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Bill Browder is Interviewed about Russia; Effort to Remove Taylor Greene; Rare April Nor'easter; Julie Pace is Interviewed about her New Book. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 19, 2022 - 06:30   ET





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remarkably, Vladimir Putin faces a legitimate opponent, Alexei Navalny.

ALEXEI NAVALNY: I don't want Putin being president.

If I want to be leader of a country, I have to organize people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kremlin hates Navalny so much that they refuse to say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Passengers heard Navalny cry out in agony.

NAVALNY: Come on, poisoned? Seriously?

We are creating a coalition to fight this regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are killed, what message do you leave behind to the Russian people?

NAVALNY: It's very simple, never give up.

ANNOUNCER: "Navalny" Sunday at 9:00 on CNN and streaming on CNN Plus.




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A truly remarkable development overnight. We learned that the State Department is looking into labeling Russia a state-sponsor of terrorism, which would lead to a whole host of new sanctions and restrictions.


NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We are taking a close look at the facts. We're taking a close look at the law and whether it is this authority, whether it's any other authority available to us under the law, we will apply it if it's effective and appropriate.


SCIUTTO: Russia would be joining quite a club. There are only four countries currently labeled state sponsors of terror by the U.S. They are North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria.

Joining us now, someone who can provide insight into Putin, having been targeted by him for more than a decade, Bill Browder. He's the CEO of Hermitage Capital, also author of "Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath."

Bill, it's good to have you on. Few people have experienced his wrath as directly as you have.

I wonder what you believe the significance of a terror designation would be. The U.S., the west have tried a whole host of sanctions that, yes, punish Russia but certainly haven't deterred Russia.

BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL: Well, first of all, let's call this what it is. I mean the Ukrainians have done nothing to justify what is an act of serial terrorism when all it takes -- you just watch -- watch what's going on and it's like the Ukrainians are experiencing September 11th every day.


BROWDER: The number of people being killed, just blown up, innocent civilians. So, it is terrorism. And the significance of it is that whatever loopholes the Russians are sort of trying to go through right now to get out of the current sanctions would probably get closed up. It's a whole new level of designation should this happen.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And, Bill, it's Kaitlan.

The White House hasn't really said which way they're leaning on this. They talked about, it's an in-depth process that the State Department has to conduct, but they have said that a lot of the actions that would happen as a result of this label from the United States are already kind of in place. Talking about financial sanctions, export controls. But do you believe it would still be significant enough to put this label on them, to put them in that category with Cuba and Syria?

BROWDER: Well, first of all, I am -- I would imagine that if there's any hesitation in the State Department now, the next set of atrocities or the next set of atrocities after that will be enough to push them over the edge.

What Russia is doing right now is terrorism pure and simple. And in terms of what it means, yes, I think that there are a lot of things happening to Russia which are pretty extreme sanctions wise. But I think that there's more that can be done.

And, you know, for example, we've only sanctioned roughly two dozen oligarchs who are effectively supporting the government. There are 118 oligarchs on the Forbes list. They should probably all be sanctioned because they're effectively involved in funding a terrorist regime.

And so there's more that can be done. There's more that should be done. And if this is what pushes that -- those sanctions in that direction, then this is a good idea.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, and some of them involved in hiding Putin's money as well.

Kaitlan and I, Bill, we were in Geneva last summer. The Biden/Putin summit. And the discussion there was of strategic stability in this relationship. And here we are, less than a year later, and now the administration considering labeling Russia a state sponsor of terror. I mean it's a remarkable decline.

Did, in your view, the Biden administration misread Putin and make the same mistake the previous three administrations have made, which was something along the lines of, we can figure out a way to deal with him through personality, carrot and stick, we got this?

BROWDER: You're absolutely right, every single president has done the same thing. We -- it started with George W. Bush, who looked into Putin's eye and saw his soul. It didn't work out so well for him.

Then you had President Obama who wanted to do the Russian reset. That didn't work out so well.

Then you had Donald Trump, with all of his, Putin's not a killer.

And then you have this strategic stability stuff.


BROWDER: I mean everybody has been looking for a way to kind of give Putin an out. This is appeasement. And if we had just gotten tougher with him 10, 20 years ago, we might not be in this place today. But Putin has been enabled by the west, enabled by a successive group of presidents on both sides of the aisle.

COLLINS: It's safe to say things have certainly shifted now from that strategic relationship that they have been talking about when we were in Geneva.


But, Bill, I wonder, we are expecting the White House to potentially unveil new sanctions against Russia this week. What do you want to see in that besides what you were talking about when it comes to sanctioning more oligarchs?

BROWDER: Well, so you have oligarchs. You have also -- there are a number of Russian banks that have not been disconnected from the SWIFT system. They've only -- they disconnected 70 percent of the banks. There's another 30 percent to go. You can imagine that if Russia's -- if Russia can't use some banks to send dollar payments, they'll just use the ones that aren't sanctioned. They need to be cut off. And then most importantly, and this is not so much a U.S. government

thing, but this is a European government thing, that every day western countries, Germany, Italy, Austria send a billion dollars for the purchase of Russian oil and gas to Putin. And every day Putin spends a billion dollars to fund his war to kill Ukrainians. That's got to stop.

SCIUTTO: We're watching it closely.

Bill Browder, as we said, author of "Freezing Order," thanks so much for joining us.

BROWDER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: More now on our breaking news this morning. Russia has launched its new, expanded assault on eastern Ukraine, trying to break through the Ukrainian front lines in three different regions at once. We're going to take you to the front lines.

Plus, back here -- back there in the U.S., a new twist in the effort to keep Marjorie Taylor Greene from seeking re-election to Congress. Where does that stand? That's coming up.



COLLINS: A federal judge has cleared the way for a coalition of liberal groups to try to disqualify Marjorie Taylor Greene from running for re-election. They claim that the Republican congresswoman aided the January 6th insurrectionists.

CNN'S Marshall Cohen is here with the details.

Marshall, some people seem a little bit surprised that it's even going this far. What are you expecting to happen next?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, it is a huge moment in this challenge that it will proceed forward. What happens next is a hearing on Friday down in Atlanta on the merits of this case. The big questions. Did Marjorie Taylor Greene support an insurrection? Is she an insurrectionist, basically, and, if so, does that mean that she's disqualified from running?

There's an old provision of the Constitution. They put it in after the Civil War. It was really for confederate generals. But it's still on the books. And these liberal groups and constitutional scholars are saying it's still good law, it still applies now. They're looking for accountability for the January 6th insurrection. They brought challenges against Congresswoman Greene and others across the country. They have a huge victory last night from a federal judge that cleared the way for this to move forward. So Friday will be the big day. And they'll all get their day in court.

Of course, Congresswoman Greene, she denies it. She says she's not an insurrectionist, doesn't support violence. But it will all be hashed out down the road.

COLLINS: Yes, and it's not just her, right? We expect others to potentially see a similar fate as this, to have to go through the same process?

COHEN: Absolutely. I mean there are challenges underway along these lines in Arizona, in New Mexico. They brought a similar case against Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina. A judge reached a different conclusion there and shut that thing down. It's under appeal.

But, if these things work, it will be something that they'll be looking to do against Donald Trump if he runs for president again in 2024.

COLLINS: We'll be watching closely and we'll wait to see what happens on Friday.

Marshall Cohen, thank you so much.

Meanwhile, spring has sprung, but winter is getting in one last word. A nor'easter is bringing snow, and a lot of it, to parts of the northeast and New England.

Let's get more from -- on all of this from our meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, I thought it's spring and that winter was over, and clearly I'm mistaken and I should not have put my turtlenecks away so soon.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, just for two more days because by the time we get to Friday we'll be back in the 70s and the 80s. People saying that there was snowflakes the size of tennis balls coming down last night. And we did have thunder snow in a few places.

This weather is brought to you by the Tractor Supply Company, providing pet food, animal feed, backyard and grilling supplies.

So, let's get to it. Where is it snowing now? Upstate New York, the Alleghenies, the Poconos, Adirondack, the Catskills, not along the coast. It's still too warm. But it is very windy here along the coast. We're still going to see four to eight more inches of snow in the higher elevations. Wind gusts over 50 to 60 miles per hour along the coast. Nantucket, 51 miles per hour gusts just last hour. So, it is breezy out there. Whether you're seeing the snow or not, you're still seeing some weather effects and the possibility of some power lines coming down.

Putting you into motion, we take you across the next couple of hours. We will even see some lake-effect snow before this is all done because the air is cold enough, at least briefly, but that will be, you know, Cleveland, possibly toward Buffalo, not all the way toward the ocean.

There is the rest of the day and look at what happens by the weekend. Yes, you only need that turtleneck for maybe just two more days, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Good to know. I didn't pack any here for New York, but I'll try to maybe find one.

Chad Myers, thank you so much for bringing us the latest.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: We have breaking news from Afghanistan as we are getting word of multiple explosions at schools in Kabul. We have new video coming in.

Plus, Vladimir Putin is honoring the unit accused of atrocities in Bucha, where those horrific stories emerged in the photos of mass graves. Hear what he did, next.

And, also, we'll talk about a Ukrainian commander who has written a letter to the pope describing what he says is hell on earth.



COLLINS: In her new biography, Julie Pace gained unprecedented access to Jill Biden, as well as her family, friends and colleagues. And the book tells the story of the first lady's life from her childhood, her teaching career and her time as second and now first lady. Jill Biden brings childhood values forged in the 1950s and the 1960s, the experience of the coming of age in the '70s, a political life amid the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s, and a blue star mother's experience of the post 9/11 era. Her past informs her perspective on the present and her role as one of the world's most prominent women. Her future, however, is deeply uncertain. They write, interwoven with America's heightened polarization of political uncertainty and the legacy of her husband's presidency. The president gives her one of the most prominent platforms in the world.


And joining us now is the co-author of "Jill: A Biography of the First Lady," Julie Pace. She is also the senior vice president and executive editor at the "Associated Press."

So, Julie, welcome, and thank you for joining us this morning.


COLLINS: And congrats on the new book.

PACE: Thank you.

COLLINS: We were just talk about how awesome the cover is.

What did you learn from this experience? And was it any different going -- coming out of it than when you went into it and what you were expecting?

PACE: I think one of the things that we really wanted to explore here is, you know, the -- what got Jill Biden to this point? In some ways she's this unique figure because she's so well known. You know her name. You've seen her. But I think her story actually hasn't been really known. And if it has been known, it's been told from other people's perspectives. So what we wanted to do is we really wanted to tell this from her perspective.

And I think one of the things that I really learned here is just how protective she is of the Biden family legacy. She, I think, sees herself in some ways as the person who's going to retain some level of privacy, some amount of their family story is always going to stay within her, even though they share so much with the world, including some very difficult and I think very, you know, emotional moments.

COLLINS: Yeas, with the death of Beau Biden, something that you write really weighed so heavily on her when she left the White House the first term as second lady after they were done with that. They had just been through such an ordeal.

PACE: And I think what was interesting is how she and her husband processed Beau's death so differently. You know, for Joe Biden, he wanted to get back to work. It was comforting for him, cathartic almost to throw himself back into the work of being vice president.

She had a very different reaction. She really retreated. And when you talk to people who were close to her, they say, you know, she stepped away. She stayed in Delaware. She didn't come back to her office in Washington for quite some time. And so I think watching the way that these two, you know, prominent, powerful people processed this death in very different ways, you know, I think was -- is really fascinating.

COLLINS: Well, and one of the most fascinating parts about her I think as a White House reporter is that she still teaches. And she got her Ph.D. later in life and she still teaches. And I know she was -- you write about the difficulty of her teaching and what it was like after she left the White House the first time. Now she's back at the White House and she's still teaching.

PACE: And I think one of the things that is interesting, is, you know, this is not an act. You know, her teaching is not just something she talks about. Her schedule is really dominated by her teaching schedule. That really comes first for her. And so everything else that gets built around it, all of her travel, all of her official appearances as first lady get built around her schedule as a teacher.

And when she's in the classroom, she's Dr. Biden. And her students, in some cases, don't even know that she's first lady. Certainly when she was second lady and a little lower profile, they really had no idea that she had this whole other life outside of the classroom.

COLLINS: Yes, I know. And aides say sometimes, you know, she's grading papers on Air Force Two or whenever she's on the plane and they're traveling places.

PACE: I really think that this is something that is very important to her, that she's doing this job, not just, again, as an act, not just as something to talk about, but it means something to her. And I think one of her legacies, you know, as first lady will be carving out this independent space, making it easier for future first ladies, first future political spouses to really retain some level of independence, even as they're in these largely ceremonial roles.

COLLINS: And as you two were reporting out this book, what did you learn about their relationship? Did anything stand out to you about if he consults her closely on decisions or whatnot?

PACE: I think -- I think one of the things that's really clear, as you start to learn more about their relationship, is, one, how genuine it is. And a lot of what you see publicly from them really is what is reflected, I think, privately. But, over time, through the course of their relationship, she does become a key political adviser. She has a very good sense for, you know, when he should be, you know, stepping forward, particularly when he was pursuing the presidency earlier, when it was the moment for him to step forward, when it wasn't.

And in 2020, going into that election in particular, she more than probably anybody else around him really did feel like this was his moment. Didn't care about age. Didn't care about whether he was maybe out of step with some of the more liberal parts of the Democratic Party. She felt like this was his moment and was one of the most forceful advocates for him launching that campaign.

COLLINS: That's really interesting.

And, you know, as a White House reporter, you can always like recite lines that they say so much, and his is always, I'm Joe Biden and I'm Jill Biden's husband.

PACE: And you can feel -- you know, he likes having her around.


PACE: One of the things that I thought was really interesting is, he almost wants to -- he wants to know where she is. He wants to know when they're going to see each other next. She's kind of OK being on her own on the road for a couple of days.

COLLINS: Julie Pace, it's going to be such a great book. I really look forward to reading it.

PACE: Thanks, Kaitlan, appreciate it.

COLLINS: Thank you so much.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, April 19th. I'm Kaitlan Collins in New York, with Jim Sciutto in Lviv, Ukraine.

John Berman and Brianna Keilar are off.

We start with breaking news this morning as a pivotal moment in Russia's war against Ukraine as the battle for Donbas is now underway. President Zelenskyy announcing that Russian forces have launched a large-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine, as you can see here, where we believe a lot of this fighting is going to happen in the Donbas region.