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Barnette Defends Past Tweets, Says They Are "Not Even Full Thoughts"; Finland And Sweden Poised To Join NATO; FDA: Baby Formula Supply Will Be "Back To Normal" In Weeks. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 16, 2022 - 12:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And it doesn't necessarily break down as clearly as we'd like to outline it this way, right? Like at one of these events last week when he was still on the campaign trail, Fetterman, somebody told Fetterman, oh, you should go join the squad when you're in Washington and he said. Well, no, I'm not going to be a member of the squad. I'm going to be your senator.

He has kind of -- he's pulling on these blue collar threads, right? Democrats in Pennsylvania, in many ways seeded blue collar, many times union white voters, especially in the western part of the state to Donald Trump. And he's gone into those communities and said, nope, I want to talk to you, I want to be -- I want to represent you. And that comes across on the trail.

Now his challenge on the flip side, is that he has not necessarily mobilized African American voters, black voters in the state in the way that you usually need to if you're going to be -- if this is going to be a turnout election, which you know, well in a midterm like this, it's going to be. He's really got to get African American black voters excited about voting for him. And I think that's the work that he's going to have cut out for him if he wins on Tuesday.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And Conor Lamb was a Biden model, if you will, in the midterm year out in the Pittsburgh area, people saying see, you know, with all this talk, the Republicans are going to say you're socialist, no matter who you are, as the Democrat. They're going to say you're socialist, that that's what you need. That's hard to sell in a primary it turns out.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. And that's the entire challenge that you've really seen Conor Lamb face, heading into the tomorrow's primary. I remember being there in 2018, when Joe Biden went to campaign for him, and paid Conor lamb, one of the highest compliment as you can as Biden saying that he reminds him of Beau. He very much so was in that model of the moderate, who can appeal to Donald Trump voters as Conor Lamb successfully did in the 2018 election.

But he has had a much more difficult time running in this primary, especially when you're feeling the pool from the left side of the party and people wanting to see a different type of figure. It's not your traditional establishment Democrat.

KING: I think that different type of figure thing is something I can remember as we go through the primary season. You see in both parties, the voters are just looking for something different. They're tired, they're frustrated, they're exhausted after the pandemic, there's questions about inflation, they're looking, they're looking outside the box. I think we're going to -- in a month from now or two months from now, I have a much better sense that that's what we're getting, people looking outside the box.

The winner of the Democratic primary, Fetterman had a huge leap before this health setback, we assume he'll be fine. Well watch this one play out. The winner, the Democratic primary goes up against these Republican candidates where Mehmet Oz has Trump's endorsement. David McCormick has a lot of Trump's former allies working for him. He's a former hedge fund guy. And Kathy Barnette has been the surprise candidate in this race just surging.

She's very Trumpy in her messaging. This is her yesterday, if you go back through her Twitter feed over the years, or through her speeches over the years, she says things that are anti-Muslim. She was part of the Barack Obama birther part. She said a number of controversial things over the years. Here's how she explained that away.


KATHY BARNETTE (R-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: The overwhelming majority of the tweets that are now being presented are not even full thoughts. They're not even full sentences. And yet people take it and they begin to build their own narrative around it. So I can't provide a lot of context because again, it's almost 10 years ago, that's how far they have to go back to try to find anything on me.


KING: They're not full thoughts. They're not full sentences, then why tweet them?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Well, you know, she tweeted them for her audience at the time. And what she reminds me of, you know, I'm the Georgia one. She reminds me of Marjorie Taylor Greene, where she's used this cult of celebrity in the culture wars to build up a following, and then has parlayed that into political success.

Now, it remains to be seen whether she wins her primary. But if she continues to follow the Marjorie Taylor Greene audience, what I can predict is, she will continue to say one thing to that far right audience when she's speaking directly to them. And then she will attempt to either explain it away or moderate it somewhat when she's speaking to a more general audience, or when she's answering reporter's questions and things like that, it's very much a duality that takes advantage of those culture wars.

HUNT: So a couple of things. One, I think we're seeing some evidence that the traditional mode of big money campaigning is not working in the environment that you were just describing, because these two guys have spent a lot of money. They knock each other down. It's let her take this opening. Now they're trying to use the traditional way of beating somebody like that back, which is to dredge up all these attacks.

I kind of wonder if it might not have the opposite effect, I think certainly the smart sources I'm talking to right now are saying, hey, like, are you really just elevating this woman by attacking her? Should you not be worried about your own campaign? So I think that's one question. I think the other thing, too, is, you know, we've seen a lot of instances where this actually does work in the post-Trump America. I'm not convinced it's going to work in Pennsylvania.

I mean, I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is not some of these other states, Georgia, Arizona, where, you know, might end up where a candidate like this could sneak by in a general election. I do think that if she does, in fact get this nomination, Fetterman is going to be in a better position or Lamb --

KING: But to your point and your point earlier about the unorthodox mood in our politics right now, I have a family member who voted for trump the first time who said, wait, annoys liberals, annoys the media will disrupt Washington, great.


HUNT: Terrific.

KING: Great. Sometimes that's the motivation. Now you talk about her being non-traditional this is her on Breitbart. Listen to this, if you lose, Kathy Barnette, you'll support the other Republicans, right?


ANDREW BREITBART, FOUNDER OF BREITBART NEWS: If you do not win tomorrow, do you intend to support the Republican nominee, whoever it is?

BARNETTE: I have no intentions of supporting globalists. I believe we have ran out of room on this runway for this nation. I believe we have very little rope left to just roll the dice and we'll see how it all works out on the other end.


KING: Again, the old playbook says -- you're the answer is supposed to be of course, I'm going to win the primary but if I don't, I will support our party's nominee. No, that doesn't apply anymore.

SAENZ: Yes. I think that she's shown she's willing to completely buck tradition as well as buck messaging. I mean, last week, she was saying Donald Trump doesn't own MAGA. MAGA belongs to the people, really trying to show that anyone can try to co-opt that brand. And I think that that's something that you've seen, even with that statement, right there. HUNT: And Trump, you know, he jumped on board with the governor -- the gubernatorial candidate in this race to try to hedge his bets against his previous endorsement of Oz because she had this rise. It's really something.

KING: I'm hedging his bets. Shocked, shocked --

HUNT: I can't imagine that.

KING: Look, it's one of five states tomorrow. It's a fascinating day tomorrow. So this quick programming note with the primaries in five states tomorrow, which candidates will come out on top, please join us. I'll be here, a whole team, Erin Burnett, Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper, Kasie Hunt.

We've got lots of people. We'll be everywhere on this one. Results poor (ph) and special live coverage starts tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Ahead for us, Russia's mounting battlefield losses by one intelligence estimate, get this, Russia has lost a third of its combat forces in Ukraine.



KING: Today, fresh signs Ukraine is making gains on the battlefield. This video, take a look, shows Ukrainian forces at the border with Russia just north of Kharkiv saying, Mr. President, we made it. The fighting continues in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. But drone and satellite images show the failed, you might say disastrous attempts by Russians to cross a key river as many as 70 armored vehicles lost.

In the less than three months since invading, the U.K. intelligence estimate is that Russia may have lost one-third of its combat force in Ukraine. And in another blow to Vladimir Putin, Sweden and Finland now set to join the NATO alliance. In response, Russia warns of quote, far reaching consequences.

With me now to share her insights, the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Beth Sanner. Beth, it's good to see you. Let's start right there. Finland and Sweden now joining NATO. It's exactly the opposite of what Vladimir Putin wanted. He thought his invasion might actually split NATO, there might be descent. Instead, it's going to grow NATO. What do you expect Russia to do?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I expect Russia not to do too much, because basically Putin can't do anything. Putin came out today in a meeting with his version of NATO, the CSTO. And what he said during that meeting was, you know, we don't really care about Sweden and Finland because they don't pose a threat to us. And so it's -- he said, it will depend on what NATO does in terms of infrastructure, how they will react.

I mean, I think ultimately, we'll see nuclear forces in Kaliningrad, that little enclave between Poland and Lithuania. But I don't think that there's much he can do. And so he doesn't want to make a big deal of it, because it will look stupid.

KING: And so on the battlefield, when you see the Ukrainian troops essentially going right to the border, and raising the flag, a banner, but the Ukrainian flag, Mr. President, we have made it. When you see the pictures of this bridge and armored vehicles, the estimate as many 70 Russian armored vehicles. This has been a bad three months for Vladimir Putin, without a doubt. And now internally, this is from "The New York Times," the Institute of War also did the scene, these bloggers inside Russia, military bloggers who have a pretty large audience starting to raise questions.

This one is from "The New York Times," a blogger named Yuri Podolyaka. Yes, I understand it's impossible for there to be no problems in a war. But when the same problems go on for three months, and nothing seems to be changing, then I personally, and in fact, millions of citizens of the Russian Federation start to have questions for these leaders of the military operation. How significant is it that within Russia where Putin does have a pretty tight grip on things, you're starting to see some criticism?

SANNER: I think we are starting to see some cracks. It would be kind of foolhardy for me to predict where this is going. But I think it's clear that they're struggling, number one, that people are starting to recognize that they're struggling, we're getting anecdotal reports about a number of forces refusing to go and fight, the conscripts don't want to go and fight.

And there's this kind of soft mobilization going on in Russia where they're desperately trying to pay people a lot of money to stay in or to come back in. And it doesn't seem to be working. Russia is running out of manpower. And that means that Putin may have to change his war aims even more narrowly.

KING: Which makes, there's a fascinating conversation now going on that we didn't have at least halfway if we go back halfway to the start of the war, which is what if Ukraine wins? Early on, the idea was Russia would at least seize enough territory and then Putin would try to negotiate, he gets to keep it, people are most. Now there's a conversation, the Ukrainian say we've seen these war crimes. We've seen our success on the battlefield. We've seen the West sending us weapons. We're going to stay in this fight. President Biden talking last week, the idea about you know, how do you get -- how do you give Putin away out?

SANNER: This is becoming more and more of a dilemma. It'll be a dilemma for the Alliance because clearly this week President Zelenskyy accused President Macron of France of trying to force them to the table now by proposing a ceasefire. Olaf Scholz did the same thing. So they're trying to push a ceasefire soon, the United States is saying, however you want to define success, Ukraine, you do it.


And I think this is going to cause a big problem. And it's going to be, you know, potentially, I can understand the European viewpoint to a point, because they look back at their history. They see what happened after World War I to Germany and the Weimar Republic, and the desperation and isolation of that country led to Nazi Germany and led to World War II.

So that's what they're saying is, they want to avoid putting him in the corner and leading to a more dangerous Russia. But the fact is, is that Russia started this and Ukraine is not going to give up. So this is the dilemma and I don't have an answer.

KING: That's one of the fascinating questions as we go forward. Beth, as always, appreciate your insights.

Ahead for us some critical new information for you on that nationwide baby formula shortage.



KING: The FDA commissioner today telling CNN, he thinks the supply of baby formula will be back to normal in a week or two. In the meantime, expect an announcement on easing the shortage with foreign imports by the end of the day today.


DR. ROBERT CALIFF, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION COMMISSIONER: We're doing everything we can 24 by seven to work on this. We're working with the manufacturers to increase their production. We're working on the supply chain, we really do anticipate that within, you know, a few weeks, we'll have things back to normal.


KING: Checking with CNN's M.J. Lee live at the White House. M.J. spent a recent afternoon testing out resources from the Biden administration's new website for parents looking for help M.J., what did you learn?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, do you might recall that last week, the White House did not seem to have very clear federal guidance on what exactly parents should do if they were unable to get their hands on baby formula. And then you'll recall on Friday, the White House announced a new HHS website that they said should provide some resources for parents if they're looking to buy formula. So we decided to try it out.

We called a number of the 1-800 hotline numbers, tried some of the chat functions for a number of these major formula companies. And this is what we found. For Abbott, the 1-800 number that was listed on the website, this is of course the company behind those major recalls. When we try that number out we didn't get any answers by phone, they in fact told us they don't answer questions by phone at this moment in time.

They can though, however, take a faxed over form from a pediatrician along with a doctor's order that is sort of this urgent formula request form, so unclear how long that would take if a parent were to go that route. And then when we tried the 1-800 number for Reckitt, this is the company behind the popular formula brand Enfamil. The whole time was 72 minutes. And then when we eventually got a representative on the phone, they told us that they had nothing in stock right now.

And finally, we also tried Gerber, this is another major formula company, some of the web and chat functions, we were telling the representative were looking for a certain line of formula that is similar to Similac, we were told that they were also out of stock. When we tried the website, we saw that some 16 of the 24 formula lines that were available seem to be out of stock on the website.

We were told by some representative words like my heart does go out to you during this trying time. Now representatives all in all told when we spoke with them were pretty apologetic. They said that this is an unusual circumstance. They're clearly dealing with a lot of hold times. They know that parents are having a very difficult time getting their hands on formula right now.

So again, you know, this is sort of the federal guidance website that was rolled out by the White House via HHS. So I can tell you that this is largely going to be a pretty frustrating experience for a lot of parents at the moment, John?

KING: Frustrating to say the least. M.J. Lee, smart of you to put it to the test. Appreciate the report very much. Thank you.


Ahead for us, Bezos versus Biden, the two square off on how to tackle inflation.


KING: Topping our political radar today, the White House in a battle,a Twitter battle with Amazon's Jeff Bezos over inflation. Billionaire Bezos criticized President Biden for suggesting that making corporations pay their fair share in taxes would help bring down rising inflation. Bezos said Democratic stimulus spending is one reason prices are rising.

While the White House hit back saying quote, it doesn't require a huge leap to figure out why Bezos is opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy. And the White House suggesting well, Bezos is just angry because President Biden met with Amazon employees who are trying to form a union.

Senator Chris Van Hollen is in the hospital after having a minor stroke. The Maryland Democrat said he felt lightheaded and had acute neck pain while delivering his speech Sunday. And Holland says his doctors do not expect any long term effects and that he plans to be back at work in the Senate later this week.

Jury selections beginning today for the trial of the former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer, Michael Sussman. Sussman is accused of lying to the FBI back in 2016 when sharing information about a possible link between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank. At trial now part of Special Counsel John Durham's three year investigation into the Trump Russia probe. It's the first trial from that probe.

Vice President Kamala Harris landing in Abu Dhabi this morning. She's there to lead a high-profile delegation to the United Arab Emirates for the funeral of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also part of that delegation, the Vice President will meet with the UAE's new leader.

Today history on the podium at the White House. Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her first briefing as the White House press secretary. She is the first black and openly gay woman to do so. Jean-Pierre taking over of course with Jen Psaki who stepped down from the press secretary role last week.


Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcast. Thanks for your time today. We'll see you back here tomorrow, a primary day, remember that. Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.