Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Opening Statements Underway In Alex Murdaugh's Double Murder Trial; U.S. & Germany Agree To Send Dozens Of Tanks To Ukraine; Archives Considering Asking Past Presidents & VP's To Look Again For Classified Material. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 16:00   ET



CREIGHTON WATERS, SOUTH CAROLINA SENIOR ASSISTANT DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Three minutes after that video has the defendant at the murder scene with the two victims, Paul's cell phone goes silent forever. In fact, another communication comes in to the very friend he was talking to, the dog (ph) at 8:49 and 35 seconds, just 35 seconds later he doesn't answer it. He never answers another thing forever and ever.

And on top of that, Maggie's phone locks at 8:49 and 31 seconds, around that same time, and she never answers another text, never sends another text, never makes another phone call, never receives another phone call. Three minutes, ladies and gentlemen, three minutes, after a video shows he's at the scene with the victims and told everybody he was never there. Credibility ladies and gentlemen. Credibility.

So, what happens after that? Well, you'll hear evidence that Alex's phone conspicuously he didn't have a lot of activity from about 8:09 p.m. until 9:02 p.m. and if he was at the kennels, which the evidence will show, why is his phone not with him? Why is it not showing activity? But you will hear that at 9:02.

All of a sudden, his phone starts to pick up activity. 9:02 the calls, he starts moving at 9:04:40, he calls Maggie's phone, doesn't answer, of course, doesn't answer it. He calls his father Randolph in the house but doesn't appear there's an answer there. He calls Maggie again at 9:06. Remember he's just a third of a mile away you can see it, 9:06, she doesn't answer. At 9:06, he turns on his car, his Suburban and he texts Maggie that he's going be right back, I'm going to go check on mom.

And he doesn't drive down to the kennels, even though that's where mailbox is, that's a commonplace, you can see it. He called his wife two times and texted her and she hasn't responded but drive down there and say, hey, I'm heading guys want to go?

What's up? What's up? Right there. You can see it. He then drives to Almeda, where his mom was suffering from Alzheimer's and caretaker is there. And he starts calling people. He is talking to people.

Up to you to decide whether or not he's trying to manufacturer an alibi. He comes, he gets there to, a he comes, he gets there to Almeda, you'll hear evidence whether or not that was usual and evidence about how he was acting when he got there.

And he's only there 20 minutes. Because he's back on his way at 9:44. And he makes more phone calls on the way back. Calling friends, calling people who will answer. Up to you to decide whether he's trying to create an alibi.

And he gets back to Moselle 10:01 and he calls 911 at 10:06. Listen to that 911 call. Listen to what he says. Listen to what explanations he may offer.

You're going to hear that 911 call, but you're also going to see the body worn camera of the officers who arrived at the scene. The video camera they wear so it records what they're doing. And you're going to see what he did to Maggie and Paul.

It will be gruesome. No other way around it. It's what he did. You're going to see crime scene photographs. You're going to see the traumatic injuries that were suffered. You're going to hear from a pathologist, a doctor who examined the injuries. It's going to be gruesome. No other way around it.


On the 911 call, and on the body worn cameras, pay attention to what he says, look at how he's acting. But he says within a few minutes of each one of those, he says this is about the boat case. This is about the boat case.

You're going to hear some of what was going on in Alex Murdaugh's life leading up to that day, stuff that happened that very day, stuff leading up a perfect storm that was gathering, much like the storms that are coming outside today. Listen for that evidence. Listen to that gathering storm that all came to a head June 7th 2021, the day the evidence will show he killed Maggie and Paul.

This has been a long exhaustive investigation. It's going to be a fairly long trial because it's complicated. It's a journey.

There's a lot of aspects to this case, a lot of factors to this case. A lot of things that are complicated, you start to put them altogether piece them together like a puzzle, all of a sudden, a picture emerges and it's really simple. Really simple.

Once we get to the end of that journey, and you have a chance to deliberate, the evidence will be such that you'll reach the in escapable conclusion that Alex murdered Maggie and Paul that he was the storm, that the storm was coming for them, and the storm arrived on June 7, 2021, just like the storms that are heading here right now. That they died as a result of it beyond any reasonable doubt. Thank you.

JUDGE: For the defense.


JUDGE: Yes. HARPOOTLIAN: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is Dick Harpootlian. I think I introduced myself to you all in our attorneys the three other attorneys, Jim Griffin, Phillip Bar, Margaret Fox.

It is our honor to represent Alex Murdaugh or Murdaugh, depending how you pronounce it.

I say it's our honor because I submit to you what you have heard from attorney general as facts are not. Are not. They're his theories, his conjecture.

Alex, stand up.

This is Alex Murdaugh. And Alex was the loving father of Paul and the loving husband of Maggie. You're not going to hear a single witness say that their relationship, Maggie and Alex's relationship was anything other than loving. You're going to hear about how they went to a baseball game weekend before. You're going to hear about their relationship. You're going to see texts and e-mails indicating a loving relationship.

Paul, the apple of his eye, you're going to see a video somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 the night of the murders, Paul and Alex riding around looking at trees they planted to Snapchat. Paul sent to other people because the trees were not planted very well. They were leaving over, they're laughing. They're having a good time. That would be about an hour before the attorney general said he swatted them.

When I say they were swatted, no question. Paul Murdaugh was shot twice with buck shot 12 gauge buck shot once in the chest. By the way, that shot would indicate it was in the chest and came out under his arm by somebody that might have been holding up their hands.

So when he says no defensive wounds he perhaps hasn't held a shotgun I could make the same speculation that the attorney general can because that's all he's doing is speculating.


What we do know is, 12-gauge, fairly close range shot to the chest. He must have been turned because it comes out under his arm, his wadding, if you're familiar with a shotgun, under his arm. The second shot ended up and will be some question about the direction of that shot, but ended up entering his skull cavity and the gases from that shot really exploded his head like a watermelon hit with a sledgehammer.

All that was left was the front of his face. Everything else was gone. His brain exploded out of his head, hit the ceiling in the shed and dropped to his feet. Horrendous, horrible. Butchering.

So to find Alex Murdaugh guilty of murdering his son, you're going to have to accept that within an hour of having a extraordinarily bonding, you can see it in the Snapchat, that he executes him in a brutal fashion. Not believable. Not believable.

Now, Maggie is shot running no defensive wounds because she's shot running and after she falls to the ground and has one bullet that has hit her and probably traveled up and hit her brain, she's on the ground and whoever the perpetrator was walked up, took that AR and put one in the back of her head. Executed. Executed.

Why? This is going to be interesting. Because we don't know why. He doesn't know why. He's got theories of this and theories of that. But why? Number one.

Number two. What was it in that hour between when he he's yakking it up with Paul, let me say this, he was interviewed, comes home and finds, no question about this -- they got telemetry from his car, he left the house at 9:06. Returns 10:01 after seeing his mother who has dementia.

Remember, that day, his father, who is dying is taken to the hospital. Mom is home alone. With the housekeeper. Perfectly reasonable for him to want to go see her. And later than usual. Because his father is not there. He's not. He died two days later, his father dies two days later.

So the question is if he leaves at 9:06 and back at 10:01, he can count the cars and cell phone records account for where he was between 9:06 and 10:01 and now the cell phone records, you're going to hear this from their own experts, are incomplete. They're incomplete.

And we submit one of the reasons they're incomplete -- by the way, how do they in mind Maggie's phone? Maggie's phone was thrown on the side of the road about quarter mile away from -- maybe half mile -- from the Moselle property thrown on the side of the road. They found it by using find my iPhone.

And the way they did that they had to open it or have access who gave them the code to open the phone? Now, it's not destroyed it's just thrown on the side of the phone. What you'll also see is that Alex Murdaugh was calling that phone at 9:06. As he leaves the house he did call her twice, and texted her.

And we also know that at 9:06, as he cranks his car as the cell phone records show that, as the tell let me tri data shows cell phone linking up with the car, that phone is being thrown on the side of the road almost half mile away. Now, that is convenient, that is magic, that is inexplicable.

Now, I was making notes when the attorney general was talking. But let me tell you what is more believable, the night he comes home and finds his wife and son butchered -- and when I say butchered, you're going to see these photographs.


When I see them now after having seen them of the last four, five month, it's still shocks me. Still is tough to look at. It's still bothers me. And he comes home and finds his son laying in his own blood with his brain laying at his feet, shot to hell.

He walks over, he checks to see if there's any life there and although, I mean, he seen his brain laying outside his body, he knows nothing is there he goes over tries to get a pulse out of Maggie, calls 911.

I want you to hear that 911 tape, it is a man, hysterical, in grief, trying to figure out what's going on. And he tells the 911 operator that he concerned and he drives the -- back up to the house, by the way, you can't see, I've been out there. You can't see the shed might see the top of the shed, there are pine trees between the front porch or the porch on the house and the dog pens, and it's not a third of a mile maybe the crow flies but takes a little bit longer to drive down there.

And this is not unusual for them to communicate by cell phone or tech even when they're all on the same property. It's 1,100 acres, big property. They hunt in it.

So what I'm trying to say to you is that the attorney general has given you his view and again, you can't see the shed and I'm going to ask the judge at some point during this trial to ask you, the jury to be able to go to the scene, so you can see it. You can understand the proportions, you can understand the details because the facts are what matter here. The facts.

Let me give you another fact. You're going to hear their witnesses explain the catastrophic injuries to Paul. His head literally exploded, and whoever shot him was probably no more than three feet away. Maybe closer, maybe a little further away.

You -- his head exploded. You would be covered in blood from head to foot in blood. They seized his clothes that night. SLED did. And they -- first of all, you'll see in the videos from the officers that arrived that night, there's no blood on him. They didn't find any blood on him. SLED testing indicated 12 different places on his shirt and pants, no human bloody detected period. OK?

You'll see pictures one t-shirt, no blood on it. Those are facts. Those aren't theories, those are facts. Another fact that is I think the reason we're here today, when you hear those questions on the video tape on the night, he's found his wife and son brutally butchered.

You can hear on the 911 tape he is hysterical. He comes in and out. It's consistent if any of you have ever -- you got to use your human, your experience is part of this deliberation process human experience ever suffered a catastrophic loss of a friend or family member, it's numbing, it's -- the minute you find, if you see them dead, it's numbing. You go into shock.

So anything he said that night is in the context of just an hour or two before finding his wife and son butchered. He drove back up to the house while on 911 saying I got to get a gun, whoever did this might be out there and he gets a gun, what's fascinating about that is he gets a 12 gauge shotgun and he grabs shells, these people hunt a lot -- they have guns everywhere.

He grabs shells, he puts a 16 gauge -- I mean, a 12 gauge shotgun, put a 12-gauge buck shot in and then he put a 16 gauge buck shot in. That's how shook up he was. Guy hunted all his life and he put a shell in that -- wouldn't -- you couldn't fire a 16 gauge from 12 gauge. It makes no sense. He was traumatized.

GSR, their own expert, SLED says the amount of particles of GSR are consistent with him going up and picking that shotgun up. They want to talk about GSR? Again, if you fired a shotgun twice and a rifle six times, you'd be covered in GSR.

Those are the facts, that's not his theory. The facts. Now let's talk a little bit about these ARs -- again you're going to hear testimony, a lot of guns. They got a gun room. I don't live in Colleton County, I live in downtown Columbia. Ain't no gun rooms in downtown Columbia.

But apparently, if you live 1,100 acres and you hunt deer and you hunt whatever they were planting the sun flowers for, quail I guess, you have a lot of guns. The truth is in 2017, and you'll hear the testimony, that Alex bought two guns one for Paul and one for Buster, his other son sitting in the audience.

And Paul had one, his stolen, he bought another one for Paul. Now, Paul was very irresponsible with guns, cars, he'd leave guns around leave guns in cars, oftentimes left guns down at the dog pens in the feed room. Now, I can't tell you whether he was shot with his own weapon or not or his mom was shot with his weapon or not but I can tell you that they weren't shot by Alex. They don't have the guns. There's no way to tell conclusively without having the weapons what weapons those were fired by. We'll talk a little bit with sled experts about that.

The sort of overarching issue here is why murder June 7th, 2021, why September of 2022 before they charge him? And I will tell you what happened that night. And this is a problem. He's being -- he's questioned and the questioning is pretty aggressive. You'll hear -- he's traumatized. They suspect that they show up, he's got a shotgun. They suspect him.

And the next morning, two people found butchered here in Colleton County, Moselle Road, the police announce, don't worry, there's no danger to you all. There's nobody out there that could pose a danger to you because you see they decided that night he did it. Without forensic, without cell phones without any of that and been pounding that square peg in the round hole the last -- since June of 2021, resulting in charges in September of 2022.

And so if he felt and he did -- and you'll hear it, the accusatory fashion he's being interviewed in, he may not have dealt all the facts. But by the way, whether he had been down to the dog pens that night or not really didn't matter. Really doesn't matter. Because you're going to see cell phone activity that would be -- let me put it to you this way, Paul's phone, 8:50. Maggie's phone later than that, 8:54 clearly still being used.

At 9:06, he's up at the house getting in the car cranking it up to drive over and see his mom. He says few hundred yards away a little bit further than that, the point of the matter is he would have had to have executed both of them, got back up to the house, got the bloody clothes off and by the way, they seized his clothes from that night. They never searched his house for any other clothes that we know of although that night he gave permission and they got a search warrant go to my house, go look for everything, where are the bloody clothes? Where are the bloody clothes?

Of course, I would tell you that they've woven the story together because they want it to be consistent. What's important about that is the judge -- by the way, there's no eyewitness, no forensics tying him to the murder. When I say forensics, finger prints, blood, whatever tying him to shooting anybody that night.

The cell phone records would indicate he would have had less than ten minutes to kill him, get up to the house, get in the car and crank it up. He'd be covered in blood.

Now, if they think he was beginning to establish an alibi, there's no evidence of that. The evidence is consistent with him seeing them earlier at the dog pen and by the way, that audio they have of him and Maggie, they were talking about one of the dogs killing a chicken. They were debating whether it was guinea hen or chicken, no animosity, very normal discussion.

Paul's very happy. We know that Paul after that is texting back and forth with a girl about going to the movies. Nobody down there threatening him. Daddy is not pulling out a shotgun and killing him.

For, you know, ten minutes after that, he's texting this girl. So they question one shooter or two? Two guns shotgun and an AR-15. By the way, Maggie has no defensive wounds because she's running. What's she running from?

And could you shoot typically she had a little, she had probably 150 feet from the feed room on the other side of a wall perhaps she heard shotgun blast came around and saw somebody or two people and whoever it was opened up. Was there enough time to kill Paul and then find the AR and then ambush Maggie?

Much more likely there were two people but again, we don't have to prove anything. Let me share the framework in which you should examine this. You have agreed to follow the law and here is the law. Here is the law.

He didn't do it. He is presumed innocent. As you sit there now, as you sit there right now, when you look at him, you have to believe he is innocent. He didn't do it.

Let me tell you, it's so difficult to do. I get it. And the way maybe the best way to explain it is this, this morning, yesterday, nobody really reads newspapers anymore but if you were reading the newspaper, looking at the internet and you read the police had arrested somebody for some heinous crime.

The natural inclination of everybody, all of you, is to say thank God they caught him, or her. Thank God that person is in custody. And you did something so natural. We all do it. You presumed the police had arrested the person that committed the

crime. You presumed him or her guilty. That is the natural thing to do.

And you know what? That's fine for you to do. Any other day except today, because you took an oath to follow the law and the law is he is innocent. He's presumed innocent. That is your presumption. Your mental framework is he didn't do it. They got to prove it to me beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now, what's even more difficult this isn't a contest, this isn't a game, this isn't who wins and who loses. This is about justice.

You know, Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the justices of the Supreme Court, once said, jury duty is the highest duty a citizen can perform for their country in peace time, because you are protecting us from them -- from the state, from the government, that's the foundation of our Constitution, is an individual has the right to be presumed innocent has right to a jury trial, has a right to have his peer -- his or her peers sit in judgment of him. That's you.

And the framework is you presume him innocent and you don't -- cannot convict him until the state proves to you beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt. And a reasonable doubt is the kind of doubt which would cause an ordinary person to hesitate to act in the more important decisions in their life. Now, what makes this more complicated --

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: So, you've been listening there to the opening arguments for the state prosecutor as well as the defense attorney for Alex Murdaugh.


So I want to get to our panel now to discuss this.

It's really been interesting hearing what evidence was laid out by state prosecutor and then, Areva Martin, to listen to the defense attorney try to knock it down saying these are just theories the prosecution is putting through, looks like we have it back.

HARPOOTLIAN: Guilt of accused beyond a reasonable doubt if these circumstances portray the defendant's behavior suspicious put the proof failed. Now, this smoke they created is about suspicion. I mean if you show up at the scene, and you got the wife dead and the guy got a shotgun you know it's pretty logical for the cops to jump to conclusion he did it. The problem is that as they came to that conclusion, they have pounded that square peg in the round hole and you'll hear about it they ignore some witnesses.

For instance, that blue tarp with the showed up at the blue tarp. That witness said he showed up to with the blue tarp was shown a blue rain jacket that he talked about he said that's not it. That's not what he brought here that morning.

I mean, I talked to her. She said no, no, it was a blue tarp

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, he's testifying your honor.

JUDGE: Objection sustained.


JUDGE: Objection sustained. You may proceed.

HARPOOTLIAN: I will tell you that the testimony you're going to hear is inconsistent with the attorney general represented to you based on interviews done by people other than me.

So what I'm telling you is this: as you sit here and listen, every time there's a witness that takes that witness stand, that the state put up there, you see, you judge the credibility, whether to believe a witness or not believe a witness, whether to believe one witness against many, many against one.

You're going to have to evaluate the testimony you hear from this witness stand with a critical eye, critical eye. If you got uncontested scientific evidence, you accept it. I've got no problem with that.

The cell phone records he keeps talking about, I would say to you are not necessarily accurate to the extent. I will also tell you that there's going to be a bunch of people and I have been promised something or threatened with something that may take the witness stand and say something.

But I'll tell you what they're not going to say, they're not going to say they saw him kill them. They're not going to say that they were involved in it. They're not going to say anything that would give you a comfort level in their testimony.

All of you have indicated that you will follow the law. I say this one last time. He didn't do it. He didn't kill, butcher his son and wife. And you need to put in your mind any suggestion that he did.

You've been picked because you said you could be fair. You were picked because you said you could follow the law. You were picked because Alex Murdaugh believes that you can be fair.

Now, during this process over the next however long we're here, I say something or do something it's most certainly based on my career, I will do that irritates you or angers you. Sometimes I'm a little rough, don't hold that against Alex, hold it against me. If I say something that offends you in some way, don't hold it against Alex, hold it against me.

Remember, as you sit there now in your mind, he didn't do it. He is innocent. He would require a verdict of not guilty from you. That's the law. That's your oath. Thank you.

BROWN: All right. You've been listening to the opening statements of the Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial right there listening to his defense attorney and state prosecutor who spoke just before the attorney. [16:35:07]

I want to bring in Misty Marris, who is a trial attorney, and Areva Martin, an attorney and legal affairs commentator.

Areva, this was really a preview of what we should expect to be presented during this trial. What was your biggest takeaway?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY & LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yeah, my biggest take away is that this defense attorney is good, Pam, and he came out the gate and he challenged the jury to basically disregard everything they heard from the prosecutor. He said look, these are not facts. These are theories and then he did something I thought was really good. He had Mr. Murdaugh stand up and he personalized him.

He said, look at this guy, this is not the guy that would butcher and brutalize his son that he was just riding around in a car with bonding. He wouldn't shoot his son in the head so his brains literally would explode out of his head. The he talked about the amount of blood that would be on anyone that executed someone in that fashion, then he talked about the timeline, that the timeline doesn't work.

That there wasn't enough time for someone to commit these brutal murders, go back to their home, clean up their body, change their clothes and get in the car and exit that property. So he gave the jurors lots of things they could use to create doubt. And basically said, look, sitting here right now, he is innocent, he did not do this.

So I think that was a very powerful opening statement by the defense attorney.

BROWN: Yeah. I mean, he did everything he could in those opening arguments to try to humanize his client, right? Having him stand up talking about what a loving father he was and that was a Snapchat video not long before with his son where they were laughing, and then you have the prosecutor come out of the gate and talk about this video that he said was taken just before the murders at that kennel and he says, you could hear Alex's voice in that video which under cuts what he told police that he was in the home napping after dinner and wasn't there, how damming is that for the defendant, Misty?

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: So, right now we expect to see a trial and a lot of inconsistencies according to the prosecutor with respect those videos the body cam footage that shows what Alex Murdaugh said as opposed to what the timeline, the prosecution is going to put together, all seemingly from cell phone data. This video that puts him in a place he said he was not at the time. So, that's certainly going to be something that will play out.

But we saw the defense get ahead of this, and to Areva's point flip the script and say, well, the prosecution own experts will put together a timeline that simply isn't feasible.

Another bombshell coming out of the defense's opening statement, this foreshadowing of an ultimate theory of the case. It seems like this could have been done by two people. That's something I think we'll see more of as this case goes on, alternate theories proposed by the defense.

BROWN: All right. I'm going to bring in Dianne Gallagher. She is there, right outside the courthouse. She's been following this.

Dianne, stuck out to me we were talking about the cell phone data and the defense attorney was trying to cast doubt about the data saying there is inconsistencies and he had said Maggie's phone was used up until 8:54 p.m. The state prosecutor I noted said her phone stopped and locked I believe at 8:49 p.m. around the same time as Paul.

So, already, you see the defense attorney there trying to raise doubt poke holes in the state prosecution's argument.


And, look, you'll also notice that the defense attorney, Dick Harpootlian said that they -- that he asked who unlocked that phone for law enforcement, saying that it was Alex Murdaugh who unlocked Maggie Murdaugh's phone for them to go through.

Now, look, the state went through a bit at the beginning explaining what word circumstantial evidence means. And telling people what reasonable doubt means, trying to go over definitions of those specifically. That has been something the defense has said all along but specifically this week, when going over the pretrial motions about the evidence and the experts that the prosecution wants to introduce into this trial, talking about the fact that much of this is circumstantial.

There's no smoking gun per se, they don't have the weapon. They acknowledge they do not have weapon, although the judge did tell them they could use a ballistics expert this was a pretrial motion, who said that the casings that were founder in those -- around the crime scene and on the hunting property in the firing range area, do match. That missing weapon, that is sort of at the center of all of this.

Now, again, there's some discrepancy between what the defense claims want they claim as well, something we're going to see continue on, of course, in the coming days.


This could go up to three weeks, we're told.

BROWN: Yeah, and it's interesting how both sides tried to spin whatever the evidence is in their favor, right? The 911 call, prosecutors say listen to think listen closely defense attorney said I want you to listen to that, you know, also emphasizing the role he played in opening the phone for police and that he called Maggie's phone several times after she was killed, and you know, the prosecutor is saying he was trying to create an alibi, the defense saying that shows you right there he didn't know what was going on, he wasn't involved in this.

So, so many different threads and pieces of evidence to follow in this, this is just the beginning.

Dianne Gallagher, Misty Marris, Areva Martin, thank you all.

And just ahead, brand new reporting this hour about the FBI's unprecedented search of President Biden's Delaware home and why sources say the Justice Department was ready to get a search warrant.

But first, Ukraine welcomes what it calls an iron fist as U.S. and Germany -- as the U.S. and Germany confirm military tanks are now on the way.


BROWN: And now to our world lead, and a massive show of military support for Ukraine. Today, the United States and key NATO allies agreed to send dozens of tanks to Ukraine after weeks of pleading and pressure from top officials in Kyiv.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House with more on how this substantial deal came together.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are fully thoroughly totally united.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For President Biden, a diplomatic breakthrough with dramatic battlefield implications

BIDEN: Today, I'm announcing that the United States will be sending 31 Abram tanks to Ukraine equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion.

MATTINGLY: The U.S. tanks set to significantly expand Ukraine's battlefield capability

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: It makes it possible for Germany but also other European allies to provide to battle tanks to Ukraine, and that will significantly strengthen their combat capabilities

MATTINGLY: At the same moment. Europe's largest land war in 80 years sits in the most brutal and grinding phase.

BIDEN: These tanks are further evidence of our enduring and unflagging commitment to Ukraine.

MATTINGLY: After weeks of U.S. officials dismissing the idea as untenable. Complex operating systems and significant maintenance requirements

SABRINA SINGH, PENTAGON DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The maintenance and the high cost that it would take to maintain Abrams doesn't make sense to provide that at the moment.

MATTINGLY: But their inclusion, a central demand from German officials in order to clear the way for more immediate delivery of their own tanks, and to sign off on delivery of German made tanks by other allies, now the trigger for a deal to unleash significant armor contributions from U.S. allies across Europe.

BIDEN: Germany has really stepped up. The chancellor has been a strong, strong voice for unity.

MATTINGLY: Biden's praise of German Chancellor Scholz intentional, officials said, even as it served to cover intense and often frustrating negotiations over the last several weeks, but ultimately leading to U.S. commitments that will take months if not longer to reach the battlefield.

BIDEN: Delivering these tanks to the field is going to take time, time that we'll see and we'll use to make sure the Ukrainians are fully prepared to integrate the Abram tanks in their defenses.

MATTINGLY: But those commitment unlock immediate results from allies.

BIDEN: American contribution will be joined by additional announcement, including that will be ready -- will be ready and available more easily integrated for use on the battlefield in the coming weeks and months in other countries.

MATTINGLY: The Russian ambassador to Germany declaring the moves, quote, extremely dangerous to take the conflict to a, quote, new level of confrontation but U.S. officials downplayed the escalatory risk as did Biden.

BIDEN: There's no offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia, they will be there they belong, this war would be over today.


MATTINGLY (on camera): Meantime, White House officials are very candid. They don't see any near term resolution to this fight that's in its 11th month, but keep in mind, one-year anniversary is coming up next month. Expect White House officials to be very cognizant of the durability of the coalition they put together, to make a big deal of that moment and the support they continue to provide -- Pamela.

BROWN: Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thanks so much.

And now to our politics lead, in the wake that the revelation that classified documents were found at former VP Mike Pence's Indiana home, CNN has learned the National Archives is considering asking past presidents and vice presidents to search through their files again for classified material.

So, let's discuss. I want to go first to Jamie who is reporting this and, of course, you broke the news about classified documents being found at Pence's residence. Representatives for Presidents Clinton, Obama, both Bushes, say that all the classified documents have been turned over. So why is Archives looking to take this step? JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump, Biden, Pence. Go

back, check again. So we have confirmed that Archives is looking into, they've drafted a letter to go back to all the formers presidents, all the former vice presidents, and say out of an be a abundance of caution, we know you say and you have anything but Mike Pence didn't think he had anything and Joe Biden didn't think he had anything so they're trying to set the record straight and ask everybody please go quadruple check.

BROWN: Right, because Pence also said he had his team search and then lo and behold last week, a batch shows up.

Meantime the Biden administration has made a big deal of cooperating with DOJ, and portraying this idea that they have been very forthcoming, open, transparent by all accounts they have been but you and our team, new reporting out that about the length the Justice Department was going to go to had the Biden White House not offered for the search.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, we've learned that that unprecedented search was the result of high stakes talks between the Justice Department and attorneys for President Biden.


As he said, the Biden team has been adamant. They want to cooperate here. They wanted the search to happen.

But we learned that the Justice Department was prepared to seek a search warrant if they didn't get consent to search that house. They never had to raise that possibility because they were able to come to an agreement. They were allowed to enter the premises and search the entire home.

Again, the Justice Department is very mindful they need to treat the Biden the same way they treat the Trump investigation. That's, of course, we heard the attorney general say on Monday.

BROWN: Yeah, he's clearly very sensitive to that, and on that note, Republicans have been taking it too easy on Biden and they're harder on Trump. They always say his home was raided, searched of course. Different circumstances. We talked about those all day long.

Our new reporting directly goes against they're talking points. What do you think?


BROWN: Do they care?


HUNT: That is -- yes, that is true. Look, the Trump situation, I think, the more we learn about this and Jamie, I'm going to be waiting for your reporting throughout the next couple weeks with baited breath.

BROWN: Yeah, we all are.

HUNT: But it does seem and I think the question everybody has is this a systemic problem we have with classification and if so, you could potentially expect to see a lot of people from a lot of different political parties with very powerful jobs who accidently took classified information home with them. Is that a national security problem? Yes. Should it be treated the way we've been treating these things and I know David has got all the numbers on all of this, but it's people wearing political jerseys.

And I'm reminded when you play back yesterday, Jamie, when you were breaking the story, what Mike Pence said about his own classified documents, he was measured and careful and said I don't have them and was asked to weigh in on whether there should be a special counsel. He said yes, there was. We're in a case but for the grace of God go I and I think as we're listening to Republicans and Democrats criticize various people caught with the various documents, we should remember not everything, not everything believe it or not in this town is about if you're a Republican or Democrat.

BROWN: Right.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And, in fact, we heard a different tone. After the Pence revelation, with Trump and Biden, when those occurred, everyone went to their partisan corners in terms of reaction on Capitol Hill. Mike Pence gets started and a group of three and Republicans and Democrats started sounding remarkably similar. There is a systemic problem. Let's fix that.

We also see in our brand new poll that there is broad support in the country for the appointment of a special counsel in the Biden case, in the Trump case, north of 80 percent. By the way, that's across Republicans, Democrats, independents. We don't see that agreement in politics.

But as we've been noting in our reporting, the Trump case is a little different here than the other two because of the cooperation factor. That brings in this notion of potential obstruction of justice and the American people in our poll seem hip to the difference.

So when we asked do you think that the president did something illegal here, not just unethical but illegal.

HUNT: The current president or the former president?

CHALIAN: Either president.

HUNT: Either president.

CHALIAN: The former or the president -- 52 percent, slim majority of Americans said Trump did something illegal. Only 37 percent of Americans say that about Joe biden. When you look by party, you can see a quarter of Republicans think Trump did something illegal here.

BROWN: That's interesting.

And, of course, a key difference with the two cases is, Trump was under investigation for obstruction. FBI had developed evidence that some of these classified evidence were being moved after the attorney said, you have everything and let me sign on the dotted line about that.

In the Biden case, too, what's interesting, too, is again, the Biden White House is clearly trying to get ahead of this portraying that everything is great with the Justice Department but you have reporting, Paula, that there has been frustrations simmering inside DOJ.

REID: Yes, some Justice officials have been frustrated with how the Biden team has handled this. For example, weeks after they knew the Justice Department was reviewing those documents found at the D.C. office, the Biden team went to his Wilmington home into the search without telling the Justice Department first. But there was no requirement to notify them. But it did irritate some people inside DOJ.

There was also a frustration from some officials about how to they handled the messaging here. The fact they did not disclose all the documents that had been found when the story first broke. And all of this is part of what factored in to appointing a special counsel.

GANGEL: Just to underscore, though, to David's point, the Trump case is not a little differently other cases, it is very different from the other cases. Trump, hundreds of documents, intent -- years of saying no when he knew otherwise.

HUNT: Subpoenas.

GANGEL: Both Biden and Pence have done what the archives and what DOJ, and what we would all hope they would do, which is when they found something, they immediately turned it over.


And I've been told over and over again, if it wasn't for Trump, they never would -- the Archives never would have referred Biden or Pence to DOJ.


CHALIAN: It's also interesting to note in our poll, two thirds of the country thinks this is a serious problem. Biden's approval rating remains steady. His favorables and unfavorables remain steady. He's not taking on, that we're seeing, it real personal political water because of this. Even though the country says it's serious, and should be investigated.

HUNT: Well, I'd be interested to see the point where we're pulling all the issues. Sure, if you ask people directly, do you care about classified information how it's treated? I think everyone's going to say yes. If you say, like, you care about that more than you care about health care or immigration or the economy? I'm going to better going to say no.

BROWN: All right, thank you all so much.

And ahead, CNN is live in Ukraine with reaction to these major announcements but military tanks, as well as what's next on Kyiv's wish list as we near the one year mark since Putin's invasion began.