Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Alex Murdaugh Being Cross-Examined At His Murder Trial; Alex Murdaugh Testifies In Murder Trial; NTSB Chair Says Train Catastrophe Was 100 Percent Preventable; Ukraine Bolsters Security As One-Year Mark Of Invasion Approaches. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 23, 2023 - 17:00   ET



CREIGHTON WATERS, PROSECUTOR: Around this time, were you making more than a million dollars a year?


WATERS: 2011.


WATERS: 2012?


WATERS: And you were still stealing money as well, correct?


WATERS: Can we at least agree that's a lot of money?

MURDAUGH: Over million dollars?


MURDAUGH: I think there's no question that's a lot of money.

WATERS: OK, good. We can agree on that. That's a lot of money. Correct. I feel like we're struggling here. Is it -- were you living a wealthy lifestyle?



WATERS: Were you living a wealthy lifestyle?

MURDAUGH: I just don't know what you mean by wealthy. You know --

WATERS: Is this a hard question, Mr. Murdaugh?

MURDAUGH: Well, it's hard for me to know exactly what you want, you know, and it depends. I was spending money that wasn't mine that I shouldn't have. I think that, you know, we lived a lifestyle. I don't have an issue, if you want to call it wealthy.

WATERS: All right. Would you concede with me that not all of this money was going to pills at this point in time? All this stolen money?

MURDAUGH: No, I doubt that it was.

WATERS: OK. And it was being used to support your wealthy lifestyle.

MURDAUGH: Well, I haven't looked at all these documents to know exactly what was being spent where, but here's what I do know. I know that I was making a bunch of money, and I should have more money than I did. And I know that I was spending a bunch of money on pills.

And I know that -- you know, I just -- I don't remember in 2011 if those -- I just can't remember those land deals. But, you know, if I spent money on other things, I don't dispute that either. I just haven't looked at the records.

WATERS: OK. Would you at least concede that the money you were stealing was going to support your ever expanding wealthy lifestyle. Would you concede that?

MURDAUGH: That all of the money I stole?

WATERS: Any of it, Mr. Murdaugh.

MURDAUGH: Any of it, yes, I would certainly agree that there was money that didn't go to buy just pills.

WATERS: All right. And you would concede that even though you were generating millions of dollars in fees, that was not enough for you. Would you concede that?

MURDAUGH: If I concede that, you mean, was I also stealing money that I shouldn't have? Yes, sir, I agree with that. I've said that repeatedly.

WATERS: Who were the Plowlers (ph)?

MURDAUGH: They were two young girls from Columbia.

WATERS: They were underage when they became your clients?

MURDAUGH: Yes, sir.

WATERS: Did they suffer a loss in their family as a result of an accident?

MURDAUGH: They did.

WATERS: Who -- what loss did they suffer? Who died?

MURDAUGH: Their mother, their mother did.

WATERS: And did you get a possible recovery in the case, in that particular case related to that?

MURDAUGH: Yes, sir.

WATERS: Do you remember how much that recovery was?

MURDAUGH: I don't.

WATERS: Got any idea?

MURDAUGH: I know it was a significant settlement. I know it was a very good settlement, but --

WATERS: Millions of dollars?

MURDAUGH: Oh, yes, it was millions of dollars. But whether it was, you know, 2 million -- I know it was significant. I don't know if it was eight figures, but I know it was a significant settlement.

WATERS: All right. And was there a conservatorship for them because they were underage?

MURDAUGH: There was a conservatorship for them, but I don't think the fact that they were underage is why there was a conservatorship.

WATERS: You don't think it was because, at least in part, they were underage when the settlement was received?

MURDAUGH: No, that's not what I remember. But for purposes of your thing, Mr. Waters, I agree there was a conservator appointed.

WATERS: What is your memory of why the conservator was appointed?

MURDAUGH: My memory is is that the father in this case who was the beneficiary or a big beneficiary in this and who was the PR of the mother's case was an undesirable witness, and there was testimony that he had -- it was testimony that he had hit his wife. And it was clear we felt like we didn't want him to be the face of the lawsuit, so we appointed a conservator.

WATERS: Who was that.

MURDAUGH: For that purpose. Is where I believe we appointed a conservator.


WATERS: OK. And who was that?

MURDAUGH: That was Russell Lafitte (ph).

WATERS: At Palmetto State Bank?

MURDAUGH: Yes, sir.

WATERS: And after that, did you get Russell Lafitte to start loaning you money from the Plowler (ph) girls account that he was conservative for?

MURDAUGH: He loaned me money from the Plowler (ph) account. I don't know if I got him to do that.

WATERS: Oh, you didn't talk to him about it? You all didn't talk about that at all?

MURDAUGH: No, we did talk about it. I mean --

WATERS: I mean, there's emails to that effect. Are you disputing that to this jury?

MURDAUGH: Mr. Waters, I'm not disputing -- I'm just telling you that Russell Lafitte gave me a loan from the Plowlers (ph). Your question was, did I get him to do that? And I don't necessarily believe that to be accurate.

WATERS: Who came up with the idea?

MURDAUGH: I don't know that it was come up with an idea. That was -- I think that Russell felt like that it was a sound investment for those girls to charge me a higher interest rate when they weren't getting but so much interest somewhere else, so.

WATERS: What was that interest rate that you all thought? It was such a good idea for these girls? Do you recall what it was?

MILGRAM: I can't remember.

WATERS: The reality is that you needed the money, and this was a convenient source to keep your massive cash flow going as early as 2011, 2012. Isn't that correct?

MURDAUGH: Well, this was a loan. Yes, sir. But, exactly why it came from them versus the bank. I can't -- I don't -- I can't tell you the details without looking at all that. I can't tell you that off top of my head.

WATERS: And despite all you were earning, you would even send Russell emails saying, hey, transfer over 75,000 from the Plowler account into my account, correct? Do you remember emails to that effect that you would have to him?

MURDAUGH: Do I remember an email to that effect? No, I don't remember that --

WATERS: Did you dispute that there were emails to that effect?

MURDAUGH: Not if you say there were, Mr. Waters. I don't dispute that. I don't dispute any of this. That I took money that didn't belong to me, that I misled people.

WATERS: I know you want the answer to be that simple. That's not what I mean. We agree on that. We agreed on that.

MURDAUGH: No, sir. I don't necessarily want the answer to be simple. I just want everybody to understand. I do not dispute that I stole money that was not my money, that I misled people to do, that I misled people that trusted me to do that, and that what I did was terrible.

I don't dispute that. It's just the way you're asking these questions, and, you know, I mean, there's some things in there that I do take issue with.

WATERS: OK, which part of what I just asked you about the Plowlers (ph) do you take issue with? You take issue that you all didn't conspire to do that? You and Russell?


WATERS: You take issue with that. OK.

MURDAUGH: I can tell you that Russell Lafitte never conspired with me to do anything. Whatever was done, was done by me.

WATERS: OK. So you told the Plowler girls that you were borrowing money from their account?

MURDAUGH: No, I don't know that I told --

WATERS: Did you tell Russell to tell them?

MURDAUGH: I don't recall. I don't believe so. But I don't -- I can't sit here and tell you what I told him however many years ago.

WATERS: Did you tell Russell he could borrow money from that account, too?

MURDAUGH: I don't remember having any discussion with him about him borrowing money.

WATERS: Was the supposed interest rate you were paying far lower than anything you could have gotten anywhere else?

MURDAUGH: I don't even know what interest rate I was paying.

WATERS: OK. You never told this to the Plowler (ph) girls, did you?

MURDAUGH: I would have thought the interest rate that I was paying was a little bit more than what a bank loan would have been, but I don't know that. I don't know what the interest rate was, so I don't know that for sure.

WATERS: When you stole the Badger money, how much did you steal from Arthur Badger that we talked about before in the UPS case.

MURDAUGH: I don't remember the exact amount.

WATERS: Over $1.3 million, would you dispute that?

MURDAUGH: I don't dispute. I don't dispute that.

WATERS: And that was in addition to the $1.2 million in attorney's fees for his case alone. That would have been attributed to you through the firm?

MURDAUGH: What I stole from Arthur Badger --

WATERS: Let me ask you this --

MURDAUGH: -- inappropriately was in addition to any fees that I legitimately earned. I shouldn't have stole the money from Arthur Badger. I misled him, and I was wrong.


WATERS: Did you speak with Russell Lafitte (ph) once you stole this money from Arthur Badger about structuring that $1.3 million that you stole in a manner so it appeared to be payments to the Plowler account? Do you understand the question?

MURDAUGH: No, sir. Say that again.

WATERS: Did you have any conversations with Russell Lafitte about structuring this $1.3 million into multiple payments and then applying it to the Plowler account?

MURDAUGH: I've heard the testimony, and I've seen some of those records.

WATERS: I was asking if you did. did you have any conversations with Russell about that?

MURDAUGH: I had to.


MURDAUGH: I had to have.

WATERS: All right. You even asked him to recut the check, correct? To have Jeannie (ph) recut the check.

MURDAUGH: I've seen -- believe, an email or a text to that effect.

WATERS: So you don't dispute that?

MURDAUGH: No, I don't dispute that. What I dispute is if you're insinuating in any way this was stuff that I did.

WATERS: OK, fine.

MURDAUGH: I mean the stuff -- I did these things wrong. Russell Lafitte didn't do anything.

WATERS: I'm not here to talk about that. I'm just talking about what went on.

MURDAUGH: I know, but you keep talking about what I did with Russell Lafitte. And what I want to let you know is that I did this. And I'm the one that took people's money that I shouldn't have taken and that Russell Lafitte was not involved in helping me do that. Knowingly, if he did it, he did it without knowing it.

WATERS: All right, so you send him an email and then asked him to recut the check and have the check made out to various amounts short of that, and then applied those over time to give the illusion of payments to the Plowler account. Is that correct?

MURDAUGH: Mr. Waters --

WATERS: Is that correct?

MURDAUGH: I don't know. But I'll tell you this. I don't dispute what's in those emails or texts as far as what I told Russell and as far as what I did to, again, take money that didn't belong to me, that wasn't mine, and that I was wrong for taking. It's just the specifics of that you want me to give you details on, and I can't do that. I do not dispute what's in those text or emails.

WATERS: And did you steal that Badger money because you had to pay back the Plowler girl's money before they turned 18 and reached the age of majority? And Russell would then have to be held to account for that money that he had loaned to himself and to you?

MURDAUGH: First off, I don't know anything about any money that Russell loaned to himself. I only know about what he loaned to me. And I don't specifically -- I don't believe that me stealing Arthur Badger's money and taking that money that did not belong to me, that I wrongly took, had anything to do -- I don't remember it having a relationship with having to pay back a loan or there being some time pressure to pay back a loan that he gave me on the Plowler conservatorship.


MURDAUGH: No, and I'm not saying that didn't happen. I'm saying that I don't -- that's not the way I remember it, and I don't remember it.

WATERS: Did you ultimately borrow a million dollars, roughly, from the Plowler girls without their knowledge? Thar sound right? About a million dollars in total?

MURDAUGH: If you tell me that's the number, I mean, that surprises me. But I don't dispute what's in the records. But I didn't believe I had a loan for -- you saying a million dollars? I didn't believe that I had a loan. Mr. Waters, if that's what the records say, I don't dispute it. But that's not what I thought. I didn't think I had a million dollar loan from them.

But if that's what the records say, I don't dispute that. But I can tell you this. If I had a million dollar loan from them, I don't remember that. And I may be confusing it with a loan from the bank, but again, if that's what's in the records, I don't dispute it.

WATERS: All right. So, you have no memory whatsoever, and so, for all it's just a coincidence that the Plowlers were about to turn 18 when you stole this Badger money and you applied a significant amount of it to pay that off before they turned 18. You don't have any memory of that?

MURDAUGH: No, I can tell you that was never an issue or motivation for me. Again, taken Arthur Badger's money that I shouldn't have taken, that didn't belong to me and that I was wrong for. I don't remember a loan from the Plowler conservatorship as being motivation for that.


WATERS: So for all you can remember is just a coincidence.

MURDAUGH: Why still Arthur Badger's money just being a coincidence?

WATERS: Now, why you applied it to the Plowler loans right before they turned 18?

MURDAUGH: No, I'm not saying it's coincidence or not a coincidence. What I'm saying is I don't remember that.


MURDAUGH: And so I don't remember that being a motivation. If it was, I didn't know I had a million dollar loan from the Plowler conservatorship, at least as I sit here today. But, you know, I would have known I had a loan from somewhere. And if I took Arthur Badger's money and applied it to that, I mean, again, I stole money that didn't belong to me. I misled Arthur Badger to take that money, and I was wrong.

WATERS: How many times have you practiced that answer before your testimony today? You keep saying the same one ever and ever again.

MURDAUGH: I've never practiced that answer. But --


MURDAUGH: -- you keep asking me these questions, and I keep using that answer.

WATERS: Let me show you what's been entered in evidence as states 321. You recognize generally that document?


WATERS: And what is that?

MURDAUGH: This is the disbursement sheet on the Dion Martin (ph) case.

WATERS: What happened to Dion Martin?

MURDAUGH: He got in a wreck.

WATERS: Do you his family?

MURDAUGH: When he got into wreck?

WATERS: Prior to him getting in the wreck. MURDAUGH: I knew who his family was, but prior to getting in the wreck but after he got in this wreck, I became very close with his family.

WATERS: Came very close to his family. And Dion suffered some pretty severe injuries, correct?

MURDAUGH: Dion was hurt bad, yes.

WATERS: Including putting an injury to his head.

MURDAUGH: You know, I heard you say that the other day. I don't specifically remember Dion having a head injury. I believe Dion had more orthopedic injuries, but he may have had some injury to his head.

WATERS: You met with him on a number of occasions?

MURDAUGH: Yes, I met with him on a number of occasions.

WATERS: Met with his parents on a number of occasions?

MURDAUGH: About Dion?

WATERS: About the case while the case was going on?

MURDAUGH: I don't know if I met with his parents about Dion's case, but I know I met with Dion and I may have met with his parents. If they say that -- I mean, his dad is one of the most honorable fellows that I know, if he says I met with him, I certainly believe that.

WATERS: But you said you became close with them, correct? Close with the parents.

MURDAUGH: I consider Dion's -- yes, I consider -- I think the world of his dad and his mom and Dion.

WATERS: What was the recovery that was obtained in Dion's case? (INAUDIBLE).

MURDAUGH: It looks like recovery, $2 million. Actually, this is -- let's see. I know it was $2 million, but I believe the recovery was less than $2 million. I believe the recovery was less than $2 million. I believe that I said it was $2 million. I can't remember exactly what the recovery is, but I know it was less than $2 million. I know that I misstated it as $2 million.

WATERS: So you falsified the paperwork, correct?

MURDAUGH: It appears that I put inaccurate information on the paperwork, yes, sir.

WATERS: You put inaccurate information. You falsified it, right?

MURDAUGH: If you like that word, yes, sir.

WATERS: All right. And that right there, where you put that $500,000 on there, correct? MURDAUGH: Right.

WATERS: I'm sorry. Can I have (INAUDIBLE)?

MURDAUGH: I'm sorry, Mr. Waters. What was the question?

WATERS: Let's get the (INAUDIBLE), and I'll show you.


Right there, that's the $500,000 that you falsified this document with, is that correct? There's a structured annuity directly to Michael Gunn (ph)?

MURDAUGH: Yes, that looks like one place that I -- yes.

WATERS: Why did you do that?

MURDAUGH: Why did I?

WATERS: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) that 500,000. What was your purpose in doing that?

MURDAUGH: It appears that I was stealing his money, $500,000.

WATERS: Were you not inflating your fees with that one?

MURDAUGH: I mean --

WATERS: You don't remember?

MURDAUGH: I know that I inflated the fees like I just talked about, but I believe what -- go back to the top of that thing. I believe what I must have done with the structured annuity is I had that $500,000 check, and I must have had that made to forge, as you've heard, to steal that money from Dion Martin.

WATERS: All right. Down at the bottom --

MURDAUGH: That I shouldn't have.

WATERS: -- is that your signature down there?


WATERS: Is that Dion Martin's signature on the other side? Do you dispute that?

MURDAUGH: No, I don't dispute that.

WATERS: So you would have sat down with Dion Martin, this document with him, and convinced him that there was nothing to miss here.

MURDAUGH: You know, again, I don't know if I went over the document with him or not, but I certainly misled Dion Martin. I certainly lied to Dion Martin. I certainly took money from Dion Martin that did not belong to me, and I shouldn't have done it.

WATERS: You don't specifically remember talking to Dion. There was nothing in you that causes you to remember talking with Dion, sitting there with this document in front of him as you looked him in the eye, knowing that you were lying to him the whole time? You don't even remember that. Nothing in you that causes you to remember that?

MURDAUGH: To specifically remember, I'm not sure that I did sit down with Dion Martin, but I certainly, Mr. Waters, I Misled Dion Martin. I lied to Dion Martin. I took Dion Martin's money when I shouldn't have.

WATERS: Well, let me ask you this, if all the people on here, all these exhibits, do you have any independent recollection of a time where you sat down and looked that person in the eye and you were lying to them and convincing them that everything was OK while you stole their money? Do you remember even one of them?

MURDAUGH: I'm sure I do.

WATERS: OK, well, tell us about one.

MURDAUGH: I mean, you have to show me -- you have to give me --

WATERS: I'm asking you if you remember one time where you're sitting there in your heart looking somebody in the eye, knowing you're stealing from them, and you remember it.

MURDAUGH: I remember --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, we're going to break away from the trial. I'm Jake Tapper. This is the lead, and you have been watching accused murderer Alex Murdaugh on the stand under cross examination from the prosecution. As you no doubt know, the disgraced former South Carolina attorney has pleaded not guilty to the 2021 killings of his wife and younger son.

It has been an emotional day of testimony filled with tears and confessions from Murdaugh, including his admission that he did in fact, lie to investigators about not having been at the kennels where his wife and son were shot to death.

Let's go straight to CNN's Jean Casarez. And Jean, what's your takeaway from Murdaugh's testimony today, especially the cross- examination from the prosecutors?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with the cross examination since they're in it right now. This is a murder trial, just as you've described, but you would think on this cross examination so far that it was a financial crimes trial. He is charged with multiple financial crimes and it was not supposed to come into this case, but it did.

The judge allowed it in. And this is the prosecutor's motive for murder, that all of this had been happening for years and all of a sudden he's confronted with one aspect of it and that night he went and killed his wife and his son. So suddenly he would be the victim and there wouldn't be any further looking at these financial crimes, at least for the moment.

So that's why the prosecutor is going into this. But he's defusing every question by admitting everything and he hasn't pled guilty or not guilty to any of these financial crimes. So possibly this testimony, which can be used in another court, could seal the deal of being guilty to all of these crimes.

TAPPER: Financial crimes, right?

CASAREZ: Financial crimes.

TAPPER: Yes. Interesting. Jean Casarez, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson, he's also a defense attorney and trial attorney Misty Marris. Joey, let me start with you.


We just heard prosecutors questioning Alex Murdaugh about his finances and possible financial crimes. How is that relevant to the murder accusations?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you, Jake, how they want to make it relevant and what they're doing. The prosecutors is saying he's a liar, he's a cheat, he can't be trusted, and you should not at all take whatever he says at face value or anything else.

Understand taking step back, Jake, what the motivation is for him to testify. Now, we're in the war room. You're going to testify, says his lawyers to the client. Number one, he has to talk about motive. Defeat the prosecutor's motive. This is a guy who loved his wife, loved his family, would have no basis for doing committing this murder, right, of either his son or his wife.

Number two, with respect to the timeline, he was speaking about the timeline of that evening, where he was, why he was there at the home visiting his mom, et cetera. She was sick. Going through chapter and verse and explaining why because the prosecution has boxed them in with cell phone and other data.

Number three, and finally he's got to present reasonable alternatives. He's on these pills. Was it gang members who could have done this to his family? His son had some, you know, an issue previously with respect to being charged, you know, in the middle of a crime in a boating accident, and there were people saying not so nice things about that.

I can't believe what they did to Papa, as he calls him. So he's now providing reasonable alternatives. So now what does that mean? The defense in doing that presents reasonable doubt. Prosecution and cross examining him says this guy's a lawyer, he looks people in the eye for a living. He's robbed from quadriplegics, he's robbed from teenagers, he can't be trusted at all.

And guess what? Just like now, where he's looking you, ladies and gentlemen, in the eye, he looked his clients in the eye, he stole from them. Don't believe a word. He's guilty. That's the essence of what they're doing across the prosecution, and that's the undertone of what they're saying.

TAPPER: All right, I'm being told we're going to cut back to the trial now. So let's listen back in.



MURDAUGH: Hang on, hang on, I want to say one more thing. And there's no question that the actions that I did, the things that I did wrong hurt a lot of the people that I care about the most. And I did a lot of damage and I wreaked a lot of havoc. That I'm --

WATERS: Did a lot of damaged, wreaked a lot of havoc. I hear you.

MURDAUGH: There's no question about it.

WATERS: Yes. I'll show you what's been marked states 315 And see if you recognize this.


WATERS: Which case is this?

MURDAUGH: This is Elise Mallory (ph).

WATERS: And what happened in this case?

MURDAUGH: I stole her money.

WATERS: What happened, though, with the underlying case? Can you tell the jury that? Do you remember that?

MURDAUGH: I believe it was Ms. Taylor. Ms. Mallory's (ph) -- I believe it was her daughter. Might have been her granddaughter, but I believe it was her daughter, was in a wreck.

WATERS: Did she die?

MURDAUGH: And she got killed.

WATERS: And Ms. Mallory came to you for help?

MURDAUGH: She did.

WATERS: Do you remember that one at all?


WATERS: OK, we remember one now.

MURDAUGH: Oh, no, Mr. Waters. I remember all of these people.


MURDAUGH: It's not that I don't remember them. You're just asking me details about conversation.


MURDAUGH: I can promise you, I remember all of these people that I did wrong.

WATERS: Right. And you stole all of the money, didn't you?

MURDAUGH: I stole --

WATERS: All of it.

MURDAUGH: -- all -- most of the money that I've been accused of stealing, I stole.

WATERS: No, I mean, you stole every single dime of the recovery. She didn't get one dime, isn't that right?

MURDAUGH: I have to look at the records, but if --

WATERS: You credit it yourself with legal fees, and then you stole all the rest of the money, correct?

MURDAUGH: I don't dispute that.

WATERS: All right. First of all, tell me about Ms. Mallory. So she lost her daughter, correct? Is that correct?

MURDAUGH: That is correct.

WATERS: And she came to you for help.

MURDAUGH: Daughter or granddaughter, but --

WATERS: All right.


WATERS: All right. And she came to you for help, correct?

MURDAUGH: Yes, sir, I agree with you on that.

WATERS: Very, very sweet lady, correct?

MURDAUGH: Very sweet lady.

WATERS: All right. Tell me about your conversation when you looked her in the eye and lied to her while you were stealing every dime of the money.

MURDAUGH: This is a perfect example, Mr. Waters. I stole her money. I did her wrong. But I don't even believe that Elise Mallory was there when I stole that money. I don't -- if you look at that disbursement sheet there's -- I don't even believe I ever showed that to her.

WATERS: OK. You don't remember having any conversations with her when you lied with her about this case while you were stealing all her money?

MURDAUGH: I don't think I did in this case. I don't think I had any meetings with her. I think I stole her money. And I don't believe that I had a meeting with her.

WATERS: So, again, you can't tell us one conversation you have with any of these people when you look them in the eye and convince them that you are doing them right, that you were telling the truth.

. MURDAUGH: That's not true, Mr. Waters. I remember a lot of those conversations. I remember a lot of them.

WATERS: OK, all right. You just testified you remember a lot of them. I've been asking you now for the past 10 minutes to tell me about one of them where it's stuck in your heart. Stuck in your brain.

MURDAUGH: There are a lot of conversations I had where I misled my clients and I stole their money, where they trusted me, and I remember them.

WATERS: OK, again, can you tell me one? Tell me how it went down, what you said, how you convinced them, how you looked them in the eye, how you made them believe, how you used your skills as a trial lawyer to convince them. Can you just tell me about one of those? What was going through your head when you did it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, objection on rule 403. We've been going over and over and over again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bjection was overruled.

MURDAUGH: What's your question, Mr. Waters?

WATERS: Can you tell me about one of the conversations you had with all of these people? Just one.

MURDAUGH: I can tell you --

WATERS: What was going through your head and how it went down when you sat there and looked them in the eye and convinced them that you were doing them right while you are lying to them and stealing their money.

MURDAUGH: Yes, sir. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of my clients that I cared about. And so, I will tell you that I had conversations with them where I misled them and I lied to them and I took their money. And that was a number of times. But you're asking me --

WATERS: Just one specific one, Mr. Murdaugh.

MURDAUGH: Every single one of these clients I would have had conversations with at some point. But this particular, like Mr. Waters, that disbursement sheet, I didn't have -- there was never a sit down with Ms. Mallory about the dispersing the money.

WATERS: You don't recall talking to her about the status of her case and telling her lies and convincing her that you were on her side? You don't remember that?

MURDAUGH: No, I definitely remember that, but that's not what you asked me. I had numerous conversations with Ms. Mallory, you know, about this case, but the fact is, you were asking me about me sitting down with this disbursement sheet, looking her in the eye and convincing her, and I'm telling you that didn't happen in this case. Now, I had a lot of conversations with her where I misled her, Mr. Waters, where I lied to her.

WATERS: Tell me about what?

MURDAUGH: About --

WATERS: Tell me how it went down.

MURDAUGH: Where --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A recess for today and resume at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Everyone remains seated while the jury leaves. We'll see you all 9:30 tomorrow morning.

TAPPER: All right, the judge has recessed until tomorrow morning at 9:30. Let me bring back my legal panel. Misty, prosecutors had been asking, well, let me change subjects for one second. There were several testy exchanges between Murdaugh and the prosecutors. Tell us what you thought of that.

MISTY MARRIS: I thought Murdaugh was coming off as being incredibly evasive. He was playing the lawyer, talking about the specific terms, the way a question was phrased, not really answering it, but also trying to take accountability without really giving a straightforward answer.

The prosecutors here, of course, these financial crimes, as we discussed before, really showing that, going to the motive, but also showing that Murdaugh is a liar. We know this is part of the prosecution, a major component of the case, especially when he testified today.

But also financial crimes, very often they feel detached. They don't feel like they involve people. They could be corporate crimes. Well, the prosecutor here is showing the jury that these financial crimes impacted individuals and that Murdaugh was able to sit across from them and tell them how their cases were going, how much money they were getting, and lie directly to their faces when they were in their most vulnerable time.

So That's the reason we see so much on these particular issues where he stole money from his clients, really humanizing these victims and saying, this guy is capable of really lying to anyone, including you, members of the jury. TAPPER: Right. And not only to his clients but they pointed out the

prosecutors were clear to point out in a number of times that the clients that Murdaugh had were children, underage kids who had suffered horrible tragedies.


Joey, do you think the cross examination was effective today?

JACKSON: I think so far. It lays out certainly that he's a liar, that he can't be trusted, that he has certainly a credibility issue. But you have to connect the dots. It's all fine and well that he has these financial issues and that as a result of that, he was really taking advantage of people who were extraordinarily sympathetic, a quadriplegic, a teenager, underage people.

However, at some point in time, the prosecutor is going to have to get to the brass tactics of whether he did this. I think, clearly, Mr. Murdoch has admitted I did it. I took advantage of people. Yes, I did. I own it. He's owned it. He also has said quite clearly he did not do this. And then, Jake, that toggles back to the issue of motive, I'm a man who loves my family, I loved my son, I loved my wife. Why on earth would I do this?

Again, with respect to other alternatives and reasonable doubt, who else could have done this? Well, a person who's addicted to pills and a person who's paying $50,000 for that pill addiction may encounter people who are unsavory. Could it have been that he's alluding to that? And then again, his son Paul, with respect to what his son Paul did in the past, accused in the boating accident, and people were making threats against him, so he got all that out.

So finally, Jake, what I'm saying to you is, yes, they made headway that is the prosecution with respect to his veracity, truthfulness and credibility. But for me, it's going to be about the meat and potatoes of what you did, when you did it, or what you didn't do. I'm looking to see when it continues tomorrow to them to get to that. I think that's what everyone wants to see and everyone wants to hear.

TAPPER: Misty prosecutors pointed out to Alex Murdaugh that in his interviews with law enforcement, he called his son Paul. When he was on the stand testifying today, he called him Pau Pau (ph). I guess they were trying to make the argument that Alex Murdaugh is a phony, that he's using this cute nickname for his son, but he didn't really think of his son in that way. Is that what he was doing? The prosecutor?

MARRIS: Yes, that's what I'm leaning. The prosecutor is trying to say that he's getting up here on the stand and he's creating this narrative and he's acting so genuine and this is all an act. And you know why? Because he's a trial lawyer. He knows what to do. He's standing here looking at his lawyer as the lawyer asked the question, and then turning and facing and making eye contact with the jury when he responds with these pet names and very sympathetic and nicknames for his son Pau Pau (ph). But he said, you know, look, look back to all of these interviews. Now, Murdoch is acting like he called him Pau Pau (ph) every single time he refers to him, as you would see from his testimony here today. If you look back in these interviews, he never said it once. It was always Paul. Just another indication that we're dealing with somebody who's a phony.

TAPPER: Misty Marris, Joey Jackson, thanks to both of you. Coming up, what did the National Transportation Safety Board find that made the agency's chair say that the Ohio train derailment was 100 percent preventable? Well, we're going to talk to the NTSB chair, next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead. Today, the National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on that toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, finding more than 115,000 gallons of toxic vinyl chloride were at risk of exploding once the train derailed. Officials say the three person crew on board did nothing wrong. And the report finds an engineer did apply additional brakes after receiving an alert about an overheating axle.

I spoke to the NTSB chief this afternoon after she called the disaster 100 percent preventable.


TAPPER: Jennifer Homendy joins us now. She is the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. You said the NTSB knows what caused the derailment and overheating in the wheel bearing. Do we have any idea? Do you have any idea what could have caused the overheating?

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: That's something we're going to have to look at as part of the investigation. Right now we're in the fact finding phase of the investigation looking for factual information and so that will be something that we look at.

TAPPER: I asked the head of Norfolk Southern yesterday whether it was true that this train with 150 cars, 20 of whom -- 20 of which were carrying toxic materials, only had two employees and one trainee. He said he couldn't answer. Is it true, though?

HOMENDY: Yes. They had -- the train was staffed by three personnel in the locomotive, a locomotive engineer, a conductor, and a trainee that were all in the head end of the locomotive.

TAPPER: And yet, even with the 20 cars with toxic materials, under current safety rules, that train still did not qualify for designation as a high hazard flammable train, which would have gotten it or required at least a newer, safer braking system. So that rule, as it stands right now, clearly was inadequate for the citizens of East Palestine.

Why not add the newer braking system to any train carrying hazardous material, not just those with more than 20 cars of hazardous material?

HOMENDY: Well, and the NTSB has looked at electronically controlled pneumatic braking for a number of years, and we did some testing as well. Certainly, it would improve safety. But for this investigation and for this derailment, ECP brakes would not have prevented the derailment. The wheel bearing failed on car number 23. Even with ECP brakes, the derailment would have occurred.


What it could have done was maybe reduced damage where a couple of cars could have remained on the tracks. But we're going to do some modeling along with the Federal Railroad administration to determine just that.

TAPPER: There any obvious rule change that would have prevented this?

HOMENDY: It's too early to tell. In our analysis phase of the investigation, we'll look at just that. We'll look at what could have prevented this terrible tragedy. And it could be regulation changes. It could be recommendations to Norfolk Southern, to the Department of Transportation, or to rail car manufacturers, or to emergency responders.

But again, it's too early to tell. And just to mention, the NTSB does not have regulatory authority. At the conclusion of our investigation, we issue safety recommendations that others have to implement.

TAPPER: Let's talk about how responders manage the scene. Because there was this controlled venting to release and burn the vinyl chloride. You say NTSB had no role in the decision to carry out the vent and burn, and the NTSB did not participate. Are you at all concerned that there was an issue with this process that could have made the existing problem even worse?

HOMENDY: Well, that is something we will look at as part of the investigation. Railroad administration has issues guidance on how to vent and burn rail cars. We're going to look at the decision making on that. We're going to look at whether the vent and burn adhered to the federal guidance, and then we're going to look at the federal guidance itself to see if it needs to be updated or changed.

TAPPER: Members of the East Palestine community, as we heard last night at our town hall with them are reporting health issues. They're scared it could be twelve to 18 months before your final analysis is released. How can the NTSB get answers and provide support for residents in the meantime?

HOMENDY: Well, first of all, the conclusion of the final report is about twelve to 18 months. However, right now we have the ability at any time during the accident investigation to issue urgent safety recommendations. We don't wait until the end for that. We are looking at this investigation to do just that.

And today we also announced a rare field investigative hearing that we're going to have in East Palestine because we believe the community deserves to hear the questions we ask of the witnesses that appear before us. They deserve to hear the answers and they deserve to hear potential solutions for making sure this doesn't happen again.

TAPPER: All right, Jennifer Homendy of the NTSB, thank you so much.

HOMENDY: Thank you so much.


TAPPER: Coming up next, one year into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, CNN is on the ground with an exclusive look at a town on the front line. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead now. It is now past midnight in Ukraine, which means that in Ukraine, we have hit the one year mark of Putin's illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine. Putin thought Ukraine's capital of Kyiv would fall in a matter of hours. He was wrong. Not only did he miscalculate the incredible resolve of the Ukrainian people, estimates show his war has cost 200,000 Russian lives.

As weapons flooded Ukraine from western allies, including the United States. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's forces became competitive against their Goliath aggressor. CNN's Alex Marquardt got some exclusive access to the current frontlines in Vuhledar, where, despite those heavy losses, Putin's army seems to have an unlimited cache of weapons and terror.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): On the road. As the sun comes up, with American fighter Jason Mann at the wheel, driving into the devastated frontline town of Vuhledar. Traveling in and out through a muddy field means being exposed a direct line of sight from Russian artillery and tanks.

JASON MANN, AMERICAN FIGHTER IN UKRAINE: This is not an early morning war, really. I think.

MARQUARDT: First light means hopefully avoiding the endless Russian shelling raining down, including terrifying, thermobaric missiles. Everyone aware that a shell could land at any moment.

MARQUARDT (on camera): Even as Russian forces struggle to take any real ground here, they're inflicting a massive amount of damage on this town, which is largely made up of the Soviet era apartment blocks. You can see this one blackened by the fighting over here, a massive crater from a Russian missile. Ukrainian forces do have the higher ground here. They are able to use these buildings to defend this town, but it is getting absolutely pummeled.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): Only a handful of hardy civilians left their home now eerie, apocalyptic ruins.

There's a reason I don't like being on this side.

For months, a man and his unit of foreign troops called the Phelan's Group have fought alongside Ukraine's 72nd Brigade, keeping the Russians at bay.

MANN: This is redefining the global order as we speak. This is democracy versus autocracy. Do we want to let autocracy control more people's lives in the future or prevent it from doing that ever again? Strictly.

MARQUARDT (on camera): That's what's in your head when you head out there?

MANN: Absolutely. That's the only reason I'm here.

MARQUARDT (voiceover): Waves of Russian forces advance in open fields. They've had enormous losses, but they keep coming and keep bombing. This strategic corner of Ukraine is where the southern and eastern fronts meet, making it a major priority for Russia's push deeper into Donbas.

Mann arrived in Ukraine at the very beginning of the war. He's a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who went on to Columbia University and worked at Google as a software engineer. In the village house where the unit lives a few miles from the front, Mann tells us he's now here for as long as it takes.

MANN: Ukraine's are very committed to having their country back and that includes Crimea to most of them, as long as morale is high, I'm happy.

MARQUARDT: And it is, he says. As the war enters its second year, new recruits have also just arrived from Canada and the UK. The fight so urgent, the team leader, Turtle from New Zealand, only has a couple of days to get them ready.

"TURTLE", INTERNATIONAL LEGION: There is such a lot of emotion within these fights, mainly because from a lot of what I've seen is they don't want to be there either. You know, I never thought that I'd ever experienced a war in the way, in a sort of capacity, because we're just fighting war and I don't know, it's like fighting in a Time war.


MARQUARDT: Turtle has to head to a funeral for a Ukrainian teammate just killed by Russian mortar fire. There are so many losses and such little time to grieve.

"TURTLE": Harder for us guys from foreign militaries because, you know, innocents like Iraq and Afghanistan, weren't losing dudes, luck so fast all the time. It's always good to have a room for your friends, but it's just hard sometimes when the next day you got to go and do something. Sometimes even that same thing. MARQUARDT: Both Turtle and Mann are very matter of fact that they could lose their lives fighting for a country that isn't theirs. One year into this war, neither is second guessing himself.

MANN: And not everyone gets that choice. For me, it was more of a serendipitous, like one of those moments in your life that you don't really have a choice, actually.

MARQUARDT: No regrets.

MANN: No regrets. Yes.


MARQUARDT: And Jake, Jason Mann, who goes by doc in his unit, says that given all the resilience and ingenuity he's seen from the Ukrainians over the past year, and this is a quote, it's hard not to believe in the Ukrainians at this point. Now, the unit is expecting the Russians to try to mount something around Vuhledar around this anniversary. They do not know, of course, what is coming. They are bracing themselves given all the failures that they've seen from the Russians.

So far, Jake, they don't appear to be particularly concerned about this anniversary. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alex MARQUARDT in Dnipro, Ukraine. Thank you so much. Tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN will mark the one year since Russia invaded Ukraine with a special town hall hosted by Fareed Zakaria. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Our coverage continues. Next with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".