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U.S. Official Say Two Ukrainian Missiles Hit Sunken Russian Warship; Russia Threatens U.S. Over Weapon Shipments; Zelenskyy Says, World Should Prepare For Putin to Use Nukes; Russian Grip on U.N. Security Council Draws Fire from Diplomats, U.S. Lawmakers. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 15, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, U.S. officials now believe two Ukrainian missiles are behind the sinking of Russia's premier warship in the Black Sea, the Moskva now at the bottom of the ocean as Russia appears to retaliate with new strikes on Kyiv and Ukraine warns of a major Russian offensive in the coming days.

Also breaking, new saber rattling for Moscow, the Kremlin warns the United States to stop shipping weapons to Ukraine or risk facing, quote, unpredictable consequences. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is speaking exclusively to CNN on the threat Vladimir Putin poses to his country and the world.

CNN correspondents are covering the Russian invasion from key cities across Ukraine as well as the White House here in Washington. Welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Jim Acosta and you're in The Situation Room.

And we begin our coverage tonight in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv where CNN's Jake Tapper spoke exclusively with President Zelenskyy. He's joining us now with more on his interview with the Ukrainian leader.

Jake, what did Zelenskyy tell you about the chilling U.S. assessment that Russia could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, when I heard that from CIA Director Bill Burns yesterday, speaking publicly, my ears perked up, just as I'm sure yours did, Jim. So, of course, that was one of the first things and I asked President Zelenskyy, what did he make of the fact that Bill Burns, that the CIA, that the U.S. government was assessing it was possible that, borne out of desperation, Vladimir Putin might resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon against the Ukrainian people. Take a listen to what he had to say.


TAPPER: The director of the CIA warned that he's worried Putin might use a tactical nuclear weapon in this fight. Are you worried?

PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Not only me. I think all over the world, all the countries have to be worried, because you know that it can be not real information, but it can be the truth. Because when they begin to speak about one or another battles or involved enemies or nuclear weapons or some chemical, you know, issues, chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it. I mean, they can. For them, life on the people is nothing, that's why. With truth, I think, not be afraid. I mean, don't be afraid, be ready but that is not the question to Ukraine. And not only for the Ukraine, for all the world, I think so.


TAPPER: So, Jim, what's interesting about that, I think, is it was a pretty long and wide-ranging interview but only in a handful of questions did Zelenskyy speak in English, most of the time he spoke in Ukrainian and it was translated for me afterwards and we'll bring, you know, the contemporaneous simultaneous translation to people when they watch the interview on Sunday on State of the Union.

But that was in English. He wanted the English people, English- speaking people of the world to hear that, tha,t A, he thinks it's entirely likely that Vladimir Putin who has no regard for human life, in his view, will use nuclear weapons, B, it isn't just Ukraine who should be worried about, the whole world should be worried about it and, C, there in Ukraine, they're not afraid but preparing. So, I thought that was pretty significant.

ACOSTA: Absolutely, because the world would have to decide how would all of us respond if Russia were to go down that road.

And, Jake, this is now day 51 of this war. How is Zelenskyy holding up? How did he seem to you?

TAPPER: You know, he seemed obviously tired, but he seemed strong, dynamic. I mean, the interview, like I said, it was pretty long and, you know, it ran the gamut of emotions. I mean, at the very beginning I asked how his kids were before we started the official interview, and he told me about his kids and he and I commiserated about our teenage daughters, neither of whom have much regard for their dads.

So, he was charismatic and charming, very smart, very involved, diplomatic at times. I asked a question about the fact that French President Emmanuel Macron disagreed with Biden using the word genocide. And he could have taken opportunity to slap Macron but he didn't, he just said disagreed with him, so he was diplomatic there.

You know, Jim, you and I, we interview politicians for a living so it's not easy to impress us, particularly. He was a pretty impressive guy.


ACOSTA: Very impressive indeed. All right, Jake Tapper, thank you so much. And a note to our viewers, you can watch Jake's entire interview with President Zelenskyy this Sunday on State of the Union at 9:00 A.M. and noon Eastern right here on CNN. Now, let's go to CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Clarissa, the U.S. is now definitively saying it was Ukraine that struck and sunk that Russian warship. What more are you learn?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Jim, this had been a kind of he said, she said between the Russians and the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians saying that they hit the Moskva with two anti-ship Neptune missiles causing it to sink, the Russians saying that there had been a fire on board the front deck and it had sunk after it was being towed back.

But now, senior U.S. defense officials saying that they do believe definitively that this was indeed the case, that the Ukrainian forces were able to sink this ship with those Neptune missiles.

And this is hugely significant not just in terms of the change it will make to Russian forces and how they're able to strike out at Ukrainian targets but also the symbolism of this. We haven't seen a massive naval ship like this sunk for some 40 years. This is a great embarrassment for Russia and for the Russian Defense Ministry.

This is also the same ship that has become immortalized here in Ukraine after that famous situation in which Ukrainian sailors on the verge of being captured said, Russian warship, go F yourself. That has now been made into a stamp, a postage stamp here in Ukraine.

And so, again, the symbolism of this certainly weighs very heavily, it feels, for the Ukrainian side, like a tremendous victory, although it's not clear that it will really change events on the ground that much. We did see, though, a strike on a military factory outside of Kyiv. Russia's Defense Ministry saying that strike came from the Black Sea, so, clearly, a response to the sinking or downing of the Moskva, Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Clarissa, you've been reporting from Eastern Ukraine, where Russia is also mounting its offensive. What's the latest there?

WARD: So, the situation here really continues to deteriorate, Jim. We have heard from one of the regional military authorities in Donetsk, saying that they are seeing a significant intensification of shelling and strikes, particularly today in Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv, where a strike on a residential complex left some ten people dead, including an infant.

And the fear is that this is only going to intensify, it is only going to get worse as Russia really prepares this so-called second offensive. It's a three-pronged attack that they are planning to push down from the north, in from the east and also up from the south.

Analysts believe that the ultimate goal is to try to essentially trap Ukrainian forces in this pocket in the Donbas area, but it is important to emphasize that Ukrainian forces have been putting up a very tough fight.

And if you look at what happened in the offensive, the failed offensive to try to take Kyiv, you can be sure that this is going to take quite some time. It may not even be achievable. We've heard U.S. officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying today that he believes this war could grind on throughout the rest of this year, and, of course, that means that things could get very ugly.

People here looking to the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has been the target of just relentless bombardment, a huge amount of civilian casualties here and they fear that that's a harbinger of what may be to come here in the eastern part of the Ukraine, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Clarissa Ward, thank you very much for that report.

Let's get an update from our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, Russia is warning the White House there could be unpredictable consequences if the U.S. continues shipping weapons to Ukraine. What more are you hearing over there?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, this is a notice that Russia sent to the United States on Tuesday. And if you're wondering how the Biden White House is taking it, we should note that by about 10:00 A.M. tomorrow, we do expect the first shipment from the latest aid package of military assistance to make its way into Ukraine.

And that is, of course, that package, remember, that much more sophisticated, much heavier duty than some of the previous military packages we've seen being sent from the United States into Ukraine. It's a package that President Biden announced on Wednesday. So, one day after Russia had sent this notice.

So, clearly, the United States is not heeding that warning from Russia all too much, not to worry about it, though, I do think there are concerns privately about whether or not this notice from Russia means that they are now going to try to target these shipments of aid that are making their way into Ukraine.


Because so far, we've heard from the Pentagon they that have not been interrupted or disrupted the flow of that aid. It's been a little more difficult to get it into Ukraine since the invasion started, because, previously, they were able to just fly it in on U.S. military planes. That is not the case now. And so that is going to be a big question whether or not Russia tries to target these shipments.

But what one U.S. official told us based on this notice from Russia, telling the United States to stop arming Ukraine is they believe it shows how effective these shipments of weapons to Ukraine have truly been, Jim.

ACOSTA: They have been a huge difference. And, Kaitlan, I understand President Zelenskyy recently asked President Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. What more are you learning of that conversation?

COLLINS: Yes, that would be a huge move. It's something Zelenskyy asked for directly in a call recently that he had with President Biden. It's not clear if it came from the 58-minute call they had this week. They do speak semi-regularly. But it is something that Zelenskyy asked President Biden to do.

In addition to ramping up punishment for Russia, not just sending weapons to Ukraine and sharing intelligence with them, they also want to work to make Russia a pariah. And so if they were to be listed by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism, it would be quite significant, because they will be joining the ranks of places like North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Iran. And to put Russia on that list will be quite a symbolic statement but also it would have some pretty far raging consequences from the United States.

But, Jim, we should note that what we've heard from sources after confirmed this reporting by The Washington Post is that it's not clear there was any kind of firm commitment from President Biden to do so. It is something that we know Secretary of State Blinken has said they'd consider all options to punish Russia, but it's not clear they're ready to take this step yet, though even clearly we do know Zelenskyy is asking for it.

ACOSTA: Right, Zelenskyy wants maximum diplomatic pressure. All right, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

Just ahead, more breaking news, more than 900 dead civilians have been discovered in the Kyiv region since the Russian withdrawal. Ukraine's top prosecutor joins me next here The Situation Room.



ACOSTA: Breaking news, Ukrainian authorities say more than 900 civilian bodies have been discovered in Kyiv since Russian forces pulled out of the region.

And joining me now to talk about this is Ukraine's Top Prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova. Madam Prosecutor, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

Is this horrific discovery more evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, do you think?

IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF UKRAINE: Good evening, dear friends. Thank you very much for this opportunity, Jim, we very appreciate it to be with you.

Yes, we have a lot of evidences about war crimes, which we see and to which we find everyday in Ukraine. You mentioned about more than 900 victims in the Kyiv region. Actually, it's more than 1,000. Only in Kyiv region, every day we have new and new figures from other regions.

You know, very hot cities now, Luhansk, Donetsk region and Kharkiv, and, actually, we again and again, started a new -- the president started a new criminal case. It's now we have over 7,000 criminal cases only about war crimes. ACOSTA: And, Iryna, authorities say some of these civilian bodies show signs of being tortured. Are you seeing that? Are you hearing about that? And how difficult has it been to find out exactly what happened to these people and who is responsible?

VENEDIKTOVA: I saw this by my own eyes. Because when this region started before occupation, and we, as a law enforcement, can go to the territory, they were mined at first. And after demining, we came ten days ago and the previous Sunday. And, actually, I saw a lot of (INAUDIBLE) these days because I think everyday I'm in the Kyiv region, we now exhumed the mass graves and we see everyday very terrible things, for example, burnt bodies, women and two kids. Actually they don't at all. It's very difficult to identify them.

Then we saw a lot of people who were with their hands tied behind their backs and they got tied. And we saw there a lot of evidence of tortures of civilians. Most of them were gunshot. And, actually, it's possibilities to say that they were just as ordinary civilians, non- militaries and Russians armies just killed them. Why they have done it?

Actually, we see this strategy of Russian troops. It's the same strategy on all regions where we have hard, difficult situation, for example, Mariupol, for example, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv region. They just try to scare civilians. They do everything to scare civilian population. They bombed them. They go to cities. They killed, they tortured, they raped them and do everything to scare all people.


ACOSTA: And a top prosecutor for International Criminal Court visited Ukraine this week and they called what's happening to your country and what's happened there a, quote, crime scene. Tell us about that visit and how you're collaborating with the ICC. I assume you're working with them closely.

VENEDIKTOVA: Ukraine wants to be a European country, and actually we are the European country which leads under the rule of law and the rule of international humanitarian law. We want to be open country. That's why we very appreciate it that prosecutor of International Criminal Courts started his own investigation. He's absolutely independent and his strategy of investigation and his next solutions.

From other side, we started joint investigation team with other countries, Lithuania and Poland, on the platform of (INAUDIBLE). It means that another team, another joint investigation team can work inside Ukraine.

That's why as a prosecutor general, I want to do everything with my colleague. And I understand that they are -- professionally, they -- when there will be objective in this investigation, we will have actually the possibilities of rule of law.

Because when Ukraine now fighting, we are still in war, very brutal aggressive war, and every three hours, I have absolutely a different -- from different regions, terrible figures of new deaths, of new deaths of kids, of new deaths of civilians under bomb and under -- after attacks.

And, of course, I understand that investigation of the prosecutor of International Criminal Court will help us to not only to stop this war but to punish the people who are responsible of this. And it's very important to prevent such aggressions in the future.

ACOSTA: Right, absolutely. Well, thank you for the work that you do and we appreciate your time, Iryna Venediktova, thank you very much, we appreciate it.

VENEDIKTOVA: Thank you very much for your support, for your sincere support. And we feel it, we see it, and we still fighting for our freedom and independence.

ACOSTA: All right. Yes, you are. All right, thank you, thank you so much, we appreciate it.

And the breaking news continues next, deadly new shelling in a key city in Southern Ukraine. CNN is on the scene as residents grapple with the bloody aftermath and brace for the next attack.



ACOSTA: More now on the breaking news, at least five people have been killed and more than a dozen injured by cluster bombs in the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, according to city chief. CNN Senior International Correspondent Ed Lavandera has a report from nearby Odessa.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The cluster of explosions jolted this residential neighborhood in Mykolaiv Friday morning. Witnesses say some people were walking their dogs in their park at the time. One of the munitions struck just feet away from an orthodox church.

You can see the impact spot of one of the munitions that went on this morning and as you look here, you can see the impact and damage done to this church here as well.

Multiple people were killed and more than a dozen others injures, paramedics treated victims on the scene.

Across the street, under shattered windows of apartment building, this man told us he helped direct two injured people into a store for safety.

YURI ZAYTSEV, MYKOLAIV RESIDENT: This noise, the noise of a rocket flying and explosions, that's what I saw and heard when I was in the shop. People ran into the store and I saw people scared. I saw people dropping to the ground from explosions.

LAVANDERA: The sounds of explosions inside the city started around mid-morning and appeared to strike at least three different locations. Mykolayiv authorities released this video of a private home burning after a rocket strike.

Mykolaiv strikes come as residents in Southern Ukraine are worried about Russian retaliation for the sinking of the Moskva warship in the Black Sea and Russia's renewed offensive in Eastern Ukraine.

In recent days, CNN has witnessed long convoys of families fleeing Russian occupied areas near Mykolaiv. This bombing struck a densely populated area.

Galina Mironchuk says she was brushing her hair when the bomb landed just outside her apartment window. The blast shattered the glass and shattered her sense of peace.

Did you think something was going to happen to you?

I didn't think of anything, she tells me, I thought that was the end of the world.

The recent attacks have also crippled parts of the city's infrastructure. The water has been out for three days, forcing hundreds of people to get water from a river and natural spring. This man evacuated his mother and plans to stay in the city to fight off the Russians.

How worried are you that the Russians are getting closer?

It worries me a lot, he tells me. That's why I sent my mother away, that's why we are getting ready. We are still working. But if the Russians are close, I will fight them.

For now, residents are left to clean up the bloody aftermath and brace for the next attack.



LAVANDERA (on camera): And Jim, last night when we were in Mykolaiv, we heard a constant bombarding kind of filling the air throughout the night. Mykolaiv is about 35 miles away from the city of Kherson, which is to the east there. That is a Russian occupied area. So, we're very close to the frontlines there, and that's what so many residents there in Mykolaiv are concerned about.

And the question now is, is there a renewed push for Russian forces to continue moving east even as so much focus is on Eastern Ukraine and the renewed offensive there. So, one day, five people dead, 15 injured, a dreadful day, and many people wondering if this is a sign of things to come in the days ahead. Jim?

ACOSTA: We're all wondering that ourselves. All right, CNN's Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.

Let's get more on the breaking news with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor. Ambassador, thanks for being with us here in The Situation Room.

The CIA director gave this chilling assessment that Putin could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine out of desperation because of the setbacks that Russia has faced in this invasion. That is a very dramatic thing to say. What do you think? Do you agree with that assessment?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. ABASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, of course, Bill Burns knows exactly what he's talking about. And he made the correct point that you have to be worried, you have to be concerned, you have to watch carefully when President Putin is cornered, as he appears to be, increasingly, having problems with all his military, both on the land and on the sea, as you've been reporting, Jim.

So there is that concern, and Bill Burns is exactly right, that the CIA's watching is that very closely. He went on to say, of course, that he saw no real evidence yet that there is any operational change in the status of nuclear weapons that the Russians have. They're watching that closely. So, I would -- I have a lot of faith in our CIA and in Bill Burns.

ACOSTA: And, Ambassador, Russia has a new warning tonight for the U.S., threatening unpredictable consequences, is how they put it, if the U.S. continues to send weapons to Ukraine. What do you think? What do you think that could mean? Could this mean a ramp-up in Russian aggression? Might they target some of these shipments? What are your thoughts?

TAYLOR: Sure. They could try to target these shipments. However, Jim, this is ludicrous. Here, the Russians are conducting what some people, including the president of the United States, has called genocide. And the Russians say don't help the Ukrainians, defend against genocide.

So, of course, we're going to continue to support the Ukrainians. Of course, we're going to increase the level of weapons and the size of weapons, the heavy weapon are coming, as we see now, and we absolutely should. They are conducting genocide.

We have an obligation, Jim, to help stop the genocide, and the way to do that is to support the Ukrainians. So, this warning will not have any effect, should not have any effect on the flow of weapons into Ukraine.

ACOSTA: All right. Ambassador Bill Taylor, thank you so much as always, we appreciate it.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: And for information about how you can help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.

Breaking news continues next, what will Russian retaliation for the sinking of one of its star warships look like? We'll ask one of our military experts, that's next.



ACOSTA: Breaking news tonight, Russia apparently retaliating for the sinking of its star Black Sea fleet warship, which the U.S. official says it was hit by two Ukrainian missiles.

CNN's Brian Todd joins to take a closer look, along with CNN Military Analyst, Retired Army Major General Spider Marks. Gentlemen thanks so much. Brian, take it away.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim. So, we're talking about that retaliation for the sinking of the Moskva. And, General, let's start there, the sinking of the Moskva is what everybody is talking about and that anticipation of retaliatory strikes from the Russians, U.S. officials saying that two Neptune missiles were the ordnances that hit the Moskva, and as we show another image of that ship.

General, let's start with it, what might retaliation for this sinking of this crucial vessel for the Russians, what might the retaliation look like tonight?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Brian, you know, it's a really good question, but in warfare, normally, you just don't have a strike and then a retaliation. Kind of the dynamic is action, reaction and then counteraction.

And so, clearly, what the Ukrainians have done here is they have taken the initiative away from the Russians and they have gone after the flagship of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. It's now at the bottom of the Black Sea.

So, what the Russians have indicated, and they've put their cards face-up on the table, is they want to put all of their effort into the Donbas region. This flagship was critical to the support of that effort. This was going to be the flagship that was going to direct the fire from the sea to the land in support of the land operations to secure the Donbas and then to push further south through Mariupol and then further to the south and the west.

So, what we see here is tremendous effort on the part of the Ukrainians but, really, the Russians have indicated they're moving in the direction of Donbas. So, I'm not really certain there's going to be a direct tit-for-tat as a result of this strike.

TODD: Well, let's talk about the Donbas and specially this one city, the fall of Mariupol, which could be imminent, if it hasn't fallen already, how significant a loss is that going to be, General, when it happens?


MARKS: Yes. The fall of Mariupol -- look, the siege of Mariupol has been ongoing close to two months now. I mean, it's really not warfare. It's just indiscriminate firing on the part of the Russians. But the Russians see this as a necessary condition to further move south and west toward Kherson, to close that, to create that -- really, to create that land bridge from Crimea back into Russia. So they have to grab Mariupol. By doing that, that protects that flank. And then as they turn to the south and the west, they have that protected behind them and to their right and now they can move in a sequence down toward Kherson.

TODD: Okay. We want to talk also, General, tonight, about this warning as I call it, the weapons that the United States has sent, the howitzers, the helicopters, the Switchblade drones, this warning from the Russians that we're learning from U.S. officials, the Russians sent a cable to the United States this week warning of unpredictable consequences. Talk about that and what they could be doing.

And I guess my question is as we show a wider map here, General, get that map up, would the Russians attack these convoys that are carrying the U.S. weapons, this U.S. weapons and other weapons from Poland and presumably from Romania, would they attack these convoys once they're inside Ukraine?

MARKS: Well, it's surprising that the Russians have not made an effort to go after these convoys. Look, the convoys' logistics trail that exists to support the effort of the Ukrainians has been in place now for the two months of this campaign. And I am quite surprised that the Russians have not gone after that.

What that tells you is the Ukrainians have good air defense capabilities and they have really have been able to keep the Russians pushed back more toward the east.

The Russians would be ill-advised, in fact, it would be in violation of Article V, NATO would then get involved if they were to stray over the line of Ukraine and go after where these convoys are originating in both Poland and Romania or elsewhere in a NATO member. So, I'm kind of surprised Russia hasn't already taken this on.

TODD: Right, I've heard that from other analysts as well. General Marks, thanks very much.

And, Jim, as we talk about this and the idea of possible retaliation, of course, the warnings from CIA Director Burns and President Zelenskyy and others that the Russians could use nuclear weapons, General Marks and other experts telling us most likely they would use maybe the Iskander missiles, some of these lower yield weapons. But that's something we're all watching tonight as well.

ACOSTA: A terrifying prospect. All right, Brian Todd and Spider Marks, thanks to both of you, we appreciate it.

And coming up, more on the growing Russian offensive in Eastern Ukraine.

Plus, text messages reveal why two key Republican lawmakers first supported overturning the 2020 presidential election but then changed their minds. It's a CNN exclusive.



ACOSTA: House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection now has text messages from two top Republican lawmakers sent to former President Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Our congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles has this excellent CNN exclusive report.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, two of former President Donald Trump's most loyal defenders in Congress. But in dozens of private text to Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, a picture emerges of how both went from aiding the effort to challenge the election results to ultimately warning against it.

The texts obtained by CNN show how they were trying to help initially but by the end, raised concerns to Trump's top deputy about his campaign's effort to stand in the way of the certification of the 2020 election. We're driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic, Roy warned Meadows in a text message on January 1st that is in possession of the January 6 Select Committee.

His stark warning came after weeks of begging Meadows for hard evidence of election fraud and concerns of the lack of specific evidence was a real problem for the Trump legal team. We must urge the president to tone down the rhetoric, he wrote to Meadows on November 9th.

Roy did believe that there were problems with the election. In early December, he went to the House floor imploring his colleagues to look into the thin examples of fraud.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): The American people are raising legitimate question about our elections and this body is missing in action and doing nothing.

NOBLES: Like Roy, Senator Mike Lee started out hopeful for a path to challenge the election results. In early November, he touted the work of conservative lawyer Sidney Powell, encouraging Meadows to get her an audience with the president, calling her a, quote, straight shooter.

But less than two weeks later, Powell appeared with Rudy Giuliani in what would become an infamous press conference where the duo made wild, baseless claims about the election.

SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it.

NOBLES: Lee then changed his tune, calling Powell a liability, and turning his focus to touting Attorney John Eastman. Lee pushed a plan to convince state legislatures to offer up a set of alternate electors. When that plan fizzled, he decided he was not on board. He texted Meadows on December 16, quote: I think we're now past the point where we can expect anyone will do it without some direction and a strong evidentiary argument.

Both Lee and Roy ultimately chose not to join other Republicans to vote against certifying the election.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Our job is to open and then count.


Open, then count. That's it. That's all there is.

NOBLES: Privately, they were more emphatic about the fool's errand Trump's team was on.

The president should call every one off. It's the only path, Roy texted Meadows on December 31st.

While Lee argued the effort was on dangerous constitutional ground. Three days before January 6, he warned: I know only that this will end badly for the president unless we have the Constitution on our side.

They did not, but the Trump team and a group of loyal Republicans went ahead with their plan any way. As it became clear there effort would not be successful, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in protests.

As the violence was raging, Roy texted Meadows: Fix this now.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The gentleman from Texas.

NOBLES: He then went to the House floor and placed the blame squarely at President Trump's feet.

ROY: And the president should never have spun up certain Americans to believe something that simply cannot be.


NOBLES (on camera): And we reached out to both of these congressional offices for a response to our reporting. Neither office denied the authenticity of these text messages, Senator Mike Lee's office telling us he was transparent during this time frame and nothing in the texts contradicts his public statements.

Meanwhile, Congressman Chip Roy tweeted about our story this afternoon said, quote, I'm only going to say this once, no apologies for my private texts or public positions to those on the left or the right. I stand behind seeking truth, fighting nonsense and acting in defense of the Constitution.

Jim, of course, these texts in possession of the January 6th select committee.

ACOSTA: And they are very troubling messages indeed.

All right, CNN's Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

Coming up, the big obstacles standing in the way of the United Nations responding to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.



ACOSTA: The horror in Ukraine renewing attention on the United Nations and its inability to mitigate the kind of slaughter it was born to prevent.

Here's CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It didn't take a translation to feel President Zelenskyy's outrage.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Where is the security there the Security Council needs to guarantee, it's not there.

BORGER: Then the final insult. Without action --

ZELENSKYY: Then the next option would be dissolve yourself altogether.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, he was absolutely right and I think one more concept to understanding what's going on with the United Nations is political institutions are fundamentally broken.

BORGER: Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has never been a United Nations booster.

BOLTON: I think it is unfixable.

BORGER: Neither has Liz Cheney.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): It is not the kind of effective entity people hoped it would be when it was created.

BORGER: That was in 1945 when the World War II victors established the U.N. Security Council with five permanent members. Today, those are the U.S., France, the UK, China and Russia, each with veto power as Joseph Stalin himself insisted. The world has changed, but the council still remains largely as it was 77 years ago, that is, Russia has the power to veto any resolution it opposes.

It's like giving a senator on the floor a veto over any legislation without any override.

BOLTON: Exactly and what we're seeing is when there's a fundamental disagreement among permanent members, nothing happens.

BORGER: Suggestions to reform the council by adding more permanent members or removing vetoes all together have been nonstarters. As former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson points out, it's all about keeping power. BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I'm being honest

with you. I don't think anyone is going to want to give up their veto.

BORGER: And Russia is not about to vote itself off the security council either, although weeks ago it was condemned twice by the U.N. General Assembly, but those were in nonbinding resolutions. Russia was also thrown off the Human Rights Council, but even that wasn't a unanimous decision.

BOLTON: Here's the real headline: a majority of the members of the United Nations did not vote to expel Russia.

BORGER: What does that tell you?

BOLTON: It tells you Russia has support around the world.

BORGER: What Putin really cares about is the stature of permanent membership on the Security Council confers.

RICHARD GOWAN, U.N. DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Now, in the real world, Russia is not that important. It's China and the U.S. as primary players but in the Security Council, Russians stand on equal to the U.S. and are proud of having that status.

BORGER: All of which leaves the Security Council paralyzed and if the U.N. can't stop what's happening in Ukraine, what's it for?

RICHARDSON: The U.N. is for airing, publicly, the tragedies of the world like the refugee crisis in Ukraine, like the possible war crimes. At the same time, the U.N. is providing food. The U.N. is providing refugee assistance.

BORGER: Yet in a bizarre looking glass moment on TV, Russia chaired the Security Council session as weapons were unleashed in Ukraine. Diplomacy could not stop the killing -- a point that Ukrainian ambassador made recently as he read a letter from a 9-year-old boy to his dead mother.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: You are the best momma in the world. I will never forget you.

Such letters should not have to be written. If they are, it means that something has gone terribly wrong, including here at the United Nations.


BORGER: So no matter how many times the Ukrainians ask for reform, it is not going to happen anytime soon, Jim, if ever.

ACOSTA: All right. Gloria, thank very much.

And thanks to all of our viewers for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.