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New Day

Afghanistan Reels from Earthquake; Ukraine Suffers Difficult Week; Top Arizona Republican Backs Trump; Airlines Cancel Flights. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 23, 2022 - 06:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: In Afghanistan this morning there is a desperate search and rescue effort underway after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake killed more than 1,000 people and injured more than 1,500.

Atika Shubert has the details.


ATIKA SHUBERT, JOURNALIST: I'm Atika Shubert in Istanbul.

And according to the United Nations, Turkey is the best placed country to supply aid to survivors of that massive earthquake in Afghanistan that has killed at least 1,000 people. The death toll is expected to rise.

It struck a particularly remote area of the country along the border with Pakistan. There are very few roads there. Getting access is extremely difficult. And the Taliban government now ruling Afghanistan has called for immediate international help. Survivors are still trapped under the rubble, and it is a race against time to get to them.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning, Russian forces making meaningful gains in the eastern part of Ukraine. This is where the bulk of the fighting has been taking place. I want to zoom in on two key cities here, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. This is where the Russians are closing in again in meaningful ways. An adviser to Ukraine's president said, quote, the fight for Lysychansk and Severodonetsk has entered its climax. This phase looks terrifying from a military point of view.

Joining us now is retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons.

We're talking about the Russians again making these gains, significant gains in these two cities. What would the fall of those cities mean for Ukraine? MAJOR MIKE LYONS, U.S. ARMY (Retired): Unfortunately, they -- the

Russians have learned now, they've been able to consolidate, take combat power and bring it to certain places.


We know that in this (INAUDIBLE) for example as well that they've got Ukraine forces surrounded. Ukraine's military has got to make some tough decisions about retreating and getting out of there.

In Severodonetsk, that chemical factually that's there, they're holed up there to Mariupol 2.0, frankly. They won't survive it, but they're going to try to do what they can to suck Russian troops in there to fight it. But if they can control that salient (ph) there now that they've sealed that whole area off, then they're going to control a major part of that (INAUDIBLE) of power (ph).

BERMAN: Well, let's just be clear, if they take these two cities, they control all of Luhansk, which is one of the big, strategic goals of Vladimir Putin. What does that mean for Donetsk, which is this other key province which is in dispute, which the Russians dispute (ph), Ukraine doesn't?

LYONS: Right. Well, so, from a military perspective, you look at both sides are almost exhausted right now. So, the Russians likely will try to take some kind of operational pause and try to give themselves a break here and they'll claim victory on that side but then they're looking at how they're going to reinforce, how they're going to get to Kramatorsk, how they're going to get to those other centers of communication that are very important for them if they're - if they're going to take the rest of Donetsk and the rest that have region.

BERMAN: But, if they do take these cities, they're here, right?


BERMAN: Can Ukraine get them out?

LYONS: No, I don't think so. They still are outmanned, outgunned. They have -- Russia has a better air defense. We're seeing, for example, Russian air defense platforms are improving. And what that's going to mean then, it's going to knock out the drones, it's going to knock out the eyes of this western artillery that still hasn't gotten there yet, frankly. It's just - it's late. It's not - it's not - it's not been able to be effective. If they can control a better portion of the air with their air defense platforms, the Ukraine military is in real trouble.

BERMAN: Even as the bulk of the fighting is taking place in the eastern parts of the country here, there are reports of new Russian shelling on Kharkiv here in the more northern area, an area where the Russians had backed off their advance. And then we hear that the Ukrainians are trying to take some offensive measures down here in the south.

LYONS: Yes, in Kherson, for example, you've got what are guerrilla tactics now. So this is -- that battle has already shifted there. We've got World War II tactics here, guerrilla tactics now in the south. And this could prove to be a very important battle as Ukraine -- the Russians control about 90 percent of that coastline with the Black Sea. Odessa is strategically going to be important. Russia could claim that if they shut down Ukraine's military and their capability to generate revenue, that that could be another victory. And that's really what they're very close to doing.

BERMAN: Look, a lot has been made about Russian morale and how it's been lagging at different times. What about Ukrainian morale given that there are reports that the Ukrainians are losing 100 to 200 troops a day.

LYONS: Two hundred troops a day. It's the -- the sacrifice they're making is incredible. I'm just not of the feeling yet that the Russian military is going to collapse. That's what it's going to take. There's still no deterrents for Russia to stop. They have so much more man and material and equipment. And it's going to take the Russian army to collapse. That would be historic if that happens and Ukraine still doesn't have the manpower, the reserves and the heavy weapons in order to fight.

BERMAN: All right, Mike Lyons, great to see you this morning. Thank you very much.

So, he tearfully testified about the threats his family faced because of Donald Trump's lies. Now a top Arizona Republican says that if Joe Biden was on the ballot against Trump he would vote for Trump again.

COLLINS: We also have more this morning on the significant turn of events as the Justice Department is stepping up its investigation into the fake electors scheme in the 2020 election. CNN's Michael Smerconish will join us next.



COLLINS: Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers had some of the most compelling testimony of all the January 6th hearings. He became emotional as he described the harassment that he and his family faced over Trump's election lies. But despite that, he still says he would vote for Trump again in 2024 if he's the Republican nominee.


RUSTY BOWERS (R), ARIZONA HOUSE SPEAKER: We had a daughter, who was gravely ill, who was upset by what was happening outside. And my wife, that is a valiant person, very, very strong, quiet, a very strong woman. So, it was disturbing.


COLLINS: Joining us now is CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish.

Michael, thank you for getting up with us this morning.

But, I wonder, what do you make of this, seeing Rusty Bowers, not only testifying about what he and his family went through, but also the pressure campaign he faced from Trump, Trump's attorney, Trump's allies in Congress, to do things that he said were illegal and unconstitutional, but now says he would still vote for Trump if he's the nominee against President Biden?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Kaitlan, I think he has a lot of company. I mean I think of Mitch McConnell. I think of Kevin McCarthy. I think of a whole host of Republicans who at different points along the way have expressed their displeasure at what happened on January 6th. Some of them in quite strong terms. I think of radio listeners who call my program and say, oh, if I could only have Donald Trump without all the baggage. And then they'll often go through a litany of achievements for which they think Trump was responsible and they say, in comparison to Joe Biden, they would still take Donald Trump.

Here's what I say. It is elevating politics and policy over the foundations of government. I mean, really that's what Rusty Bowers is saying. He's saying that democracy was in peril, that he towed the line, that his family was put in jeopardy, but on balance he's going to elevate politics over all of that. It's really quite shocking.

And the final thing that I would say is, if you believe you want Donald Trump without the Trumpisms, there's a name for that, it's Ron DeSantis.


And this is what is giving heft in the polling that I know you're familiar with to DeSantis should he decide to challenge Trump.

BERMAN: Yes, DeSantis even with Trump in New Hampshire. We'll talk much more about that, dig into those numbers in a little bit, Michael.

You have many jobs, Michael Smerconish. I consider your most important to be of counsel to NEW DAY.

So, counselor, I want to ask you about this new reporting in the DOJ investigation into the fake elector scheme. We now -- CNN has confirmed subpoenas going out in at least four states. There are other outlets talking about even more than that. So, subpoenas going to people on the fake elector thing in at least four states, maybe more.

What does this tell you about the scope of this DOJ investigation and maybe the possibility Merrick Garland is doing more than some progressive Democrats are giving him credit for?

SMERCONISH: Obviously there's something there that is of interest to DOJ that they are still in the hunt at this relatively late stage, at least as we think, of the January 6th investigation.

What I'm keeping my eye on, John, is the fact that we'll soon butt up against the midterm election. Now, Donald Trump's name is not on the ballot in the midterm election. You know there's that protocol or policy that when you get close to an election, the DOJ doesn't want to see there to be any indictments.

I don't know how, if at all, that might factor in here. And, of course, if the midterms go as people anticipate they will go, which is, frankly, a shellacking for Democrats, at least with regard to the House of Representatives, this investigation may soon end, at least from the congressional standpoint.

What I'm trying to say is that time is a factor here. So, if subpoenas are just going out now, I'm wondering how much closure can there be while the January 6th commission is still intact. Of course, justice will march to its own drum and be able to continue after the committee wraps up its work.

COLLINS: And we know they're watching these hearings closely.

But, Michael, you mentioned the midterms. And my favorite role that you play for CNN is as our Pennsylvania specialist. And so I want to ask you about a development that we're seeing in this race where, of course, in the Senate race in Pennsylvania Mehmet Oz is the Republican nominee in that race. He's had a very interesting change of tone when it comes to what he is saying in public now that he has secured the nomination, compared to what he was saying before when it comes to the involvement of former President Trump and his endorsement. Obviously, he was backed by Trump. And I want you, Michael, just to look at what his commercials looked like before he got the Republican nomination and now what they look like once he has gotten it.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I endorsed another person today, Dr. Oz, in Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump endorsed Dr. Oz for Senate because Trump knows who the real conservative is who's going to shake up Washington.

DR. MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I want to take a moment to express my deep thanks to the great people of Pennsylvania who have joined me so far on this journey and supported my campaign. I am blessed to have earned the presumptive Republican nomination for the United States Senate.


COLLINS: No mention of Trump in the new ad, Michael. What do you make of this?

SMERCONISH: So, in primary season, Kaitlan, he wanted to be perceived as Donald Trump's protege. I think for the general election he would like to be perceived as Oprah's protege. Tony Fabrizio is President Trump's pollster, just did a survey for the AARP in Pennsylvania. Dr. Oz, I'm holding it in my hand, has stunning negatives. And they are across the board. Sixty-three percent of all Pennsylvania voters perceive him unfavorably. Among Republicans it's 38 percent. So, I'm sure it's in view of these numbers that he believes he needs to pivot.

Of course, the pivot toward the center is a tale as old as time politically speaking, but there's going to be so much money spent in Pennsylvania, I don't think that John Fetterman is going to allow Pennsylvania voters for a moment to forget the association between Dr. Oz and Donald Trump.

BERMAN: What kind of a bind do those negatives -- and they really are stunning when you look at the poll you're talking about there, Michael, but also an earlier poll about Dr. Oz coming out of the primaries. He has enormous negatives. Does it put him in a bind because he has to shore up his base, which, as you just said, could be shaky, at the same time reaching across the aisle?

SMERCONISH: Look, I think he won the primary only because of Trump's support. You'll remember that Kathy Barnette was the third candidate who, in the 11th hour, really seemed to come out of nowhere. Dave McCormick, of course, was in the hunt with Dr. Oz. And what it allowed was Dr. Oz to win this race. And I'm not taking anything away from him, but with a very scant margin in the election. And I don't think he would have won that race but for Barnette splitting the vote.

So, he was able to get through based on really the skin of his teeth and the support of Donald Trump.


But now, to come back from that margin and win a general election, it's going to be a very tall order. Of course, it's perceived to be a strong Republican year. So we shouldn't underestimate that.

The shock in Pennsylvania to me is not the Senate race, it's the close margin according to this survey and others in the gubernatorial race. There's no greater lightning rod in the nation running than Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, and yet he trails Josh Shapiro, the attorney general, only by three or four points in the data that I've seen. That's the real shock.

COLLINS: It's all fascinating. Everything that happens in Pennsylvania always is, but it is interesting to see how Oz -- you look at his Twitter page, for example. It went from touting himself as this Trump- backed candidate to now things have changed when you look at what it looks like post that.

Michael Smerconish, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

SMERCONISH: Thanks, guys.

COLLINS: And you can catch Michael's show on CNN on Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. Don't miss it. I never do.

This morning we also have never before seen footage of a new documentary from inside the president's -- former president's inner circle as the filmmaker is preparing to meet with the January 6th committee for a deposition today.

BERMAN: And chaos at the airport. The airlines canceling 1,000 flights on the first day of summer. What's behind it?



COLLINS: It has been a rough start to the summer travel season as airlines yesterday canceled more than 1,000 flights and another 3,400 were delayed. The disruptions are largely because of weather on the East Coast.

And CNN's Pete Muntean is live at Reagan National Airport, where a lot of people I'm sure, Pete, this morning are hoping they do not experience the day that travelers had yesterday.


You know, airlines still reeling from that bad weather yesterday. Just checked Flight Aware. More than 1,400 cancellations in total nationwide just yesterday. And the cancellations are already piling up today. More than 500 today so far.

Remember that airlines got a lot smaller over the pandemic. That makes bad weather hit them even harder. That means this is going to be a big summer of flight cancellations.


MUNTEAN (voice over): It is an expensive summer of travel stress at airports worldwide with airlines struggling with staffing shortages and schedule melt downs.


MUNTEAN: Ginna Morales' $1,000 flight to a beauty pageant was canceled, only to rebook on a different flight that was also canceled.

From Thursday to Monday, airlines in the U.S. canceled more than 5,400 flights.

MORALES: It makes me not want to travel at all. Go on no airplanes. Nothing.

MUNTEAN: New analysis from travel site Hopper says flight cancellations have jumped 34 percent in the last month. Domestic ticket prices are up, too, by 18 percent since 2019. Even still passengers are packing planes. Last weekend the TSA screened more people at airports nationwide than any weekend since the start of the pandemic.

HAYLEY BERG, LEAD ECONOMIST, HOPPER: Travelers are willing to pay more and they're willing to face potential disruptions because they really want to go on these trips that they've put off in many cases for two years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much for all being here today. MUNTEAN: Airline CEOs lobbied Congress for $50 billion in pandemic aid

to keep workers on the job. Even still, airlines got smaller, offering employees early out and retirement packages.


MUNTEAN: Airline consumer advocate Bill McGee says airlines are not keeping up their end of the deal. Southwest and Delta pilots have picketed to say they are overworked. Airlines insist they are hiring hundreds of new workers each month while dealing with storms and air traffic control issues.

MCGEE: I've never seen a meltdown of this proportion. The fact is the airlines still refuse to own this.

MUNTEAN: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has told airline CEOs to stress test their schedules and add customer service staff with July 4th travel on the horizon. AAA forecasts 47.9 million Americans will travel for the holiday, but a shrinking share will take to the skies.

ANDY GROSS, AAA SPOKESMAN: You can't ignore we've had six months of constant stories of delays, cancellations, bad weather, long lines, frustration and somebody may decide, you know what, I think it's easier for me just to hop in the car and go this year.


MUNTEAN: We also heard from United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby about this. And he put some of the blame of cancellations back on the federal government. He says that the FAA needs to more properly staff up on air traffic controllers to alleviate some of these delays. The FAA tells me that it insists that is not an issue and it is moving controllers around to hot spots like Florida.

I also spoke to House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio about this. He says he wants a readout from every major airline about how many pilots they have on staff right now. We will see, Kaitlan, if this means even more congressional hearings for the airlines.

COLLINS: Yes, you can totally see why they would be having those. People have big questions about why this is so disruptive.

Pete Muntean, thank you for bringing us the latest.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Thursday, June 23rd, I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins with us here this morning.

And happening now, a British filmmaker who documented former President Trump and his inner circle for six months before and after the Capitol riot is about to meet behind closed doors with the January 6th committee. We have newly obtained footage from the series that he made.


It will be released by Discovery Plus, which is owned by CNN's parent company.