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Bucha Coroner: 1,150 Bodies Found, Examined Since Russian Invaded; Biden Admin Requests Another $33 Billion In Ukraine Aid; Russian Artillery Bombards Cities In Ukraine's East; U.N. Chief Meets With Ukraine's President; U.S. Official: Russia Wants "Forced Capitulations" Of Ukraine Govt; U.S. Economy Shrank Unexpectedly In First Quarter; Biden: I'm Not Concerned About A Recession; Dem Leaders Say Their Priority Is "Lowering Costs." Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 28, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Just moments ago, President Biden says, he will ask the Congress for $33 billion in additional new funding for Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving new aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen. As long as the assaults and atrocities continue, we're going to continue to supply military assistance.


KING: Plus, President Biden also taking a moment to directly respond to the Russian regime. He says the Kremlin is desperate and that its invasion is so far, an abject failure. That a day after Vladimir Putin tries to rattle the west. Putin says Russia has the tools to respond "lightning-fast" to any intervention against his army.

Today Ukraine's east facing constant Russian shelling. 27 homes damaged in a Donetsk village. At least four killed after Russian artillery targeted a hospital in Luhansk. In Russian controlled hear song, that right there. The sound of Ukrainian pushed back, a fiery blast hits near a TV tower and disrupts Russian propaganda.

Today the United Nations secretary general meets with Ukraine's president, that after an up-close look at Bucha and Irpin two sites of Russian war crimes. The secretary general calls Putin's invasion, "evil and an absurdity."

And also, today Ukraine's prosecutor general naming 10 Russian soldiers suspected of committing war crimes. Officials have now corrected and examined 1150 bodies of civilians, found dead since the start of the invasion. Listen here to Bucha's coroner, describing the everyday horror of his job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SERHIY KAPLISHNY, BUCHA CITY FUNERAL DIRECTOR & CORONER: We collected them from the roadsides, from basements. We had to exhume some of the bodies because they were forcibly buried in the people's gardens. And a lot of them were burned. We found a family of six people, five adults and one child. And they were shot and then burned.


KING: CNN is covering this war across the globe. But we begin our coverage this hour at the White House with our chief correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, a big move from the president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is a massive, massive funding request from President Biden to Congress, asking for this money for Ukraine. It is $33 billion in total. And let me break down what's inside of this request from President Biden. It's over $20 billion in security assistance. That's for weapons and ammunition that you've seen flowing from the United States to Ukraine over the last several months.

It's $8.5 billion in economic assistance. That's to help the Ukrainian government with day-to-day expenses they have for people who are still there, and about $3 billion in humanitarian assistance and few food security. That's obviously for people who need that to live on a day- to-day basis. That's what comprises this $33 billion request that the president is going to send to Congress.

And it is about twice the size of the last package that they asked Congress to authorize, just to give you a sense of how big this is and how much money we are talking about here. But as the president noted, he said he believes the cost of inaction is much higher than just these $33 billion. And he noted that the Ukrainians are the ones who are paying the real price here because they're paying with their life.

And so, this is a request that he is making. And John, it also speaks to how long they think this is going to go on. Because this is supposed to be for the next five months, according to a senior administration official, what they believe Ukraine needs in these $33 billion.

Of course, that also gets to the end of the fiscal year. That's why it's that five-month timeline, but it does show just how much longer they believe this invasion could go on. And they've said, of course, it can go on for much longer than that is well.

And you also saw President Biden today addressing these nuclear threats that you've seen coming from top Russian officials, including President Putin himself. The President called these idle threats, and he said that they are irresponsible to be making these remarks about using nuclear weapons. Of course, that is something that he's addressing those comments in recent days.

But John, I think, really one of the big questions here is going to be what Congress does with this request, because the president is asking them to act very quickly. It also comes as they have been arguing over COVID funding requests from the White House. The president said, he doesn't care if they go together. He still thinks both need to be passed. But it remains to be seen how Congress is going to handle this massive funding request for Ukraine.

KING: We'll watch that debate as a place for it but a major action by the president today. Kaitlan Collins, thanks for kicking us off at the White House. Let's get straight to Ukraine now in Lviv, CNN's Scott McLean is there for us. Scott, what is the latest on the battlefield?


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I listened to President Biden's comments earlier today and it seemed like the president was almost directly responding to do something that the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said earlier today. The president made abundantly clear in his comments that he did not believe that the United States was engaging in a proxy war. He also made clear that the United States is not attacking Russia. They are merely defending Ukraine from Russian aggression.

But earlier today, the foreign ministry spokesperson for Russia warned that Kviy and the west should understand that strikes in Russia will have a harsh response. We do not recommend testing our patients. Russia is determined to achieve the goals of this special operation.

Now this facilitation of weapons going into Ukraine, it's a little bit of semantics here, of course, they are. Those weapons are being used to defend Ukraine. But there were strikes in Russia just the other day and Ukraine didn't directly take responsibility for them. But they might as well have an advisor to the president saying, pretty bluntly that karma is a cruel thing.

Now there is fighting that is ramping up in the eastern part of the country, John. Some of the toughest battles fought in this war yet, in part because of the buildup of Russian troops in that area. There are also new comments from the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, saying that the United States believes that Russia will plan to force the Ukrainian government to capitulate.

And when it comes to local governments in areas that are controlled by Russian troops, they will do what they have done before. In Kherson, most recently is take over the local government. And what they did back in 2014, is hold these referendums and have people vote.

The United States says those are sham referendums in voting to be under Russian control. Also, the U.N. secretary general is here in Ukraine. He toured those Kyiv suburbs, as you mentioned earlier, he is expected to meet with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And he is trying to get something tangible out of these meetings.

He was in Moscow on Tuesday, and he managed to get from Vladimir Putin, at least an agreement in principle to work with the U.N. and the Red Cross to facilitate the evacuation of civilians in Mariupol. Now, the challenge is actually turning that in principle agreement into something that has more detail in it and might actually work on the ground, John? KING: Well, let's certainly hope that something comes of that to help the people trapped in Mariupol and elsewhere. But as you know, Scott, better than I because you're on the ground there. That has been a frustrating process in the past. Scott McLean, live in Lviv for us. Grateful for the reporting. Let's get some important perspective now from retired Major General Paul Eaton. He's the former commanding general of the coalition military assistance training team in Iraq.

General, grateful for your time today. I have the battlefield up. We'll go through some of the particulars in a minute. But when you hear the commander in chief, the president United States say, I need $33 billion for the next several months, on top of $14 billion already in the pipeline. What does that tell you about the assessment at the White House, at the Pentagon of how long this is going to go on?

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON (RET.) FMR. COMMANDING GENERAL COALITION MILITARY ASSISTANCE TRAINING TEAM IN IRAQ: John, thank you very much for having me. Listening to the president, he is so articulate and spot on what we need to do. We're in right now a, what we say in the logistics community, a push phase. We are pushing goods and supplies towards President Zelenskyy at a rate that is appropriate for what he is facing.

The difference about push is that we collectively understand what he needs. And we just start making that happen. We started pushing supplies to a degree that is going to satisfy the needs of the men and women on the front.

KING: You have a war of words between the Kremlin and the White House and the other allies. You also have the war on the battlefield. This is the map, a static map here. And you see, the Russians wanted to take Kyiv, or they failed, and they have now - Ukrainians have taken back this area here. The Russians though are making gains generally over here in the east.

I just want to walk. Let our viewers take a look at this from a time lapse perspective. This is back to early March, the first week of March. The red is newly seized territory from the Russians. So, back at the 5th of March, they were approaching Kyiv. They had taken a lot of area here. Just watches this plays out. You see the Russians gaining ground first and then losing the ground here.

But General Eaton, gaining ground down here across. So, the new aggression, the new violence is mostly here in the east. What do you see as the Russian gold? Do you see an attempt to get a crescent like this? Are they trying to cut the country like this? Or do they want to come all the way over here to Odessa and beyond?

GEN. EATON: John, I believe they want to consolidate the previous gains from years ago plus today in the east. And President Putin right now is desperately looking for an off ramp. He is looking for with 9th May on his horizon. Here's what we have. Now we can declare a victory and don't make us come back Ukraine.

[12:10:00] It's important to note that about 20 years ago, President Putin was the equivalent to our national security advisor. And he developed a policy that may still be in place, I suspect it is, use of a nuclear weapon, "deescalate the situation." Russia is losing right now. They are disorganized. And all they've got right now is mass artillery with a threat of maneuver forces right behind it.

So, this is not going well for Russia. The threat of his so called deescalation with a nuclear weapon is a credible problem for the west, for NATO, for the United States. And we need to remove what some people call, a strategic or deliberate ambiguity and make sure that Russia understands that the following will happen, if he introduces a nuclear weapon, because things are not going well for him today.

KING: Well, do you believe is that something the president should say? I just want to bring up a map of the region just to remind people. You have the circle of NATO countries around Ukraine, bordering Russia up here, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. The president continues to say, no American boots on the ground, no NATO, no-fly zone.

Those would be military steps to help Ukraine, in terms of deterring Putin from something that would be reckless and dangerous. What in your view must the president do? Just lay it out clearly in words or their actions.

GEN. EATON: John, I hesitate to get into the world of diplomacy plus military. We've got brilliant men and women doing that for the president right now. What I would offer is that we need to introduce a credible naval threat from NATO into the Black Sea, to make sure that Mr. Putin understands that we do not consider that to be a Russian like that we consider any threat of an amphibious action into the south, near Odessa to aid and abet what's going on right now in the south to be a problem.

And to, we don't have to say it, but just to introduce a capability in the region, in the Black Sea, to make sure that Mr. Putin understands that there is a real and a capable threat right around his warships. And we know that he is extremely sensitive right now about his navy and the Black Sea.

KING: General Paul Eaton, sir, grateful for your time and your insights, appreciate it.

GENERAL EATON: Thank you very much.

KING: Thank you. Up next for us, the economy sends up a flare. New numbers raise the possibility of recession. Plus, Democrats already have a heap of election year challenges one, trying to pass a pared down version of their one's ambitious agenda.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Surprising new numbers from the government today. The U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter of 2022. The nation's gross domestic product declined at an annual rate of 1.4 percent. Most economists were expecting a positive growth number instead, the numbers show the worst quarter in two years and remind us, the pandemic economic disruption is anything but over. Let's get some behind the numbers now, with CNN business reporter, Matt Egan. Matt, what does this tell us?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, John, this is one of the more confusing GDP reports that I've ever seen. The headline no doubt is ugly here. Worst quarter for the economy, nearly two years first contraction in the GDP since that epic collapse in the spring of 2020. But when you actually go under the hood, you can see there's some temporary factors here that masked the underlying strength in the economy.

Let me show you what I mean. First, Omicron disrupted businesses and COVID relief to households and businesses lapsed. Secondly, supply disruptions and really strong demand caused imports to spike. And three, really accounts for all of this decline in GDP. But there's some bright spots to positive consumer spending, spending actually accelerated, businesses were investing in factory and equipment at a very strong pace.

And I think all of this explains why we shouldn't panic about this report. It does not seem to suggest the recession is imminent or anything like that. Moody's economist Mark Zandi, he told me that the economy is still growing at a pace that is going to bring unemployment down. Remember, we're looking at just 3.6 percent unemployment, that is down dramatically from nearly 15 percent two years ago.

So, today's GDP report looks like a head fake, the economy is expected to return to growth. But John, the big question is, what does the economy look like a year from now? Because that's when high inflation and the Feds rate hikes could raise the risk of a recession.

KING: Right. You focus on a year from now, trust me, Matt, a lot of people in this town are focusing on a few months from now, November as well, but that's the conversation. Matt Egan, appreciate the very important context there. And that context is important because economically Matt just laid it out clearly. This is one warning sign among other signs that are quite positive.

But that negative GDP number is another election year warning sign politically for President Biden and his Democratic Party. And it comes at a crossroads moment. Most Democrats see the next several weeks from now until the Memorial Day congressional recess as their last opportunity to pass at least some of that ambitious party agenda that they failed to advance last year.

With me share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Politico's Laura Barron-Lopez and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post. Matt just laid it out perfectly. This is a bad headline, but if you look under the hood, the economy's still in pretty good shape, but let's just put it up. [12:20:00]

If you're Joe Biden and Democrats 6.6 million jobs added in Biden's first year. That's a wow number. The unemployment rate 3.6 percent, wow, and Matt Egan says it may go down yet. If you're the Republicans, you say Joe Biden's economy is shrinking. Welcome to politics.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Welcome to politics, but also welcome to kind of looking at the impact of what happens on a macro level. So yes, 6 million jobs gained is a boffo number. But if you're just regular old me and you're going to the grocery store, you find that everything is more expensive these days, it's more expensive to fill up your car. That's what Republicans are focusing on right now.

They believe that, fundamentally, no matter what goes on, whether it's - what's going on with the former president, and in their own leadership, or even other outside factors, such as the war overseas. That those domestic issues are ultimately where the battles will be won and lost this November.

KING: And so, that is one of the reasons. We can listen, this is Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Speaker of the House, Senate majority leader, the leader of the Democrats. Both of them at risk of losing their jobs. With the November election, saying this morning, don't worry, we understand. It's tough out there, we got you.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Lowering cost at the pump, lowering costs at the kitchen table. That's what Democrats are about.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Democrats are focused like a laser on developing and passing legislation to lower costs and improve Americans daily lives. It is our top priority.


KING: Sounds great. But they do not have a very great track record of passing and getting legislation on important issues. Now these economic issues to the president's desk, they simply don't.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: Yes. I mean, the prospects are really pretty dim on Capitol Hill. There's just not a lot of both. First of all, they don't have the majorities really to push anything of huge significance. But secondly, I think there's just a lot of difficulty finding what is the sort of middle ground between all the different factions of the Democratic Party on an agenda that can pass in both the House and in the Senate, and they are running out of time.

You know, the White House is thinking in much of the last six months, they were hoping that just by August, September, October that the outlook would improve markedly, that the economy would be recovering at a more normal pace and people would feel better about COVID. And now, I think they're facing the prospect that the situation with inflation, and also this kind of uncertainty with gas prices and trade being unsettled, just won't resolve in time for them to have a good narrative for the American public going into November.

KING: But when it comes to the point, they're raising, let's do something. Let's do something now that people out in America who think this town has lost touch with their lives. They will think, OK, they're trying to help me, at least they're trying. Nothing has changed in the math. There's still a 50-50 Senate. To Abby's point, Nancy Pelosi has what, five or six vote margin in the House. So, the margin is there, but they know that, and they've known that for months and they know that through their failures of last year.

You wrote a piece about this, some of your colleagues, it's a great piece for Jim Manley, who used to work in the Senate leadership says this. Someone is taking too many edibles, if they paws on that, it's worth a laugh. Somebody is taking too many edibles, if they think they can deal with the slim down build back better plan in July or August. Congress simply can't deal with it. It's now or never and heading towards never.

So, what is the slim down, build back better reconciliation pant plan? Maybe a piece of climate, maybe a piece of healthcare. But if you're going to do inflation, you're going to do gas. Are they really going to try to do another package, several things or why not bring to the floor? Here's a gas price bill. Here's another inflation bill. Here's your climate bill, individually.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes. There is two things going on right now, which is one, there is Senator Joe Manchin trying to work with a bipartisan group on a potential energy bill. But people are concerned that that may take him away from reconciliation, that he may want to see where that goes before he and others are willing to fully see what they can get passed party line through a reconciliation package.

But there still are very surface level conversations going on about what would be in that bigger package. It's nowhere near what they were talking about last fall. It is like, you said John, climate, prescription drug reform and potentially some deficit reduction. But again, I said surface level, these conversations are not happening at a really intense level yet.

And as you noted, they only have about a month left before things get really serious - before they get too close to the midterms and things just don't become possible the closer you get to the midterms. So, they're running up against the clock and right now it isn't looking good. I mean, the White House officials not had really intense conversations with Manchin or Sinema who are the two key Senator.

KING: Wait, I just want to get this on the record before we move on, and we'll come back to this in the weeks ahead. Celinda Lake, veteran democratic Pollster focus groups cited in Politico's playbook today. What's the word Democratic voters use? How things are going in the country? Look at it, frustrated, disbelief, aggravated, discouraged, unsure, worrying, resigned, frightened. Democrats need those people to vote in November or else their majorities are toast.


So, you would think they would get a little urgency. Kicking the boots if you might say. Up next, President Biden asks Congress for new authority to seize Russian assets in the front of the proceeds to Ukraine. Plus, Trevor Reed is home and the families of other Americans still in Russian jails, express the White House to do more.


KING: President Biden last hour responding to some of the tough words, nuclear saber rattling, you might say out of the Kremlin. And Putin's vowed to meet foreign interference in Ukraine with "lightning-fast" speed.