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Russia Warns Military Will Target NATO Weapons Shipments; VP Harris Blasts Republicans In Abortion Rights Speech. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 04, 2022 - 12:30   ET



SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's remarkable about these strikes is where they're hitting in the western part of the country very far from the front line. And what was especially surprising is the strike very far in the west, in the Zakarpattia region. This is a region, John, that has not been hit at all, by anything, any kind of fighting since the war began. That is, of course until now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Until now, Scott McLean live for us in Lviv. Scott, thank you.

Joining our conversation now, our CNN national security analyst, Steve Hall, he's the former CIA, Moscow bureau chief, Steve, hard to understand Vladimir Putin. But you can do it better than most, in the sense that after a week or so of the fighting largely in the east and the south, when you get these attacks, everywhere, scattered everywhere in the country were particularly power substation along a railway in the Lviv area, that's how you anything about an expanding battlefield or just Putin reminding he can hit anywhere if he so chooses?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think there's probably two things at work here. One is more of a messaging propaganda piece. And the other is I think, a legitimate attempt on the part of the Russians to try to disrupt the arms flows that the West has very effectively been managing to get into Ukraine, thus providing the Ukrainians a better shot at slowing down and eventually stopping the Russian army. So that's one part of it.

The messaging propaganda part is, you know, a lot is being made and discussed, the upcoming, you know, victory day celebrations in May, in Moscow and in Russia. And it's always nice to have great pictures of big explosions and lots of smoke, that can be used for Russian consumption internally, to show folks that, yes, the war is going well. And if you hear otherwise, it's all Western propaganda. So I think it's two pieces there, John.

KING: Well, let's focus on that, because a lot of people for weeks have talked about May 9th. And would Putin declare victory then in recent days, it's been would he declared a full war on Ukraine that would allow him to call up more conscripts and send people in. His press secretary who is a Putin propagandist himself, Mr. Peskov, downplaying the idea that Putin would declare war. But explain to people who might not understand it, why that day is so important internally for the Kremlin propaganda machine and for trying, for trying to keep the Russian people on board with what's happening in Ukraine.

HALL: There's a Russian mythology that has been really just standard, you know, stuff that Russian children are taught, that Russian adults are taught and bombarded with, really, for the past number of decades. And that is essentially that Russia was the one that ended World War II. Russia was the one who, you know, got rid of Hitler and the Nazis. There is, of course, historically some truth in that. They were part of an alliance that did that.

But in Russia, it's almost all Russia all the time in terms of Nazis. So what Putin, of course, has done is speaking and alluding back to World War II and the Russian ending of the Nazi regime in Germany, you know, Putin is now saying, well, it's the same thing that we're doing in Ukraine.

So it sells very well inside of Russia with regard to, you know, having being able to call up and mobilize troops that he wouldn't have been able to before a declaration of war, be careful not to look at that through a Western lens, Putin can pick up the phone and call up anybody he wants. The Duma has nothing to do with it. There are no, you know, legal values. There's no rule of law in Russia.

So Putin just basically does what he wants. It's possible that he could do something like that during this upcoming holiday. But you know, we'll see.

KING: What's your take? There's a very smart piece, a thorough piece in "The New York Times" today, saying, look, what's happening in Ukraine is brutal. They are destroying non-military targets. They are terrorizing the citizens of Ukraine, but many have asked why not more? Why haven't there been more targeting of the railroads? Why haven't we seen more cyberattacks outside of Ukraine and maybe even here in the United States or beyond?

Dmitri Trenin is one of the analysts quoted in that piece. He says, this is a strange special kind of war. Russia has set some rather strict limits for itself. And this is not being explained in any way, which raises a lot of questions, first of all, among Russian citizens, some speculate in that article that Putin is showing restraint, holding things for later maybe, others say Russian military incompetence, he's doing everything he can, but he's proving his military is not the beast he thought it was. What's your take?

HALL: Yes, I'm not sure I would agree with Trenin on this, I'd go more into the camp of the incompetence. You know, the Russian army is incompetence, probably too strong of a word. But I do think I do think the West probably overstated or overthought what the Russians could actually do. That's become clear as the Russians came in and said, look, we can do this quickly.

Now it looks like they're stuck in the east and in the south. That's not to say that they can't overcome that incompetence by simply throwing more, you know, cannon fodder in terms of their own soldiers, humans and just bombing the heck out of whatever they can, as they're doing it, the steel plant there in Mariupol. So I think it's more that they're having trouble, as opposed to Putin holding back or, you know, thinking things through in a different way.

KING: And you mentioned, maybe the West sometimes overstates the capabilities of the Russian military. One of your theories is that Putin may have underestimated the response of the West. The European Union today saying it will move toward a ban on all Russian oil imports, not natural gas, but oil imports. Is that enough to get Putin's attention?


HALL: It is over the over the long term. But I think what Putin is his countermeasure for that is as he's counting on the West, losing its focus, losing its political appetite, losing its moral outrage with regard to what he's doing, the killing of innocents, and that just the bombing of, you know, non-military targets. He's thinking that, you know, we're going to get distracted as we oftentimes do.

And in six months' time, the Germans and others are going to say, well, maybe we need to rethink that oil piece. So that's what he's playing for. Whether or not that'll happen, we'll see. I hope the West remains focused.

KING: Steve Hall, thanks as always. Appreciate it.

HALL: Sure.

KING: Up next for us, the Supreme Court shockwave. Demonstrations coast to coast as Americans react to a draft decision that would outright eliminate abortion rights. Could that fall out include a midterm elections shake up.



KING: That leaked draft Supreme Court opinion erasing the right to an abortion is sparking protests across America. Here are a glimpse of the reaction in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver, Phoenix, Tallahassee, and here in Washington, D.C. Now no changes official until a formal opinion is released. But in addition to this abortion policy shock, there's a giant debate now about how such a dramatic ruling from the High Court might reshape the midterm election year arc, Vice President Kamala Harris offering a preview of a new Democratic campaign appeal.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those Republican leaders who are trying to weaponize the use of the law against women, well, we say, how dare they? How dare they tell a woman what she can do and cannot do with her own body? How dare they? How dare they try to stop her from determining her own future? (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams joins the conversation. Let's start with the potential politics there as you see the passion and the energy from Vice President Harris. David Chalian, Democrats, if you talk to them today, this is a long way to the election, they think number one, as you heard there motivates women voters.

Number two, they think especially suburban Republican women who came to the party and 2018, came to the party and 2020 might be drifting away because of inflation because of immigration in 2022, younger voters, isn't enough for the Democrats. Do they believe this essentially reboots the campaign?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, they don't have a whole host of options at the moment. So they are leaning into this because it is a potential gift for them. We don't know is the answer of whether or not it's enough. What we do know, John, is if you look at all the polling that's out there about the midterm elections this cycle, Democrats clearly have an enthusiasm disadvantage, Republicans are more enthused about showing up this election season.

And now this could be a thing that awakens and enlivens the Democratic base gives them something to fight for. It gives them something to, you know, some of the groups you mentioned, younger voters. I know this wasn't true in 2018. But typically, they're drop off voters right in a midterm cycle. Maybe they come out. And so there's the potential for that.

What I think the real question is, is it enough? Is it enough to overcome the environment of inflation and the economy and the President's low standing? Is it enough to overcome that overall environment? Or is it just a motivator for some, but cannot actually break through the dominant issues of the campaign --

KING: And you see most Republicans saying whether they agree with the court decision, don't agree with the court decision, or somewhere in the middle, saying we'd rather talk about inflation, we'd rather talk about immigration, we'd rather talk about Biden. Seung Min you're part of this piece in "The Post."

I'm going to hold it up, Collins and Murkowski, I'm going to my words not yours, have some explaining to do. They are pro-choice, pro- abortion rights Republican senators who voted for the nominees in question here who are on board with this draft opinion, who they say Murkowski and Collins, they promised them it wouldn't turn out this way.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. And they promise them not only in public testimony that we can all watch on T.V., but also in their private meetings. I mean, I think Susan Collins talked extensively, actually back in Gorsuch, when she announced her support for him about the kind of commitment that Justice -- now Justice Gorsuch made to her in that office. But clearly, the brunt of the political scrutiny is really on these two women who have often -- who have clearly -- who have often been outliers in the party because they do support abortion rights. And their reaction yesterday was that this, you know, if this decision ends up being the final decision, it has rocked their confidence in the court, because it is really the tone of it, if not, maybe the literal words, but the tone of it was so different than what people like Kavanaugh and Gorsuch had conveyed to them during their confirmation process.

KING: And so, it's TBD. Obviously, Democrats believe they have a powerful political issue here TBD to find out if they actually do and we'll have to go state by state and race by race. But Elliot, there is no question. There is zero question about the dramatic change in American law, change in American policy, change in rights of American women out there right now. This is the map we showed this yesterday.

So the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are certain are likely to ban abortion, 26 states certain are likely to ban abortion if the court overturns Roe v. Wade. I want to show you a second map now. There are 13 states that have in place these so called trigger laws, that if Roe v. Wade is eradicated like that those states ban abortions. What is that -- how fundamental, how shocking will the shift in Monday you have this right, maybe Wednesday you don't?


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. And think about Illinois which is a state, I think the only state in America that is surrounded on all sides by states that either have trigger laws or some people say, the zombie laws. Laws that were in place before, but couldn't be revived post Roe v. Wade. Think about people, you know, hundreds of miles away in Missouri that would have to cross into Illinois.

So if these states then start barring people from crossing state lines, that puts the Biden administration in a position of having to take some action either in the form of lawsuits against states, either in changing Medicaid rules to still pay for abortions across state lines, dealing with the Defense Department and federal, you know, abortions on federal property. So there are actions that the federal government can take because of the sort of quagmire that set up with all these different state governments doing in different place.

KING: And if we get back and the decision will put us there, if this decision is real, meaning they issue it, no one changes their votes. We're back. This is just us. You made a key point. Here's how some states are responding in New Mexico, the governor says there would be an influx of women seeking care from other states, Pennsylvania, Democratic governor but tough climate to do it and says he wants to pass a law to protect abortion rights, the California governor saying he wants an amendment to the state constitution. Oklahoma's governor has signed one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country.

So this is going to be state by state policy and state by state in the politics of this year's campaigns. CHALIAN: Yes, speaking of California, Gavin Newsom, I think just put up an ad today in his campaign, totally now putting this issue front and center how he is going to protect women's rights as a cornerstone of his reelection campaign. John, you said something interesting earlier. You said Republicans seem more eager to talk about inflation in the economy. I thought that was so interesting.

Our colleagues, Manu Raju, and others up on Capitol Hill talked to a slew of Republicans yesterday, they were so focused on the leak of this and talking about that and what it does to the integrity of the court, instead of the full embrace of a victory on the precipice of a victory of a 50-year quest that has been the driving force of the Republican Party that they were not so interested in doing across the board, they would give it some notice. But they were much more trying to, let's talk about the leak and then get back to inflation and immigration.

KING: Because they got crushed in the suburbs in 2018 and 2020. And they're afraid, they think they're getting those voters back and they don't want this to push them away.

KIM: Right. It was really telling for me when Mitch McConnell kept telling us the reporters that the leak is a story and not the substance of the decision. And with all due respect to the Senate Minority Leader, we will decide what the story is. But it was really telling why he would didn't want to talk about the prospect that abortion rights can be erased nationwide.

KING: They're both stories, though. They're both stories. The leak is a big story. Because institutions have protocols, and they have rules, and they have basic practices of behavior, and this blows that up, the Supreme Court is a secretive body, the only way you can have a debate over these draft rulings is that everybody keeps it a secret that you argue your position, you argue your position and so on.

"The New York Times" in their piece about that says this, its reputation was in decline, even before the extraordinary breach of its norms of confidentiality much of the nation persuade is a little different than the political branches of government. The internal disarray, the leak suggests wholly at odds with the decorum prized by the Chief Justice. This is a blow to the institution, is it not?

WILLIAMS: Yes. And it's striking right after Clarence and Ginni Thomas, the story of her political interactions around January 6th came out. But, you know, setting aside what the views were, it hurt the reputation of the court as a political body. So it's just a bad month for the Supreme Court. They have this notion of themselves as existing outside and sort of a but like from Mount Olympus living. And it's just not accurate anymore. We need to sort of get past that as a country, I think.

KING: I think if you weren't passed it, this probably might help nudge you that way.


Up next for us, back to the map for some more Ohio lessons, progressives on their heels and should incumbents be nervous?


KING: J.D. Vance, now Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance and the power of the Trump endorsement, one lesson from Ohio last night that we'll watch as we go through the rest of the primary season of the campaign. A couple other things to think about, number one, is are incumbents in trouble. Mike DeWine is the incumbent Republican governor of Ohio. Yes, he won the primary last night but look. Below 50 percent against two candidates, one, who never run for office before, one who's run several times and lost at the statewide level.

Mike DeWine, so as being in charge in the age of COVID, or is this just he wasn't Trumpian enough for Republicans in his home state? Should other incumbents worry? We'll keep an eye on that as we go forward. Also, what about progressives, the energy in the Democratic Party, let's bring this over to the Democratic side, has been, the progressives, if you look at Twitter, they're the active forces, right?

Well, Nina Turner lost again to Shontel Brown last year in a special election, she lost by six points. She lost by more than 30 last night. Does that make progressives more reluctant to challenge more establishment Democrats. You see in that house district there that is a thumping. Again, lessons from Ohio, we'll watch and see if they continue in the primaries ahead.


Coming up for us next, the White House rolling out the red carpet for athletes from the summer and the winter Olympics.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, 19 family members of American citizens detained abroad, protesting outside the White House today, their hope, to get a meeting with President Biden. Trevor Reed's father and sister join those demonstrators today that one week after Reed, a former Marine, was freed in a prisoner swap with Russia.

At the White House today, Team USA, the President and the First Lady welcoming athletes from this winter's Beijing Games, Beijing Games, excuse me, as well as Olympians from the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Last year, the Biden's hosted a virtual celebration for team USA's 2020 athletes promising they would come to the White House as soon as the pandemic subsided.

Despite proof of vaccination and negative COVID tests required for entry, we are learning about more and more attendees testing positive after the White House Correspondents Association Dinner this past weekend. It includes almost all of the major networks including CNN. Another is ABC's Jon Karl who shook hands with the President of the United States that night. The White House Correspondents Association President Stephen Portnoy telling CNN, the association publicized its COVID protocols and encouraged boosters before that event.


Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.