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Inside Politics

Biden WH Renews Call To Ban Assault Weapons; Zelenskyy Warns Time Running Out As Putin's Forces Advance In East; U.K. Pm Johnson Vows To Stay As Cabinet Resignations Mount. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 06, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The Highland Park parade massacre puts high powered assault style rifles front and center yet again in the political debate about guns. The Vice President Kamala Harris visited the scene yesterday to console families and to urge the country to take action.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You got to be smarter as a country in terms of who has access to what and in particular assault weapons. And we got to take this stuff seriously as seriously as you are because you have been forced to have to take it seriously.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us in the room. One tone from the Vice President there talking about the pain in the community when you people have been forced to take this seriously. Listen here when she makes a direct call and she uses a particular word, courage, about the Congress.


HARRIS: We have more to do. We have more to do. And Congress needs to have the courage to act and renew the assault weapons ban.


KING: Is there any evidence before us? Sadly, I know the answer, any evidence before us that Congress is prepared to even have a debate? Nevermind, you know, nevermind what the final vote is to even bring it to the floor and have a debate.


TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Right. And that's the thing. Chuck Schumer might try to bring something to the floor and we know that Republicans will use the filibuster to even block debate or discussion on a ban on assault weapons right now. But when she talks about parents, she's not just talking about

Republicans, quote, unquote, not having the courage to allow debate and to allow the discussion to move forward, even if they plan to vote against it. She's also talking about Democrats who, right now are not on one accord about creating some type of carve out or change to the filibuster rule, to allow them to move forward with bills like this, even if Republicans oppose it.

KING: Right. The National Review makes an important point. Again, whatever your position on guns, we should all listen. We should all be listening and having a conversation at this point. The National Review makes this point. Democrats are asking for more. But what exactly does that mean a Red Flag Law. Illinois already has one, a permitting system for the purchase and ownership of guns. Illinois has that too. Universal background checks.

That's already Illinois law. What about assault weapons and high capacity magazines? Highland Park has banned both since 2013. Concealed carry? That was prohibited at the parade under an Illinois law. So you can have laws on the books. The question is, are they well written? Are they carefully diligently and constantly enforced?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I feel like what Democrats how they would respond to that is that well, those are state laws. And we see even just from this instance, how easily someone with a weapon can cross state lines. We just heard that chilling information earlier from local law enforcement officials saying the suspect was actually planning on going to Madison, Wisconsin. So I think Democrats will say this is why action on the federal level is needed.

But certainly right now, there are questions as to whether the system in Illinois failed or if the system just was inherently bad on its own and needed changes. I think once we get more, as we get more information from law enforcement officials, we will find that out.

KING: And guns is on a pretty long list of issues that are just pretty much intractable here in Washington. They did just have a landmark first gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years. It's mostly in the background check space, but whether you're clamoring for action on abortion rights now, whether it's guns, whether it's climate, when you have a handful majority, essentially five or six votes disappear in the House and no votes to spare in the Senate, big controversial hard issues don't get done, which is why do we get this, this is from "The New York Times" today, newly signed legislation will make it more difficult to obtain a handgun license and buy high capacity rifles in New Jersey.

The latest in a patchwork effort by states with strict gun laws to work around a sweeping Supreme Court ruling. And it goes on to give more details of the New Jersey package. But this is the world we live in, in terms of with Congress so polarized on most big issues. Will we see blue states do this, red states do that, and then you try to figure out what it all means?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I feel like we've had this conversation on multiple issues, whether it's abortion rights, whether it's even the vaccine mandates, you have two different America's merging red states versus blue states. And in the absence of federal action, you are seeing more states try to step up to the plate. I think the problem with these gun control laws as Seung Min was saying was, A, you can easily go to another state and obtain a gun, which is what we've seen so many times.

And B, they're also wrestling with the new conservative Supreme Court and they just ruled earlier this month or last month, making it harder to or easier to carry a handgun, so even the blue states are wrestling with this.

KING: Right. And so we'll watch what happens in these blue states trickle up through the courts over the next year or two. We'll see how that works out the Supreme Court. This important news we want to get on the record with you from the White House this hour. The President of the United States and the Vice President speaking by phone today to Cherelle Griner, her wife the WNBA superstar Brittney Griner, of course has been held in Russia for months now. According to a White House readout, President Biden promised, he's still working on securing Brittney Griner's release. And the readout says Biden is sending a letter to Brittney Griner.


Up next for us, the grind of war, President Zelenskyy appeals for more sophisticated weapons, worried Russian gains on the ground could be reaching a tipping point.


KING: We turn now to Ukraine where the map and the calendar have President Zelenskyy sounding the alarm. Russia just captured the last Ukrainian held city in Luhansk. You see the white lines here, this region here in the far eastern part of the country. And Russia controls a growing slice in the Donetsk region just to the south of that right here, as well. President Zelenskyy views it as critical that Ukraine retake as much territory as possible before winter and is appealing for more and more sophisticated weapons including more sophisticated air defense systems. Let's get to CNN's Scott McLean. He's live from the capital of Kyiv for us. Scott, what is the latest?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, look, the Ukrainians will tell you they are outgunned and outmanned on the eastern part of the country, but they're also not sitting on their hands. Ukrainian artillery strikes, it seems hit what may have been an ammunition cache in the city of Donetsk that's on the Russian side of the front lines. The local governor in the Luhansk region also says that the Russians are taking heavy losses, which is hampering their ability to move that frontline forward.

Now CNN can't confirm losses on either side. But even pro-Russian commentators have suggested that the battle to take the region of Luhansk was far too costly in terms of human lives. The other thing that are -- that -- the other thing that's getting in the Russians way right now is Severodonetsk River, which the Russian seemed to be held up behind and they may be there for months. The Ukrainians think that -- think that they can hold them there.

Unfortunately, the expectation is that the Russians will continue to bomb and continue to shell the towns and cities on the other side with increasing frequency. One other thing to mention, John, and that is that yesterday there were air raid sirens that sounded in cities across the country including here in Kyiv for the first time in a least a week, four of those missiles ended up hitting a city in western Ukraine, Khmelnytskyi, one of them was shot down by air defense systems. But that is a perfect example of why President Zelenskyy says that his country needs a much more modern air defense system. And that is his government's top priority right now, John.


KING: Scott McLean live for us in the Capitol of Kyiv. Scott, thanks so much.

With me now to share his insights and his expertise, the retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, he's also a CNN military analyst. Colonel, it is good to see you. So this is the part of the country where Russia has made significant gains. Let's just zoom in. Russia now holds up in the Luhansk region. The last Ukrainian city has gotten. Now you're looking at Donetsk as well, where they've made significant gains. Why is this feud is so important. And what significance do you put Vladimir Putin congratulated his troops in Luhansk and said take a rest? Is that Russian confidence or is that Russian exhaustion?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's designed to be confidence, John, but it's really exhaustion. And here's why. The Russians have very close supply lines to the Russian border. This part right here, that's Russia already right there. So they're very close to that. So that's good for them. But I noticed this. They haven't been able to really move much beyond this area. This highway line right here is basically their limit of advanced with a few little exceptions over this way.

But the Russians are trying to regroup their forces. They remember what happened in Kyiv. They understand that these kinds of developments require them to replenish their forces. They are suffering from grievous losses, just as Scott mentioned, the Ukrainians are as well. So this is basically a battle of attrition. They're trying to figure out exactly how far they can go, how soon they can do it. And they're definitely trying to beat the clock when they do this.

KING: You say clock in a battle of attrition, I want to come back to the bigger map here in this sense that President Zelenskyy says I need more help, and I need it now. And I want this to be done by winter. Our four plus months into the war, the winter is about four months away. How much of Zelenskyy is thinking is driven by the situation on the ground, how much of it is driven by the idea that 14 years ago, Vladimir Putin took that. The West objected. The West protested. The West said stop. Then winter came, seasons passed, 14 years later, he still has it. How much is Zelenskyy thinking, thinking, if Russia takes this, and I don't push them out quickly, Russia is going to keep that?

LEIGHTON: Right. The longer the Russian stay in places like this, John, the longer they're going to keep them. And, you know, your example of Crimea is absolutely right on target. Because what the Russians are going to do is they are -- their goal is they are going to try to keep all of this area right here. And if possible, take even more into this area, so that they control as much of the east as possible, ethnically, for the most part Russian industrial area, natural resources, it's a prime area for them to -- for the Russians to take.

They also want to have as much of this as possible before any negotiations get started, because their end goal has remained the same no matter what's going on here, or what's going on in the south, they still want to take this area. They want to take Kyiv. They want to destroy the Ukrainian state as it currently exists. It's just going to take them a lot longer to get there.

KING: And lastly, let me ask you to sign a blank (ph) just to show. If the most of the fighting is over here, the fighting is over here in the east. But President Zelenskyy says I need the best modern air defense systems to protect Kyiv, to protect Lviv, to protect cities in the west. How much of that is to protect the infrastructure, which has been devastated in this part of the country? And how much of it is to keep the Ukrainian people's morale up to keep them in the fight?

LEIGHTON: It's really for both because if you can't protect the infrastructure, you're not going to protect the morale. You're not going to keep the morale up. It's going to be very important for the Ukrainians to not only maintain that morale, but if possible, also to increase that and the air defense systems are vital in that effort. I mean, because, John, if they don't have those air defense systems, they're going to lose this war.

KING: Colonel Leighton, appreciate you coming in. Appreciate the insights. We'll stay on top of this.


When we come back, can Boris Johnson survive yet another scandal? A wave of cabinet resignations has his government teetering, but the U.K. Prime Minister vows to hang on.


KING: Dramatic past 24 hours to say the least. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dealing with a slew of fresh resignations now up to 32 from his cabinet, but vowing he will not yield power.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Frankly, Mr. Speaker, the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he's been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going and that's what I'm going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Let's get straight live to CNN's Nic Robertson outside of 10 Downing Street. Nic, wow, what's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the latest says that it appears the backbench committee of Conservative M.P.s. Those that could potentially bring him down have decided to change their rules. But they wouldn't do that until Monday. And then perhaps trigger a vote to force him out of office. But I think it's a message designed to tell him that is at the end of the road now and better for him to step down.

Now one of his most senior colleagues, cabinet member Michael Gove has been to see him and to tell him it is time to resign and what you were listening to there, the fireworks inside parliament today, the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, landing some of his heaviest punches on Boris Johnson. Listen to this.



KEIR STARMER, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The only thing that he is delivering is chaos. He's only in power because he's been propped up for months by a corrupted party defending the indefensible. In the middle of a crisis, doesn't the country deserve better than a Z list cast of nodding dogs?


ROBERTSON: That is about as tough as Keir Starmer delivers that he's a lawyer by training but the prime minister had another grilling a couple of hours later, for two hours in front of one of the top government committees where he faced a grilling on a number of issues and he was to say the very least utterly defensive and evasive. John?

KING: Nic Robertson staying on top of it. We shall watch in the hours ahead whether Boris Johnson survives. Nic, thank you. And thank you for joining us in Inside Politics today. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break.