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Inside Politics

Russian Missiles Hit Military Base Near Polish Border; No Diplomatic Off-Ramp in Sight as Putin Escalates Attacks; U.S. Slaps Sanctions on Russian Caviar, Diamonds, Oligarchs; GOP Embraces Ukraine after Bashing It During Trump's First Impeachment; Florida Republicans Focus on Race, Gender Identity; How the Ukrainian President Galvanized the World. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 13, 2022 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): A widening war. Russian forces bomb hospitals, kill civilians and leave Ukrainian cities in ruins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't speak without tears. I'm sorry, but I'm so sorry for my country and it's painful inside.

PHILLIP: Will Putin use chemical weapons next?

Plus, Ukraine pleads for more help.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Enough talk. People are dying. Send in the planes that they need.

PHILLIP: But President Biden vows he won't start World War III.

And U.S. gas prices surge. Can Democrats convince voters their pocketbook problems are Russia's fault?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to do everything I can to minimize Putin's price hike here at home.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): These aren't Putin prices. They're President Biden's prices.


PHILLIP: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I am Abby Phillip.

We continue to follow the latest developments in Ukraine, where Vladimir Putin's war has entered a new phase, bloodier, more brutal and closer than ever to NATO territory.

Just overnight, Russian missiles hit a military training base near Lviv, just 22 miles from the Polish border, and 35 people were killed. The Russians are bombarding cities all across the country. Kharkiv and Mariupol lie in ruins, with hundreds dead. Residents have no heat and are running low on food as the Russians bombard them with missiles. This woman was separated from her husband and children who remain in Mariupol.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, help. My city of Mariupol, it was beautiful city. Now, it's destroyed. There is no normal life anymore.

But people are still alive. Half million people are still alive. Every day, less and less food.


PHILLIP: Meanwhile, forces are closing in on Kyiv. The Russians now just 15 miles from the city centre, and U.S. is warning that Russia may be willing to use chemical weapons to win this war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he's worried, too, and he, again, called on the West to provide more military help.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I keep reiterating to allies and friends abroad, they have to keep doing more for our country, for Ukrainians and Ukraine, because it is not only for Ukraine but it is for all of Europe. The evil witch purposefully targets peaceful cities and ambulance vans and explodes hospitals will not stop with just one country.


PHILLIP: And Salma Abdelaziz joins us live from Western Ukraine, near the site of that missile strike last night.

Salma, what can you tell us about that attack?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a hugely significant attack. More than 30 missiles coming from warplanes, Ukrainian officials say, struck one of the country's biggest military bases. That military base is about five miles away from me here. We've been trying to get access all day, but as you can imagine, the situation here is extremely tense.

Even public roads leading to that base have been closed. If you look around me, you can see there's villages here. There's men in camouflage. We've been talking to them. They say here to help with medical evacuations.

Again, I repeat that toll. More than 35 people killed. More than 130 wounded. It's devastated hospitals around here. It's terrified families who, of course, heard the sound of bombardment overnight and went into their basement.

But it also has hugely important military consequences. This base, again, behind me here, five miles away, was considered the safe place where the military could operate from, where it could meet with its Western allies, where in the past just a few months ago actually, last fall, U.S. troops were there training Ukrainian troops for joint exercising, held between NATO and Ukraine.

This is its base that opens up its military to its allies and now it's been struck. And the fear is as the U.S. promises more military support, remember, just yesterday we heard that $200 million in additional defense spending would be made immediately to Ukraine, that means more weapons, more training, more education, more anti-aircraft missiles for those on the front line.

How does that arrive in the country? How do Ukrainian troops receive that after Russian forces said any military convoys, any convoys carrying weapons, Russian forces will consider them legitimate targets.

Look, this all puts a big blow, really, to the Ukrainian forces' efforts and it widens that Russian offensive now stretching from the east to the west of the country. President Zelenskyy says the whole country is the front line -- Jessica and Boris.

PHILLIP: Very much. Salma Abdelaziz, thanks for that report.

And joining me now is retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

So, General Kimmitt, that attack -- a couple pieces of significance. The proximity to NATO, but the Russians clearly targeting efforts to resupply the Ukrainians, efforts to aid Ukrainians in their fight in other parts of the country?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I think that's right. It's not only the resupply efforts, but it could indicate this is a new area they're going to attacking. They've attacked in the north, the south. The Donbas region in the east, and this may be first cut off the supplies coming in and second start a ground campaign going in there.

PHILLIP: What is the risk, though, to NATO?

KIMMITT: The risk to NATO in my mind is twofold. Number one, potential for miscalculation or mistake. If something happens near the border that falls into or clashes with NATO, what does the president do then? What does NATO do then?

PHILLIP: That has been his red line. Meanwhile, we're watching Kyiv very closely.


PHILLIP: That convoy disbursed, but most analysts say they are bracing for Kyiv to be under heavy attack very soon. What do you think is taking the Russians so long? Do they not have the capability? Or are they pausing strategically and bracing for something to come?

KIMMITT: I think we're completely mistaking this notion of a timeline.


KIMMITTT: The fact remains, he wanted a victory quickly. Didn't get it. Now they're going back to the old Russian bulldozer attacks. Bulldozers move slowly, but anything in front of them it tamps down.

So, they're slowly, methodically surrounding Kyiv. Then, they're going to shell Kyiv. Then, they're going to starve Kyiv before they send in their troops.

PHILLIP: The idea being to create such a desperate situation in that city potentially that it forces the government to engage.

But talk to me more about Putin's, and Russia's, military, you know, their philosophy. We've been talking about potential for nuclear weapons, potential for chemical weapons. What do you think are the chances we are staring down two really, I mean, truly, horrible scenarios here, frankly?

KIMMITT: Well, I'm certainly hoping we won't see them, but it's important to understand. Russian doctrine doesn't have cliffs in the sense that we do. There's a difference between conventional war and nuclear war for us.

The Russians don't see that. They don't see -- they see this as a continuum, as an escalation but don't see the political consequences of going from conventional warfare to tactical nuclear weapons. So, this could escalate and I think we need to be prepared for that.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, I think that that's exactly right, and yet, President Biden is pretty steadfast. Take a listen about what he said just Friday what it would mean for the U.S. to become more involved in Ukraine.

We don't have that bite, but he made it clear that it would be World War III, right? So the question is, are we too concerned about the prospects of World War III? Has it already effectively begun?

KIMMITT: Well, I don't think so. I think World War III is NATO against Russia. What we have here is a conflict, being fought in Ukraine. In many ways, it's a proxy conflict between NATO and Russia. Nonetheless, it's not spilled into the mid-Atlantic. We have a treaty obligation to defend, as the president says, every inch of NATO territory. That hasn't been breached yet. If it is breached, perhaps as we said earlier with a mistake or miscalculation, or a completely different scenario then.

PHILLIP: The Polish President Duda, this morning, in a BBC interview, said that he believed if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine that is a, quote, game changer for NATO. What do you think about that?

KIMMITT: Well, I think we're going to have to respond. We had that situation in 2015 in Syria, where we drew a red line, and we didn't cross it, and as a result, when they crossed it, we didn't do anything and that sent a clear message. The question is, if they do have a chemical attack, what are we prepared to do about that?

PHILLIP: What are we prepared to do?

KIMMITT: Well, in a lot of ways, we've used many of our options. We can't escalate the military without bringing in NATO. Economic sanctions, we don't have a whole lot left in our pocket.

I know David Sanger is going to disagree with me but this may be the opportunity for a cyber attack. Limited in scope but one that clearly sends a message there will be a penalty if they use chemical weapons.

PHILLIP: Right. I want to ask, there's a debate this week about sending planes to the Ukrainians. That seems to have been taken off the table.

What more militarily can the United States and Europe do to get, help give Ukrainians an upper hand?


KIMMITT: Well, I think the most important thing is keep the supply lines open. This war is already taken a toll on the inventory of weapons and ammunition they have. What we have to continue to do is give them what they have. They have good equipment now.

There are no magic bullets out there, so I think we've done pretty much everything we can short of bringing in systems such as Patriot missiles and S300.

PHILLIP: But why not bring in those systems?

KIMMITT: They're not trained in them right now. Nice to have them, but that requires NATO troops to come in and operate them.

PHILLIP: Yeah, of course, I mean, do you agree with the decision not to provide the planes?

KIMMITT: The Ukrainian planes themselves on the ground are not flying very well. That tells me there's a pretty tough air defense system that the Russians have already put up in the air. So I think they would be at risk of being shot down quickly.

Plus, I think it's important, Abby, remember, most of the destruction is not being created by air strikes. It's created by artillery and missile strikes. And so, I don't think putting in jets would have been a game changer.

PHILLIP: Well, thank you so much, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

Coming up next for us, does Vladimir Putin want an off-ramp? Or is he just out for complete destruction?



PHILLIP: So, what does Vladimir Putin wants? That's the question the U.S. and its allies still don't know.

And two and a half weeks into Putin's unprovoked war with Ukraine, the question, would he be satisfied at this point with Ukraine giving up the disputed regions in the south and east, plus a promise not to join NATO? Or as "Bloomberg Businessweek" puts it, is this his real end game, reducing Ukraine to rubble?

And joining me now with their reporting and their insights, Julia Ioffe of "Puck News" and David Sanger of "The New York Times."

So, Julia, I mean, you know Putin more than anyone. He's been going to negotiation tables to have talks about ending this conflict, but do you really think that that is in the cards for Ukraine?

JULIA IOFFE, PUCK NEWS WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & FOUNDING PARTNER: Not at this moment, I'm afraid. I think given that his people are going into the negotiations saying, we're happy to negotiate, but we won't budge on a single point, that's not a negotiation. And I can see why, you know, in that crazy logic. I think Putin cannot be seen to lose and he wants total victory. He wants to take over Ukraine. He wants it to be a regime that is friendly, that will keep Ukraine in Russia's sphere of influence, as he calls it, and keeps it basically demilitarized and out of the west's sphere of influence.

So, that means basically, Ukraine giving up its sovereignty. Whatever form that takes, we don't know yet, and I think he's -- the reason he's going after Ukraine cities, basically doing the Syrian strategy and Chechen strategy on them I think is so that, to reduce morale of the population to force the government to basically capitulate.

PHILLIP: What the view inside the United States government and maybe European government about this? I mean, why do they keep -- well, I understand why they're engaging in the negotiations but do they really think there is a negotiated way out of this?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think they're increasingly skeptical for all reasons Julia laid out. They know that the only one who matters here is Putin himself, and that's why you've seen President Macron of France, Prime Minister Bennett of Israel, President Erdogan in Turkey all tried to engage with Putin, and all talk about the same set of issues.

But you know, earlier in the week we heard President Putin's spokesman, Mr. Peskov say, look, if they agreed to neutrality, if they recognize these regions, if they recognize that Russia owns Crimea, then all of this fighting can stop.

First of all, no one's certain that's true. Second, for President Zelenskyy, he basically would be agreeing to the dismemberment of his country and for a Russian veto power over its alliances. And he's coming down to a really hard choice, which is, a grinding war that's going to kill thousands if not more, or coming to some kind of negotiated agreement directly with Putin, and so far they haven't even been able to arrange a meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin.

PAUL: Yeah. I mean, it seems clear even while these talks are happening. Whether they are fruitful or not, Ukraine is being destroyed, and people's lives are being lost. Now there's a prospect of chemical weapons.

I wonder, when you look at NATO, how they're positioned, is the use of chemical weapons a red line, really? And what would it say? What would it say if chemical weapons are used in Ukraine, and the West does nothing?

IOFFE: Well, we did just that in Syria.


IOFFE: You know?


IOFFE: And everybody -- went on with their lives, and -- except for the Syrians, right? I don't think America suffered really any major consequences for it.

I think that's the issue, right? That's why Ukraine wanted to get into NATO, so that there would be some kind of deterrence for Putin to do that kind of thing. Now there isn't. You know, I've been asking around Washington.

One of the things also on the table is nuclear weapons.


PHILLIP: Right, yes.

IOFFE: And would Vladimir Putin use something like a tactical nuclear weapon, for example, on Kyiv, and what I hear is --


IOFFE: What are we going to do? What I saw, for example, overnight, bombing 30 miles from the polish border. Specifically targeting a base where U.S. troops have been posted, right, until right before the war. I feel like there's -- Putin wants -- he's itching for a fight with the U.S.


SANGER: It also tells you one of the greatest risks here which is the deliberate expansion of war if he went into Moldova, over the border into a NATO country to get at some of these weapons supplies shipped into the Ukrainians.

There's also the accidental possibility. If we've learned one thing about the Russians in recent time, there aim isn't that great, and so you could have that.

Putin's got four things left. He's got chemical. He's got biological. He has nuclear and he has cyber. I think the cyber is probably reserved for going after our own financial institutions, and in retaliation for the sanctions.

But the range of those other tradition, more traditional weapons of mass destruction, I think he's going to be careful but not that careful.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Let's talk about Europe for a second. A lot of people today are talking about, is this the 1939 moment for Europe? The 9/11 moment for Europe?

Just this past week Emmanuel Macron of France said this is a tragic turning point for our history and also says there is a war on the ground, but we are not at war.

I wonder if Europe is kind of closing their eyes and ears to what's happening? Are they prepared for what this could mean for that continent?

IOFFE: Speaking to European diplomats both here and in Europe, everybody's saying, this is basically triggering memories of World War II and I've heard people say, this is our 9/11 moment, because they never thought -- this is a World War II-style war happening in the same areas where World War II happened.

And so they're horrified. That's why you're seeing such a unified Europe. Why they're sending lethal weapons to Ukraine and advertising it. But at the same time they're really hoping to contain it so it doesn't cross into NATO, which would become a wider war.

PHILLIP: And they're also saying to Ukraine, no, we're not going to fast track you into the E.U., no, we're not going to fast track into NATO. I mean --

IOFFE: No, we're not going to have a no-fly zone.

PHILLIP: No, we're not going to have a no-fly zone. David, do you think that this is -- that it almost seems two options. Either we stop World War III or we defer it? Which of the two do you think we're doing here?

SANGER: Well, certainly, President Biden, he said it again on Friday. He said, he doesn't want to be in direct conflict, because he says that leads you to World War III. That's why they stopped this idea of transferring MiG jets from Poland through the United States to the Ukrainians. I think the fear that you hear in Washington is that we somehow get sucked back in.

Now, the counter to that is, Putin's not doing so well right now and having a hard enough time even imagining how he would control an occupied Ukraine. So, he may not be in a great desire right now to expand the war and make this harder on himself.


SANGER: That's the best thing we have going right now.

PHILLIP: Major difference, with 1939, is that Putin is not getting Kyiv as quickly as he wanted to. So that's something to look at.

Thank you, Julia and David.

Coming up next for us, President Biden is blaming Russia for rising gas prices in the U.S., but will Americans buy it?



PHILLIP: From Russian caviar and diamonds to its oligarchs and banks, U.S. and allies sanctioned nearly every sector of Russia's economy for invading Ukraine and President Biden says more is still to come.


BIDEN: Putin is an aggressor. He is "the" aggressor, and Putin must pay the price. We're going to hit Putin hard because the United States closes are acting in unison.


PHILLIP: But some lawmakers say that is not enough.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I believe a sentiment we're fearful what Putin might do and what he might consider as an escalation. It's time for him to be fearful of what we might do.


PHILLIP: And joining us now with their reporting and insights, "Politico's" Rachael Bade, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of "The New York Times", and Margaret Talev of "Axios".

The White House made it pretty clear further military action is not on the table but the question has become what is left in the arsenal on the economic front?

And the American public seemed to think, according to this recent "Wall Street Journal" poll, that more should be done. 46 percent say not enough is done to help Ukrainians. They want more. You know, 35 percent say it's just right and just 6 percent say it's too much. So what's left? What are the options?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALST: The big options have already been rolled out, oil embargo and sanctions going to make life more expensive for Americans. I think this polling reflects the complication of what's going on here, which is that people do not want to commit U.S. military troops and do not want to provoke a Third World War, but that it's so deeply painful to watch what's happening to the Ukrainian people.

These sanctions take time to work. Americans are going to pay the price at home. And it is going to hurt Biden and the Democrats domestically.

PHILLIP: Meanwhile, the message from the White House from a political perspective has been the gas prices that you're seeing, food prices you're seeing, these are all Vladimir Putin's fault.

And while that might seem like a great idea, the numbers just don't track with that. I mean, inflation hit 7.9 percent prior to this invasion. So is this going to even work?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: It's hard to say, right? I mean if you're trying to convince Americans that have something that's front-faced. You're leaving your house, you're going to -- you're seeing high prices going to get groceries. You're seeing high prices at the pump as well.

And now the message is, pointing those same Americans to a foreign policy crisis and saying this is basically the factor of this. Now, I have thought that it's interesting that whereas maybe before with inflation you saw White House officials maybe initially saying look, this won't be longstanding.

Now acknowledging that this isn't going to be a temporary issue, now you're starting to see a shift with the messaging. Most recently -- I was with the vice president when she just went to Europe and we saw it there as well in Romania acknowledging that actually you are going to bear the burden of inflation. You are going to bear the burden of high gas prices but immediately pointing it to this crisis.

Now, whether or not that actually connects with folks that are facing these high prices, I think that's the challenge here.

RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO: And they're probably looking at some of this recent polling that we've seen where Americans by, I think the numbers were something like more than 50 percent of Americans, say right now, they're willing to take a harder hit at the polls -- polls -- the gas pump. It's Sunday morning, guys. Sorry -- in order to help Ukraine.

But the problem is, you know, they're going to have GOP messaging in their ear. Republicans trying to say, look, no. These gas prices have been going up for a long time and it's going to become this big messaging war. Who do they end up believing?

TALEV: We saw a lot of this test at the retreat in Philadelphia over the weekend among Democrats trying some of these messages out loud. Another Democrat saying ok, that's fine but you've got to give Americans more. You can't just make this argument.

PHILLIP: I want to switch gears to the Republican Party because I think what's as going on there is really fascinating. You have, of course, former president Trump doing what he normally does, praising Putin and Xi Jinping but then you also have people like Madison Cawthorn. Just take a listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got along with Putin. I got along with xi. This doesn't seem to be the same Putin that I was dealing with. But I will tell you, he wouldn't have changed if I were dealing with him.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug. Remember the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt, and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.


PHILLIP: Woke ideologies, I mean this is literally coming out of Putin's playbook and there is a corner of the right that is taking all of this in and spitting it right back out.

TALEV: This is not the norm even inside the Republican Party at this point. But if it is an indicator of that wing of the caucus, it tells you that as we move a little bit closer towards 2024 and depending on what these midterms look like, depending on which Republican nominee emerges at some of these races, we could be hearing more of that. And I think it's a real concern for a lot of Republicans.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Also another gentle, just kind of a trickle-down effect of Trump's messaging and his grip on the party, at least certain factions of it still. He puts out a message, you know, at times that will -- actually not at times -- just not condemning Putin as well. Then you see this messaging from its members.


BADE: I've actually been struck by how many Republicans have actually pushed back on him. I mean when you have Kevin McCarthy, who is the Republican leader in the House who wants to be speaker some day, never speaks out against Donald Trump, saying, you know, pushing back and saying he's not a genius, as Donald Trump called him the other day. Putin is not a genius. That's pretty telling.

And I think that this Putin wing of the Republican Party, while they're pretty vocal and, you know, obviously getting a lot of attention, there are a lot of Republicans in Congress right now who are pushing back on Trump and saying that they support Ukraine and we need to do more.

PHILLIP: That's because the polling is pretty much unambiguous. I mean what -- 8, almost 9 in 10 Republicans oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And then you have former Trump officials at the same time like former vice president Pence, Mike Pompeo the former secretary of state, trying to have this almost revisionist history of their role in, in -- you know, the first impeachment, you know, of Trump kind of holding Zelenskyy up over this issue of trying to find dirt on Biden.


PHILLIP: And they're going out there trying to say we want to be tough on Putin. I mean will this work? BADE: It's absolutely hypocritical. There's no way you can spin that.

I mean Pompeo was the leader of the State Department when President Trump was trying to elicit favors from Zelenskyy and did nothing at least publicly and did very little behind the scenes in terms of sticking out for his ambassadors who were concerned and who were raising the alarm. I mean it's 100 percent -- there's no way you can couch it otherwise.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And you see certain folks that, you know -- that have political aspirations as well that are now seizing the moment, trying to use it to their advantage. Mike Pence was overseas, you know --


PHILLIP: Right. He was -- he was on the border.

KANNO-YOUNGS: He was at the border. Right.

I mean you know, as well going to the border, kind of having -- taking advantage of that moment as well while also, just reading the aid, too. So you can see that folks are trying to seize the moment here.

PHILLIP: And this is of course, the same Mike Pence who said, you know, Putin is a stronger leader than Barack Obama. I mean there is a history of the praise for Putin, which as you mentioned is a trickle down from Donald Trump. You know, they might be trying the revisionist history, but we remember.


PHILLIP: Coming up next for us, the Republicans push the envelope on everything from abortion to LGBTQ rights.



PHILLIP: Welcome back.

Republican lawmakers across the country are moving aggressively to implement some of the most socially-conservative state laws that the country has seen in decades. Florida is a case in point. Its GOP- controlled legislature passed 15-week abortion ban and a bill that limits how schools and offices can talk about race.

But it's the Parental Rights In Education Bill that has received the most attention. Critics call it the quote, "Don't Say Gay" Bill because it aims to ban teachers from discussing gender and sexual identity with young students. And Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): How many parents want their kindergartners to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction? (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: But inside Florida and across the country the bill has prompted an emotional outcry.


SHEVRIN JONES (D-FL), STATE SENATOR: They're going to create an environment where it's going to continue to keep children more closeted. It's going to put more of a censor on teachers. LGBTQU are four time likely to commit suicide not because of their sexual orientation but because of how they are treated.


PHILLIP: We're in this moment now where Republicans across the country -- it's Florida, it's Texas, it's all over the country -- pushing these bills. This one in Florida on banning the discussion of sexual identity in school it turns out is actually not that popular.

There's a new ABC/Ipsos poll that asks about it and found 62 percent opposed to this legislation. And yet Republicans believe this is a political winner.

TALEV: For sure. They believe it will motivate their base, and also I think what you see happening nationally is that GOP-led legislatures and governors offices understand that they have a moment.

That there are major demographic changes under way. That gay rights is accepted nationally now and that they have a limited window. But a 6-3 Supreme Court with which to push a series of laws and legislative efforts that may get upheld at the Supreme Court now that this is the time to do it.

And so there's been a lot of discussion. Is this about Trump or is this about Biden? It's probably about the Supreme Court and a moment in time.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And you hit on a really good point there too on power of -- when you have the majority of some of these state legislatures as well. When you have state legislatures across the country that for the past -- in recent years have been passing these bills to kind of happen to a certain grievance of these populations too and a grievous of the Republican base.

BADE: And also the political ambitions behind it, too. Let's not forget, you know, 2024 is right around the corner.

KANNO-YOUNGS: That's right.

BADE: A lot of Republicans are, you know, looking in to position themselves to potentially run if Donald Trump does not. Ron DeSantis of Florida especially is one of these.

And I think, you know, something else that's going on and that is, you know, Republicans has sort of used the pandemic for the past few years to sort of embrace this culture war, talking about masks, reopening schools, being against vaccine mandates, et cetera.

Now that we're sort of getting back to life, you're seeing Republicans looking for these other issues whether it's talking about, you know, transgender issues, sexual orientation in schools, abortion, anything they can do to sort of rev up the Republican base. They're looking for those --

TALEV: But by the way, there are like in blue states a number of pushes in the opposite direction to go further left with legislation. And what we're seeing as a result is a real bifurcation of the country.

Like remember that Obama speech about how there's no red states and blue states? It's just the United States. Like that seems like it was a million years ago. There are absolutely red states and blue states at this moment.

PHILLIP: This Texas law on, you know, gender affirming treatment for transgender youth and holding parents accountable, criminalizing it effectively.

This is what one parent in Texas, a parent of a transgender child said in Texas. "If we have to become political refugees in our own country, then that's what we do but I don't know where it's safe."

And to your point, Margaret, there is now, I mean, whether it's on LGBTQ issues or abortion, people are seriously thinking, where do I need to go to not be affected by these rules? What does that mean for our country?

BADE: Yes. I mean it's kind of a scary thing to start thinking you're going to have to leave the state or move their families. In particular with that Texas issue and parents and how they, you know, raise their own kids.


BADE: You know, Republicans are trying to have it both ways here. They're trying to say, you know, they want to run a midterm campaign saying that they're behind parents' rights to decide how to raise their own children, but at the same time in Texas, they're saying they're going to go after parents for how they decide to raise their own kids.

PHILLIP: And criminalizing not just that, but also in some cases when it comes to abortion, you could be charged for leaving the state to seek an abortion.


PHILLIP: So it's criminalizing a lot of elements of things that I think people thought were settled.

KANNO-YOUNGS: You're starting to see a trickle kind of effect -- a ripple effect when it comes to the entire sort of infrastructure as well for these places. I mean some health clinics now, as well, there's reports that aid to health clinics a well are going to get kind of restricted here as the laws pass as well.

Your point as well about the parents specifically. The messaging that some of these officials have, even DeSantis there talking about, look, this is about empowering parents. But at the same time you're passing legislation at a time that are going to restrict the ability of those parents to at times raise a child based off of their orientation.


TALEV: Right. Parents should get decide what's in school, unless it's the thing that has been banned to be taught in school.

PHILLIP: Fascinating conversation. We will definitely be watching.

But coming up next for Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Winston Churchill moment. How the Ukrainian president made the world take notice.



PHILLIP: He went from playing a school teacher who becomes a president in a comedy on TV to being an actor who won the very real job of leading Ukraine in 2019. Volodymyr Zelenskyy's biography reads like the script of a Hollywood movie.

But now with his country under siege, his leadership has galvanized and inspired millions around the world. He has demonstrated his mastery of the political communication, and his viral videos of the streets of Ukraine, his public address to protesters in Europe and in a speech to the British parliament recently, he echoed the words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill in World War II.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): We will fight until the end -- at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.


PHILLIP: And Julia is rejoining us now. So Julia, he seems to really understand the moment from the big picture perspective. Not just what it means for Ukraine, but what it means for the world. Is this his Churchill moment?

IOFFE: It sure seems like it. And what's interesting is that going into the war he was a deeply unpopular president. His approval rating was something like 25 percent. He was not very good at governing.

But as a communicator, as somebody who knows how to work the camera, who knows how to get a message across, how to motivate people, how to get a feeling out of people, he's been masterful. It turns out being a good communicator is really important for a crisis moment like this. And rousing that kind of patriotic feeling, not just inside Ukraine, but outside Ukraine, messaging to people like you and me or other people in America or Europe who didn't really care much about Ukraine, but getting them not to just care, but to feel for it, to really want to help.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean a lot of Americans, you know, they -- maybe they're not steeped in European history, but they get what he's trying to say and do.

So the other comparison a lot of people make is with actually Ronald Reagan who was also an actor, but it's the communication piece that Zelenskyy seems to get.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And I though Julia just made a really fascinating point as well. Messaging not only just to the Ukrainians but to the west, to, you know, people in the United States, also to people in Russia as well, you know.

Early on -- remember in the early days of the invasion, some of those first social media videos directly speaking to folks as well and saying, look, we are an independent country, yes. This is the history here.

I know that you're hearing stuff from other mediums, from Vladimir Putin as well but this is our truth as Ukrainian people as well.

Really fascinating when you look at Zelenskyy at social media in the modern age. And when you have a foreign policy crisis. I mean just seeing how effective it can be now and seeing it as a tool moving forward.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean even -- I even think about the way that he dresses in these videos. It all is part of this image that he's creating of someone who is in it, in the fight, in Kyiv, not leaving.

JULIA: Yes, I was going to say, it's such a striking contrast to Putin, right, who has seemed -- he seems to have not left his office, that one little office in the Kremlin since this all started.

He's either meeting with people via video link or when he meets with the men who are carrying out his orders, you know, his defense minister. They're like 20 feet away down a table. He has not visited the field of combat. He's always in a suit and a tie in an office.


IOFFE: And Zelenskyy is always wearing this kind of military khaki green, he's out in the field or he is actually in his office which is a little bit different than Putin being in the office. Because he's showing the Russians, like here I am, I'm in my office, knowing that a Russian rocket could hit it at any time.

PHILLIP: We have to talk about the kind of full-circle moment for Zelenskyy. He was at the center of former President Trump's first impeachment and now look at where he is. BADE: Yes. I mean from this sort of a obscure figure in an he

impeachment that no one has ever heard of to this guy front and center on the world stage.

I mean look, here in the United States there was a lot of respect for him on both sides of the aisle when he was first sworn in because of the campaign that he ran saying he was going to sort of root out corruption. There were lawmakers from both parties who were there when he was sworn in.

The problem was that former President Donald Trump saw him as a tool to use for his own political ends and clearly tried to strong-arm him by holding up essential military aid that he needed in the fight against Russia to try to get these investigations of his political rival, then Joe Biden, the future president.


BADE: So there was this obviously huge drama on Capitol Hill. Republicans siding with the president even though privately they were working behind the scenes to try to get him to release the aid. I think the way he handled that by not giving in to President Trump at the time when he was new, new in office and really needed these things from the United States has garnered this bipartisan respect even before this. People really admired him.

PHILLIP: And he got what he needed for his country. And we're seeing the results of that right now.

Thanks to everyone for being here with us at the table. And thanks to you at home.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. And don't forget, you can also listen to our podcast. Download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcasts. You can scan that QR code at the bottom of your screen for more.

And coming up next with CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests today include the national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

Thank you again for sharing another busy Sunday morning with us. Have a great rest of your day.