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U.S. Provided Intel that Helped Ukraine Target Russian Warship; Officials Warn of Potential Violence in D.C., Nationwide Over Roe; Former Defense Secretary: Trump Wanted to Fire Missiles at Mexican Drug Labs; Alito & Roberts: The Different Paths of Bush's 2 Supreme Court Picks. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 06, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Friday, May 6, and I'm Brianna Keilar with Alex Marquardt.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Great to be back with you.
KEILAR: Great to have you on this Friday. John Berman is off.
And we're beginning with growing questions this morning about what role, if any, the United States played in a major blow to the Russian military. Sources tell CNN that the U.S. provided intel that helped doom Russia's flagship in the Black Sea, the Moskva. This sank, of course, after Ukrainian forces hit it with two cruise missiles last month.
But the Pentagon is pushing back on that story. Overnight, defense officials denied giving Ukraine any targeting information about the ship, and they said that they were not involved with the Ukrainians' decision to carry out the strike.
So how will Russia respond to all of this? We'll ask Pentagon press secretary John Kirby when he joins us live.
MARQUARDT: And in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol this morning --
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MARQUARDT: That is Russian shelling of the Azovstal Steel plant. That is not stopping, according to witnesses. It is believed that about 200 civilians are still sheltering there at the plant. Women, children, wounded soldiers.
At this moment the next stage of evacuations, we are told, are underway. The United Nations is hoping that a joint effort with the International Red Cross would be able to get more people out of that plant today.
A medic on the inside says that people are dying in agony from bullets, hunger and a lack of medicine.
Now elsewhere in Eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon is saying the Russian forces have made some small progress in parts of the Eastern Donbas region, but clearly not as much as the Kremlin expected and hoped by this stage.
KEILAR: Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier and retired U.S. -- or pardon me, former U.S. Special Forces -- U.S. Special Forces operator Mark Hayward. He actually just returned home after volunteering with the Ukrainian armed forces since nearly the beginning of the war. A lot of interesting stuff, Mark, that you have to share with us here.
But first, I want to talk about these reports. New CNN reporting the U.S. intel provided Ukrainian forces -- and I'm being careful about the wording here -- with Russian warship Moskva's location before Ukraine was successfully able to target it with antiship missiles. What are your sources telling you, Kim?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, we're getting a lot of push-back on the specificity, but I did talk to a senior U.S. official who said from the beginning of the war, they've been trying to provide the Ukrainian forces as much intelligence as those troops needed to accurately target, but also to survive the Russian onslaught.
The sensitivity to these reports that they were providing specific targeting information, especially for Russian generals, but also for the crown of the Russian navy, the Moskva, is that it makes it more personal between the U.S. and Russia right ahead of the May 9th Victory Day parade in Russia, when we're expecting Vladimir Putin to make some sort of an announcement.
And the fear is that he might announce an actual full-scale war and conscription. These kind of reports can help fuel the drive to do that and create a wider war, because Putin will say, Look, we're not just fighting Ukraine. We're fighting the U.S. through the proxy forces of Ukraine. And that's why all of Russia is needed in this fight. The U.S. doesn't want to see that.
MARQUARDT: Mark, you've spent a lot of time on the ground. You just got back from Ukraine. You've been working alongside these Ukrainian forces. What is your understanding about the specificity of the U.S. intelligence that we are offering to the Ukrainian forces on the ground? You're seeing a lot of back and forth now. It's such an extremely nuanced issue.
MARK HAYWARD, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL FORCES OPERATOR WHO FOUGHT ALONGSIDE UKRAINIAN MILITARY: I have no direct information about specificity of target information that's given to Ukraine. What I will say is that the Ukrainians are very grateful for whatever information we can give them to help them protect their people and fight the invasion.
And I personally hope that we are giving every scrap of information that we have. When the Moskva sank, the Russian navy pushed back 200 kilometers from shore.
The maritime assault on Odessa, which was a very real thing, is not going to happen now, because the Moskva is at the bottom of the ocean. If we played a part in that, good for us.
KEILAR: There are some very interesting things here on our set that I want to point out to our viewers and talk about. Because one of the things that you are working on with Ukrainians was training them on the use of Javelins, and it turned out there weren't batteries.
So this actually sits in for us. Explain to us what this does and how this charges a Javelin.
HAYWARD: What we're not seeing here are four ordinary motorcycle batteries. They would be attached to this end.
The brain of the Javelin missile system, the command launch unit, is supposed to be powered by a very nice, non-rechargeable paired 12-volt battery system. That small green battery delivers enough power to run the CLU for four hours or to launch two to four missiles using that command launch unit.
When we got in country, the marine units that we were working with had one -- count it, one -- green battery with a CLU and three missiles. That meant they could maybe use that for four hours, or they could fire their missiles. They could never turn the CLU on to train with it.
We had to get them some way to power up the CLU, and we were not able anywhere in country to find more batteries. So we built this piece of second-grade work. This is my handywork. And connected this to motorcycle batteries and ran some tests. And it looked like it worked.
So Ukrainian engineers then took the design, and they built this, and it looked like it would work. So then they took their own design and made it better and used a 3-D printer and made it rust and infantry (ph) resistant so there's only one way to put it together, so you can't accidentally electrocute the CLU.
And we crossed our fingers and took a $100,000 piece of equipment that the U.S. had shipped over, and we plugged in this jury-rigged battery system to it. And it didn't blow up.
And then we had the ability to turn on the CLU for training, to run it for eight to ten hours as a stand-alone thermal night sight. And within 96 hours of us prototyping this first battery, units that had been keeping their CLUs and missiles in storage were out hunting tanks. They killed the first T-72 ninety-six hours after we prototyped this battery. DOZIER: Now, I've been hearing about the creativity of Ukrainian
forces from various NATO commanders. I didn't think I was going to get to see it right here in Washington, D.C.
MARQUARDT: Kim, the Javelin is the most famous weapon that the U.S. has been sending to Ukraine to take out armored vehicles, to take out these tanks. The Biden administration and the Pentagon have consistently talked up about how much they are sending over there the billions and billions of dollars of U.S. equipment.
But what does it tell us when you see this setup that Mark and Ukrainian forces have had to jury-rig in order to get those Javelins to work?
DOZIER: It tells us that Pentagon officials, Western officials have good communication, perhaps, with the headquarters in Ukraine about what's needed.
But this is down to the troops on the ground, and so what Mark is bringing us is word of of what they actually need and are running out of.
And what they need fast to make them more lethal, because we've got this race of Russian forces trying to encircle the 40,000 Ukrainian troops in Eastern Ukraine and also the troops that are defending Odessa near the coast. There's this race to get the Ukrainian more weapons versus the Russians making time.
KEILAR: So this is beautiful, Mark. Amazing ingenuity. But they need actual batteries. What else do they need?
HAYWARD: What they need are a functional logistics system that delivers the supplies that are sent to the right units in the right way. That's not something an army can grow overnight.
We could send -- shoot, we could send a regional manager from Amazon to help them set up a logistics system.
What they also need are trainers who are embedded with these troops. We do this with other countries all over the world in some hazardous places. We send mobile training teams to help them.
That is a classic Special Forces mission. But you don't have to spend [SIC] -- send Special Forces, guys. You can send anybody with the ability to advise, train and equip. But they have to be in there working with the troops.
Otherwise, this information gets missed. It's not that anybody is doing the wrong thing. You just don't know unless you're there.
MARQUARDT: Go ahead.
DOZIER: I was going to say, but of course, that means putting U.S. boots on the ground, which can escalate the war, again, with Russia. And the U.S. is trying to walk this fine line of saying, This is not about us against Russia; it's about us helping Ukraine resist Russia. MARQUARDT: I was going to say, the Biden administration has made very
clear they do not want U.S. forces on the ground during this conflict. And of course, the Biden administration also now pushing for $33 billion more dollars of military aid from Congress to help Ukrainian troops get -- get what they need for this next phase of the fight.
Kim Dozier, Mark Hayward, we've got to leave it there. Thank you so much for coming in this morning.
KEILAR: Can I ask you, though, what do you say to that when you say no U.S. troops on the ground?
HAYWARD: If we ever meant it when we said "never again," this is the time for us to mean it. And when we say red lines, what we're saying is there's levels of risk. We have to decide how much risk is acceptable.
There's two wars in Ukraine. There's the one of the two militaries, but there's the one against the Ukrainian civilians, who are surrounded by the Russians. You've seen this. You've reported on this. CNN's reporters have showed the world the fact that war crimes are Russian policy.
I know that we want to reduce risk, but we can never eliminate risk, and we have to choose which risk we're willing to accept, sending U.S. trainers to work with units in Ukraine is an acceptable risk. And it is necessary if we want to be able to look at our kids and look at ourselves in the mirror. That's what I would say.
KEILAR: Mark -- Mark, Kim, thank you so much to both of you.
MARQUARDT: Thank you both.
All right. Well, back here in the United States, law enforcement is on high alert here in the nation's capital in Washington and all across the country for potential violence that could follow the release of the Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe v. Wade.
Now, this comes after far-right calls for violence against groups that are planning a protest in favor of abortion rights.
CNN's Whitney Wild is live outside the Supreme Court with the latest. Right behind you there, Whitney, we see that new fencing that has just gone up. I believe it's the first time since the inauguration last year when we were expecting violence around that, possibly.
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this eight-foot non-scalable fence has certainly become, really, the reaction from law enforcement within Washington whenever there is the potential that some of these protests might erupt.
And certainly, we're seeing this here at the Supreme Court. It is the physical example that law enforcement here is very much on high alert. And it's not just this non-scalable fence behind me. It is also these concrete barriers that went up Thursday night.
So certainly, again, law enforcement here bracing for the potential that some of these protests could erupt in violence.
And Alex, that warning not just here in Washington, D.C., but throughout the country. Just yesterday, officials from the National Fusion Center Association hosted a call with about 150 participants all across the country to warn that there were protests throughout the country that resulted, in some cases, in physical confrontations.
They also warned their state and local partners that there could be further demonstrations and then finally warned that there's been this uptick in social media chatter, threats related to this abortion ruling.
Multiple sources have told CNN that the reality here is violent extremists could use this Roe v. Wade opinion as a justification to commit acts of violence against federal officials, against members of the judiciary, against abortion clinics, against judiciary staff, and that includes the nine justices.
So certainly, the law enforcement response extremely proactive. And you cannot extract the impact of January 6th on that decision, and here's why.
January 6th proved that social media chatter can manifest into a real attack. And so officials I spoke with said that even local law enforcement across the country understands that reality. They're taking a much more proactive approach.
Here in Washington, the Metropolitan Police Department activating its civil disturbance unit, those off the riot cops activating that specialized unit through Sunday, Alex.
MARQUARDT: That's an excellent point, Whitney. So much was missed on social media in the lead-up to the insurrection on January 6th. Whitney Wild, at the Supreme Court, thank you very much.
Now, supreme differences. It used to be hard to tell where Chief Justice John Roberts ended and Justice Samuel Alito began. But the leaked Roe v. Wade draft opinion exposed how far apart these two justices are now.
KEILAR: Also ahead, startling revelations from the former defense secretary, Mark Esper, writing what Donald Trump wanted to do about drug labs in Mexico. And it involved Patriot missiles.
MARQUARDT: And explaining why one Trump adviser in particular was a dangerous influence. We'll be right back.
MARQUARDT: New this morning, there's stunning revelations from former defense secretary, Mark Esper. He's just written a new book and in it, he details that former President Donald Trump floated launching missiles at Mexico in order to, as Esper writes, "destroy the drug labs."
An excerpt published in "The New York Times" reads, quote, "They don't have control of their own country," Mr. Esper recounts Mr. Trump saying.
When Mr. Trump raised various objections, Mr. Trump said that, quote, "We could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs quietly," adding that "no one would know it was us."
Joining us now is CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman.
Maggie, you know, with every new book, we keep asking ourselves, how can we keep learning these new, you know, just incredible stories? And now we have, as you noted in your article, the last Senate-confirmed defense secretary, who was with President Trump almost until the end of his presidency.
Recounting this story about bombing Mexico. And I guess the craziest thing in that -- in that episode is that he thought he could get away with it, that Mexico wouldn't know where these Patriot missiles were coming from.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, look, there was a concern about the flow of drugs coming over the Southern border. There were all these conversations around it in the course of the summer of 2020.
The former president was very concerned about it. And there were looks at what could be done. One thing that the former president discussed with Esper, at least twice, was could we fire missiles into Mexico, destroy the drug labs, take out the cartels? Esper raised all kinds of objections. And Trump continued with it, then suggested Patriot missiles, which wouldn't even work in that scenario, and then said, you know, essentially, We could just not say it was us, and nobody would know.
And Esper writes that he would have thought it was a joke if he was not staring Trump in the face.
You know, look, as we know, the former president likes to -- likes to pop off, likes to say things. Oftentimes those things don't matter, but the words of a president do matter. And, you know, Donald Trump was very expert at sort of floating something and asking it repeatedly until he arrived at direct and order.
That obviously didn't happen here, but it is one of several revelations that Esper writes about that just painted a much fuller picture of this presidency.
KEILAR: Trump did deploy troops to the U.S./Mexico border, which was nuts, because legally, they really couldn't do anything there. Nonetheless, the actual plan is even more nuts. This is Esper describing what the plan was for troops at the border. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who suggested that we send a quarter million U.S. troops to the border?
MARK ESPER, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Stephen Miller. And I think he's joking. And then I turn around, and I look at him. And these -- and these deadpan eyes, it's clear that he is not joking. And I told this story to General Milley and my chief of staff. I said, "Let's be safe. Let's just check and make sure that this isn't being worked somewhere in the building."
And Milley comes back days later, and he says something like, Secretary, you're not going believe this." And that's when he explains
to me that, yes, they were working, that we had developed a plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whatever happened to that plan?
ESPER: It died. I gave General Milley specific instruction to tell NORTHCOM, Northern Command, to stop working on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: They were working it without the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs knowing about it, Maggie?
HABERMAN: It's -- that, I think, is one of of the most revealing parts of that whole episode, Brianna. Certainly, the number of troops that Stephen Miller wanted deployed is -- is notable.
My colleagues at "The Times" actually reported on that episode last year. But the fact that this was going on around the defense secretary's back, this kind of thing happened a lot. Not just, you know, with DOD, but it happened with a number of agencies, where the White House would direct some parallel process or some side endeavor to have something happen, and then secretaries would find out about it.
You know, this was a constant complaint through this White House. But involving troops is something very different.
MARQUARDT: There's another episode involving Stephen Miller, Maggie. Really outrageous suggestion that it was fairly medieval, involving Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the former head of ISIS, who was taken out by U.S. Special Forces.
What -- what was Miller proposing, and where did that suggestion go?
HABERMAN: According to Esper, Miller at some point in the hours after they had watched this -- this raid that ended up leading to Al- Baghdadi's death suggested somehow locating his head, dipping it in pigs blood and parading it around as a deterrent to terrorists. Stephen Miller -- the idea went nowhere. It was something that Stephen Miller said. Esper writes that he says that it was a war crime. Or I should say Esper said Miller said it. Miller denied to me that he
had said it and then described Esper as a, quote unquote, "moron." Nonetheless, Esper lays out this pretty detailed accounting in his book.
KEILAR: Yes, I mean Esper seems more credible in that, I will say, if you had to choose who is more credible in this description. Esper also, Maggie, was worried that Trump was going to use the military to seize ballot boxes, to interfere in the election, right?
HABERMAN: Well, what Esper was concerned about was he was hearing some speculation and reports, mostly media driven, but that there was uncertainty about what Trump might do with the military.
You know, there was concern, not really so much driven by Esper but driven by others, that the ballot boxes might get seized, somehow using the military.
Esper told his -- his top officials to be on alert in the lead-up to election day to any strange phone calls from the White House, to any bizarre requests, any -- any, you know, inappropriate or odd use of the Defense Department.
And that really speaks to what a charged climate the country was heading into the election with, because of what Trump was saying about fraud.
KEILAR: Look, it's fascinating revelations -- your story about the revelations fascinating, as well. Maggie, thank you so much for discussing it with us.
HABERMAN: Thank you.
KEILAR: They used to almost share one legal mind, but now Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito look to be on different paths. We're going to look at that, next.
MARQUARDT: And later in the show, the frantic hunt for a dangerous murder suspect and the officer who allegedly helped him escape. Authorities are hoping that some new images of how they might look now will help them find them. That's coming up.
KEILAR: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito were once so aligned that their records were really hard to distinguish. Not now, though. They really represent the stark divide that has formed in the highest court in the United States. So how did it end up like this?
Let's bring in Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
Jeffrey, you said Roberts is conservative like Alito, but an institutionalist. So what does that mean in terms of how he makes decisions on the law, and how is it different from Alito, who you say is a culture warrior?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Brianna, they are so similar in many respects. You know, they were both appointed by George W. Bush in the very beginning of his second term in -- in 2005.
But in recent years, they have taken different directions. And as you mentioned, there is a difference of personality. You know, Chief Justice Roberts, his title is not chief justice of the Supreme Court. It's chief justice of the United States. And he takes that seriously.
He is someone who speaks for the whole country, speaks for the entire judiciary, and is someone who tries to stay away from the most hot- button issues.
Not so Samuel Alito. Samuel Alito gives speeches to the Federalist Society, talks about the culture wars in the country. And even though their voting records have been similar for much of their tenure, that's changing in recent years.
Look at this list of subjects on which they have differed. Obamacare, everybody -- many people, I'm sure, remember how John Roberts, at the last minute, switched his vote and upheld Obamacare in the beginning of President Obama's second term.
And abortion. This is, of course, what we're thinking about now because of the draft opinion from Justice Alito on striking down Roe v. Wade.
John Roberts was trying to find a middle ground, apparently, upholding.