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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Russia Launches Biggest Missile Attack Across Ukraine in Weeks; Mitch McConnell Hospitalized After Trip & Fall at DC Hotel; DOJ Report Accuses Louisville Police of Racist, Abusive Misconduct; Today: Biden Unveils Budget Proposal with $3T Deficit Reduction. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell injured and hospitalized. What we're learning this hour.

Plus, mass missile strikes pounding Ukraine overnight. Russia launching a wave of attacks killing civilians while they slept. We're live on the ground in Kyiv.

And President Biden's plan to trim the deficit by $3 trillion without cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Is his proposal dead on arrival?


ROMANS: All right. Good Thursday morning.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

Happening right now, intense bombing hitting cities across Ukraine, Russia launching a barrage of at least 81 missiles. This is the biggest attack in weeks, striking residential areas and blacking out power.

Attacks on Kyiv have been reported including on a power plant in the capital. The city's mayor says at least two people were hurt. Emergency services are at the scenes of the blast in Kyiv. Much of the city has been left without electricity.

Officials say a Russian rocket also hitting a residential area in Lviv killing five people.

CNN's Ivan Watson is live in Kyiv for us with more.

And, Ivan, it looks like at least seven regions have been targeted by chilling from the Russians. Get us up to speed here.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this was a large salvo of missiles of different types that targeted different cities and regions across the country. I think we have a map that we can show that illustrates kind of just how country-wide this assault was from Russia. And as we heard from the commander of the armed forces, he described

it as a massive missile attack on Ukraine's critical infrastructure. He described 81 missiles being launched, and that ranged everything from air launched cruise missiles to sea launched cruise missiles, the Kalibr missiles, to Kinzhal, which are hypersonic air launched missiles and as well as some of what we believe to be Iranian made Shahed drones.

Now, the Ukrainian armed forces, they say that they were able to shoot down at least 34 of these missiles and four of the Shahed killer so- called suicide drones. But there were impacts across the country.

At least five people killed in a western city, two wounded here in Kyiv. We tried to see some of the sites that were hit but couldn't really see extensive damage or even smoke at this hour of the day. Odesa was hit, Kharkiv was hit as well. And Zaporizhzhia, the nuclear power plant, disconnected from Ukrainian power.

So this is an assault and one of the striking details that has come out is that the spokesperson for Ukraine's air force, he says that some of the munitions that were used that Ukraine simply doesn't have anti-aircraft weapons that can bring those down, that there are no defenses against them. That said, you know, you look around the center of Kyiv right now, there is an orchestra playing over here. This clearly hasn't made much of an impact on day to day life in the city, though it does terrorize the residential population here.

ROMANS: Ivan, thank you so much for that.

New overnight, Mitch McConnell hospitalized after a fall in Washington, D.C. the 81-year-old was at a private dinner at a hotel when he tripped and fell according to a spokesperson. Right now, he is receiving treatment at a local hospital but the extent of his injuries is unclear. We'll continue to follow this developing story as we learn more.

All right. The Justice Department accusing Louisville police of perpetrating racist and abusive conduct on vulnerable citizens. That searing assessment, the bottom of an investigation launched into the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor three years ago. DOJ failed bad leadership that allowed conduct by bad officers to continue unchecked.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A scathing review of the Louisville Metro Police Department documenting persistent problems, abuse and even blatant racism.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, insulted people with disabilities and called black people monkeys, animal and boy. SCHNEIDER: The two-year investigation from DOJ found Louisville police officers practiced an aggressive style of policing that it deployed selectively, targeting Black people and vulnerable people throughout the city.

GARLAND: This conduct is unacceptable. It is heartbreaking. It erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing.

SCHNEIDER: Specifically, DOJ lists a number of findings, including the use of excessive force, unjustified and dangerous neck restraints, discrimination and conducting searches based on invalid warrants.

The review began in 2021, one year after Breonna Taylor was killed during a botched police raid at her apartment in Louisville. Officers are accused of falsifying information to get a search warrant, failing to properly announce themselves, and one officer allegedly fired blindly into Taylor's apartment.

TAMIKA PALMER, BREONNA TAYLOR'S MOTHER: I don't even know what to think, to know that this thing should have never happened, and that it took three years for anybody else to say that it shouldn't have.

SCHNEIDER: Four of the officers are now facing federal civil rights charges. But the DOJ is clear in its report, the unlawful conduct by Louisville police didn't start with Breonna Taylor in 2020.

GARLAND: Shortly after we opened the investigation, an LMPD leader told the department, Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years.

SCHNEIDER: DOJ has now entered into an agreement with the city of Louisville to reform its police department. Already, training has been revamped, no-knock warrants are now prohibited and more mental health professionals will accompany police on 911 calls.

MAYOR CRAIG GREENBERG, LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY: We will reform how we recruit, train, equip, support, supervise and deploy the more than 1,000 public servants whose job it is to serve as guardians of the public safety every day and every night.


ROMANS: Amazing.

All right. Let's bring in retired LAPD Police Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey.

Sergeant Dorsey, this DOJ review is just scathing -- scathing to say the least. What stood out to you the most about the DOJ report of this investigation?

SGT. CHERYL DORSEY (RET), LAPD POLICE: Well, the fact that here we are hearing still about neck restraints being used by police officers after Eric Garner was choked to death in 2014 with the prohibited neck restraint. And so we understand and appreciate that telling officers not to a thing, having them engaged in unnecessary use to force, conduct police misconduct, occurs daily. And so, my question, knowing all of this now for sure, where are these

officers today? Are they still out there on the Louisville police department running around throwing drinks at folks and calling black people monkeys and animals? Because if you don't did anything to deter the bad behavior, if they are not held accountable, if they are not removed from the ranks of that police department, then they live to offend again.

ROMANS: Sergeant Dorsey, very good point. This report highlighting what used to be called the Viper Unit. It was created to focus on enforce the of crime hot spots, And known to use these very aggressive unlawful tactics. We have seen a similar case in Memphis where the special Scorpion Unit was involved in the killing of Tyre Nichols.

What makes these special units unwind like this, backfire and become a problem instead of the solution?

DORSEY: Well, these are the officers that I like to refer to them as the elephant hunters. They like to kick butt and take names. They are very minimal supervision. In Memphis, they were unsupervised. So these guys are very aggressive. Their version of events rules the day. When an officer kills one of us, there is only one version to tell and that is the one that they give.

So I'm not surprised at all that this Louisville they had the Vipers, disbanded it, gave it a new name and brought it back. I expect the same to occur in Memphis with the Scorpions. Again those officers are disbanded, but where are they is this back out on patrol.

So these are just a band-aid. Something more needs to be done. And not only the officer, what about the people arrested and convicted and in jail right now because you have a compromised officer's testimony that put that person there in the first place.

ROMANS: Another good point. The DOJ will review the Memphis police department as well, so we'll be hearing more about that.

What -- from your vantage point, what is the solution here? Is it police training, is it evidence based results? How should these departments think about policing judging from what we've seen in this DOJ report?


DORSEY: I don't say no to anything. So training is important. But you can't train away racism. When you know that there are folks on these police departments who have infiltrated according to the FBI report that are KKK and white supremacists, you need to get them off of the police department, you need to do a better job of recruiting folks who look like me. And I'm not saying that just because a Black officer is on your department that you won't have a problem like we saw in Memphis, it has to be the right kind of police officer that you recruit.

So unless and until that happens, you can and until these police chiefs look at these specialized units and make sure that they don't have a bunch of elephant hunters abusing people at night, we'll continue to see this problem.

ROMANS: All right. Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

DORSEY: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Biden revealing his new budget proposal today. The eye popping number he plans to cut deficits by in the decade.

Plus, Walgreens no longer welcome in California. The drugstore's controversial abortion pill decision.



ROMANS: California is cutting ties with Walgreens. Governor Newsom withdrawing their contract with the drug store chain after Walgreens said it would not distribute abortion medication in nearly two dozen red states. Walgreens says it won't offer it in states where Republicans have threatened legal action against them. Newsom's office says California will buy its specialty medications somewhere else.

All right. Today, President Biden will unveil his annual budget proposal including more money for child care, defense, it will extend Medicare's solvency by decades. And this year Biden is expected to propose nearly $3 trillion in deficit reduction.

Let's bring in chief U.S. strategist, my friend, Greg Valliere.


ROMANS: Good morning.

You say this is dead a arrival. But we have major tax increases for the wealthy. What are your thoughts on what the president is trying to propose here?

VALLIERE: Well, he is proposing a lot of things that are admirable, but the problem is the details. I don't think that there is any chance in the world that the house will accept any tax increases. Only two things where I think that there is a consensus.

It up one, I think most people in Congress agree that we have to spend more money on defense. A lot of bad stories going on around the world. And number two, there is an agreement that we have to try to shore up Medicare and Social Security. But on that as well, the details are not in agreement.

ROMANS: Here is House Kevin McCarthy talking to reporters. Listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-KY): The president is more than a month behind, the CBO says it will take time to analyze the budget once it comes out. We want to be analyze his budget and where can we find common ground. But unfortunately the president being delayed delays us in our process as well.


ROMANS: I'm wondering, what is the Republican plan? Democrats trying to put this out there, this is their aspirational budget goal, the president's aspirational goal, but where is the Republican plan?

VALLIERE: That is a good question. And I think the Democrats are insistent that they see something from the Republicans. If McCarthy is gong to delay this well into the spring, that pushes this into the late summer on all of these budget issues including the big one which is the threat of a default if we don't raise the debt ceiling.

ROMANS: Yeah. So, is President Biden trying to say I'm certificate about deficit reduction and I have a plan for that, right? So let's talk about deficit reduction over here in the budget process and let's raise the debt ceiling cleanly without any future spending negotiations. Is that how he is trying to set this up do you think?

VALLIERE: Yes, he does not want to negotiate now. At some point he will have to, but that could be a ways off.

You know, Christine, one other really big issue that I think has flared up in the last few days. And that is after hearing Fed chairman Jerome Powell this week, he was so hawkish, I think the chances of a recession by the end of this year have gone up by quite a bit.

So do you really want to raise taxes and cut spending as a recession looms? That is exactly the wrong medicine. And I think that the fear of recession adds a whole new complication to the already complicated talks.

ROMANS: Yeah, another issue I've heard, the fed is trying to raise interest rates aggressively, it could run into a situation where if you have Congress throwing us into a recession because of a debt ceiling problem, a default, then the Fed complaint can't keep raising interest rates into a recession as well because it would be so dangerous for the economy, just so many things that could go wrong. That brinksmanship drives me nuts.

VALLIERE: Very complicated.

ROMANS: It is. Greg Valliere, thank you very much. Nice to see you.

VALLIERE: All right. You bet.

ROMANS: Two men coming to blows on board a southwest flight. Why the chaos erupted before they even left the ground.

Plus, a controversial bill on foreign agents dropped in the country of Georgia after two nights of violent protests. How it could have ruined the country's chances of joining the EU.


ROMANS: All right. Tens of thousands of people clashing with riot police in the street of Tbilisi, Georgia, protesting over a proposed law restricting foreign agents. Many feared this new legislation would undermine potential integration into the EU and open the door to more Russian influence.

CNN's Matthew Chance takes a closer look at what Georgians are fighting over.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Georgia, another former soviet state now plunging it seems into anarchy. Recent days witnessing these pitched battles in the capital Tbilisi between riot police using tear gas and water cannon. And pro- Western demonstrators, some clinging desperately too European flags.

With war raging in nearby Ukraine, Russian-style foreign agent law being debated here is unleashing this anti-Moscow outrage.


The Russian version has been the Russian version has been used to crack down on independent aid agencies and media in the country.

BORIS GOGOLAVA, PROTESTER: The law is Russian as we all know, it has been implemented in Belorussia and we don't want to be part of the European Union. We want to be part of the European Union. We want to be pro-West.

CHANCE: But that is a dangerous aspiration in a region where Russia seems hell bent on tightening its grip. It is Ukraine's western leanings behind the current bloodshed there and its neighbors like Georgia are on a knife edge.

And it is not just in the streets where anger is pointed. This is The Georgia parliament on the day that controversial foreign agent bill was debated. Lawmakers actually slapping each other amid scuffles forcing the session to end.

GIVI MIKANADZE, GEORGIAN DREAM-DEMOCRATIC GEORGIA MP (through translator): Georgian society deserves to know which organizations are being financed, from which source and how that money is being spent. We're talking about accountability and transparency.

CHANCE: But Georgia has bitter experience of Moscow's meddling.

There is a lot of speculation about where the Russian troops are. And here they are well inside Georgian territory. Losing territory in a brief conflict with Russia back in 2008, now seen as a precursor of Russia's Ukrainian war. The big question is how far will they go?

A similar concern plaguing many Georgians now, that their tiny former Soviet state is still very much a battleground between Russia and the West.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you, Matthew.

New artificial intelligence can literally put words in your mouth.




MOM: How are you?

DONNIE: Does my voice sound different to you?

MOM: Yeah.


ROMANS: A CNN report on how it works and why it is risky.

And a brawl breaking out on a southwest airlines plane before it even takes off. Why it all started, coming up.