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Inside Politics

Ukraine's Western Allies Put Unity On Display In Munich; Russian Forces Blitz Bakhmut In Pivotal Battle; Russian Testing Ukrainian Front Lines Ahead Of Major Offensive; Zelenskyy Urges World Leaders To Speed Up Aid, Weapons Deliveries; Scholz: "Not A Very Good Idea" To Talk Timetable For War; Lawmakers Push Biden To Send Warplanes To Ukraine; 5 Former Memphis Officers Plead Not Guilty In Nichols Case; Fetterman Receiving Treatment For Clinical Depression; Fetterman Draws Bipartisan Praise For Getting Help For Depression. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 17, 2023 - 12:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Abby Phillip in for John King in Washington. Western allies huddle in Munich and they look to show solidarity and dismiss talks of cracks in Ukraine's firewall. Plus, full disclosure. Senator John Fetterman checks himself into the hospital for clinical depression. And new text messages revealed topical sick fox. The same hosts who carried water for Donald Trump's election lies knew that his claims were "really crazy."

But up first, the diplomatic battlefield. Right now, the United States and its major western allies are in Munich as the war in Ukraine is about to hit its one-year mark. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy opened the global security meeting with this plea.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Goliath must lose. There is no alternative to Ukrainian victory. There is no alternative to Ukraine in the E.U. There is no alternative to Ukraine in NATO. There is no, no alternative to our unity.


PHILLIP: Zelenskyy wants allies to step it up and to bring a quick end to the war. NATO shows no signs of wavering at least right now, but Germany's chancellor in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour says, that the west must be ready for the long war.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: I think it is wise to be prepared for a long war. And it is wise to give Putin the message that we are ready to stay all the time together with Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Let's get straight to Ukraine where Sam Kiley is right now. So, Sam, as Zelenskyy is making his plea to European allies. What are you seeing on the battlefield?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well here, along a very long front indeed really from the Russian border to my north, along the whole of the eastern front and then along the east west, frontline from Zaporizhzhia, all the way to Mariupol or north of Mariupol. The Russians have been conducting what should be consoled - conceived as shaping operations, Abby.

This is the use of increased use of artillery probing attacks, a lot of effort being put by the Russians into trying to find out where weaknesses may lie in the Ukrainian frontline ahead of what is anticipated to be a major Russian push. That is not to say that things have been dialed down in any way closer into the east in Bakhmut, which has been the scene of incredibly vicious fighting for the last several months.

Recently with a considerable uptick particularly in the use of aviation, that's aircraft and helicopters, but also longer-range artillery, very heavy artillery bombardments indeed coming from the Russian side. And that, Abby, is because they have the edge in terms of the number of guns at their disposal. And above all of ammunition.

On the ground, ground commanders are saying they're seeing the first signs of this push but they're also desperately short of artillery ammunition and ammunition for their tanks in particular. And it's that kind of thing really that the Ukrainians need. In addition, as President Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for fighter jets, helicopters and longer-range artillery.

They want to be able to reach into the Russian logistics chain very deep into the rear to prevent the supply of arms and ammunition coming in because it is only then will they believe that they could get the edge over the Russians in this ongoing fight, Abby?

PHILLIP: Sam Kiley in Ukraine, thank you very much for that report. And here to understand this war in this moment that we are in former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark is with us. General Clark, I want you to take a listen to what as Zelenskyy has been saying to those gathered in Munich.


PRES. ZELENSKYY: We need to hurry up. We need the speed, speed of our agreements, speed of our delivery to strengthen our slink, speed of decisions to limit Russian potential. There is no alternative to speed because it is the speed that the life depends on.


PHILLIP: And General Clark, this has been the request from the beginning as much as possible as quickly as possible. How quickly at this point does he need to get those tanks that have been promised? Given that we are anticipating a Russian offensive. How quickly does he need them in order to make a difference on the battlefield in this moment?


GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.) FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, EUROPE: Abby, the problem has been, I think they knows never really had a strategy that links it's how it wants the war to end with the assistance that it's given. The strategies always or whatever he asked for, let's give him some but let's don't get too worried about - let's don't get Putin too riled up here. Let's hope that Zelenskyy can make it and let's wait for a little longer term, this word Olaf Scholz just said.

Again, look, in order to bring this conflict to an end, you have to have a strategy. And that strategy should be that we give Ukraine the assistance it needs to hold in Donbass and go after Crimea, because that's the strategic decisive terrain in this conflict. If we do that, we've got a very good chance of bringing Putin to the negotiating table. But we need to get those tanks over there right away, they need fighter aircraft, the long-range missiles.

PHILLIP: And as you bring up Olaf Scholz, he spoke to Christiane Amanpour earlier. Take a listen to what he had to say.


SCHOLZ: It is not really a very good idea that in this conference or at this podium, the two of us discuss the question, when exactly, in which month this war will end. The most important effect this case is that Putin learns that it is a miscalculation, if he thinks he can just stick to this course as long as necessary, and then we will stop our support.


PHILLIP: As you were just pointing out, it doesn't want to talk about what the end looks like. What do you think is behind that hesitancy to put a timeline on this?

GEN. CLARK: I think that the west from the beginning has been a little deterred by Mr. Putin, so nuclear power. If it weren't for his nuclear power, there'd be forces from all these countries in there actively assisting Ukraine. This is a violation of the U.N. Charter. It's absolutely naked aggression. We didn't let it stand in Kuwait. President Bush in 1990 said, this will not stand, we sent troops to Kuwait to protect oil.

Here we're protecting 40 million people with our values, trying to establish world order. And we won't go in and help them because Mr. Putin has nuclear weapons. It's Ukraine's airspace yet, we won't put aircraft into Ukraine's airspace even if they ask for it because there might be a Russian air. So, what I'm saying, Abby, is---

PHILLIP: On the plains, there is a request from Ukraine to get F-16s. Just like in the past, they asked for tanks. It took a while before the United States was ready and Europeans were ready to do that. Do you think that the planes are going to go the way of the tanks and that eventually no, will become yes?

GEN. CLARK: Well, they certainly should. But Abby, if you do what Chancellor Scholz said, and you were really in this for the long haul, you would have already been training F-16 pilots. You would have had crews trained on M1 tanks, and then the politicians would make the decision. OK, now is the time to put the F-16 jet.

If they decided today that they wanted to give Ukraine F-16s, those F- 16s wouldn't be ready to fight with Ukrainian pilots for a year. And that's the simple truth. And so, the strategy is just - it's just a mishmash here. And what I'm hoping would come out of Munich, is clear leadership by the United States. And so, what's the strategy?

The battlefield action has to be linked to the goal of the war, the goal of the wars get Putin to stop. You have to find out what it is he values most and threaten it, then he would. Stop simply holding the line and hoping you're going to bleed him out, it's not likely to be a winning strategy.

PHILLIP: We are at a critical juncture in this conflict. So, we'll certainly be watching to see what comes out of this media conference over the weekend. General Wesley Clark, thanks for joining us.

GEN. CLARK: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And for the first time, we are seeing the 5 ex-Memphis police officers facing charges in the beating death of Tyre Nichols. They walked single file into a Tennessee courtroom and pleaded not guilty in that case. All of the charges are - all of the officers are faced with charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. And shortly after the arraignment, Nichols's mother was emotional as she addressed reporters.


ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOTHER: I'm waiting for somebody to wake me up, right? I'm really waiting for somebody to wake me up. But I also know that's not going to happen OK. I know my son is gone.


PHILLIP: CNN senior crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz has is live outside of that Memphis courtroom. Shimon, what can you tell us about what transpired today?


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And also, you know, Abby, Tyre Nichols' mother on her way into the courtroom. I spoke to her, asking her, you know, why was it important for her to be here? She said, she wanted those to face those officers who wanted to see them to their face. So, it was an important day for the community, an important day for this family to have this opportunity to be in that courtroom as these five officers walked in, pleading, not guilty to the charges.

And now the process gets under way here as it appears that these attorneys for these five offices are going to vigorously defend their clients. As one would expect, one of the attorneys for Darius being one of the former officers said that there's still a lot more that we haven't seen, there's more video coming, more audio coming. There's information that has not yet been made public that he thinks will be helpful to his client, including the fact that he feels that his client was doing his job that day.

And so, all of that certainly is starting to play out here, as we're starting to see some reaction from the attorneys for these officers. And really, this was a day for the community to come in a day for the families, so they could face these officers and a day for these officers to hear formally hear the charges against them.

PHILLIP And Shimon, we're also learning that the Shelby County District Attorney's office is planning to review up to 100 cases tied to this Scorpion unit of which these officers were apart. What are you learning about that?

PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that's significant. When you think about a district attorney's office of this size, which isn't that huge, it's not relatively large. That's a lot of cases. And what this is about is about these five officers who five former officers who are charged and their work their arrest cases that they were involved in, while they were with this now disbanded Scorpion unit.

So that 75 cases at least 75 related to them. But then there's also an additional 25 that's related to another officer who has not been charged criminally, but was fired by the Memphis police department, Preston Hemphill, that officer who was fired, they are also reviewing cases.

And this is just the start of it. So, I don't know that necessarily these numbers are going to stay at 100. It's likely they could grow and also significant that they could wind up dismissing many of these cases. So, that's certainly going to be something that we're going to have to look at.

PHILLIP: And the DA addressed that possibility and said is very much on the table that they'll have to revisit some of those cases. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for all of this reporting. And coming up next for us. Rick Scott rewrites. The Florida Republican revises on Medicare and Social Security after President Biden and Democrats use his words to go on the attack. And also next for us, Senator John Fetterman is now at the center of a national conversation about mental health. And the new details surrounding his condition as he's being treated for clinical depression.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIP: We have new details on Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman, who is now recovering and receiving mental - receiving treatment for clinical depression. Fetterman had a life-threatening stroke back in May, just days before winning the Democratic primary. And he's had to publicly recover first as a candidate, now as a senator.

To help me break all of this down, we have CNN's Manu Raju, Jackie Kucinich of The Boston Globe, and Margaret Talev of Axios. Manu, I want to start with you. You have some brand-new information about what prompted him to seek help in the first place.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He did have some symptoms. It was actually loss of appetite. He lost a lot of weight as well. Last week, he was admitted to George Washington Hospital after experiencing some lightheadedness and it was in large part because of the fact, he really wasn't eating much, he was not drinking much.

And then when he was discharged from George Washington Hospital, he met with the Capitol physician Brian Monahan on Monday. Monahan validated him and then diagnosed him with clinical depression on Wednesday. That's when Fetterman checked himself in to the hospital.

Now, I am told by a source familiar with the matter that it's unclear exactly how long Fetterman will stay at Walter Reed Hospital. He's there voluntarily. This could be some an absence, could be a few weeks, could be a month, could be a little bit longer than a month. It really depends on what his medication, what ultimately the disease settled on, and what the proper medication is for him.

So, that process could take a little bit of time. And there's been some speculation about his future, will he resign, will he be forced to resign. He's not planning on resigning. I'm told very, very bluntly here, he was just elected to his six-year term. There are a lot of senators who have had illnesses have been on for much longer. This is no different I'm told here. So, he plans to recover here, and we'll see how that progresses.

PHILLIP: All right, Manu, and everyone standby. I want to bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen on this. Elizabeth, you just heard Manu's new reporting about what's Fetterman symptoms were that led to all of this. What does that tell you?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: These are very common symptoms of depression, Abby, a loss of appetite, which of course would lead to weight loss. Part of it is because when people become clinically depressed, they have trouble taking pleasure in sort of everyday things, having a nice conversation with a friend or a beautiful scenery and sort of you know, eating would be one of those things. Another reason might be, and we don't know if the senator has been on antidepressants, but sometimes the antidepressants themselves can lead to a loss of appetite.

PHILLIP: And Elizabeth, this is coming in the broader context of his overall health. He experienced a stroke last year that resulted in some difficulties processing verbal information. Is there any connection here between that events and what he might be experiencing right now?

COHEN: Yes. The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, they say that one out of three people who have a stroke will suffer depression, one out of three. So that is a lot. Part of what's going on there is that it is depressing to not be able to speak as you used to or in some cases walk as you used to or think the way you used to, that is depressing.


Also, in some strokes, and of course, we don't know about his, but sometimes with a stroke it can actually affect parts of the brain that make it - it makes it difficult for you to sort of get any kind of feel any positive emotion. So, it's actually a change in the brain. So, for all of those reasons, that's quite common.

PHILLIP: And as he's now at Walter Reed, what could the treatment look like for him at this moment?

COHEN: So, the main ways that depression is treated is with therapy and antidepressants. Sometimes when those don't work, you know, doctors will move on to, there's a no spray that's related to ketamine, which is sort of a newer treatment. There is ECT, where electrical currents are used. But that's saved for much later where they really want to try antidepressants and therapy to see if those work first.

PHILLIP: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for helping us understand that. Back to the panel now in the room. This is obviously a hearts go out to his family. It's always difficult to deal with a family member who has mental health challenges. And the thing about this moment, I think that's heartening for those of us in Washington is that there's some humanity, showing up here.

You've seen a bipartisan effort by lawmakers to say, we understand what you're going through. We support you. You've got Ted Cruz, a Republican saying mental health is real and serious. I hope he gets the care he needs. Senator Schumer, the Democratic leader, to hear John Fetterman is getting the help that he needs and deserves.

Tillis, we should all take mental health seriously, and Amy Klobuchar seeing him take the time and the care that he needs will help so many others who are battling depression. And it will. It's hard to do this when you're a private person, it's harder when you're a public one.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Right. At the level that he is operating at to be able to be open and transparent about why he is now at Walter Reed. It really does send a message. I mean, stigma is one of the - is one of the hardest things to overcome when you're talking about mental illness. So, perhaps this will help with that.

But you've had, I mean, but we have had members of Congress talk about mental illness in the past, particularly Patrick Kennedy, comes to mind, Congressman from Rhode Island, made that a huge push when he was in Congress. And so, this hopefully, for all those out there who are struggling, this will help chip away at that stigma, by having a United States senator, I'm saying that he's struggling.

PHILLIP: And there were - first of all, there have been other senate, other lawmakers who have had strokes in office in recent years. I want to play this. This is a byte from President Biden back in 2020, talking about his experience. 50 years ago, when his family died. A lot of his family members died in a car accident, how he coped with it.


JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I thought about would it be like just to go to Delaware Memorial Bridge and just jump off and end it all. But I didn't, ever get in the car and do it, I would never get close. I don't drink at all. I've never had to drink in my life. And but I remember taking out a fifth of, I think it was Jin put it on a kitchen table.


PHILLIP: The president also tweeted to Senator Fetterman and his wife Gisele, that he's thinking of their family. But he understands more than most. And also, I think the point partly is that a lot of lawmakers deal with this and maybe they don't ever talk about it publicly.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: A lot of lawmakers deal with it. A lot of people in America, around the world are dealing with it. I think, look, it would be great to think that there's a bipartisan of coalition of politicians who are all getting out in front of society to cheer on mental wellness.

But the truth is, what's really happening here is that there's been a huge shift in American society in the way that the public perceives mental health issues, and that younger generations, especially demand coverage and help for mental health issues. It was only 50 years ago that Eagleton was forced off of the Democrats VP ticket for his depression.

And I remember in Florida in the 1990s, when I was covering politics in what was then a Democratic majority state law in Chiles, the governor there had had very publicly decided to go public with the fact that he had struggled with depression. And he was taking Prozac because otherwise it was going to be used as a political issue against him. He was a pioneer at the time.

Things have changed over the decades. And what's allowing Ted Cruz and Democrats to come together over this issue is the fact that the public expects lawmakers to act this way. Having said that, I think if John Fetterman were up for reelection this year, there'll be a pylon of Republicans trying to go for the seat. It doesn't mean everyone is going to be hands off politically.

It means at this moment for a temporary period of time, the senate both parties are going to come behind him to support him. And it also means that he can make - he can really message to the American public to people who are struggling with this, that if he can do this, they can get.


PHILLIP: And look, I think we should also be clear. He's experienced a lot of, you know, what I would describe as bullying. I mean he was upfront about his disability coming out of that stroke and he was attacked for it for political reasons. I think that should be acknowledged as well. But if you or someone you know is struggling, call 988 or visit to get the help that you need.

And up next for us. Senator Rick Scott with a major backtrack, after coming under fire for suggesting Social Security and Medicare should sunset. Scott now says, not so fast.