Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Kharkiv, Ukraine Under Heavy Shell Fire. Interview With John Bolton, Former Trump National Security Adviser. Bruce Willis Is Stepping Away From Acting. Digging Deeper: Biden's Proposed $6 Trillion Budget. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 07:30   ET



MARK MAKHINYA, SON, FLED KHERSON, UKRAINE: I am. We just woke up, me and mom, because we hear the big explosions, like the serious explosions, and we saw -- we saw smoke and -- like through the dark. And, like, it was so scary. I come to mom, and I tell her -- tell her mom, its war. Like flute -- floor and roof just shaking. And when you -- when you're feeling that through your heart, it's -- absolutely it's terrible.


M. MAKHINYA: Yeah. Just.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: It's hard to find the words.


BERMAN: Did you think your life might be at risk?

M. MAKHINYA: Yeah. Definitely.

BERMAN: And then what'd you do?

M. MAKHINYA: We just -- we decide to leave, just run away, and we think it's just a miracle because we run away to the bus stop -- bus station.

BERMAN: So how long after you left was the city occupied?

M. MAKHINYA: Yes. I don't know. We just -- we sit in bus like in 9:00 a.m., and after that, in 10:00 a.m., our city is total occupation.

BERMAN: You got on the bus at 9:00, at 10:00 the city was occupied?


BERMAN: So you got on a bus to Lviv, to here?

M. MAKHINYA: Yeah. And then we found -- I don't know, it's just a miracle. And then we found the last bus, so -- and we -- all our way, our road when we were driving, we're praying with mom and like I take -- I put her hand every time. We would travel, I don't know, maybe probably two days without food.

BERMAN: Mark and Natalie finally arrived at a shelter run by the non- profit "Hope for Ukraine", but they're not called refugees here. Instead, they say --

M. MAKHINYA: You are our family.

BERMAN: Natasha and her family are from the same town as Mark and Natalie and now living at the same shelter.

You must also feel, to some degree, lucky and grateful that you found this community.

NATASHA MARKOVETS, FLED KERSON, Ukraine (through translator): Of course. We are in a safe place. My kids are very well fed in here. They are in a warm place.

BERMAN: Safe, warm, and fed, for now, but these families have little idea of what will come next.

Do you want to go back home? Do you think you'll go back home?

M. MAKHINYA: I don't know. We're always in -- like, our condition always changing and our mood always changing, but we continue to pray and trust the god. And we're praying, and if god really will tell us or call at us, like, you should go there or you should go there or you should stay here, okay. We trust in god. I don't know, like (Speaking in a Foreign Language).


M. MAKHINYA: Destiny.

BERMAN: You don't know your destiny, I mean how could you, but what do you want in your heart?

M. MAKHINYA: I want to see Ukraine free. That is my dream. And but it's my maybe --

N. MAKHINYA: Big dream.

M. MAKHINYA: -- yeah, it's my big dream. It's -- and I hope it will be my testimony, like I never appreciated my country before war. But right now, I saw how a lot of people just supporting us, and we appreciate it so much.

BERMAN: How are you? How are you feeling?

N. MAKHINYA: (Speaking in a Foreign Language).

M. MAKHINYA: Our lives separated like on -- before and after. We think we should forgive our enemies, but it's so hard. We know the bible says you should forgive your enemies, but how we should forgive our enemies if we saw how just died, people and kids, it's hard but we tried. We continue praying even for our enemies.


BERMAN: They continue to pray. In the last 24 hours, Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv has come under heavy shell fire. Hit 47 times by Russian troops, that's according to the region's governor. Even a kindergarten was destroyed. Watch this.


MARIA AVDEEVA, WOMAN WHO TOOK VIDEO OF KINDERGARTEN THAT WAS DESTROYED: This is the sleeping room where children were sleeping. And it was on fire because the Russian rocket hit this exact room right here on this wall. The nearby residential houses are also heavily destroyed.



BERMAN: My next guest spent weeks in a bomb shelter in Kharkiv before escaping with her mother. Anastasiia joins me now. Thank you so much for being here. I'm actually sorry you had to see the pictures of that kindergarten there. What's it like for you to see the devastation in your city?

ANASTASIIA, ESCAPED KHARKIV, BOYFRIEND STAYED BEHIND TO FIGHT: Actually it's kind of hard to believe this is happening because I knew -- know those places. I've been there. And it's really hard to see how they changed through the war.

BERMAN: The bomb shelter, when you were living there --


BERMAN: -- what was that like?

ANASTASIIA: It was a bomb shelter, which prepared father of my friend, and we were there, like 50 people. And half of the people were children, and we were staying there together. It was kind of frightening because each time we had to get out to get the food, like we were hearing bomb shelling and bombs and sirens, and -- but we had to get the food, so. We were afraid but we had to survive somehow. But staying in the bomb shelter, it's not really easy in comparison to normal life.

BERMAN: No. It's hard. You came here, which is all the way --


BERMAN: -- on the other side of the country. But your boyfriend --


BERMAN: -- is back there and he's fighting for Ukraine.

ANASTASIIA: Yes. Yes. He's in territory defense of the city.

BERMAN: How's he doing?

ANASTASIIA: Actually, we can't talk on the phone, but we text sometimes.


ANASTASIIA: And actually while I was on my way to the leave, in train, I received a text message from his brother that their place got bombed and Andre (ph) is in the hospital. But he's fine now.


ANASTASIIA: He went back to fight again, yeah.

BERMAN: He got out of the hospital, now he's back fighting again?

ANASTASIIA: Yeah, yeah.

BERMAN: And you're here in Lviv?


BERMAN: 4 million people, 4 million Ukrainians have left the country, but you're not going to leave. Why not?

ANASTASIIA: Because I'm at home and I don't want to leave it. And I do feel that here I can do something for people. I have been volunteering at the (ph) train station, and I do feel that I'm needed here. And people need me, so -- and I don't want to leave my country. Like, that's kind of painful to leave, to cross the border, because I don't want to leave my home and I never want it.

BERMAN: It's your country.


BERMAN: You should be able to stay. Anastasiia, thank you so much for being with us. We're thinking about you. We're thinking about your family. We're thinking about your boyfriend back in Kharkiv.

ANASTASIIA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Be well.

So, new intelligence out of the United Kingdom that Russian soldiers have been sabotaging their own equipment, even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft. The latest from the battlefield ahead.

And back in the United States, the former president says he has "no idea what a burner phone is." But our next guest says he knows firsthand that that's a lie.


[07:42:35] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is looking into whether former President Trump used so-called burner phones during a seven-hour gap in official White House call records during the riot, during the attack on the Capitol.

In response, Trump said in a statement, quote, "I have no idea what a burner phone is. To the best of my knowledge, I have never even heard the of the term." Joining us now is former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton. Sir, what do you say to that?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I can't understand what the former president is saying because I heard him use the term burner phone a number of times. It's hardly like it's some obscure, highly classified set of words. Criminal gangs in the United States use burner phones, terrorists around the world use burner phones. And as I say, I heard him mention it, so you'll have to -- you'll have to guess what the reason for his statement is.

KEILAR: He said quote, "burner phones," in conversation?

BOLTON: He did, yes, it was a term he actually kind of liked. He'd say, you know, they have these burner phones. So you know, it's -- the president -- former president's acquaintance with the truth is often very casual. I think this is a good example of it.

KEILAR: So did he have a burner phone?

BOLTON: Well, I don't know, you know, he didn't come down to the Oval Office typically until late in the morning. He made calls up from the residence. I certainly spoke to him up there many times on regular phones, on the secure phones, or regular landline. What else he was doing up there I certainly don't know.

KEILAR: What do you make of this seven-hour gap in the call log?

BOLTON: Well, I think it's very hard to believe that anybody re-did the log to purge information from it. These are -- these are routinely made, they're not subject to high-level scrutiny. So if there was interference with it, it would be quite extraordinary.

I think it means that the former president made a deliberate effort not to use Oval Office phones or government phones during that period. I don't know how else to explain it since we know from what others have said, he did have phone conversations with them that day that are not outside that gap period.


KEILAR: So you think it's possible that he was purposefully not using the White House switchboard or the White House phones the way he might normally use?

BOLTON: I don't know what other explanation would make any sense, frankly.

KEILAR: Why would he do that?

BOLTON: Well, because he didn't want a record of the calls. And what he was saying in those calls is anybody's guess. Some people have said they received calls. They've described what the subject of the conversation was. So we know he was making calls, what other calls he made at this point we don't know.

KEILAR: Yes, we know he made calls, he was on the phone with Kevin McCarthy, he called Senator Lee looking for Senator Tuberville, I guess he had the phone numbers messed up there. I do want to ask you about Ukraine because it turns out that the Russian military is not so good. And U.S. intel really overestimated the ability of the Russian military. Why do you think that is?

BOLTON: Well, I think we overestimated the ability of the Russian military, underestimated what the Ukrainian military forces could do. And I think the Russians made many of the same mistakes. Now there's this business out yesterday of U.S. and U.K. officials saying that the military in Russia was misleading Putin.

I don't buy that analysis. And by the way, they're not putting out information, they're putting out analysis of the information. I don't think there's a government in human history that I'm aware of where one of the top leader's advisers was not perfectly prepared to say that another top adviser had made a complete mess of things.

I think -- I think they've got the information. I think their calculations prove to be as inaccurate as U.S. intelligence or French intelligence that predicted there would be no invasion. The head of French Military Intelligence reported by the BBC to have been fired this morning.

KEILAR: Some of the information about that intel that has come out as well is that the Russian military isn't following orders. We heard this from the U.K. intel chief that the Russian military's actually sabotaging its own equipment and in at least one case shot down one of its own planes.

Does that surprise you?

BOLTON: Well, I think a part of the problem here may be continued corruption in the Russian military despite decades of effort to improve it and modernize it. Corruption is so rampant across Russia, it's really -- it's a racketeering organization, not a government.

That a lot of this was going on and top-level defense officials may not have realized it but when put to the test of actual combat all this showed up. I think the disastrous performance of the Russian military has caused such a reputational blow that I think it's an added reason why Putin has no incentive, you know, from his perspective to negotiate.

If his military is to have any effect in terms of threatening other countries, he has to have some military victory he can point to. He certainly does not have it yet. And I don't know what it is in prospect for him. So the bad news is I think actually this failure contributes to their determination in the Kremlin to continue this conflict until they can achieve some success that justifies the invasion in the first place.

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly does appear that that is what's playing out. Senator Mitt Romney told Casey Hunt on her new CNN+ program that NATO countries are going to be worried about their security, right.

They might consider other alliances if President Trump succeeds in winning another term as president. Do you -- what do you think NATO countries will do? Do you think NATO will fall apart?

BOLTON: Well, I think -- I think if Trump were to get back into office, which I don't think is going to happen because I don't think, among other things, he's going to run for the nomination in 2024, I think as I feared in a second term if he had been re-elected in 2020 that he might well withdraw from NATO.

I think this would be a catastrophic strategic decision for the United States. But I don't think it's unreasonable for other NATO members to worry about it. It's another reason to try and put Trump in the rearview mirror.

KEILAR: Sir, really appreciate you being with us. Ambassador Bolton, thank you.

BOLTON: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Christiane Amanpour is going to join us next from Kyiv as the Russian military we understand is actually disobeying some orders according to some new intel. Plus, Bruce Willis is stepping away from acting because of a severe brain disorder. We have Dr. Sanjay Gupta here to explain the science.




BRUCE WILLIS, ACTOR, "ARMAGEDDON": Why are you listening to someone that's 100,000 miles away? We're here, nobody down there can help us. So if we don't get this job, everybody's gone.


KEILAR: Legendary actor Bruce Willis announcing that he's going to step away from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia, which is a condition that effects cognitive abilities and can be caused by a stroke, a head injury, a brain tumor or a disease.

Joining us now is CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I think really telling in here Sanjay was, I mean yes, Bruce Willis announced this but it was actually his daughter because he doesn't have the ability to tell us what is happening. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, we

don't know how long he's been dealing with this, or if any of those things that you just mentioned are the cause of this. But aphasia is what has been described and this is sort of a more general term than maybe people realize, Brianna.

It really effects your ability to communicate. And when we say communication that could be speaking, that could be writing, but it also is the receiving of communication -- the ability to understand someone's spoken word, even the ability to be able to read.

So you know, aphasia can be sort of broadly those things, and it can be caused by damage to certain areas of the brain as you mentioned, for different reasons. Sometimes treatable depending on, again, what exactly is causing this. But let me show you something here, when you look at the brain itself, Brianna, there is typically two different types of aphasia, and again we're not sure what Bruce Willis is dealing with.

But Broca's aphasia which is closer to the front of the brain, that area -- that typically interferes with somebody's ability to express themselves, to be able to speak or to be able to speak in some sort of comprehensible way, same thing with writing.

Wernicke's is a situation where someone may be speaking fluently but they're really not understanding what -- again the spoken word is, or what writing is and things like that. So whether that is affecting his cognition, or there was something affecting his cognition before that that was then causing this sort of aphasia, we're not sure, but that would very much dictate exactly what they would do to help treat him.

KEILAR: Sometimes it's transient, I know, sometimes --

GUPTA: Right.

KEILAR: -- it -- sometimes it passes, sometimes it doesn't. What's the prognosis here, if you could?


GUPTA: Well that's exactly right. I mean, is this something that is going to be sort of permanent and progressive, or is this something that is more transient? And you know, if somebody's had a head injury, for example, Brianna, that could be a more transient thing.

As someone recovers from the head injury, they recover from those symptoms as well. But all we know really about Bruce Willis is exactly what you've read, and we don't know what caused this.

Is this something that's progressive, is it associated with some sort of dementia? He may be a little young for that, he's 67-years-old. But once -- and I'm sure his doctors probably have a much better idea of what exactly is causing these sorts of symptoms, that would give you an idea of prognosis, but also treatment.

KEILAR: All right, let's hope that this is something recoverable. I'm not ready to have seen my last Bruce Willis movie, that is for darn sure. Sanjay, thank you so much for walking us through that.

GUPTA: You got it.

KEILAR: With headlines out of Hollywood demanding our attention this week, it's easy to have missed President Biden's $6 trillion announcement. John Avlon joining us with Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Bri. Look, I know it sounds crazy but we spend a lot more time talking about celebrity scandals like a slap on the face at the Oscars than we do about a nearly $6 trillion budget that could determine the trajectory of our country.

Now look, I get it folks, scandals are a lot easier to pay attention to. But let's see if this gets your attention. Because budgets just aren't a bunch of numbers, they're actually philosophical documents that tell you what our government actually thinks is important.

In this week's proposed budget by the Biden administration shakes up a lot of stereotypes, especially when compared to the budget four years ago from President Trump. But here's the big question, will it change perceptions of the Democratic party's priorities? Let's dig into the data because we are not afraid of the wonk here.

The Biden budget would increase Pentagon spending by $31 billion citing challenges from Russia and China, while investing in new technology NATO, cyber defense, and a nearly 5 percent pay raise for military and civilian Defense Department employees.

On the home front, faced with concerns about rising crime, President Biden is doubling down his commitment to refund the police with more than $32 billion to fight violent crime. And that's not all, there's more money for pandemic preparedness, education, rural development, investing to combat climate change, cancer, and opioid addiction.

All in all, President Biden's proposing a 7 percent increase in federal spending, but the White House says his proposal would actually reduce the federal deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next fiscal year. How did he pull this off, right?

Well, here's a concept, by actually paying for the spending, primarily through a tax increase on people worth more than $100 million, billionaires and corporations. Now, all of this comes to the basic caveat that Congress, not the president, determines federal spending. So this is a vision statement (ph), very much open to amendment and debate.

Some Republicans will oppose it by saying it taxes and spends (ph) too much, fair enough. But they can't be allowed to ignore the fact that four years ago President Trump's midterm budget proposed adding $7 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade while proposing cuts to programs like Medicare, food stamps, and agencies like the EPA.

Yes, you heard that right -- Biden's budget would reduce the deficit, while Trump's increased it. But we should all know by now that deficits only matter when a Democrat's president, right? Honestly, what really interests me is that despite Biden putting forward a pretty centrist budget, Democrats will still get targeted (ph) as a far-left party. And this matters, check it out.

In January Pugh Poll found that nearly 60 percent of Americans believe that Democrats were too extreme in their positions, which is basically the same number they say about Republicans. But that's despite the fact that more people actually agree with Democrats than Republicans on key policy issues, according to the same poll. Grouse and gripe all you want, but Democrats really need to deal with the perception. They have what liberal strategist Ruy Teixeira (ph) calls a commonsense problem.

Now, on a whole host of broad value issues like standing for equality of opportunity rather than outcomes, or patriotism. They seem to be out of step with the majority of Americans, but here's the other deal.

A new NBC News poll shows that the most broadly popular positions for a candidate this year includes support for funding the police and increasing oil and gas production.

Those positions are not exactly out of the DSA playbook, but interestingly they're also followed by support for Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law, lowering healthcare costs, prescription drug prices, supporting Roe versus Wade and doing more to defend Ukraine. It's a reminder that we are not a ideologically extreme nation. It's just that professional partisans distort and dumb down our civic debates.

So here's an idea, cut through all the spin and actually look at the president's budget, might just shake up your stereotypes but at the very least it might ground our political debates in actual policy rather than fear fueled prejudices, and that's your Reality Check.

KEILAR: Actual policy, say you, John Avlon.

AVLON: Crazy, I know --

KEILAR: That's nuts.

AVLON: -- I'm a crazy dreamer, Bri.

KEILAR: That is a dream, indeed.


John Avlon, thank you for that Reality Check. "New Day," continues right now.