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Rand Paul Rationalizing Russia' Invasion; Harvard Pledges $100 Million; SpaceX Launches to International Space Station. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 27, 2022 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Documents are dollars.

Jennifer Rodgers, thanks so much for being with us. Great to see you. And thank you for the kind words.


BERMAN: So, as I said, John McCain once accused Rand Paul of working for Vladimir Putin. Wait till you hear what Rand Paul now says that has garnered fresh criticism.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, Russian forces deny responsibility for the atrocities committed in Bucha, Ukraine, even though there is evidence, obviously, to the contrary. Now new images prove they were there. We have CNN exclusive video, next.

BERMAN: And children and parents running for their lives after dozens of gunshots fired near a little league baseball game. The story behind this moment.



BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news.

We're getting our first statement from the Ukrainians on a series of explosions inside Russia in these three locations right here. Now, the Ukrainians are not yet taking direct responsibility for the attacks, but an adviser to President Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, says, quote, the Belgorod, Voronezh and Kursk regions are now also beginning to actively study such a concept as demilitarization, in these Russian regions large fuel depots that provide fuel for the Russian army's armored vehicles periodically burned and ammunition depots explode for various reasons.

He goes on, how can this be explained, he says. Very simply. If you, the Russians, decide to attack another country en masse, kill everyone there en masse, crush peaceful people en masse with tanks and use warehouses in your region to provide the killings, then sooner or later your debts will have to be paid back. That's why disarming the Belgorod, Voronezh depots, he says, is an absolutely natural process. Karma is a cruel thing.

So, Brianna, not directly confirming the attacks, but pretty loaded language there.

KEILAR: Yes, it seems to be indicating something clearly if vaguely.

Thank you so much, Berman.

I do want to talk now with a couple guests we have here and a contention hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Senator Rand Paul appeared to rationalize Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying this.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): You could -- you could also argue the countries they've attacked were part of Russia.


PAUL: Were part of the Soviet Union.

BLINKEN: Yes, and I firmly -- I firmly disagree with -- with that proposition. It is the fundamental right of these countries to decide their own future and their own destiny. And here's -- here's --

PAUL: I'm not saying it's not. But I'm saying that the countries that have been attacked, Georgia and Ukraine, were part of the Soviet Union, were --

BLINKEN: And that does not give Russia the right to attack them.

PAUL: And they were part of the Soviet Union --


KEILAR: Now, Senator Paul went on to echo several Russian talking points and criticized the United States for agitating for Ukraine to join NATO last fall, something Russia considers a red line.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): There could have been voices before this invasion instead of agitating for something that we knew our adversary absolutely hated and said was a red line as recently as last September. Before you signed the agreement once again agitating for NATO, Russia said that it was a red line.

Now, there is no justification for the invasion. I'm not saying that. But there are reasons for the invasion and I think it's added nothing.


KEILAR: Joining us now, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood. During that first thing that Senator Paul said, you were making

exasperated sounds is how I'll put it. You were. I mean, what do you think when you hear him say that?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So, Brianna, those countries, Georgia, the Russians invaded in 2008, and Ukraine, the Russians invaded in 2014, as well as today, they're sovereign nations. They've been sovereign nations since independence in 1991. Thirty years they've been independent. Sovereign nations get to decide what their security arrangements are.

And so for anyone to say that because they were part of an empire before they can be attacked, it doesn't make any sense.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And that's the exact point that the secretary of state very clearly made, right? He shut down Rand Paul's line of questioning, which was based on this idea that because these countries had at one point been part of the Soviet Union, that may have frustrated Putin even more when he heard about Ukraine's desires that have existed for a long time to join NATO, and that could have prompted them to invade Russia -- to invade Ukraine.

You heard the secretary of state saying, listen, any country's history doesn't justify Russia invading them. The sovereign nation has the right to choose their own alliances.

And the other thing that I think it's important to note that the secretary of state pointed out was the fact that the United States had very real discussions with Russia about their security concerns before they invaded Ukraine. And he said that they found out very clearly that Russia wasn't actually just concerned about Ukraine joining NATO, Russia actually just didn't want Ukraine to be a sovereign, independent nation at all. And that's why those conversations fell apart.

So, the United States really did put in the effort to have the conversations about Russia, but Russia had essentially already decided, according to the U.S. government, that they were going ahead with this invasion.

KEILAR: The Biden administration also seems to be open to Ukraine remaining neutral between the rest -- the west and Russia. And I wonder, Ambassador, if that is even possible when you look at, you know, the soul of where Ukraine is right now and where it is moving.


It's hard to imagine it wanting to stay neutral between these parties.

TAYLOR: Brianna, you've got exactly the right question, what do the Ukrainians want. It doesn't really matter what the Russians want. It makes no -- and other countries can have opinions about neutrality, but it's really important what the Ukrainians want.

Now, there were -- there were times in the past month that they were thinking about neutrality. That was before these atrocities. That was before Bucha. That was before these war crimes. That was before what Joe Biden calls genocide.

And so now to talk about neutrality, it's a different ball game. And I think it's different in Ukraine and that's where the decision has to be made. We can have opinions, but the Ukrainians will decide. They're sovereign. That's what we said before.

KEILAR: And aren't they allowed to decide where they want to be? I mean look at Russia. Look at what Vladimir Putin has done with Russia. And Ukraine has made a very clear decision, it doesn't want to be under that umbrella and it doesn't want to be like Russia.

ATWOOD: Yes, and it's very clear that Ukraine needs the support of NATO right now. They are only in this fight still because of that support. So, it is hard to see a world in which they extract themselves from that relationship that has only grown so incredibly strong over the last few months.

But it is a question as to how this war ends, right? And if you have the idea that that could be something that could trigger the war ending, then you do have experts out there who say that neutrality for Ukraine is something that should be entertained. So, it will be interested to watch how it plays out over the next few months as we try to drive towards diplomacy, which we're obviously nowhere near close to right now.

KEILAR: Russia has made a significant move of cutting Bulgaria and Poland off from gas supply coming from Russia because they won't pay for it in rubles, which would, obviously, buoy that currency. What does this -- what do you make of this?

TAYLOR: So this hurts Russia. Russia is cutting itself off from revenues. It needs revenues. Europe has been talking for some time about cutting itself off totally from hydrocarbons from Russia. We see why. Russia is an unreliable supplier. It will cut you off no matter what you do. Whether you pay or not. That's not a -- that's not a source of supply you want to be relying on.

And it happens to be spring. That means the heating season is basically past us. So the Poles and the Bulgarians have some time to make some arguments. The Greeks are already saying that they're going to help the Bulgarians out. The rest of Europe has got reserves. So they can get through this. But the overall -- the long-term effect is going to be that Russia hurts itself by this action.

KEILAR: Not a reliable provider there.

Ambassador, Kylie, thank you so much to both of you.

BERMAN: All right, this morning, new video evidence linking Russian forces to the atrocities committed in Bucha. We've seen the video, terrible video of murdered civilians lying in the streets. Now exclusive new footage obtained by CNN shows a Russian vehicle at an intersection where the slaughter took place on March 13th allegedly. In this video from March 12th, a number of Russian soldiers are seen around a military vehicle parked outside a home just down the street from the bodies.

Still, Russia repeatedly denies any responsibility for this.

Hundreds of corps have been recovered in Bucha in the weeks since Russian troops pulled out. New graves are being dug in the Bucha cemetery near Kyiv. The challenge now, identifying all the bodies and returning them to their loved ones.

KEILAR: The Russians beat and tortured him with a hammer. They left him to die in a forest. But somehow he managed to live. You're going to hear from a Ukrainian businessman about his remarkable story of survival straight ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, Harvard pledges $100 million after an admission about its history with slavery.



BERMAN: Harvard University confronting its deep historical ties to slavery, announcing a $100 million commitment after a report detailing how slavery and racism played a significant part in the school's history.

Here with me, Laura Jarrett, attorney at law and anchor of CNN's "EARLY START."

This is big.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Yes, it's pretty striking, John. It's one of the most elite schools in the country now trying to make amends for its past by confronting a simple fact, Harvard participated in and benefited from slavery. In a detailed report spanning over 100 pages, the school reveals this, its faculty and staff enslaved at least 79 people. And that's just the ones that they know about. Just five men who profited from the slave trade made up more than a third of the university's donations during the first half of the 19th century and yet even today the school memorializes these men through statues on campus, buildings, professorships. Much of Harvard's disturbing record had already been known for some time now, but this report pulls it all together in such a way that the president of Harvard now calls it, quote, shocking.

But the school isn't just saying it was wrong. There's money behind this effort to come clean, and a lot of it. Harvard created an endowed fund with $100 million to further study and expose its past. The report here also outlines a number of recommendations, including expanding partnerships with historically black colleges and universities, some of which, unlike Harvard, have been historically underfunded.

Harvard now joins a growing list of schools addressing their past ties to slavery, including Georgetown and Brown.

So it's interesting to see how each school handles this a little bit differently. But Harvard being very frank about what happened.

BERMAN: Yes, look, they have a lot of money, first of all.



BERMAN: But they are putting a lot of money behind this.

And these were big ties, too, when you're talking about some of the buildings that were named here and some of the -- some of the investments that they had there.

JARRETT: Yes, and how it still benefits even today.

BERMAN: Laura, great to have you. Thanks so much.


BERMAN: Vice President Kamala Harris testing positive for coronavirus. So what's now being done at the White House to control the spread?

KEILAR: Plus, as he continues his brutal invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin defends the Russian figure skater accused of doping at the Olympics. His explanation ahead.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, four, three, two, one, zero. Ignition. And liftoff.


BERMAN: There they go. This morning, a new crew of astronauts heads for the International Space Station. More details on this historic mission, next.



BERMAN: Winter has returned in parts of the eastern U.S. with lake- effect snow in the forecast for upstate New York and Pennsylvania.

Chad Myers with the forecast.

Hey, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Punxsutawney Phil, your six weeks are up. Your six weeks of fame are over. It feels like 15 degrees right now in Duluth. It's in the 20s across all of Michigan. And this weather is going to continue. If you put your garden in already, you are going to have to be very careful with it. Freeze advisories, frost advisories all across the upper Midwest and all the way through, of course, the Ohio Valley.

And, yes, it is snowing. It is snowing in Chitawaga (ph), Lackawanna (ph), all those places that I can say because I grew up there. All the snow going to move out today. Going to move up into upstate and all the way into Maine and then eventually into Atlanta (ph), Canada. But this should be the second-to-last cold shot of air because I think there's still one more coming.

But we're below normal for temperatures today. Obviously, with snow coming down.

Here's your cold air across the Northeast. Warm air begins to come up in towards Chicago by the weekend. And then you do begin to get another cold shot of cold air behind it. That will be, I believe, the last one of the year. So, time to give up, Punxsutawney Phil, you're done for the year.

BERMAN: Give up. Go away.

Chad Myers, do you a much better job than the gopher does. Thank you very much for that.


KEILAR: He does indeed.

This morning, a historic moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero. Ignition. And liftoff.


KEILAR: Beautiful there. SpaceX launching a new crew of four astronauts to spend five months at the International Space Station. This mission's crew is one of the first equally comprised of men and women.

CNN's Kristin Fisher is joining me now.

It's always amazing to see those night launches. Just -- it's beautiful.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: It's an early wake-up call, but they are by far the best to watch. Absolutely incredibly gorgeous launch this morning.

And this is the seventh time that SpaceX has sent astronauts into space. And, remember, the company just safely returned to earth another crew of private astronauts, the Axiom Space AX-1 crew, about 48 hours ago. So just incredible turnaround time by both SpaceX and NASA with today's very early morning launch to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And, you know, Brianna, this is primarily a science expedition. These

astronauts are going to be conducting a great deal of microgravity research. Research in a weightless environment up at the International Space Station.

But this is also really a training mission of sorts for this crew because, remember, NASA, right now, is considering everyone in its astronaut core to possibly be assigned to its next big mission, it's next big program, the Artemis Program, which aims to return American astronauts to the moon within the next few years.

And so NASA has said that it will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the moon with this program. And so with this mission there's a lot of attention on the mission specialist, a woman by the name of Jessica Watkins. Brianna, she is about to become the first black woman to do what's called an extended stay or a long duration space mission up at the International Space Station. So, a lot of attention on her. And she also has this really unique background. She's a geologist who studied the surface of Mars, went on to work on one of NASA's Mars rovers. So those are the kinds of unique skill sets that you're going to want when you're going to explore something like the surface of the moon, or maybe someday Mars. So, a lot of attention on Jessica Watkins today.

And, Brianna, one more thing. You were mention thing that beautiful nighttime launch. Well, don't forget about the beautiful booster landing. I mean, this is something that did not happen until just a few years ago. So many people thought it totally impossible. Now SpaceX has done it more than 100 times. The booster we saw return to earth just a few hours ago, that was the fourth time that it has had a successful landing.

And, Brianna, I absolutely love this, SpaceX names its drone ships, these boosters return, not on land, but on a ship that's floating in the water. And the name of this drone ship, one of my favorites, it's called a Shortfall of Gravitas. Quite the name.

KEILAR: I love it. I always tell people, because I've been lucky enough to see a night launch, you have to see it in-person. I mean the video is amazing, but it does not touch what it is like in-person. It is truly just something you have to see to really understand.

Kristin, thank you so much for that. Really appreciate it.

And NEW DAY continues right now.