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"Turbulent" Night in Mariupol after Evacuations; Russia Escalates Barrage in Ukraine's East; Terror in East and South as Putin's "Victory" Deadline Nears; Jan 6 Committee Requests into from 3 more GOP Lawmakers; Russia Escalates Barrage in Ukraine's East. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Today an escape from hell on earth; Ukrainians are finally finding a way out of Azovstal. You can see here evacuation convoys able to ferry people away from the site of Ukraine's last stand in the city of Mariupol. Listen to one of the women who made it out a mixture here of joy and of disbelief.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe it two months of darkness we did not see any sunlight. We were scared.


KING: The trek out of captivity comes after another turbulent, restless night at that steel plant. A Ukrainian Commander inside says constant shelling resumed the instant evacuations were done for the day. On the battlefield a new British estimate says Russian losses are staggering 25 percent of its force now the Brits say combat ineffective.

Today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Poland you see her there that follows a visit to Kyiv and a meeting with Ukraine's President. When she returns to Washington Congress will take up a massive request for $33 billion in new money to help Ukraine.

Moscow's non-stop artillery barrage continues in Donetsk and Luhansk and off the Coast of Snake Island look at this, a drones I view have a key strike. Ukraine says the unmanned aircraft took out two Russia raptor patrol boats. CNN of course on the frontlines of this story across the globe we begin our coverage this hour in Lviv in Western Ukraine. CNN's Scott McLean is there for Scott, what's the latest?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it is good news that people are getting out of that Azovstal Steel Plant, as you mentioned, but the evacuations more broadly in the city are happening very slowly. So there are two ways to get out of the city. Number one is to go to the northwest corner of the city where you can go to a mall where supposedly a humanitarian corridor a convoy I should say, is leaving the city. But the last word that we heard from that is that while the buses to get people hadn't even arrived yet, so it's not looking real likely that people will be able to get out of that area today or at least in the next couple of hours.

And then the second type is the UN/Red Cross evacuation effort that is happening at the Azovstal Steel Plant. We know that 100 people according to the Ukrainians were able to get out and evacuate towards Zaporizhzhia on Ukrainian held territory.

The difficulty is that the mayor says it is very slow going to get people out. And the reason why is of course, there's a lot of debris, there's a lot of roadblocks on the road that is all to be expected. But what was perhaps not calculated into the equation here is that the Russians are making these new evacuees go through the so called filtration process where they are searched and they are questioned before they are allowed to travel on Ukrainian held territory.

The Mariupol Mayor says that on average, this process can take a month. It is difficult to believe that being true in this case, though, because of course, the UN is there, and the Red Cross is there as well to sort of shepherd people through that area.

Now, some people have also chosen to go to Russian held territory, according to the Russians, at least 21 people went in that direction and arrived in Russian held territory yesterday. What's not clear is what's going to happen to all the rest of the civilians who are trapped still, underneath that steel plant, there could be two or 300 More mostly women, children, elderly people as well. And of course, the soldiers will still be there as well.

The Ukrainian say that there are some 500, 600 perhaps wounded soldiers various degrees of wounds, and then there are the soldiers who are still fit to fight. They would also like to get evacuated. But all of this, the Ukrainian say is still being negotiated at a very high level.

KING: Uncertainty, more uncertainties we opened this week. Scott McLean, for us live in Lviv. Thanks so much for that important reporting. Let's go to the Capital now in Kyiv and get some more on the battlefield from CNN's Matt Rivers, Matt?

MATT RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So what we're seeing in the east is this continued Russian offensive that really is not making the broad gains that I think we would have expected the Russians to have hoped they would have made by now very incremental progress as they continue their march toward the Eastern City of Slavyansk.

A lot of troops centered around the town of Izyum as they try and push down from the north in from the east and up from the south to complete their takeover of the Donbas region to encircle the Ukrainian troops that are fighting back in that region. And they have largely held their ground the Ukrainians have there have been incremental progress made by Russian forces. An interesting update from British intelligence today and their daily update saying that in the beginning of the more they believe that Russia committed some 65 percent of their overall combat force to this conflict and they say that approximately a quarter of those units in the words of British intelligence have been rendered combat ineffective including some of Russia's most elite units they say.


RIVERS: They say that those units have suffered some of the highest levels of attrition and then it could take years to reconstitute those forces. Fascinating stuff and it goes to show you the fight that the Ukrainians are putting up. And to that end, we can show you some video that the Ukrainians put out that they say show Ukrainian drones taking out two Russian patrol boats in the Black Sea.

They say this video shows that Ukraine has the ability to strike Russian naval units in the Black Sea, which is of course, something we know they can do, based on the fact that cruise missiles took out the Russian flagship, the Moskva just a few weeks ago now.

And finally hear in Kyiv John word from the Americans they do believe, or at least aiming for the reopening of the American Embassy here in Kyiv which of course was shuttered towards the beginning of the war. They believe they can reopen it by the end of May.

KING: Matt Rivers live for us in the Capital of Kyiv, Matt grateful for the reporting. Let's get some perspective now from Retired General, CNN Military Analyst, Spider Marks. General, it's good to see you! You hear Matt Rivers make the case that you know, the Russian progress in this part of the country here is slow and incremental, but you still see it as significant. And you see Putin as a plan. And I want to blank this. So you can come in and yourself as two parts essentially partition this.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yes, I think absolutely, the plan is, clearly they're making progress there. And at some point, Putin is going to declare victory that that has already taken place. And that ultimately, what you're going to end up with something like what you drew, but more importantly, I think over the course of time, the pace of these operations will decrease this op tempo can't be sustained.

The Russians don't have the forces. It was just described that many of them will take years to replenish and to rebuild. The Ukrainian certainly has the support from the west. But that is going it's not going to die down. But clearly what needs to take place is that the Ukrainians have to pick up the pace. And we've seen that even the strike against the two ships here, that's a deep--

KING: Will show you that here.

MARKS: Yes, that's a deep strike. The Ukrainians need to increase their deep strikes into sanctuary, the Russians see the Black Sea as sanctuary. They see Russia as sanctuary. They need to get out there and then that causes the Russians to decrease the amount of forces they can bring forward.

So I think ultimately, what is going to happen is, you're going to see a division of Ukraine that's going to look like that. It will be achieved over time. And then Odessa becomes a key to close this off. Clearly Russia could take forces from the Transnistria and over here that will take probably weeks to a month or so. But Odessa is a target; it's going to be a hard one for the Russians to take.

KING: You don't see any way to keep Putin from getting this, and then the question becomes how long is the West willing to stand with Ukraine to kick him out to try to kick him out? But you don't see any way of stopping him from getting that?

MARKS: Very sadly, I don't see anything other than a divided Ukraine at some point. Certainly President Zelenskyy would never sign up to that. But I think that will be achieved over the course of time. I think we're into this for years; the pace will decrease over the course of the next few months.

And this will look like very much like what the Soviets had in Afghanistan, in terms of the media attention it is going to be below the radar. And there will be in Russia will be punished by an insurgency. And at some point, Russia and Ukraine will have to make a decision as to what ultimately this looks like.

KING: So I just want to come into some of this. We've talked about their evacuation now at this steel plant in Mariupol. This is the before you see--

MARKS: Unbelievable.

KING: --industrial area, and here you see it just simply destroyed. Now, if it was just a war target, and there were no people there again, I'm not justifying war, but you would understand that right?

MARKS: Sure.

KING: An attack on a very important piece of economic infrastructure.

MARKS: Right.

KING: The Russians know there are people there, yes, some Ukrainian fighters, but also civilians. When you look at those pictures, what comes to mind?

MARKS: Well clearly, the devastation that's taking place, the lack of the rules of land warfare are not being adhered to at all by the Russians, they really simply do not care. Their objective is to wear down the morale of the Ukrainian people, and to create a wasteland, where Putin has no desire to leave Ukraine, and he has no desire to try to rebuild it. This produces for him, in addition to a desired buffer zone.

KING: There are a lot of people watching who probably want to push back on the point you just made that you think inevitably, at least for a short period of time, at some period of time we get we get a divided Ukraine. I wanted to illustrate the point to show this. This is where we were back on March 5th, right? The Russians were coming they wanted to take Kyiv.

They wanted to decapitate the leadership and take the country. That did not happen. So what happened instead? The Russians begin to build up then they get pushed out. And you see the more Russian resources here now in this part of the country.

You believe this is going to continue and that if the West is going to get more howitzers, more tanks, more anti-aircraft, what's the timeline to get it in there quickly if there's any way to prevent what you just laid out from happening?

KING: Oh goodness it's ongoing right now.


KING: The process is taking place; the handoff is taking place here. Ukrainian forces are coming across designated units. They're starting to move this kit. They're not starting. They're continuing to move this kit at a rapid pace. The support by NATO the support by the United States is amazingly impressive.

The numbers exist right here for Russia to continue to pour into this area. The Ukrainians are magnificent in the tactical fight. What is required is to set the operational objectives, which means a trip the Russians in sanctuary go after the targets in Russia.

Don't be hesitant about that. Make the Russian suffer and sanctuary so you can achieve you can set the operational conditions that would allow you maybe to push a little bit harder. I don't see that yet. It needs to continue.

But I think ultimately there would be some form of a divided Ukraine I hope I'm wrong, but I think there would be some form of a division that would take place.

KING: General Marks grateful as always, we'll continue the conversation as we watch the battlefield play out this week. Coming up for us, some important breaking news; the House Committee investigating the Capitol Insurrection now asking three more Republican lawmakers to cooperate with the probe; the new details and just why next?



KING: Some breaking news to discuss now. The January 6thCommittee has just sent letters to three Republican Congressmen asking that they voluntarily cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the Capitol Insurrection. Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill and CNN's Ryan nobles. Ryan, tell us more. RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. This now doubles the number of Republican members that the January 6th Select Committee is interested in talking to about what they knew about the events leading up to January 6, and the day itself.

Among them Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona he of course, the Former Chair of the Freedom Caucus, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Ronny Jackson of Texas, and each one of them has a different role to play in all this according to the committee.

They believe that Biggs was part of a meeting on December 21st that was designed to talk about getting Vice President Pence to refuse to certify the election results. They want to know more information about that. As for Mo Brooks, he is someone who has said openly and publicly that well after the inauguration even as late as September of 2021, that the president was still the former president I should say was still encouraging him to try and find a way to rescind the election results.

And then there's Ronny Jackson, who is really a new entry to all of this. He's certainly a strong supporter of President Trump. But he is someone who's named just popped up in recent filing in the case involving Mark Meadows, the Former Chief of Staff, where there are members of the Oathkeepers texting about finding Ronny Jackson and offering him security and support on January 6th.

So the committee is looking for information on all three of these things. Now, of course, the other three members of the committee's interested in talking to include the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who we talked about in an exclusive report last week, who was texting Meadows, about Conspiracy theories related to the election.

And then of course, Jim Jordan of Ohio, who was also in that group of text, messages from Mark Meadows.

Again, John, this, though gets back to the question, the committee can ask for this. But so far, these Republican members have stood in the way of any type of cooperation with the committee. It begs the question, what does the committee do next?

Last week Bennie Thompson, the chairman told me that they have not ruled out subpoenas, that would still be a very complicated process. And then the other part of this, John, is that this may not be the end of invitations like this, the Chairman telling us last week that they're also interested in talking to some members of the United States Senate as well.

So this could just be the beginning of an offensive here by the January 6 Select Committee to find out just how involved members of Congress were and the events leading up to January 6th, John.

KING: Important breaking news Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill I appreciate the update. Let's bring the conversation in the room now with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Courtney Subterranean of "The Los Angeles Times" and CNN's Lauren Fox.

So I'm looking at the letters here, Lauren Fox, you roam the halls on Capitol Hill. They're talking about encrypted conversations three text messages involving Ronny Jackson, the Former Trump White House Physician, now a Congressman from Texas, Ronny Jackson, Office Inside Capitol he needs Oathkeeper help anyone inside next messenger user to hope they can help Dr. Jackson.

Dr. Ronny Jackson on the move needs protection if anyone inside cover him he has critical data to protect. So every week of this investigation, we are learning at least raising new questions. And now the question is do we get the answer?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and the other question is, do they actually cooperate? Does the Select Committee actually issue a subpoena? Is there a court fight over that subpoena? And at the end of the day, are some of these messages actually part of encrypted messaging systems in which the Select Committee would never be able to get a hold of them in the traditional way that they've been able to get some of these text messages?

So that is all part of the challenge for the Select Committee, they are trying to really tell a story of that day. They are trying to explain to the American people what happened, who was involved, and they've been very selective about who they actually ask for information from?

It's not just anyone but its people who they believe have information they can't gain from anyone else that they've already interviewed.

KING: And just to hit on that point. So the public hearings are going to come sometime in June. The focus has been on what did the president know? What did other people in the White House know? Where his campaign people know?

But increasingly, it's what did other elected Republicans know? You look at Andy Biggs, you look at Mo Brooks, and you look at Ronny Jackson, three Trump loyalists in the Congress again. You had Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, and the Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania.

The American people one would hope want to know the answers. These are people who put their hands on the Bible's for an oath to the Constitution who if the committee is right we're part of ongoing conversations from Election Day in the case of Congressman Brooks there well past the Biden Inauguration?


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, that's right. And a lot of the information this committee has gotten so far, whether it's through testimony of other people or text messages from Mark Meadows suggests they were a lot of folks who are intimately involved trying to install people.

The DOJ, for instance, if you think about somebody like Scott Perry, so far, these people have essentially said, hell, no, they're not going to cooperate with this committee unlikely that they would be subpoenaed. That's sort of something that Congress folks don't like to do to other Congress folks. So that's unlikely.

But even if they were subpoenaed you imagine a court fight, you imagine this to be a really long drawn out fight between these members in the committee. But listen, this committee has made some great progress in terms of the folks who have come before them high profile people like Ivanka Trump, other Trump children, as well.

And so we'll see going forward with these hearings reveal as well, and how far they're going to be able to get in telling a complete story about what happened?

KING: That's why these coordinates are so interesting to me in the sense that this strikes me as the committee saying, once again, we know things. We know things that we have not made public yet. We're going to have these public hearings, this is your chance, this is your chance, because we are going to lay all this out of these public hearings, we would like your side. So come in and tell us or else at least you had your chance.

COURTNEY SUBRAMANIAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Yes. And I'll be interested to hear what Brooks has to say, especially after losing Trump's endorsement, coming out publicly and saying that he had been pressured. He has signaled that he's open to talking to the panel if he was approached.

So it will be interesting. The issue is, will that political spat, spill over into the committee's quest to tell this story? And will it undermine the credibility as they as they seek to make this as less, you know, less politicized as they can.

KING: They're trying. They could try. It's just its more information by the day, every day of every day of the recent weeks, we have learned more. Up next Speaker Pelosi leads a top level U.S. Congressional Delegation into the war zone. And why is Russia's top diplomat comparing President Zelenskyy to Adolf Hitler?



KING: Today, a new objective in Kyiv. The United States wants its embassy personnel back in Ukraine's capital by the end of this month. It is another sign of shift in American thinking about Vladimir Putin's war.

Today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Poland a day after becoming the highest ranking American official to visit Ukraine since the start of this invasion. Joining our conversation White House and National Security Correspondent for "The New York Times" David Sanger; David grateful for your time! So you see the Speaker in Kyiv with a number of high profile Democrats in the Congress. The embassy, the State Department wants to reopen by the end of the month. On the one hand, that's a sign to Putin that you know, we think you're losing. We're going to literally raise the flag again, in Kyiv. But there's another piece of the strategy shift in that the White House would tell you they also believe were they months and months and months long slog in the Eastern South.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's right. So the concept here is we've now seen two significant senior delegations from the United States come in on two successive weekends.

First was Secretary of State Blinken. And Secretary of Defense Austin, they came last weekend, this weekend, of course, you have Nancy Pelosi number three in line for the presidency, you know what that leaves? There's going to be a moment where they're going to bring President Biden in here at some time. That may be a while.

But what they're trying to establish is, OK, we've got a real operating Ukrainian government, we're putting our embassy back, the Europeans are putting our embassy back, you Russians are gone. And don't mind those occasional missiles that come in and take out whole buildings and so forth.

Their problem is that what they've got essentially is two thirds to three quarters of the country, and a much more active war going on down in the south. And they think that there is a chance in the next few weeks that they could make life miserable enough for the Russians that they would pull back in the South.

That's going to be hard, because the Russians are quite good at this kind of standoff war you were discussing at the top of the show.

KING: And so one of the conversations, one of the calculations and one of the worries, as you write smartly, in "The Times" about is if you're thinking about pushing Putin, how hard do you push because this war you write about the worries that would become more into NATO territory outside of the borders of Ukraine?

And number two, listen to Mike; listen to the Ranking Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee here having conversations that we never thought we would have once the Berlin Wall fell.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): What would happen if a chemical weapon was dropped in Ukraine and or a short range tactical nuke? The question there is would the world idly sit back and watch that happen without doing anything? In my judgment that that's beyond the pale that crosses a red line? And I think if that happens, we would have to respond in kind.


KING: Take us inside this. The conversations happened here. Let's get more tanks. Let's get more ammunition. Let's get more howitzers let's get more drones. OK, but then at the same time, what happens if Putin does cross that line? SANGER: This is the fascinating question that the White House has been gaming out the Pentagon has been gaming out. And I agree with the Congressman that it would certainly cross a line a red line we have not seen nuclear use.