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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN TONIGHT: Senior Administration Official: State Department Considering Labeling Russia A State Sponsor Of Terror; CDC Mask Mandate For Travelers Struck Down By Federal Judge; Gun Violence Epidemic: U.S. Has Seen At Least 144 Mass Shootings This Year, 10 This Past Weekend. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 18, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA SUPLEE, PEDIATRIC PSYCHOLOGIST: It's important to use simple, honest language. I think - we have a tendency to want to shield our children, from the scary things, going on, in the world. But the reality is, we're all living through this.
And so, having a plan, ahead of time, like Dr. Wen mentioned, of just what are you going to say to your children. So, "Daddy is sick, right now, and he can't be in the same room as you," or "We have to wear masks right now, because we're sick."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: The episode will be available on CNN+, on Wednesday. I hope, you can check it out.
The news continues. Let's hand it over Laura Coates, and Jim Sciutto, in Ukraine.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CO-HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Anderson, thank you.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Jim Sciutto, live tonight, from Lviv, Ukraine, along with Laura Coates, back, in the States, where there is big news, this evening.
The State Department is now considering labeling Russia, a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation till now, reserved only for North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria. It would be a significant development, and a sea change, in relations, between two superpowers, if that were to happen. We will take that to a key administration official, in just a moment.
Meanwhile, a new phase of this ruthless invasion has begun. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, announced, to his nation, tonight that Russian forces have started, the long expected and expanded battle, for Donbas, in the east of this country. He told CNN, Friday, what happens in Donbas could then set the course, for the rest of the war.
Russia has completed regrouping troops, for this new major offensive, according to Ukrainian officials. And although the fiercest battles, are in the east and south, Lviv, here, in the West, got hit by at least four different missile strikes, today.
You can see some video, of one of those missiles, as they streaked across the sky. Watch how fast it goes. We'll have more, in just a moment.
(VIDEO - MISSILE, STREAKS ACROSS THE SKY, LVIV, UKRAINE)
SCIUTTO: Laura also has breaking developments, this hour, on the uptick, in violence, back home.
LAURA COATES, CNN CO-HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Yes, Jim. 10 mass shootings, here, in the U.S., just this weekend. And it was a holy weekend at that, for many.
Gunfire, at least at two house parties, and Easter celebration, there's one at a mall, and elsewhere, have left eight dead, and dozens injured. And this, on the heels of that horrific subway mass shooting, in New York City, just last week.
So, many in Congress, keep saying, "We're going to do something about the gun violence epidemic." But the question, really, is when will something be done about it? We'll put that question directly to a member of Congress. That's ahead.
There's also big breaking news, tonight, on the federal mask mandate, for travelers, a Florida judge striking down the administration's masking rules, for planes, and other public transportation.
This is less than a week after the CDC extended through the 3rd of May. So what does all this mean? And this comes amid a new uptick in COVID cases. The question is, will the administration really appeal?
But first, back to Jim, with what he personally witnessed, in the city of Lviv, just today. I mean, it's unbelievable what you're seeing right now.
SCIUTTO: Listen, Laura, terror, it has been part of the Russian battle plan, since the start, of this invasion.
And Russia brought terror here, to Lviv, today. Multiple times, those air raid sirens went off. And, in the morning, those sirens were followed by the booms, the explosions of missile strikes.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): A missile, streaks across the sky, over Lviv, in western Ukraine.
(VIDEO - MISSILE, STREAKS ACROSS THE SKY, OVER LVIV, IN WESTERN UKRAINE)
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Russian forces, launching cruise missiles, on multiple targets, here.
An auto repair shop.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Just as it was getting ready to open, with several employees, on site, transformed into an inferno. Also hit, what the regional military governor described, as three military warehouses.
SCIUTTO (on camera): This is the scene of one of the missile strikes, this morning. You can see the emergency responders, back here. But, as we arrived, another air raid signal went off. These soldiers concerned that this will be a secondary strike, on the same target.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Ukrainian soldiers ordered us behind a concrete barricade.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We understand you can film this.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Nervous about us filming any soldiers or military facilities, one member of the Territorial Defense Forces, cocked his rifle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
SCIUTTO (voice-over): As he shouted at us, to move back.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): As other sirens warned of more missiles on the way?
SCIUTTO (on camera): Thank you (ph).
SCIUTTO (voice-over): We took shelter, in a closed restaurant.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): After several hours, finally, the all-clear signal. And this is what was left behind.
Two ambulances, outside, one of the damaged military warehouses, guarded by Ukrainian soldiers, damaged cars, fallen trees. A section of railroad tracks thrown dozens of yards by the force of the blast. The auto repair shop destroyed. The owner told CNN, several were killed here.
In all, the victims numbered at least seven dead, 11 wounded, including a child. One toll in one city, among many, suffering through war, here.
COATES: Jim, for many people, we know, of course, about the millions of people, who have fled Ukraine, into neighboring countries. But, for a lot of people, at least 200,000 people, they were internally displaced, and actually going to Lviv, where it seemed to be a safer part of the country. I mean, where else can families go, now, if that's no longer the case? Look at what's happening there now!
SCIUTTO: No question. Lviv has been something of a lifeboat, throughout all this, a place of refuge, for people, either transiting through here, on their way to Poland, and elsewhere, in Eastern Europe, or just to stay here, and hoping to wait out the war, to some degree.
But, of course, today - and it's happened, before. But it's been some time. But today, the war came here, again. So, the question is, do they then move out of the country, as many millions have done? Do they look for other cities? The trouble is Russia is showing that it can strike anywhere in this country.
COATES: And I wonder, what would it mean, now, if the U.S. were to label Russia, that, state sponsor of terrorism, as you mentioned?
SCIUTTO: It's in effect, a new round, a new category of sanctions. It would prevent Russia, from buying a whole host of products, and dealing, in a whole host of trade, both for military and commercial products.
And then, as a second step, it would then penalize other countries that would deal with Russia, in those same categories. It'd be a significant step. I mean, think of the club, Russia would be joining there. Iran, North Korea, and Syria!
COATES: And I wonder, when you think about what's going on, I mean, there's been a lot that's happened, since you visited, the first time, in Lviv. You've been back now. You're back in Ukraine.
What's it like now? How has it changed? Is it fundamentally different? Do you feel a sense that there's been a lot that's changed, since the last time you were there?
SCIUTTO: Well, I'll tell you. We've been here, goodness, I don't know, 36 hours, maybe on this trip, and have had four air raid sirens. And one of those, followed by multiple missile strikes. It just - it's a reminder that there really is no safe place, in this country.
And we're seeing, you know, as this broadens the impact of the U.S. possibly designating another superpower, a state sponsor of terrorism, that's something I discussed with a member of the Biden administration.
Just a short time ago, I spoke with Matt Miller. He's Special Adviser to the U.S. National Security Council.
SCIUTTO: Matt, state sponsor of terrorism? Is the administration close to declaring Russia, a state sponsor of terrorism? How long before the President makes a decision? MATT MILLER, SPECIAL ADVISER, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, Jim, as you know, there's a formal process that has to be undertaken, by the State Department, to make that kind of determination.
But what I will say about that, when you look at what flows, from designating a country, as a state sponsor of terrorism, it is a number of sanctions, and other economic measures, many of which, we have already imposed.
If you look at the packages, of sanctions, we've imposed, on Russia, they're extremely serious, and have brought enormous economic devastation, to the Russian economy. So, that is a tool that remains in our toolbox. And, of course, we continue to look at all available measures.
But if you look at the actual practical implications, of what that designation would be, we have pretty much put into place, all of those measures, already.
SCIUTTO: I was in Geneva, this is just last summer, as you know, when Putin and Biden met. And the discussion there, was of strategic stability, between Russia and the U.S.
And here we are, less than a year later, and the U.S. now considering declaring Russia, a terror sponsor. Did the Biden administration misread Putin?
MILLER: Not at all. We've always made clear that we wanted strategic stability, we wanted to have a stable relationship, with Russia. We wanted a Russia that would contribute to European security.
But we were always ready, if Russia chose another path. Even leading up to the final days, before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we made clear that we were open to diplomatic negotiations.
But that wasn't mean we weren't also clear-eyed about the threat that Russia posed. We've been clear-eyed about that, since the beginning of the administration. Even before the invasion, this administration was committing hundreds of millions of dollars of security assistance, to Ukraine.
And, of course, in the days, since the invasion, we've continued to flow billions of dollars of security assistance, to Ukraine, to help it defend itself, against Russia, while imposing those serious economic measures that I spoke of a minute ago.
SCIUTTO: As you know, the U.K. Prime Minister, has visited Ukraine, the leaders of a number of NATO allies, have visited Ukraine. When will the U.S. send a senior official to visit here?
MILLER: Well, that's not something that we would discuss publicly, for security reasons. If we do send a senior high-level representative, to Ukraine, that's something that we would not announce, in advance.
But we do continue to be in close contact with the Ukrainian government, at very senior levels. [21:10:00]
The President talks, regularly, with President Zelenskyy. Secretary Blinken talks with his counterpart. And, of course, the National Security Advisor, here, at the White House, Jake Sullivan, talks nearly every day, with a senior adviser, to President Zelenskyy.
So while we're not there, on the ground, in Ukraine, right now, we are in close daily contact, with our counterparts, in the Ukrainian government.
SCIUTTO: Well, those other leaders face the same security risks. And, by the way, other diplomatic teams have been returning to Ukraine. France, among them. And U.S. diplomats still not here.
Why is the U.S. behind on this? Why isn't it leading the way?
MILLER: Look, every country has to make its own security assessments. I will say, we continue to assess the situation, on the ground, in Ukraine.
Obviously, we want to be back in Ukraine. We want to have a diplomatic presence, there. We didn't want to leave in the first place. But we have to put first and foremost the safety and security, of American diplomats, and American personnel, who would be there on the ground.
So, we will continue to assess the situation. And when it's safe to return to Ukraine, we will do so.
SCIUTTO: Today, as the offensive, the Russian offensive intensifies, in these, the Pentagon explained their plan, to, quote, "Train the trainers." This is in terms of teaching Ukrainians, to use these American Howitzers, the administration is providing, in this latest tranche of weapons.
Given though that that offensive is already underway, I just wonder why didn't that training begin earlier? Why weren't these weapons on the ground earlier?
MILLER: Well, Jim, as you note, we did have American personnel, in Ukraine, training the Ukrainian military, before this invasion.
We spent months, years, training the Ukrainian military, to help them get ready, for any acts of Russian aggression, and to help them defend the Russian aggression that has been happening, since 2014. So, this training that's going on the Howitzers is not a new act for the United States.
Now, look, we do flow new capabilities, into the Ukrainians, all the time. Some of those new capabilities require new sets of training. So, as we do that, we do it as quickly as we can.
But I will say, the speed, and the pace, at which we're getting this assistance, into Ukraine, is really unprecedented. Just since the Russia's invasion, of Ukraine, we've committed another - more than $2 billion of security assistance, 50 million rounds of ammunition. We announced, last week, we provide 40,000 artillery rounds.
MILLER: So, look, we are always looking to do this, as quickly, as we possibly can.
But, I will say, the amount of security assistance that we've gotten, into this country, in a short period of time, I really do think has been an accomplishment, for our colleagues, over at the Pentagon.
SCIUTTO: As we witness, here, and the world witnesses, war crimes, evidence of war crimes, by Russia, from Bucha, to Mariupol, and beyond, the phrase, diplomatic off-ramp, is one I hear less often, from administration officials.
Do you see Putin, as being negotiable, that this was someone that you can negotiate with, that there is a path, out of this, where this is not settled on the battlefields? I mean, his positions have become more, not less, maximalist, in many ways.
MILLER: Yes. Look, Jim, obviously, it takes two sides to have a negotiation. The Ukrainians have said they are willing to sit down in good faith and negotiate.
And the Russians have said the same. But it's been clear, when those negotiations have actually taken place, that they're not coming - they're not starting, from a place of good faith.
And, at the same time, they claim to want to have negotiations, they continue to launch new attacks. We're seeing them launch new attacks, in the east, even today. So, look, we don't believe that the Russians are serious about negotiations, now.
So, what can we do, as the United States? Two things. One, we can continue to flow security assistance, into Ukrainians, so they can put pressure on the Russians, on the battlefield. And two, we can continue, to ramp up the economic consequences, on Russia, if it continues this war.
We believe those two things, are the best things, we can do, to strengthen Ukrainians' hands, first, on the battlefield, and eventually, at the negotiation table, if the Russians, ever do get serious, about negotiations.
SCIUTTO: Matt Miller, at the White House, thanks so much, for joining us, tonight.
MILLER: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Russian forces, redeployed to Donbas, in the east, after failing to capture the capital, Kyiv. And now, we are learning, where thousands of Putin soldiers, may have been based, during that time.
Phil Black's about to take us to a forest, north of Kyiv. See what Ukrainian forces found there. Coming up.
SCIUTTO: A senior U.S. defense official, tells us, there are telltale signs that Russia, is learning, from its failures, in northern Ukraine, and then applying those lessons, as it refocuses, on its new offensive, in the east, and the south.
Much of that, it seems, is tactical. Heavy artillery, aviation support, and nearly a dozen additional battalion groups have been moved into the area. But will that be enough, to change the course, of this war?
CNN's Phil Black, joins me tonight, from Kyiv.
Phil, you got an exclusive look, at a Russian military camp, outside town that really spoke to some of the challenges, they faced, during that attempted assault, on the capital. What did you learn there?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, this was a secret, a hidden camp that, at one point, was a base, for thousands, of invading soldiers, soldiers that also encountered local members of the population.
And they talk about the brutality, they experienced, in those encounters. It all gives a powerful insight, into how they lived, and how they behaved, once that effort, to take the capital, effectively stalled.
A warning, this report has some disturbing images.
BLACK (voice-over): The sign is a warning. "Beware! Mines!"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go on.
BLACK (voice-over): The forest serves as protection too, a natural screen, concealing a vast secret.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
BLACK (voice-over): Here, among the trees, about an hour's drive, north of Kyiv, are the remains, of a sprawling Russian military camp. We're shown around, by Ukrainian Special Forces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
BLACK (voice-over): This soldier says, the positions were held by Russian Marines. We see a sprawling network, of underground fighting positions, command posts, sleeping areas, and ammunition storage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
BLACK (voice-over): While everywhere, there is evidence, of how the Russians lived, and that evidence suggests, their existence here, was neither disciplined nor comfortable.
BLACK (on camera): It is so quiet here now. Just some bird noise and a light breeze. But recently, there were 6,000 Russian soldiers, bedded down, through these woods.
In a camp that is so large, you can't see where it begins, and where it ends. Living here would have been hard. It was through the coldest of the winter days, four weeks, stopped here, short of Kyiv, after they failed to take the capital, quickly.
BLACK (voice-over): The silence is broken, by efforts, to deal with some unidentified ordnance.
This camp is damning proof, of Russia's failures, on this front. Poor preparation, desperately wrong assumptions, about the numbers and resources needed, to conquer Kyiv.
BLACK (on camera): What lessons, do you take, from all of this that will apply to the coming battle, for Donbas, in the east?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
BLACK (voice-over): He says, "We see the volume of forces that invaded this area. And we understand that will be two to three times greater, in the Donbas."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
BLACK (voice-over): This force wasn't confined to the forest. Its commanding officers lived a little more comfortably, in the nearby village of Druzhkivka (ph). Here, civilians tell disturbingly familiar stories.
Vitaliy, a local mechanic, says he was detained and interrogated, for almost 24 hours. He says, he was beaten, blindfolded, tied up, and subjected to mock executions.
VITALIY CHERNYSH, TORTURE VICTIM: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
BLACK (voice-over): He says, he's never known fear like it, and constantly thought those were his last moments, on Earth.
Local priest, Visily Benzer (ph), describes dealing with the aftermath, of even greater cruelty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). BLACK (voice-over): He says, he found five men, tortured and killed, in the garden, two more in the forest. And the Russians brought him two dead women, and told him to bury them.
Other Russians, in this area, camped out, in fields, with their artillery pieces, and stole what comforts they could. A mattress, alcohol, the works of Shakespeare.
BLACK (on camera): So, from these firing positions, Grad rockets, flew through the sky, towards Hostomel (ph), which is only a relatively short distance away. And when they hit the Earth, it was often civilians, who felt their power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the result.
BLACK (on camera): Oh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many people.
BLACK (on camera): They were hiding in there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BLACK (voice-over): In Hostomel (ph), resident Dimitri Nickazakov (ph) shows the aftermath, of a Russian rocket strike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is epicenter of explosion.
BLACK (voice-over): And where some of its victims were temporarily buried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel only hate.
BLACK (on camera): Only hate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We can't forgive it for long, maybe for life.
BLACK (voice-over): For now, the enemies, in the forest, fields, and villages, have left, this part of Ukraine. The fruits, of their brief stay, the pain, trauma and loathing remain.
BLACK: Jim, what we saw showed that the force and firepower, committed by Russia, to the Battle of Kyiv, was ultimately insufficient, in terms of numbers, and quality. And the Ukrainian military, also very much believes that Russia has learned from those mistakes, and is determined not to repeat them, in the battle for the east, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Insufficient, but brutal! I'm struck by that image there, the names on those crosses, recorded just in pen, on plastic lids. Gosh, the war, just so ruthless!
Phil Black, in Kyiv, thanks so much, for a fantastic story.
More here, in Ukraine, later this hour. But coming up, as well, the CDC's mask mandate, for travelers, is no longer in effect, because a federal judge just struck it down. Will that decision stick?
Laura talks to a former Biden administration COVID Response Coordinator. That's coming up
COATES: We're going to get back to Jim, on the ground, in Lviv, in just a bit.
But first, something you haven't seen, in a while. Bare faces, at the airport, and on the train, and on the bus. Tonight, it is legal, to go maskless, on public transportation. This, after a federal judge has struck down the Biden administration's travel mask mandate.
But you might want to keep the mask handy, for at least two reasons. One, the ruling still has to be reviewed and, by the way, number two, not every agency and company, is on board, with going mask-optional, at this point in time. So, the question is, what now?
Joining me tonight, former Senior Adviser to the Biden administration, on COVID Response, Andy Slavitt.
Andy, it's good to see you. What a night this is!
I want to just read, for you, a portion of this judge's ruling, because she has a lot to say, in deciding not to have this mask mandate. She said, in a ruling, "Wearing a mask cleans nothing. At most, it traps virus droplets. But it neither 'sanitizes' the person wearing the mask nor 'sanitizes' the conveyance."
You say, this might be more of a political decision at play, here, than one that's based, obviously, perhaps in the science. What do you think about this decision?
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SENIOR ADVISER ON COVID RESPONSE: Well, look, a Wyoming freedom-loving organization, so to speak, found a judge, in Florida, who, I believe, is 34-years-old, was appointed after President Trump lost the election, a former clerk to Judge Thomas, who, I think, who the American Bar Association said wasn't qualified, for the court, and who is now stretching her logic, beyond just what's legally allowable, where she's wrong, but even further to interpreting the kinds of examples that are meant to stand based upon this law. So, it's a bad ruling. I don't think it's just in the law.
But it's also very tricky, for the Biden administration, to challenge it. Because, at this stage, it's not precedential. And the Biden administration will need the power, and the CDC will need to maintain the power, to impose a mandate, if situation gets worse. So, that's going to be a tough decision, for the Biden administration, to make.
COATES: Now, of course, the judge, part of the logic that she put forth, in the ruling, was that there was not the adequate notice and comment period that's required when you put out a rule.
And the other part, which, I think, is, to your point, is the notion that there was no logical justification that was given to extend it the extra two weeks.
But on that point, in part, what they talked about is, you, of course, used to be a part of the administration's COVID Response Team. So, I think, you have the inside track in here, and what is thought of.
What was behind the decision, do you think, to try to extend it several more weeks? I think it was, in part, the variant of the Omicron variant, and also thinking about the hospital capacity rates. Was that part of the logic?
SLAVITT: It's exactly the logic. I think that by May 3, which is the date that this was set to expire, we will have enough data, on this potential BA.2 wave.
This is the latest Omicron version, to really know whether or not it's called - what it's going to amount to. And that time was very useful to the CDC, who made the decision, based upon data and science, and wants to do it with great care.
The airlines, which I think have been out, saying publicly, how much they care about our safety, and our health, and so forth, didn't wait very long, didn't wait, but minutes, to say that they were going to not allow - they not require masks, on most of their major flights.
So, it'd be nice, for the public, to feel like somebody, who's watching the data, and making these decisions, and cares about public health, and it didn't seem like that consideration was there.
COATES: Andy, that point, we have some footage, because as you said, the TSA has now confirmed that it's not going to enforce the mask mandate. And there were people, who were on planes, actually cheering, when the announcements were made.
Let me play this for you. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's official on Southwest Airlines, during this whole--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yay!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yay! No more mask! Ooh!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On our Delta hub (ph), it's masks now optional for employees, customers, following White House announcement.
(PASSENGERS CHEER AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Now, of course, not the biggest of cheers. But obviously this is new that's going to travel, and thinking about it. But again, you shake your head a little bit, this notion, thinking about it, there are some consequences to this.
And I would note that United Airlines and Alaska Air have already dropped their mask mandates. Do you think that every other airlines is going to follow suit? And, more importantly, what's the consequence, if this happens?
We've heard a lot about the air filtration system - filter system, on airplanes. And, of course, people take issue with being able to go to restaurants, in most places, to Madison Square Garden, and beyond, but not on airplanes.
Is there a real risk, Andy, in terms of having the mask mandate lifted, without the research, you talked about earlier?
SLAVITT: Well, this is kind of a victory, for mob rule. So, all the major airlines are going to drop the mandate. There may be one that doesn't. But so far, almost all have decided that they will.
And part of the reason is because this has been a huge burden, on flight attendants, who've had to enforce, what have been a very small number of very loud, and uncivil folks, who have basically said, "You know, I dare you to enforce this mask mandate." It's not a comfortable position for the flight attendants, to be in.
And so, this small number of people, and I'm sure some of them cheering - we'd all love for the pandemic to be over. But to say that it's over, just because we now no longer have to wear a mask, don't interpret that as to say this is over.
So, my advice, and I'm going to be flying, tomorrow, is I will wear an N90 - K94 mask. I will wear a well-fitting K94 mask. And if other people aren't wearing their masks, a combination of my mask, and filtration, will, hopefully, do the job, to keep me safe.
COATES: So, wait. So Andy?
SLAVITT: It's not as good as if everybody--
COATES: Excuse me. So, should the administration then appeal the decision then? Obviously, it's politically tense. And it's very dynamic. But should they appeal the decision?
SLAVITT: Look, I think that's a consideration that they're making, this evening. I think they're considering it.
I think, what my advice is, what's most important for them is to preserve the right, to reinstate a mandate, if we get into another wave, in the fall or winter that's really bad.
[21:35:00] And so, the challenge is, if they do appeal, and lose, if they find another judge, like this one, then they will not be able - they will lose the lever, entirely.
So, if they can find a way to appeal, to preserve the right? I think, what we need to do is, do everything, we can, to preserve the right of the CDC, to make this judgment, in this situation.
We can all have all our complaints with the CDC, and God knows they're not perfect. But I'd rather have the CDC, and not a 33-year-old judge, or an Airline CEO, making this decision.
COATES: Andy Slavitt, thank you so much.
SLAVITT: Thank you.
COATES: Coming up, the life and death battle, over another epidemic. A new wave of mass shootings in America.
And a member of Congress, and former prosecutor, believes it's time for law enforcement, to rethink its approach. He'll tell us how, up next.
COATES: 144, and climbing. 144 is the number of mass shootings, the U.S. has seen, just since this year began. I remind you, it's only April. Let that sink in for a second.
That means we've seen at least 144 instances, in which four or more people, were shot. And that does not include the shooter. 10 of these mass shootings, just happened, over this past holiday weekend, leaving eight dead, and dozens more injured.
It's all tragic. But let's zero in, on one, from yesterday alone. A house party, at an Airbnb rental, in Pittsburgh, where two 17-year-old boys were killed. 90 shots were fired, in a crowd of 200 people, and many of them were children. Police think (ph) there might be multiple shooters, and they are still, right now, on the loose.
I want to bring in Democratic congressman Conor Lamb, whose district covers much of the Pittsburgh area. He's also a U.S. Senate candidate.
Congressman Lamb, it's really unbelievable, to think about these numbers that we're seeing, just from over the weekend, alone, and what's taking place. And you have tweeted out, you've talked about this issue, and the ideas of what needs to take place. You say that Congress needs to do something.
Talk to me about, why this "Something" has not yielded actual results.
REP. CONOR LAMB (D-PA): It's one of the most mind-blowing things, I've seen, since my time, in Congress. I don't see how anyone could object to the idea of controlling the flow of illegal firearms. And we don't know for sure, yet in this case. But I am willing to bet, based on my experience, as an AUSA, and I know you come from that world, too, there's pretty good chance that these firearms were being possessed, and certainly fired, illegally, as they are, in most violent crimes.
We should be dealing with that, from the federal level. That's what the ATF is, there for. We should be imposing better background check rules, closing loopholes, and just giving the ATF, the resources, they need, to actually intervene, and stop firearm traffickers, and put them away.
But we don't police that nearly as aggressively as we do other types of crimes. And it's long past time, for that, to change.
COATES: I know, part of your insight, is informed, by being a federal prosecutor, like myself, and the idea, you think there's a need for a reprioritization of things, as opposed to focusing, maybe, so much on drug trafficking rings. You think the priority should be more on gun trafficking. Is that right?
LAMB: We certainly need some kind of a shift. I mean, look, heroin and fentanyl have killed a lot of people, in my community too. And we have to make sure we continue to go after that.
But, I think, you know that there is still a lot of excess dollars, and capacity, when it comes to prosecuting non-violent drug crime, in America, as a result of the war on drugs.
And the NRA, in particular, has always battled the ATF's budget and their capabilities. And that's just a fact. And so, you can look at it today. And the DEA still gets three or four bucks, I think, for every dollar that the ATF gets.
The ATF agents, I worked with, were some of the finest police, I ever saw, in my career. And if you gave them better tools, they could stop a lot of these guns, from getting in the hands of people.
And just look at this incident. You have 200 people at this party. And they still haven't identified the suspects, which tells you that people may not be talking. That happens a lot, in violent crime situations.
It's very hard, to chase down witnesses, and reconstruct these crimes, afterward. That's why you have to try to get in on the front end, and stop the flow of these firearms. We have really commonsense laws, and proposals, to do that. They pass the House, every time, and they get stonewalled by Republicans, in the U.S. Senate.
COATES: And the President, I think, to that point, has recently talked about the issue of ghost guns. Now, obviously, ghost guns, are on the rise. They don't comprise the overwhelming majority of the crimes, people are seeing. But it's still an issue nonetheless.
Do you think that that is part of the path forward, focusing on the idea of the non-serial numbers that are attached to them, trying to focus, and hone in, on the ability, to be able to construct, these weapons?
Or is the problem part of the fact, Congressman, that there are so many different caveats, people will give?
They'll look at a mass shooter, like the one, unfortunately, the Tree of Life Synagogue, and they'll say, "Well, that was an issue related to perhaps anti-Semitism." We'll talk about a mass shooting, at a party, and they'll say, "Well, that might be an issue that has other ramification." Look at a school shooting, in different ways.
Are we caveating ourself, out of commonsense gun control, by trying to compartmentalize, the use and the motivation of each shooter?
LAMB: Yes, some people do that. But not me. I mean, my point is, there's a common element, tying all of the incidents, you just mentioned, together. And that's the guns.
And so, we should - we owe the public, the ability, to just have commonsense laws that make sure guns only end up in the hands of people, who are legally entitled to have them. That doesn't mean you're going to stop every crime. But you would stop a ton of violent crime, if we got better at that.
And the reason - this is what I don't think people understand. The reason that we are not very good at that, right now, is because of years and years of federal policy, backed by the NRA, and pushed by the Republican Party, for the most part, that has made us weak, at this, compared to other areas of crime.
And there's a lot, you know, there's a lot, we need to do, to intervene, in the lives of these young people, as well. You see that, in many of the incidents that are happening in our big cities.
But it's all about prevention and intervention, on the front end. Because, as you can see, right now, in America, it's oftentimes too late, once these people get guns in their hands.
COATES: Prevention better than cure! Thank you, Congressman Conor Lamb. I appreciate your time.
LAMB: Thank you.
COATES: Coming up, the app that's saving lives, in Ukraine. Like so much else, in that country, it's now a vital resource, far beyond what anyone could have imagined, before this war.
Jim talks to a member of the team that developed it, next.
SCIUTTO: The starkest warnings, for Ukraine, right now, focus on the east, where new Russian offensive, is underway.
But that does not mean the west is safe. I'm in Lviv. It was hit by missiles, just hours ago. The air raid sirens have been sounding regularly, since then, all day.
And it doesn't mean the north is safe either. President Zelenskyy says that if the eastern Donbas region, is lost to Russia, Kyiv could be threatened, again. So, how should the capital city remain vigilant?
Oleg Polovynko, and his team, have an innovative solution. He is the IT Director for Kyiv's City Council. And he joins me now.
Oleg, thank you for joining me.
First, I do want to get your reaction, to President Zelenskyy's warning, connecting, in effect, the offensive, in Donbas, to Kyiv's safety? Are you concerned that if Donbas falls, that could be another chance, for Russia, to go after Kyiv?
OLEG POLOVYNKO, CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, KYIV CITY COUNCIL: Good evening.
Yes, you're absolutely right, that this scenario can be done.
SCIUTTO: I was in Kyiv, in the days, leading up to the invasion. At the time, it was a peaceful place, places were open. It's been through many stages since then.
What is daily life, now, in the capital? We hear of municipal IT employees, like yourself, carrying guns, not leaving their offices. How are you doing?
POLOVYNKO: Of course, the IT team carrying the guns, and preparing for the bad scenario. Because we saw it, a few weeks ago, when the Russian troops, was quite close to Kyiv. And our application was one of the channel - information channel, for our citizens, because any other channels cannot help them. And they can find the groceries, the food, the fuel, through our store, from our application.
SCIUTTO: This is remarkable, for folks, watching now, what your team did, they took a municipal app, that's usually used for parking tickets. You changed it, so that, as you say, Ukrainians could not just find groceries, open - pharmacies open, but also use the internet, in underground bomb shelters.
How did you make that happen?
POLOVYNKO: Yes, that was one initiative, from the internet providers, which is a lot on Kyiv. And we asked them to help us to cover the bomb shelters, to cover it with internet, with good connection, with Wi-Fi. And they helped us. And, in almost one week, we covered more than 800 (ph) bomb shelters, with good Wi-Fi connections, in cooperation, with private, and government internet companies.
SCIUTTO: Did you ever think that you would turn, a parking ticket app, into something that people could use, to save lives?
POLOVYNKO: Yes. Previously, Kyiv Digital, it's name of our municipal app, it was focused more on transport services, parking services, electronic-democracy, and some information from Mayor.
In first day, we understand that we need many information, for our citizens, about the air attack, about bomb shelter, where can go. So, we redesigned the application, and take out all unneeded, in this situation, in war, unneeded function, and left only that, which helps people, to be in a city, which is under attack, in the war.
SCIUTTO: One thing about this war that has captured the world's attention is the resourcefulness, of Ukrainians, like yourself.
Also the courage, right? Average people, taking up arms. If they're not taking up arms, they're finding ways, to help the people, taking up arms, or doing things, like you're doing, using technology, to help, in the defense of the country.
What's behind that? How do Ukrainians maintain the energy, the hope, to keep fighting, like this?
POLOVYNKO: From my side, it's quite (ph) is that we are fighting for our homes, for our lives. And from other side, of course, technology helps us, to be ahead, and help our militaries, and help our country, to survive, and to help.
I never imagined that Kyiv Digital, will help, to save lives, to our citizens, because previously, it was for a comfortable life. But now, yes, it helps to self - to save lives, to people. And Ukrainians, I am not sure that any kind of losses, we can accept. We don't leave our homes and our lands. So, we will defend, to then.
SCIUTTO: Well, the world admires your courage, and your innovation. Oleg Polovynko, thanks so much, for joining us, tonight.
POLOVYNKO: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: We do have breaking news tonight, here, in Ukraine. New drone footage of the southern port city of Mariupol, shows smoke, rising, from the Azovstal steel plant. This is key, because this is one of Mariupol's last bastions, still under Ukrainian control. Look at the smoke rising there.
(VIDEO - DRONE FOOTAGE SHOWS SMOKE RISING FROM AZOVSTAL PLANT)
SCIUTTO: CNN has geolocated, and authenticated the video. Cannot however confirm the date, it was shot. We are watching it closely.
And we'll be right back.
COATES: Jim, this is your second time, back in Ukraine. And I'm just so curious about the resilience, of the Ukrainian people, in the conversation that you've been having.
SCIUTTO: Listen, tough as nails, right? We were out, moments after, four missiles, hit this city. And people were already going back with their lives, going to work, driving through the streets, going to stores, going to school. You see that.
But you also see in their faces, I think, an understanding of just how long a haul, this country is in for. You see it in their faces. And it's sad to see.
SCIUTTO: Laura, thanks so much.
I'm going to be here, in Ukraine, every night, this week, for CNN TONIGHT. And I have the pleasure that Laura will be with me, reporting, from Washington.
"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.