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Russians on the Run: Ukraine Takes Back Territories in Blitz; King Charles, Camilla to Arrive in Northern Ireland; DOJ Subpoenas 30+ Across Trump's Orbit in January 6th Probe. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning Ukrainian forces seizing even more territory.


I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. So new developments in the remarkable reversal of fortune for Ukraine in the East, around this region right here, and to a lesser extent in the South down here.

They've gained even more ground in offensives. President Zelenskyy claims they have recaptured some 6,000 square kilometers of territory. It's about 2,300 square miles since the beginning of the month. This is impossible to verify, but it is even more ground than the Russians actually gained in the last several months, and it happened fast.

I want to show you this animation here, if we can zoom in. You can see the yellow there, how quickly Ukrainian troops have recaptured territory that had been occupied by the Russians.

Now Russia is responding. Ukrainian officials say Russian strikes knocked out power in the region.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: In Donetsk, Ukrainian forces also recaptured a town there after forces crossed the Siverskyi Donets River.

This here is the aftermath. The capture will further complicate any attempt by the remaining Russian-backed forces to withdraw.

And last night, Secretary of State Tony Blinken called the recent gains by Ukrainians encouraging.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it would be wrong to predict exactly where this will go, when it will get there, and how it will get there, but clearly, we've seen significant progress by the -- by the Ukrainians, particularly in the Northeast.


KEILAR: Questions, though, still remain. How far could Ukrainian forces go? Can they hold onto this land that they've recaptured? And how will Vladimir Putin respond?

BERMAN: All right. Let's bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, who of course, has spent so much time in Ukraine and also Moscow.

Fred, we're largely talking about this area around Kharkiv, this yellow area, which is just growing --


BERMAN: -- by the day in size back under Ukrainian control. How has this been received in Russia?

PLEITGEN: Not very well at all. It was quite interesting, because we literally, John, just a couple of seconds ago, actually, got off a conference call with the Kremlin, with Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, who once again, as he does pretty much every day now, despite this offensive going on, say that the special military operation, as the Russians put it, will continue at its previous pace and will achieve all the goals that Russia has.

Now, it's not really clear what exactly those goals are at the moment. We have seen the Russians seemingly shift the goal posts somewhat. But certainly, right now, it does seem as though it's very difficult for the Russians to say that things are going well for them at the moment.

In fact, Dmitry Peskov was also asked about those 6,000 square kilometers, or 2,500 square miles, that Ukraine's president has said the Ukrainians have already won back. He basically said he wasn't really aware of the topography and the geography of that area.

But again, the Russians are saying that they are pressing on, despite the fact that you are seeing some criticism pop up in Russia. We've been talking about those 18 local deputies who came out and called for the resignation of Vladimir Putin.

Now, we always have to say it's some pretty low-level officials. And it's not many of them, but it is still noteworthy that that's going on.

But what I was specifically looking at is Ramzan Kadyrov. He's, of course, one of Putin's staunchest allies. He's provided thousands of -- of his own men to Russia's fight in Ukraine already.

And even he came out and said that mistakes have been made, that he would take it up with Russia's top military brass and if that wouldn't help, that he would then take it up with Russia's president, as well.

So you can see that there's criticism that's being uttered in Russia now about the way things are going. And if you look at Kremlin- controlled media, it was so interesting right now in our lead-in to see that we saw those counterstrikes that the Russians did on some of the infrastructure there around the Kharkiv area.

There are some pundits on Russian TV who are claiming that that could be a turning point, as Russia tries to move things to its favor. But right now, the vibe that you're getting from Moscow is that they understand things are not going well for them at all.

BERMAN: Yes. Unsettled.


BERMAN: Frederik Pleitgen, thank you so much for your reporting.

PLEITGEN: You bet.

KEILAR: Joining us now to walk us through this, Colonel Cedric Leighton, retired, CNN military analyst and former member of the joint staff at the Pentagon.

Can you walk us through this? Because we actually have this great time-lapsed map where we can see these gains in the Kharkiv region.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely, Brianna. So when you look at the time lapse, the one thing that is really important is to see how much the Ukrainians have actually gained. The yellow, of course, is the Ukrainian territory that they've regained.

And by September 11, they had regained this entire area that had been under Russian control, Brianna, and that is a huge, huge movement in this war.

KEILAR: Put this into perspective for us, because this was a static front. Things were just as they were for so long.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. So when you look at a static front, a lot of people will think about World War I, and you know, especially, the Western front in World War I, where everything just stayed that way for years and years until they finally exhausted each other.

This is not that way. When you look at the big map here in -- in Ukraine, you see what has happened here. This movement that we just showed you has taken this territory. The Ukrainians are claiming 6,000 square kilometers, about 2,300 square miles. This territory used to be controlled by the Russians.


Now the Ukrainians are poised to go into these areas and, potentially, move the Russians out into Russian territory. This is Russia right here.

The Ukrainians are also poised in the South to move into the area around Kherson. And if we just go down there real quick, you can see how important this part is, because Kherson is really the big area that the Ukrainians want to capture. They've said they want to get this before the end of the year.

They need to do this, because Odessa is still in danger. This is the main port city of Ukraine. And if the Russians were to capture this, which is very hard for them to do right now, especially after all these developments, it would still make Ukraine a land-locked country, and economically, they can't have that.

KEILAR: Will Ukraine be able to hold onto the gains that they've made here?

LEIGHTON: So if we take a look at what has happened in the East, for example, the answer is they can probably do this, because these areas right in here are big rail and highway lines. And it's very important for the Ukrainians to capture these in order to prevent the Russians from maintaining their hold on the territory.

When you go into the Kharkiv area more -- in more detail, the Ukrainians have some challenges. You know, this right here is, of course, Russian territory, and the Russians are able to use Belgorod, which is their main supply hub, to bring things forward into the front area.

Now, the problem for the Russians, though, is that they really don't have the resupply mechanism that we thought they had and -- at the beginning of this war, and that makes a really big difference when it comes to how this operation can be conducted from the Russian point of view.

So yes, the Ukrainians can hold onto it if they can get and maintain the weapons flow that they have from the West.

KEILAR: Ukraine is still outnumbered, right?


KEILAR: We should be clear about when we look at the numbers. It's pretty staggering in contrast. However, how are you looking at this?

LEIGHTON: So the key thing to remember, this is at the start of the war, so these figures have changed definitely because of attrition, combat losses, things like that.

But you look at the number of personnel. And so you look at about 200,000 active duty personnel in the Ukrainian military at the start of the war, 900,000 in Russia. You think there's absolutely no way the Ukrainians can do this.

But it's all about the quality. Quantity does have a quality all its own, but the problem is this. If you don't have enough quality all through the ranks at every single level and people who are motivated, this is where the Ukrainians can win. Because even with a smaller armed force, they have the capability to go after the Russians in a way that the Russians are not responding in kind, and that makes a huge difference.

Even when it comes to reserve personnel, there are far more people in the Ukrainian military than what was indicated by the active-duty figures, even with the losses that they've encountered throughout this war. So this makes a really huge difference.

And then, of course, you also have the quality of the weapons systems, and that makes a big difference, as well, Brianna.

KEILAR: Well, if you can't measure that as easily as number of personnel, and yet we're seeing what an impact it makes. It's huge.

Colonel, always great to have you walk us through this. Thank you so much.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna.

BERMAN: New this morning, Amtrak is suspending several cross-country connections ahead of a potential strike by freight train engineers.

About 60,000 union members could walk off the job as soon as Friday morning. Amtrak is no pausing its Chicago to Los Angeles service. Connections from Chicago to Seattle and San Francisco also on hold, as is Amtrak's Los Angeles to San Antonio line.

The White House is in talks with both sides, looking to avert any job action.

KEILAR: Happening now, King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla are departing Edinburgh, and they will begin their journey to Northern Ireland. The royal couple will greet the public and view the many tributes left to the late queen.

Soon, they will travel to Hillsborough Castle. This is Northern Ireland's royal residence, where King Charles' entrance will be marked with a 21-gun salute.

At Hillsborough, the king will meet with key officials and party leaders from Northern Ireland. And then later on, Britain's new prime minister, Liz Truss, will join them for a church service at St. Ann's Cathedral.

You're looking right now at some live images that we have of St. Giles' Cathedral. This is in Edinburgh, Scotland, where you have a steady stream of mourners who have been paying their last respects to the queen before her casket makes its way to London later today.

CNN's Isa Soares is live in Edinburgh. Nic Robertson is in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at St. Ann's Cathedral.

Isa, let's first talk about the journey that the queen's casket will make today.

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we are seeing -- good morning, Brianna. What we are seeing today is a continuation of that outpouring of love and respect that we have been seeing in the past 24 to 48 hours along, of course, the Royal Mile.

And like you correctly stated, we have seen a continuous stream of mourners walking to St. Giles to pay their respects.

And this line that you see behind me, that goes all the way, Brianna, down this main street, Princes Street. Then it goes further on to the meadows. The path that snakes around the meadow, tells me one police officer, and beyond several kilometers. One police officer was telling me last night they're expecting between 60 and 70,000 people to turn up and pay their respects.

And in terms of waiting time, I spoke to people yesterday who were waiting for around seven to eight hours. This morning five hours. But what one person said to me, you know, What is six, seven, even eight hours, Brianna, of waiting in line for a queen who has spent 70 years of service dedicating her service dutifully, as he said, to our country?

I have seen children at the early hours of this morning, around 6 a.m. in the morning, in their school uniforms; toddlers with cereals -- with cereals inside their little plastic bags, trying to make their way in and pay their final respects.

I also spoke to a former service member, who basically said to me that he stopped in silence, he saluted her, and he said, you know, he had to say thanks to his old boss.

Incredibly moving scenes that we have been seeing throughout the today. And we expect to see that throughout the day, because here at the cathedral, St. Giles' Cathedral, we expect the queen, the late queen to depart St. Giles around 5 p.m. local, 12 p.m. your time, and then start to make its way, of course, to the airport before first going to London and Buckingham Palace. Part of what King Charles III has said is his mother's last great journey, Brianna.

BERMAN: Nic Robertson, to you in Belfast.

Charles making his first trip to Northern Ireland, shortly, as king, obviously the next stop in this sort of royal tour since he took over the crown. But this stop obviously has some complications.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It does. This is a politically divided part of Britain, perhaps more politically divided than any other part, and of course, the division is very straightforward. It's pro-British or pro-Irish, pro-united Irish.

It's about a 50-minute flight from Edinburgh over here to Belfast. When the king lands with the queen consort, they'll go to Hillsborough Castle. That's the royal residence here.

And that's where King Charles will meet with politicians from both sides of that political divide. And we know that the pro-Irish politicians didn't attend over the weekend that proclamation ceremony, where King Charles was officially proclaimed king, because they said that that was for people who -- who sort of follow the British monarchy.

So they will be there today, and the message from both sides is that the queen was a great help in bringing peace here in Northern Ireland, and King Charles, as Prince Charles in the past has done, you know, his own trips over here to help in that process.

But of course, the stakes here in that regard are very big right now.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): In Belfast, tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth pile up. Flowers laid under a mural of the much-loved monarch. Notes of condolences thank her for her service.

But this is a pro-British neighborhood. And like many things in Northern Ireland, how you view the monarchy depends largely on whether you're a pro-British unionist, most often Protestant, or a pro-Irish nationalist, mostly Catholic.

For almost half of Queen Elizabeth's 70-year reign, the two sides, loyalist and republican, fought over their competing views. More than 3,000 people were killed.

When it came to peace, almost 25 years ago, it was the queen who would later help heal some of the divisions by reaching out to anti-British, pro-Irish former paramilitaries turned politicians.

Now, it's Charles' turn. He inherits a politically broken Northern Ireland, its power-sharing government paralyzed by pro-British politicians who refused to join a government with a pro-Irish Sinn Fein, who for the first time in Northern Ireland's 100-year history, won more seats than any other party during an election in May.

Charles's own history with Sinn Fein hit a low point in 1979 after the murder of his mentor, his father's uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, by the group's paramilitary wing, the IRA.


But Sinn Fein has long since renounced violence. And after its election win, is already pushing for a vote to help unite Ireland. But, despite their differences with the monarchy, its leaders offered words of praise for the late queen after her passing.

MICHELLE O'NEILL, VICE PRESIDENT, SINN FEIN: I think that both Mark McGuinness (ph) and Queen Elizabeth herself had a very significant role in terms of sending out a very strong message that we're appealing to do as a people (ph), between our two islands, between the people who live on this island.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A similar message of respect and gratitude from pro-British unionists.

JEFFREY DONALDSON, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY LEADER: Her Majesty led by example in Northern Ireland and reached out the hand of friendship to help with the reconciliation process.

We are duly bound to build on those foundations.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But Brexit is reviving old tensions. Pro- British unionists fear it's led to increasing isolation from mainland U.K. and blame the E.U.

To put pressure on the U.K. government to get a better deal from the E.U., they're refusing to join Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, leaving schools, hospitals, road repairs, municipal offices and much else in limbo.

It's yet another testing time in Northern Ireland, though violence is not imminent and would be highly unlikely to reach the scale of the past.

KING CHARLES III, UNITED KINGDOM: My lords and members of the House of Commons.

ROBERTSON: But as King Charles, the new symbol of British rule, steps into his mother's role, there can be only hope he helps soothe frayed relations, as his mother once did.


ROBERTSON (on camera): So all those local politicians and community leaders who will be here in St. Ann's Cathedral, joining King Charles and the queen consort later this afternoon. A couple of other very important and significant guests have been invited. The president of Ireland, the prime minister of Ireland will also be here, an important message of peace and stability on this island.

KEILAR: Yes. Certainly is. Nic and Isa, thank you so much for taking us through the day.

The Justice Department issuing dozens of subpoenas to people in former President Trump's orbit. What it's hoping to learn from Trump's campaign and fund-raising teams.

Plus, the January 6th Committee is set to meet in person today. Will they invite Trump and former Vice President Pence to appear?

BERMAN: And what Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan just called the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion striking down Roe versus Wade.



BERMAN: A bevy of new subpoenas issued in the federal investigation into January 6th, including key individuals in Donald Trump's orbit. Just a few of the names: former White House political director, Brian Jack; former Trump campaign manager, Bill Stepien; and Trump's former deputy chief of staff, Dan Scavino.

Joining me now is CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent at "The New York Times" and the author of the upcoming book, "Confidence Man," Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, it is great to see you. You are part of the "New York Times" team that had the first reporting on this really huge wave of subpoenas that's gone out over the last few days. What's going on here?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So it appears to be a couple of things, John. One is it seems to have been an effort by DOJ to get this done under the wire before the 60-day window before the election. So I think that's the timing.

The scope of it seems very wide. You talk to lawyers who are representing people who received these subpoenas, and they say, you know, there's sort of no rhyme or reason to what's happening.

Separately, we have reporting that the phones of at least two 2020 Trump advisers, one of whom is a current in-House counsel to Trump, Boris Epshteyn and Mike Roman, had their devices seized by search warrant last week. And that appears to relate specifically into the investigation into so-called fake electors.

There's also a component where some of these subpoenas, possibly not all, but many of them, ask about the creation of Save America, which is Trump's leadership PAC, and spending and fund-raising for it, which seems to relate to some of the work the House Select Committee on January 6th has been doing.

BERMAN: What's the difference within Trump world between Boris Epshteyn and Mike Romans [SIC] and others? I mean, what separates them in this case, do we think?

HABERMAN: So in this case, Mike Roman, as far as I know, doesn't currently advise Donald Trump; Boris Epshteyn does. But they were both linked to a critical piece of what the Department of Justice was looking at, which was this -- this plan to seat, or not seat but compose alternate, quote unquote, "slates of electors," who would not actually be legitimate, according to their own emails, would not be recognized as legal, because governors had not signed them in.

And that they would go on January 6th and give Mike Pence some kind of plausibility to not certify the Electoral College vote that had actually taken place in Joe Biden's favor.

BERMAN: So it could be that those devices play a role in that.

I want to put a picture up on the screen, Maggie. And I just want to get this out there. Because there's been all kinds of crazy stuff on social media, even beyond social media, about what is Donald Trump doing?

He flew to Washington the other night, which some people thought was unusual. He got off the plane in golf shoes at night, which some people thought was unusual.

And yesterday, this is at his golf course in Virginia. There were these photos taken of him on the golf course in Virginia. And some people noted, it doesn't look like he's golfing here. What is one to make of this trip and what's happening?

HABERMAN: It's definitely an odd picture. I don't -- I see maybe one golf club. I don't see a ton. They don't seem to be engaged in a ton of golf activity.

What I was told when he went down there on Sunday night -- and yes, there was obviously a lot of questions about why is Donald Trump going to the D.C. area at a time when there are all these investigations? [06:25:02]

I was told that he was going on a business trip to his golf course. So he is literally at his golf course. But there's not a lot of golfing going on. It looks like a meeting of some kind going on. And it's not clear what that's about.

BERMAN: Yes, look, we still don't know what it's about. Could be --

HABERMAN: Could --

BERMAN: -- about the golf course.

HABERMAN: It could be anything under the sun. However, given the moment we are in and the heightened attention to these investigations, it's obviously going to raise questions.

BERMAN: So one place he didn't go or doesn't appear to be going is to the United Kingdom for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, whom he met, whom he glorified in meeting when he was there, or reveled in meeting there.

What is one to make of the fact that Joe Biden, the president of the United States, wasn't asked to bring a delegation? He was only invited himself? And how does Trump feel about not receiving a specifying individualized invitation?

HABERMAN: So Trump and the people around Trump believed that he had some kind of special connection to the queen. I think it's worth noting, to your point, about that he wasn't invited and only Joe Biden was. That means every other living U.S. president also was not invited. And yet, there's for some reason, some expectation around -- around people close to Trump that he should be getting an invitation.

He fancied himself as having some kind of close relationship with her. A former aide to Trump aide to me, Oh, no, the queen really liked him.

And I said, Because she said that? Because she said, you know, nice things about him?

They genuinely believed there was some kind of bond. I have no reason to believe, just from anything I have ever heard or read, that the queen felt as if she had some special connection to Donald Trump. So you know, he's not being invited, and -- and that puts him in line with a bunch of other people who have held the office.

BERMAN: Yes, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama.


BERMAN: There are a lot of people who are also not invited, apparently.

The January 6th Committee is meeting in person again today. And we do understand there's now a date for their next public hearing. What work do you believe they have left to do that they want to show the American people? What's important here?

CNN is reporting they're considering whether asking -- whether to call Mike Pence and Donald Trump to testify. I don't think there's any reason to believe that either person will. But beyond that, what is there?

HABERMAN: I think there's a couple of pieces, John.

One is we have not heard a ton from the committee about something that I know that they have been focused on in their work, which is questions about how seriously the 25th Amendment was considered, if really at all, by Trump cabinet officials beyond it sort of being thrown around in that first day. So I think that's one piece of their work.

I think another obvious piece of their work is trying to figure out exactly what was happening in the lead-up to the -- to the attack. They have a ton of testimony, but they've also had a ton of people who have said to them executive privilege or people who just wouldn't testify at all.

And so I think that for the huge volume of work they've done -- and we've seen it in these hearings, I think they still feel as if there are key gaps that they need to fill in.

I think getting Trump to testify, I think, is probably not something that they're really banking on. I do think that they believe that there would be utility in having the vice president, but I still think that's a long road.

BERMAN: Right, and there's been a back and forth with the vice president, but I don't think there's certainly been any public sense from Mike Pence or people close to him that he would do it.

And just on the 25th Amendment, this is one thing I've always wondered. I wonder what the fixation there is. Because by definition, those discussions were after January 6th. It was after the insurrection. So to what end?

HABERMAN: I think it's to the end of just establishing how beyond the pale what had taken place was, what people's actual concerns were about Trump.

And then I think there was a related concern, John -- yes, those conversations were after January 6th, but were people having those conversations before January 6th, as they saw that Trump was refusing to concede? Were there any concerns about what was taking place, you know, what he was saying to cabinet officials?

So I think it goes deeper than just that day -- January 6th, January 7th, two days. I think there is a spectrum leading up to the attack.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, it's great to see you. Just a few weeks till the publication of "Confidence Man."

HABERMAN: I'll be back here. BERMAN: Can't wait. Thank you very much.

HABERMAN: Can't wait. Thank you.

BERMAN: So new details about Queen Elizabeth's final days. The priest who was with her says they were full of fun. He joins us live, ahead.

KEILAR: Plus, an uncrude Blue Origin rocket launch ending in a fiery explosion. What went wrong, ahead.