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New Day Saturday

New Satellite Images Appear To Show Mass Graves Near Mariupol; Russian Forces Faces Fierce Resistance In Luhansk Town; GA Rep. Taylor Greene Testifies For 3+ Hours On Role In Jan.6 Riot; Police: Suspect In D.C. Shooting That Wounded Four Is Dead; Patchwork Of Rules After Mask Mandate Struck Down; McCarthy Calls New Audio Revealing He Planned To Advise Trump To Resign After 1/6 "Overblown"; Biden: The GOP Is "Not Your Father's Republican Party"; Central U.S. Expected To Get Hit With Severe Thunderstorms. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 23, 2022 - 08:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Buenos dias. Welcome to your "New Day." It's Saturday, April 23rd. I'm Boris Sanchez.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning Boris. I'm Christi Paul. We are so grateful to have you with us.

And we do begin this morning with the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials are saying it is more proof of Russian war crimes the suspected mass graves outside Mariupol. Ukrainian officials point to Maxar Satellite images that show the ground in one area in particular has recently been disturbed. They also say claims from a credible source indicate the site has been used to dispose of bodies. Now, CNN is still working to independently verify those claims.

SANCHEZ: And Meantime, Russia has revealed a new goal in the conflict, a new strategy. A Russian military leader says the plan is to take full control of southern Ukraine and the eastern Donbas region to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia of course annexed in 2014. There is new drone video that shows a scene of utter destruction in the small village of Moschun, this is north of Kyiv. House after house entire neighborhoods flattened. Ukraine says the village played a major role in pushing back the Russian advance toward the capital city.

PAUL: It's estimated more than 100,000 people are trapped there in Mariupol, including soldiers and civilians, and many have taken shelter inside that massive steel factory there. Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister announced this morning a humanitarian corridor is now open to evacuate women, children and the elderly. And this morning, we are hearing reports of more shelling in the Kharkiv region. We're going to bring you up to date on that as we get more information.

But let's get the latest from Ukraine. CNN correspondent Scott McLean, joining us live from Lviv. So talk to us first of all, Scott about the -- these suspected mass graves that they're finding.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Christi. Yes. So this is in a village just east of Mariupol. And what you can see on the satellite images is a series of trenches that are dug. The earth is obviously very freshly disturbed in these images. They're maybe 40, 45 yards long or so. Now they're located inside of a cemetery in this area, an existing cemetery but local officials say that these are the sites of mass graves were the victims of Mariupol are being dumped by the Russian forces there. As you mentioned, CNN, though can't independently verify this that claim.

There is no doubt though that Mariupol has been largely reduced to rubble. The destruction is vast. What has been harder to get a handle on or to quantify as the human toll. But those who are still alive are hunkering down in basements. And they'd been there for almost two months now. One of those places the Azovstal steel plant facility. That is where Ukrainian troops are making their last stand. There are also some civilians there. Many of them are the families of the steel plant workers who took shelter in the deepest basement that they could find.

And in this new video released by Ukrainian forces, you can see just how deep this bunker actually is. Going down inside of it, you can see the Russian word for children written in spray paint on all of the walls. And then when you get to the bottom of the stairs, you see a lot of kids who have not seen sunshine in a very long time they explain to the soldiers what they've been doing, trying to pass the time trying to play games, things like that. Here's what one boy said to the camera though.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I hope we can leave here and see the sun, because we've sat here for two months already. I want to see the sun so that when our houses are rebuilt, we can live in peace. So we can live in Ukraine, because this is our native home.


MCLEAN: So some residents of Mariupol hopefully will be able to see the sun but very likely not the people inside of that steel plant. There is a humanitarian corridor that's being organized today. It would have -- it's supposed to have left already toward the west towards Zaporizhia. It's not clear whether it's moving already. This is supposed to be a series of buses, private vehicles to allow women and children to escape the city. The Ukrainian officials that were already warning that Russians may try to push people in the opposite direction and push them towards Russia.

Mariupol is one of the last strongholds in the eastern part of Ukraine. Russians continue to try to carve out more territory in the Donbas and according to a military commander who spoke to Russian media yesterday that is precisely the goal of that the second part, this phase two, as they're calling it of the operation to completely control the Donbas region, including Mariupol, and also the southern part of Ukraine along the Black Sea that would connect Russia to Transnistria. The difficulty is that that territory is not part of Russia. It's not even part of Ukraine. It's actually part of Moldova. It is a separatist part of Moldova. There are there have been Russian troops stationed there since the 1990s. They speak -- many people speak Russian in that area, but it is infringing on now potentially a second country. Obviously, the Moldova ins are not keen on this. They summoned the Russian ambassador yesterday to say that look, Moldova is an independent country and Russia ought to respect its borders,


Boris, Christi.

SANCHEZ: There have now been multiple hints from the Russians and their allies that Moldova may be a target of the Russian forces after whatever happens in Ukraine unfolds. Scott Mclean from Lviv, thank you so much.

Meantime, Russian forces continue to face fierce resistance from residents around Ukraine, including one community and Luhansk.

PAUL: CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman has more for us here.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Russian forces continued to try to seize control of the town of (INAUDIBLE) which is about an hour and a half's drive from to the east of here. But they are running into stiff resistance from the Ukrainian defenders. We were able to get to a vantage point overlooking the town and saw as artillery fell on all parts of the city. In the southern area, which is controlled by the Ukrainian forces, we found a small group of people trying to survive under fire.

(voice-over): And it begins again. Hell rains down. A dozen people are hiding in the basement of a bombed-out theater in the town of (INAUDIBLE).


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Let it stop, oh, Lord, he says. Now there's incoming. A white flag hangs outside to no effect. The theater above has been bombed and bombed again and again. Yet they stay.

Too poor, too old, too frightened to flee. Nina, 89 years old has been here for five weeks. I want to go home, she says I've suffered too much. I've seen the fire and the smoke. I've seen it all. I'm scared. Nina's plea, simple.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Help us, help us. Her daughter Liudmyla (ph) struggles to comfort her.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're praying to God to stop it, she says, to hear us.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Ina (ph) says I have nowhere to go. I have no friends, no relatives.

With the shelling intensifying, volunteers are finding it hard to deliver food. As Russian and Ukrainian forces fight for control of (INAUDIBLE), there are people down there, praying as hell rains down.

(on-camera): What we saw in that shelter are people who clearly have post-traumatic stress disorder. They've been there for weeks on end. Most of the time have we brought lights with our television cameras, but most of the time, the only light is candles. There's very little in the way of sanitation. There is no running water. There is no electricity, and for many if they don't get out soon, there's no hope.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Ben Wedeman for that report.

Let's get some analysis now from CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier. She's also a contributor at Time Magazine. And we also have with us CNN military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Thank you both for being with us this Saturday.

General Hertling, I'd like to start with you. The UK's Defense Ministry says this morning that Russia has made no major gains in the past 48 hours of fighting. There is still conflict as Ukrainian forces try to fend off the capture of Mariupol. What do you see in this new phase of Russia's war where their focus is on building this land bridge?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING RET., CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first, I think there's been no major gains in the East, Boris, and that's been true. There have been some advanced movement by Russian forces but in many cases they've already been countered by Ukrainian counter attacks. What you had yesterday was a general by the name of (INAUDIBLE) who's the central Russian Military District Commander, that's one of their bigger districts and he said that the southern advances would now go through Odessa and into Transnistria as you've mentioned earlier. You know, I was on the border in Transnistria about 10 years ago when I was commander in Europe. And that is what's called a frozen conflict. It's one of many within Europe, where Russia continues to disturb the democratic and sovereign nations of Europe. Transnistria does have some Russian speakers, as you said.


However, having said that, is Russia going to be able to complete that rant land bridge, from Mariupol all the way to Odessa and beyond. I don't think so. They do not have the capability in terms of force size, they don't have the force training, it's another axis of advance. And if you look at the map that you're showing right now, the distance between Odessa and Mariupol doesn't jump out, but it's about 500, close to 500 miles. Mykolaiv is a city of 500,000 in terms of population, Odessa has 900,000.

So you're talking about repeated battles, as we've seen so far, where the civilians of various cities are going to be challenged with artillery strikes, and Russians murdering them. But I don't think we're going to see the Russian capability of attaining their new objectives.

SANCHEZ: Kim, you asked a senior European official this week about that intent to essentially build a land bridge across southern Ukraine. What was your impression of how Western allies see that goal?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, at the start of this war, there was fear that the White House would have to be pushing Europe along. So I was really surprised at this sort of bold faced answer I got from the European Commission Executive Vice President, Valdis Dombrovskis, who was in D.C. for talks. And he told us, we need to stop Russia's aggression in Ukraine because Putin will go as far as we let him go. If we don't stop it now, this war will spread. That wasn't the attitude early on. That was only being said by some of the Baltic nations that neighbor Russia. And now it seems that European Union officials understand that Ukraine is not Moscow's only intent to seize.

SANCHEZ: And Kim, I want to stay with you because Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are expected to hold talks with Turkey's leader Recep Erdogan that supposedly happening in the next 48 hours potentially paving the way for peace talks in Istanbul. Is it your impression that at this point, Vladimir Putin wants peace?

DOZIER: It is hard to see anything constructive coming out of this and Ukrainian officials will tell you they are engaging in peace talks, just to show that they are willing to stop the fighting. But all the signals we've had from Vladimir Putin, or that he can intends to continue this conflict, he also might be engaging in these talks simply to see how much he can get from the Ukrainians in terms of what they might offer on the negotiating table. But it seems he is intent on keeping all have the territory that his troops have seized in the East.

And then according to this general who spoke out, continuing to march onward, and his troops are still committed to the fight. We don't see any signs of him being willing to back down. So, this is unnecessary exercise. But I don't know what it will produce.

SANCHEZ: General Hertling, the White House announced a new $800 million package of aid for Ukraine. It's designed to shore up some of the weaknesses of the Ukrainian forces, specifically with artillery systems that the Ukrainians are currently being trained on. What do you make of the package that's being sent over the logistical issues in getting it where it needs to go in the eastern part of the country? And any future opportunity, where can the United States best help Ukraine on the battlefield?

HERTLING: Yes, Boris, I think the package actually broke the dam from NATO nations, what you're seeing is about five artillery battalions worth of artillery, and a lot of aerial drones that are not only killers, but intelligence gatherers, as well as close to 200,000 155 rounds. All of those things are important. We could do a deep dive on why they're important. But what you're seeing now is other nations, France and Netherlands are also saying, yes, we're going to give artillery too.

This fight we're in today, the one that started recently, this so- called phase two is going to begin with massive artillery duels. That is the way Russia conduct warfare. They have been using their artillery to bomb houses now in the east. They're going to attempt to use that artillery to do the same thing to threaten the civilians, but also to counter any kind of Ukrainian counter attacks. If Ukraine can stop those massive artillery fires, it would be a very good thing in the Donbas region. And I think the 155 artillery pieces, a piece by the way that's that has a larger piece of ammunition than the Russians fire will be critically important, and it will help Ukraine transfer to a western style army which is needed during the second phase.


I think we're also going to see additional equipment given in the coming weeks and months to prepare them potentially for a third phase, which is building a Ukrainian army that matches those in the West that can easily conquer anything the Russians throw at them. So you're seeing this in phases. And I think that the second phase has been a very good one.

SANCHEZ: General Mark Hertling, Kim Dozier, we have to leave the conversation there. We appreciate you sharing part of your weekend with us and your insight. Thanks so much.

HERTLING: Thanks Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

PAUL: Well Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is fighting to stay on the ballot, and she faced a grilling in court.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may answer the question (INAUDIBLE).

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I had no knowledge of any attempt. And so that's a question that I can't answer.


GREENE: I can't answer that question.


PAUL: Our reporter was in the courtroom the entire time he's with us next, to take a look at the case and tell us what happens now.

Also, the lingering confusion over when and where to wear a mask. We're asking experts a key question how effective are masks if no one around you is wearing them? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


PAUL: So, Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene is trying to hold on to a congressional seat after some of her own constituents challenged her readiness to run for reelection due to her alleged role in the January 6 riot. Taylor Greene testified under oath and an unprecedented disqualification hearing for more than three hours. This almost makes her the first member of Congress to answer questions under oath about their activities on that day.

CNN's Marshall Cohen was at this hearing, it was pretty contentious. He is here with us. It's so good to have you here, Marshall.


PAUL: Talk to us about what we learned, you know, what was the takeaway from Greene's testimony?

COHEN: It was an exhaustive, seven-hour day, very long hearing. She was on the stand, as you said for three full hours, which is a first, no other member of Congress has ever been questioned under oath about January 6, who they were talking to if they were participating in the plans, the questions that some of them are really still unanswered.

From Greene, you know, we didn't learn that much. It was a lot of I don't know, I don't remember, I don't, I don't recall. But she was grilled over tons of things. Her social media posts, her violent rhetoric, whether she had any meetings or phone calls with some of the provocateurs and extremist groups that fueled a lot of the violence, the challengers, from a liberal advocacy group and a constitutional team of constitutional scholars, they wanted to pin her down, hold her accountable for what she previously said.

I want to play a clip for you where they really took it to her and said, you know, wanted to find out if she knew about the violence, because that's what this is all about. If she knew about the violence, then they could say she helped the insurrection did nothing to stop it. And that's why they would disqualify her from office.

So listen to how she answered those questions.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prior to January 6, Representative Greene, did anyone ever mentioned to you the possibility that there might be violence in Washington on January 6, 2021?

GREENE: I don't remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So it's possible that folks told you things could get violent in Washington on January 6, right. GREENE: I was a brand-new member of Congress if -- I don't remember those conversations. But I would have Nancy Pelosi and those in charge of the Capitol were taking the Capitol security very seriously.


COHEN: Yes, we're kind of dodging weaving a little bit, couldn't get pinned down on much. But, you know, her bottom-line defense on this Christi is that she had nothing to do with the violence, and therefore, she can't be thrown off the ballot. But we'll see.

PAUL: Yes, so what happens at this point? Well, you know what happens next?

COHEN: Well, so the administrative judge who was presiding over the hearing yesterday, he probably will issue his recommendations in a few weeks, probably early May, then it's up to the Secretary of State here in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to make the final decision. Of course, he is famous, or infamous for being on the receiving end of Donald Trump's wild phone call, cajoling him pressuring him to try to steal the election here in Georgia. So somehow, we're still talking about the 2020 election two years later. But it will be up to the Secretary of State to make the final call.

PAUL: So based on what we saw, is there any gauge how likely it could be that she would be -- I guess she'd be pulled she wouldn't be able to run again.

COHEN: She wouldn't be able to run. If anybody votes for her those votes wouldn't get counted. I'd say it's an uphill climb, Christi. You know, this is this is not an easy task. The challengers have built a largely circumstantial case. They didn't establish, for instance, that she knew about violence. They didn't establish that she had any secret meetings with people and encourage them to storm the Capitol, flood the Capitol. So it's really a case based off of her vitriolic rhetoric and the potential that that had to inspire people to come in D.C. and ransack --

PAUL: Sure.

COHEN: -- the Capitol.

PAUL: I have a couple of things to note, first of all, when she walked into the room, she had a lot of support in that room.

COHEN: She is.

PAUL: One person --

COHEN: It's her home turf.

PAUL: -- Right, it's her home turf. One person being Matt Gaetz, talk to -- he was sitting with her legal team, as I understand it, you were sitting right there --

COHEN: Yes. PAUL: -- (INAUDIBLE) I understand. So talk to us about the mood in the room?


COHEN: It was a very pro Greene crowd. I mean look let's just paint the picture. The team of lawyers that challenged her obviously they're not -- most of them are not from Georgia, they flew in for the event. A lot of Greene supporters drove in from her district, presumably that's, you know, in the northwest part of this state. It turned into a bit of a circus, you know, and the judge was trying to do his best to rein things in. Let's show you a clip of a moment where things kind of got off the rails.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Entitled to a yes, no or I can't answer response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go ahead.


ANDREW CELI, LAWYERS FOR THE CHALLENGERS: You have a standing objection, Mr. Bopp to everything in the world. I want to question your witness. Let her --


CELI: She's doing fine (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's enough. Stop. Mr. Bopp, please sit down. Next question Mr. Celi.

This is not fear. This is not an argument on Supreme Court. This is an evidentiary hearing. So let's get going.


COHEN: He wanted them to just play it straight, follow the law, and it turned into a bit of a ruckus but that's going to happen when Congressman Greene is in town.

PAUL: Marshall Cohen, it is so good to have you here. See you in person. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: Always.

SANCHEZ: Up next, what we know about the suspect and a sniper style attack in the nation's Capitol. And all the weapons recovered by law enforcement.

We're back after a quick break. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: According to officials, the suspect in a shooting in Washington, D.C. Friday that left four people wounded, has died.

PAUL: Yes. Police say the suspect took his own life. And when officers found him, they recovered six firearms from inside that apartment. Now authorities do not believe any other individuals were involved.

But we want to go to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He's live in Washington, D.C. for us this morning. Polo, talk to us about what you're learning from police right now.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, you know, Christi and Boris, there really is a sense of normalcy that's been restored in the neighborhood in this Northwest D.C. neighborhood where it all went down. But after speaking to some of the folks who say they live here, I can tell you there still is a sense of shock over what happened yesterday. Just imagine this, it's Friday afternoon and a gunman about five stories up with a rifle begins to discriminately open fire on the sidewalk below. And police say that's exactly what went down yesterday afternoon.

As investigators were closing in on who they believe is to be responsible, that is when police say the suspect took his own life. They went into the apartment, found that suspect and then also found what they -- what the police chief describes as a sniper style setup. What that means is basically tripod with multiple weapons, at least six firearms including rifles, at least one pistol, and what investigators describe as a large quantity of ammunition.

Police right now at this point, and still not sure on a motive. They say that he was basically intend to kill random people below. Investigators also saying that they did not have any previous contact with this individual who they've positively identified, however, not publicly. But again, there is sort of a sense of normalcy in this community.

So I want you to hear directly from an eighth grader who attends school, not far from the scene as he describes the chaos that unfolded just moments before he was reunited with his father.


JEREMY KALFUS, 8TH GRADE STUDENT AT EDMUND BURKE SCHOOL: Hearings shots for the first time and not knowing what to make of it, seeing students screaming, yelling, and thinking, oh, maybe they're overreacting, there's just chairs that fell over. And then being like, wow, like this is the real thing. And most importantly, just cowering in the bathroom, just praying. Literally just thinking about my life and just thinking about like, I don't know, like how stupid I was.

I was worried about a math test five minutes earlier that I just taken. And honestly, that's really what I thought about when I was in there is like how insignificant it all is compared to that.


SANDOVAL: Yes, the perspective of an eighth grader, extremely important in all of this. Now in terms of victims, we know four people were shot, all of them in stable condition. Three of them were actually shot. One of them actually a 12-year-old little girl who's sent to be doing OK. A fourth victim, Boris and Christi, her injuries apparently just a bullet that grazed her. So again, some good news to report here.

All the people who are injured yesterday are set to be OK. And now, of course, the big question on a motive of this individual that apparently took his own life according to police.

PAUL: Yes. Most importantly, just glad that those people are OK. Polo Sandoval, we appreciate it. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Across the country, there has been no shortage of confusion after a court struck down the mask mandate on public transportation.

PAUL: Well CNN's Pete Muntean took a trip just to find out how things have changed and where people just are not ready to give up their masks.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We put the new nationwide patchwork of mask rules at airports and transit hubs to the test, a mask optional rideshare started my trip from Washington, D.C.

(on-camera): OK, we're going into Union Station. No masks required.

(voice-over): Most people here are still wearing masks like Verna Swann who was boarding our train to Philadelphia.

VERNA SWANN, TRAVELING TO CONNECTICUT: I just feel like I need to take more precautions than anyone else, so.

MUNTEAN (on-camera): You're just being careful.

SWANN: I'm being careful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): After Monday, the southern end of the federal transportation mask mandate, Amtrak was among the first to announce that masks are now optional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

MUNTEAN (on-camera): Thank you.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Conductor Anthony Tisdale (ph) told me he is going maskless after months of wearing one on the job. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was like, yes, took it right off.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): My train took me to Philadelphia's Center City Amtrak hub. Philly was one of the few major cities to have an indoor mask mandate, but it was just rescinded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It changes a lot, so it has been confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just feel like I should wear a mask regardless.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): My trip continued with a ride on public transit.

(on-camera): SEPTA here in Philadelphia, one of the mass transit systems where masks are optional, unlike the New York City subway system where masks are still mandatory. The change here happened so abruptly, the sign hasn't even been changed yet.

(voice-over): During my travels on Thursday, Philadelphia's airport was one of the few still requiring masks inside the terminal. LAX in Los Angeles is joining the list along with New York's Kennedy and LaGuardia.

MARY NICHOLS, PHILADELPHIA TRAVELER: I just think it's confusing. They just want me to be on the same page.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): But the airport's mask rule no longer applies the moment you board.

(on-camera): About to go down the jetway, another change in policy. We're leaving the airport where masks were required. Now we're getting on the plane to transportation, mask mandate is over, so I can take my mask off.

(voice-over): Once seated, I did decide to wear a mask. The 32-minute flight back to D.C. was full. It is a new era for travel now governed by personal choice and a patchwork of rules.


MUNTEAN: Here at Reagan National Airport where we landed, no mask is required. The point is it's getting harder and harder to know the local mask rules as you travel. Two examples, Philadelphia International Airport told us on Friday that the mask rules there are loosening up. Where at LAX, the rules there are tightening.

You can still wear a mask while you're traveling. In fact, the CDC still recommends it.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport.

SANCHEZ: Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

After the break, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claims that he never planned to ask President Trump to resign after January 6. But what about those tapes, the recordings of him saying just that? We'll dig in on the relationship between the former president and the aspirational House Speaker when we come back.



SANCHEZ: Former President Trump is standing with Kevin McCarthy after audio leaked to the New York Times this week revealed the House Minority Leader planned on asking Trump to resign and the days after the January 6 insurrection.

PAUL: Yes, speaking publicly for the first time since the scandal, Trump told The Wall Street Journal his relationship with McCarthy is not damaged. He called it a compliment, in fact, that some of the Republicans who criticize him right after the insurrection are now on his side.

CNN Capitol Hill Reporter Daniella Diaz is with us. Daniella, good morning to you. Talk to us about how McCarthy is responding to the situation now.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Christi, he's been maneuvering behind the scenes to contain the fallout from these newly resurfaced recordings where he went against former President Donald Trump in the immediate days following the January 6 insurrection. And it's just as you said, Trump in his first interview since these recordings resurfaced, he said that he is -- his relationship with McCarthy is good for now.

But really McCarthy has been working behind the scenes and so far has been able maintain calm with his GOP conference, especially with those more conservative Republicans in his party, who are strong Trump allies and may have criticized him for these comments where he went against former President Donald Trump where he said that he was going to ask him to resign and said that Trump held partial blame for the insurrection. But really, McCarthy broke his silence yesterday last night in California in a local event where he defended these comments. Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: What they said we did. We never did. I mean, I've never asked President Trump to resign. Well, if he was in a phone call, I've got asked a question. He asked the question, the time period, about the 25th Amendment. All I did was walk through like anybody would, what are the different scenarios that would happen? And all we did was put out the different options.

The reason why I never called and asked the president to resign, the more information you learned. You learned about how National Guards were offered to come to the Capitol beforehand and the Speaker declined those. Have the National Guard been at the Capitol, this never would have happened.


DIAZ: Christi, Boris, remember House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants to be House speaker in -- after the 2022 midterms should Republicans take back the lower chamber. However, that could be a problem if he doesn't have support from those more conservative Republican members of his party after these comments. But really, as I said he's kept the calm and he's expected to address his GOP conference next Wednesday in a private meeting. I'm sure we'll learn more about what he plans to say once that happens.

But, of course, Republicans are still planning for another shoe to drop. The New York Times has reported that in the days after the insurrection, McCarthy privately lamented that Twitter should be taken away from Republican lawmakers and that there could be some audio recordings of that. So there could be more we hear from him and comments he made after the January 6 insurrection, and we'll see how that plays out within his party.

Christi and Boris?


SANCHEZ: Yes. Likely not to be taken well by members of his party who believe that social media companies are censoring conservatives. Daniella Diaz, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Daniella.

So with seven months to go before the midterms, the White House is preparing for a tough election season.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Yesterday, the President offered a preview of what could be his midterm message. Here it is.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This ain't your father's Republican Party. Not a joke. This is a MAGA party now. These guys are a different breed of cat. They're not like what by served with for so many years. And the people who know better are afraid to act correctly, because they know they'll be primary.


SANCHEZ: Let's take you to Seattle now. And CNN's Priscilla Alvarez who was traveling with the President. Priscilla, the White House is taking steps preparing for the likelihood of a Republican takeover of Congress after the midterms later this year.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Boris, that's right. And it's personnel moves that are anticipated that are signaling just that. Anita Dunn, a veteran Washington consultant and prominent member of Biden's inner circle is expected to return full time. She's a fierce defender of the administration as is Ian Sams who was the spokesperson of Vice President Kamala Harris's 2020 presidential campaign.

And so with those personnel moves anticipated, the White House is indicating that there could very well be a GOP takeover of Capitol Hill come November. But in the meantime, President Biden is hitting the road and selling his agenda. And we saw that this week with his visits to Oregon and Washington where he resurface themes of his campaign like job growth, the economy, and health care, but he also recognize the challenges of the last year like the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, which has hit a lot of Americans very hard.

And notably, he went after Republicans and he took a swipe at the GOP's attack against Disney saying, quote, the far right has taken over the party. And as you heard earlier, he also said, quote, this is the MAGA party now. But this is the party that Biden will have to contend with going into the November election in his politically precarious moment. And that is what the White House is preparing for. Boris, Christi?

SANCHEZ: Priscilla Alvarez traveling with the President in Wilmington, Delaware, not Seattle, Washington where he was yesterday. Nevertheless, close enough. Priscilla, thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, Priscilla.

So it's April 23rd. You see that nasty thing on the map there? Yes, we're going to tell you about some severe weather that it couldn't be headed your way depending on where you are. And we're even talking about blizzard-like conditions? Yes.



SANCHEZ: We're keeping an eye on some spring storms that could usher in a new round of severe weather for parts of the United States. Meaning that some states could see heavy rain hail, and even tornadoes.

PAUL: CNN's Allison Chinchar is with us. Allison, are you serious about blizzard-like conditions in some places to this?


PAUL: It's April 23rd.

CHINCHAR: Clearly Mother Nature has not looked at the calendar. Yes, this is a pretty wide-reaching system. I mean, when you talk about the air -- things that it's going to bring, we've got severe thunderstorms. Blizzard conditions, and it's even contributing to a pretty enhanced fire risk across portions of the Southwest.

Here's a look at what we're talking about elevated and critical fire weather forecasts for today. Very strong winds. You're talking 60 to 70 mile per hour gusts, and also very low humidities. And this is day two for some of these areas of those incredibly strong winds. Look at some of these peak wind gusts 93, 90, in the 80s, even Boulder, Colorado topping out at a gust of 73 miles per hour.

A lot of those same areas and then some new ones looking at more windy conditions today. You've got wind advisories and high wind warnings out yet again for today. But when you take that wind and you mix it with some snow, you're going to get some blizzard conditions. So we've got pretty significant areas here under a blizzard warning. In addition, winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories.

Some of those areas could pick up over a foot of brand new snowfall. On the eastern side of that front, now the focus becomes severe thunderstorms and it stretches all the way from Minnesota back down to the southern point of Texas. You're looking at hail, damaging winds and even a few tornadoes. Then that system begins to shift off to the east the very next day.

So the main points we talked about for today. The same threats will exist on Sunday, just slightly different areas. For Sunday, the main threat for severe weather exists from Michigan all the way back into Texas. But again, you're still looking at hail, damaging winds and even the potential for some tornadoes.

Looking at the snow, again, we talked about this, 10, 12 even as much as 18 inches of snow. The rain, Boris and Christi, is going to be heaviest on the South Side. States like Texas, Oklahoma as well as Arkansas.

PAUL: Everybody be careful out there. The spring skiers I'm sure are in all their glory.

Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for the heads up.


SANCHEZ: Thanks, Allison.

A quick programming note for you. The new CNN film "Navalny" focuses on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his year's long campaign against corruption among Russia's elites, including President Vladimir Putin. The film premieres tomorrow night. Here's a quick update.


ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translation): Vladimir Alexandrovich, it's Alexei Navalny calling and I was hoping you could tell me why you wanted to kill me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remarkably, Vladimir Putin faces a legitimate opponent Alexei Navalny.

NAVALNY: I don't want Putin became president. I will end war.

If I want to be leader of a country, I have to organize people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Kremlin hates Navalny so much that they refused to say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Passengers heard about me cry out in agony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, poisoned? Seriously?

We are creating the coalition to fight this regime. If you are killed, what message do you leave behind for the Russian people? It's very simple. Never give up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Navalny, tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.


SANCHEZ: Look forward to watching that. The Sundance award winning film premieres tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Hey, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate it.

PAUL: Absolutely. We hope you're going to make some good memories today. Stay with us though. Smerconish is with you next.