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W.H.: Biden Told Zelenskyy U.S. Will Give $500M In New Aid; Trump Asks Putin To Release Dirt About Biden's Family Amid War; Susan Collins First GOP Senator To Back Jackson For Supreme Court; 1/6 Committee Members Urge Attorney General Garland To Do More; CNN: DOJ Investigation Into Hunter Biden Picking Up Steam. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired March 30, 2022 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAJ. GEN. DANA PITTARD, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I do in some ways, it's a humanitarian mission to take care of refugees and civilians, who, as we're seeing, the Russians have very few forces there, but every now and then are lobbing missiles and long range artillery into that area, which their imprecise weapons. So they're killing civilians. So NATO, and even the United Nations could be a part of this would demand that Russia, not fire into that humanitarian assistance zone. That is the best way to safely move the civilians and protect them.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: It's a provocative idea. We'll continue to watch in the days ahead. General Pittard, grateful for your time and insights, sir.
PITTARD: Thank you, John.
KING: Thank you.
When we come back, some brand new details just into CNN on President Biden's call with Ukraine's President last hour. Stay with us.
KING: We have some important new details just into us on that call last hour between President Biden and Zelenskyy. Let's get straight to the White House and our Chief Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, what do we know?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we know that they spoke for over an hour. Of course, part of this conversation always revolves around that military assistance. It's going into Ukraine when it comes to these weapons that the Ukrainians are using to defend themselves. But the White House also says that in this call today, President Biden announced they are going to be sending $500 million in direct budgetary aid to Ukraine, that is something that is going to go to things like paying the salaries of Ukrainian officials, among other items.
And it's notable because the aid that we've talked about so far that they have sent to Ukraine has primarily focused on this military assistance, and this is them helping with the budget. So that is notable there. Of course, it's comes as the government there has been under increasing pressure and challenges since this invasion has started.
And President Zelenskyy according to this White House readout, also updated President Biden on the status of Ukraine's negotiations with Russia. That is something so far that the White House has said. The terms that they come to is up to Ukraine, it's up to Russia. The White House, obviously, is not weighing in on what they think that outcome should look like. But it does come amid some deep scepticism from the White House about whether or not Russia is approaching those talks in a serious way, John.
KING: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate the hustle at the White House.
Let's bring it in studio with me to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of Axios, Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post, and Francesca Chambers of McClatchy. We were talking as we were waiting for Kaitlan to come up about this new money. And it is interesting, she notes the budget assistance, it tells you number one, you're moving from you -- still have military, still have humanitarian, now you're adding government to government money, if you will, keep the government running money, which, a, is important but, b, tells you the White House understands we're going to be out this a while.
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Yes. And that $500 million, as Kaitlan was saying, it doesn't just go to paying their employees, it also goes towards paying Ukraine's military. And a U.S. official was telling me just before this, that this is more pre- emptive. It's not that they're in serious jeopardy right now, but because they do believe that this will go on for a while.
This is a country that's had its whole entire economy shut down by this word, and people are fleeing the country. So they're not paying taxes at this point, potentially. And so that is part of the reason why the U.S. is sending this assistance now.
KING: And you see, look, Zelenskyy is not getting everything he wants from Biden. And that sometimes becomes the topic of conversation. But if you read this statement, it's also clear, he's getting a lot.
MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Yes, I mean, and it's two things. Number one, its resources. And number two, it's kind of the -- I don't know of moral support, or political support. And Biden's intense desire has been, whenever possible to be able to make these statements in a multilateral stage, not just the United States talking, or at least, the administration in Congress talking, not just the White House talking. He understands that there's strength in numbers.
But he -- there was a tell the other day when he took questions from the press, and he talked about how this is going to be a battle for months to come or for the rest of the year. They are digging in for really prolonged commitment to sanctions and impacts to the nations that pushed them. And so, look, it's one thing to sanction oligarchs, it's another thing to bite the bullet when it comes to increased energy prices. And that is going to be the real challenge and holding both the U.S. electorate together and all of these Western allies is how do you deal with energy prices and the political stress that puts on the economy of these individual countries and on the politics of the people in charge.
KING: Right. And you see fresh evidence of that today. We can show you, a Germany has essentially a warning system when they have energy issues. Germany issues early warning of possible gas shortages, as Russian threatens supplies. This is why in some ways, I think Putin may have been surprised by the new German Chancellor getting out there ahead with or sometimes even ahead of President Biden saying we have to stand up here.
But that is the challenge for the -- yesterday, the President's on the phone with the chancellor, with the President of France, the prime minister of Italy, the prime minister of U.K., that is, as you go into week eight, week nine and potentially months and months of this holding everybody together when they're all facing economic and political stress.
SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And that was the point of the White House announcement last week when the President was in Brussels that the U.S. would work to ship additional liquefied natural gas to these countries knowing that -- to try to just kind of get them off the reliance on Russian energy exports. But that's still certainly consideration where so many parts of Europe are so reliant on that gas and those energy resources from Russia.
It is also one of the reasons why despite all the domestic pressure that President Biden had, particularly from Congress, he really wanted to work in concert with allies especially when acting on these particularly energy oil issues.
But you're right, like, as this drags on into the second month and months beyond, how does the U.S. keep trying to move all these NATO Allies together when each country has its own, you know, political economic considerations, certainly a challenge for President Biden.
KING: So then let me add into this and it's -- I feel somewhat distasteful doing it. But I think it's important when somebody wants his old job back, the former president of the United States at this moment, at this moment, if you want -- it's a fair debate to Joe Biden do more. Could you sanction Putin more? Could you -- should you send in a no-fly zone or the MiGs, that's fine. That's a fair public discourse.
But Donald Trump at this moment, at this moment, Donald Trump thinks if Vladimir Putin has any dirt on the Biden family, he should release it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why did the mayor of Moscow's wife give the Biden's, both of them, $3.5 million? That's a lot of money. She gave me $3.5. So now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Number one, that money thing flunks any back checked machine. But just -- anyone got a why? Can anyone answer the question why? You don't have to try if you don't want to.
KIM: Well, I mean, it's Donald Trump, big Donald Trump and focusing solely on himself and his political gain over everything that is going on, you know, globally, but I also think it's beyond just kind of the brazen rhetoric and the conduct from the former president. He is still such a relevant factor in this conversation because he is considering a comeback bid. I think it's the assumption that if he does run, he would probably clear the Republican field.
And I think it is a serious concern among globally about what does happen to this international alliance that, you know, the NATO countries have worked so hard to keep together. If someone like Donald Trump comes back again. And I, you know, it's something that our, you know, Mitt Romney told our colleague Kasie Hunt about this, that it could be permanently damaged. And something that is really on top of mind for so many countries.
CHAMBERS: It's sort of the question that came up in the press conference that the President had overseas.
KING: Yes. OK. Shifting to something much more positive, a smooth landing today for the NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. This is this morning. He returned to Earth after a record breaking 355 days in space. Vande Hei, this is important, was traveling in a Russian space capsule with two Russian cosmonauts. It's a partnership of course drawing a lot more attention right now, because of the heightened tensions between the United States and Russia.
NASA, however, says he continues to work closely and efficiently with the Russian Space Agency. We'll be right back.
KING: For big domestic issues now in a significant development this morning on Capitol Hill, Senator Susan Collins of Maine says she will vote to confirm Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Collins is the first Republican to publicly come out in support of President Biden's pick. The Maine senator said she made the decision yesterday after a second personal meeting with the Judge.
Great reporters are back with us. The significance of this right there, you have one Republican. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
KING: She is one of three who voted for Judge Jackson when she made it to the D.C., her last appointment to the appeals court. Who are we looking for now? The possibilities are?
KIM: The possibilities are Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski. I mean, Lindsey Graham did vote -- of South Carolina, did vote for her for that lower court position. But I think if you saw his line of questioning in the confirmation hearings last week, and as common sense, I think it's pretty safe to say that he is on track to opposer. But Mitt Romney did meet with her yesterday called her very charming, very intelligent, had a lot of questions for her, certainly focusing on her judicial philosophy and not too much else.
KING: And as we wait to see if there are more Republicans, it's now pretty self-evident, she will make it. She will get that Senator Manchin was a question mark on the Democratic side. He has said he's there. So this is history.
CHAMBERS: It certainly takes a lot of pressure off of the White House. They were in a situation before where Joe Manchin had said that he would vote for her. So they were in a 50-50 split. And the Vice President would have had to be the decider with a Republican coming down on her side.
Then you're right, it's almost all but certain at this point. But there is some hope, I think, from the White House, that there will be other Republicans that could join in that maybe this also takes the pressure off of them. But then we saw that Senator Tillis also came out, he's on the Senate Judiciary Committee today and said that he will not vote for her. So maybe not so much with Republican.
TALEV: But you know, I think there is not a brimming sense of bipartisanship in the Senate. But you're seeing in small places where it really matters, a willingness to cross the line in this case for her nomination, in the case potentially of some COVID funding, in the case of trying to move forward on some sanctions for Russia. There's this small group of both Democratic senators in the center and Republican senators in the center, whatever that means, who are willing to join together and this is an important example of that.
KING: Small group. We'll see if it gets bigger. Let's move on to another big important issue. A very busy week already for the January 6 committee. Tomorrow, they will interview Jared Kushner, the president -- former president's son-in-law. They've been sorting through the text messages between Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, and the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and looking to the Justice Department for action after a judge involved in one of related case said it is more likely than not, quote, more likely than not that Donald Trump committed a crime.
The committee recommended the former White House aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro also be held in contempt and revisited the President's phone records. Let's bring that into the conversation in the sense.
Let's focus on this pressure on Merrick Garland. A lot of the Democrats are saying, hey -- and Republicans on the committee saying at least look at this stuff.
TALEV: Openly saying.
KING: Openly saying we're gathering a lot of information. Now you have this judge giving his view. What's happening there?
TALEV: Well, look, I think there are two things that are pivotal. One is a number of revelations about text messages and gaps in phone records, and some really phenomenal reporting. The other is that it's been three months since the House recommended going after Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff and the Justice Department has not acted. And it's -- that is a pivotal issue that is, look, we're at a tipping point in the calendar, Republicans think they're going to retake the House, if they do the investigations over the committee obviously, has turned up a lot of evidence where the dots could be connected.
But if they cannot compel crucial people to turn over evidence or to testify, makes it much harder for them to make their case. And so that pressure, that very public pressure on Merrick Garland is both as we've written about a collision course with Biden, who has said, hey, I'm not going to do what Trump did. I'm not trying to politicise the Justice Department, Merrick Garland makes his choices on his own, and Democrats who were like we can't do our job, unless you help us do our job.
And so it is a lot of political dynamics, but it's centered around some really real evidence of that committee is in the process of gathering but stonewalled on at some places.
KING: The stonewall part gets more complicated by the day because of the calendar. We're about to pass into April of an election year, Republicans believe they will take back the House. We don't know what's going to happen. But if you're that committee, you have to be open to that possibility, which is where do you have to make big decisions.
We thought we'd have public hearings soon. Do we have any sense that we're going to have public hearings in the month of April? We thought they would be in the spring, but we don't know. The key points are getting the key witnesses to fill in some of these evidence gaps.
KING: They are stalling because they understand the political climate.
KIM: Right, right. And also, I mean, even if the Justice Department takes action, it's not a guarantee that they will still hand over information to the January 6 committee. I'm not sure we expect Steve Bannon of all people to actually cooperate. I think he's kind of taking the charge almost as a badge of honor of not cooperating. But there certainly is this sense that time is running out. I mean, we've known that this committee has been working on a truncated timetable. And that's I heard a lot of frustration and impatience from the House Democrats earlier this week, when they were very kind of publicly putting pressure on Merrick Garland for the first time. And it is because they want this information, I mean, they've interviewed hundreds of witnesses, we can't overlook that fact.
But they want to get to that inner circle that knows the most about what President Trump --
KIM: -- was doing that day. And they can't do that without cooperation of everyone involved.
KING: And when we come back, political pressure on the Justice Department have a different perspective. Brand new reporting into this -- by CNN about the federal investigation of the President's son, Hunter Biden. That investigation now heating up. Details next.
KING: Brand new CNN reporting we want to share now, a Justice Department investigation of Hunter Biden, the President's son, has intensified over the last several months. This probe began back as early as 2018. It involves Hunter Biden's business dealings in foreign countries, including Ukraine, while his father was vice president. CNN's Evan Perez has been following the story for us. What's new?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we know that the investigation has intensified in the last few months. For instance, we know that there have been witnesses that have been brought to the grand jury in Wilmington, Delaware, this is where this case is being investigated. And we know witnesses that are being called to go testify to provide information to investigators in the coming weeks.
This is an investigation that as you said goes back to 2018, it's looking at a variety of things. But the focus of investigation is whether Hunter Biden and some of his business associates violated laws, including tax, money laundering and foreign lobbying laws. A lot of it has to do with his business activities in China, as well as Ukraine.
A lot of lately have been questions about his work with this company called Burisma in Ukraine. He was getting paid as much as $50,000 a month working with this company at a time that Joe Biden was vice president in charge of Ukraine matters under the Obama administration. Of course, that raised a lot of concerns about potential conflicts.
So now we know that it appears that the prosecutors are trying to come to a decision to -- as to whether they're going to bring charges. We don't know how long this is going to continue. But obviously, it's a very politically charged investigation that the Justice Department is looking at very seriously.
KING: When you mentioned politically charged, so let's just go through the process. So the prosecutor in Delaware would come to a decision of whether he believes this --
KING: -- and then come to the Justice Department, is that something the attorney general would have to sign off on?
PEREZ: Right, the attorney general, this is something I'm sure that Merrick Garland, the attorney general would want to take a look at and decide whether this is something that goes forward. We know that there have been conversations between officials of the Maine Justice Department and Delaware asked about the strength of this case. We'll see where this lands in the coming months.
KING: It's important reporting. Come back to us when we know more. Evan Perez, grateful.
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