Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Ukraine: Russia Is Focusing On Controlling Severodonetsk; Uvalde Gunman Used AR-15 Rifle In Shooting; Peter Navarro Says He's Been Subpoenaed By Grand Jury. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 31, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The European Union today ratcheting up its sanctions on Russia. That, as Russian troops continue their assault on eastern Ukraine. The E.U. will now ban 90 percent of Russian oil imports by the end of this year. The European block is the largest buyer of Russian oil. Ukraine is appealing for more heavy and more sophisticated weapons as Russian troops make progress, seizing territory and east.

President Biden says the United States will help but he's making a key distinction. The administration is willing to send more sophisticated rocket systems but the President says he would not send any rockets with a range to reach into Russia. On the ground, Russian shelling pummeling cities in eastern Ukraine, thousands of civilians now trapped idesperate need of help. CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now live from Zaporizhzhia with more. Melissa?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, what we've been seeing over the course of the day is that key city of Severodonetsk were that fighting has been the heaviest for so many days now that seems to be falling into Russian hands. And that is a city that as we understand it still has some 15,000 civilians trapped inside with that extremely intense fighting between Russian forces and Ukrainian forces continuing even at this hour.

This is what's been suspended, or any attempts to get any of those civilians out as a result of the intensity that fighting. Also any attempts to get humanitarian aid also suspended this hour, so an extremely dire situation there. But if you look at a map now of those Russian controlled territories with Severodonetsk, the very northern tip of that, and Kherson down to the very southern tip of that, you get an idea of that line that has now been created.

And that is the scene of so much intense fighting and of extreme concern. First of all, on the military side, here in Zaporizhzhia where I'm standing, you mentioned a moment ago, those long range rocket systems that Ukraine has been appealing for just 30 miles to the south of here along the Dnipro river that's just behind me, the closest of the Russian held towns and the beginning of that line.

We've been seeing over the course the last few days here in Zaporizhzhia, a cruise missiles hitting this city but also to the south of here, evidence of increased shelling along so many of the villages to the south of Zaporizhzhia. We ourselves here can hear the regular thud of outgoing artillery fire. And that tells you that the fighting is intensifying.

But more than that, John, I think what is key here is considering how deeply entrenched this line is becoming. And that is of extreme concern to Ukraine as well. Not only are they subject to Russian advances that are helped by the long range missiles that Russia has, for instance, that have been hitting some of those towns, I mentioned to the south of here.

We're also seeing this hour from the Ukrainian side and announcement that essentially in those Russian controlled southern held territories to the north of which I'm standing now, communications have essentially been cut off. So no more internet connections, no more telephone connections, and that's something we're hearing here from some of the people who are trying to get back across the border. They're no longer able to speak to the relatives they've left behind.

Here in the greater Zaporizhzhia, for instance, there are five districts, three of them entirely without communication this hour, John.

KING: Stunning, stunning. Melissa Bell, reporting live for us in Zaporizhzhia. Melissa, thank you.


Up next for us, the shooter in the Uvalde school district massacre used an AR-15 so as the shooter in Buffalo and Boulder and Pittsburgh and more.


KING: The gunman in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas used an AR-15 rifle to kill 19 students and two teachers one week ago. It is, it's a tough choice of words, but it's the weapon of choice for a long list of deadly mass shootings. You see a list here of eight just in the last six years.


With us to share his insight and his expertise, Stephen Gutowski, he's a gun safety instructor and founder and reporter of, really grateful for your time today. You write, and when I hear you use it smartly, about a lot of Americans don't understand the distinction between guns. Again, I don't like the words. But it is true that if you could put the chart back up there, you know, it is a weapon of choice for people who do mass shootings with high casualty rates. Why?

STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, FOUNDER AND REPORTER, THERELOAD.COM: I mean, it has been. You know, certainly we've also seen handguns used most often in mass shootings that involve far more people killed, but certainly it has been used in some of the most high profile mass shootings. And, you know, there's probably a lot of reasons for that. One, I mean, it's the most popular rifle in the country.

So that probably has something to do with selection, that's just a very common type of rifle. And then, you know, there's probably some sort of contagion effect as well, that's a play, other shooters have used this gun. Some of these attackers glorify those shooters and want to replicate what they did. And so they pick this firearm.

KING: And part of it is the semiautomatic nature, right? I just want to show our viewers, we could put up just a 22 caliber rifle. If you could put the 22 caliber rifle on the screen, then you could show an AR-15 next to it. In terms of, you know, you can modify almost any gun to make it shoot more rounds per minute or more rounds per second. But in terms of an AR-15 compared to a 22, you can fire a lot more bullets a lot more quickly than AR-15, correct, just a fact?

GUTOWSKI: Well, not necessarily, 22 is a semiautomatic, 22, like, I believe that's a Ruger 10/22 you're showing there, that's a semiautomatic firearm as well. The main difference is in the ammunition that each of those rifles employs. So the 22 long rifle is actually the same diameter as the 223 that's used in an AR-15 and in most AR-15. But there's more powder in the cartridge, in the ammunition on a -- that's used in the AR-15.

And so the round is designed to move much faster and further and is designed for larger targets than a 22, 22 is like a squirrel rifle. And AR-15, if we're putting it in hunting terms, is more of a coyote or hog style weapon. And then of course, you have much larger caliber ammunition for hunting things like deer or elk or larger game. That's us even larger ammunition than the AR-15.

KING: And AR-15 was banned when the assault weapons ban was in place for 10 years, right, and that's Clinton administration.

GUTOWSKI: Yes, it was sort of a cosmetic ban. They banned semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines that had two or more of certain features like a pistol grip or a flash suppressor. Some of these things are often criticized as being a, you know, feature ban or cosmetic ban, because the basic functionality of a semiautomatic firearm in that caliber that an AR-15 is, wasn't banned and isn't banned in any of these assault weapons bans that are out there.

It's more focused on kind of the appearance of the gun in some ways. Although the argument is obviously, that you'll get from advocates for these laws is that it's makes it more the gun more difficult to use or more difficult to fire as many rounds as quickly. That's, that's what you'll hear.

KING: And so those who -- the people who would advocate restoring the assault weapons ban would cite statistics like this. If you look at the 20th deadly shootings in U.S. history, and you just look at the numbers on the right of the screen after the ban and the casualties, you know, that's an assault weapon of large magazine capacity gun.

You know, so those who'd say, just take the assault weapons off the market, take them, get them off, they would point to that. Is it that black and white? Or is it more complicated? GUTOWSKI: I think it's more complicated in that obviously, those scenarios that you're putting out there are still statistically very rare. I know that right now, obviously, nobody wants to necessarily get into the statistics in the wake of such a horrific event like this. But, you know, there have been studies that shown there was no real impact on gun violence generally, you know, when -- there's obviously very different kinds of gun violence that we have to respond to and generally have to respond to in different ways.

So, mass shootings are frankly a very hard one to respond to, because they're very rare and hard to get single policy that's going to address all of them, of course. And you know, but then you have your daily sort of gun violence, you know, criminal related gun violence, that's usually almost exclusively hand guns used in that rifles are not very large percentage of the number of gun homicides each year or gun suicides, which is another problem as well.

The most deaths or most gun deaths are suicides. So you have to kind of have very different policies to just all of these different aspects of gun violence when you're talking about it, right?

KING: Stephen Gutowski, appreciate your time. We'll continue this conversation obviously as we see I don't think there'd be any gun issues throughout the Congress would have the votes but we'll see if that comes through there.


Up next for us, a big step in the Justice Department investigation of January 6th, the Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro now says he has been subpoenaed.


KING: The former White House adviser Peter Navarro says he received a Justice Department subpoena for testimony and records about his efforts to help Donald Trump stay in power. Navarro has already refused to cooperate with Congressional Committee investigating January 6th. Now, the new Justice Department subpoena indicates federal prosecutors, just like the Committee who are reviewing the conduct of members of the former president's inner circle. Our panel of reporters back with me.


And it is significant because there's been a lot of blowback for members of Congress, Democrats say they don't think the Justice Department is taking this as seriously as it should. This would be going into the West Wing and Donald Trump's inner circle to try to figure out what was happening between Election Day and January 6th.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They've been extremely quiet at the Justice Department. And you're exactly right, there have been so many Democrats, many more in private than in public, but some in public saying, what are you doing Merrick Garland? Get on with it and get this investigation going. This is a big deal, not necessarily that Peter Navarro will, I don't know, assume it. Presumably he would comply. And if he did --

KING: TBD, he says.

BASH: TBD, but it's a different thing, presumably when you get a subpoena from the Justice Department than a Congressional Committee that is legitimate, but that your party is trying to delegitimize. But it also is unclear how much information he has. But what is clear, is what you said, John, that the Biden Justice Department is actually doing more to investigate than we know about.

KING: And Mr. Navarro is the author, we can show you the cover of it of a report that he called "The Immaculate Deception." It's bogus. I'm sorry. But alleging that, you know, there was election irregularities. He was part of the effort to -- with the President, other presidential advisors, what can we do? And that's key for the Justice Department, if you take it inside the West Wing, whether it sees -- the fake electors, for example, the replacement electors, can you -- is that a crime? Or is it just political whining? And you reached out to all of your allies, is there anything we can do? Or did they have a criminal conspiracy to try to change the election results?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right, and who else was involved as well. As we've been saying, this is all indicative of a increasing momentum here, a heightened focus of looking at who in the White House not just what was the communication the White House on January 6th, day before, but also from election day up into January 6th, to try and overturn the election and the results of the election.

You were just saying Navarro has a piece of that. He is somebody that's in the White House. The Justice Department has been hesitant thus far. And now we're going -- it'll be interesting if we start to see -- if we were going to see other people in the White House with the ultimate goal from the Justice Department as well as January 6th Committee of seeing what was the communication like around the President as well during this time.

KING: And as we watch that play out in the Justice Department on any sensitive matter, takes its time and it's quiet. And this just seeing this is a big deal. As you know, we haven't seen or heard much about what they're doing. This the huge which they turn the calendar page tonight, and tomorrow is June 1st, and this January 6 Committee is going to have six, maybe eight, we're not sure the exact number hearings, but beginning June 9th, beginning 10 days from now the January 6th Committee.

And so Peter Navarro said no, and they referred him, the Congress referred him for contempt. Kevin McCarthy and the other Republican lawmakers, the Committee wanted to question. They're saying no, that they don't plan to come in. So what does the Committee do with this moment? It's a huge opportunity. But it's a pretty high bar too to convince, try to convince the American people, you know, try to convince some of the American people to change their minds.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it is the goal to actually convince people or just to reinforce what people have already thought because the country is extremely divided, as we know, over January 6th, especially as time goes on. But they have a very difficult task. And despite the fact that they didn't hear from some of these key players like Peter Navarro, Mark Meadows, they did to a certain extent.

But the Committee keeps reminding people that they have spoken with more than 1,000 people. They have thousands, tens of thousands of pages of documents from people who did cooperate with the Committee. Now the challenge for them is to lay it out in a way that the public can absorb it in a compelling way. And also one that I think doesn't kind of overreach, go too far and sensationalized it because it will automatically turn some people off.

KING: It would be fascinating to watch. And again, Kevin McCarthy, who wants to be the Speaker of the House, saying that he would only testify if they gave him the topics and documents in advance. And he wants to know the Committee's legal and constitutional deposition limited to one hour. That's -- it's a long way of saying no, if that's what that is right there.


Ahead for us, some new and exclusive CNN reporting on the escalating search for the source of that Supreme Court leak in the Roe v. Wade draft decision.


KING: Some important and exclusive CNN reporting tops our Political Radar today. Supreme Court law clerks are being asked to hand over their personal cell phone records. That is part of the escalating search for whoever leaked that draft opinion showing the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. Some clerks are so alarmed CNN is told they're looking into hiring lawyers as this investigation intensifies.

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth met with Taiwan's President this morning. Senator Duckworth leading a congressional delegation on an unannounced trip to Taipei. China's U.S. Embassy not happy saying it firmly opposes the visit, and urged the U.S. to avoid sending what it calls the wrong signals. Remember the news conference during his trip to Asia earlier this month. President Biden also alarmed China by saying the United States would intervene militarily if China tried to take Taiwan by force.

The First Lady Jill Biden graces the cover of June, July Harper's Bazaar magazine. It's the First time in the magazine's 155 year history a First Lady has appeared on the cover. Mrs. Biden, you've been letting us in on a little secret. She says that when she and the President disagree, they do not hash it out in front of the Secret Service. Instead, they argue by text, fexting, that's with an F, fexting she calls it.


Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.