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Belarus To Deploy Special Forces To Ukrainian Border; CNN: Trump-Backed Candidate Alex Mooney Wins WV House Primary; Senate Vote On Bill To Protect Abortion Access Expected To Fail. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 11, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Let's get live to CNN's Scott McLean. He is in Lviv, Ukraine. And Scott, a lot of big news today, both from the Belarusian border up there to the northwest to the Black Sea down here in the south.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, John, first though, those Belarusians troops it was the defense minister who said yesterday that they're going to be moving within Belarus west toward the Polish border, northwest toward the Lithuanian border in response to NATO activities there stepped up NATO presence, they're also going to be moving south toward the border with Ukraine in response to what they say is a buildup of Ukrainian troops in that area, though, there's no indication that Belarusians troops would actually crossed the border.

I want to talk about Kherson as well. This is an area that has been occupied by the Russians for the last two months sthe Kremlin appointed leaders there say they want to join Russia. They don't even want to bother with the referendum. They just want to go straight to handing out passports and handing out citizenships. The Kremlin seems to be onboard with this. They say that it should be up to the people to decide though they're not exactly calling for a referendum either.

Those leaders say that they're not even interested in declaring an independent republic. Again, they just want to go straight to joining Russia. I also want to show you some new pictures and warning that these are graphic. These come to us from the Azov regiment, the fighting force inside of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. We can't verify when or where these photos were taken. But the soldiers say that they show wounded soldiers, some with open wounds, some missing an arm or missing a leg. And they say that they simply do not have the medical supplies to adequately treat these people.

And they're calling on the international community to do something about it to try to arrange some kind of a deal to allow these soldiers at minimum to be able to get out. Now the situation of course at that steel plant has been dire for two months, but not quite as dire as perhaps that we thought. And that is because Ukrainian, a high ranking Ukrainian general of the Armed Forces said today that they actually were able to get ammunition and aid into the plant for some time repeatedly. They only stopped doing that once it became known to the public. And the Russians took out their capability with an airstrike. Now we don't know exactly how they were delivering that aid or ammo or how much they were able to get in or when it was cut off. But the latest word from the soldiers is that they have enough ammunition for the moment to fight off the Russians for now, John.

KING: Scott McLean, live for us in Lviv. Scott, thank you so much. And switch maps now as we talked about, this is the Ukraine battlefield. But one of the reasons it has been successful in keeping the world against Vladimir Putin so far is because of this ring of NATO countries right around. But today, we're at a potential fracture in that European resistance to Russia. Hungary's Foreign Minister quoting the country's Putin friendly president, says the European Union proposal to institute now and embargo on Russian oil would be quote, like an atomic bomb to the Hungarian economy.

The foreign minister in Hungary will only vote for these new E.U. sanctions if the block offers quote, solutions to the problems it would create. CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now live from the State Department. Kylie, this now a big diplomatic headache, if you will, for the President for the other allies.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. The E.U. is looking to ban the imports of Russian oil into E.U. countries by the end of the year. And Hungary over the last few weeks has been saying that they think that that timeline is frankly just too short that they would need a longer amount of time to essentially secure that they could get energy imports from other places to come in in place of that Russian oil.

Now, we should note that Hungary relies on Russian oil for about 50 percent of its overall oil imports. That is a huge amount. And so that is why the Hungarian Foreign Minister today is saying we're not going to agree to this until there is a solution to the problems that this would create. And now, when it comes to the United States, they are saying that they're in favor of the E.U. banning imports of Russian oil. We should note that the United States has already done so earlier this year, though, the U.S. is a lot less reliant on Russian oil than these European countries are.

And the Biden administration has been very clear eyed about that saying that this is not an easy situation, that these European countries are in. A lot of them are heavily reliant on that Russian oil, so they're going to need something to substitute. But just last week, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that it is undeniable that Russia's war machine is fueled by Putin's energy. And the amount of money that he is getting for that energy is still incredibly high.

So we'll watch to see how the Biden administration continues to thread this needle over the last -- over the next few weeks as the E.U. figures out its way forward here. John?

KING: Kylie Atwood at the State Department. Kylie, thank you so much.


Next for us, a return to domestic politics and a split decision, West Virginia Republicans give Donald Trump his wish, Nebraska Republicans do not.


KING: We are two weeks now into a month of primaries in May that will tell us quite a bit about Donald Trump's continued sway over Republican voters across the country because of his endorsements and primaries against the Republican establishment. Nebraska, one of the states that voted last night, and Nebraska said no to the former president. Jim Pillen, who was endorsed by the current Republican Governor Pete Ricketts, he's term limited, Governor Ricketts.

Jim Pillen winning the nomination here. Charles Herbster, a businessman who has been accused by multiple women of inappropriate contact, he was Trump's candidate. He came in second place there. Jim Pillen will win in Nebraska, it's a deeply red state. There's a Democratic nominee as well. But most likely he will be the next Governor of Nebraska because he or Trump in the state of Nebraska.


But a big win for the President. Let's move to House races. And let's come over here to West Virginia in the second congressional district in the northern part of the state. This was the first race this year between two incumbent members of Congress because of reapportionment. After the census, West Virginia had to redraw districts, has lost a seat. So you had incumbent Alex Mooney against incumbent David McKinley. McKinley voted for the Biden bipartisan infrastructure bill. He voted to create a January 6th independent commission to look into the insurrection.

Donald Trump didn't like that, he endorsed Alex Mooney. And even though much of this newly drawn district is the old territory from McKinley's district, look, Mooney won and he won quite convincingly. He's a member of the House Freedom Caucus. He's more conservative, yes, than McKinley. He's more confrontational than McKinley. Last night in his victory, he said, thank you, Donald Trump.


REP. ALEX MOONEY (R-WV): This is Trump country. President Donald Trump endorsed me and was all in for me. Did a tele rally, had me a live rally, and really helped to -- let them know that it was a true conservative in the race. And it gets what voters are looking for, a true conservative who will fight for them.


KING: Abby Phillip, Arlette Saenz, Catherine Lucey are back with me. A number of takeaways and then we'll look forward. But I want to start right there with what Alex Mooney said. A number of smart political reporters noting the idea here that you're choosing, West Virginia was choosing between two House Republican incumbents and their styles in the way they do their business.

McKinley is open to bipartisanship. He's open to traditional bring the vacant home politics. Moony's was a big no. What does that tell us if the House Republicans as expected at this point, when the majority it's a more confrontational party with a Democratic president.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A 100 percent. And this is going to play out not just in West Virginia, but across the country where in these Republican primaries, it's like a race between Trump, Trumper, and Trumpist. And whoever is in the Trumpist category oftentimes is going to get the closest look because voters, Republican voters want their candidates to say no, no to everything, especially if Donald Trump tells them to say no, and that's what he said about the infrastructure bill. Trump used to, you know, Trump actually was for infrastructure, just not Biden's infrastructure bill.

And so even that, it's something that for West Virginia is so important, voters do not want -- Republican voters do not want their members to compromise with a Democratic administration or a Democratic Senate or a House.

KING: Is there a message out of Nebraska or is it just you had a, you know, five candidate race and the candidate endorsed by the Republican governors, the front page of the Journal Star in Lincoln today, Pillen surges. Jim Pillen is an agribusiness man, he's a farmer. He's a friend of the existing governor who wanted somebody he knew to take over. He's a member of the Board of Regents University of Nebraska. He beat Trump's candidate. How big of a deal?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I mean I think a lot of it is he was endorsed by the governor who was popular. You saw that obviously also hipster was, had these accusations against him, which also plays into this. But it is a state too where you saw Don Bacon, you know, one his primary. He's someone who, you know, Trump had criticized. So it is a state that has backed, you know, business Republicans and that obviously continued last night.

KING: And so Trump's candidates did very well in Ohio at the beginning of the month, a split decision last night, and now we move on. We can show you the primary calendar. That was a little Boston accent there. We have a next week, we have North Carolina and Pennsylvania, two very big Senate races there where Trump has candidates and Republican establishment other forces in the party have others then this Idaho governor's race that Georgia races of course, Trump has a lot of grudge matches in the State of Georgia, both in the governors and the Secretary of State's race. What do we look for as we go forward?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I think that these coming weeks are going to be the biggest test of former President Trump's hold on the Republican Party. I mean, what's happening in Pennsylvania is fascinating. He endorsed it Mehmet Oz, running against a David McCormick, and then now, there's these stories that Kathy Barnette is mounting this insurgent campaign from behind.

I think one interesting thing about her is that she has, even though she didn't get Trump's endorsement, she's still towing that MAGA line. And she said that MAGA does not belong to President Trump, it belongs to the people. And so she's trying to kind of turn it around that though she didn't get the endorsement, she espouses those values and maybe even further than that.

KING: Right. We can show you that poll. There's a new "Fox" poll out in Pennsylvania. And you see, Dr. Mehmet Oz. He has Trump's endorsement. And you see, you know, he was a 15 percent in March. He's at 22 percent. So you could argue the Trump endorsement helps. So David McCormick down a little bit. He's a hedge fund manager. A lot of former Trump aides worked for Mr. McCormick. He's married to Dina Powell who worked in the Trump White House.

And you see Kathy Barnette there. That's a surge, that is a surge. The question is, is it enough? Is it just one poll? Are there forces at play? You do see this, these Republican primaries in these three four way races, they're split pretty evenly until they break at the end.


PHILLIP: A lot of undecided voters and when you're split three ways, it doesn't take a whole lot to experience a surge. And the surge may not be enough. I mean I think we saw in Ohio, there were candidates who did surge a little bit toward the end, it just wasn't enough. I think in this case, though, you're seeing some infighting in the Republican family.

You've got the Trump factor, but you also have outside groups like Club for Growth, trying to throw a grenade into the whole thing back in Kathy Barnette at the last minute, will it matter? That's why this is going to be such a fascinating race because I think a lot of Republicans who want to lay claim to MAGA world, like Arlette was saying, they're willing to try to snatch it from Trump himself, which is amazing to think about.

KING: Right. And very few Republicans say I'm against you, Donald Trump. There are very few Republicans make it about him. But we are going to see in Georgia. Remember, the Governor Brian Kemp just refused. Trump wanted him to help him cheat, he refused, Brian Kemp. So David Perdue, the former senator is running against Governor Kemp.

Going down to campaign for Brian Kemp, the governor I mentioned of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, the governor of Arizona, Steve Ducey, and the former governor of New Jersey, a former very close friend, he would say, still a close friend of Donald Trump, Chris Christie. That is in your face to Donald Trump saying sorry, sir, no.

LUCEY: No, and that's a real lineup of traditional establishment Republicans, you know, trying to bolster this candidate in the 11th hour. And we'll see. I mean, as we saw last night, Trump's help, it helps sometimes, it doesn't always get people the finish line. We'll just see how that plays out.

KING: I think I said Steve Ducey. Did I? It's Doug Ducey, I know that. I want to know who's Steve Ducey. There we go. There we go.

Ahead, just a few hours to set it a very important vote, a key vote on a bill aimed at preserving access to abortion nationwide.



KING: Senate Democrats this afternoon will try to pass a federal law guaranteeing the right to an abortion. The vote will fail. Democrats will not even get the full support of their own 50 member caucus. Last hour, the West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin told CNN, he will vote no. Getting every senator on the record, though, is one part of the Democrat strategy in the wake of that leaked Supreme Court draft opinion wiping Roe v. Wade off the books.

Our great reporters are back with us. Here's what the Women's Health Protection Act would do if they could pass it, the Democrats, would make the right to abortion part of federal law. It would eliminate restrictions currently in place in many states, including mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods, six and 20 week abortion bans, those would be wiped off the book. Health care providers would have to be required to provide abortion access. So Democrats believe this is important on principle to have this vote, but they know they're going to lose.

SAENZ: Yes, but they still want to do hold this vote so that it's a messaging vote so that they can pin the Republicans who are voting against it and be able to hold it -- them accountable heading into the midterm elections. This is all about trying to show that contrast between what the Democrats are trying to do to codify into law and Republicans standing in the way of it.

Democrats are really hoping at this point that they're going to be able to galvanize their voters to head out those suburban women, young voters, maybe Democrats who are going to sit out. And they're hoping that by tying these votes to Republicans, it's going to put them on the record and have something to show heading into the midterms.

KING: And so let's listen. This is a sampling of Democrats about why this issue is so important.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Rule of Roe is what we will be voting on today. And I think it's important that everybody be on record and say, do you support Roe or not?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Today's vote is one of the most consequential we will take in decades.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): We need to ensure that the freedom for women to make these decisions is guaranteed. That's what this vote is about.


KING: You see the passion that these Democrats have? The question is the Supreme Court, we saw the draft opinion and we know the math on the Supreme Court is stacked against the Democrats. The question is, can they make this happen elsewhere?

Just look, this is a Republican Senate incumbents up on the ballot in 2022. Somebody helped me on this map. Pat Toomey on Pennsylvania is not there. Pennsylvania is grey, because he's retiring. Richard Burr in North Carolina is retiring. Those are two places where if they were running for reelection, you might think Democrats could make a big play in the suburbs. Even that might be a stretch, Philadelphia area, maybe more than the -- within North Carolina.

But if you look at this map, Catherine Lucey, is there a Republican senator who's going to vote no today who in this political environment in those pretty red states, most of them is going to pay a price for this? Can they use this against Chuck Grassley and Iowa, maybe Ron Johnson in Wisconsin?

LUCEY: I mean, certainly I think Democrats will try and make it an issue with Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. And Grassley is tough, because you know Iowa well. It's a state that's gotten redder. I do think in Pennsylvania in that open Senate race, this will be a big issue. And that will be a way that they will try and galvanize voters in, you know, in the Philadelphia or the Philadelphia suburbs, which we saw were really key to President Biden's victory.

So they're going to try and use it. And then also in House races, so some of these House districts, you know, suburban districts where they've had a lot of issues with enthusiasm. They think as all that said, this will help with women, with educated college -- educated women with younger women. But I can't -- we can't really say this enough. It is not the main issue on most voters' minds. Inflation is the number one issue for most people as we have been talking about day after day after day.

And certainly this is going to motivate some voters. They are going to really try and push it. But they know they also need to have an economic message.

KING: Right. And so the question is, if the Democrats can answer some of those economic concerns, can they --

LUCEY: It's the margins. Does this help push the move --

KING: -- on the margin move in some races? Again, this is a historically monumental decision if the Supreme Court issues is wiping away a right that's been on the books for five decades. And like everything in American politics, so look at this, Monmouth did a poll. On the 75 percent of Democrats want to see a national law passed, 63 percent of Republicans say, leave it to the states. Again, just about every issue we live with is red and blue America.


PHILLIP: Yes, for sure. And I think that, you know, Democrats, the Democratic base, they know that this is not going to go anywhere at the national level. They know that when Democrats have had power, they've had veto proof majorities. They have not been able to accomplish this. So I don't know how far this whole messaging vote is going to go. But when it comes to where this might matter, it is ultimately going to be at the state level, the governor's races in places like Michigan and elsewhere, can they actually galvanize voters where it matters there where they might be the last, you know, barrier between a really restrictive abortion law and something else.

KING: Right. That's a critical point we sit here in Washington. The vote in the Senate is here, so we follow it and we should. But these governor's races, state legislative races is going to be huge issue throughout this campaign here. And we will stay on it. Thanks for joining us today on Inside Politics. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a break.