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Mixed Results For Trump-Backed Candidates In GOP Primaries; Russia: Nearly 1,000 Ukrainians Have Surrendered At Steel Plant; Online Breast Milk Swaps On The Rise As Shortage Drags On. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 05:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: But I think that raises a question because that is the conventional wisdom I think. We even heard from David Urban last night who, of course, is a Republican adviser, saying that he thinks that Josh Shapiro will be able to crush Mastriano.

But it does raise the question of if he doesn't and then Mastriano is someone who does become governor of Pennsylvania -- and as Will was just noting -- that then gives him the power to pick the secretary of state -- to appoint the secretary of state. It's an incredibly powerful position when it comes to presidential elections and the role that he plays in Pennsylvania which, of course, has been so critical to so many of these elections.

FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN (via Skype): Oh, I think it would be a disaster to have that guy as governor. Continue this election challenge narrative and it's -- we need to put it past us and move on in this country.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think last night and this morning -- because it's not over yet -- tells us about the power of Donald Trump going forward? In the Senate race there you have Mehmet Oz leading, albeit by about 2,600 votes right now. He was the Trump- endorsed candidate. So not a huge edge for him.

North Carolina -- Madison Cawthorn, who was at least backed by Donald Trump -- he went down.

So do you have a sense of possible limitations for Donald Trump?

ROONEY: Yes. I think it's kind of a mixed bag. I mean, I don't think he did all that great when you -- when you look at the loss of -- well, Cawthorn was going to -- he is kind of a different case but Trump did back him and that was a loss.

But in Idaho, Brad Little, for the governor's race, took the one that Trump was for.

I think the McCormick and Oz thing is still to be determined, you know. That there's still a poll out there that says 60% of Republicans and identifying Independents who vote Republican support Trump's people.

So I don't know. I think the one in Ohio was probably more disturbing than any of these, quite frankly.

COLLINS: Well -- and Francis, that's what stands out really to me, as someone who covered Trump, about the McCormick race and with Oz and how close this is, is not only did Trump endorse Oz and campaign on his behalf, he really attacked David McCormick --


COLLINS: -- going after him repeatedly when he was there in Pennsylvania, framing him as pro-China and saying that he was not someone that voters could count on. He didn't just endorse Oz. He went on the offensive against David McCormick.

But voters there -- of course, given how close this is, I wonder what it says to you, given those attacks from Trump, that the race is this close?

ROONEY: Well, yes. I think -- I think that McCormick doing this well shows a vulnerability of Trump after he went -- he was so aggressive. Although McCormick has got his own baggage. I mean, China's not a real happy word in the United States right now and I continue to hear that.

But I think it shows some vulnerability of Trump. I mean, he didn't do all that great. He didn't do well in Nebraska. He's got this crazy guy now in Pennsylvania that's not going to win. I can't imagine how that guy would win. And it's going to continue to stir up his base but it's going to narrow it.

And it's also a mixed bag on the Democrats. They've got their version of Trump out there on the left, like Fetterman.

So -- I saw an article the other day that we really have four parties. We really have Trump's party, moderate Republican Party, moderate Democrat Party, and then the wildly liberal progressive party, and it's a real contest to who is going to win. But everything seems to be moving away from the middle.

I certainly hope my friend Henry Cuellar prevails in south Texas. He's a moderate that AOC's group has targeted.

BERMAN: Francis Rooney, enjoy the sunrise in Naples. Thank you for being with us this morning.

ROONEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, the Russian military sending attack helicopters to try and encircle and capture key towns in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. We are live.

COLLINS: And the strongest sign yet that Putin's war is backfiring on him. Finland and Sweden have officially handed in their applications to join the military alliance known as NATO. And, of course, that is raising massive questions about how the Kremlin will respond. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COLLINS: After weeks of desperate resistance, Russia's Defense Ministry says that nearly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered as the -- at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol since Monday, though we should note CNN has been unable to confirm the Russian tally.

It does comes as Russia seems poised to take control of Mariupol despite the fact that there are still major questions being raised about their overall strategy now that Ukraine says Russia is deploying combat helicopters to reinforce its offensive.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux who is live for us in Lviv. Suzanne, what's the latest?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, those are dramatically different numbers from the Russian Defense Ministry -- numbers that you said, of course, that the Ukrainian officials cannot confirm nor can CNN independently confirm. But it does raise those numbers quite a bit.

Out of the thousand or so, the Russians saying 80 are wounded. Fifty- one or so have been taken to a regional hospital in Russian-controlled territory. That's about right with what the Ukrainians are looking at as well.


There's a lot of concern from family members and fellow Ukrainians what happens to those soldiers. They're sitting in a Russian prison in -- pretty close to the front lines. And there will be some sort of swap -- some sort of exchange with the most severely wounded. And there is a process.

President Zelenskyy trying to reassure the Ukrainian people that the Ukrainian officials, intelligence, as well as security and international mediators are involved in some way trying to figure out -- sort of what happens to those servicemen and women who are now in Russian hands. But their fate is still unknown at this time.

And Kaitlan, you also mentioned an area that everyone is watching here. That is to the east -- the Donetsk region. The Russians control about 90% of that. And what they are trying to do now is simply break through the other 10% -- break through the Ukrainian defense line.

So we have seen an escalation in air power and if they are successful, they will be able to essentially trap, from three different directions, the Ukrainian defense forces. That is what they're trying to accomplish in the days ahead, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see if they're successful in those efforts.

Suzanne, of course, so many questions about those Ukrainian forces who have put up such a fierce resistance inside this steel plant. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: I want to bring in CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, Cedric Leighton. Cedric, great to have you here.

I want to start with Mariupol, which we've focused on so much over the last seven or eight weeks. It seems the Ukrainians have stopped fighting. They have left, by and large, the Azovstal steel plant.

What's the strategic significance for the Russians if they do gain full control?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: So John, the big strategic significance for the Russians is this. They now have absolutely the control that they need to establish that land bridge between Crimea, right here, and this area of southeastern Ukraine that they've occupied since the invasion in February. And, of course, their occupied territory over here that they've had since 2014.

So, this, in essence, cuts the Sea of Azov access that the Ukrainians had. It cuts them completely off of that. They no longer have access to that particular part of the Black Sea and the connected waterways.

BERMAN: And in theory -- I mean, you could drive straight from Russia to the doorstep of Odessa, which is such an important for you -- city for Ukraine.

LEIGHTON: That is absolutely correct. This is the third-largest city and it is the major port for the Ukrainians. All of their grain exports before this war went through there -- almost all of them. And all their other exports -- many of them went through here as well.

So the volume of trade that Ukraine is able to send out to the rest of the world will absolutely be cut by a drastic amount and they'll have to establish alternate routes over land in order to survive as a viable economic entity.

BERMAN: Let's talk about what Suzanne was just referring to there. This is the battle for the -- this is the Donbas region. Getting word that the Russians are sending in attack helicopters. You're an airpower guy.


BERMAN: What does that mean?

LEIGHTON: So that means that they are using what amounts to what the Russians call their combined arms army. So, they're using all the elements of power that they have at their disposal -- conventional power, including infantry vehicles -- everything, including armored personnel carriers, plus helicopters and it sounds like fixed-wing aircraft as well.

So what does this mean? This means that they are putting all of these forces together in order to provide a way in which they can attack everything in a -- in a very clear, combined way. So if you, like, take the town of Bakhmut as an example. They can use

these areas to surround potential Ukrainian forces in these places and they can cut them off from resupply efforts. They can corner them. They can do all kinds of things with airpower like this.

BERMAN: Col. Cedric Leighton, great to have you here. Thanks for waking up early with us.

LEIGHTON: You bet, John.

BERMAN: So, $6 a gallon for gas. Why one financial giant says you may need to get ready for that.

COLLINS: And when it comes to baby formula, shelves are still depleted across the nation. And we'll tell you how desperate parents are searching for formula and looking for help online.



COLLINS: For the first time, the average gas price in California has soared to $6 a gallon. And if you're thinking well, I don't live in California at least, experts are warning that the rest of the country could also see that price at the pump before the end of the summer.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans has more on all of this. Christine, these are not numbers that people who have travel plans over the summer wanted to see.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, EARLY START: That's right. "Expect a cruel summer." That's the title of JPMorgan's note warning that $6 could be the national average, Kaitlan, by August.

Gas prices in the U.S. up nearly 50 cents in just one month. Today's national average, a record $4.57, with gas in every state now above $4 a gallon.

Prices at the pump are surging along with crude oil. Russia's invasion in Ukraine disrupting what was already a tight supply. Right now, U.S. gas inventories are at their lowest seasonal level since 2019, so JPMorgan is worried it'll be hard to fill the intense demand of the busy summer driving season.

But some perspective here. This is just one forecast. Many experts think Americans may balk at $6 gas and actually drive less.

Countries like Canada already seeing gas prices well above $6 a gallon. This is a global story.

Look at these numbers. Earlier this month when the U.S. average was $4.33 per gallon, the average up in Canada was $6.13. In the U.K., it was $7.68. And in Norway, $9.23 a gallon. It is truly a global problem.


The U.S. energy industry is heavily subsidized, receiving about $20 billion a year in tax breaks, so Americans pay a little bit less for gas than the rest of the world -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: A little bit less but still not what people are happy about.

ROMANS: It's still going up.

COLLINS: Christine Romans, thank you so much.

It's a deadlock for the Republican Senate nomination in Pennsylvania. It's still way too close to call, though we may be headed for a recount.

BERMAN: And getting new votes in every hour.

Plus, even a last-minute plea from the former president was not enough to keep this controversial congressman in office. A look at Madison Cawthorn's many scandals that seemed to turn voters off.



BERMAN: This morning, parents struggling amid the nationwide formula shortage and they are growing increasingly desperate in some cases for a solution to keep their babies fed. Some are now turning to other mothers online who have milk they are willing to donate.

CNN's Elizbeth Cohen with the latest on this -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the American Academy of Pediatrics really frowns on moms sharing breast milk with one another, but it's been going on for many years and it's dramatically increasing now because of the infant formula shortage.


COHEN (voice-over): Like many parents, Heather Nicholas is terrified, searching and searching near her home in Wesley Chapel, Florida for baby formula for her 5-month-old son Roman.

HEATHER NICHOLAS, MOTHER OF 5-MONTH-OLD SON: I don't have the formula that I need, so your mind doesn't stop thinking about it, especially at night, I hate to say. I've lost a lot of sleep.

COHEN (voice-over): Desperate, Heather turned to social media.

NICHOLAS: I had other local breastfeeding mothers who came to me and they're like listen, there's these groups.

COHEN (voice-over): And in one of those groups someone not too far away saw her plea.

KAYLEIGH AYERS, MOTHER OF 5-MONTH-OLD DAUGHTER: I have so much of a supply that I have a deep freezer that is absolutely full of milk.

COHEN (voice-over): Kayleigh Ayers, mom to 5-month-old Elizabeth, has pumped so much extra milk that she wants to give it away to other moms.

AYERS: Putting myself into the shoes of those mothers is really what motivated me. I can't imagine how scary that would be.

COHEN (voice-over): So last week, Heather and Kayleigh decided to meet in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store.

NICHOLAS: Nice to meet you.

AYERS: I brought you a lot. This is full.

I think I could tell that she was very stressed out trying to figure out how to feed her baby. So I could just see, like, the stress lift off of her.

NICHOLAS: I'm going to try not to cry right now --

AYERS: You can cry.

NICHOLAS: -- because I'm super emotional.

AYERS: Oh, can I give you a hug?

NICHOLAS: Yes, you can.

AYERS: OK. I was in your shoes when my baby was first born.

COHEN (voice-over): Heather and Kayleigh aren't the only ones doing this. Facebook, full of parents sharing breast milk with one another.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend this kind of unregulated sharing. Its spokesperson saying, "The quality and safety of the milk cannot be assured."

DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PEDIATRICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: You are not going through the process of getting that breast milk screened for infectious diseases or getting screened for things like drugs. You also don't know how old that breast milk is. You don't know what the process has been to keep it refrigerated.

COHEN (voice-over): Heather says she feels comfortable with Kayleigh --

NICHOLAS: She was upfront about her situation and her life lifestyle, her diet -- all sorts of things.

COHEN (voice-over): -- and was relieved to give Roman his first bottle of Kayleigh's milk.

NICHOLAS: If I can't find a donor per se for milk for him, then what's my next option?


COHEN: Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics does have some recommendations to ease the pain for some parents. So they're saying now that whole cow's milk may be an option for parents of children who are six months or older. Usually, they say wait until that first birthday.

But they say if your child is drinking regular formula, if they're six months or older, you can go ahead and give them cow's milk. They say it's not ideal. Only do it for a brief period of time.

They are also saying that toddler formula, which is a completely different product, is safe for a few days for babies who are close to their first birthday.

NEW DAY begins right now.

BERMAN: All right, good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, May 18. I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here.

COLLINS: A busy morning.

BERMAN: Special live election coverage. The most closely-watched race of primary night is still going back and forth this morning.

In my hand, brand-new votes just in in the Pennsylvania Senate Republican primary where right now, only a razor-thin margin separates the Trump-backed T.V. doctor Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. Their positions on the leaderboard changing by the minute with thousands of votes still left to be counted. As of this moment, this race would certainly trigger an automatic recount.