Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Russia Claims Ukraine Tried To Assassinate Putin Overnight; Russia Claims Drone Attack On Kremlin, Unverified Videos Purport To Show Attack; Next Week's Expiration Of Title 42 Expected To Spark Migrant Surge; Migrant Bus Chartered By Texas Gov Arrives In New York; Biden Admin To Send 1,500 Troops To Southern Border; Mexico To Continue Taking Migrants Under Humanitarian Grounds; Dem Sen: "Unacceptable" For Biden To Militarize Border; Today: Fed Expected To Raise Interest Rates. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 03, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Very busy news day. Thank you for your time. Provocation or pretext, the Kremlin accuses Ukraine of trying to assassinate Vladimir Putin with a drone attack. Ukraine's president just moments ago says quote, we don't attack Russia.

Plus, a surge and a search for a solution. Migrants prepare to overwhelm the southern border. The Biden administration snaps into action, ordering troops to the border, are orchestrating a new deal with Mexico and erecting new processing centers and reading is believing. The text message that fed the Fox decision to fire Tucker Carlson reveals the anchor rooting for a mob to kill someone and borrowing from Jim Crow.

We begin though with dramatic images from Red Square and the Kremlin's stunning, but unverified explanation that Ukraine launched drones at the heart of the Russian government with the goal of killing Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin statement came after social media postings purporting to show explosions over the president's residence, the Russian president's residence.

"We regard these actions as a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the president's life. The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit." Ukraine's president in Finland today says his country had nothing to do with the so-called attack, saying "we don't attack Putin or Moscow."

A lot to sort out and let's begin with CNN's Nic Robertson. He's live on the ground for us in eastern Ukraine. Nic, it's a drama anyway, it's a drama in any event, whether it is an actual Ukraine strike in Moscow or Russian propaganda.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is. And in a way, Russia has ratcheted up the potential for what could come next by claiming without providing evidence so far that CNN is aware of that this was an actual attack on President Putin's life and assassination attempt is where the Kremlin is framing it. The fact that the drones appeared over the Kremlin, two separate ones, 2:27 and 2:43 am local time this morning, is a blow to the narrative that the Kremlin is well defended to Putin's narrative that the war in Ukraine, he calls it a special military operation is something that they're doing well at achieving their aims and isn't touching mainland Russia.

So, that myth has been busted. What worries people in Ukraine is how will Putin and the Kremlin having ratcheted up the narrative here, that this was an assassination attempt by Ukraine? How will they respond? President Zelenskyy has been very clear, as you said, we do not attack Putin, we do not attack Moscow.

Indeed, he said, we don't have enough weapons to fight on our own territory at home defending our own cities and villages, which is what President Zelenskyy said the country is doing. Another Ukrainian official earlier today describe what the Kremlin is saying as trickery that this is a maneuver, an obvious maneuver by their enemy.

They say that this is the Kremlin trying to gin up support for this stalling failing war in Ukraine, and in particular, ahead of a very important parade in Moscow, the Victory Day parade commemorating Russia's losses of tens of millions of troops during the Second World War, traditionally big parades on Red Square.

There's a lot that we don't know, but a lot now hangs in the air, particularly because Putin may use this false flag potentially, to rain something down on Ukraine, that Ukrainians say would be more terrorism.

KING: The words back and forth. Nic Robertson, grateful you're in the ground for us to get us started in eastern Ukraine. Let's get some more reporting and perspective now from CNN's Matthew Chance. He is live in London. And Matthew, as Nic notes, there's a lot we don't know that we're still trying to sort through. But you see in the images even as Nic was mentioning, the bleachers set up for the big parade outside of the Kremlin striking to see images of two drones over that complex, heavily guarded complex.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's one way of putting it yet, John, striking astonishing is what I would say, having been in that position watching that Kremlin palace for so many years. And seeing it attacked in this way is unprecedented. I've not seen anything like this ever before. You're right.

And you know, you can see the parade set up outside just on Red Square because in six days from now, the Victory Day parade as Nic was saying is scheduled to take place. I wouldn't be surprised if the Kremlin pulled back on that now. They've already scaled back the parade. There's not going to be an air show for instance.


I wouldn't be surprised given the situation and these drone attacks, if they are real, then the Kremlin wouldn't go further. And perhaps scale back the Victory Day parade even further, we'll wait to see what they say of next couple of days. But for the moment, extraordinary images, an extraordinary show of vulnerability as well on the path of the Kremlin.

I mean, remember, this is a war that the Kremlin doesn't even call a war, it calls it a special military operation. And it does that because it wants to perpetuate this idea to the Russian people, that it's not really a full-on conflict. It's an arm's length, it's happening somewhere else, you don't have to worry about it.

Well, this is a stark, potent reminder, a wake-up call, if you like for people inside Russia who are watching this on their television screens, that that war is coming home finally, and so that's going to be something significant as well. So, if the Russians have done this on purpose, then that will be the price they pay for it.

KING: And it's an excellent point. We'll have to watch how this plays out Russia media, Russian public opinion as well in the days ahead as well from the Russian leadership. Matthew Chance, grateful with our reporting. Let's continue the conversation with more insights now from the former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty, and our CNN national security reporter, Natasha Bertrand.

Jill, let me start with you. And let me just start first. Here's just a picture of the Kremlin complex. You are quite familiar with Matthew Chance was just describing about this palace. I have visited several times, but you have visited so frequently. This is the Kremlin palace.

Now let's look at this video. It is remarkable to see. If you watch closely here, you see the flag, you see a drone come right into space there, then you see an explosion. I'm going to stop the video. Jill, this building that our viewers are seeing right now. What is it? How important?

JILL DOUGHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, the yellow building that you're seeing beyond the Kremlin wall is the Senate building. And that is inside the fortress of the Kremlin. And that also includes the president's residence. Now, we understand that he was not there at the time, because he does have many other residences. One is outside of Moscow, and then he has several in various parts of Russia.

So, you know, again, what you can deduce from that. That video, by the way, apparently, originally was shot by kind of a neighborhood group, a video, which lives on the other side of the river, kind of behind the Kremlin. So, I think it's very interesting to know, who was up at that hour or 2 am, with a video on the Kremlin, maybe they do it all the time. Maybe not. And then it eventually, you know, actually, kind of slowly to my mind, comes out on the Russian media. So, many questions. And, you know, we'll see how this develops.

KING: We will see how it develops. Stay with us. Natasha, I want to bring you into the conversation again. You're seeing it's the drone. We have verified that it's a drone. Who did it? Where did it come from? Those are still open questions, right there above, as Jill notes, where the president lives. Russian social media showing some images. And again, there's a lot here we need to tick through in several days and try to verify. But they say the information that they have from the damage that it could be a UJ-22 attack drone Ukrainian made. That's what the Russians are saying. And we know Ukraine, in fact, has this capability.

Let me ask you from the Pentagon perspective. It's no secret. The United States and NATO have eyes on the skies. They know when things go up in the air and they know where they come from. Do we have any information? Does the Pentagon, can the Pentagon say definitively where this drone came from, these drones?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, the short answer, John, is no, not at this point. But that is exactly what intelligence officials across the U.S. government, including at the Pentagon are looking at right now. Now we are told that U.S. intel officials do not have any indication at this point that there was chatter overnight or intercepted communications suggesting that an attack was being planned either by Ukrainian forces or by for example, Russian partisans, or really anyone at this point. They did not have any forewarning that this was going to happen.

But they're poring over intelligence including intercepted communications, including satellite imagery to try to figure out what might have happened here and who might have been responsible for it. But at this point, they are pretty much coming out and saying publicly, look, you need to take the Russians claims here with a grain of salt.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, that at a recent event just this morning that they don't have any evidence yet that it was the Ukrainians, they simply don't know what happened here. But at this point, look, the United States has also been warning Ukraine privately not to conduct these kinds of attacks inside Russia.

We saw with the leaked documents just a few weeks ago that allegedly Ukraine was planning some kind of attack inside Russia and the U.S. kind of walked them back from that. So, this is something that the Ukrainians are well aware of that the U.S. does not want them to do things like this and President Zelenskyy is denying it. Right now, the U.S. says they just don't know one way or another. But that is exactly what analysts across the U.S. government are now really digging into it, John?


KING: And to Natasha's point, Jill is still with us. We've seen headlines in recent weeks and months about cross border attacks and the ones very close to The Ukrainian-Russian border, everyone would say that's part of the war. If you get deeper into Russia that has been part of the debate. The United States saying be careful to Ukraine if it's true.

But Jill, I want to come back to this in a moment. But as I come back to this, let's first listen to President Zelenskyy. It's important to for our viewers to see him and hear him just moments ago saying, no way.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: You know, I can repeat or repeat this message, and I think it will, at least will be understandable for everybody. We don't attack Putin or Moscow.


KING: And so, Jill, as someone who understands how the Putin communications, the propaganda machine works so well. I'm going to stop this video here. I want to bring it back in again. This is, as you said, the building that includes Putin's residence inside the Kremlin fortress. This is right in the heart of Red Square. If this happened from outside force, what does it say?

We've seen battlefield blunders from Putin over the many months and months and months of this war. But that you could fly two drones over what is supposed to be the most secure facility in the heart of Moscow, whether this was somebody inside Russia or some dissent, whether this was from Ukraine, whether this from some other source. What does that say about Russian military preparedness in the heart of its government?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think that is the big question. Because if that really did happen, then I would ask where did it come from? How did it get the evade? If it came from Ukraine, how did they evade an entire country? You know, kilometers and kilometers to get to the Kremlin, how did it get so close to the Kremlin? How was it dramatically videotaped?

I mean, that's a beautiful shot, right, John, gorgeous. So, we've got already. We've got this kind of propaganda side going. Could be the Ukrainians, they denied. It could be groups that support the Ukrainian government. Now, this also could be Russians, but it also could be the Kremlin trying to gin up fear and patriotism as we're getting farther in this war.

KING: If it is that last option to gin up fear and patriotism. And again, you see the parade bleachers right down below here screen. You might -- have might succeed with that. But at the same time, you're also telling your people especially if it's a lie, and its propaganda, that's pretty weak. That's supposed to be the hard of your government, and that is weak.

Jill Dougherty, Natasha Bertrand, Matthew Chance and Nic Robertson as well, will continue to report this story. Thank you.

Up next for us though the blossoming border crisis. A bus full of migrants arrived in New York, sent by the governor of Texas. This has cities along the border and governments brace for an influx across the U.S. Mexico border.



KING: We're going to move now to a politics and policy collision over the southern border. Next week a potential crisis moment when Title 42 comes off the books and when migrants, more migrants are expected to surge into the United States. The White House is making critical decisions now hoping to blunt their impact on already overwhelmed border facilities, sending troops for example to take some of the workload and convincing Mexico to continue to take back migrants beyond next week.

The politics too are beyond unavoidable. Republicans have long assailed the White House saying, the president has been absent on this issue. Republican governors now continuing to bus migrants to Democrat led cities. We are covering the story from the frontlines of the crisis and here in Washington.

Let us begin right now. In one of those blue cities, taking in migrants New York City, where busloads of migrants arrived this morning from Texas. CNN's Polo Sandoval is there. Polo, tell us what you're seeing?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we've seen this level of political theater in the past with Governor Greg Abbott in Texas tapping into state funds to offer free rides to asylum seekers after they've been processed by federal authorities and free to travel anywhere, they'd like. And more times than not what we're hearing is that New York continues to be one of their main destinations either because they might know someone, they may have social ties here, or they're caring about the services.

So once again, we saw that this morning with a Greg Abbott chartered bus arrived here behind me at New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal. About 41 men, women and children left Texas a couple of days ago and arrived. We expected another bus to arrive later today.

It's important to point out though, John, it really is just a small fraction of the hundreds of asylum seekers that have been arriving per day here in New York City over the last year. However, every single migrant that arrives here, certainly further strains or resources of the city according to what we've heard from officials.

So, the big concern now as we get ready to see a potential increase, if we haven't seen that already along the southern border, is how that will then translate to an increase here in New York City. A city that's already struggling to care for roughly 60,000 asylum seekers that arrived here in the last year.

KING: 60,000, 60,000 and count. Polo Sandoval on the ground for us in New York. Polo, thank you. Let's go to the White House now with CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. Priscilla, I tick through some of the new steps the administration is taking in advance of the deadline next week. Connect the dots for us and is the hope that it will significantly impacts the number of crosses, modestly impacts the number of crossings. What is it? PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the hope, John, that this would drive down border crossings. But the bottom line here is that this is shaping up to be a massive logistical and political challenge for the Biden administration and for this White House, which is aware that the issue of immigration is a political vulnerability for the president who has received criticism from Democrats and Republicans.

So, the White House is trying to show that they are being proactive here that they are putting preparations and plans in motion in anticipation of that COVID era restriction ending next week. So, that includes sending the additional 1,500 troops to be in a support capacity along the U.S.-Mexico border as well as sending non-Mexican nationals back to Mexico. That would be the first time the U.S. has deported non-Mexicans to Mexico.


And again, another show of force from this administration to say that there is consequence if people cross illegally but the politics looms large over all of this. You saw it there in New York. Mayers have been criticizing the administration on this. And I'm told from a source that Department of Homeland Security just yesterday was having calls with cities and local law enforcement across the country to brief them on their preparations, knowing what's to come, John?

KING: And that, what's to come likely includes more migrants for those cities that are willing to take them despite the stress. Priscilla Alvarez, appreciate the reporting from the White House. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, Laura Barron-Lopez PBS NewsHour, Seung Min Kim of The Associated Press, and Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post.

Let's listen here to somebody the president United States knows well. He served with him in the Obama administration, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, who says he thinks the administration is trying to do its best but needs to stress some things and stress them better.


JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I would be constantly sending the message over and over again, that there's a right way and a wrong way to come here. They've been doing a lot of this. But in Washington, you have to repeat yourself 50 times before anybody listens.


KING: Is that all it is a messaging issue? They need to repeat themselves, or they've had a lot of internal disagreements. And now you have this crunch moment. Are they ready for it?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, I was just talking to a lawyer for migrants on the ground, actually in El Paso and Juarez. And they said that it isn't just a messaging issue, because there are so many migrants that are coming regardless of the fact that the White House is putting out this.

I mean, when Vice President Harris has traveled to the Northern Triangle, she has repeated that message. But migrants are still going to come and especially now as they see Title 42 being lifted for reasons that are due to danger, due to them, you know, seeking asylum for a better life. And the immigrant lawyer that I spoke to said, that it's really difficult for them right now to plan around Title 42 being lifted because they aren't actually hearing she said, preparations from the administration about what exactly their plan is to handle for the influx of migrants.

KING: And so, you hear this debate, what is the plan? What are the specifics and the president tried to do one thing yesterday as part of this, which is to send 1,500 more active-duty troops, the troops will not be on the front lines, the administration says, they'll be doing more administrative work to help the people in the border patrol, department of homeland security, who are on the front lines.

But Senator Bob Menendez, you have the Republicans. Number one, who they say the president and his vice president have been absent on this issue. That's their political argument. The administration disagrees. But that's the political argument.

Now Senator Bob Menendez, prominent Democrats says, the Biden administration's militarization of the border is unacceptable. There's already a humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere, deploying military personnel only signals that migrants are a threat that require our nation's troops to contain. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, the administration has a problem on its hand. Is a problem they think is going to mushroom quite soon. And even in their own party, some poking as well.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. And if you read, if you continue reading Senator Menendez's statement. He points out that this was a Trump era policy basically, that this administration has kept. And that just shows it's another example of just the challenges that this administration has faced on the immigration issue were obviously then vice president -- then former Vice President Joe Biden was a critic of what the former president was doing on immigration.

But once you get into office and you look at what your options are, when Congress is not helping you, when this situation is happening, when there are all these complicated diplomatic issues in the Northern Triangle, you're left with very few options. And, you know, I actually asked the White House about this yesterday at the briefing, and they said, look, you know, troops have been sent to the border for two decades now under both administrations to help with that kind of these more clerical tasks.

But what Menendez is pointing out here that there's kind of a specter, a scariness, if you will, for migrants. If you do send troops to the border and kind of what that entails, the administration promises that they will be treated humanely. But we've seen how just complicated and messy and how terrible conditions can get on the ground.

KING: And so, good.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, THE EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, and that's the political challenge for the president and for Democrats as well. What's going to happen next week on Capitol Hill, is Republicans are going to highlight the problem that the administration has by putting forward their own border security immigration plan.

And so, they're going to do everything to show in competency from the Biden administration. And meanwhile, you have the progressives like Menendez and others who are furious with the Biden administration for sounding like Donald Trump and imposing Donald Trump policies.

KING: And when the House Republicans bring that plan forward, it would go back to rebuilding, finishing the Trump border wall. It would do other border security measures. It would put in place policies, but it has nothing. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Doesn't have any and here's a pot of money. Because you have these problems in New York and in Chicago, where we have sent migrants, you're going to have this big problem. You need more judges. You need more processing centers. You need more shelters along the border. Any of that the House Republican plan?

CALDWELL: Yes. The thing that's missing from the House Republican plan is what to do with the people who are here undocumented, and how to increase perhaps or help the people who the number of people who are trying to get into this country, makes still very restricted.


KING: And we will not have that conversation about the competing sites. Just a bet on that one. Up next, we're waiting on the Fed and watching the banks. The big interest rate decision is less than two hours away and it comes at a very uncertain moment for the American economy.


KING: Happening today, in fact in about 90 minutes a big Federal Reserve decision on interest rates, and it comes at a very volatile moment for the U.S. economy. The Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates. If so, that would be the 10th straight rate high. But perhaps, the smart people say the last uptick before a pause. Inflation is the Fed's target here, but the rate hikes are also a factor in the banking sector.