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Russia Recalls Ambassador after Biden Calls Putin "A Killer"; Biden Confronts China, Russia as Tensions Escalate; Interview with Denis McDonough, Veterans Affairs Secretary, on Crises Facing Veterans; Man Arrested Outside V.P. Harris' Residence Had Rifle, Ammunition. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 18, 2021 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Russia is responding with diplomatic counterpunches after President Biden's remark confirming he believes Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin, is a killer.

Moscow yanking Russia's ambassador to the U.N. And Putin telling Biden to, quote, "be healthy."

Let's listen to President Biden's conversation about Putin with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will pay a price. I've -- we had a long talk, he and I. I know him relatively well. The conversation started off, I said I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You know Vladimir Putin. You think he's a killer?

BIDEN: Uh-huh. I do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What price must he pay?

BIDEN: The price he's going to pay, well, you'll see shortly.


KEILAR: Let's talk about this now with Susan Glasser, one of our CNN global affairs analysts. Also a staff writer for "The New Yorker."

What did you make of Putin telling Biden to be healthy?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's a classic Putin remark, a barb and edge in there.

He also said today in Moscow that, you know, it's an old Russian playground, saying that, you know, it takes one to know one, in effect. As if to accuse Biden himself of being a killer.


I think you're seeing an early war of words. And in a way, that's politically convenient actually to both leaders.

KEILAR: And Biden now you see is confronting China and he's confronting Russia here in his first two months. His administration has sanctioned 24 Chinese officials.

How do you see these tensions in the big picture of the biggest foreign policy challenges that Biden is going to have?

GLASSER: Well, I do -- I think you're right to put them together in the sense that, you know, this is clearly a foreign policy moment of great power confrontation rather than cooperation.

And not to suggest a through line with President Trump where you see the difference is in the confrontation with people like Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump obviously was always very complimentary in a way of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, even though his administration had a more confrontational policy.

Here you'll see Joe Biden is much more in sync with his own officials and much more in sync with his own policy. Biden has promised more confrontational actions to respond to Russia, to confront it for its election interference.

It's notable this very strongly worded report came out this week that suggested Russian election interference, once again, on behalf of Donald Trump.

And now, frankly, you see kind of Trump supporters and Vladimir Putin and his supporters once again echoing the same language about Joe Biden.

It's kind of eye popping for those of us who followed Vladimir Putin for all these years.

KEILAR: Indeed, it is.

Susan, it's always great to have you, Susan Glasser, thank you.

GLASSER: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just in, a contentious exchange between House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, and CNN's Manu Raju as McCarthy tries to rewrite history of his role in supporting and propagating the big lie.

Plus, the FBI just released new video of suspects in the most egregious attacks on police officers during the capitol riots.






KEILAR: For the past year, Americans have not only had to contend in the coronavirus crisis itself but with the crises caused by the pandemic, including unemployment, health care, housing, and mental health.

And sadly, one demographic where we see all of these issues overlapping to devastating effect is with America's military veterans.

Before the pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs found that roughly 17 veterans were dying by suicide every day. And during the pandemic, some 19 million V.A. appointments have been cancelled or postponed.

I'm joined by Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough.

Secretary, thank you so much. This is a critical time and we appreciate you coming on.

I want to talk first about vaccinating veterans. At the current rate, 1.4 million with at least one dose as of two weeks ago, pretty good. But the reality is it's some time before you can get to 20 million vets and caregivers and get them vaccinated.

You have a somewhat limited supply of doses from the government. Is that allocation going to increase?

DENIS MCDONOUGH, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Brianna, thanks for having me. I know how important these issues are to you and your family so I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about them.

On vaccinations, as of today, I think we are somewhere near two million veterans having gotten at least one vaccination, about 1.1 million having gotten two. That is to say the complete suite of vaccinations.

And, you know, you are absolutely right that not only veterans but all of us face the limited supply challenge that the president and the White House have done so much to alleviate but there's still a long way to go.

So you're right. We are very much focused on prioritizing the six or so million veterans who entirely rely on us for their care. There's another three who are enrolled with us to work on.

And then caregivers and family members as the House and Senate are now debating whether they should give us authority to do that, too.

All of those things are things we want to do when we have the supply to do it. We will be in a position to really ramp that up.

Because I've got to tell you, our vaccinators, our docs, our nurses in the V.A. system, they're unbelievable. We're hearing positive stories from all across the country every day.

But we want more supply, as I know everybody does, so we can vaccinate even more veterans.

KEILAR: So it sounds like you're still waiting on that, that there isn't actually any firm answer about when you would get -- when you would get more supply?

MCDONOUGH: Well, you know, we get -- there's a process we go through every week. Everybody does. Everybody gets their allotments each week.

We've gotten slightly more each week as the country has developed more of supply. And then, obviously, as the president has indicated, by May everybody will be eligible.


So we anticipate a significant increase in the supply over the course of these next two months as we get into May.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you about homelessness. Because it's actually -- it's down when you're looking at veterans right now, long term.

According to HUD, 8 percent of homeless adults in 2020 were vets, that's down 50 percent over the past decade. I mean, that's great but I'm sure you would agree it's still too high.

So what's your plan for dealing with that, for getting vets off the streets and into the shelters, particularly with the pandemic?

MCDONOUGH: Yes, look, it's an excellent question. The homeless number is down 50 percent over the course of about the last 10 years. That's good. But it's not -- nowhere near good enough.

What we intend to do is, we're -- included in the president's American Rescue Plan is not only support for people who are struggling right now with rent or people struggling right now with their mortgage or utility payments. That kind of support is available through the program right now.

But we're also going to focus on proven strategies. One is a strategy that says the first thing we can do is focus on housing first.

And then come in behind that with all the services, things like health care, things like mental health care, things like substance abuse counseling, so that our vets have the full suite of services that we know are required to help somebody off the street.

But the first challenge, first and foremost, Brianna, is to make sure that we prevent homelessness in the first instance.

Those numbers you cite are really going back a year ago. We don't really have the best indication yet of just how severe the impact of the pandemic has been on overall homelessness numbers.

So that's why we are really cranking up investments in this space. And again, this is going to be on a proven strategy that says let's keep people in houses first. Let's get them in houses first.

Then, let's get the supportive services to them right behind that so that they can succeed with all the skill and all the sacrifice that they've -- the skill they've demonstrated and the sacrifice they have undertaken on behalf of this country.

That's the at least they should expect.

KEILAR: Secretary, your acting health head was talking today about getting vets back in for routine appointments. Very worried about the delayed medical care of the last year that we mentioned as we introduced you.

Is the V.A. ready for a huge flood of overdue appointments? I asked you this, certainly, with your familiarity with the crisis that shook the V.A. during the Obama years when it came to -- when it came to the backlog of appointments and the wait times.

Are you sure that this is something that can be avoided?

MCDONOUGH: Look, the bottom line is that this is why the American Rescue Plan that the president put together and Congress has passed and the president's now signed is so important.

There's $14.5 billion in there to make sure that we have the resources to compensate for any delayed care, point one.

Point two, we've done a good job over the course of this period of staying in touch with our veterans so that, if they had to be rescheduled, we tried to get them rescheduled.

We had a dramatic increase in telehealth appointments so we've been able to stay in touch with vets, address things through telehealth appointments.

But that now, the third point, but that doesn't entirely address the question that you have, which is a question everybody has.

We're seeing, across health care in this country, not just in V.A., but across health care, the cost of delayed care. That is to say people not going in for, you know, annual checkups and so forth.

That, again, is why the added resources in the American Rescue Plan are so important. And that's why we're so excited about the fact that it's now a law.

So we have the resources. We're getting ready. We're in touch with our veterans. And we're increasingly able to be in a position where more and more vets can come in.

But, look, post pandemic, there will be a new way of delivering health care. A lot of it will be telehealth. And we've learned important lessons in this period on that.

KEILAR: Secretary, so many important issues facing the V.A. right now.

Secretary McDonough, thanks for joining us.

MCDONOUGH: Thanks, again, Brianna.


KEILAR: New details on the man arrested on gun charges outside the vice president's home. Why his parents alerted authorities weeks ago.


KEILAR: A Texas man is now facing weapons charges after police arrested him outside the official residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C. Officers found a rifle and ammunition in suspect Paul Murray's car on Wednesday.

And as CNN's Whitney Wild reports, the suspect had been on the radar of law enforcement in Texas for several weeks.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the Brazos County Sheriff's Office says they've been in contact with Paul Murray over the past two weeks at the request of family members due to his behavior.

They didn't find any criminal violations, but the agency continued to monitor the situation because his behavior and statements were so concerning.

They also had information suggesting he had weapons. Law enforcement issued a bulletin for this region, and that's what prompted law enforcement around here to stop him outside the vice president's residence.

Brianna, D.C. police say in his vehicle he had an A.R.-15 rifle, 113 rounds of ammunition, and five 30-round magazines.


Police say he's been charged with several counts. That includes carrying a dangerous weapon, carrying a rifle or shotgun outside of a business, possession of unregistered ammunition, and possession of a large capacity ammunition-feeding device.

A Secret Service official says none of the agencies protectees were in the residence at the time of the incident -- Brianna?


KEILAR: All right, Whitney Wild, thank you.

And Murray does remain in custody and it's not clear if he has a lawyer.

Coming up, shocking comments at a House hearing on anti-Asian attacks when Texas Congressman Chip Roy invoked terms about lynching.

And just in, new guidelines from the CDC on schools and how students should social distance.