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Coast Guard Officer Accused of Terror Plot to be Freed; Biden Campaign Raises Over $6 Million in 24 Hours After Announcing Run; FBI to Meet with Florida Officials After Mueller Report Shows County Hacked During Election; Trump Backs Off Anti-Vaccine Claims as Hundreds Quarantined for Measles. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 26, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:31:12] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a terrorist massacre set to be released from jail as he awaits trial. The judge who made that decision said he has, quote, "grave concerns." But the judge can't legally hold Christopher Hasson any longer.

Prosecutors filed a stark warning of their own about the 49-year-old suspect, saying, quote, "The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country. He must be detained pending trial."

CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, covering the story. Also with us, former federal judge, Kevin Sharp.

So, Jessica, when we look at this and we lay out what we've heard from the U.S. attorney, from the judge, what is going on? Why does it work out that he's actually going to be released, despite the judge's concerns?

JESSICA SCHENIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The judge saying here, Erica, his hands are tied for multiple reasons. First of all, there's no domestic terrorism statute on the backs in the United States. And the judge stressed because Lieutenant Hasson is only facing weapons and drug charges that doesn't meet the standard for continued detention. Basically, he has to be released under what will likely strict conditions.

But prosecutors are still moving forward with this argument that Hasson is a real threat. You saw it there in the detention memo that they said Hasson intends to carry out this plot to murder innocent civilians on a large scale. And then prosecutors have spelled out all of the threats here. They've labelled him as a white supremacist and extremist. And then they went into detail. They said that Hasson searched for the home addresses of two Supreme Court justices. He also searched for the best gun to kill African-Americans. He made silencers. He had a stockpile of 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his Maryland basement apartment. And Hasson's also accused of compiling a hit list of prominent Democratic politicians, plus journalists, who are right here at CNN as well as MSNBC. But nevertheless, the judge stressed yesterday, Erica, in the hearing,

that Hasson only faces those charges of weapons and drug charges. Nothing else. So because of that, he will likely be released in the upcoming days and or weeks. And right now, his defense attorneys are coming up with conditions where -- that will satisfy the judge, who, like you said, still does have the grave concerns about all of these threats that Hasson allegedly poses here.

HILL: Jessica Schneider, with all of the nuts and bolts. Jess, thank you.

Judge, as we look at all of this, the judge in this case went on to say not just he talked about the grave concerns but, I'm quoting here, he said in terms of, as they're figuring out the supervision, Hasson has, quote, "got to have a whole lot of supervision. Somebody who has eyes and ears on him like nobody's business."

Is there a chance, Judge, they don't come up with an agreement that this judge and the case is comfortable with and also the public defender is comfortable with?

KEVIN SHARP, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Well, right. I think there's a real chance of that. Because although a lot of people don't realize, the default is that someone should be released pre-trial unless there are no set of circumstances where that could ensure that the public safety or that the -- the detainee is not a flight risk. And so given what we know, just because a judge recognized the charges are the charges, but that doesn't mean he has to ignore everything else that has been identified about this individual. So these -- someone -- if you have those kinds of grave concerns -- and based on what I know, I would share those concerns, I think we all do -- then it better be some tight restrictions before this person is released. And so it is not a given.

HILL: When we look at -- Jessica just laid this out -- but this list of what prosecutors have called a hit list. So prominent Democratic lawmakers, journalists, including three of our colleagues here at CNN. We're also told that he allegedly searched for the home addresses of two unnamed Supreme Court justices. And you put all of that together and what is fascinating, the public defender said, in referencing that, it is not a hit list. Quote, "It looked like the sort of list that our commander-in-chief might have compiled while watching FOX News in the morning." Saying, "Donald Trump uses similar epithets in his everyday language and tweets." Talking about some of the racist language. She went on to say, "It has just become part of the national vocabulary."

In bringing up the president in her defense of her client, where does that put this case?

[14:35:42] SHARP: Well, I think she's making an argument and being an advocate for his client. But it is not just a list. There were other things that they saw that would indicate his intention on what to do with that list. It is not just a random list of names. The judge could take that into consideration when you figure out what are these conditions. Certainly there's electronic monitoring and those kinds of things, home confinement, but it better be good.

HILL: There's also -- just to clear this question up once and for all, part of the issue is that there's no federal statute when it comes to domestic terrorism. Why?

SHARP: This is a legislative question. Congress makes the laws. Why is there not a law? There are laws on the books if -- with respect to making threats or taking some kind of action to murder someone. So the prosecutor must think -- because as I understand they don't intend to file a superseding indictment -- with additional charges, they must think they don't have any other federal crimes that they could charge him with or reasonably charge him with and meet the elements there. If there's a gap, and it appears there may be, then this is -- Congress needs to step up and do their job. Judges can only deal with what Congress has given them as tools and what the Constitution gives them as tools.

HILL: Kevin Sharp, really appreciate your insight. Thanks again for joining us.

SHARP: Thank you.

HILL: We do want to bring you breaking news. In the 2020 race, former Vice President Joe Biden, we're learning, has raised more than $6 million in the first 24 hours since his launch.

Let's bring in Arlette Saenz, who is here with more on this.

Good to see you.

So how does that number measure up?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It is a very, very large figure. I believe that it is the largest out of all of the Democratic primary candidates in their first day of fundraising. I believe it was Beto O'Rourke has that top number.

Let me just run you through some of the figures that came in. So just a short while ago, Joe Biden sent out an e-mail to his supporters saying they raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours. Remember, there's been this big question about how much is Joe Biden actually going to be able to raise. He's not known as a prolific fundraiser. And he's not exactly the same, people were thinking, a small donor, powerhouse like Bernie Sanders or Beto O'Rourke. As you go on into that e-mail, they point out that 97 percent of online donations were under $200. But one thing we don't know just yet is how many -- how much the online donations made up the entire pool.


SAENZ: So remember that last night, he did that fundraiser in Philadelphia. So earlier today, Ed Rendell, one of the organizers of that fundraiser, said he believed they maybe brought in a little over half a million dollars. We'll see if we ever get an actual figure on the campaign from that. The other numbers that campaign is pointing out they got donations

from all 50 states and U.S. territories and the average online donation was $41. And then they go on to say 96,000 -- so 96,926 people chipped in on day one.

Now one thing that we'll be looking at is, what are those unique donors. How many people donated? You could have people who donate multiple times in smaller batches. So that is a figure that will be looked at closely. And that would be --


HILL: And that would be, as you point out, those are people in smaller batches.

SAENZ: Right.

HILL: And that is interesting because there's a big focus, as we look at 2020, on smaller donors. Because we saw what that did for certain candidates obviously. And that has been more of a focus in seeing, well, how many small donors could you get and what does that translate to in terms of support.

SAENZ: Right. And you've seen this enthusiasm test that's been placed around these first-day fundraising figures that have come out. But for Joe Biden, his team is looking at this number and they're very happy with this. Because there has been so many questions leading up to his candidacy about whether he'll be able to raise the same amount of money as his other Democratic primary rivals. I think this number shows he'll be viable when it comes to the money race. But we'll still be looking for a little bit more of a breakdown for the campaign about what these donations look like and who was donating.

HILL: We know you'll have it for us as soon as you get it.

Arlette Saenz, thank you.

[14:40:04] A quarantine issued at two California universities. Officials now across the country desperately trying to fight a measles outbreak as the number of people diagnosed grows. So what you need to know today about your vaccines. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us with that new important information.

Plus, just coming into us, the FBI will meet with officials in Florida on a suspected election hacking, which is detailed in the Mueller report.


HILL: This just in, the FBI, we're learning, is going to meet with the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott about the election hacking in that state, which is detailed in the Mueller report. Just a few words prompted major concern among Florida election officials. They detailed the first-ever public claim by the government that hackers successfully compromised one of Florida's county networks before the 2016 election. CNN senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, joins me now.

There's one Florida county that was impacted directly?

[14:45:08] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPNDENT: Right. The person at the Department of Homeland Security who leads the charge in defending America's elections, Chris Krebs, he said he suspected that Russia targeted all 50 states in the election but that doesn't mean they were successful. But we're learning from the Mueller report the FBI does believe that one county in Florida -- we don't though which one -- was successfully hacked into.

And so now what we're learning is that the FBI will be briefing two top Florida officials, the Governor Ron DeSantis, who just came into office, and Rick Scott, the former governor and was the governor during 2016. They wanted answers yesterday. This briefing will happen at some point in the next few weeks.

And, Erica, this started bubbling a couple of months ago when Senator Bill Nelson, a former Senator from Florida, he was running for re- election last year and he said that the Russians are inside Florida's election systems. And myself, and a number of other reporters, started calling the FBI and DHS and local Florida election officials and they had absolutely no idea what Nelson was talking about. Now he's saying that he -- that this proves that he was correct.

But this all came about because now we have seen the Mueller report, we have seen what the FBI told the Mueller investigators. I want to read part of that Mueller report. He wrote, "The FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU" -- which is Russian military hackers -- "to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government."

Now Florida election officials are still saying there's no evidence that the Russians have gotten inside. So at this point, you have DeSantis and Rick Scott saying, we don't know what to believe and essentially we want answers yesterday.

HILL: This is massive to think that -- and I understand they are not the only people, meaning former Governor Rick Scott and Governor DeSantis, that they want answer yesterday.


HILL: Anybody watching this right now wants to know, not only which county and how did it happen, but are we sure that this didn't happen anywhere else. There are so many questions.

MARQUARDT: Not just because of what -- what else could have happened in 2016. Remember, of course, we had the midterms in 2018 and top intelligence officials said that nothing really happened in terms of attacking the election infrastructure around that election. But most importantly, what are the implications for 2020? Now everybody is looking forward and everyone knows that the Russians, and perhaps other countries, nation/states, were actors, will do something. What are they going to do? So if we can figure out what happened in 2016, at least then there's a baseline for what to look ahead to for 2020. Because something is coming.

HILL: Yes.

MARQUARDT: We're trying to figure out what.

HILL: And we've been told that it is still in the works and so we should expect it.

Alex, appreciate it. Thank you.

President Trump, once again, defending his controversial remarks in Charlottesville, saying General Robert E. Lee was, quote, "one of the greats."

Plus, he is one of the central figures in the Mueller report, on his way out. Hear why Rod Rosenstein is now taking shots at the Obama administration over Russian meddling.


[14:52:37] HILL: The nationwide measles outbreak has forced two of southern California's largest universities to quarantine scores of students and faculty. That mandatory order affects people at UCLA and Cal State L.A., who may have been exposed to infected students and not vaccinated or can't show proof of immunization.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins us.

Sanjay, when we look at this, we are seeing the highest number of cases since this disease was declared eradicated back in 2000. Give us a sense of how long could a quarantine like this last?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting, and some is arbitrary, but the way they've arrived at this -- at the universities, is they've tried to say from the time that someone may have been exposed to measles, they want to wait 21 days. So what we're now learning is that the possible exposure happened probably a couple of weeks ago. So it would be another week or so that these students are likely quarantined. Sometime in the middle or end of next week is probably when they'll be able to be released. The reason they picked that, Erica, is they think, by that point, if someone will get the measles, they would have gotten it. So that is how that 21- day number is sort of -- that is how they're choosing that.

HILL: We also heard from the president today urging vaccinations, urging parents to vaccinate their children. We know, back in 2014, as a private citizen, he tweeted out several posts suggesting this -- this report was debunked, I don't know how many times at this point --

GUPTA: Right.

HILL: -- about a link between vaccines and autism. It came up again during the GOP presidential debate. Here is what he had to say at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TURMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Two years old, 2.5 years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back, and a week later, got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick. Now he's autistic. I'm saying I'm in favor of vaccines. Do them over a longer period of time, same amount --


TRUMP: -- but just in little sections.


HILL: The president today coming out and the president talking about the importance of vaccinations. That message is incredibly important, especially if it is showing a shift from him.

GUPTA: Yes. So today, he said -- I think he basically said something along the lines of people should get the shots. I think back then, clearly, he was raising some doubts about the vaccines, sort of paying some sort of idea that there could be this link to autism. There's not. So it appears to be a little bit of a transition or an evolution in his thought, which, in this case, is a good thing because there's no link between vaccines and autism. And people need to get their vaccines.

[14:55:19] We're seeing the possible beginnings now of measles becoming endemic in the United States. Meaning that it could start to spread throughout the United States.

We've been showing this map, Erica, for some time. And 22 states now have patients that have measles, 22 states. All of these efforts in Los Angeles, the quarantine, the emergency declaration now in New York, all of these things that are happening are in an effort to prevent that map from becoming completely blue with patients with measles.

HILL: With a disease declared eradicated 20 years ago.


HILL: Sanjay, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

GUPTA: Yes, thank you.

HILL: More now on our breaking news. Joe Biden outraising his Democratic rivals in that critical first 24 hours of campaigning. We'll dive deeper on that. And also take a closer look at how Biden's rivals are now taking aim.