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Tulsa Police Says, Gunman Targeted Surgeon He Blamed For Pain; New Questions About Whether 911 Info Was Relayed To Police Chief; U.S. Reeling From 233 Mass Shootings So Far This Year; Zelenskyy: 20 Percent Of Ukraine Under Russian Control; 96-Year-Old Queen Elizabeth Marks Record-Breaking Reign. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 02, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says COVID vaccines for kids under five could be available as soon as June 21st. The FDA advisory committee is expected to review data submitted by Pfizer and Moderna next after the FDA signs off, but it will be left to the CDC to make its recommendation and then doses can be shipped to pediatricians nationwide.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. See you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, just hours after yet another mass shooting here in the United States, this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma, President Biden is preparing to address a nation still mourning the massacre in Texas.
In Tulsa tonight, police say the gunman who killed four people, including two doctors, was targeting a surgeon he blamed for his pain.
And in Uvalde, Texas, a state senator now raising very serious questions about whether information on 911 calls was actually relayed to the school police chief, another layer of uncertainty surrounding the police response.
Our correspondents are standing by on the scene and here in Washington as we cover the mass shooting crisis in America.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with President Biden getting ready to speak to the nation after the 233rd mass shooting here in the United States so far this year.
Let's go right to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, we'll hear from the president about 90 minutes from now. What is he expected to say?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it's a rare evening address for President Biden, but the White House says he felt it was important to speak to the nation about the recent shootings that we've seen, but also call for action from Congress on what they say they want to see are common sense gun laws.
And, Wolf, this was a speech that the president was considering giving before four people were shot and killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last night, but he made the final decision today to speak to the nation on what's happening before departing the White House. And, Wolf, this comes as this White House has been dealing with gun violence and mass shootings for the last several weeks.
The president has been briefed on three shootings in the last three weeks alone in three different locations, obviously starting with that racist attack that happened in Buffalo, New York, then the shooting of the elementary school children in Uvalde, Texas. And last night now, Wolf, the president also briefed on what happened in Tulsa.
So, this is something he has been dealing with, at times coming face- to-face with the victims of this and the victims' families in their grief, in the middle of that, in Texas and in Oklahoma, Oklahoma as of last night, Wolf.
And so there are big questions tonight about whether or not the president is going to call for specific action from Congress when he speaks tonight because the White House has said they want to see Congress act. They certainly feel limited in what the president can do when it comes to executive actions on guns and the steps that he's taken so far as they say they are still exploring what he could do go forward.
But the question goes to Capitol Hill and what the president wants to see lawmakers there do. Because while his staff has certainly spoken to some of those lawmakers who are negotiating right now, seeing if they can come together on something.
So far, the president has not gotten directly involved, Wolf, though he has said that is something he is prepared to do. But the White House says that will only happen when the time is right.
BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins reporting for us from the White House, of course, we'll have live coverage of the president's address to the nation.
But right now, let's go to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for new information on the deadly shooting at a medical building.
Our National Correspondent Gary Tuchman is on the scene for us. Gary, so what more are police learning about that latest mass shooting and the motive?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the gunman is dead, but police do believe they know the motivation. They say the disturbing motive is that this guy did not like the medical care he received.
On May 19th, exactly two weeks ago, Michael Louis had back surgery. He was released five days later on May 24th. He purchased a handgun this past Sunday, May 29th. Two days later, on Tuesday, May 31st of this week, he met with the surgeon about pain he said he had. The killer called the office yesterday morning on June 1st complaining of the pain, once again. Shortly after that call, he bought an AR-15-style rifle. And in the same day in the afternoon, he went to the doctor's office behind me and he started killing people.
Police are telling us that after they got the 911 calls here in Tulsa, unlike what we've heard in Texas, they were on the scene in the doctor's building on the St. Francis Hospital campus within three minutes. 39 seconds half they arrived they say they heard the last gunshot and that was the gunman killing himself.
So, how do police know the motive? They told us that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF WENDELL FRANKLIN, TULSA POLICE: We have also found a letter on the suspect, which made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way.
He blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Four people killed, Dr. Phillips, who you just heard about, who was targeted, a very well-known and very well liked surgeon, a very well liked man. Every year annually, he went on medical missions around the world to help people.
Another doctor was also killed, Dr. Stephanie Husen. She was an osteopathic doctor.
Also killed, Amanda Glenn, a receptionist in the office, also an office supervisor.
And a patient was killed named William Love. He was actually critically hurt initially. He was in the hospital and was treated right there but succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
One more thing we want to mention to you, Wolf, police tell us that just a couple of feet away from the body of the gunman, there was another body, a lady. And they saw the woman and they realized it was n't a body, that she was alive. She hid under the desk right near the gunman and, fortunately, she's okay right now. Wolf?
BLITZER: The whole issue is so heartbreaking what's going on in the United States right now. Gary Tuchman reporting for us from Tulsa, thank you very much, from Tulsa.
Let's go to Texas right now, where even more serious questions are being raised about the police response to that elementary school massacre.
CNN's Ed Lavandera has our report.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As families mourn, the investigation and search for answers deepens into the delayed police response to the mass shooting in Uvalde.
STATE SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D-TX): I want to know specifically who was receiving the 911 calls.
LAVANDERA: Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez is raising questions. He says he was told by the Commission on State Emergency Communications that 911 calls were directed to the city police and it's unclear if that crucial information was relayed to the school district's police chief who was the incident commander.
GUTIERREZ: Uvalde P.D. was the one receiving the 911 calls for 45 minutes while 19 officers were sitting in the hallway for 45 minutes. We don't know if it was being communicated to those people or not.
LAVANDERA: The Uvalde Police Department and Commission on Emergency Communications have not yet responded to CNN's request for comment. Local officials continue to dodge questions, including District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee, who wouldn't speak to CNN this morning, escorted to her car by security.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of information that needs to come out.
LAVANDERA: This as new details emerge about a fourth grade teacher at Robb Elementary who was on the phone with her husband, an officer with the school district's police department, before she died. The New York Times is reporting that Eva Mireles was in her classroom with the shooter speaking to her husband as he was forced to wait outside the building with his unit. She's in the classroom and he's outside. It's terrifying. Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell, who spoke with deputies, tells the paper. Mitchell told The Times he doesn't know exactly what was said or if her husband shared any details about the call to his supervisor in charge of the scene.
But as communication and decision-making by police is called into question, this conversation suggests at least one person had access to real-time information from an adult in the classroom. It took responders 80 minutes to enter the classroom from the time they received the first call. Uvalde's Mayor Don McLaughlin says he rushed to the staging site the day of the shooting and was placed in a room with someone he referred to as a negotiator who he says tried to call the gunman but did not get through.
MAYOR DON MCLAUGHLIN, UVALDE, TEXAS: I wasn't there at the initial. But at the moment in that classroom, they were trying to get numbers and call. They tried every number they could find.
LAVANDERA: McLaughlin does not believe the negotiator was aware of any 911 phone calls from inside the classroom.
MCLAUGHLIN: While I was there, you know, I did not hear the 911 calls. I can assure you, had we been aware of it or I would have been, I would have been screaming. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LAVANDERA (on camera): And Wolf, today's information about the 911 calls really raises questions surrounding the leadership of the city police force. So much that the attention until now has been on the leadership of the school district's police force since that police chief was the incident commander, but the role of the city police department and leadership during this crisis has not received the kind of scrutiny that the school district police force has gotten so far. Wolf?
BLITZER: Good point. Ed Lavandera in Uvalde, Texas, for us, Ed, thank you very much.
Just ahead, would an Emmett Till moment actually help solve this horrible mass shooting crisis here in America? I'll ask the former homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, why he thinks the American public needs to bear witness to the carnage. He's standing by live.
BLITZER: The mass shooting crisis here in the United States has Americans grasping for answers after yet another senseless massacre.
Brian Todd is looking into this for us. Brian, so what do experts say about the enormous scale of gun violence here in the United States and what can be done about it?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they say this is nothing short of an epidemic, that it's a very complex problem to address, and that they're worried about long-term effects even on those Americans who are not directly affected by mass shootings.
FRANKLIN: This is yet another act violence upon an American city.
TODD (voice over): Another news conference --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are grieving with you.
TODD: -- following another mass shooting in America.
Four people gunned down inside a hospital in Tulsa, on the heels of the massacre of children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, on the heels of the murders of ten people at a grocery store in Buffalo.
DR. CHETHAN SATHYA, DIRECTOR, NORTHWELL HEALTH'S CENTER FOR GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: The fact that these mass shootings are now just happening at such frequency is really, really scary.
TODD: The news conference in Tulsa comes on the same day the alleged Buffalo shooter, Payton Gendron, appeared in court for an arraignment on several murder and domestic terrorism charges. Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 230 mass shootings nationwide, according to the Gun Violence Archive, 20 of them just since Uvalde with 105 people shot and 17 killed.
CNN and the Archive define a mass shooting as one that injures or kills four or more people.
As Americans, have we basically given up and accepted mass shootings as normal?
PROF. JEFFREY IAN ROSS, CRIMINOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: That's my fear. I think we've become desensitize desensitized. We see on our nightly news people killed in mass shootings and we start saying, maybe there's nothing we can do about it.
TODD: Making the problem of mass shootings even harder to solve, analysts say, is the fact that the shooters' motives are often so varied. In Buffalo, a young man who authorities say was driven by racial hatred, in Uvalde, a troubled young man overwhelmed with rage, in Tulsa, a man apparently upset with the doctor who performed back surgery on him.
ROSS: Well, I think that the basis of much violence is a grievance or disrespect. We talk about violence interrupters, better conflict resolution, that sort of thing, skills are being taught. I'm not sure that that's the answer. It can't hurt.
TODD: And it's not just the lives lost. It's the whole country that suffers, experts say, including children who see constant reports of mass killings and have to go through active shooter drills at school, always with the underlying fear that this could happen to them.
SATHYA: PTSD, future behavior health issues, substance use issues, not feeling safe in their homes or communities and not being able to really excel and reach their full potential. I think that's absolutely a concern and future generations are going to suffer tremendously if we don't fix this now.
TODD: Regarding how to fight this epidemic, the experts we spoke to say it might be better for the U.S. at least initially not to focus so much on repealing the Second Amendment, given how hard that will be politically, but instead approach it like a public health crisis, strengthen some safety measures, like background checks, red flag laws and safe storage laws, Wolf, but nothing easy.
BLITZER: Nothing easy at all. Our Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you very much for that report.
For more on that, let's bring in the former homeland security secretary of the United States, Jeh Johnson. Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.
You have a really important op-ed that you wrote in The Washington Post on this very subject, and I want to discuss that with you in just a moment.
But, first, as you well know, President Biden is about to make his rare primetime address to the American people on gun violence tonight. How does he galvanize Congress to act when these mass shootings here in the U.S. have become so routine and so many people have actually become numb?
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, I'm going to make a radical suggestion here. I think President Biden should just throw away the speech, put aside the teleprompter, look directly in the camera to the American people and talk commonsense. I've seen him do this. He's actually pretty good at this.
And this is an issue that I know Joe Biden feels deep down and just say straight to the American people that we can argue about the different circumstances of each mass shooting, the character of the shooter, the motives, but the common thread through all of this is the ease with which a depraved, sick, individual in this country can get a gun and we have to do something about this and urge the American people to call their representatives in Congress to say -- Republican or Democrat, to say you have to do something about this. This scourge has to end.
So, my advice to the president respectfully is talk straight to the American people, be Joe Biden from Scranton. He's good at this. And just give them the straight talk about what we need to end this scourge.
The most frustrating thing to me about what we face are the endless shootings, the deaths of school children, parishioners, preachers, preachers and the inability of our democracy to do anything about it. And so President Biden has got the biggest microphone in this country, he ought to just talk straight to the American people.
BLITZER: Yes, you make an important point there.
You also make this really important point in the op-ed that you wrote in The Washington Post, and you call for what you call an Emmett Till moment for gun violence in this country. Explain what you mean by that.
JOHNSON: Wolf, we need a game changer on this issue. And as you know, as well as I, images, pictures, really do bring it home to the American people in a variety of different contexts through history.
I hesitated to write that op-ed, but when you look back in history, specifically the tragic killing of Emmett Till in 1955 and his mother's decision to have an open casket funeral and let the photographers in, to basically say, look what they did to my boy, galvanized the civil rights movement, got everyone's attention.
And I do not pretend to have the moral authority to tell a parent what to do about their dead daughter or son. I do know this, however. Why should children who were at that school, the Robb Elementary School, be eyewitnesses to what happened and live with that for the rest of their life and be in grief counseling for the rest of their life while lawmakers, through their inaction, allow this to continue? And they are spared from seeing these images and the constituents who elect them are spared.
And so I think we need a game changer here, Wolf. And I think that the American people need to be brought closer to this tragedy to see what it actually does, to see what an assault weapon actually does to a human being.
BLITZER: Especially to these little kids in an elementary school. I mean, if you see those pictures, it's so heartbreaking, obviously.
We've seen how the parents of Sandy Hook victims at another school in Connecticut have been tortured by online conspiracy theorists, if you will. Are there ways to fully convey the devastation of these killings, these shootings, Mr. Secretary, while still protecting the victims and their loved ones?
JOHNSON: I believe so. And I do not advocate the disclosure of any specific image. But I do believe that the American people and their representatives in Congress need to see vividly the tragedy that assault weapons in particular bring to school children, to churchgoers. We shield ourselves from this. We spare ourselves from this.
Wolf, let me just read you very quickly something I got sent to me this morning. This is from the Times of London, May 1, 1945, right after -- right as World War II was ended and the allied armies were discovering the concentration camps, the issue were in concentration camps. London Times wrote this. Nobody should short-seeing them and the newsreel companies in distributing this evidence are fulfilling a public duty. The printed word can glance off an inattentive (ph) mind, but the moving picture bites deep into the imagination.
And in this scourge right now, I believe something similar to that is warranted and necessary to galvanize the public finally to do something about this basic issue.
BLITZER: You make a very important point, sir, really important point. Mr. Secretary Jeh Johnson, thank you so much for joining us.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, another key official in Uvalde, Texas, is dodging CNN's questions about the school shooting. Stand by. We have details.
BLITZER: Tonight, CNN is continuing to push officials in Uvalde, Texas, for answers about the school massacre and the police response.
Our Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz has been doing remarkable reporting for us. Shimon, are the Texas authorities in stonewalling mode right now?
PROKUPECZ: Well, certainly stonewalling, dodging, not wanting to answer questions, Wolf. So, today, we were told that the district attorney has now ordered the state investigators not to release any information and that to refer any questions to her office. So, we went to her office today to ask questions, to see if she'd be willing to share information with us.
Her name is Christina Busbee. We were outside her office. And we were just asking her questions about whether or not we were going to get a report, whether or not we would get more information, because, obviously, Wolf, there are still so many questions.
And you know what, we wouldn't need to do this if people were honest from the beginning. They spent a week giving us bad information, changing stories, and now when there are still some key details that we need to know, they have decided that they are no longer going to answer our questions.
And we understand there's an investigation, but there are still important facts here that need to be known and there's a lot of concern now because of this D.A. investigation and other investigations, that it could be months before information will be released.
BLITZER: Shimon, I want you to stand by. I also want to bring in CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey.
Chief Ramsey, these investigators may still be working to try to confirm the details of this brutal attack, but do they owe a little more transparency to the 21 families who are grieving?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think so, Wolf. I think that's part of the problem now. They've been dodging questions.
I understand you can't put everything out publicly, but certainly more information they provided could be given. There's no question in my mind about that.
The information that they had given early on in this investigation, most of it was wrong, it wasn't even correct. So, they have an obligation to really correct the record and put out information so that people at least have some idea of what took place. Again, this is an embarrassment for law enforcement, in my opinion.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Shimon, do the search warrants for the gunman raise more questions about what authorities knew?
PROKUPECZ: It does, Wolf. And today, we finally got a look at some of the search warrants that the Texas rangers, these are the investigators here, submitted to get the gunman's phones and stuff from his vehicle. And what's really interesting is that in the paragraph where they talk about what happened, there's no mention of this encounter, this engagement that we were all led to believe and that we were told occurred outside the school.
So, in the hours after this incident on official court documents that were submitted to the judge, to a judge here, there was no mention of this engagement, but there was this other information where we have heard about where the gunman pointed his rifle, the long rifle he had, and fired at two people who were standing on the street.
So, essentially, everything that occurred outside the school was mentioned in this, which makes me wonder how long did authorities here sit on this information, this bad information that they gave us that the gunman was encountered by officers outside the school.
BLITZER: Yes. That's really important.
Chief Ramsey, the Texas state senator who actually represents Uvalde now says 911 calls were relayed to police officers on the scene, but he's raising questions about whether the incident commander was fully aware. How is this supposed to work? And you're the former police chief here in Washington, D.C., the former police commissioner in Philadelphia.
RAMSEY: Well, as calls come in to dispatch, dispatch would immediately inform people on the scene as to what's taking place. I mean, there's just no excuse not to. And my understanding is perhaps the calls came in to the police department itself, not the school police. But then it's their responsibility to get that information over to the people at the scene, so they know exactly what's going on. Situational awareness is key and you can't do that if you don't have information.
So, again, this investigation, the DOJ investigation, is going to be critically important because that's the only way you're going to find out exactly what took place. I honestly don't trust the officials in Texas to do a good job on this. I really do think DOJ needs to step up and do this as quickly, but as thoroughly as possible.
BLITZER: Yes, that's important as well. Chief Ramsey, thank you very much. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, we have exclusive CNN reporting on the upcoming public January 6th congressional hearings. We have new information about why the select committee believes text messages to and from Mark Meadows could provide a roadmap for the investigation. Stand by.
BLITZER: Just in to CNN, the January 6th select committee just revealed its first public hearing of the year will feature previously unseen material. The hearing scheduled to begin next Thursday at 8:00 P.M. Eastern. Let's get more on the investigation. Our Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel has been doing some exclusive reporting for us. Jamie, I know you've re-examined these text messages that went from Mark Meadows that he sent and received on January 6th. Tell our viewers what this suggest.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, for the first time, we are releasing all the key text messages from the night of January 5th through the 6th. You can go on cnn.com and read them straight through.
What's critical about them is there is a pattern. Trump's allies, people closest to him, are writing to Meadows in real-time, minute by minute, begging him, pleading with him, to get Trump to speak out. They clearly believe Trump had the ability to stop the attack.
So, here are just three of them. From Republican congressman, Jeff Duncan, 3:04 P.M., POTUS needs to calm this, you can read it on the screen, down, from former Trump HHS Secretary Tom Price at 3:13 P.M., POTUS should go on air and defuse this. Extremely important. From North Carolina conservation lobbyist Tom Cors, he's not a Republican but he's a lobbyist to work with Meadows for years, 3:42 P.M., please have POTUS call this off at the Capitol. Urge rioters to disperse. I pray to you.
For context, Wolf, Meadows rarely replied. When he did, just a couple of words, very terse, and he never pushes back, you never see the emotion or passion or concern that all these people are texting him.
BLITZER: Because you also spoke, I understand, with, what, more than a dozen individuals who actually texted with Meadows on January 6th. What did they tell you?
GANGEL: Correct. We decided to go back, it's almost 17 months later. And I spoke to more than a dozen of these people, these very same people who had texted Meadows. And what was interesting is each and every one stood by their text. And let me just tell you, these are former senior White House officials, Republican members of Congress. Meadows associates. They all said the same thing. They believe if Trump had immediately spoken, he could have stopped the attack.
Alyssa Farah Griffin, I thought the president could stop it and was the only person who could stop it. Two others who spoke on background said to us this was a senior Republican who was an ally of Trump. I thought there was only one person who could stop it and that was the president. And from a very senior former Trump administration official, he failed at being president.
BLITZER: Yes. I remember, I was anchoring our coverage that day, the rioters storming the U.S. Capitol. And I kept asking myself, why isn't the president of the United States speaking out and telling these people stop it, stop it right now? And he was silent for so long and he was getting all these messages, as you correctly point out.
GANGEL: Right. BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jamie, great reporting for us, as usual.
Let's discuss this with CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman. These texts show that everyone around the former president thought he could put a stop to the violence up on Capitol Hill. But based on your reporting, it sounds like Trump had no desire at all to make it stop, did he?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. That's right, Wolf. I mean, what we have learned you know since then is that in real-time, we all saw that Trump tweeted an admonition of the vice president, Mike Pence, at 2:24 that day after as Mike Pence was being hustled out of the Senate chamber, out of fear for his safety.
What we've learned since is that the January 6th committee has gotten testimony suggesting that Mark Meadows relayed to colleagues that Trump -- and that others had said it as well, that Trump was complaining that Pence had been taken to safety and was, you know, saying something to the effect of perhaps Pence should be hanged, you know. You hear that, and, no, it's not a surprise that there was not only not more action publicly by the former president but that Meadows was not responding to people.
BLITZER: It's one thing for these former Trump administration officials to speak privately with the committee, but it would be another thing entirely for them to speak out publicly now, to speak to the American people in these upcoming January 6th select committee hearings, wouldn't it?
HABERMAN: It would. And, Wolf, look, we still don't know a lot about what these hearings are going to look like. There are a lot of people who I think are going to be very happy to testify. There's a whole group of former officials who, while many will privately say they're not happy, not just behind closed doors of the committee, but to reporters, will say they're not happy with that Trump did, they're not happy with what happened, they were appalled watching what took place at the Capitol that day, that they don't necessarily agree with how the committee has handled its work, be it political reasons or other complaints. And so what happens with those people I think is the most important question.
There are a couple of time periods that this committee can really fill in, Wolf. The main one is what Trump was doing during that window of time, during that, I think it was 187 minutes as the riot was going on, exactly what he was doing, what he was saying, who he was talking to. We know some of it but there's a lot we don't know.
BLITZER: You've covered Trump for a long time, Maggie. What are the chances that he will tune in to these public hearings starting, what, a week from today? We know he loves, of course, to watch television.
HABERMAN: We know he loves to watch television. We know that he will likely claim that he's not watching them and still watch them. And he loves being the center of attention, even if it's negative attention. So, it is hard for me to imagine that he is not going to catch at least some portion of this. It's also not clear exactly what his aides are going to do around it, whether they're going to choose to ignore it or to try to push back, as they did, when he was in office during the first impeachment trial. We'll see.
BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what happens when these hearings actually begin. Maggie Haberman, excellent reporting from you as well, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, Ukraine now says 20 percent of the country is now under Russian control. We'll have a live update from the war zone right after the break.
BLITZER: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now warning that Russian forces now control some 20 percent of his country as the Kremlin makes a major push to claim the Donbas region.
CNN's Melissa Bell is standing by live for us. She's in Odesa, Ukraine, for us. She's got details.
Melissa, I understand fierce fighting continues right now in the east where Russia is attempting to encircle Ukrainian defenders. What's the latest?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really that part of the country, wolf, where it had concentrated manpower, fire power, still sending more equipment up that way these last few days. That appears to be bearing its fruit, not just Severodonetsk, but other cities we're told by Ukrainian armed forces, that are under severe attack, and particular Bakhmut, that important city for Ukrainian supply lines.
Elsewhere, Ukraine is mounting a counteroffensive down in Kherson. But it is a line now very difficult, of course, to work out what's going to happen next on 20 percent of the country, Wolf, that part of Ukraine beyond our reach.
We were hearing from president Zelenskyy today saying some 200,000 children he says have been taken from Russia, to Russia rather from Ukraine, difficult for us to say. We have no access to that part of the country. And that's one of these many devices now being created near Ukraine.
You have the military line that stretches for 1,000 kilometers from Mykolaiv up to Kharkiv then you have a communications line, a political line, and a line to which we simply, through which we can't get through an increasing number of citizens are now being stuck.
So, for the time being, 20 percent in Russian hands and President Zelenskyy clearly to break that line through Kherson, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots going on.
Melissa Bell, one of our courageous journalists reporting from Odesa in Ukraine, thank you very much. Melissa, stay safe over there.
Let's dig deeper right now with retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's a CNN military analyst.
Colonel Leighton, thanks so much for joining us.
Where exactly are these lines of control as they're called tonight with Russia now holding what, about a fifth of the country? Is that right?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's right, Wolf. A fifth of the country is about the size of Mississippi is the territory that the Russians control in Ukraine.
So if we look at the map here, what we are seeing is an area that goes from Kharkiv, down this way, all the way towards Kherson. This is an area of control the Russians have and in essence are fighting the Ukrainians in this area because what they need to do is be able to control this area, in order to achieve one of Vladimir Putin's main war aims which is to control the Donbas region.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about this key city, Severodonetsk. Tell us about why it's so important right now what's going on there.
LEIGHTON: So this is critical, Wolf, because Severodonetsk is really the key point, it's right here, right in this part of the Luhansk region. The Luhansk region is the northern part of the Donbas area.
The only part the Ukrainians control of this area is this part right here that is right around Severodonetsk and just north of the town of Popasna. What this means is in Severodonetsk, this critical junction is one of the areas where the Ukrainians are going to need to need to either keep this, if they want to keep this controlled, but the other problem they have is it's very easy for the Russians to cut them off at this particular point.
If the Russians do that, the Ukrainian forces risk being surrounded and that is going to be a huge problem for them.
BLITZER: So what do you think the risk is of these Ukrainian troops being encircled there?
LEIGHTON: It's very high, Wolf, and the Ukrainians have to be very careful to conserve their forces. If they don't conserve their forces, they are going to lose a large portion of their military and would be disastrous for their war effort.
BLITZER: So you think there's a limited window right now where the Ukrainians potentially could withdraw?
LEIGHTON: Yes, if they use this area right here, and if you take a look, right through this area, they still have an open path back into the Ukrainian-controlled areas. If they do that, then they will have an opportunity to save that portion of their army. That's going to be critical. If they don't do that, they risk losing that army and that, of course, would be a major blow for them.
BLITZER: It certainly would be. Colonel Leighton, thanks for the explanation, appreciate it very, very much.
Just ahead, a last minute change in plans as Queen Elizabeth begins celebrating her record-breaking reign.
BLITZER: Tonight, the celebration of Queen Elizabeth's 70 years on the thrown is taking a bit of a toll on the 96-year-old monarch. Buckingham Palace says she felt some discomfort during a parade celebrating her birthday, so she's going to skip a service at St. Paul's cathedral tomorrow.
CNN royal correspondent Max Foster has more on the kickoff of the queen's platinum jubilee.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A monumental moment in history, one we won't see again in our lifetimes. Queen Elizabeth II marked 70 years of service. And just a couple of years away from being the longest reigning monarch in world history.
To the awe and joy of thousands of her supporters who came from all corners of the globe, to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just love the queen. She's served selflessly for the last 70 years, dedicated her life to the country. I'm so grateful to her for that.
FOSTER: A special tripping of the military ceremony -- kicking off the four-day long celebration.
Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, and Kate, duchess of Cambridge, are the first royals to arrive, with the queen's great grandchildren, closely followed by Princess Ann, Prince William and Prince Charles. The heir to the throne stepping in to the queen of the parade ground, as he will each time she's unable to attend events, due to her mobility issues, all part of the transition to his monarchy that comes next.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson amongst the guests, nicknaming her Elizabeth the Great.
But the event was also marked by the absence from the symbolic balcony appearance of Prince Andrew, Prince Harry and Meghan, no longer working royals. And Prince Andrew, having contracted COVID.
And despite concerns about her state of health, the Queen beams during the fly-past with her loyal subjects cheering her every move. Perhaps the same can't be said for her great grandchildren. Their
presence perhaps also a symbol of the passing of the baton, one that was passed to her back in 1953, and now she's preparing to have the baton to her next in line.
FOSTER (on camera): My sources saying, Wolf, that throughout the day, she's feeling this discomfort so is putting a brave face on it. Very sad she won't be able to make this cathedral service tomorrow which is in her honor, but again, Prince Charles having to step in for her, something happening more and more often with no signs she has any plan to see abdicate, which is good news -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We, of course, wish her only, only the best.
Max Foster, thank you so much for that.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show at @CNNSitRoom. THE SITUATION ROOM is also available as a podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
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