tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC March 3, 2022 6:30pm-7:00pm PST
corridors after one million refugees fled. vladimir putin today saying the invasion is going according to plan and putin's chilling phone call that convinced france's president the worst is yet to come. also tonight our nbc news exclusive, my one-on-one with william barr the former attorney general in his first tv interview since stepping down from office what he says about president trump's false claims of election fraud, and explosive moments, what barr says happened when he offered trump his resignation. the verdict in the trial of the officer in the botched raid that led to the death of breonna taylor. and that heated moment, florida's governor doubling down after he scolded students for wearing masks. our exclusive with the director of the cdc and how she is responding >> announcer: this is
"nbc nightly news" with lester holt good evening russia tonight finally has something to show for its wanton bombardment of ukraine. the mayor of the port city of kherson announced russian troops are now in control of his city. it's the first major ukrainian population center to fall under the weight of the russian invasion force. other cities, too, under constant attack. in one, ukraine emergency services report 33 dead bodies were unearthed from the rubble after a russian air strike no wonder over a million civilians have fled their homeland. and with that ominous military convoy slowly bearing down on his country's capital, ukrainian president zelenskyy held a news conference saying he wants to talk directly to vladimir putin who today tried to convince his country the war is for a righteous cause. we start in the besieged capital of kyiv, where richard engle continues to be our eyes and ears on the grounds. >> reporter: russian president vladimir putin's war machine is now carving a path of destruction more than a week after his unprovoked assault on
ukraine began. russian forces today captured their first major city the mayor of kherson saying russian troops are now in control there, with five other cities surround by the russians, including chernihiv which is being pounded. the capital, kyiv, remains in the eye of the storm, that huge russian convoy still 15 miles out today we were among a small group of journalists meeting ukrainian president zelenskyy. he arrived without a large entourage, carrying his own chair. he said he's willing to negotiate with russia but not over ukraine's sovereignty and that it all depends on one man >> vladimir putin has not been so far willing to meet with you. do you have a message for him now that ukrainian cities are under attack, this city is under attack, a convoy is on its way here is there a way to prevent this war from escalating even further now?
>> it is not about i want to talk with putin. i think i have to talk with putin the world has to talk with putin because there are no other ways to stop this war. that's why i have to >> reporter: as he spoke, french president macron had what his office described as a disturbing call with putin today. putin insisting russia was not targeting civilians and ominously saying he would pursue his military operation until the end. but russia is hitting civilians. in kharkiv, this activist was live streaming thanking supporters forpporters for donations when -- and donations when -- and in mariupol, a father cried holding the body of his teenage son as a u.s. military official predicts, the most violent phase of this war has yet to even begin president zelenskyy today appeared calm and relaxed. asked if he's afraid
he will be killed, he said yes, that only a disturbed person would not fear for his life. asked if he plans to stay in this city, without hesitation, he also said yes. lester. >> richard, thank you. while president -- it was civilians stopping russians from moving in on the biggest nuclear power plant in europe but tonight fierce fighting has officials concerned. the energy minister saying the world should pay attention we heard from the president, president zelenskyy who put out a video in the middle of the night asking europe to, quote, wake up lester while president zelenskyy may be staying on in ukraine, more than a million of his citizens have now fled the numbers are growing as the journey toward the border becomes more perilous. tom llamas reports from western ukraine >> reporter: tonight in ukraine the lifeline for refugees
runs around the clock. on these tracks through the country and through a war. >> the train is a key to escape for people >> reporter: inside rail cars, families are packed tight not sure what the next stop will bring. >> this was very hard, to get inside. it is too full very full. a lot of people. with young children, with animals. >> reporter: and the journey is growing more dangerous these new images showing rail bridges blown up, tracks crippled even a missile just steps from the rail lines. do you think the russians are trying to hit your trains? >> i have seen the bombs, which are about two meters from the tracks. >> reporter: i spoke with the man running the entire ukraine rail system during this war >> we have got cities which are cut from the other parts of ukraine, and we can't bring water, medical supplies and food to the citizens >> reporter: tonight in a second round of talks between russia
and ukraine, both sides agreeing to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate citizens the crush to board trains still happening, and train windows are telling the story of this war. pain, loss, and so many families saying good-bye this kharkiv resident said she was lucky to get a seat on a train out. but now that she's stopped moving, the reality is setting in. >> i adore my city for me, it's best city so beautiful a lot of parks now everything is broke. it is crazy. everything is broke. everything >> tom, obviously it is urgent to do something to get these folks out. what do we know about how soon those humanitarian corridors will be set up and running? >> reporter: lester, they are still working out the details. they envision some type of cease-fire zone where they can evacuate civilians and create a pathway to get medicine and food into the devastated
areas. there is a bit of news tonight. the u.s. is now following the eu to give ukrainian refugees temporary protected status >> tom, thank you. despite worldwide condemnation and sanctions, no signs tonight that vladimir putin will stop this invasion keir simmons is in moscow. >> reporter: tonight, president putin standing for a moment of silence for russian soldiers killed in ukraine, later calling them heroes and insisting most ukrainians have been duped by ukraine's government once again, his key advisers, ministers, military, and intelligence chiefs at a distance, appearing via video link and tonight our reporting indicates senior members of the government were at times left out of the loop as president putin prepared for war. russia's foreign minister telling us today questions about the president's state of mind are western lies
president putin is described by many in the west as erratic and isolated >> translator: what and how putin does and how he acts -- you are judging on the basis of what western propaganda is telling you. >> reporter: among the president's inner circle are his protection officers, members of an elite service with historical links to the kgb. insiders tell us they would give their life for him. they even control the russian president's nuclear black box. >> can you reassure the world that russia would not fire a nuclear weapon in anger, would not fire a first strike >> we don't have insane people. we have our military doctrine. >> reporter: president putin insisted today his military campaign is going to plan, a day when diplomatic hope was hard to find, the russian leader again uncompromising
lester. >> keir simmons in moscow thank you, keir. president biden is facing growing pressure from republicans and democrats to get even tougher on russia and putin. kristen welker is at the white house. what have they announced today? >> today the biden administration announced new sanctions on eight russian oligarchs who are close to vladimir putin, but the president is stopping short of taking the tougher step of banning russia from selling its oil, which would strike at the heart of the russian economy. despite mounting calls from both parties to take that step including house speaker nancy pelosi just today the white house said blocking russian oil sales would send already skyrocketing gas prices higher and could help putin profit more. blking russi now to an nbc news exclusive, the man w now to an nbc news exclusive the man who stood at the center of some of the storms that engulfed the trump presidency is breaking his silence tonight. former attorney general william barr in his new memoir "one damn thing after another" opens up about his relationship
with the former president and ahead of the book's release he opened up to me. >> people really started going after me when they saw that i was not going to take the rubbish that was the russia gate pseudo scandal. i was going to deal with it. >> defiant in his convictions bill barr gives no ground to his critics. >> the narrative and we live in the age of narratives, it was that i was a toady to trump and would do trump's bidding and the media constantly went with that story. >> were you? >> well, i think, no, because i tried to take every issue that came to me and decide it, what i thought was the right thing, and i didn't really care what people thought about me. >> the criticism that framed barr's time in the trump administration actually started before he even took the job when as a private citizen he wrote an unsolicited memo to the department of justice outlining why the president should not be investigated in the mueller probe.
>> reporter: many people look at that memo as an audition for the job of attorney general look at this this is how i lean >> well, first, i wasn't interested in being attorney general. and second, you know, if i wanted to be attorney general, there are much more direct ways of auditioning for it >> some thought the memo was a signal to the president that barr was ready to make the russia investigation go away. your mind sounds like it was clearly made up before we even got to this point on the russia investigation that it was a phony investigation. >> no, it wasn't made up i was as i say in my book, suspicious of it it didn't ring true to me >> months after barr wrote that memo the president fired attorney general jeff sessions who had refused to intervene in the mueller investigation. the president offered the job to barr. five weeks after his confirmation the mueller report was in his hands. >> this is all we know bob mueller has submitted his report to the attorney
general, period. >> reporter: barr says he couldn't legally release the full report at first, classified and grand jury information needed to be redacted. instead, he wrote a four-page letter to congress about mueller's conclusions. >> and the conclusions were there was no collusion. and that he didn't make a decision on obstruction but he lays out all the facts in the report and i say that he does not exonerate trump. >> but critics say barr essentially did exonerate the president. he said mueller's evidence did not prove trump obstructed justice. it became a mantra that stuck. >> there is absolutely no collusion that has been proven there was no obstruction. >> among the details that barr left out mueller's description of multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement
investigations this four-page letter, this summary was immediately met with wide criticism that it didn't really accurately reflect what mueller was saying. >> that's not true what it was, it was a tantrum by the people who were hoping that mueller would be able to bring down trump. >> wait a minute mueller himself wrote you a letter complaining, he said the summary didn't capture the substance of his report and that there was now public confusion. >> no, he didn't say the substance of his report >> actually he did mueller's letter said barr's summary did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office's work and conclusions. in his book, barr frequently defends trump, but there were flash points, like the so-called perfect phone call with ukrainian president volodymyr zelenskyy, now a war time leader. trump called on zelenskyy to investigate joe biden. >> his whole maneuver of trying to get the ukrainians to investigate biden,
that was a hair brained scheme it was ridiculous. >> in the call trump offered up his attorney general to help facilitate the scheme barr says he had nothing to do with it. the president lumped you in with rudy guiliani as being the points of contact to make this happen >> i was livid >> reporter: four weeks after the election barr's relationship with the president came to a head when he told a reporter there was no widespread election fraud. that trump had simply lost it led to a blow up at the white house. >> i told him that all of this stuf and it was wrong to f was -- [ bleep -- about the election fraud and it was wrong to be shoveling it out the way his team was. >> you're trying to set him straight. >> yes and, you know, he listened -- he was obviously getting very angry about this you know, i said, okay well look, i understand you're upset with me and i'm perfectly happy to
tender my resignation. and then, boom he slapped the desk and he said, accepted. accepted go home. you're done. >> in a three-page letter to nbc news, president trump called barr's book fake and repeatedly insulted his former a.g. as a coward, a big disappointment, and lazy trump also said that he was the one who demanded barr's resignation. you can watch more of our conversation tomorrow on "today" and on a special hour this sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern, 8:00 central. we're back with more right after this
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from that scolding by florida's governor to a group of students because they wore masks, calling it political theater. it upset some parents and underscored the heated debate over masks. here's miguel almaguer you do not have to wear those masks i mean, please take them off. >> reporter: tonight more fallout after florida governor ron de santis admonished a group of high school students wednesday. >> honestly, it is not doing anything and we have got stop with this covid theater. >> reporter: highlighting yet again the bitter divide over face masks. >> if you want to wear it, fine but this is ridiculous. >> reporter: and what they represent eric marshall was one of those students. >> i almost jumped out my skin. i was really appalled. >> reporter: his mother, dawn, who is immuno compromised, was furious about what the governor said. >> he took away my authority. he put my child at risk he put me at risk because my child comes home to me.
>> i was honestly not completely ready for it i went to that usf press conference for the photo op >> reporter: with mask mandates rolling back for the majority of the country, the cdc still recommends wearing them indoors where covid levels are high, which is the case in tampa, where the press conference was held today kate snow spoke with cdc director rochelle walensky. >> those students should have been comfortable wearing a mask >> it is absolutely their choice. >> reporter: governor de santis doubled down today, calling masks political theater. defending his comments and highlighting the incident in a fundraising letter while he won't wear a mask, tonight he is the face of controversy. miguel almaguer, nbc news. up next, battling russian cyber warfare against ukraine, with an assist from a tech giant. ssian cyber warfare against ukraine, with an assist from a tech giant. as the russian ke. it. o. ...with rinvoq. rinvoq a once-daily pill can dramatically improve symptoms...
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(laughter) ( ♪♪ ) as the russian invasion of ukraine intensifies, we have yet to see russia unleash its full cyber warfare capabilities andrea mitchell explains. >> reporter: before russia mounted its ground defensive in ukraine, the leading edge of its assault was detected thousands of miles away. alarm bells went off at microsoft's threat intelligence center in redmond, washington, over a new piece of malware aimed at ukraine's government and financial institutions microsoft jumped into the digital fray picking apart the malware, alerting ukraine's cyber defenders, and the top cyber official at the white house. >> when microsoft
notified us that they built signatures to identify the destructive malware we encouraged sharing that broadly across allies and partners. >> reporter: u.s. officials warn that vladimir putin still has the ability to cut off critical communications and cripple vital infrastructure in ukraine. but so far, russia's cyber offensive has been limited to denial of service attacks on the defense ministry and banks. >> i am surprised we haven't seen a more massive cyber attack against ukraine, against other nato nations or against us. >> i think we have to be very much on guard against that possibility. we are. >> reporter: the u.s. is working with ukraine's cyber defenses to be ready in case the worst is yet to come. >> russia has one of the most sophisticated cyber programs in the world. it is easier to attack than to defend a attacker has to be successful once, a defender has to be successful every time. >> reporter: the u.s. could go on offense targeting russia's command and control over its forces in ukraine. but that could set off cyber war between russia and the u.s
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false positive and negative results may occur. ask your provider if cologuard is right for you. we're in. finally, it's the first ukrainian city to be captured by russian forces erin mclaughlin now on the defiance its citizens are showing the russian invaders. >> reporter: life in kherson, ukraine, the first city to fall in putin's war. russian soldiers patrol the streets residents are
terrified. >> today when i woke up with loud bangs outside. and people running in the street it was horrifying. >> reporter: two days ago, the russian military invaded this port city of almost 300,000. soon overwhelming ukrainian forces, according to the mayor. still, the people defiant. this woman going toe to toe with a russian soldier. the city's new rules posted on the mayor's facebook, a strict curfew in place, and a maximum of two peo together at any time citizens must stop when commanded today was the first day many residents felt safe enough to leave their homes, desperate for food and money. still unease and more than 500 miles away in lviv, dennis phones his mom. she's trapped in kherson with no way out. >> my mother supporting the ukrainian army probably she will go
to jail. >> reporter: you are worried your mom is going to go to jail. >> yes. >> reporter: back in kherson, fearing reprisal, this man only wants to be known as jimmy >> we probably lost our town to the enemy. but majority thinks it is temporary and we have to hold on until the ukrainian army frees us. >> reporter: tonight in ukraine, wishful thinking that history won't repeat itself. erin mclaughlin, nbc news, ukraine. >> the story is becoming more chilling by the day that's "nbc nightly news" for this thursday thanks for watching, everyone i'm lester holt. please take care of yourself and each other. good night
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