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Putin's Greatest Fear; Musk Offers to Buy Twitter; American Family Unites with Baby; Maks Chmerkovskiy is Interviewed about his Humanitarian Aid Foundation. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 14, 2022 - 08:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, followed by years of funding fighters in the Donbas region.

And in between all of this there were poisonings on British soil, backing Assad in Syria, and the murder and jailing of opponents at home.

But the invasion of Ukraine was finally a bridge too far. And the western world has rallied around the resistance as a defensive sovereignty and democracy.

Self-styled strong men fear looking weak. And Putin's epic miscalculation will not stop him from doubling down. More evidence of war crimes will emerge in the coming weeks, no doubt.

But as we confront the human cost of this invasion, we're also confronting the legacy of Russian expansion at the hands of someone who has gotten away with his lies for too long. So, look at the facts of history and don't believe the hype.

NATO expansion isn't to blame for Putin's aggression, but, ironically, Putin will be responsible for the expansion of NATO.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Well put, John Avlon. Thank you so much.

Big news from the world of business this morning. Why Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter, just buy it outright. And the reaction from the social media giant.

Plus, the moment two parents meet their baby for the first time. Their newborn, born to a surrogate mother, in the middle of this war.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you so much. Oh, my God.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, breaking news, Twitter on fire this morning over Twitter. If there's one thing Twitter loves, it is itself. It shares that with billionaire Elon Musk, who just bought into the company a few weeks ago and just made a take it or leave it offer for the whole damn thing. All of Twitter.

Here with me, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans and CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

What just happened, Brian?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Twitter's now in a very public fight with its biggest shareholder who is also the richest man in the world, who, of course, is, you know, the -- invested in Tesla and so many other companies and he wants to be invested more in Twitter. He says he wants to pay $54.20 a share to buy up the rest of Twitter that he doesn't have. Of course, 5420, that's 420, that's a code for marijuana, but -- you know, which he very much enjoys. So, is this all a troll or is this very real?

Well, it's real enough that he filed with the SEC. It's real enough that he's saying this is my best and final offer. It's real enough that investors are now wondering, what's going to happen if he pulls out and sells all the shares he already has. It's a huge problem for Twitter right now.

BERMAN: All right, I'm back with you. I took a little bit of a detour there halfway through that explanation because it's just so bizarre.

STELTER: Right. I mean the 420 coding and everything, yes.



ROMANS: You know, usually something like this, you try to secure the financing to take something private. He can just write a check or wire the money over. I mean he's got so much money.

This is what he said to the board in the offer letter that went to the board of Twitter last night. He says, since making my investment, as we know he has about 90 percent of the company already, I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve the societal imperatives in the current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.

And that societal imperatives is that it's a platform for free speech around the world. That's what he says.

So this has sent the company and its current shareholders, other shareholders, scrambling to figure out what happens next. Usually, in these SEC filings, it's very dry investment banker language. But he says, this is my best and final offer. I am not playing this back-and- forth game. I have moved straight to the end here. It's a high price. Your shareholders will love it. If the deal doesn't work, given that I don't have confidence in management and I don't believe we can drive necessary change in the public market, I would consider my -- reconsider my position as a -- as a shareholder, meaning he's threatening to sell what he already has if they don't -- if they don't take his deal.

STELTER: He'll tank the stock.


BERMAN: Why does he want it?

STELTER: I think it's partly about free speech. He believes that too many people are censored on Twitter. He believes Twitter's policies are misguided. He likes to post wild memes. I mean, look, he's an edge lord, which means he likes to walk right up to the edge of the rules without quite breaking them. But he has, some times, broken them. He's been in trouble with the financial regulators over the way he's used this platform in the past in order to juice his companies.

ROMANS: That's right. And he'll have -- and his companies include Tesla and SpaceX. Is there enough Elon Musk to go around if he takes Twitter private and he's going to run -- he's going to run this thing. There's a bit of, critics would say Megal (ph) Mania (ph) here, that he thinks that he can, you know, rule the world here with Twitter, rule the Twitter-verse.

STELTER: Right. Yes.

BERMAN: Is this -- is this a fair price? I mean I this a real price, Romans, that they're going to have to sit and think about?

ROMANS: I don't know. What did you say the 52-week high was?

STELTER: Well, look, this stock was above $70 in the last year. However, he has improved its share price. You know, he started buying in when the stock was in the 30s. It's now up in the 40s. He has really helped -- he has juiced Twitter in the past few weeks. And there's, I think, a lot of questions about, what is his endgame, what is his real motivation? Is he just trying to pump and dump the stock?

ROMANS: There are some analysts this morning who are saying too, this is a real "Game of Thrones," this is a soap opera that will likely end because of how much higher than the market he is currently offering, probably end with him owning Twitter.

But is it just a troll?

STELTER: Right, is it just a troll?

ROMANS: I mean if he's not going to negotiate, he says, this is -- this is my best and final -- last and final offer. I'm not going to negotiate here. Is this just some sort of game he's playing. STELTER: Is he doing it for the lulls (ph)? But even if he is, this is one of most important communications platforms in the world. Hate Twitter, love Twitter, it is a very important platform for the world to communicate. And this shows and reinforces the power of these billionaires to kind of rule over in these cases -- in this case a really important coms platform.

ROMANS: He's not just a billionaire.


ROMANS: I mean he's got more money than God. He's got 100 billion more than Jeff Bezos, the next one on the list. I mean it's just a reminder how much wealth he has. I mean it's pretty remarkable that he could just snap this up if he wanted to.

BERMAN: Enough money so that if he wants it he's guaranteed to get it?

ROMANS: I mean I guess it would have to be regulators who would -- who would have to decide, right, if he couldn't for some reason have it. But, he's got the money. He has said, I'm willing to take this company private and begin this process, and to take it off the public market.

STELTER: I think we're in for a dramatic board fight now. This is going to be a fight.


STELTER: At least for a while.

BERMAN: From what you know of the Twitter people, do they want to just hand it over to Elon Musk?

ROMANS: Well, I mean, it's going to depend -- they have to do the best thing for their shareholders. They have to do what's best for their shareholders. What Elon Musk is saying I that, look, your shareholders will love this price. The price is high. Your shareholders will love it.


They have to operate from the best interests of the people who own the stock.

STELTER: They do, but I'm skeptical. I'm skeptical.

ROMANS: Are you?

STELTER: I think there's a lot of unlocked value in Twitter and Elon Musk may not be the right man to unlock it.

BERMAN: Well, Elon Musk put himself in the headlines this morning.

STELTER: He sure did.

BERMAN: Which is something that -- you know who loves that? Elon Musk. STELTER: Elon Musk.

BERMAN: Thank you, both, for being here. Brian Stelter. Christine Romans.

It is day 50 now of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And for the first time the U.S. is providing Kyiv with this new round of high-powered weapons and helicopters. What it says about the battle to come.

Plus, meet the U.S. veteran who was helping people evacuate Ukraine, including newborn babies and surrogate mothers.


KEILAR: Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, some American couples have been stricken with worry, praying for the safe evacuation of the Ukrainian surrogates carrying their future children. I spoke with one couple who told me what it was like waiting for the arrival of their baby, born in the middle of war.



BRIAN STERN (ph): There he is, guys. He's a squirmer.

KEILAR (voice over): Baby D.J. entering the world, 9 pounds, 4 ounces, and blissfully unaware of the war raging around him in Ukraine.

STERN: No. No, no the (INAUDIBLE). Uncle. Uncle.

KEILAR: Uncle Brian, not by blood, but by necessity. D.J. was born to a surrogate mother, evacuated three weeks ago from eastern Ukraine, where Russia appears poised to launch a major assault. Brian Stern (ph), an American Army and Navy combat veteran is here to take D.J. to his parents, Sarah and Dustin.

KEILAR (on camera): What was that like watching the war start? What was going through your mind?

DUSTIN: Fear of the unknown. You don't know if your baby is safe, if --

SARAH: If the surrogate mother is safe.

DUSTIN: How you're going to be able to get to him.

SARAH: Where this is going to --

DUSTIN: But, to me, that's kind of pale in comparison to the fear that the Ukrainians are feeling. I mean, they're fearful for their homes being bombed --

SARAH: Their lives.

DUSTIN: Their lives. So, when we put that in perspective, we kind of realized we have it easy.

KEILAR (voice over): Sarah and Dustin travelled from California to Poland, then to the relative safety of western Ukraine, with the help of Project Dynamo, the nonprofit Brian founded.

KEILAR (on camera): How did you meet Brian and come into contact with Project Dynamo.

SARAH: We were able to find Project Dynamo online.

DUSTIN: And they had so many requests for evacuation. And within hours they had emailed Sarah and from that moment they've been nothing but, like, a blessing. They're one of our angels to go --

SARAH: Baby D.J. will always be -- will always have two titos (ph), tito (ph) means uncle in Tegali (ph). So he'll have Tito (ph) Brian and Tito (ph) Shawn (ph) for sure.

STERN: Baby D.J. eating again. He's got big, beautiful eyes.

KEILAR (voice over): Brian's in the rescue business, though it's a labor of love. Last year he evacuated Afghan Americans, greencard holders and refugees out of Kabul, after it fell to the Taliban. Now, less than eight months later --

STERN: We're in the middle of Ukraine. That's Ukraine. And he's as happy as a clam.

KEILAR: He's helping transport Ukrainians living in or near Russian occupied and contested areas, including babies, and surrogate mothers.

DUSTIN: We praised her at 39 weeks. She took a couple hour journey to another town.

SARAH: To the maternity hospital.

DUSTIN: Left her family behind to, you know, carrying another person's kid.

SARAH: What a journey for her too.

DUSTIN: And, I mean, I wish one day we're able to meet her and give her a huge hug. I mean we don't really have communication.

SARAH: She's our little -- she's our miracle worker.

KEILAR: And finally, after several hours on the road, their miracle is nearly here.

SARAH: Oh! Oh, my God. Oh, my baby. Thank you, everyone. I love you so much. Oh, my God. Oh, D.J., I've been waiting for you for so long. Mommy and daddy loves you so much.

You had a long journey, huh? We've been waiting for you. Oh, my gosh, you're here. You're finally here. And you are perfect. Oh, my gosh, he's so cute. Oh, hi. Hi.


KEILAR: That is D.J., as in Dustin Junior. And it's been a really long, long struggle for that family. Many years they tried to conceive. They actually lost a baby at five months -- when Sarah was five months pregnant. So this is a wonderful, happy ending for them, Berman.

And we also have this. This is the first family photo that they are taking as now a family of three, taken, by the way, by our own Margaret Given (ph) of CNN, here in Lviv, Ukraine, with us.

But this family is now in Poland, as we understand it. It took them several hours to get through the border, but they are now safe and waiting to head home to America.

BERMAN: I mean, what a meeting, like, what an introduction. What a way to enter this world. Oh, goodness, that was just lovely. Just lovely.

All right, also, an incredible scene at the Donetsk region of Ukraine after Russian shelling buried people's homes and their pets in the rubble. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Come on, pull, don't think there's anything.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Wait, wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Gently, gently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Pull gently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Wait, let it come to -- he's alive, our handsome boy!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): His mouth is full of dust, we need to wash it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Give him some water. Here, give him water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):Good boy! Pretty good! He's a survivor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Look at this doggy! What a beauty. Beautiful.


BERMAN: Police say the dog's 77-year-old owner miraculously survived the attack that reduced his home to rubble. Another miracle was finding his dog alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm grateful to these guys, they worked fast, disconnected everything. Huge thanks to them.


BERMAN: Police say the man and the puppy were given medical care and both are doing well. So glad they have each other when they may not have much else left at this point, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, I love that. What they say, he's alive, our handsome boy, indeed. What a wonderful story.

So, in a setback for Russian forces, Moscow acknowledging a key missile cruiser in the Black Sea fleet has suffered significant damage. What caused this?

And we're joined next by "Dancing with the Stars" alum Maks Chmerkovskiy about his escape from his home country of Ukraine and what he's doing now to help here.



KEILAR: Time now for "The Good Stuff."

Ukrainian born Maks Chmerkovskiy, former "Dancing with the Stars" dancer, was working as a judge for Ukraine's show "World of Dance" when Russia attacked on February 24th. And amid the bombing he was trapped in Kyiv for more than a week before he escaped to safety.

Now, back in the U.S., Maks and his family are working hard to bring relief to those who are still in his home country. And he is with us now to talk about his Ukrainian humanitarian aid foundation, Baranova27.

Maks, thank you so much for being with us.

You know, first, just how scary was it for you to be here when all of this started?

MAKS CHMERKOVSKIY, UKRAINIAN/AMERICAN DANCER & CHOREOGRAPHER: Right, I'm realizing when you say here, because you're in Lviv, it's pretty scary. It was not an immediate realization that this is not, you know, a conflict. This is not something that will, you know, quickly escalate and then de-escalate. I had no idea at that time that we were going to be looking at a very long process that it is right now. But it was an eerie feeling when I realized that, for the first time in my adult life, and I travel professionally for, you know, dance competitions and so on, my -- most of my life, it was the first time I realized I wasn't able to get home. The airport is not something that I can just go into or train station and buy a ticket and leave. This was a very eerie feeling. KEILAR: And I know your family, your father and your family in New

Jersey are -- they started raising funds pretty much from the beginning of this war. Can you tell me about what you all are doing?

CHMERKOVSKIY: Yes. So, as soon as this became a reality, I guess, like, February 24th, 25th, we took about a week or ten days to get everything started, but Baranova27 was born. And the name of the organization is a street name, a street address of where my father, myself and my brother were born. So, you know, the three of us, together with our mom, you know, our family just started this organization.

We, you know, utilized all the assets that we have. My brother and I have a TV fame. So we have a lot of people looking at us, a lot of eyeballs, as we say in the industry. My father is an extremely well- organized professional in terms of, you know, gathering people and applying them and creating logistics.

And so Baranova27 was able to really quickly accumulate over 150,000 tons of aid within the first, you know, week and a half. And today we are in week six. We have weekly reports, updates on how much aid we send directly into Ukraine. I immediately went back to Poland as soon as I got out from Ukraine and spent time there working on logistics, partnering with global empowerment missions and Bethenny Frankel's BStrong foundation and sort of learn on the job and was able to facilitate what we're doing today.

KEILAR: It's amazing. And you're working with orphans. Can you tell us about that?

CHMERKOVSKIY: We are. We answer calls. One of the best things that I'm -- that we are trying to do is not just collect aid, like, by the way, most of the world is doing and sending it to Poland and, you know, sometimes it creates a little bit of a logistical nightmare, to be honest with you, because, you know, border control is still border control. But people are really trying to help us. So, they're flooding Poland with all this stuff.

We're one of few organizations that are actually have logistics to deliver everything into Ukraine. And more so, I'm able to answer personal requests. I got a text saying that there's a -- about 168 orphans being gathered in western Ukraine from the east, you know, from the fighting regions and they don't have anything.


So, I was able to, from Poland, organize a truck of food supplies. Baranova27 is responsible for sending aid like clothing, bedding material, and also, you know, things like iPads or, you know, things that they can use for their education and so on. So, that's what we're trying to do, as well as just send all the tons of humanitarian aid that we're receiving.


Maks, it is amazing work that you and your family are doing, and we thank you so much for being with us.

Maks Chmerkovskiy, thank you.

CHMERKOVSKIY: Thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: And CNN's coverage continues right now.