Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Mayor of Mariupol, Ukraine, Says Third Mass Grave Found Near City; U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Says U.S. and NATO Goal to Degrade Russia's Ability to Invade Other Countries; U.N. Secretary General Visits Moscow; New Report from Anti-Defamation League Shows Anti-Semitic Incidents Reach All-Time High in U.S.; Video Released from Set of "Rust" Fatal Shooting; Over 2,000 Texts Reveal Meadows and Allies Working to Reverse 2020 Election. Aired 8-8:30a ET.

Aired April 26, 2022 - 08:00   ET



LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We all start today from a position of moral clarity. Russia is waging a war of choice, to indulge the ambitions of one man.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And breaking right now, Ukrainian officials say that the eastern regions are under heavy attack with shelling reported along nearly the entire frontline. Overnight, Ukrainian authorities say that two guided missiles were fired at the city of Zaporizhzhia in central Ukraine. A state nuclear energy company says that two cruise missiles flew over the nuclear power plant near Zaporizhzhia, which plant officials say puts them and the safety of the world at risk.

In Mariupol, the mayor says that a third mass grave has been found near the city and that the Russians made locals work for hours on those graves in exchange for food and water. Weeks after occupying Kherson, Russian troops have taken control of the city council, and the mayor is describing the scene as this, quote, "armed men interring the building, taking the keys and replacing Ukrainian guards with their own."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're joined now by CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto who is live in Lviv this morning. And Jim, you and I spoke yesterday. As we began hearing this new language about winning, Ukraine winning from U.S. officials, and then that the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says the U.S. wants Russia weakened going forward and into the future, winning and weakening. At first it was notable language. Now it's regular. And we have some new reporting on how much really has been going on behind the scenes with this.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: First, on the winning question, because in covering this for the last several weeks, it strikes me there have been three phases to the U.S. assessment of this war. In the early days, right up to the day of the invasion, the assessment was, you'll remember, that Ukraine was going to fall very quickly. The assessment was that Kyiv, the capital, might fall within 24 to 48 hours. And given how big Russia's force was, it was, you can imagine at the time, somewhat of a reasonable assessment.

That didn't happen. And then you had a period of time where Ukraine was outperforming in the view of the U.S. and NATO allies, something that they welcomed. They were able to get them more weapons. That was making a difference of the battlefield. That was chapter two.

Chapter three now, if we want to call it that, is that they're holding their own and more, right. They're doing counteroffensives. They've gained back territory not just around the capital but elsewhere in the country, and they're holding off this new Russian focus in the east, less so in the south, but certainly in the east to this point. So you hear them now publicly saying what some had said privately as a hope, that, well, possibly Ukraine can pull this out. It hasn't happened yet. It will take a lot of work, a lot of weapons, a lot of time and patience and, sadly, casualties during that time period, but that's a change.

The second piece on weakening Russia is notable because the words from Austin yesterday were certainly notable, because they seemed to add something of an offensive element to this. Not just helping Ukraine defend itself, but the U.S. and NATO having a goal of weakening Russia longer term. You had some, I suppose you could call it clarification coming from Jen Psaki and others saying this is what we have always been saying, that we don't want Russia to be able to consume Ukraine as have been their intention.

But I was listening to John Kirby speak to you just an hour ago, John, and he did say, in clear terms, that the U.S. does not want Russia to maintain the capability to attack other countries as well. That sounds to me like the U.S. wants to degrade the Russian military, not just to impede its actions here in Ukraine, but potentially elsewhere in Europe.

BERMAN: It is a shift. It's an important shift. It may be that the U.S. wants to give Ukraine leverage in negotiations going forward with Russia, but it does bear watching for sure. Jim Sciutto, great to have you. Thanks so much for being with us.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

BERMAN: I want to go now to CNN's Phil Black who is in the capital, Kyiv. And Phil, we're getting these reports of a new mass grave in Mariupol and what the Ukrainians in Mariupol are being asked to do there. What have you learned?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John so this is information that has come from the mayor of Mariupol, someone who is not in that devastated city, but throughout the war has acted as something of a conduit for information coming from beyond the siege that has kept everyone else out, and, of course, the population in. He says partly as a result of analysis of commercial satellite imagery that they have identified a third mass grave on the outskirts of the city. There were two others recently, this would be a third. This, he says, is as a result of images which show large trenches that have been dug and have been made larger as they have been filled in over time. Now, if this is true, it adds to, well, the growing picture of extraordinary human suffering and loss of life. As an extra indication of the suffering, you're right.


He says that some of the people within these areas, close to these mass graves, have been made to work and help with the burial of all of these bodies in return for food and water from the Russian forces at a time when no other aid has been getting in there to help these people.

Now, we don't know how many people have died in Mariupol. The devastation is obviously extraordinary, logically the number is going to be large. The best guess can only be an estimate, and the estimate from the Ukrainian government is around 20,000 people. And meanwhile the fighting there is still ongoing, where Russia controls most of the city. Now there is still this last stand taking place beneath, around a sprawling steel works complex where there are thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, we are told, under constant Russian artillery attack. And there is still the concern that Russian forces could storm that site even though President Putin has said publicly that should not happen, John.

BERMAN: Phil Black, my friend in Kyiv, thank you so much.

COLLINS: Happening now, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Moscow where he is speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and will soon be meeting face to face with the Russian president. Joining us now is CNN White House reporter Natasha Bertrand and CNN national correspondent Kylie Atwood. Thank you for being here this morning. Kylie, I'll start with you on this trip that the secretary-general is making, because the Ukrainians are not very thrilled that he is going and meeting with Putin in person.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, the Ukrainians have said, look, it is great that the secretary-general is engaging in these efforts, but he doesn't speak for the Ukrainians, right. And so I think it is significant that the U.N. secretary-general is traveling to Russia, because it's different than a president of a country traveling to Russia. He does represent more than 190 countries around the world, so he has the weight of the international community behind him.

He has called for the need for there to be a humanitarian ceasefire. He's saying all the right things. But does he have the confidence of the folks who are going to actually be the ones to make a change here, the Ukrainians and the Russians. Not necessarily. The Russians don't have a whole lot of respect for the United Nations. And as you said, the Ukrainians have been frustrated by the United Nations repeatedly over the last few months. We even heard just last week the Ukrainian officials say that U.N. has actually enabled Russia's war crimes. So it's not necessarily looking good in terms of prospects, but we'll have to wait and see.

COLLINS: Yes, and Zelenskyy totally calling them out when he gave that speech, saying if you're here to protect security, are you really doing that?

Natasha, you've been reporting overnight around the statements we were seeing, much stronger language from the White House, even if they say it is in line with what they have been saying. I think it was perfectly summed up by Secretary Austin this morning when he was speaking in Germany and he said the Ukrainians clearly believe they can win, and so does everybody here, obviously himself included. So what is behind them coming out and being so explicit in what they believe the outcome of this is going to be?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Their risk tolerance is increasing and they're also becoming more optimistic about the chances that Ukraine can actually win, or at least that's what they're projecting publicly, right? So we have seen that shift happen in recent weeks. We have seen that they sent heavier duty military equipment to the Ukrainians, that they have suggested that the Russians are failing, and they have seen how weak the Russian military has been here and how strong the Ukrainian military has been performing.

And so all of this combined has made them realize that they need to make sure that Russia is stopped for good. They believe now that their goal should be to stop Russia from ever being able to launch an attack like this again. And that is a shift from what we saw just a few weeks ago when they were reluctant, officials were reluctant to say that we want Russia to fail, putting their weight behind a potential negotiated settlement, for example.

Now that optimism really has waned about the prospect of a peace deal. Neither side, the Ukrainians or the Russians, are really looking to come to the table here in a meaningful way, especially after the massacre in Bucha. And so the Americans and the western alliance writ large are saying, we now see this as an opportunity to defeat Russia decisively on the battlefield. And as one congressional source told Kylie in a great quote for our piece, just neuter them militarily at least for the next decade.

COLLINS: Yes, and I think this also raises the specter of does this feed into the Russian concerns that they have said the point here all along is to destabilize their own government. One thing that we have heard from Secretary Blinken is that they are going to start returning the U.S. diplomatic presence into Ukraine. It obviously has not been there since the invasion has been underway. And so what is the calculus, I guess, behind the scenes over the security concerns? Because we heard earlier from the brother of the mayor of Kyiv who said right now, on Ukrainian soil, it's not safe.

ATWOOD: Yes, so the State Department, first and foremost, is going to look at the security situation on the ground. But we should note that effort to look at what is going on on the ground is fueled by the Ukrainians really asking and demanding for the international community to some back into their country and to give them that credibility again on the world stage, to engage with them in a real way diplomatically.

[08:10:06] So you kind of have this balance that the Biden administration is having to do where they want to appear like they're lockstep with the Ukrainians, that they're supporting them in every way, but they have to look at the security situation on the ground. And we saw just yesterday, hours after the secretary of state and the secretary of defense left the country, there were those five bombings on these trains going into the country. And so that is probably going to raise concerns for officials who are looking at this situation.

COLLINS: Yes, and raising big concerns with getting supplies to the Ukrainian forces that need them. Kylie and Natasha, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

BERMAN: Back here in the United States, a new report from the Anti- Defamation League shows that anti-Semitic incidents have reached an all-time high. In 2021 there were more than 2,700 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, including harassment, vandalism, and assault. This represents a 34 percent increase from 2020 and the highest it has been since they began tracking incidents since 1979.

Joining me now, the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt. Jonathan, great to see you. Give us the big picture here. What are you seeing?

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well, John, it's always good to see you. And I appreciate the chance to talk this morning, because the issue is alarming. The American Jewish community has seen a rise in anti-Jewish acts over the last five, six years, but the new data is downright stunning. As you noted, the 34 percent increase in all-time high, assaults up 167 percent. And I think one of the things we need to recognize in the big picture, as we have said before, as I said on your show, it starts with words. And so we see rhetoric online, we see crazy claims by elected officials and public figures, and then things manifest in violence, as happened last may around the fighting in Gaza when there was nearly a 150 percent spike in anti-Jewish acts in New York, in Los Angeles, all over the United States.

BERMAN: I was going to ask, that was a period where you did see a very, very sharp increase, and the sharpest of the year. But there were other periods where you saw blips where perhaps there wasn't as much of an explanation.

GREENBLATT: Well, I think one of the things we have seen say normalization of anti-Semitism. We have seen conspiracies about COVID, about the Ukraine, with Jews being blamed for everything and those and in between. And it is alarming, John, because it is coming from the extreme right, it is coming from the radical left. You see a level of venom that, frankly, is frightening. I talk to Jews all over the United States, and this year we had the hostage crisis in Collierville. People are on edge.

BERMAN: You talk about rhetoric. You say it's coming from different sides. You're speaking here in the United States, but obviously it is international as well. When you have Vladimir Putin using this denazification language, which is obviously a lie in Ukraine, how does what's happening there impact -- and obviously we don't see the 2022 numbers yet, but what impact do you think that will have?

GREENBLATT: There is no question, John, it will have an impact. We're seeing white supremacists claim that the Jews are behind this war, blaming President Zelenskyy because he is Jewish. We have seen Putin claim that he's attacking Nazis in Ukraine, which is absurd. And look, we're decades after the holocaust, and yet to see these charges of Nazification or denazification, some say that Putin makes these claims, others claim that Israel is a Nazi state. All of it is ugly. It is slanderous. And, again, I think it endangers Jewish people in the United States and around the world.

BERMAN: And look, the numbers, they just speak for themselves. Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you for your time this morning.

GREENBLATT: Thank you.

BERMAN: Newly released text messages from Mark Meadows reveal what was happening within Trump's orbit around the election in January 6th. Plus, what's your Twitter feed might look like with Elon Musk in charge.

COLLINS: And never before seen police footage from the set of the movie "Rust," just minutes after the cinematographer was shot. What the new evidence reveals.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have major developments in the investigation into the tragedy on the "Rust" movie set. The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office released a trove of material -- excuse me -- including body cam video that shows the chaotic moments after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Medics trying to save her life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is she shot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She came in here and went across her chest.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. 32 Santa Fe, one female shot at the chest, male shot in the stomach. Requesting air flight.


BERMAN: CNN's Josh Campbell joins us live. Now, Josh, what have you learned from this?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of evidence as you say just released by the sheriff's department, John. I'll start with one key item I'm told that investigators are reviewing, of course the main question all along has been how a live round of ammunition got on to the set of that movie. Well, in a text exchange investigators found it reportedly shows the movie's armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed asking another set member if it's possible to fire live rounds of ammunition using a prop gun.

Now this exchange took place two months before the fatal "Rust" shooting as they were working on a different movie. That other staff member tells Gutierrez Reed that doing so, using a prop gun to fire live ammunition, would in his words be a serious mistake that always ends in tears, in his words.

Now the attorney for the armorer told CNN that his client wanted to fire the gun to understand how the historical weapon worked and maintains that she didn't fire live rounds on the set.

Now, John, just to show you the circumstances of that fatal shooting, I want to show you another video that was released by the sheriff's department. This is from the production company, it shows actor Alec Baldwin rehearsing that scene, that ultimately resulted in this fatal shooting. You can see the maneuver coming up here, the scene called for Baldwin to do what's called a cross draw, quickly pull out his pistol. Of course, what he didn't know was the fact that his prop gun actually contained that live round of ammunition.

How it got there, John, remains a key part of this ongoing criminal investigation.


BERMAN: Josh, investigators also interviewed or released parts of an interview with Alec Baldwin, interview he gave police right after the shooting. What was said there?

CAMPBELL: That's right. After the shooting, Baldwin sat down with investigators, he was read his Mirada, he asked if he was being charged with a crime. Deputies told him no, they were just trying to gather the facts. But we hear Baldwin in his own words describing what happened. Watch.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: She hands me the gun. I'm assuming she's done it the right way. She's done it the last two weeks. I put it in the holster, I pull it out slow, we're rehearsing. We're not filming anything. I pull it out slow, turn, cock the pistol, bang, it goes off, and she hits the ground.

The rehearsal they got it normally empty. But my point is, is that they were standing in position they wouldn't ordinarily be in because they assumed it was an empty cold gun. We weren't shooting, we were rehearsing. That's a vital difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think someone would deliberately do this?

BALDWIN: I can't imagine who would. If I'm standing there in a rehearsal, I'm thinking to myself, could someone actually believe that -- I would actually aim the gun and hit those people, that's farfetched.


CAMPBELL: Now, although the sheriff's department has publicly released this trove of evidence, there is still a lot of items, a lot of items outstanding they say, for example, the sheriff is waiting on reports from the FBI containing ballistic and DNA analysis as well as forensic review reports of Alec Baldwin's cell phone. The D.A.'s office told me yesterday that they will wait for all of that evidence to come in before they decide on any criminal charges -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Josh Campbell, thanks so much for your reporting.


BERMAN: Thousands of text messages to and from former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows just released, just obtained by CNN revealing the extent that Trump insiders went to overturn the election and their discussions from election day through Inauguration Day.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And Twitter employees have a lot of questions now that Elon Musk is set to take over the company. CNN has new details on what went on in that all hands meeting.



COLLINS: A new trove of text messages obtained by CNN belonging to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed the communications within Trump's inner circle before and after January 6th, and they shed a lot of light on just how far some of the people in the Trump White House and its allies trying to overturn the 2020 election.

CNN crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz joins me now.

So, Katelyn, let's just start with so much of what we saw in this because I think this is just what Mark Meadows turned over to the committee. This isn't all the text messages that he received and sent in these days leading up to January 6th and the election. What stood out to you the most, though, from what he did turn over?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, this really is the big picture that the House Select Committee would be seeing at this point about what Mark Meadows was talking about with people and what people were sending him. And the thing that really has stood out for me is how much Meadows was a conduit to Trump. I mean, we knew that already he was the White House chief of staff at the time, but throughout this period after the election, top people, members of Congress, more than 40 current and former members of Congress, advisers, even family of Donald Trump, were sending him messages with this impression that he was the person that had Trump's ear, that could tell Trump what to do. So I want to walk through some of these because they really are

striking. One of them, Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the president, is texting Meadows and a number of other people in the inner circle including her husband Jared Kushner, some other top advisers, on November 5th, two days after the election, Trump is refusing to concede, of course, he doesn't ultimately concede, clear he's losing battleground states.

She texts, you are all warriors of epic proportions. Keep the faith and the fight. So that's setting the tone for what the next couple of months end up being for Trump's public messaging. Public messaging is also something that comes up quite a bit in these text messages to meadows. Jason Miller, a top adviser, on the campaign at that point he texts Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino who's on the White House at the time ideas for tweets on January 6th.

So he says, call me crazy, but ideas for two tweets from POTUS. This is about the insurrection as it's going on. One bad apples like the Antifa or other crazed leftist infiltrated today's peaceful protests over the fraudulent vote count. Violence is never acceptable. MAGA supporters embrace our police and the rule of law and should leave the Capitol now or, two, his second suggestion, the fake news media who encouraged these violent and radical riots are now trying to blame peaceful and innocent MAGA supporters for violent actions. This isn't who we are. Our people should head home and let the criminals suffer the consequences.

We now have hundreds of prosecutions in federal court. These are Trump supporters. They were Trump supporters at the White House. And then, a final one, I can't help but mention is, a number of texts were between Sean Hannity and Mark Meadows, so Sean Hannity on FOX News on November 3rd, on election day, Hannity seems to be strategizing with Meadows. He asks about turnout in North Carolina. NC going to be OK? Meadows says, stress every vote matters. Get out and vote on radio.

And Hannity then asks, any place in particular we need to push, Meadows says Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada. Hannity, got it. Everywhere. So it really is an impressive window into a person very close to the president.

COLLINS: And shows how they're coordinating with people who were their biggest, you know, microphones outside the White House. And the Ivanka Trump texts is also interesting to me because she had been framed as kind of this mediating force who is urging her father to concede the election or whatnot.

Katelyn Polantz, a lot in those text messages, we will get back with you on more on of it. Thank you for joining us.

BERMAN: Want to bring in George Conway, attorney and contributor columnist for "The Washington Post."

George, nice to see you this morning. I know you've had a chance to read through many of these texts. I want to start with one, it was just highlighted right there. Jason Miller, with this draft tweet on January 6th, during the insurrection itself, suggesting that the former president blame Antifa and the media for what is going on. What do you see here?