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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Judge Leaves Pentagon Docs Leak Suspect In Jail While He Debates Pre-Trail Release; Family Of Americans Stuck In Sudan Frustrated With U.S. Government Response; WNBA Star Brittney Griner Speaks At First Public Event Since Imprisonment In Russia; Texas Woman Tells Senators She Nearly Died After Being Denied An Abortion; Trump Lawyer Cross-Examines E. Jean Carroll Over Assault Accusation. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 27, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yeah, but being sucked into something, that's not, you know, a new phenomenon, right? And he's making that point.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: And it's not. And we certainly haven't gotten rid of it, right? Sadly.


That does it for "CNN NEWS CENTRAL".

But don't go anywhere. THE LEAD starts right now.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: How did this guy get a security clearance?

THE LEAD starts right now.

The air national guardsman accused of stealing and sharing a treasure trove of classified documents appears in court. And the government says he has a history of threatening to kill people.

Then, dozens of Americans trapped in Sudan begging the U.S. government to help them get out. So, why do U.S. officials say they can't help, even though other countries are carrying out evacuations?

Plus, tears, smiles, and laughs. Brittney Griner holds her first news conference since her release from a Russian prison.


BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA STAR: Never going overseas to play again unless I'm representing my country at the Olympics.


GOLODRYGA: What the basketball star had to say about her game and the other Americans still being wrongly detained in Russia. (MUSIC)

GOLODRYGA: Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga, in for Jake Tapper.

We start today with our national lead. This afternoon, the man accused of leaking classified U.S. intelligence on the Internet appeared in court where a judge decided that the suspect will stay behind bars, at least for now. Prosecutors argued the 21-year-old Jack Teixeira still poses a threat to the community, not only because of how many documents he accessed, but because of a trove of weapons they found in his room during a search and his alleged history of violent threats.

Prosecutors also raised concerns that Teixeira might try to exchange some of the information he accessed while serving in the Air National Guard with a foreign country, in exchange for helping escape the U.S.

CNN's Jason Carroll starts us off from Worcester, Massachusetts, where Teixeira's lawyers argued prosecutors are exaggerating the risks their client poses to the U.S.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The detention hearing got under way with Jack Teixeira's father first taking the stand. He told the court he would not hesitate to report his son if he was released on bail in his custody and broke any rules the court imposed. The defense argued that 21-year-old air national guardsman is not a flight risk nor a security risk, and that Teixeira did not intend for the classified information to go beyond the chat room, where he had shared it.

Judge Hennessey challenged that notion. Someone under the age of 30 has no idea they put something on the Internet that could end up anywhere in the world, seriously? He had no idea that would go beyond the little people beyond the server? That is like someone arguing I pulled the trigger but I had no intent to kill him.

Prosecutors argued that Teixeira could still have access to hundreds of documents. The defense filing asserts Teixeira no longer has access to those documents, saying prosecutors are exaggerating their client's threat. Court documents filed by the U.S. attorney's office Wednesday argued Teixeira should not be released on bail. Prosecutors claim the information Teixeira allegedly accessed far exceeds what has been disclosed on the Internet.

The filing also includes pictures from the search warrant executed on Teixeira's bedroom. The photos show a gun locker next to his bed, containing multiple weapons, including an AK-style high capacity weapon, hand guns, shotgun rifles, and a gas mask.

Prosecutors say law enforcement also found a smashed tablet, laptop, and a gaming console in a dumpster at a home. Prosecutors say Teixeira also obstructed justice by telling those he was communicating with online to delete all messages, and if anyone comes looking, don't tell them expletive. Also alleging he, quote, deleted the social media server where he posted government information and procured a new phone number and email address.

Prosecutors also questioned why Teixeira was a candidate for the Air National Guard given his history surrounding guns. A court document states in 2018, he was suspended while in high school after a classmate allegedly overheard him making remarks about guns and racial threats. That same year, prosecutors say he applied for a firearms ID card but was denied due to the concerns of the local police department over the defendant's remarks at his high school.

The prosecution adding, he is no longer the small child sitting at a big desk with big computers. He's also not the person he described himself to be in a letter to the police officer when seeking a firearms permit.


CARROLL (on camera): So at the end of the hearing, Judge Magistrate David Hennessey did not issue a ruling.


He took all the arguments under advisement. He's likely to issue some sort of a written ruling at one certain point. Uncertain when that will be.

In the meantime, Teixeira remains behind bars -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Jason Carroll in Massachusetts for us, thank you so much.

I want to bring in CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller for more on this.

So, John, the first question I have to ask is, how does someone with this troubling of a background, who couldn't even get a weapons license because of the threats that he had made, end up being accepted into the Air National Guard?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, he couldn't get a license because of the threatening statements that Jason told us about, but the Air National Guard needs people. He went through the clearance process. They did a background investigation.

And one of the great difficulties when you have somebody who is 18 years old is, you know, when they did my background investigation, they had to go back 40 years, foreign travel, associates, anybody I ever lived with. When you have an 18-year-old kid, it's like, what do your parents say about you? They say they're great. They interview two friends and they usually get their names from you, and maybe a teacher, and he didn't have much history. So that actually turned around to help him get the weapon.

GOLODRYGA: Clearly, we know how troubled he was.

Also troubling is the fact that this information was posted online much earlier than we had originally thought. We thought that it was back in December. That was initially reported. Now we're hearing it was back in February, basically the time the war began.

Is that an alarm for the U.S. government in general?

MILLER: That's a double edged sword. The U.S. intelligence services that monitor any leaks of classified documents are legally barred from going on the Internet and spying on Americans and their communications unless they have, you know, a case. In this case, there's also all kinds of classified documents floating around on the entertainment, usually stuff that was classified, now declassified, Freedom of Information Act, stuff from the 9/11 Commission. So it's sometimes hard to recognize what is still classified that's out there.

That said, the level of sensitivity of these documents and the period of time they were out there, the fact that somebody, a reporter, another member of the military somebody just browsing around didn't run into it and recognize it as extraordinarily sensitive is kind of amazing.

GOLODRYGA: What do you make of the prosecution's argument that they believe he is a flight risk? In fact, they think that another foreign adversary, perhaps wanting access to more information he may still have, will go out of their way to try to bring him out of the United States, and thus, they argue he should remain behind bars. Is that far-fetched, or do you think that could that be a reality?

MILLER: You know, you could say it's far-fetched, he's a kid, what access does he have to the world of international spies. But there's a lot we don't know. I refer you to Edward Snowden, living happily ever after in Russia as a guest of the government after leaking some of the most sensitive programs in the U.S. government. The possibility of it happening is not zero.

GOLODRYGA: Snowden was just awarded a Russian citizenship last year, as well.

John Miller, thank you so much.

MILLER: Thanks.

GOLODRYGA: Now to our world lead, where the shaky U.S. brokered cease-fire in Sudan is set to expire in just under two hours. An extension of the truce has been agreed to by one of the warring rival militaries.

Meanwhile, at least 18 countries have carried out their own successful citizen evacuations. Even war-torn Ukraine managed to get 91 of its citizens out. Despite those achievements, American officials maintain that a mission to evacuate U.S. citizens stuck there is just too dangerous.

CNN's Kylie Atwood spoke to Americans with family in Sudan, aching for them to get out safely.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MUNA DAOUD, AMERICAN PARENTS TRAPPED IN SUDAN: Never in a million years did I imagine that my parents would be left to defend for themselves in a war zone.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Muna Daoud describes the harrowing story of her parents, American citizens, trying to make their way out of Sudan. After a 12-hour bus ride from Khartoum to Port Sudan, during which her father was held at gunpoint by one of the country's warring armies, they found no support for U.S. citizens.

DAOUD: No American presence, no American assistance, no signage anywhere to tell them where to go.

ATWOOD: Arriving at the gates of this hotel, they showed their U.S. passports but received no shelter.

DAOUD: They told her, no, no, you have to wait, without providing lodging, assistance, food, water. My father is running low on his medication that he needs for both his heart condition and his blood pressure.

ATWOOD: Other travelers have descended upon Sudan's border with Egypt. Some finally finding water. But others, including Americans, not so lucky.


MAISOUN SULFAB, AMERICAN FAMILY MEMBERS TRAPPED IN SUDAN: The wait time at the border is many days. Children are crying, and they're just laying on the ground. It's a desert.

IMAD, AMERICAN PARENTS TRAPPED IN SUDAN: They're stuck at the border. There's no water. There's no food. The border is essentially a humanitarian crisis. And it is -- not only Americans who are facing this issue.

ATWOOD: Imad and Lila are an American couple living in California. Like Muna, they are deeply frustrated by the lack of U.S. government support in these dangerous and complex conditions, as they have tried to assist their parents escape.

IMAD: We contacted them on numerous occasions, asking for bare minimum help. Just let us know if you are going to help us, please let us know that you are going to help.

ATWOOD: U.S. officials say it's more dangerous to carry out a government-led evacuation from the country right now than to have American citizens join the overland caravans.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are in contact with Americans who have registered with us in one way or another, and very active contact.

ATWOOD: But Daoud paints a different picture. DAOUD: The only communication was to somehow make your way to Port

Sudan, because that seemed kind of very vague, and it seems like different people, different Americans are getting different information.

ATWOOD: And in recent days, many other countries around the world, including the U.K., India, and Germany, have flown their citizens out of the country.

DAOUD: I'm just appalled and frankly, disgusted that European nations are able to coordinate evacuations of their citizens, but somehow Americans are left to fend for themselves.


GOLODRYGA: And Kylie joins us now.

So, Kylie, what are U.S. officials explaining to you as to why they can't fly U.S. citizens out, those who want to leave at least, while we are seeing numerous other countries doing so successfully?

ATWOOD: Well, listen, they're not really giving a clear answer to that question. When we heard from the Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier today, he talked about overland routes being the best way to have an enduring capability to get Americans out of the country. But he didn't explain why they didn't do some of these evacuations in the meantime as they build up that capacity.

We also heard from the White House spokesperson encouraging Americans to take advantage of options to get out of the country in the next 24 to 48 hours. Because they don't think that the security situation in the country is going to get any better. But, of course, finding those options right now is incredibly challenging and dangerous -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: We'll continue to cover this story. I know you'll be watching it closely.

Kylie Atwood at the State Department for us, thank you.

And coming up, back in the game. An emotional day as Brittney Griner holds her first news conference since being released from Russia.

Then, a direct appeal to free "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich. One of his close friends joins us live.



GOLODRYGA: A standing ovation in a room full of journalists for WNBA star Brittney Griner. Today was her first news conference since being detained in Russia for nearly 10 months.

As CNN's Brian Todd reports, Griner was full of gratitude, smiles and jokes as she spoke.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brittney Griner unveiling a mural of American detainees held abroad. The 32-year-old American basketball star speaking to the media for the first time since her release from detention in Russia in December. Griner got emotional and asked how she found the resilience to finally speak out.

BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA PLAYER: You know, I'm no stranger to hard times. So you cry -- you made me cry. Just digging deep, honestly. You know, you're going to be faced with adversities throughout your life. This was a pretty big one, but I just relied on my hard work getting through it.

TODD: Griner was detained for nearly 10 months, much of it in a bleak penal colony about 300 miles from Moscow. She received a nine-year sentence for drug smuggling, after being arrested at a Moscow airport carrying cannabis oil in vape cartridges just before the Ukraine war started.

Griner said she packed the cartridges by accident. Today, she said during her some of her more desolate moments in detention, seeing pictures of her family and images of the efforts to get her out meant everything.

GRINER: It made me to have a little bit of hope, which is a really hard thing to have, and a really dangerous thing to have because when it doesn't work, it's so crushing.

TODD: And she spoke of what she'd tell Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, two Americans now held in Russia, and all the other wrongfully detained Americans abroad.

GRINER: Stay strong. Keep fighting. Don't give up. Just keep waking up, find a little routine, and stick to that routine and just the best you can. I know that's what -- what helped me.

TODD: Asked if she felt guilt for her release after a shorter time in detention than Whelan and some others, Griner said if she could have gotten them of herself, she would have. She pointedly made no specific mention of the conditions she faced in Russian detention, except at one moment.

GRINER: No one should be in those conditions like -- hands down, no one should be in any of the conditions that I went through or they're going through.

TODD: Jason Rezaian, "The Washington Post" writer who was held in Iran for nearly a year and a half, told us about what Griner may be going through emotionally right now.

JASON REZAIAN, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: You know, once you've been isolated and can find, and I have had a choice taken from you for that long, you know, it's not really natural to just come back to freedom. And then a couple that with not being able to understand, hey, why am I not happier about this?


TODD: Britney Griner's news conference comes as the U.S. today imposed new sanctions on groups in Russia and Iran that are accused of taking Americans hostage or rolling fully detaining them.


The sanctions target Russia's federal security service, and the intelligence branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Brian Todd, thank you.

Well, today, a new direct appeal for Russia to release American "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich. Three American papers to get these full page ads today, which read in part, quote: We are united in calling for his immediate release. Reporting is not a crime. Over the past month, we have watched our industry not only rally around Evan but stand up for journalism and the importance of a free press. We also encourage support from the U.S. government, including President Biden and the White House.

Journalist and close friend of Evan Gershkovich, Polina Ivanova, joins us now.

Polina, it's good to see you again. You know, the last time we saw Evan was at last Tuesday's appeals hearing, where he was sadly and unsurprisingly not -- denied bail. There he was you see him in this picture. He was smiling. He was not allowed to speak with the media.

And yet just as they were being forced out of the room, this moment really stood out to me. Listen.


GOLODRYGA: That was an independent Russian journalist Vasily Polonsky who was courageous enough to shout out, stay strong, Evan. Everyone says hi.

I was so moved by that moment. And it really did seem like heaven was as well. Paulina what went through your mind when you saw that?

POLINA IVANOVA, FRIEND OF EVAN GERSHKOVICH: Yeah, it was very hard to see him, but also at the same time, such a relief. And also we were all so proud of him, and to see him standing so strong and so dignified, you know, head held high, and really representing us all, standing of not just for his own rights and innocence but also the right to a free press in Russia.

GOLODRYGA: And to have other reporters like Vassily there, standing up for him as well. Russia has denied a U.S. request for a consular visit for Evan next month. And they are claiming that Russian journalists were denied visas for Foreign Minister Lavrov's trip to New York earlier this week.

I mean, Polina, prosecutors have yet to produce even one shred of evidence in this case and there is real concern that his detention will be extended. Do you view this as a form of torture?

IVANOVA: I mean, Evan has the right to consular access. He is the right to consular access. This isn't a privilege that he's being granted, it doesn't come as a gift from Russian authorities, it's something that he has as a right. And he is being denied that, and it only strengthens the argument that he is being used as a political pawn if his care in prison, his conditions in prison are made dependent on things completely outside of his control.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and on that point, CNN's Matthew Chance asks Sergey Lavrov about the possibility of a prisoner swap sometime down the road.

Lavrov interestingly enough did not dismiss that idea. Does that give you hope that Evan and perhaps another American detained, Paul Whelan, could come home soon?

IVANOVA: It is heartening to hear that kind of language from Russian authorities. It's also heartening to see the solidarity coming from newspaper editors, as you mentioned. "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" joining "The Wall Street Journal" editors in solidarity today.

We're also seeing the process move quite quickly. We saw him labeled wrongfully detained very swiftly. This is all very important.

So, it's heartening to see things moving forward on both sides. And that kind of language from the Russian authorities is also heartening that there could be -- that they are seeing this in the context of the swap and they are thinking about it.

GOLODRYGA: And, Polina, I know this is very personal as well. You and Evan are very close friends. You and I have been exchanging messages, and I know you've been in touch with him through letters. Tell us, how is he doing right now?

IVANOVA: Evan is, yeah, he's writing letters. Every time we receive one, it's really a joy in some meaningful. And he's also in his first letter to us, wrote about how important it is to him to receive these letters. You know, he has reported on stories about political prisoners.

He's spoken to political prisoners before and they have told him how much joy it brings to receive letters and in his first note to us, he spoke about how it's just a next-level happiness to know that the world is watching, to know that people are following his case. He is doing well, he has built himself a routine to deal with the conditions, obviously, the conditions are tough.

He is reading a lot, he is exercising a lot. He is meditating in the mornings, he has written out this routine for us, explaining how he spends his days.


He's obviously confined in a very small cell with only an hour a day for exercise in a small kind of -- in a small open space. But yeah, he's reading -- in the evenings, he writes letters. He writes a lot in his diary, and, yeah, he has built up this routine which is very important for him.

GOLODRYGA: A month now behind bars without one shred of evidence. I love seeing the photos of you together with him. It's great to see him smiling in those photos. It was great to see him smiling in court yesterday. It shows his strength and resilience and we will continue to tell his story until he is released home to his family and friends.


GOLODRYGA: Polina Ivanova, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

IVANOVA: Bianna, thank you for staying on the story.

GOLODRYGA: Of course.

And we'll be right back.



GOLODRYGA: In our health lead, a woman suing the state of Texas after being denied an abortion told lawmakers not receiving abortion care harmed her mental health and may prevent her from having children in the future.


AMANDA ZURAWSKI, PLAINTIFF IN TEXAS SIX-WEEK ABORTION BAN: I wanted to address my senators, Cruz and Cornyn. I nearly died on their watch. And furthermore, as a result of what happened to me, I may have been robbed of the opportunity to have children in the future. And it's because of the policies that they support.


GOLODRYGA: Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, banning abortion at all stages with no exception for rape or incest and narrow exceptions for medical emergencies.

And with me now is the woman you just heard from, Amanda Zurawski. She's one of five women suing Texas.

Amanda, thank you so much for joining us.

I would imagine that was a very difficult day for you yesterday. I know you had complications, some 18 weeks into your pregnancy. And you were actually told that your baby, Willow, would never survive. But yet you were denied an abortion because she had a heart beat and only given an abortion once you went into septic shock.

Can you explain how this Texas law made this experience worse for you? ZURAWSKI: Yeah, that's right. First of all, thank you for having me

and for giving space to this story.

So, yeah, exactly what you just described is what happened, and because my health care team was not allowed to intervene and provide the health care that I needed, an abortion at that point, I had to wait until I got extremely sick to the point that I almost died. And for me, it took about three days to go from being physically healthy to going into septic shock, which three days of having to live with the devastating news that you're going to lose your baby, and also the fear of what is going to happen next to you was paralyzing.

And the anguish and trauma that I had to go through because of the law in Texas was unreasonable, and preventable, and shouldn't have happened.

GOLODRYGA: I'm so sorry that you had to go through this. I'm glad you're okay. Obviously, emotionally you are still scarred and recovering. It was notable that your senator yesterday, John Cornyn, suggested that you should sue your doctors for malpractice. But you instead are choosing to sue Texas and the state's attorney general, Ken Paxton. Why take that route?

ZURAWSKI: That's exactly right. We don't feel that it was our doctor's fault. She consulted with a team of physicians and specialists, both at the hospital where I was denied and then eventually received treatment, as well as her colleagues outside of Austin but still in the state of Texas, and there is a lot of confusion about what the law means, and the way that it's written is so vague that doctors don't know what they can and can't do and what health care they can and cannot provide.

And if they make the wrong decision, they can face up to 99 years in prison and/or lose their license. And so, they're afraid to act. And the reason why there is so much confusion, that's the way the law was written. As a matter of fact, when the Dobbs decision came down, the administration put out language to clarify when women should be able to receive an abortion, and Ken Paxton, the attorney general in the state of Texas, sued over it, so that guidance would be revoked. So what happened to me was what he expected to happen and frankly wanted to happen.

GOLODRYGA: We should let our viewers know that we reached out to Senator Cruz's office, your other senator there in Texas and have not heard back in terms of a statement from him.

You have become a notable name in the fight for abortion rights. I'm just curious, how does it feel to have such a spotlight on you, given what a personal and emotionally grueling experience this was for you?

ZURAWSKI: It has been overwhelming. You know, first and foremost, I never wanted to be in this position. I want to be at home right now with my 3-month-old baby. That's not the deck of cards that was dealt to me, and so I find myself in a very different position. But I know that there are hundreds and thousands of women not just in Texas, but across the country, who are experiencing something similar because of these laws that are being passed in states across the country.

And they need a voice, and there is a lot of people that cannot speak up. Perhaps they're afraid to, perhaps they don't have the means, they're not comfortable. What I'm doing is not easy.


So, certainly, it's understandable if women don't want to talk about it. But there are so many stories, just like mine, that need to be told. And it is my honor to represent any pregnant person or anyone who feels the same way I do so something will change.

GOLODRYGA: That definitely took a lot of courage for you to say yesterday. I saw your husband sitting there behind you in support. We wish you all the best in your continued recovery.

Amanda Zurawski, thank you so much for your time.

ZURAWASKI: Thank you. Thank you so much.

GOLODRYGA: And still ahead, the woman who says Donald Trump raped her in an apartment store dressing room faces cross-examination. The notable moments from court, that's next.


GOLODRYGA: In our politics lead, moments ago, a court wrapped in New York City, where E. Jean Carroll, the former magazine columnist, accusing Donald Trump of rape, testified for a second day.


Today, Trump's defense lawyer questioned details of Carroll's claim that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s.

CNN's Kara Scannell is live outside the federal court house in Lower Manhattan.

And, Kara, what more are we learning about today's cross-examination?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, E. Jean Carroll sat through four hours of cross-examination by Trump's attorney Joe Tacopina. And during this cross-examination, he sought to poke holes in Carroll's credibility and tried to suggest that she was motivated by politics and money.

But the real tense moment came when he focused on the specific allegation when Carroll said Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in 1996. He asked her to go through the sequence of events that took place that day, how they ended up from meeting in the lobby going up to the escalator to the 6th floor where the lingerie is, and ending up in the dressing room where Carroll said pushed her against the wall and raped her.

You know, Tacopina was going hard at Carroll, asking her why she didn't scream? They spent a lot of time on this question, if this was happening to her, if she was fighting for her life, why she didn't scream. And there was a bit of an exchange her, couple of exchanges.

In one of them, he's asking her again and again why she didn't scream, and Carroll testified, you can't beat me up for screaming. Tacopina said, I'm not beating you up, I'm asking questions, Ms. Carroll. This continued then for a while and Carroll said with her voice cracking, I'm telling you, he raped me, whether I screamed or not.

Then later on in the series of questioning, Tacopina said, so you didn't scream while you were being violently raped because you didn't want to make a scene? Carroll said that's right. That's probably why I didn't scream.

He also then was asking her specifics about this encounter, saying she was wearing four-inch heels, how could she fight off Trump in four- inch heels? Carroll said she could dance backwards and forwards in four-inch heels. He also asked her why her tights weren't ripped if she was being attacked, she said they were flexible tights.

And he asked about her handbag. She said she had it in her hand the entire time and he questioned how that was possible if she was pushing off the former president, who was more than twice her weight.

You know, they also were going back and forth over why she never reported this attack, and her friend -- one of her friends she talked to advised her not to saying -- remember, this is back in the '90s when Trump is the real estate tycoon, a tabloid figure. And her friend advised her that he would bury her. So, Tacopina asking Carroll, now, he's the most powerful man in the world as the former president, now is when you bring this case. And Carroll said she was inspired by all the women that came forward in the Harvey Weinstein matter and that is why she spoke up now -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Kara Scannell, trial resumes on Monday, thank you.

Well, what sit like to play the mastermind of one of the greatest political scandals in U.S. history? Actor Justin Theroux talks to Jake Tapper about playing G. Gordon Liddy. That's next.



GOLODRYGA: In our pop lead today. A lighter moment in today's political world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slip in, get into the filing cabinet, slip out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without anybody knowing. Textbook black op.


GOLODRYGA: That's some of the creators of the new HBO series, "White House Plumbers', with their depiction of the Watergate scandal. HBO and CNN are both owned by Warner Brothers Discovery.

The show tells the story of how Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy came up with the plan to bug the Democratic national committee and accidently toppled the presidency they were trying to protect.

Jake Tapper sat down with the show's director and executive producer, as well as one of the stars of the show.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Joining me now is David Mandel, who is the director and executive producer and Justin Theroux, who stars as G. Gordon Liddy.

And, Dave, you took --

DAVID MANDEL, DIRECTOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: We never found out what that "G" stands for.

JUSTIN THEROUX, ACTOR: Not good -- not good research, yeah, but, well, yeah.

TAPPER: So you took a very serious moment in history, and you made a show about it with a satirical spin. Why did you think it was important to depict this in a funny way?

MANDEL: We didn't depict it in a funny way. It is funny. The more you dig into it, the details are -- they're so horrible, they get hilarious.

TAPPER: Like the fact that wasn't the first time they tried to break in.

MANDEL: They broke in four times. They got in successfully, planted the bugs but didn't get any valuable information because they weren't working and had to go in again and that's when they got caught.

You can't make that up. So, it's not so much that we were trying to be funny, we just -- we're just showing you what happened. And it's -- you just -- I don't know, we call it a really funny tragedy. So those were our watch words.

TAPPER: OK, I can see that.

And, Justin, you play G. Gordon Liddy. Here's a little snapshot of your character.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to meet Gordon Liddy, the toughest guy I know, who hold his hand in the flame of a candle.

THEROUX: I do not bend and I do not break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the trick?

THEROUX: Gets third degree burns every time.



TAPPER: So, how would -- how would you describe it? I mean, G. Gordon Liddy, who I believe he passed away.

THEROUX: He has passed away.

MANDEL: He has. Right before production started.

TAPPER: But he is -- he was legitimately a menacing, bad guy. But he's hilarious as you're depicting there.

THEROUX: Well, he's -- I find him, aside from ideal logically I have major differences from G. Gordon Liddy.

TAPPER: Of course.

THEROUX: But I find him a very endearing, charismatic -- I have to fall in love with him to play him. But he -- I just found him like completely endearing and lovely. He's an optimist. I mean, he's actually -- I know it's a tragedy for Hunt and for other characters in the Watergate scandal.

TAPPER: And the United States of America.

THEROUX: And the United States of America, but not for G. Gordon Liddy. Like his life took the shape of a hockey stick after he got arrested and had a successful radio show.


MANDEL: He gets everything he wanted.

THEROUX: Yeah. I mean, he's an optimist.

MANDEL: He becomes famous --


MANDEL: -- for being a superspy, but he wasn't. He got arrested and went to jail, like he never succeeded.

TAPPER: Might there be a season two?

THEROUX: The Miami Vice years. He went on to star --

TAPPER: That's right. He was on an episode of "Miami Vice." I forgot about that.

And there's a scene where your counterpart, Howard Hunt, is telling you you're going to need to bend the rules a little to succeed. Let's show you that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You listen to me, George. You are not a federal agent anymore. You are an intelligence agent. You are a spy. And if you are to succeed in this line of work, you need to be willing to bend the rules, color outside the lines.


TAPPER: I have to tell you, I know a lot about Watergate. We have Woodward and Bernstein on the show, we have John Dean on the show. I learned from the show. Did you learn anything?

THEROUX: An enormous amount. We obviously all did our research. And of course we all know this through the lens of, you know, Woodward and Bernstein and who their dogged journalism and following the money, et cetera, et cetera. But sort of the main course is like the -- is the actual crime, the actual Watergate. That's the act that started all the gates.

And it's kind of, I mean, just hilarious that no one has really thought to pick this enormous hilarious story up off the ground and start telling it. They've been all dead obviously but yeah, we learned --

TAPPER: Until you.

MANDEL: We laughed about it back at the beginning. In every Watergate show or movie that you've ever seen, there's always that minute at the top where you see flashlights and the tape and everything. And it's like men were arrested. And then who were those men?

TAPPER: Right.

MANDEL: These are the men.

TAPPER: It's about the journalism. It's about the cover-up.

MANDEL: It's about the halls of power.

TAPPER: Yeah, yeah.

MANDEL: But men and there was collateral damage to some of their lives and families. And it's the birth of true believerism. I mean, these guys are fascinating.


TAPPER: And so, obviously, Watergate is the gate, as you say, to start all gates. But this show comes at a weird time in our country and obviously there was just a huge scandal with the attempt to overturn the election and the coup --


TAPPER: And the insurrection.

MANDEL: When was this?

THEROUX: Just coming in over my ear.

MANDEL: What day (ph) was that?

TAPPER: Well, this is the place for news. Did that inform at all how you went about doing this? Was there -- were you thinking about Trump and the rest?

MANDEL: Well, as I think we've all learned, it's -- you can't not think about Trump, unfortunately. I'll put it this way. I think in the age of Trump there was this sort of aspect of Trump where it's like it's never been like this before and nothing's ever been like this before. And it's not true. I think there is a direct line that you can draw from Watergate right up to Trump.

And so, we kind of wanted to ring that bell a little bit. There are times where you're hearing them, like Liddy talk about Democrats, talking about them as like criminals, as like really dangerous people. And you just kind of go, wait, was that 1972 or is that yesterday?

And there's -- I don't know. I found that connection. Again, we don't want to hit it too hard but it's there for the taking.

TAPPER: You met Woodward.

THEROUX: Yeah. We met him last night. He came and saw the show.

TAPPER: What was that like?

THEROUX: I mean, it's -- you know, he's like, you know --

MANDEL: Nerve-racking.

THEROUX: It was nerve-racking. You know, he's in the audience and it's sort of like -- you don't want him to go. And he didn't. And he was very generous and very kind.

And he loved it and actually kind of effusive with us afterward. He kept going they were crazier than that. He sort of confirmed --

MANDEL: Like you captured the clown show aspect of it. Like dangerous but clown show. It was just like okay, wow.

TAPPER: Well, I've seen episode 1, and I love it. And I can't wait for the rest.

Justin Theroux, David Mandel, thank you so much for being here. Best of luck for the show.

THEROUX: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: And you can watch "White House Plumbers" on HBO. The first episode coming out on May 1st.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GOLODRYGA: An endorsement from Bob Woodard too. Sounds amazing.

Well, back to the top story. A judge considering if the man accused of leaking classified documents should stay behind bars. Wolf Blitzer will be covering this in the next hour on "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Two weeks since his arrest, Wolf, prosecutors say what Teixeira accessed could far exceed initial reports. This is pretty alarming.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Very alarming indeed, Bianna. We're going to be digging into some of the truly stunning revelations about the suspected Pentagon leaker with the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

Prosecutors are now alleging that Jack Teixeira had a history of violent and racist remarks, including once saying he wanted to kill a ton of people. Yet he was still able, get this, to obtain a top secret security clearance.

I'll ask the director, Director Clapper, how so many incredibly concerning red flags were simply missed.


All of that and a lot more coming up. That's next here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

GOLODRYGA: Of course, we'll be watching. Wolf, good to see you.

And ahead, remembering the man behind one of the most provocative talk shows ever on TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I went to jail.




GOLODRYGA: In our pop culture lead, Jerry Springer, the former anchor, TV host and Cincinnati mayor has died at the age of 79. Springer became a household name with his raucous talk show.

For nearly three decades viewers saw some of the most outrageous arguments among guests. Chairs were thrown. Physical confrontations would ensue. And obscene comments would be hurled by sparring couples and audience members. Springer once told CNN that he did not mind being referred to as the grandfather of trash TV.

Rest in peace, Jerry Springer.

Well, our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.