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The Situation Room

Biden Sows Confusion On Taiwan, China Says U.S. Playing With Fire; 35-Ton Shipment Of Baby Formula Arrives In U.S. From Overseas; Trump, Pence Feud Over 2020 Escalates Ahead Of Georgia Primary; American Fighting For Ukraine Describes "Good Versus Evil" Battle; Pfizer To Submit Vaccine Trial Data For Young Kids This Week. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired May 23, 2022 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Thanks, I appreciate it.


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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Biden creates confusion over the U.S. stance on Taiwan after vowing a U.S. military response if China invades. Beijing is accusing him of playing with fire as the White House attempts some damage control and denies any change in policy.

Also tonight, 35 tons of baby formula land here in the United States from overseas amid the dire shortage that has put some infants in the hospital. We'll break down who will benefit from the urgent shipment and how much more is needed to ease the crisis.

And the Trump versus Pence feud over the 2020 election is escalating tonight on this, the eve of the Georgia primary. Trump is lashing out at his former vice president, calling him, quote, desperate, as they stump for rival candidates in a Georgia showdown. Pence speaks out on the campaign trail this hour.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the fallout after President Biden's surprising stance on a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. His talk of the U.S. military response is sowing new uncertainty about his policy and raising serious tensions with China.

CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is in Tokyo for us. She's covering the president's trip to Asia. Kaitlan, the administration is trying to clarify what President Biden said but there are still some confusion out there tonight. What is the latest? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Wolf, this is a comment that we should note caught some of the president's own highest ranking officials off-guard, not expecting him to go as far as he did in the press conference. And, of course, the reason this is so notable is because the United States has this longstanding practice where they warned China against using force in Taiwan but don't exactly spell out what the United States would do exactly if that were to happen. Of course, Wolf, all of that changed with one word from President Biden.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the president of the United States.

COLLINS (voice over): Tonight, President Biden ending the era of strategic ambiguity and pledging to defend Taiwan militarily if it were attacked by China.

BIDEN: The idea that it can be taken by force is just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region.

COLLINS: In his first trip to Asia since taking office, Biden saying he would be willing to go further in Taiwan than he has in Ukraine and involve U.S. forces.

REPORTER: Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?


REPORTER: You are?

BIDEN: That is a commitment we made.

COLLINS: The remark catching even some of his own top aides off-guard as officials quickly tried to claim Biden did not go further than simply reiterating the longstanding position that the U.S. would provide arms to Taiwan.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think the president was clear on the fact that the policy has not changed.

COLLINS: The moment marking the third time Biden has been clear he would be willing to use the might of the U.S. military when it comes to Taiwan.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if China attacked?

BIDEN: Yes, we have a commitment to do that.

COLLINS: Although the president says he does not believe war in Taiwan is imminent, he may clear Russia's invasion of Ukraine has raised fears worldwide of Chinese aggressions.

BIDEN: What signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting to take Taiwan by force. They're already flirting with danger right now.

COLLINS: Also while in Asia, the president attempting to ease recession fears at home, saying he does not believe a recession is imminent.

BIDEN: Now, does that mean we don't have problems? We do. We have problems that the rest of the world has but less consequential than the rest of the world because of our internal growth and strength.

COLLINS: Biden also downplaying concerns after he raised alarms about monkeypox, the viral infection spreading around the world now saying this.

BIDEN: I just don't think it rises to the level of a kind of concern that existed with COVID-19.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, Wolf, when it comes to Taiwan and China, it is clear that the president is trying to send this message that larger nations, like Russia and China, cannot simply swallow up smaller ones and have it go unchecked by the global community. We should note though that there have been discussions about whether or not Russia's failure in achieving its goals in Ukraine may have caused some hesitation on China's side when it comes to Taiwan.


Obviously, this is something that they're watching closely. The president has got a slate of other meetings with world leaders coming up on his final day here in Tokyo, where, obviously, this Russian invasion of Ukraine is really looming over everything and changing the lens for which these conversations are happening with other world leaders, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins reporting from Tokyo for us, Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto and our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.

Jim, these words from the commander-in-chief carry an enormous amount of weight. You've been covering U.S./China relations for a while now. You know this story well. What is the impact of this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, today, the Biden administration's position on Taiwan is unclear. The question is, is it intentionally unclear or unintentionally unclear. The president was asked in the context of Ukraine, would you intervene if China were to invade Taiwan. And the context of Ukraine is important because the questioner said, you didn't intervene militarily in Ukraine, would you do something different, in effect, in Taiwan. The president seemed to say, yes.

Now, I, like a lot of my colleagues, spoke to administration officials afterwards who said the president is not changing policy. He meant intervene by providing weapons to Taiwan, like the U.S. has done for Ukraine, in other words, no boots on the ground, but yes, weapons. That is what the administration is saying.

Now, it is possible that the president is trying to deliberately inject some strategic ambiguity in there so that China doesn't know how far the U.S. is going. That is possible.

BLITZER: Which would be good.

SCIUTTO: Possibly. So, there are Democrats and Republicans who believe that. But his own advisers are saying, no, he's not doing that. We haven't moved this policy one inch. The trouble is when the commander-in-chief says something, people listen. That is not the first time he's said it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Strategic ambiguity has, at least in recent times, been the policy, right, the One China Policy but then with regard to the military.

SCIUTTO: Except on sending boots, well, in this case, it would be sailors on the ground, right? Except on the idea, because the Taiwan Relations Act from 1979, which followed the One China Policy, said we will provide weapons so that Taiwan could defend itself, but has never said, we would send the troops in.

BASH: And we've been talking understandably so much about the implications for this militarily, and that is the whole reason for our friend, Nancy Cordes' question, because it was related, as Jim said, to Ukraine. But the economic implications of this are absolutely huge particularly given where we are right now. What do we have? A supply chain crisis, a global supply chain issue. What does Taiwan make? Semiconductor.

SCIUTTO: And most of them.

BASH: And most all of them globally. And so China wants in on that action. And the U.S. and pretty much every other country on the planet wants to make sure that it doesn't get thwarted because the semiconductors, as we have learned, because of the supply chain crisis, is the basis for so much of what we rely on in our daily lives.

SCIUTTO: Cars, hundreds in each car. You know what has hundreds of semiconductors in it? A single Javelin anti-tank missile, right? So, it has got military implications as well.

BLITZER: It certainly does. But we've seen a pattern with President Biden making a blunt statement, usually in national security issue or a foreign policy issue, and then his advisers immediately try to walk it back a bit. What do you make of that?

SCIUTTO: Well, the question is, again, is that deliberate or is it a gaffe, right? Is Biden getting out over his skis as it were here, or is the president trying to establish something of a new policy, a new approach here? It is possible, right? And as you said, Wolf, some, both Democrats and Republicans, believe the U.S. should inject some more ambiguity because they've criticized this president for so clearly writing off the possibility of military intervention in Ukraine. You've heard this. They say, well, listen, we should have left that open so Russia doesn't know. So, there are some who think, we should have the same approach, the U.S. should have the same approach to China. But what is not clear is, again, whether that is actually what the president is doing or whether it was a mistake.

BASH: It depends on how you define gaffe. I mean, that's, I think, what you're saying. If you go back to what you're referring to with what he said in Poland about Vladimir Putin, saying that he's basically for regime change, is it the official policy? No. Would he like Putin to be gone? Absolutely.

BLITZER: The whole notion though of Ukraine when Biden flatly said the U.S. was not going to send troops into Ukraine, he was criticized by a lot for saying, moving away from what was called that strategic ambiguity policy. Let the Russians think that maybe U.S. and NATO troops would go in and maybe that would deter them from moving further into various cities throughout Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Sure. What the administration seemed to decide was that the risk of expanding that war was a greater danger than any benefit you might get from further deterring Russia after they were already in. They don't want to get into a war with Russia. They've made that very clear on a whole host of decisions, including, say, not establishing a no-fly zone.


You would have the same risk with China, because, again, the administration and others say they don't want to get in a war with China either. That would be quite a damaging and dangerous war. But is he strategically saying that that risk is worth it if it makes an invasion less likely?

BLITZER: Yes, that is a good point. All right, Jim, thank you very much. Dana, thanks to you as well.

And just ahead, Vladimir Putin receives a stinging rebuke from one of his senior diplomats. We're going to tell you why a top Russian official says he's never been so ashamed of his own country. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine just received a rare public rebuke from a top Russian diplomat who resigned in protest today after 20 years in service.

Let's get more on this story from CNN's Nic Robertson, who is joining us from London right now. Nic, give us the latest on this truly stunning Russian resignation. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. It happened at the Russian mission in Geneva. Boris Bondarev, as you say, more than a 20-year veteran in the Russian diplomatic service, accuses Putin of waging an aggressive war not just against Ukraine but against the world. I mean, that kind of language in Russia could get you locked up for 15 years.

His scathing about his own boss, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, saying that over recent years, essentially, he's become unhinged from his diplomatic duties, that he is now not chasing diplomacy but is warmongering and involved in hatred, that is something that's going to resonate likely with other Russian diplomats who will have their own views on Sergey Lavrov.

But I think the biggest punches are the ones he lands on president Putin, saying that this is -- he is creating crimes not just against the people of Ukraine but against the people of Russia, because the diplomat says that Putin is, in essence, not allowing Russians to have a free and prosperous future.

He goes on to say these people who are commanding this war, President Putin, just want to live a life of luxury and luxury palaces, and that is a punch that is going to land. Because if you think back to just a couple of years ago, the top Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, he exposed what he said was one of President Putin's huge, large palace. So, this is a criticism that other Russians will be very familiar with.

And he goes on to say that Putin and those in power are willing to sacrifice as many Russian lives as it takes to stay in power. These are narratives that the average Russian on the street, even if they're patriotic, will know in their hearts to have a ring of truth about them, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very powerful, dramatic statement indeed.

Also on this day, a Russian soldier has been sentenced in Ukraine's first war crimes trial since the invasion. Tell us what happened.

ROBERTSON: Yes. He is the first to be convicted in the new war crimes trials that have been set up in Ukraine, in Kyiv. 21-year-old tank commander Vadim Shysimarin been convicted of war crimes, been convicted of killing an unarmed civilian, shooting him in the head, has been sentenced to life imprisonment. And the lawyer, the prosecutor said, look, this is going to represent a path by which we can prosecute so many others of these war crime cases that are going to come up. And the defendant's lawyer said look, the articles that you prosecuted him under are not the right articles because he was following orders. So, that is his defense.

He's got 30 days to appeal. But the chief prosecutor and chief war crimes prosecutor in Ukraine have said, look, there are thousands of upon thousands of these cases. This is just the beginning. And this is what we've witnessed in this court today.

BLITZER: A dramatic development indeed. All right, Nic Robertson, thank you very much.

Let's discuss this and more with the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor. Ambassador Taylor, thank you so much for joining us.

First of all, how significant is this Russian diplomat's resignation?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, Wolf, I think it is very significant. This has got to get into President Putin's head. It is obviously in Lavrov, in the foreign minister's head, but it will get into President Putin's head. And this will sow doubt in his mind. If he didn't have them before, he will have them now.

This has been a loyal member of the diplomatic core who has seen this for three months, finally decided he couldn't take it any longer and comes out with this blast against Lavrov, as well as Putin, as you've indicated, and that's got to get through to Mr. Putin. So, that is the message there.

The Russian people will hear it. The Russian people, as you say, they're figuring this out. 15,000, 20,000 Russian soldiers have already been killed, so we know that Russian families are figuring this out. But when they hear, as they will, about this diplomat, who has been so explicit about what a mistake this war is, they will get the message.

BLITZER: Would you be surprised to see other Russian diplomats and senior government officials follow his lead?

TAYLOR: I would not be surprised. Sometimes what it takes is to see someone, show the bravery, show the courage to state the truth, the truth that they all know. I mean, this is not a secret. He didn't tell any secrets. He didn't break any news.


What he did was expose the truth, and once that happens, and other people, other diplomats around the world in some nations that where they are still able to live, they will begin to ask themselves the same question.

So, I would be interested to see how many people, how many diplomats, how many other international civil servants from Russia will start making the same case.

BLITZER: We shall certainly see.

You alluded to the death toll. The U.K. Defense Ministry, Ambassador, now says that the Russian death toll in Ukraine during these first three months of the war is likely similar to the death toll during the nine years of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. If that is true, what sort of pressure does it create inside of Russia?

TAYLOR: Enormous pressure, enormous pressure. As you say, if in three months the Russians have lost at least what the Soviets lost in nine years, that is getting through. We remember the kind of results that that caused. There were mothers, there were families across the Soviet Union who began to understand what was going on in Afghanistan. And if that happened then, then we know it is happening now.

That with the economic sanctions and all of the other trials that the Russians are going through, the number of families who have lost sons and fathers and brothers is growing. And so that is a -- we remember what happened at the end of that nine years, Wolf, when the Soviet Union disappeared. This could be destabilizing to President Putin.

BLITZER: It eventually led to the collapse, as you correctly point out, of the Soviet Union. I remember those days well. Ambassador William Taylor, thank you so much for joining us.

Coming up, the first big shipment of imported baby formula arrives here in the United States as the dire shortage weighs on parents all across country. We're going to tell you which infants will and won't be eligible to get it. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Tonight, relief is on the way for some babies suffering from the formula shortage here in the United States. Our Brian Todd has details on a huge new shipment of imported formula.

Brian, tell us who is getting this formula and how it impacts this crisis that is affecting so many American families.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first, I can tell that you we just checked out this pharmacy and a grocery store right behind us and found that they're almost completely cleaned out of formula tonight. Now, as for who is getting it, well, initially, it is going to be those families with special prescription needs for formula, but that leaves millions of other families desperately scrambling for their supplies tonight.


TODD (voice over): In Indianapolis, 35 tons of baby formula arrives on an American military transport plane from Europe, the first of the Biden administration's emergency shipments dubbed Operation Fly Formula. But these first pallets won't go on to store shelves. This shipment is hypoallergenic prescription formula.

TOM VILSACK, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Formula for moms and dads who have children who have allergies where the regular formula just simply will not work.

TODD: While the Biden team promises that more regular formula is on the way, the formula shortage in America has still deepened in recent days. Children's hospitals in Tennessee and South Carolina have reported young children, including babies, have been hospitalized in recent days for complications related to the shortage. They're parents sometimes trying desperate measures. KRISTI FOGG, MUSC SHAWN JENKINGS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: They try an alternative and it doesn't go well.

TODD: Doctors say many parents are making the mistake of trying to fix their own formula or they dilute the formula they have with water or something else. Then --

DR. ADRIENNE COLLIER, PEDIATRICIAN, KAISER PERMANENTE: We can see problems with electrolyte imbalance, such as hypo or hypernatremia. This increases the risk of seizures. We can also see hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, essentially low blood sugar or high blood sugar, which can cause seizures and have detrimental effects.

TODD: What sparked the crisis? In February the company, Abbott Nutrition, recalled certain lots of three brands of its formula, batches labeled Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, after some infants got sick from a bacteria and two died. Abbott had to shut down its plant in Sturgis, Michigan.

As the crisis has worsened, the Biden administration has scrambled to avoid looking flat footed.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: The White House has been trying to show while the president is abroad, that it is still focuses on this issue with those shipments coming in, with the next one coming, and also signaling through the use of DPA, the Defense Production Act authorization, that it is also getting materials and supplies to Abbott and other companies.

TODD: Abbott's CEO says his company's recall was a correct move, but in an op-ed in The Washington post, he wrote that Abbott was, quote, sorry to every family we've let down, families like Samantha Stephan's. She says she was running dangerously low and had to turn to a collection drive on Long Island to feed her two-month-old son, Cameron.

SAMANTHA STEPHAN, MOTHER OF A TWO-MONTH-OLD BABY: It's terrifying, yes, because this is what he relies on to live. So, it is scary.


TODD (on camera): And we learned a short time ago that the second flight of Operation Fly Formula will leave Ramstein Airbase in Germany early Wednesday morning carrying the equivalent of about 1.5 million eight-ounce bottles of formula. It will travel to Dulles Airport outside D.C. then be transported a Nestle facility in Pennsylvania for distribution. Wolf?


BLITZER: That is encouraging. All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us.

Elizabeth, if the formula that is now arriving won't be available at stores, when will parents who use store-bought formula start to actually benefit?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it might take a while, Wolf. With these two air shipments and other changes that have been made, they might start to see some incremental improvements but not a lot. Let me give you an example. The second largest maker of infant formula in the U.S., Reckitt, they've been ramping up production 35 percent since February. Since February, they've been ramping up by 35 percent, and still we have this shortage. It is going to take a lot to get us out of this.

So, let's talk, Wolf, for a minute about what parents can do. There is not a whole lot that they can do but let's talk about things that they can do. For example, do not make your own formula. So, that is a do not rather than a do. Do not water down formula, another do not. Do talk to your pediatrician.

Now, I want to be clear, your pediatrician has no magic solution for you. They don't know of some store that has a lot of this. But your pediatrician, A, might be able to help you work with your insurance company or make some kind of a prescription if your child has a medical issue. Two, if you are -- if your baby is a newborn, and used to breast feed, you stopped or you thought you were going to breast feed, it is possible they could put you in touch with a lactation counselor who might be able to help with re-lactation, and that could be very helpful for some families.

Now, if your baby is six months or older, you do have some options. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that if your baby is healthy and was drinking regular formula, they can drink whole cow's milk. That could be an option. It is not ideal. You only want to do it for a brief period of time. And they also say that the toddler formula is safe for a few days for babies that age. Wolf?

BLITZER: So, if a parent fully runs out of formula, Elizabeth, is there any where to turn to get help?

COHEN: You know, it is interesting because the parents that we've talked to have not fully, fully run out of formula, unless they are on a specialized formula and they're having trouble getting a replacement for that. I think in that case, certainly going to your doctor, asking if there is anything that they can do to help, it is possible that they may be able to, again, work with your insurance company or do something else to try to get you a specific product. Wolf?

BLITZER: Elizabeth, as usual, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, Donald Trump is attacking Mike Pence tonight, suggesting his former vice president is irrelevant and desperate. Their dramatic split after January 6 is growing wider and wider as they take opposing sides on this, the eve of high-stakes -- another high-stakes primary. We're going to have a live report. That is next.


[18:35:00] BLITZER: Tonight, former Vice President Mike Pence is once again dramatically defying his former boss. Pence is campaigning for the incumbent governor of Georgia, one of former President Trump's top political targets.

CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes is Atlanta for us watching all of this unfold. Kristen, Trump and Pence are backing competing candidates in the Georgia's governor race tomorrow, all of this on the eve of the primary. Things are getting rather intense where you are, right?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf, they are getting intense. As you mentioned, the former vice president, Mike Pence, currently holding a rally for incumbent Governor Brian Kemp. And this not only defies President Trump, you have to remember that Trump is not just supporting Kemp's opponent, former Senator David Perdue, but he actually recruited him to run against Kemp and bashed Kemp over and over again for not overturning the 2020 election. So, a lot of heated rhetoric back and forth here.

We heard from a Trump spokesperson who insulted Pence for coming to the state, not mincing words, saying, now desperate to chase his lost relevance, Pence is parachuting into races, hoping someone is paying attention.

So, again, this has turned into somewhat of a proxy war. Trump, for his part, not holding an in-person rally in the final days of his election, but he did host a telerally, he's doing that later tonight, and he called into a radio show to support Trump, but this is -- excuse me, to support Perdue.

But this is a huge moment for the former president for two big reasons. One is that he really wants to beat incumbent Governor Brian Kemp. He has poured over $2.5 million into this election from his super PAC. This is more money than he has spent on any other race in this midterm season.

And the other, it goes to show how far Trump's big lie will play and how it will resonate in the midterm elections. This has been a pillar of Perdue's campaign. He has really gone all-in on the big lie. And so far, it doesn't look will for Trump or Perdue. He has been trailing in the polls.

Now, if it is any indication as to how Kemp is feeling going into tomorrow, we could note that over the last several days, he has spent a lot of time campaigning and hitting one person hard, and that person is Stacey Abrams, will be the Democratic candidate for the governorship in the fall.

BLITZER: He certainly is. All right, Kristen, thank you very much.

We're showing our viewers some live pictures now coming in from Georgia. You can see over there, Brian Kemp on the stage with Mike Pence. Mike Pence is about to speak. He's strongly endorsing the current governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp. We'll listen in and see what he has to say. We'll get back to that shortly. But right now, I want to be joined by our CNN Senior Commentator John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio, and CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend.


Governor Kasich, the former president is accusing Pence of chasing, you just heard it, lost relevance. He's really going after Pence big time right now. But is it Trump who is actually irrelevant right now in this Georgia governor's race because all of the polls are showing that Brian Kemp is way behind -- way ahead right now, I should say?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Yes. In this race, he is not relevant, Wolf. And the reason is that people like Kemp. And when people have a chance to know somebody who is holding elected office and if they like him, what Donald Trump has to say is going to have very, very little influence.

If there is a scramble, if you have multiple candidates and no one knows who they are, well, then his weighing in could make a difference. But when it comes to people judging somebody who holds office and has done a good job, Trump doesn't matter.

And this is a big blow to what Trump wanted to accomplish. There is no way that it could be dismissed or played down. It is very interesting.

BLITZER: If Brian Kemp does get the nomination tomorrow night, and all of the polls, once again, show he will, this will be a huge embarrassment for Trump.

Eva, it is clear Republican voters in Georgia, where you are, they certainly do like former President Trump but they're not necessarily listening to his advice on this key race for governor, are they?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Listen, Wolf, Republican voters here, they certainly prize the Trump endorsement in a Republican primary, but it is not the sole determining factor. And another issue is at play here that I think that people aren't discussing is that Perdue seems to have an authenticity problem. There seems to be issues with him as a candidate.

Why is he running for governor? Is it something that he arrived at organically or is it because the former president had a bone to pick with the current governor and convinced Perdue to enter this race? I think that what is the issue that he is running on, the forward-facing issue that he is running on that is meant to inspire Georgians.

Well the number one issue that he's running on is about the past. And I think that those just present insurmountable challenges as a candidate. We actually saw him also with, I think, an authenticity issue in his failed races for Senate last year, where Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff repeatedly beat him in debates, arguing that Perdue was more concerned with advancing his personal wealth than that of being in service to Georgians.

Now, I'm not weighing in on that argument one way or the other but it is an argument that seems to have gained traction with voters in this state. So, I think that Perdue as a candidate deserves some scrutiny.

BLITZER: Governor Kasich, the Republican race for secretary of state in Georgia seems to be a lot closer right now. What will it say if Trump's pick, who is a very public election denier, prevails? You see Representative Jody Hice, that's Trump's pick versus Brad Raffensperger.

KASICH: Yes. Well, first of all, the guy who is running there, he has got a name himself. He was a congressman. He had a radio show, very popular in Georgia. And when you get down ticket, when you get down ticket, then there is more concern about who Trump would endorse. But I think Raffensperger is still ahead. I hope he wins. We're going to have to see what happens. But that is a different situation than the race for governor, which is the key in terms of what Donald Trump really wanted.

BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. John Kasich, Eva McKend, guys, thank you very much.

Just a note to our viewers, I'll be in Atlanta tomorrow night for CNN special live coverage of contested Georgia and other key primaries. Our special coverage begins at 7:00 P.M. Eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

Coming up, we'll have an inside look at one American veteran fighting for Ukraine right now behind Russian lines. Stay tuned for CNN's exclusive report.



BLITZER: Ukraine's better defense against the Russian invasion is attracting foreign fighters from all around the world, including the United States.

CNN's senior international correspondent Sam Kiley has our exclusive report on one American operating right now behind Russian lines.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't. We just knew the enemy was this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just hop through these backyards and clear through here.

KILEY (voice-over): It's not as straightforward as it sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to go to that building.

KILEY: Veterans of years of counterinsurgency warfare, this small team of American and British fighters is under Ukrainian command, and they now look at war down the other end of the barrel, and have asked us to conceal their identities for their own security.

This is a war that has a moral clarity for these volunteers in Ukraine's International Legion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, people keep saying you're doing it for democracy. It's really not, you know. It really comes down to good versus evil.

I never figured out why they were killing women and children. And it wasn't by accident. It was murder. I mean, we found many people just at the end of this street that were bound together and shot, thrown on the side of the road.

KILEY: Many in Kevin's team, ex-special force operators, have had millions spent on their training in the West, in countries that won't send troops to war with Russia. Among the first into Irpin, they took over this house behind enemy lines.

He says the team killed dozens of Russians in the park below. He says the fighting and the shelling and the Russian killing of civilians was relentless.


As Kevin's team advanced, he says they got trapped in this health spa for several days. It was steadily torn apart by Russian artillery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The house of hell. This was four really miserable days of really little sleep, really heavy artillery, really heavy infantry presence from the Russians.

KILEY: Kevin's small team is funded largely by donations, to the Ukrainian Legion. It operates mostly behind Russian lines. And they were stunned at first at being on the receiving end of air strikes and heavy artillery.

But they're applying the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan to Russia and believe that they're having an effect on the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's definitely a psychological aspect to it. We do know the Russians were talking about, hey, we can't figure out where they're at. We don't know what's happening. We're being artilleried so heavy that we put this chair here so we could jump out the window in a hurry.

KILEY: Deeper into the spa, he comes across evidence that Russia plays dirty, even in local defeat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, a lot of the Russians came back through some of these places and re-mined them, put booby traps. This cable goes back into the ground where it's been intentionally buried and it's tied off here.

KILEY: So far, this group has not lost a soldier. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely a nightmare.

KILEY: But that time may come. It's a risk he says he's prepared to take because for the West's former warriors in the war on terror, Ukraine has given them something back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One way or the other, they have either been lost or they have lost everything. So this is giving them another chance. To come back here and it's like they have put their life back together.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Wolf, they get about $2,000 to $3,000 U.S. dollars a month depending on how much combat they're actually engaged in. And in the east of the country, President Zelenskyy is saying that Ukraine is losing 50 to 100 people a day in fighting, of course, the foreign legion or the international brigade as it's sometimes called is fighting there as it is elsewhere in this war, Wolf.

BLITZER: These are foreign volunteers, these American volunteers, very, very courageous indeed.

Sam Kiley, thanks for that report.

Just ahead, a very promising announcement from Pfizer now raising hopes that kids under five could soon be eligible for the COVID vaccine.



BLITZER: There's new hope tonight that children younger than five could finally be on the verge of getting vaccinated. Pfizer says its three dose COVID vaccine is safe and effective in the age group and the FDA just announced around advisory meeting to review the new data.

Let's discuss with CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Dr. Reiner, thanks for joining us.

How encouraging is this news from Pfizer? And how soon, potentially, could the vaccines for this age group get the final green light?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, this is long-awaited and very welcome news, Wolf.

The FDA is going to meet on June 15th to talk about both the EUA applications for Moderna and for Pfizer. Think of it this way, there are about 7 million unvaccinated Americans and the biggest group of unvaccinated Americans are kids. There are about 46 million unvaccinated children less than 18, and about half of that number are kids between six months and five years of age.

And that's the group that will be eligible for this vaccine. Long- awaited by parents and we should potentially be able to start vaccinating kids before the Fourth of July.

BLITZER: That would be encouraging indeed. But do you worry, Dr. Reiner, that it will be hard to get at least some parents out there to bring their kids in for three doses?

REINER: Well, we see problems with just the two dose vaccine. If you look at the group of kids between the ages of five and 11, only 29 percent of that group of children are fully vaccinated. So we've done a very poor job getting kids in for vaccinations.

We need to educate our parents that kids, you know, will thankfully, don't typically die from this virus, can and will get very sick. Thousands of kids have been hospitalized and 9 out of 10 of the children hospitalized with COVID in the United States have been unvaccinated and two out of 10 of kids who are hospitalized will need ICU management.

So this is a big deal, and most of these severe complications can be avoided by vaccinating children and finally, hopefully by the end of June, we'll be able to vaccinate, essentially, all but the most young children, zero to six months of age in this country.

BLITZER: Yeah, we'll see what happens.

All right. Dr. Reiner, let me quickly turn to the outbreak of monkey pox here in the United States. President Biden first said over the weekend that people should be concerned but today said it doesn't rise to the level of concern, for example, like COVID-19.

Is he right on both counts?

REINER: I think he's right. First of all, this is a much different virus than the coronavirus, COVID-19 virus. This is much less transmissible.

Omicron has reproductive number in sort of, which suggests that one person can infect up to seven people who have not been vaccinated or previously infected. The monkeypox vaccine, that number is less than one. So it's much less contagious. It requires either infection by droplets or direct contact. A lower --

BLITZER: All right. Dr. Reiner, we got to wrap it up unfortunately. Dr. Reiner, we'll have you back. Thank you so, so much.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.