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Ukrainian Military Says Russian Attempts at Breakthrough in Eastern Ukraine have So Far Failed; White House Objects to "New York Times" Headline Characterizing Intel Provided by U.S. to Ukrainian Forces Concerning Locations of Russian Generals; World Health Organization: 15M Have Died Worldwide from COVID; Romney: "Very Likely" Trump Will Be 2024 GOP Nominee, Hard to Stop; Amber Heard Testifies That Johnny Depp "Slapped" Her. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 08:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: God morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, May 5th. I'm Alex Marquardt here with Brianna Keilar this morning. John Berman is off. Thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: Yes, great to have you here.

MARQUARDT: Good to be back.

If there is hell in the world, right now it's inside the last Ukrainian stronghold in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. That is from a Ukrainian official as battles rage inside the Azovstal plant after the Russian forces breached the compound. You can see these extraordinary images. They reveal what hundreds of women, children, and the elderly have had to endure for the past two months, a terrifying nonstop Russian bombardment.




MARQUARDT: You're listening there to Ukrainian forces singing the battle hymn of the Ukrainian army. This is brand-new video of Ukrainian troops holding out in Azovstal's underground bunker. They say, quote, "It is sweeter for us to die in battle than to live in chains." So this morning the Russians claim that they will open humanitarian corridors for civilians to evacuate that steel plant. We have seen Russian forces firing on those corridors in the past. And we'll have more on this unfolding situation in just a moment.

KEILAR: In the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the Ukrainian military says Russian forces have had no success breaking through the front lines here in the past 24 hours. A total of 11 attacks had been repulsed, they say. The Russian onslaught, though, is not letting up. This is drone footage showing the devastation from air strikes in the small town of Popasna. We have some new reporting as well on the counteroffensive against Russian forces in the northern Kharkiv region. Ukrainian troops have retaken another village. Troops were seen there placing a flag on a building in Moladova (ph), which a town that is just 13 miles southeast of the border with Russia.

MARQUARDT: Now let's discuss this with Jim Sciutto, CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent, and of course, the author of "The Shadow War." Jim Sciutto, thank you for joining us this morning. I want to start with the question over the intelligence that the U.S. is providing to Ukraine, and to what extent we believe that Ukraine might be using this U.S. intelligence to help them take out this series of Russian generals over the past two months.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: To be direct here, CNN's reporting does not comport with "New York Times" reporting here. CNN's reporting is that the U.S. has been providing intelligence to Ukrainian forces for some time, that's been public. In fact, there has been public acknowledgement of that, to help Ukrainian forces target Russian units in the field.

Now, one could make a jump to say if you have intelligence to strike Russian units in the field and those include command posts, and at those command posts generals are present, you could make a conclusion or judgment that that intelligence has helped Ukrainian forces target generals. But it is not CNN's reporting that the U.S. is handing Ukrainian forces intelligence that directly allows them to target and kill Russian generals.

MARQUARDT: It is a fine line, and the White House again also saying that they are not providing that specific intelligence about those generals.

Jim, let's go to the map. It is a bit of a standstill down here in the southeast. Ukrainians, though, are having some success up here in the northeastern part of the country.

SCIUTTO: It is significant, right, because here is Kharkiv. It's the second largest city in Ukraine. As you and I know, this has been a target of some of the most relentless Russian bombing and attacks since the start of this invasion. They have leveled parts of Kharkiv and civilian casualties have been horrendous. Very close to the Russian border. And by the way, Russia can strike from across the border. It can shell Kharkiv. It's close enough to do so in many circumstances. It should be a relatively easy target, but they've had trouble. They haven't been able to take control of the city of Kharkiv, the defense has been relentless as well from the Ukrainian side.

Now Ukrainians are beginning to gain back some of that territory they lost early in the offensive, to push back Russian artillery outside of artillery range from this city. In fact, I spoke to someone inside Kharkiv on the show a couple of days ago who said that shelling hasn't stopped, but it has actually lessened in recent days. So some of the effects of that pushback are being felt on the ground.

MARQUARDT: What success, if any, do we see the Russians making in their attempt to encircle these Ukrainian troops in the eastern part of the country?

SCIUTTO: Hasn't happened yet. And by the way, think of this, if you're here, as a big portion of the Ukrainian forces are, that's a tough position to be in, right, because you're fighting at 270 degree battle, north, to the east of you, and to the south. But Ukrainians have largely maintained that line as it has been. By the way, that's also after Russia moved the bulk of its forces from here to try to focus attention there. And in recent days as they made progress in Mariupol, a lot of those battalion tactical groups that were employed, occupied down here, have been moving north. But they haven't been able to move that line successfully yet.


MARQUARDT: And, of course, Azovstal steel plant right there in the city of Mariupol. Once that is finally taken, President Putin will have the land bridge all the way from Crimea to the Donbas and western Russia.

Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Brianna?

KEILAR: Six people were injured in a missile strike in the town of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region. At least three buildings were severely damaged including a kindergarten. CNN's Sam Kiley reports from the front lines. Here's his report moments ago.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kramatorsk was hit overnight with at least six missiles. Now, they have had clearly a devastating impact. This is a heating, a pumping station, sewage area. The size of the building would indicate that it was in no way could have housed any kind of military equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I just got lucky. I went to the bathroom. I heard a bang. I sat down in the bed, and it hit me. And all the furniture fell down.

KILEY: The scenes here are absolutely extraordinary. The way that these trees have been completely decapitated, torn to shreds, and the same goes also for these homes. Now, amazingly, very few people here, considering the scale of the damage, were injured and none were killed. There were 25 injured, six hospitalized, one is in a critical condition. And the reason for that is that at least two-thirds of the city of Kramatorsk have already left. But this, without any question, is yet another strike by the Russians on a civilian residential area.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Kramatorsk.


KEILAR: As Alex and Jim mentioned just moments ago, the White House now responding to this "New York Times" report that suggests U.S. intelligence is being given to Ukraine to help kill Russian generals. An official with the NSC releasing a statement moments ago saying "The headline of this story is misleading, and the way it is framed is irresponsible. The United States provides battlefield intelligence to help the Ukrainians defend their country. We do not provide intelligence with the intent to kill Russian generals."

Joining us now is Phil Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst and former FBI senior intelligence adviser. The White House is very sensitive to this suggestion of this headline and some of the framing, as they said. Explain to us why, and explain to us how you see this story.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: They should be sensitive. When I first saw this story crop up in my feed yesterday, and I sit back in my easy chair and say what do we have here, typically you do not use intelligence for assassination operations. It has happened. Remember, President Trump was involved in approving an assassination operation against an Iranian general.

KEILAR: Hugely controversial.

MUDD: Hugely controversial. Let me give you a clearer picture than that headline gave you yesterday. The U.S. provides intel. Not surprising providing intel in the biggest military story in Europe since World War II. Intel, for example, about disposition of forces and command posts. That is a lot different than saying General X, Y, or Z is sitting in this building. The Ukrainians may combine that with other intelligence and say we're going to go after that building because we think what we call high value targets are there. That is not an assassination operation. I agree with the White House. I thought the headline was misleading. The story is interesting. It's not shocking. But it is not about assassination.

KEILAR: So, then, OK, you're explaining. Take it a step further if you will. The U.S. could provide information about certain units or certain places. We saw certain assets, certain Russian military forces or armored carriers or tanks or what not in certain places, and then tell us what Ukraine might do with other resources, they have other intel, drones, whatnot.

MUDD: Sure. Let me play intel.

KEILAR: Let's play the game.

MUDD: We could do this for three hours here. So the intel picture, and we've heard about the Russians being sloppy. The first thing you're looking at is communications, if they're sloppy. You can see a change in communications in a city around a command post, and a specialist is going to say that kind of change in communications may be including someone talking in clear speech, in other non-enciphered, which is rare. That's not smart. That suggests that there is a change in the building and there's a command post there.

Then you have a new piece of intel over the past 20 years, dwell time. You get a drone up and you can say based on what we're seeing in terms of trucks, movements around that, that is a command post. You hand that over to the Ukrainians, very tactical stuff, maybe including photos. They say we have got people on the ground who are seeing this. We have our own specialists listening to different communications on the ground, we're seeing that. We're going after that location based on what the Americans said and based on what other stuff we're adding on the ground, maybe including eyes around the building.

KEILAR: OK, so how is that not -- look, I want to challenge you on this a little bit. Some people might not see the distinction here, right.


If you're giving intel information about a command post, and ultimately that is contributing to the intel picture that is used to pick off a general, how is that not providing information for a targeted killing?

MUDD: We're not going into this saying General X is moving around Ukraine, General X is at this command post. If you strike this command post now, you will kill our key target, General X. What we're saying is we're going to provide you information on how the Russians are prosecuting the war, including things like tank dispositions, or command posts, go after them, as you would do at any conflict.

But again, we're not saying we're tracking around the vehicle of General X, and therefore you should strike this building now. I know this sounds like a distinction without a difference. In my world, the ethics of assassination are a huge deal for intel people, and that story for an intel person, if you only read the headline, is concerning. Read the whole story and listen to CNN.

KEILAR: Well, Phil, it is fun playing intel with you. Thank you so much.

MUDD: All right.

KEILAR: Just in to CNN, the World Health Organization releasing new data on how many people have died around the world because of the pandemic.

MARQUARDT: And there is a renewed push from the father of JonBenet Ramsey to find his daughter's killer, more than 25 years late later. He'll be joining us on New England ahead.

KEILAR: And yet another revelation of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's push to oust Trump after the January 6th attack.


JOHN LEGANSKI, HOUSE GOP FLOOR DIRECTOR: I think the options that have been cited by the Democrats so far are the 25th Amendment, which is not exactly an elegant solution here.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: That takes too long too. It could go back to the House, right?



[08:15:15] KEILAR: Just in, the World Health Organization is releasing new numbers on just how many people have died globally because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard is live with the breakdown.

What have they found here, Jacqueline?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Brianna, what they found, these numbers tell us that about 14.9 million more people died than the World Health Organization would typically expect over the course of two years during the pandemic. Now, these deaths include both people who died directly due to COVID-19, and deaths that were indirectly tied to the pandemic.

So these are deaths due to health conditions that people may have had trouble getting treatment for because of our overburdened health systems. And this number, Brianna, represents three times higher than the death toll that has been previously reported.

Now, here is a breakdown of the numbers. We know that most of the excess deaths, 84 percent concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.

The death toll was higher among men. We see 57 percent were male. 43 percent were female. The death toll is also higher among older adults.

And here are the countries that had the highest numbers of excess deaths. We have Brazil, Indonesia, India, the U.S., Russia, Peru, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa.

So, there is a list there, but some people might wonder, we know that many people sadly lost their lives during the pandemic.

So what can we really learn from these numbers? Well, here's how one world health organization scientist pit this in context. Have a listen.


SOMNATH CHATTERJI, SENIOR ADVISER, WHO'S DEPARTMENT OF DATA ANALYTICS: So why do these numbers actually matter? These are not numbers for the sake of numbers. But as we have just said that there are two components. One is the directly attributable deaths to COVID. But in addition to that, the excess deaths also estimate the collateral damage that has happened because of COVID because of disruptions in health services.


HOWARD: So we heard there, Brianna, he said these numbers represent the collateral damage of the health crisis of this scale, and how this crisis can have this collateral damage on the world -- Brianna.

KEILAR: It revealed so many problems. It revealed the underlying conditions across the world.

Jacqueline, thank you for that.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: And just in, Utah Senator Mitt Romney is telling "Politico" it is very likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party's nominee in 2024 if he wants it and saying there is not really anything out there that can stop him.

CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now.

Melanie, that's a remarkable comment by someone who is not that big a fan of former President Trump.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. I think it is coming from Mitt Romney is really telling. This is someone who voted twice to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trials. He's been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump. This is not someone who is one of Trump's accolades.

And for all of this talk about Trump's waning grip on the GOP, I think after Tuesday night, when several Trump's candidates prevailed in primaries, it shows he's still a dominant force in the party, even if someone like Mitt Romney doesn't want that to be the case, that's the reality now in the Republican Party.

KEILAR: I think that's the assessment of Democrats too, right? Do you think?

ZANONA: Right, absolutely. Democrats recognize that too. You see that with President Joe Biden, he recognizes that. But I think that's why you're starting to see Biden really ramp up his criticism of Trump and the Republican Party. In a way we haven't seen before.

MARQUARDT: Melanie, we saw Donald Trump Jr. Follow his sister in speaking to the January 6th Committee. We understand he spoke to them for around three hours without much incident. He didn't take the Fifth Amendment.

ZANONA: No, which is interesting. He didn't come under subpoena. It was cordial.

Now, that doesn't mean he's giving away trade secrets, right? I mean, our colleagues reported that Ivanka Trump when she came in, they used her testimony to confirm things that the committee already knew, but that's really important.

And Donald Trump Jr. was a key figure in all of this. He was with his dad before the rally on January 6th. He was texting chief of staff Mark Meadows after the election, but before it was called about ways they could keep Trump in power. And he also was texting mark meadows on the day of the attack saying my father needs to condemn this. So, privy to a lot of important episodes there.

KEILAR: Still would be amazing to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.


KEILAR: I want to ask you about newly revealed audio that two "New York Times" reporters have gotten. This is just days after the January 6 attack, and this is House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy who was on a call with GOP leadership, with aides and he said this about the 25th Amendment.


JOHN LEGANSKI, HOUSE GOP FLOOR DIRECTOR: I think the options that have been cited by the Democrats so far are the 25th Amendment, which is not exactly an elegant solution here.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That takes too long too. It goes back to the House, right?

LEGANSKI: Yeah, correct. If the president were to submit a letter overruling the cabinet and the vice president, two-thirds vote in the House and Senate to overrule the president.


So, it's kind of an armful. Impeachment has been discussed. I think they want him to resign, which I don't see that happening either.


KEILAR: So, just a reminder that Kevin McCarthy was at Mar-a-Lago this week, right?

ZANONA: Right.

KEILAR: Trump calls him Speaker McCarthy. What we're seeing is this two different Kevin McCarthys and I wonder if he gets away with it.

ZANONA: Well, clearly he does. Trump has forgiven him at least for now, part of the reason is because since that moment, Kevin McCarthy has done everything to get back in Trump's good graces. But that audio is really striking to me because he is shooting down the idea of the 25th Amendment, not because he doesn't think Trump doesn't deserve it, he says it would take too long.

And the same with impeachment. In that audio, he also talks about how he doesn't think impeachment is the right option, because it would be too divisive for the country. Again, not because he doesn't think Trump is responsible. And he also says what Trump did was absolutely atrocious.

So, very different than the Kevin McCarthy we hear today.

MARQUARDT: And the audio also indicates he's already moving on. He's moving on to President Biden who is about to be inaugurated. He says in the audio he hopes for a smooth transition of power to President Biden.

So, is there any sense of any blowback from all of these recordings? ZANONA: Well, the Biden piece is interesting. You get the sense

McCarthy almost feels the responsibility to make it right. And he's figuring out ways to help Biden, which I'm sure Republicans are not going to love to hear.

But you have to remember in those moments, a lot of Republicans privately felt the exact same way Kevin McCarthy do and that's why you're not seeing the political blowback that I think some people expected initially from these audiotapes.

MARQUARDT: And yet we now see Mitt Romney saying he's going to be the presumptive nominee.

ZANONA: Right.

MARQUARDT: All right. Melanie Zanona, thanks so much.

All right. Well, could the attack on comedian Dave Chappelle bring changes to the world of comedy? One star is saying it is the beginning of the end of comedy.

Plus --


AMBER HEARD, ACTRESS: I just laughed because I thought he was joking, and he slapped me across the face.


KEILAR: Amber Heard on the stand, claiming her former husband Johnny Depp physically and sexually abused her, her emotional testimony ahead.



MARQUARDT: More emotional testimony is expected today when actress Amber Heard returns to the stand in Fairfax County, Virginia, defending herself in a $50 million defamation suit from ex-husband actor Johnny Depp.

Now, Depp filed the suit over a "Washington Post" opinion piece that Amber Heard wrote where she claimed to be a public figure of domestic violence. Now, Depp is not named in that op-ed by Heard, but Deep claims that he lost key movie roles after its publication.

Here is CNN's Chloe Melas on this dramatic day in court.


AMBER HEARD, ACTRESS AND EX-WIFE OF JOHNNY DEPP: This is the most painful and difficult thing I've ever gone through.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (voice-over): Johnny Depp's defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard continued for a 14th day with Heard taking the stand.

Heard's team began its defense Tuesday with a forensic psychology who testified that she diagnosed Heard with posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of intimate partner violence from Depp.

HEARD: I fell head over heels in love with this man.

MELAS: Heard testified before a courtroom packed with Depp's fans. She chronicled her relationship with Depp, which she testified started in 2011 on the media tour for the film "The Rum Diary."

She recalled the secretive, warm glow in the beginning of their relationship that they kept hidden from the public.

HEARD: When I was around Johnny, I felt like the most beautiful person in the world.

MELAS: She says the relationship took a turn when Depp struck her after she asked him about one of his tattoos. Depp denies ever striking Heard and alleges she abused him.

HEARD: I just stared at him, kind of laughing still, thinking that he was going to start laughing too to tell me it was a joke. But he didn't. He said, you think it's so funny. You think it's funny. You think you're a funny (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And he slapped me again. Like, it was clear it wasn't a joke anymore.

I didn't want to leave him. I didn't want this be the reality. I didn't want to have the man I was in love with.

I know you don't come back from that. You know, I'm not dumb. I -- I know you can't hit a woman. I mean, you can't hit a man.

You can't hit anyone. You can't just hit somebody because they -- I knew there was no -- I knew it was wrong and I knew that I had to leave him. And that broke my heart because I didn't want to leave him.

MELAS: Heard told the court that Depp apologized for the incident. But by March 2013, the abuse was escalating. She sent a picture of a bruise on her arm to her mother that she says she sustained from an argument with the actor.

HEARD: He grabbed me by the arm and he kind of just held me on the floor screaming at me. I don't know how many times he hit me in the face, but. I remember being on the floor in my apartment. And I'm just -- I remember thinking, how could this happen to me again.

MELAS: Heard shared pictures of drugs that she says Depp abused one night before he allegedly held his small dog out the window of a moving vehicle.

HEARD: Everyone in the car, I'll never forget it, everyone just froze. No one did anything.

MELAS: In May 2013, during a trip to the desert where she testifying both took drugs, Heard says Depp accused her of hiding his cocaine. She alleges that he began ripping her dress off and proceeded to conduct what she called a cavity search.

HEARD: He starts, you know, pat -- what feels like patting me down or saying he's patting me down. I can't recall. But he ripped my dress. The strap -- top part of my dress. And he's like grabbing my breast, he's touching my thighs. He rips my underwear off.