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Evacuees from Besieged Ukrainian City of Mariupol Reportedly Being Taken to Ukrainian City of Zaporizhzhia; Rep. Adam Kinzinger Introduces Resolution in Congress Authorizing U.S. Military to Defend Ukraine should Russia Use Weapons of Mass Destruction; Vladimir Putin Indicating Russia Engaged in Struggle in Ukraine with NATO and West; Ukrainian Forces Use Drones to Strike Russian Ships in Black Sea; Rep. Nancy Pelosi Likens January 6th Grief to Losing a Child in New Book. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: -- Russian forces are pressing their offensive forward Sloviansk, an important town in the Donetsk region. Over the Russian border inside that country around Belgorod, two explosions reported there. And new video showing Ukrainian strikes on Russian ships off of Snake Island. Ukraine's military claims that a drone strike destroyed two Russian patrol boats.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meeting with the Polish president in Warsaw following her trip to Kyiv this weekend. She says the visit sends an unmistakable message to the world -- America stands with NATO allies and in support of Ukraine. Officials in Zaporizhzhia are awaiting right now the arrival of people evacuated from Mariupol.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Zaporizhzhia right now. You can see it right here. That is where the evacuees are expected to be taken from Mariupol. It doesn't look that far on the map, but this is a harrowing journey. Our Nick Paton Walsh live in Zaporizhzhia, I guess waiting at this point, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, John. At this stage, we do not have evacuees from the Azovstat plant or from this specific convoy organized by the United Nations and Red Cross arriving here at the reception center where they would come in. You can see areas here that are being used over the past hours to welcome other evacuees from some, actually, the past days who have got out of Mariupol have been caught waiting in Russian-held territory and slowly moved their way here.

But all eyes, of course, are on these two separate moves out of Mariupol. I say two separate because we're talking firstly about the Azovstal steel plant where a ceasefire allowed the first batch of individuals to get out. I have to quote Russian media here for some of the clearest numbers, but their suggestion was that 46 got out in the first 24-hour-period. And in fact now we've seen another 80 in the second. The fate of those split, according to Russian Ministry of Defense, 11

choosing to stay in separatist territory, we'll have to take their word for that, and then 69 headed in this direction towards Zaporizhzhia. They are not headed here, if we are in fact getting a clean readout from the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Instead, Ukrainian officials for their part did in the last hours suggest that some of the buses -- not these here. These will be the buses that eventually move people on from here, mostly likely to their next destination. Some of the buses have yet to meet people at meeting points.

Let me just move around here and show you a little bit more about what we're seeing here. But this has become, of course, a move of enormous symbolic significance, not just because of the fate of those civilians caught under that steel plant and inside that besieged city over the past months, but because, of course, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday said from 8:00 they will be coming out and his team would welcome them here.

That's where a lot of the welcome would happen in some of these tents, adequate supplies here in what was just weeks ago the outside of a shopping center. But real expectations here certainly building that something may happen in the hours ahead. But I have to be honest with you, John, we haven't at this point heard any clear suggestion that the convoy is moving with evacuees. I'm talking about the larger convoy of civilians coming out of Mariupol organized by the United Nations. It's on its way specifically to us here.

And so daylight hours are kind of limited. And there's a lot that could potentially go wrong here, and a lot of confusing messages coming out. But the stakes incredibly high, not just for those civilians caught there, 100,000 possibly in Mariupol, who will, as they travel, potentially gather more individuals who wish to follow their path out towards Ukrainian-held territory.

But also, too, of course, because of the geopolitical machinations that have been involved in making this happen. The visit by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Moscow, the conversation he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the hopes, frankly, around the world that those suffering most in Mariupol, a city, frankly, leveled by Russia's brutal ambitions there, will find a way to get out. It's here where that will arrive, but as I talk to you now, they haven't started coming from that actual mission of the humanitarian corridor. And there are concerns, and we may not necessarily see them until tomorrow. Back to you.

BERMAN: It's there where he hope they will arrive. At this point, I think a surreal and nervous anticipation setting in. Nick Paton Walsh, please keep us posted there. The world watching Zaporizhzhia very, very closely.

KEILAR: Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger introducing a resolution that would authorize the U.S. military to defend Ukraine should Russia decide to use weapons of mass destruction.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R-IL): It doesn't compel the president to do it. It just says if it is used, he has that leverage. It gives him a better flexibility, but also it is a deterrent to Vladimir Putin. Prior to World War II, there were moments nobody ever wanted to get involved in and eventually came to realize they had to. I hope we don't get to that point here, but we should be ready if we do.



PAUL: CNN's Natasha Bertrand joining us now. It may be a deterrent, Natasha. It's also a line being drawn if that does go through.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It is a red line. And we saw this play out under President Obama, right, with the red line that he drew in Syria over the use of chemical weapons. This is not a position that a president wants to be in. The White House has been gaming out scenarios that they would enact should Russia use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine, including chemical weapons.

And they have said -- President Biden, I should say, has said that the response would be proportionally. They would respond in kind to the kind of weapon that Russia uses in Ukraine, if that does happen. But they have not said definitively that they would use force if Russia did do that, because that is not a box that he wants to be in. They have basically been weighing sanctions. They have been weighing increased military support to Ukraine, heavier weaponry, for example, the kind of things that Russia would not want to see there. They have, of course, hoping this might, if they do use it, might speed up the Europeans' willingness to ban Russian oil imports, for example.

So all of this is kind of a way for the president to say to the international community that the U.S. and its western allies are going to respond if Russia does use chemical weapons, but not drawing a red line that would force him to impose a no-fly zone, for example, or put boots on the ground in Ukraine.

KEILAR: That's the thing. He doesn't seem to want to be boxing himself in, the president, for sure, even though he's done things I think we all thought he wouldn't do when it comes to this war. Natasha, thank you so much for that report.

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, the author of "The Shadow War," just back from Ukraine, like seriously, yesterday just back from Ukraine. Jim, I want to talk about May 9th. May 9th in Russia, in Moscow, is Victory Day. They have a giant parade in Red Square celebrating their victory in World War II. There are a lot of people who thought initially that Putin wanted to use that day to be able to declare some kind of victory in Ukraine. Now it's shifted a little bit, and there is some concern that he might be using it to reframe what he sees as the terms of this conflict.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: By the way, it was the U.S. intel assessment as well that there was an intent, or at least a hope in Moscow to declare something on May 9th. And the perception being that this eastern offensive might have something to show for it, we gained all of the Donbas or something. But that doesn't happen, right. So he doesn't have that. The question is, what does he go with on that day? And given the rhetoric coming both from Putin's mouth, Lavrov's mouth, but also Russian state media, increasingly framing this as not just us against Ukraine, but us, the Russians, against NATO and the west, that's a concern, right? And is that a rhetorical statement on May 9th? Significant enough because risks of escalation, but is there something more substantive behind it, too? Does he announce a national mobilization, for instance, a draft to get more folks in? That's an outlier risk, but sill something that the folks are watching very closely.

BERMAN: This is being discussed. Just so people understand, people are talking about the possibility of Russia declaring a national mobilization. In an invasion of Ukraine, a war against Ukraine is different than saying we are at war with the west.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I would say with Putin, listen to what he says, right? He telegraphs stuff. Even going back to 2007, people talk about his speech at the Munich conference where he talked about Russia feeling backed up against the wall by NATO, which the invasion of Georgia followed, all that kind of stuff. As you hear him talk about the west and NATO as the enemy here, that is something that U.S. officials listen to because the risk is, what does that mean? Is he trying to justify action against the west? Not an attack and invasion, but maybe a strike on weapons convoy coming in from Poland. Listen to what he says because that often presages what he does.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, the Ukrainians keep on pushing what they see as some positive developments, some attacks that they have taken out against the Russian, including one in the Back Sea. We have video right now of this. A drone strike on these Russian vessels operating near Snake Island. You can see no more, they're gone. The significance of something like that?

SCIUTTO: So look at that plus the sinking of the Moskva, right, which was their flagship, more significant. But one part of the Russian plan had been to gain the rest of the coastline here and Odessa. Odessa is key strategically and also in terms of business. They can't do that really without a sea invasion, a seaborne invasion of some type. But if your big ships get sunk and your little ships get sunk, that makes it a heck of a lot more difficult. That doesn't mean it's off the table, but it's a lot riskier and far harder than they might have thought.

BERMAN: It tells the Russians they can't operate without risk in this area.

Finally, I do want to end here in the east. Obviously, this is where the major conflict is in the Donbas region. Any sense of the status of that?

SCIUTTO: So, it's early, and you'll always get that caveat. It has not moved markedly faster than what we saw up north, and they're still running into some of the same problems they ran into up north -- supply, command and control, this sort of thing. So they haven't made a fast dash here.


And the intention is not only to get more of the Donbas, but also to encircle Ukrainian forces, because Ukrainian forces here are fighting on three sides, dangerous position to be in. They haven't been able to do that yet. Now, things could change over the course of a day or week or a month, but right now, it's a relatively static battle line right there.

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, great to have you back. Welcome back.

SCIUTTO: Thank you. Nice to be back.

BERMAN: This morning we have brand-new reporting from "The New York Times" about very early warnings on inflation and broken messaging from one of President Biden's top pollsters.

And we've heard the tapes of top Republicans. Now we're wondering what Democrats said behind closed doors about the January 6th insurrection.

KEILAR: And this story out of Alabama, a manhunt underway for an inmate facing capital murder charges and the corrections officer who officials say may have helped him escape.



JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not really here to roast the GOP. That's not my style. Besides, there's nothing I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn't already put on tape.



BERMAN: President Biden there referencing reporting from Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times." They made major news with the tapes of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressing concern about fellow Republican colleagues following the January 6th insurrection. But their book also has fascinating new reporting on how the Democrats responded to the attack, including how Nancy Pelosi told a friend that she, quote, "likened it to losing a child."


Here with me now, my friends, Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin. Their new book, "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future" is outstanding, and it comes out tomorrow.

Gentlemen, I'm so happy that you're here. I'm so happy for you. It's a wonderful book. You're two of my favorite reporters, writers, and people. So I couldn't be happier for you. JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We are happy to see you and

glad you're okay.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

We talked about Nancy Pelosi, her reaction in the moment to January 6th. There were Democrats there who were deeply troubled, obviously, but also changed with how they were willing to view Republicans going forward.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, John. I think it's one of the things that people sort of recognize as January 6 was a traumatic event in the life of the Capitol and the life of the country, but the depth and the endurance of that trauma, and the way it has changed the culture of the Congress and Washington generally, I'm not sure that the American people fully appreciate that.

We've talked to so many members of Congress who said that after January 6th, they experienced the physical symptoms of trauma, they sought professional help, they urged their colleagues to seek professional help, and on the Democratic side, they felt like they could never see their Republican colleagues in the same way again.

We had lawmakers, Val Demings of Florida telling us that she used to have these productive relationships with Republicans across the aisle, particularly other folks who would serve like her in law enforcement. After January 6, she asked her staff at any time they're reaching out to me on anything, check to see how they voted on the 2020 election, because if they didn't vote to certify it, they tried to overturn a democratic election, I just don't know that I can go there.

BERMAN: You have an amazing quote from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, a very close ally of Nancy Pelosi, by the way. In the quote, it says "When her daughter asked how it felt to go to work, the Republicans were still denying the election results, Eshoo offered one of the most wrenching comparisons imaginable. It feels like being in the same room with your rapist. She recalls saying."

MARTIN: Yes. That was a moment where to hear that out loud, it was staggering, but it captures this mood Alex was talking about in the Congress today. I cannot recall a period where there was this such open conflict and such contempt for one another, John, especially in the House where it is a more partisan place.

These lawmakers are dealing not just with mistrust of each other, their phones, their e-mails, in some cases, in person, they are receiving threats.

I don't think the American people appreciate the level of death threats that are pouring in, or at least harassing calls to Members of Congress day in day out.

I talked to Members of Congress who in the weeks after January 6, didn't even want to get on an airplane. They were worried about being harassed or stalked by their political critics. This is not how it is supposed to work in American democracy. That doesn't happen here, supposedly.

And that's what we're trying to capture in the book is just how jarring this moment has become and this question of is America still America? And we talked to foreign leaders like Tony Blair, for example, and they're asking us, John, are you guys going to be okay? What's going to happen to America?

BERMAN: You bring us back to that month, I think in ways that are different than a lot of the other things that I've read about this. You really put us there, and I think 15 months later, we pretend that oh, it was inevitable that it would go like it would, that Donald Trump would leave, you know, January 20th and --

But it wasn't it. I mean, nothing was inevitable there, Alex, and the idea of resignation was possible. What did he say about resignation?

BURNS: He said it didn't do any good for Richard Nixon, John, and when you think about that moments in January, right after the attack, you have Republican leaders -- you know, people have heard what Kevin McCarthy said -- but you have Republican leaders from all corners of the party, contemplating the question of, can this guy be the Commander-in-Chief? Can he have control of nuclear weapons for another 14 days? That's the kind of question that Americans have really never had to ask about their President certainly in my lifetime.

And in that moment, they faced a choice, Republican leaders, are they going to go along with the easiest direction for their own political base, and reach an accommodation with Donald Trump and try to avoid open conflict with him to the greatest degree possible? Are they going to try to lead and are they going to try to tell their own voters, you know, we know you still like the guy, but we've got to go in a different direction now?

Looking back from a place where we are now, it can all seem very foreordained that they were going to roll back to Donald Trump, they're going to return to his a not-so-warm embrace, but at the time, they really did face a choice and some of them truly contemplated a sort of Liz Cheney-esque break with Donald Trump. They just didn't follow through.

MARTIN: Everything was up for grabs in those hours and days after, and they -- it was like "Access Hollywood" in the fall of 2016 where there is this moment where G.O.P. leaders said, "A-ha, this is our chance, we can finally move on from this guy who is frankly kind of embarrassing for our party, but our voters really like him with. Well, this now is the chance. This has to be the one. This is going to break him."


MARTIN: And of course, that wasn't the case, and once they realized, John, their voters didn't care. They didn't care.

BERMAN: I mean, McConnell really thought that it was done.

MARTIN: This was it. This was it. Now, we have a scene in the book, it is late on the night of January 6th, actually early in the morning of January 7th. McConnell is leaving the Capitol. It's been desecrated that day. He has lost his Senate Majority, which he prizes as much as anything in life almost.

And McConnell has an almost a sense of relief, and the reason why is because despite the trauma of the last two days, he felt -- he feels like Trump has been in his words, "discredited." This is it, I'm not going to have to deal with this guy anymore going forward and he believes that his party and the country will move on, and here we are a year and a half later, and his party certainly has not moved at all.

BERMAN: I want to get -- you guys are wicked famous now, so famous that Trevor Noah brings you up at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and it has to do with the fact that there are revelations in this book, things that we have not known at all.

Kevin McCarthy on tape, saying things which he flat out denied -- lying about saying -- and it's only coming out now in the book, and this is what Trevor Noah had to say about that.


TREVOR NOAH, "THE DAILY SHOW" HOST: By the way, give it up to those "New York Times" reporters who managed to get those Kevin McCarthy tapes. That was amazing. Yes. Give it up for them. Incredible.

You knew how crucial those tapes were, which is why you immediately waited until your book was for sale to tell the people about them. Bravo, bravo.


BERMAN: Now, this is not a new criticism about book authors, but this is information you've had for a while.

BURNS: It is and one of the things that I think is a common misconception about what happens in the reporting process for a book is that a reporter sort of hoard all this information that they could report in real time. and they just hold on to it for commercial purposes, and it is just not true.

People will share information, people will give interviews, they'll share documents and audio tapes, and boy, do we have a lot of documents and audio tapes. Or they will share documents like those for the purposes of history that they don't want to see on Twitter 15 minutes from now.

And so I understand why there is this misconception and it's a perfectly valid sort of avenue for poking fun at us and the media generally, but that's just not the way the reporting process works on a book of this scale.

BERMAN: More to come? What do you have?

MARTIN: We have a lot of primary source documents, so much so that we couldn't do justice to them fully in this book, but one of them I think we're going to talk about after the break, we have a series of memos from Biden's top pollster starting in April of last year that really traces Biden's political decline.

And it's an effort by this pollster to intervene to stop that decline, and to say, we have a problem on immigration, on inflation, on crime, and we've got to address it. And obviously, that plea was not listened to, but we have all of those memos and the polling therein.

BERMAN: That's a tease, if I ever heard one.

Gentlemen, stick around. Much more ahead, including also who said Obama is jealous of Biden?

KEILAR: And this morning in Georgia, a special grand jury convenes in the investigation of Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election there.



KEILAR: We're back now with "New York Times" reporters, Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin on their new book, "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America's Future" which comes out tomorrow.

Jonathan, you teased rather brilliantly in the last segment about how Biden was warned early and often about inflation, about immigration, and about crime. So what did happen?

MARTIN: So John Anzalone who is Biden's chief pollster has been for some time, writes these weekly memos to Biden and senior staffers in the White House that are accompanied by extensive polling, a mix of public and his own polling, and Anzalone sounds the alarm early, Brianna.

In April, he's talking about the threat of insecure borders and the problems that poses to Biden politically. By the summer, he is talking about concerns about crime and talking about inflation.

And so Biden and his top staff know these three issues are going to be problematic, and they're being urged to act on it, but you just don't see that reflected in their public posture.

They were so focused on getting their legislative agenda through Congress. That was consuming 90 percent I think of their attention. And obviously, they thought that that agenda, of course, would address some of these challenges, or at least give them a bigger argument to lead in the midterms, but we now know, of course that those issues have posed immense political peril to Democrats who are on the ballot this fall.

KEILAR: And Alex, I know you also have some really interesting reporting about Vice Presidential issues that we actually may have come at least somewhat close, or there was a possibility of there being a Vice President Duckworth. And we know, look, we know that the Vice President and the President

aren't exceptionally close, but I also wonder what that portends for the future.

BURNS: Yes, Brianna, I mean, the chapter of the book that focuses on Biden's selection of Kamala Harris really captures his indecision, his ambivalence about now Vice President Harris, his family's resistance to choosing Vice President Harris, and as you just alluded to, some of the other folks who came pretty close to getting the job.

Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois is one of them. She's a war hero. She sort of knocked it out of the park in the vetting process, except for one issue, which is that she was born overseas to one parent who was an American citizen and one parent who was not, and Biden's lawyer lawyers warned him, we think we can win a lawsuit about her eligibility for the presidency, but we don't think that you should choose her because that could become a distraction for the campaign.

Biden has a pretty candid and painful conversation with Duckworth to that effect where she says, you know, Mr. Vice President, I have beaten every person that has come after me with that issue in the past and she uses a saltier word not fit for a family program.