now be made public. The letter is said to have contained proof of the team's sign- stealing methods.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by a group of Draft Kings Fantasy players say Manfred hid the full findings of that Yankee investigation and believe the letter sheds more light on the matter. The letter is expected to be released in the next two weeks. The Yankees president Randy Levine argued in 2020 the release of the letter would harm the team's reputation.

And guys, a lot of Astros fans out there very fascinated to find out what is in this letter. We'll see in a couple of weeks.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much, Andy. Nice to see you.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy.

Just ahead for you, a new push here in the U.S. to save children orphaned by Russia's war in Ukraine.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A senior NATO intelligence official now says Russia's war on Ukraine is rapidly approaching a stalemate if it's not already there, and that could be a dangerous place for Ukrainian civilians.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live in Brussels. Natasha, what's the fear now that Russian ground forces have all but stalled?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the fear, John, is that Russia's tactics are now only going to get more and more brutal. And we have seen that begin to happen over the last several weeks where their ground advances have stalled against their key military objectives -- for example, Kyiv.

And because of that, they have started to bring in heavier -- what we -- what the U.S. defense establishment calls dumb bombs, which are way less precise, especially as they run out of these precision-guided munitions that have been targeting things less indiscriminately. So now, they have been bringing in these dumb bombs -- these cruise missiles -- these long-range missiles that can wreak havoc, really, on Ukrainian cities. And, of course, they continue to conduct these airstrikes.

And this is all happening as the Ukrainians continue to put up a very fierce fight -- one that U.S. and Western officials say that the Russians did not necessarily anticipate.

So, adding to all of this, the Russians have incurred massive losses. Thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed in almost a month of war here. Just really remarkable staggering losses that the U.S. says that, again, Russian President Vladimir Putin likely did not anticipate.

And it all comes as the Russians and Ukrainians have been sitting down and talking -- roughly four rounds of negotiations so far -- but neither side willing to surrender at any point. The Russians not willing to withdraw and, of course, the Ukrainians not willing to surrender any of their territory. So this could be a very long, drawn- out, bloody fight.

The risk of a stalemate, of course, is that it's going to affect the civilians the most, John.

BERMAN: That's right -- they are the ones who are suffering. And when it comes to the resistance, the Russians didn't expect it. I'm not sure anyone did. I'm not sure the United States and the people that you've been talking to regularly in the last few months even anticipated that.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you so very much.

Laura, Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: Thanks, John.

JARRETT: Thanks, John.

The U.N. now says almost 3 1/2 million people have fled the war in Ukraine and an untold number of children without families have been left behind unable to evacuate. One U.S. lawmaker is urging the Biden administration to do something to help.

And joining us now, Congresswoman Deborah Ross, a Democrat from North Carolina who is leading this effort. Representative Ross, so nice to have you on EARLY START this morning.


You are calling on the Biden administration to make it easier for adopted Ukrainian children to come to the U.S. You have specifics that you have laid out in this letter. So, what's slowing down the process?

REP. DEBORAH ROSS (D-NC) (via Skype): Well, first of all, thank you for having me and calling attention to this very important issue.

There are a couple of things slowing down the process. When you adopt a foreign child there's a lot of paperwork to do, and because some of the paperwork hasn't been finished it's difficult to expedite these adoptions. And we're asking for them to be expedited.

The other thing is parents -- respective parents can't travel to Ukraine right now. And so, we're asking for their final interviews to happen in the U.S. at the Ukrainian Embassy. And we're asking for changes to our immigration system to make it easier for these adoptions to go through. It will help hundreds of children.

JARRETT: So it seems like some pretty concrete asks there. Have you heard anything from the Biden administration in response? Do you have a sense of the realistic prospect of getting those things down?

ROSS: We have not heard back but we just sent our letter last week. And we're hopeful -- because the president is going to be in Europe this week -- that he and the State Department will focus on refugee issues, including the orphan issue.

JARRETT: You're clearly so passionate about this issue. And, you know, CNN has done so much reporting on the surrogacy issues and so many children who are sort of in this limbo zone now.

Do you have a sense of just how many children we're talking about? Maybe orphan isn't just the right word but it's certainly without parents right now.

ROSS: Well, I do not know those exact numbers but it's definitely in the thousands. For the orphans who have some kind of adoption process going on, we're talking about 300 or 400. But clearly, there are orphan refugee children who haven't even started any kind of process because they're simply adrift. And it is up to the international community to provide them refuge, to provide them a future, and the United States has got to be at the front of the line to help.

JARRETT: For viewers at home who are wondering maybe how they can help with this effort, who also care a great deal about what happens to these children, are there resources on the ground that are working on this right now?

ROSS: There are NGOs like UNICEF that are helping. There are Ukrainian refugee organizations that are helping. But the most important thing that they can do right is have their member of Congress contact the State Department and ask for this expedited paperwork -- these ways of being able to get these kids to safety quicker. And we're being joined by both on the Senate side and more people on the House side really urging the Biden administration to make this a priority and help these children.

JARRETT: All right, Congresswoman Deborah Ross. Thank you for your work on this and highlighting this issue -- really important.

ROSS: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. President Biden's Supreme Court pick takes questions today from senators. What to expect from day two of her confirmation hearing, next.



ROMANS: All right, another big day in Washington. This morning, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will answer the first questions from senators in her confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court.

In opening remarks Monday, Jackson vowed to defend the Constitution and American democracy if she is confirmed.


JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building -- "Equal justice under law" -- are a reality and not just an ideal.


JARRETT: Today she's expected to be asked about her judicial philosophy and past opinions, while some Republicans have previewed they'll accuse her of being soft on crime.

So let's bring in CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. Margaret, nice to see you.

So, yesterday, you couldn't help but notice some Republicans seemed more concerned about airing past grievances about Justice Kavanaugh and how his confirmation battle went instead of focusing on Judge Jackson's record. What do you make of that type of strategy?


You know, I think there are a couple of different strategies at play here and the way that Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has approached this from the strategy position.

My colleague Jonathan Swan just wrote about this in a great analysis -- if you haven't read it yet -- is to say look, she is going to be confirmed. She has the Democratic support for confirmation. It's highly unlikely that Republicans can derail her. That Republicans should use this is as an opportunity to contrast the way they handle these hearings with Kavanaugh's hearing.

And that is how McConnell would prefer to do this. He doesn't see a whole lot of upside, we're told, going after personal attacks on the person who is going to become the first female African American justice on the court when it's not going to succeed anyway and there's a midterm near.

But that is not how some in his party feel and I think that is the split we're going to see play out in the course of this week. Is -- do Republicans try to sort of take the high road, ask the tough questions in a gentlemanly way and move on, or is this going to become a lot of angling and accusations and --


ROMANS: And performance -- and performance for -- you know, for QAnon crowd, not for -- not for democracy and the choosing of a Supreme Court justice. The McConnell strategy, do no harm -- we don't have the votes anyway.

Do you think there's appetite among some fringe Republicans to make a scene?

TALEV: I don't even think it's about fringe Republicans. I think we're talking here about the fact that the 2024 nominating contest is fast upon us. And if you look at the Republican representation on the Judiciary Committee, you could see some names that you're going to be hearing a lot more from in the coming years -- Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton.

And there are issues in these midterms elections that -- for which Ketanji Brown Jackson -- Judge Jackson could serve as a proxy. Issues like critical race theory or violent crime and what Democratic policies had to do with that. Very little of that has much to do with her or her record, either on the Sentencing Commission or as a judge, or as a former public defender, but all of these are going to be issues that some Republicans would like to get to this week during the confirmation hearings.

JARRETT: Yes. You saw Marsha Blackburn bringing up critical race theory even though it arguably has nothing to do with anything that's happening at that hearing.

But at the same time, the judge, you saw, sort of inculcating herself from those attacks, right? She talked about her love of America, her love of the rule of law. How she would apply the law to the facts of the case. How she's trying to find balance as a working mom, something we can all empathize with. A pretty strong first opening salvo from the judge.

TALEV: Yes. I mean, this isn't her first rodeo. Remember, she just was confirmed a year ago.


TALEV: But on top of that, the White House and Doug Jones, the former senator who has been her sherpa in this process -- they're all cognizant of the playbook and what she's likely to face. You're going to hear her talking about God, her family. And as we heard yesterday, her starting position in a neutral position, taking each case as it comes and judging by the facts in the case.

And the other reality is we're looking at a former clerk of Justice Breyer being there to replace Justice Breyer --


TALEV: -- for a 6-3 majority to remain on the court. For this to be a liberal replacing a liberal. And that's why McConnell's philosophy has been this is probably not the one to have the big fight over.

JARRETT: Yes. We'll see, though, whether the rest of his party can follow suit on that.

Margaret, thank you -- appreciate it.

TALEV: Thanks.

JARRETT: And, of course, CNN's special live coverage of Judge Jackson's Senate confirmation hearings continues again today at 9:00 a.m.

ROMANS: All right. Ukrainian forces recapturing a key city from Russian troops. The latest from the ground straight ahead.



ROMANS: All right, just about the top of the hour. Let's get a check on CNN Business this Tuesday morning.

Let's look at markets around the world. You can see bounces in both Asia -- those markets are now closed -- and Europe has opened higher.

On Wall Street, stock index futures also leaning up, bouncing back after a decline on Monday after the Fed chairman Jerome Powell threw some cold water on Wall Street's bright mood. He indicated the Fed is going to be more aggressive about interest rate hikes, which traders took to mean the central bank could raise rates by half a point in May instead of the expected quarter-point.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: My colleagues and I are acutely aware that inflation imposes a significant hardship, especially on those least able to meet the higher costs of essentials, like food, housing, and transportation.


ROMANS: And the underlying economy is strong so he feels they can raise interest rates briskly. Adding to inflation worries, there's this. Fitch Ratings raised its inflation forecast for the year to 7% citing a potentially huge global supply shock from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Oil prices climbing sharply Monday. U.S. crude up 7% -- $112 a barrel. European Union leaders are debating whether to join a U.S.-led embargo of Russian oil. The oil market, of course, has been rocked by turbulence in recent weeks.

Gas prices, though, for now, are dropping. According to AAA, the national average for regular was down eight cents from its record high to $4.25 a gallon. So that's been --

JARRETT: Welcome news.

ROMANS: -- that's been some welcome news.

Thanks for joining us, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Tuesday, March 22nd. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington with John Berman live in Lviv, Ukraine.

The resistance is holding this morning in Kyiv. Russia's war on Ukraine apparently reaching a stalemate or nearing one. In fact, just west of the capital, Ukrainian forces have actually regained control of Mykolaiv after days of heavy fighting. Russian troops said to be retreating and Ukraine's state flag raised, once again, over the city.

Kyiv will remain under curfew until Wednesday morning. There is already so much devastation in the city. This man combing through the ruins of his apartment -- the exterior wall blown completely off the building.

And new details about the Russian strike that leveled a shopping mall, killing at least eight. The Kremlin says Ukrainian forces were hiding rocket launchers inside. That is the Kremlin's claim.

Russia's Defense Ministry releasing a video claiming that it shows a weapons systems being hit. Ukraine is dismissing that.

BERMAN: In Mariupol, the once vibrant port city, there is now mostly rubble. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says it is reduced to ashes but insists it will survive.