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Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin are Interviewed about their Book; Judge to Decide if Reparations Case Goes to Trial; Simon Shuster is Interviewed about Zelenskyy; Truth Behind Musk's Viral Meme. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 08:30   ET



ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Mr. Vice President, I have beaten every -- every person who's come after me with that issue in the past, and she uses a saltier word. It's not -- not fit for a family program, instead of referring to, you know, people who have come after her. But, ultimately, Biden doesn't go in that direction.

Brianna, another person who came pretty far in that process was Gretchen Whitman, the governor of Michigan. Biden had a couple of advisers close to him who really believed that if he wanted to lock down that crucial midwestern swing state, she was the one to choose. And when you talk about the future, when you look to 2024 and beyond, we're going to be hearing thee names again because if Joe Biden doesn't run again, when you talk to Democrats at every level of the party, there is not a consensus, or anything close to it, that Vice President Harris would have that nomination locked up.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And to this day there's still a corner, a pretty prominent corner, of the party that believes Biden should have picked Governor Whitmer and believes that if she does win her re-election this fall, she'll be a formidable candidate for president in '24 or '28.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The details of the conversations that you have between both Duckworth, Whitmer and Biden really, really astounding.

I do want to ask you about the relationship or perceived relationship between former President Obama and President Biden.


BERMAN: Because you've got some quotes in here too that are awfully eye-opening, including Nancy Pelosi saying -- I will not do them service here. I will do them a disservice. So, what did Pelosi say?

BURNS: Pelosi said, and, again, this is -- to bring you back to the spring of last year, Pelosi told a friend that she believed that Barack Obama was jealous of Joe Biden. And this is after the passage of the American Rescue Plan. It's when he has unveiled his plans for, you know, infrastructure spending, more social welfare spending, climate spending. And there's all this coverage of, you know, Joe Biden, more transformational even than Barack Obama.

And we heard over and over again that really bothered Barack Obama and, you know, that he would call up people and say, listen, you've got to understand, I was dealing with a different Democratic Party, that I had more conservative Democrats.

MARTIN: Right.

BURNS: And, you know, of course a year later things look a little bit different for Joe Biden. I'm not sure that Obama is quite so jealous of him today.

MARTIN: And one of the things I think readers of this book, if you buy it, will really enjoy is, we pull back the curtain and tell people what politics is really like in Washington and what relationships are legit and what are kind of contrived. And I'll tell you what, for all the talk that Biden and Obama do about being brothers and good friends, they're actually not that close. They don't talk super often today. There's a rivalry there. And I think Biden is a little bit of a prideful guy and he knew that he was looked down upon in the White House when he was VP, and he loved the idea of being a bigger historic figure than Obama. And for a few months there in 2021 it seemed like he had the possibility to do that.

And I think whether it's Democrats or the GOP, we tell readers what people are actually saying in private and how they actually feel. Not on TV, not for the cameras, but when their true feelings come out.

BERMAN: That's why you've got to read the book.

Jonathan Martin, Alex Burns, congratulations to both of you.

MARTIN: By tomorrow, yes.

BERMAN: Again, the book, the title is --

MARTIN: "This Will Not Pass." You can preorder it now and be tomorrow in bookstores.

BERMAN: Today in my hands.

Thank you, guys.

MARTIN: A thrill (ph). Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Good to see you.

BURNS: Thanks.

BERMAN: This morning, a potentially last chance for reparations for the surviving victims of the Tulsa race massacre as an Oklahoma judge makes a key decision.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And an urgent manhunt is underway for an Alabama inmate charged with capital murder and the female corrections officer who escorted him out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KEILAR: Happening today, a final chance to right a terrible wrong from a century ago. A judge in Oklahoma expected to decide if the case from reparations from the Tulsa race massacre will go to trial. That attack happened in 1921 and it left up to 300 people dead and the city's thriving African American community in ruins. The youngest living survivor is 101 years old and is expected to be at the hearing.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is live in Tulsa with the latest here.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this is part of a long and ongoing court battle that goes back to the spring of last year. And today is just to decide if we'll actually be able to move forward to an actual trial.

Now, the lawsuit is alleging that the city and others in leadership thwarted community efforts to rebuild the Greenwood area after the massacre. Also that since then the city has promoted tourism at the site of the massacre. And at the heart of this, the victims, three of them, still living today, were never compensated.

So, the lawsuit is seeking financial reparations for the loss of life and property during the massacre. The creation of a victims' compensation fund, financial reparations from any profits made from the government from tourists visiting the site of the massacre.

And one of the attorneys representing the survivors said at a prayer rally, this hearing today is more than just a hearing.


DAMARIO SOLOMON-SIMMONS, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS: We must fight for our rights and our dignity. And that is what justice for Greenwood is about. That's what tomorrow is about. When we go in that courtroom, we will fight for our rights and our dignity. We will win tomorrow! We will win this trial! We will get justice for Greenwood! Justice for Greenwood!


JIMENEZ: Now, the defendants, which includes the board of county commissioners, are arguing that they are exempt from liability in cases of civil disobedience, riot, insurrection, to much time has passed, and that these allegations are too vague.

The survivors, though, are arguing the generational wealth stripped from them so suddenly at the time still reverberates to this day. Like I said, this is part of a long, ongoing court battle. And the youngest survivor, 101 years old, texted his attorney, they are trying to wait us out. We're not going anywhere.

So, we'll see when the hearing kicks off a little later this afternoon, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, we'll be watching.

Omar, thanks so much.

We're joined next by a reporter who recently spent weeks alongside Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. What happened inside the presidential bunker.



KEILAR: Time now for "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

An urgent manhunt underway after a capital murder suspect and a corrections officer disappeared Friday in Alabama. The sheriff told us moments ago that she may have helped him escape.

And a short time from now, selection will begin in Atlanta for a special grand jury. It's part of an investigation into whether former President Trump or his allies broke the law by pressuring Georgia officials to overturn the state's 2020 election results.

Ahead of her expected testimony this week, Amber Heard fired the PR team that she had hired to handle crisis communications. She is being sued for defamation by ex-husband Johnny Depp.

And in Atlanta, a driver of a multi-person party bike has been charged with DUI after an accident left 15 passengers injured over the weekend.



THE JUDDS (singing): Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine.


KEILAR: The music world mourning the death of Naomi Judd while celebrating the induction of the legendary mother/daughter duo The Judds into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Speaking at the ceremony last night, Wynonna Judd said it's a strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed. But though my heart is broken, I will continue to sing.

Those are "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." More on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning. Go to

BERMAN: So, an article in the latest edition of "Time" offers this rare glimpse of how the very public president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is experiencing this war behind closed doors. Reporter Simon Shuster impeded with Zelenskyy and his staff for two weeks in April. He writes of Zelenskyy, quote, nearly two months into the invasion, he had changed. There were new creases in his face and he no longer searched the room for his advisers when considering an answer to a question. I've gotten older, he admitted. I've aged from all this wisdom that I never wanted. It's the wisdom tied to the number of people who have died and the torture the Russian soldiers perpetrated. That kind of wisdom, he added, trailing off, to be honest, I never had the goal of attaining knowledge like that.

Joining me now is the author of this article, "Time" reporter Simon Shuster.

Simon, thanks so much for being with us.

This is really a side of Zelenskyy that none of us have seen. I mean we see him with the beard and the military fatigues acknowledging he's changed.

SIMON SHUSTER, REPORTER, "TIME": Yes, that's right. That was kind of the approach that I took. We -- there's been such an enormous rush of news since the invasion started February 24th, but I wanted to take an opportunity to go back and ask them, you know, not about the daily events, you know, the latest events in the war, the latest shift on the front lines, but to go back and talk to them about what it's felt like for them, how they've experienced the invasion. And to sit down with them, not just Zelenskyy, but really all the people around him and talk to them about key moments in these last two months of the war and how they've -- how they've felt. I mean some of the -- some of the interviews felt, honestly, like therapy sessions more than interviews.

BERMAN: One of the key moments was very early on. He gave the speech really to the world saying, we're all unified, we're all in this together, meaning, he, the Ukrainian leadership, the Ukrainian people. And he said that and he portrayed such confidence, but he wasn't so sure at the time.

SHUSTER: Yes, in that moment, one thing I learned from talking to the advisers is that a lot of people did flee, a lot of officials, a lot of even military officers fled. And some of Zelenskyy's staff were quite concerned about that, but they took the approach that, you know, it's natural when there is such intense fear of the Russians overtaking Kyiv in a matter of days. And their response to that was basically, look, everybody, if you need to take a few days to get your family out of Ukraine, that's fine, go for it, but then you need to come back and help us fight this war.

BERMAN: Speaking about family, what about his family? I mean, he's got kids. And I know that he has, you know, put them, he thinks, in a safe place, but how real were the threats, did he think, against him and the family?

SHUSTER: Yes, that was a really surprising moment in the interview when I asked him to take me back to the first day of the invasion. And he sort of -- you know, it was hard for him. He said that he remembered it in a fragmented way and all the days have begun blurring together at some point. But he said there is this one vivid moment that he remembered very clearly, which was waking up his children that night, in the middle of the night, and getting them ready -- dressed and ready to flee their home because the invasion had started. I mean that was really painful to hear him talk about. And one other thing I learned that really surprised me was that that first night, the Russians made two attempts to storm the compound, according to Zelenskyy and his advisers. And Zelenskyy's family, his children and his wife, were in there at that time. I mean it's just -- it's awful to imagine the kind of fear and stress he was experiencing.

BERMAN: Imagine that for any family, any father.

You also talked to Zelenskyy aides who were remarkably honest, and in some ways critical, or not afraid to be critical of Zelenskyy.

SHUSTER: Yes, and he expected that. He wants that from his staff. I was kind of surprised, you know, one of the times we sat down, he asked me first, you know, Simon, what do you think about what's going on? That was -- that was the beginning of our conversation. He wanted to hear from me how I was feeling, whether the west was paying attention, whether, you know, the attention was waning. But, yes, he expects people to be honest who are around him. And it's true, one of the -- one of the advisers was quite frank about, you know, Zelenskyy's -- the way he's performed the role of a wartime president.


BERMAN: One of the aides said sometimes he's too much of an actor.

SHUSTER: Yes, the aide said that -- and this aide actually, like many of Zelenskyy's aides, comes from the world of acting and showbiz himself. He's a former theater actor. For 17 years he was a theater actor. Now he's a military adviser to Zelenskyy. So he said, yes, sometimes I get the feeling that the president is sort of stepping into the role a little bit too much and playing the role rather than being himself. And he said that it would be better if Zelenskyy just was himself because when he is his natural self, especially when he's tired and he's too tired to act, then he makes the greatest impression for his, you know, integrity and strength as a leader.

BERMAN: That really was a great quote, when he's too tired to act, too tired to think about it, he's at his best.

Simon, this is a really interesting side of Zelenskyy we have not seen before. Thank you so much for joining us.

SHUSTER: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, new video released by the Ukrainian military shows a drone destroying two Russian patrol boats in the Black Sea. Ships in the Black Sea. We're live on the ground in Ukraine coming up.

KEILAR: And where does Elon Musk place himself on the political spectrum? He explains it with a meme.


[08:55:27] KEILAR: The billionaire who just bought Twitter posts a meme that has a lot of Americans talking.

John Avlon has our "Reality Check."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, Ronald Reagan famously said, I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me. And Elon Musk just tried to make the same point by tweeting a cartoon.

So, meme politics are a thing, right? In this image, created by (INAUDIBLE) editor Collin Wright (ph) got a lot of folks talking. As you can see, it shows a stick figure standing just left of center in the political spectrum back in 2008. And then you see the figure on his left start sprinting to the far edge of the frame, conveniently skipping over the Trump years entirely, until by 2021 the woke progressive is calling everyone to his rights bigots and the guy who was center left now finds himself center right.

Now, in case you wondered whether this was an attempt to explain his own political evolution, Musk followed up with a tweet saying, the far-right hates everyone, themselves included. Quickly following up, but I'm no fan of the far right either.

This is a common complaint in a time when the extreme seemed to be dominating civic conversations. I get the frustration. But where you stand is often a matter of where you sit.

So, here's the real question, is it remotely true that Democrats have moved further toward the fringe than Republicans since 2008? Well, the shift from 2008 GOP nominee John McCain to Mitt Romney to Donald Trump would seem to answer that question, but let's put facts over feelings and dig into the data.

So, polarization has been growing for decades in Congress but voting patterns show that Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats have to the left. And really even close. The dynamic was playing out even before the big lie litmus test.

The deeper problem, as Pew Research points out, is that House Democrats have grown more liberal and Republicans much more conservative. The middle, where moderate to liberal Republicans could sometimes find modern ground with moderate to conservative Democrats on contentious issues has vanished. So it's no worder why so many moderates make up 37 percent of Americans in Gallup's 2021 poll can feel underrepresented.

But, again, the problem is not that the far left has taken over our political institutions. In fact, Congress has become more conservative over the past 50 years as this graph shows. And that's why Americans overall have moved slightly to the left over the past two decades as "The Washington Post's" Philp Bump points out, stating that Musk's illustration is simply wrong.

So, how can something so wrong feel so right to so many folks? Well, it's the old game of what about-ism in a political world driven by negative partisanship. What Musk might be reacting to is the cultural irritants from the far left. These are the complaints that get filed under woke culture. Talk of trigger warnings and critical race theory, defund the police and debates over gender identity that have dominated Republicans' midterm messaging. They deploy these culture war wedge issues because they work. Democrats get held accountable for the most extreme edge of these cultural debates. Even when underlying policies like defund the police are not supported by vast majority of elected officials or anyone in Democratic Party leadership. The activist class either doesn't understand the brand damage they do or they just don't care.

Here's the really ironic part. The place where these cultural debates play out the most, other than conservative media, is on social media. After all, Twitter uses tend to be younger and more liberal than the population at large and a small number of super users make up the vast majority of tweets. So, Musk might be reacting to a twisted vision of political debates on the platform that he now wants to control.

Look, politics is perception. And partisan echo chambers are full of self-serving distortions. But the basic rules still apply, everyone's titled to their own opinion, but not their own facts, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say.

So it's just not true that Democrats have moved further to the left than Republicans have to the right, especially in a time where big lie fantasies are still being treated as an article of faith by candidates.

And that's your "Reality Check."

KEILAR: So good. I mean, perception prevails. Not in rocket science, thank goodness, as Elon Musk would know.

AVLON: No. That would be a disaster.

KEILAR: John Avlon -- it sure would be -- thank you so much.

AVLON: Thank you.


KEILAR: CNN's coverage will continue right now.