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CNN TONIGHT: Dozens Of Civilians Killed After Russian Missiles Hit Ukrainian Train Station Used For Evacuations; U.S. Assists Ukraine In Receiving Key S-300 Air Defense System From Slovakia; Text Message From Trump Family Member On Overturning Election. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 08, 2022 - 21:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you.

I am Jake Tapper. This is CNN TONIGHT, live from Lviv, Ukraine.

More than six weeks, into this bloody Russian invasion, the U.S. State Department says, quote, "We can no longer be surprised by the Kremlin's repugnant disregard for human life," unquote.

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, calling Russian military strikes, killing civilians, quote, "An evil that has no limits." He put out a new message, this evening, for the world that we'll show you in a moment.

The world responded, today, to yet another Russian targeting, of civilians. In this instance, civilians that were trying to escape the hell of this war. They were at a jam-packed train station, in Kramatorsk, in the eastern region, of Donbas.

Another warning. The images, we're about to show you, are very graphic. They are very disturbing. But we cannot look away, from this reality.









TAPPER: Those horrifying screams, the haunting scramble, for cover, after Russia fired what is believed to have been a short-range ballistic missile, directly, on this crowd of women, children, men, and the elderly. At least 50 were killed, including five children. At least 98 wounded, including 16 children.

Ukrainian military authorities say the missile contained cluster munitions, more commonly called a cluster bomb. It's a cruel device, designed for propelling secondary submunitions, to kill as many people as possible.

Written in Russian, on the missile, were the words, quote, "For the children." CNN cannot confirm who wrote that. And we don't know what it's even supposed to mean. Was it some kind of revenge message, on behalf of Russian children, or was that directed at Ukrainian children?

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says, once again, tonight, "Russia must be held accountable."


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We expect a firm global response, to this war crime. Like the massacre in Bucha, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile strike, on Kramatorsk, must be one of the charges, at the tribunal, which is bound to happen.


TAPPER: Despite Moscow, falsely suggesting, again that it was not behind the attack, blaming Ukraine, insanely, it has been obvious, for weeks now that Putin's army, is directly targeting civilian populations.

We have seen the mass graves, in Bucha. Those slaughtered, in the streets, some with their hands tied, behind their backs. We've seen the blown-up hospitals, across Ukraine, including maternity wards, and children's hospitals.

We saw them strike that packed theater, in Mariupol that had the word, "Children," written in Russian, outside the theater, to warn them, not to bomb it. Clearly, visible from the air.

So, it could not be any clearer, who is at fault, or whether these strikes are accidental or not. What's mystifying is the cruelty, and what is confusing and confounding, how to put an end to this nightmare.

CNN's Phil Black takes us through this latest atrocity.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For many, who fear what is coming, in Eastern Ukraine, Kramatorsk station has been a gateway, to safety. Crowds of people, have packed its platforms, in recent days. Desperate to increase their distance, from a region, Russia says, it will soon conquer, with overwhelming force.

Witnesses say thousands came again, on Friday morning. They sought safety. They couldn't escape the war. (VIDEO - RUSSIAN ATTACK ON TRAIN STATION, KRAMATORSK, UKRAINE)



BLACK (voice-over): These are the moments, after a ballistic missile, exploded at the station, after debris and shrapnel tore through the crowd.


BLACK (voice-over): "So many dead bodies," a person cries, "only children, just children."

When the screaming eventually stopped, the broken bodies, of the innocent, remained.


BLACK (voice-over): We have to hide, much of this scene. Most of those, lying bleeding, and still, are women and children.


BLACK (voice-over): Survivors fled. We managed to contact some, by phone, while they sheltered, together, in a public building, still scared and shaken.


BLACK (voice-over): This woman says she looked up, when she thought she heard a plane. Then, it exploded, and everyone went down.


BLACK (voice-over): This man says, he heard the blast, and threw his body, over his daughter.

The remains of the missile, that terrified and hurt so many, crashed down near the station.

Hand-painted Russian words mark its side, declaring the weapon's avenging purpose. It says, "For the children." The author and their intent are unknown. The result is, yet another moment of horror, in a war, with endless capacity, for taking and destroying innocent lives.



BLACK: So, once again, world leaders, are accusing Russia, of committing an atrocity, in Ukraine. And, once again, Russia is denying, all responsibility.

The U.S. assessment is this was a short-range ballistic missile, fired from a Russian position, inside Ukraine. The Ukrainian military, says that missile was packed with custom munitions, small bomblets, which spread and explode over a wide area, and which are banned, in more than 100 countries.


TAPPER: Phil Black, in Lviv, for us, thank you so much.

Here with me, tonight, is CNN's Nima Elbagir, our Chief International Investigative Correspondent.

And Nima, given what we know, from U.S. Intelligence and, from the evidence, on the ground, there really seems to be no doubt that this was a Russian missile, and that Russia deliberately targeted this train station, packed with civilians.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it says that Putin, at the very least, wants to project, a sense of impunity.

That, in the midst of all this conversation, all these calls, for prosecution and war crimes investigation, for him, to go ahead, and use cluster munitions, a banned munition that are designed to cause the maximum amount of damage, in a train station, containing fleeing families, not only in the middle of a renewed offensive, in the east of the country, so close to Russia's border, but while civilians are seeking to evacuate? It goes back to what we're seeing again, and again. This pattern of subjugation through terrorization. "You can't flee this. The world can't save you from this."

And, I think, perhaps also, what's important, for your audience, to know, is that while they're outside, hearing all this talk, perhaps feeling that there may be momentum, on this conflict, on the ground here, we are at an impasse.

TAPPER: Yes, we are indeed. And a U.N. official says, there is credible evidence, Russia has used cluster bombs, indiscriminately, at least two dozen times, in Ukraine. And, as you know, these are designed to be cruel devices, to kill as many people, as possible.

In 2008, more than 100 countries, signed onto an international treaty, to ban their use. Russia did not sign that treaty. We should note, neither did the United States. And the United States has also used cluster bombs, in the past, including in Iraq, including in Vietnam.

Could that, along with our non-recognition, of the International Criminal Court, the United States is, could that have any effect, on whether Russia will face any punishment, for what they're doing, here, what are clearly war crimes?

ELBAGIR: Absolutely. I mean, of the three main actors, in this conflict, Ukraine is not a signatory, either. But it's accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. Russia, of course, is not a signatory, nor is the U.S.

And unfortunately, it gives Putin, what he craves, which is the ability to project this sense of Western hypocrisy, and U.S. overreach. Once again, the U.S. speaks in a fashion, but doesn't act, and doesn't hold itself, to the same standards.

This has always been - going back to the first speech, he famously gave, in the - during the Iraq war, that America asks of others, to act in ways, it does not ask of itself.

TAPPER: Right. And even though, I could say, "Look, the United States does prosecute its soldiers, for committing war crimes," as you noted, President Trump pardoned a number of them, and you say that really had an effect?

ELBAGIR: Well, it would also be probably the closest thing, to political suicide, for a U.S. politician, to say, "Yes, OK, we will cooperate with the ICC. We will hand over U.S. service people to the ICC."

I mean, it's almost impossible to imagine, right? And that's what you're asking, when you sign up to the ICC. And it comes back, again, to the ways that Putin plays off this idea, of America's constant exceptionalism, for itself.

I'm not saying that this is true. But when America is saying, "Only American courts can act, on American service people, but we want Putin, to be held to account," legally, it also means that if whatever happens, politically, in Russia, whoever takes over, from Putin, has no legal obligation to hand him over to prosecution. And that's incredibly difficult to enforce.

TAPPER: Yes. We also learned today that Russia is shutting down the offices of human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, in this country.

What consequences does that have?

ELBAGIR: Well, for me, it speaks to how much Putin is scared, as much about the disinformation, he needs, to continue to sow, internally, in Russia, right?

I mean, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have been in Russia, for about 30 years. He's been slowly closing that space, not only for dissent, but for the ability, to hear any alternative opinions, any alternative reality, for the people, inside Russia.

And 44th or 45th day, into this conflict, it's very difficult for even the most ardent Putin loyalists, to not get a sense that "We were told this was going to be quick. We were told this is going to happen in a very different way."

TAPPER: "And that we were going to be welcomed."

ELBAGIR: Yes. "Roses in the streets of Kyiv! That has not happened. Why? So, this is part of a Western conspiracy. These are foreign actors."

[21:10:00] I mean, Putin went so far, as to designate a 25-year-old rapper, as a foreign agent, for speaking out, against the fact that the reality has not followed what Putin has led the Russian people to expect.

TAPPER: Yes. Not the actions of a smart or - I mean, of a strong or confident leader.

Nima Elbagir, thank you so much, as always. Great to have you.

The world has come to know this graphic photo, of a Ukrainian Mayor, and her husband, and her son, lying in a shallow pit, after being shot in the head, with their hands tied behind their backs.

A funeral was held for the family. A friend remembers them as heroes. Take a look.


OLENA SUKHENKO, FRIEND OF MAYOR OLGA SUKHENKO: We think that they are really heroes of Ukraine, because they stayed up, to the end, in order to help others, and support others. And they are great representatives of our nation.


TAPPER: I want to turn now, to a member of the Ukrainian parliament. Anastasia Radina joins us now.

You're a public official too. What goes through your mind, when you see mayors, middle-aged women, not in the military, just trying to govern, being massacred like this?

ANASTASIA RADINA, UKRAINIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: First and foremost, it shows us the scape of war crimes, Russia is committing, on Ukrainian territory. And frankly, I cannot think of any type of a war crime that hasn't been yet committed, by Russia, on Ukrainian territory.

But even more importantly, this case shows us why Ukraine has to win, this war. Our only chance to ensure peace, and security, and freedom, in our land, is to actually win this war. Otherwise, Russia will have concentration camps, on all over the territory of Ukraine, and there will be no future, for us, in the country.

TAPPER: Speaking of war crimes, tell us your reaction, to what happened, to the train station, in Kramatorsk, earlier today?

RADINA: I can't - I don't just - I even don't have words, to describe that. This is undescribable, unbelievable. And more importantly, this is unforgivable.

But what is most terrifying about that this is just one of the examples, of what Russia is doing, and what - as we are receiving reports, from our Intelligence that Russian troops are preparing, to advance, once again, in Donetsk and Luhansk, and Kharkiv, regions, we are afraid that cases, like Kramatorsk, will continue, unless Ukraine receives, all the heavy weaponry, we actually need, to have proper counteroffensive activities, and to stop that.

TAPPER: I mean, to be frank, these are - these seem very much, like the tactics, of a terrorist organization, targeting people, trying to flee.

RADINA: Absolutely. This is why, we insist that Russia is not just waging an unprovoked war, on Ukrainian territory. What they are doing is genocide. And again, most horrifying, is that Kramatorsk is just one of the examples. We can continue naming these examples. This is Bucha. This is Mariupol, for example.

We are, right now, receiving reports that Russians started using portable crematoriums, in Mariupol, to hide the scope, of their atrocities, in Mariupol, and to hide the number of civilians, they massacred, there. This is genocide. And we call upon the world to recognize this - it as such.

TAPPER: You've said the attack on the Kramatorsk train station, is a clear sign that Russia has no commitment, to the peace talks, to any diplomacy. Do you believe your government, continuing with these talks, is futile? Is diplomacy still possible, at all?

RADINA: Well, first and foremost, we are a peaceful country, and we are looking for the solution. At the same time, we have no illusions, as to possibility, of workable compromises, with Russia. We have seen, since 2014, that Russia is not ready for peace talks. Russia is not ready for a compromises.

The only option for us, to actually be able to, again, ensure security, and peace, on our land, is to receive military superiority. And this is why we are asking, all the world, all the civilized world, if I may put it like this, to help Ukraine, by supplying necessary heavy weaponry that will allow us, to just keep Russian soldiers, out of our land. Again, because nothing else works with Russia.

We've been there, with trying. Since 2014, we were told not to escalate, and to make some compromises. Where did that bring us to 2022, was Russia waging full-scale war, on our territory. Therefore, now, our only option, is to win. And for that, we need proper military support.


And this is not just Javelins. But this is also heavy weaponry, like artillery, like air defense systems, and all the systems that will actually help us, not only stop Russian troops, from advancing, but also to be able to, for example, de-block Mariupol, and help occupied cities, in, for example, Kharkiv region, like the city of Izium, where people are also suffering, their worst.

TAPPER: Thank you so much, Anastasia Radina, this evening. We really appreciate your time.

The site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, was one of Russia's first conquests. Putin forces took over the Chernobyl power plant, on day one, of their invasion. But Ukrainian forces have reclaimed that land. You're about to see what they found, when they did.

Fred Pleitgen brings us a CNN TV exclusive. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back. We're live, in Lviv.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, is normally about a nine-hour drive, from where I'm standing. The site of the world's worst nuclear disaster was captured, by Russians, at the start of their invasion, in February.

With the Kremlin pulling troops, out of the region, now, CNN's Fred Pleitgen, and his team, obtained exclusive TV access, to the site. He joins us now, live, from Kyiv.

Fred, tell us what you saw.


Well, I think, there were two things that really stood out, to us. On the one hand, in the aftermath that we saw, of that Russian occupation there, was the way that the Russians treated the Ukrainians, not just the staff, but also some of the security personnel that was on hand there, seemed to have been absolutely outrageous.

But then also, their own soldiers, apparently, were subjected to possibly extremely high levels of radiation, and that they dug themselves in, in some of the most contaminated areas, in the entire world, it certainly seemed like something that was really, really a bad sight to see.

Here's what we witnessed.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Simply getting, to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is a treacherous journey.

Many streets and bridges destroyed, we had to go off-road, crossing rivers on pontoon bridges. Finally, we reached the Confinement dome, of the power plant that blew up, in 1986, the worst nuclear accident, ever.

Russian troops, invaded this area, on the very first day, of their war, against Ukraine, and took Chernobyl, without much of a fight.

Now that the Russians have left, Ukraine's Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrskyy, took us, to Chernobyl. And what we found was troubling.

The Russians imprisoned the security staff, inside the plant's own bomb shelter, the Interior Minister told us. No natural light, no fresh air, no communications. PLEITGEN (on camera): So, the Russians kept 169 Ukrainians prisoner here, the entire time they held this place. And then, when the Russians left, they looted and ransacked the place.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Among the prisoners, police officers, National Guard members, and soldiers. Ukraine's Interior Minister tells me, the Russians have now taken them, to Russia, and they don't know, how they're doing.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "When I arrived here, I was shocked," he says, "but only once again realized that there are no good Russians, and nothing good comes of Russians. It is always a story, associated with victims, with blood, and with violence."

What we see here is a vivid example, of outrageous behavior, at a nuclear facility.

While the plant's technical staff was allowed to keep working, the Ukrainians say, Russian troops were lax, with nuclear safety.

And as we enter the area, Russian troops stayed, and worked in, suddenly, the dosimeter's alarm goes off.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Increased radiation levels.

"They went to the Red Forest, and brought the radiation, here, on their shoes," this National Guardsman says, "Everywhere else is normal. Only this floor is radioactive."

I ask, "Everywhere is OK, but here is not normal?"

"Yes," he says. "The radiation is increased here, because they lived here, and they went everywhere."

"On their shoes and clothes?" I ask.

"Yes. And now, they took the radiation, with them."

"Let's get out of here," I say.

The so-called Red Forest is one of the most contaminated areas, in the world, especially the soil.

The Ukrainian government, released this drone footage, apparently showing that the Russians dug combat positions, there. The operator of Ukraine's nuclear plants says those Russian soldiers, could have been exposed, to significant amounts of radiation.

We went to the edge, of the Red Forest zone, and found a Russian military food ration, on the ground.

(DOSIMETER ALARM GOES OFF) PLEITGEN (voice-over): When we hold the dosimeter close, the radiation skyrockets, to around 50 times, above natural levels.

Ukraine says Russia's conduct, in this war, is a threat, to nuclear safety, in Europe.

PLEITGEN (on camera): The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant hasn't been in operation, for years. But, of course, this Confinement needs to be monitored 24/7. And also, there's spent nuclear fuel, in this compound, as well.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): And it's not only in Chernobyl. Russian troops also fired rockets, at Europe's largest nuclear power plant, near Zaporizhzhia, in Southern Ukraine, and are now occupying it.

Ukraine's Energy Minister tells me, the international community must step in.

GERMAN GALUSHCHENKO, UKRAINE ENERGY MINISTER: I think, it's dramatically impacting. That is the really, the act of nuclear terrorism, what they are doing.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Chernobyl is close to the Belarusian border. The Russian army used this road, as one of its main routes, to attack Ukraine's capital.

The Interior Minister says, his country needs, more weapons, to defend this border.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "Today, the border between totalitarianism, and democracy, passes, behind our backs," he says, "the border between freedom and oppression. We are ready to fight for it."


And the Ukrainians fear, they may have to fight, here, again, soon, as Russian President Vladimir Putin replenishes his forces, continuing to put this nation, and nuclear safety, in Europe, at risk.


PLEITGEN: And Jake, when I kept talking to the Energy Minister, he told me, he just believes that it's absolutely crazy that the Russian military, told its soldiers, to dig combat positions, in that Red Forest.

He said, look, if you're there, for a couple of minutes, then that's all right. But if you have troops that are dug in there, for several days, he believes that's life-threatening. These people might not have very long to live.

And he says, what's even more troubling, is that the Russians still hold the largest power plant, in Europe. Because he believes, the Russian military simply has absolutely no appreciation, of nuclear safety, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you, Fred Pleitgen, in Kyiv, for that story. Really eye- opening!

Ukraine is successfully beating back Russia, in some parts of the country. But the fiercest fighting, is yet to come. It's going to be in the eastern Donbas region.

Is Ukraine going to be equipped enough, to win battles, against the Russians there? A top military analyst's take, next.


TAPPER: We continue live, from Ukraine.


The U.S. and NATO are ramping up their combat support, of Ukraine, in terms of military supplies. The U.S. announced today that it is facilitating Ukraine, acquiring a key Soviet-era missile defense system, the S-300, coming from Slovakia.

The deal was made possible, after the U.S. said, it would send Slovakia, Ukraine's western neighbor, and a NATO member state, a Patriot missile system, in order to, backfill what they were transferring to Ukraine.

Now, how much of a difference will that make? Could something like that prevent the kind of tragedy, we saw, at the Kramatorsk train station, earlier today? Let's get some insight from retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

General, thanks so much for joining us.

So, this is what we know about, the S-300 air defense system. It has a range of 46 miles, an altitude of 82,000 feet. In addition, the U.S. is sending a range of other weapons, including more than 12,000 anti- armor systems, and 50 million rounds of ammunition.

Could this have an impact?

BRIGADIER GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), U.S. ARMY (RET.), FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: Well Jake, first of all, we've got to recognize that the Slovakian contribution is significant.

But the Ukrainians have had the S-300, for quite a few years. Six months ago, they had about 300 launchers. So, they've already have a significant capability, there.

But what's more important is that since NATO was not able to agree, on a no-fly zone, from the air, this gives them a better chance, to establish a no-fly capability, from the ground. This may give them, the Ukrainians, capability, truly cover the entire area, particularly in the east, so that Russian aircraft aren't a significant contribution, to this upcoming fight.

TAPPER: And I would think that that would be a lot of diplomacy, going on, there. If you see, the Slovakians giving one system, and then the Americans providing another system, to the Slovakians? That's not like something that could be hammered out in one phone call. That takes a lot of work.

KIMMITT: No. I think, all of these equipment contributions, have been discussed, since the beginning of the war.

Let's be very candid. This contribution, coming from NATO, has been overwhelming. And, in many ways, it's what's given the Ukrainians, the capability, to have such an impact, on the battlefield.

Along with the brave Ukrainian soldiers, this equipment that's come from NATO, and the United States, has really held back the Russian advance, both in the first phase, in its blitzkrieg, towards Kyiv, in the second phase, where they had been unable to take the northern part of the country.

And let's hope, it does the same thing, in this third phase, where the Russians are going to concentrate, in east.

TAPPER: So, right now, let's show this video. It's a video of joint live fire exercises, being jointly conducted, by the U.S. and Poland, just a few miles, from where I am. NATO was essentially sending a very clear message, to Putin, with this public show of force, inviting the media in to film it.

Do you think Putin will heed this warning?

KIMMITT: Well, if the warning, is to stay out of Europe, stay out of NATO territory, I think, the Ukrainians have already done that job, for him. His forces have been significantly depleted. They haven't performed well, on the battlefield. They may perform better, in this next phase of their operation.

But, if this is a force, a Russian force that is unable, to conquer Ukraine, in a short period of time, he must clearly understand that if he goes against the entire might of NATO, that's probably a bridge too far, for him, and his military, at this point.

TAPPER: Secretary Lloyd Austin, Pentagon Secretary, admitted publicly the U.S. is giving Ukraine, Intelligence, specifically on the Donbas region. It's not really a surprise. But that seems rather critical.

How crucial is it?

KIMMITT: Well, it's always critical. In particular, we've got to recognize that the greater - the greatest killer, on the battlefield, thus far, for the Russians, has been their use of missiles, and artillery. Those are fairly easy to see, from the Intelligence platforms, we have, in the air.

The Ukrainians also have counter-battery radars. But if they want to hold back a Russian artillery assault, which is really the centerpiece, of how the Russians fight, that Intelligence is going to be giving, some pinpoint accuracy, on where those artillery missile batteries are.

And that could be significant, in this upcoming fight, where we should expect even more artillery, and missiles fired, than we've seen, up to this point, in the war.

TAPPER: Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, thank you so much, for your insights, this evening. We appreciate it. Good to see you.

More on the war, on Ukraine, ahead.


But first, we have a CNN exclusive. Text messages, from a member of Donald Trump's family, seeming to push ideas, on how the President - then-President, could overturn the results, of the 2020 election, almost immediately, after Election Day, before all the results were in.

A top member of the Trump White House, will join us, to weigh in. That's next.


TAPPER: We're live, in Ukraine. And there remains much more to cover, tonight, on this war, in which freedom and democracy are at stake.

But we turn now, to a CNN exclusive, Donald Trump Jr. texting strategies, to subvert the will of the American voters, before the election results, of 2020, were even known.

CNN has reviewed a text message from the then-President's son, to the then-White House Chief of Staff, which states, quote, "We have multiple paths. We control them all." Those multiple paths would all be tried, in some form, or fashion, leading up to the events of January 6.

The text was sent, on November 5. That was when it still looked as though Donald Trump could win, legitimately.

In a statement, Trump Jr.'s lawyer says, quote, "Given the date, this message likely originated from someone else and was forwarded," unquote.


Among the strategies posited, exerting pressure, on Republican- controlled state legislators, a la President Trump's infamous call, to the Georgia's Secretary of State, Trump Jr. texts, quote, "Republicans control Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, et cetera. We get Trump electors."

The text also calls for objecting to the vote certification. Quote, "We either have a vote WE control and WE win OR it gets kicked to Congress 6 January 2021." As you may recall, 147 congressional Republicans objected, to the certification, and counting the votes, from Arizona and/or Pennsylvania, even after the Capitol had been so brutally attacked.

As the text message reads, quote, "We have operational control. Total leverage," unquote, there are even more plans laid out, in the text, which were attempted.

Let's discuss some of them, with my next guest, who was the White House Communications Director, when that text was sent.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks so much, for joining us.

So, when you were at the White House, did you know of this type of plans, in the works?


I certainly wasn't aware. But I can tell you this. Those final days, even before the election was called, but once the Arizona call was made, and it looked like Donald Trump was not going to win the election, was a very scary time, in the Trump White House.

There was a level of desperation, among those closest, to the former President, to hang on to power, in any way possible. You'd hear rumors of different ideas.

I've shared before. I was supposed to do a television interview, the day after the election. The results had not been called. And was told to stand down because, quote, "There was a plan in place." Things were underway and the folks in Roslyn (ph), were kind of working out strategies, of what to do.

And, I think, this text is extraordinarily revealing. It shows that they were going to use every lever, of the federal government, as well as legislatures that were friendly to them, to try to cling to power.

TAPPER: So, Trump Jr.'s text makes specific references, to filing lawsuits, and advocating recounts.

Now, that's - those are legal venues. And they filed. And they lost, more than 60 lawsuits. And there were numerous recounts. And none of them found any evidence of widespread voter fraud. Nothing changed, in terms of who won those states.

But how could there be a need for lawsuits, and recounts, at that point, November 5, when the votes were still being counted? There wasn't even evidence, of any fraud, or evidence that Donald Trump had definitively lost, any of these states.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, that's kind of the fascinating thing, about the "Big lie" itself. The Trump campaign, and those senior advisers, in the Trump White House, had access to internal polling that projected him losing. Polling, it's not - it's a science, but it's not always completely accurate.

But the results of the election, at that time, November 5, were not far off, from what we had been projecting, with the exception of Georgia. But this just goes to show that before it was even the democratic process was underway, or was even complete, they were thinking of what they could do, to try to hold on to power.

And here's what's important about this. Two things. This reveals just how deep the January 6 committee is going. They are getting access to information, from those closest, to the former President, including his son, including his former Chief of Staff. That's important work that they're doing.

But more importantly, this isn't behind us. 2022 is around the corner. 2024 is around the corner. Donald Trump is likely running for president.

And he is already working, to stack secretaries of state offices, state houses, as well as install loyalists, in the House of Representatives, and the Senate, for precisely something like this, again, if he runs and he loses, to be able to have those levers, in place, to have operational control, and stay in power.

TAPPER: In March, of this year, a federal judge called this all a, quote, "Coup in search of a legal theory."

Given that this text was sent, before the so-called Eastman memo, which detailed a way that Vice President Pence was supposed to overturn the election, although obviously there was no constitutional way, to do this, what other way, is there, to describe this, other than a coup?

FARAH GRIFFIN: I think it's exactly that. I mean, this is literally talking, this is sharing an idea, of how to overthrow the democratic process, essentially, to overthrow the rightful government, of the Joe Biden presidency.


It cannot be dismissed as that his - Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyers, are now saying, "Well, it may have been a forwarded idea of someone else's." But he shared it, which is sort of a tacit endorsement that he thinks this is something that should be shared far and wide, as the reporting indicates.

I mean, this amounts, to an effort, to overthrow the government, because you did not like the outcome, of a democratic election. It's terrifying. It is absolutely wrong. And I expect that there's going to be more information like this that comes out of the committee.

TAPPER: Alyssa Farah Griffin, always appreciate you, thank you so much, for your time, tonight. FARAH GRIFFIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: We return to the invasion of Ukraine. Coming up, I'm going to take you, to a shelter, for some of the roughly 7 million Ukrainians, who are still here, in their country, but cannot go home. They had to flee.

Internally-displaced persons, they're called. The painful choices they're making, to escape Putin's fury, and the horror stories, they're hearing, from loved ones and friends, left behind, that's next.


TAPPER: Back now, from Lviv.


President Zelenskyy, says at least five children were killed today, in Russia's attack on the train station, in Kramatorsk. Those five children, are among at least 45 others, murdered today, by the Russians, as they sought refuge, at the train station, which has served as an evacuation hub.

These Ukrainians were just a small number of the more than 7 million people that the International Organization for Migration says, have been forced to flee, their homes, but remain, here, in Ukraine.

We visited a university, turned shelter that is currently housing more than 700 people, from all over Ukraine, each one, with a unique story, and view, of this tragedy.


TAPPER (voice-over): Beneath the punching bags, in this university gym, in Western Ukraine, those civilians, able to flee their homes, in the east and south, and dodge the Russian military's relentless barrage, are catching their breath.

No one wants to be here. But it beats the alternative. And the stories, they tell us, reveal why they fled.

ANYA, FLED KYIV WITH HER DAUGHTER (through translator): We lived very close to Irpin, and it was very scary. The explosions were very loud. We spent two days, in the basement. The kid was very scared. And we decided to go.

TAPPER (voice-over): Anya, who once worked as a nanny, and her 13- year-old daughter, Margarita (ph), fled Kyiv, on February 28, with nothing, but their documents, and their dogs.

ANYA (through translator): We had to decide, either bag or dog. And we decided to take the dogs.

TAPPER (voice-over): The dogs too, are a mother and daughter. The mattresses, on this gym floor, their home, since March 1. The fate of so many close to Anya, friends and Margarita's (ph) classmates, unknown.

ANYA (through translator): I have a lot of friends, including some of them, which cannot be reached, at this moment.

You try to track them down on Facebook. But you see, they don't come online, and it's scary.

TAPPER (voice-over): Anya has been able to connect, with her husband, still back east, who now works for the local defense forces.

TAPPER (on camera): Is he fighting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, in territorial defense.

ANYA (through translator): Yes, in territorial defense.

TAPPER (on camera): And how - how is he doing?

ANYA (through translator): It's better not to say.

TAPPER (on camera): They come from Luhansk. They come from Donetsk. They come from Kharkiv. They come from Mariupol. They come from Kyiv. They come from Bucha. To here, to this university, to this beat-up old gymnasium, just for a safe place, away, from Putin's bombs and bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Putin is an A-hole.

TAPPER (voice-over): Yulia Laznitsa (ph), who has called this mattress her home, for one month, as of today, tries to brighten, her small part, of the gymnasium floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): These are not even my things. It is hard to bear it, to have to wear someone else's clothes. That's why I like to have flowers, to somehow make it comfortable and beautiful.

TAPPER (voice-over): Yulia (ph) was once an administrator, for a chain of sushi restaurants, a chain that shut down, after Kyiv, came under attack.

TAPPER (on camera): Why did you leave?

TAPPER (voice-over): She fled, in part, because she needed to come somewhere, where she could still buy vital medications, for her aging mother, which she sends back, through the still-functioning post office.

Yulia (ph) lived, once, just about six miles, from Bucha, the sight of so many atrocities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is hard to speak, without crying, because a lot of friends, and colleagues, live in Irpin, and Bucha. It is all impossible, to imagine, because it's so close, and I might have known these people.

TAPPER (voice-over): She recently spoke with one of her friends, Alexei (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The Russians couldn't open the cellar. So, threw a grenade at the door, and the girls were raped by the soldiers that entered the basement.

I'm afraid to ask her more detail about it. I will know more, when I meet her, on the day of the victory.

TAPPER (voice-over): Her nephew's girlfriend is 18, and may have suffered a similar terror. No one wants to talk about it.

TAPPER (on camera): Are you going to try to leave Ukraine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

TAPPER (voice-over): This 18-year-old did not want us to show his face, or share his name. His parents live, in a part of the Donbas region, since taken over, by Russians. He does not have the proper paperwork, to return there. And communications, from the area, have been shut down. He is here, with his phone, and a few belongings, all by himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My parents are not allowed to leave the Russians.

TAPPER (voice-over): His father is a local fire chief, he says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He was forced to sign a contract, with the Russians. He was given a choice. Either to lose all his property, or to sign a contract to work with them.

TAPPER (voice-over): He was in Kharkiv, when the shooting started. He spent 10 days, sheltering in a subway. Then, he fled, here, more than a month ago. He wants to leave Ukraine. But he turned 18, seven months ago, and he is not allowed to leave.

TAPPER (on camera): Well fighting each man have to stay?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

TAPPER (on camera): It must be so tough to be on your own, here?


TAPPER (on camera): You're just a kid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, it's true. But I would like not to hear all the sirens, and to try and live in peace.


TAPPER (voice-over): Just 18, on his own, with nothing. Unable to talk to his family, whom he may never see again.

It is difficult to imagine. But, in Ukraine, during Putin's war, this is what is considered, relatively lucky.


TAPPER: We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Thanks for watching, CNN TONIGHT, live, from Lviv.

Please join me Sunday, for a "STATE OF THE UNION," live from Ukraine, beginning at 9 A.M. Eastern.

I'll be joined by National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. Also, I'll have a joint interview, with Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Plus, Republican congresswoman, Liz Cheney.

Plus, I'll be here, next week, for "THE LEAD," weekdays, starting at 4 P.M. Eastern, and right back, here, on CNN TONIGHT, Monday nights, at 9 P.M. Eastern.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

Hey, Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: You're a busy man, Jake Tapper, and doing great work. Listen, all of this creating, a really huge humanitarian crisis.