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Russia Appears to Blow Up Own Bridges During Kharkiv Retreat; January 6th Panel Subpoenas GOP Colleagues; White House Struggles for Answers on Baby Formula Shortage CNN's David Culver Makes First Trip Out of China in 2.5 Years. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 13, 2022 - 06:00 ET
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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, May 13. I'm John Berman. Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, in for Brianna this morning.
And we do have brand-new information about a notable Russian retreat this morning. So after the failed advance on the capital of Kyiv, Ukraine's largest city, Russia is now pulling back from Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, here in the Northeast.
We have new analysis of key satellite images that really tells the story here. Take a look at this, if you will. You can see here pictures. These are two of three bridges destroyed around Kharkiv right now.
It's believed that the Russians -- it was the Russians who blew up these bridges to hold off advancing Ukrainian troops. Ukraine has been making steady gains there.
So Russia trying to do this to keep, basically, the Ukrainian forces from pursuing them on their tails.
Now, again, I can show you on the map where this is. It's around Kharkiv here. It's a bit of a different story elsewhere in the country.
As you move East to the Donbas region here, Russia has made some key gains. Success in the city of Rubizhne, Ukrainians reporting that they have more or less been forced from the city. They've lost a key foothold there.
It's right in the Luhansk region. There's been intense fighting in the city's industrial outskirts. Now Russia appears to be in control.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: And on Snake Island, which you'll remember for that defiant stand made by the Ukrainian forces at the start of the invasion, there's new video of a Russian helicopter being destroyed by Ukrainian missile strike.
Ukraine says its forces have destroyed multiple Russian assets on the the island in recent weeks and that a Russian support ship that is named for a famous Soviet athlete is on fire and being towed away from the island, a claim that we should note CNN has not been able to verify.
BERMAN: Joining me now is retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons. I want to start with what's happening in Kharkiv here.
You can see in the yellow there, that's the area where the Ukrainians have regained some territory. You push in here, it looks a little bigger. Explain to me the keys here of this Russian retreat.
MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: OK. So what's happened is Russia recognizes it failed around Kharkiv. And outside of artillery range right now, they're now going to reposition most of these forces down in this area here.
So before they were looking to have two avenues of approach, down to that salient that exists down in the Donbas region, and then eventually they have to get to Kramatorsk, because that's where the infrastructure is. That's where the lines of communications are. All those things are in there.
So instead, they're going to negate this complete access here. They're going to focus all their combat power now right here. What it's going to do is allow the Ukraine military to do the same, adjust. They're now going to reposition most of their forces down here. You're going to see a very big battle, I think, ensue down in this region (ph).
BERMAN: Before we go, push into that area there. I just want to talk about a bigger picture here. The Russians made a big play from the capital of Kyiv, the largest city in Ukraine. They made a big play for Kharkiv, the second-largest city. They thought this city would fall right away. The Russians have failed on both counts. What does that tell you?
LYONS: Yes. Accumulated in both spots, and they're at least learning. They're trying to adjust. But it just goes to show, they don't have enough troops. The Ukraine military has performed superbly. The 21st Century tactics and technology is beating the World War II tactics and technology, and that's really what's happening every day.
BERMAN: You look, though, in Donbas. And we were talking about Rubizhne. This is the city that there's been a lot of fighting, and Ukrainians now report they've lost a key foothold there.
Is it possible that the Russians are sort of, with this slow creep, beginning to take over the territory they want.
LYONS: I think the Ukraine military is looking at this as possibly losing a battle but winning the war. So they might lose certain areas and certain cities in that regard, but if they can reinforce now behind it, OK, and perform a static defense, bring that equipment in from the West, the artillery.
The artillery's proving critical every single day. That's what their mindset is, and I'm sure that's what we're telling them they have to look at this.
BERMAN: Now, we look at the big geopolitical moves that have happened in the last few days, Finland, the leaders of Finland saying they want to join NATO without delay. Sweden also.
So what happens then? If Finland and Sweden are in NATO and Russia already saying they're not going to take this lying down?
LYONS: Well, that gives them Article V protection. It will take a while for that to happen. Both of those countries are additive to NATO right now. Thirty member countries. Both of those countries would add significant impact to NATO.
I've never been one to add some of these countries that we've added. Unfortunately, in the past, only 22 out of the 30 NATO nations actually spend the 2 percent of their GDPs. So NATO has had problems. This is one of Vladimir Putin's miscalculations.
You didn't think NATO was going to get its stuff together in order to respond the way it has. But in this case it's different. Finland with 5 million people, terrific military, no border disputes, a democracy. They would be in NATO tomorrow and be additive.
BERMAN: Don't sleep on Finland. Finland has got a well-trained military that knows -- that knows how to fight.
If we can, I want to go back to Ukraine for a second and talk about what's been happening in the Black Sea, these battles that have been going on around Snake Island, which is right there. What's the significance of that?
LYONS: So Russian Black Sea fleet about 40 combat vehicles and ships. They clearly have control over that area there. There's international waters there. NATO ships can go there, as well.
But there's a fight that's going to come here on the Black Sea. And what the Ukraine military is going to do is the same thing that they're doing on land here. They're going to use drones, Harpoon missiles coming from Britain.
And what they're going to end up doing is trying to fight a naval battle without a navy. It's unbelievable when you think about it.
But the coastal defenses that they have are up to speed: 21st Century versus World War II. The Russian Black Sea fleet is going to be in for a fight.
BERMAN: That's really interesting right now, in this day and age, fighting a naval battle without a navy.
Major Mike Lyons, great to have you here. Thank you -- Kaitlan.
COLLINS: And meanwhile, back here in Washington, the House committee that's investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol has gone where few congressional investigations have gone before, issuing subpoenas to sitting lawmakers, including GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who so far have not cooperated with the investigation.
CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now.
And so Melanie, this came out yesterday. It was a pretty big surprise, because we knew the committee had been deliberating over how to handle this. So what ultimately brought them to this decision to go after sitting lawmakers?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right; this was a political earthquake on Capitol Hill yesterday. It was an unprecedented move to see them subpoena members of Congress in a non- ethics-related case, and that is why they have wrestled so much with this decision.
But look, January 6, that was unprecedented, including these members' potential involvement in that effort to overturn the election and committee members felt like, ultimately, these specific members had information that no one else could provide.
Kevin McCarthy, for example, told Republicans privately that Donald Trump had actually admitted some responsibility for the attack, and it's obviously very different than what we heard publicly.
But, look, none of them have said whether they would comply yet with the subpoenas. I think they have offered some hints. They've called this a witch-hunt, illegitimate.
Let me read you what Kevin McCarthy told us yesterday. I think it's pretty telling. He said, "My view on the committee has not changed. They're not conducting a legitimate investigation. They just want to go after their political opponents."
So it seems pretty unlikely that they're going to comply, and the question then becomes how does the committee enforce these subpoenas? They could refer it to the DOJ for a criminal referral. They could make a referral to the Ethics Committee which doesn't have a lot of teeth, but so far the committee is keeping a tight lip about what the next steps are.
COLLINS: Yes. That seems like it would take some time to have that fight. We're just six months out from the midterm election, so that obviously is a factor here.
But that definitely does not sound like a statement of someone who is going to cooperate with this investigation if he's saying it's illegitimate.
COLLINS: Melanie, thank you for breaking it all down for us this morning.
BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman.
Maggie, great to have you.
Melanie and Kaitlan were just talking about whether or not these five members will actually testify under oath. We'll see. There really isn't any question, though, when you look at this group of Republican members of Congress, they have a story to tell about that day.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They definitely have a story to tell about that day and in some cases I think the committee thinks before that day.
Kevin McCarthy has a story to tell about being on the phone with Donald Trump as the rioters were breaking into his office, which we know took place.
Kevin McCarthy also clearly has a story to tell about the reaction of leadership after that happened and how he viewed it. And some of that he made public, but a lot he did not.
Jim Jordan was on the phone with Donald Trump repeatedly. Mo Brooks has publicly said that, basically, Trump was -- you know, I forget the exact language, but essentially, that Trump wanted him to keep questioning the election in exchange for his endorsement.
BERMAN: I think "rescind the election" was the language there.
HABERMAN: So I think that whether he has specifics about the actual events of that day, he certainly would be able to cast some light on what was being said in the lead up to January 6. So all of these people have something to say. The question is whether they're going to comply with these subpoenas.
COLLINS: And Maggie, it seems pretty unlikely they're not going to comply. And so I guess what's the thinking that you are -- your assessment is on the timing here, given there's only six months until the midterm elections.
The conventional wisdom is that, if the Republicans do take over the majority, they're going to basically get rid of this committee and disband this investigation. So I wonder what the timing of this says.
HABERMAN: I think that basically, Kaitlan, they are at the end of their fact-finding stage. We know that they're going to do public hearings at the beginning of next month.
I think that they feel like, you know, if they don't do this now, then they don't do it at all. And I think that they have recognized that, you know, there's in this push/pull with this committee. And we've seen it multiple times about, you know, whether they risk looking political if they take certain actions.
This was something that they did not do lightly. This is a big step for them to take. I think they recognize it's not likely they're going to get testimony, but I think they did want to have on record that they tried. And I think they want to be able to point to that absence, especially because, as you note, it is very likely this committee goes away at the end of this year, if Republicans take the House back. BERMAN: Yes. That's why I started with the idea of what they actually
know or the fact that they know something here. Because look, the process is what the process is.
And it seems unlikely that they will testify, but we know. We know that they have information that would paint a fuller picture of what happened that day. And they are choosing not to tell this committee and the American people what they do know. I think we just have to stipulate that.
Maggie, you broke some important news yesterday about a separate investigation that we now know, based on your reporting, to break it. There's a grand jury issuing subpoenas in regards to White House records taken by Donald Trump.
HABERMAN: That's right. So 15 boxes of records were taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago when President Trump -- former President Trump left office.
Those boxes were the subject of a huge dispute between the National Archives and the Trump folks over the course of the year that he was out -- first year he was out of office.
The Archives got them back, but the Justice Department has issued subpoenas. There's a federal grand jury subpoena for those documents. So they want to see what information was in them.
And we know that some of those documents were classified. We don't know how many. We don't know exactly what the material looks like.
But this is a significant step forward. They've also interviewed some officials about what took place, how the information got to the residence, how it got out of the residence. And the documents, excuse me, not the information.
Now, whether this leads anywhere, John, I think is a big open question. You know, the precedent so far has been in the case of Hillary Clinton, there were no charges filed. So I think that you're going to hear that a lot from the Trump folks.
But I think you're also going to have a lot of White -- former White House officials getting asked questions about specifically, you know, who knew what. And then the question is how close that gets to the former president.
COLLINS: And Maggie, the former head of the National Archives said that when they saw Trump leaving the White House the day of Biden's inauguration, there were aides carrying these stacks of boxes, these banker boxes. And he said he wondered what the hell was in those boxes I believe was his quote to "The Washington Post."
And so I wonder, what are you hearing from people in the former president's orbit about what they believe happened with these documents, why they took them and what all was included? HABERMAN: There's a lot of speculation right now, Kaitlan. There are not a lot of answers yet. What certainly seems to be clear is that the former president knew through the course of the year, roughly, that he had them, at least, you know, after the spring. It was very apparent to everyone around the former president that he had documents that the National Archives believed he should not have.
Now, I think you're going to hear a lot of arguments about, well, a former president can declassify documents. There is a process for that. You know, there are some people who make the argument that a former president, you know, sort of has a magic power where he can wave his hands and say declassified. That's not an argument that a lot of former White House officials from this White House and previous ones would agree with.
But what -- you know, exactly what these documents are, why they were taken, whether there was some rationale what they wanted to do with them, these are all huge unanswered questions that I think we will learn more about in the coming months.
BERMAN: The words "federal investigation," we now know there is a federal investigation into all this. Maggie Haberman, great to see you. Thank you very much.
All right. Desperation and anger growing across the country with this nationwide shortage of baby formula. How the White House is struggling to respond.
Plus, this morning in Ukraine, the very first war crimes trial since the Russian invasion began. CNN is live outside the courthouse in Kyiv.
KEILAR: And just in this morning, Elon Musk says that his Twitter takeover is on hold. We're going to find out why.
COLLINS: Anxious parents across the United States this morning are still struggling to find baby formula amid a nationwide shortage, at times driving hours to search for supplies.
The White House says it's working to address the problem but noting that there are limits to what it can do when asked which federal agency Americans should be contacting if they can't find any formula.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the administration's guidance on the immediate step they should take? Is there a hotline that they can call? Should they take the baby to the hospital? What should they do?
PSAKI: I would say those are important public health questions, but what I can report on here, what I can convey to all of you is what we're doing to address exactly that concern, which his taking every step we can to ensure there is supply on the store shelves. And we have increased supply over the last four weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House.
And Arlette, what are the steps that the White House says it's taking to try to help alleviate this shortage for parents?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, this is causing anxiety for so many American families. And the White House at this moment is scrambling to find ways to respond.
You heard White House press secretary Jen Psaki there really struggle to offer a clear answer about which federal agency would best answer questions and concerns that parents might have in this moment.
And yesterday President Biden jumped on the phone with manufacturers and retailers like Walmart and Target to talk about the challenges that they're facing.
The White House is also rolling out very limited actions that they are taking in response to this crisis. That includes pushing for states to allow for a wider variety of formulas to be purchased through government nutritional assistance programs.
They're also asking the FTC and states to crack down on possible price gouging, and additionally, the administration is looking for ways to increase the import of formulas from overseas.
The White House says about -- the U.S. uses about 98 percent of the baby formula that they produce here in the country. And in the coming days, the administration is expected to roll out some additional steps they're taking to try to get more of that formula in from overseas.
But when you talk to officials here at the White House, so far they have really declined to offer a timeline for when things will get back to normal, raising so many questions for so many American families who are trying to provide this very basic need for their children.
COLLINS: Absolutely. Huge questions. Arlette, thank you so much.
And later on NEW DAY, we will be joined by the White House economic adviser, Brian Deese, on new steps that the White House is taking, as Arlette just laid out, to try to alleviate this shortage for parents.
Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to Russia is delivering a secret message to his Russian counterparts this week. What did it say? We'll ask him when he's live on NEW DAY, coming up.
BERMAN: And he has been on the front lines of the global COVID crisis, and now, for the first time in two and a half years, CNN's David Culver is out of China and here in person to tell his story. I'm looking at him right now. I can't believe I'm looking at his face.
BERMAN: So this is a big deal. This morning, China now banning citizens from going overseas for nonessential reasons is part of the regime's controversial and not all together successful zero-COVID policy, much of the city of Shanghai still under this chaotic lockdown.
CNN's David Culver has just left China for the first time in two and a half years. He joins me here now. I can't believe I'm looking at your face, David.
You've done remarkable, ground-breaking work in China for the last two and a half years. And now to see you here at this crucial moment for that country.
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's surreal. And what you just mentioned there as far as this -- what we look at as a blocking of Chinese citizens from being able to leave, I mean, they're saying, No, no, no, we're not blocking anyone. We're strictly limiting for the sake of COVID.
We know what this is. And it's very concerning, I think, for a lot of Chinese. And I think for folks outside of China, you have to look at this and say what exactly is going on there in the name of COVID prevention?
Being here, it's surreal, but it's also in many ways, I think, a mix of guilt and gratitude, as you see more and more people are trying to leave what is a locked-down nation.
CULVER (voice-over): Leaving Shanghai today is a one-time, one-way journey. I've not had this much freedom in 50 days.
CULVER: And here we go. Off to the airport.
CULVER (voice-over): Heading out for the first time since mid-March, it all feels so strange.
CULVER: The few people you see out and about, most of them are head to toe in hazmat suits, as you look on the streets the ropes are blocking off a lot of the sidewalks, stores, basically all closed.
CULVER (voice-over): With a government-permitted driver we passed through checkpoints, our documents thoroughly inspected, including a letter from the American embassy.
Many expats like me needing diplomatic letters just to leave our apartments.
Once vibrant and rich with energy, Shanghai was forced into an induced coma. The rolling lockdowns began in mid-March, but by April, this city of more than 25 million people was under strict harsh lockdown. Most of us sealed inside our homes. Community COVID test after test after test, and in between, at-home COVID tests.
CULVER: I've done quite a few of these.
CULVER (voice-over): Early into the lockdown, I packed a go bag for me and for my dog. If I tested positive, I'd likely end up at a government isolation center like this, or worse, like this.
Most of us would prefer just to recover in the privacy of our home, but in China's zero-COVID world, that is not an option.
Shocking scenes of people shouting, "We are starving. We are starving."
Heartbreaking stories of people being rejected medical care, some of them later dying, all because hospital workers feared breaking unforgiving zero-COVID protocols.
Witnessing Shanghai's handling or mishandling reminded me of Wuhan. On January 21, we traveled into the then-epicenter of what was a mystery illness.
CULVER: It's the wildlife and seafood market.
CULVER (voice-over): Still fresh in our minds, the perseverance of those in Wuhan who lived through the original lockdown, some losing loved ones to COVID early on.
CULVER: Let's give him a second.
CULVER (voice-over): They risked their freedom to share with us their pain-filled stories, furious with their government for not doing more to stop the initial spread.
Chinese officials maintain they were transparent from the start. And in recent days, President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed and praised his country's zero-COVID efforts, vowing to fight any doubters and critics.
Over the past two years, we've lived through China's military-like mobilization: rapidly building hospitals; mastering mass testing of tens of millions at one time; designing a sophisticated contact tracing system; essentially sealing off their borders to the outside world.
CULVER: Mic check one, two three.
CULVER (voice-over): Wanting to keep on the story, I've not left China since 2019, making this departure a long overdue homecoming visit.
Shanghai's Pudong International Airport, once among the busiest in the world, is now a lonely experience. On the departures board, only two international flights slated to leave on this day.
On the floor, sleeping bags and trash where stranded travelers have camped out. They wait here for days or weeks for a flight out.
Outside on the tarmac, strict COVID protocols and sanitation in place. Ground crews spraying each other with disinfectant.
Boarding the near empty plane, it finally starts to feel real.
CULVER: About to take off.
CULVER (voice-over): The disorder, despair, the chaos, the anger, the exhaustion, all of it feels so distant now. With a sigh of relief and a bit of survivor's guilt, leaving behind a country amidst almost unprecedented changes, I wonder if China's tightening COVID restrictions, coupled with rising tensions with the West, will keep its shuttered doors from ever reopening.
CULVER: There was a moment on that flight, John, where I overheard the flight attendants, the Dutch flight attendants speaking to one of the other ex-pats who was on board, saying what you've been through, it's been traumatic. We're here. Welcome home. Welcome out.