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FBI Revokes Security Clearance For Three Agents Over January 6; DeSantis To Enter Presidential Race For 2024; Interview With North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper On GOP Reapproving 12-Week Abortion Ban; Bank CEOs Huddle With Secretary Yellen On Debt Ceiling. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2023 - 11:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): FBI agents stripped of their security clearances, now the star witnesses for Republicans on Capitol Hill. And this is in connection to January 6th but Republicans say it is about the weaponization of government.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 2024 GOP field could soon have a new candidate and we are told it is Florida governor Ron DeSantis is ready to enter the race. How and when he plans to make it official.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The governor of Montana is trying to ban TikTok on all devices throughout the state.

Can he do that?



BERMAN: All right. This morning two FBI agents, who were stripped of their security clearances, have been testifying on Capitol Hill. They took a break and now they are back into the room again, ready to keep on with the proceedings.

The agents are the star witnesses in this Republican-led hearing and they are there to prove how the FBI and Justice Department are working against conservatives. And the Republicans called this the weaponization of government.

And remember, they were stripped of their security clearances. Sara Murray has been monitoring the hearings.

And what are you hearing so far, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been hearing these employees and others coming forward in their defense, saying that the FBI is weaponizing the security clearance process as a way to speak out against them. We learned in a FBI letter last night that these two men were stripped

of the security clearances; one emailed the colleagues to exercise extreme caution, saying law enforcement had infiltrated the group at the Capitol.

And one refused to participate in a SWAT team arrest of a rioter, saying he believed it was excessive force. And he had brought an unauthorized flash drive into the FBI building and downloaded documents on a FBI computer.

This is how Jim Jordan and the top Democrat in the committee are framing what we are seeing in this hearing room.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This is the kind of retaliation they have faced for coming forward to tell us the truth and three, three of the brave whistleblowers the lawyer who represents them will tell us their story, what they saw and then what happened to them, because they were courageous enough to report it to Congress.

REP. STACEY PLASKETT (D-VI), HOUSE IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: My colleagues on the far right are on the mission to attack, discredit and ultimately dismantle the FBI. As part of their mission, my colleagues have brought in these former agents, men who lost their security clearances because they were a threat to our national security.


MURRAY: Much more ahead, John, as Republicans are trying to frame this as the weaponization of the federal government.

BERMAN: Sara Murray, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Well said.


BOLDUAN: And now governor Ron DeSantis has been hinting for months but we have now learned that he is about to make it official. He is about to file paperwork next week. Steve Contorno is in Florida for us.

What are we learning about the upcoming announcement and the coming DeSantis campaign?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, sources that we have been talking to all morning say that DeSantis is going to officially become a candidate next week. Let me walk you through the timeline, because there are multiple steps to the rollout.

First, some time next week, he is going to file paperwork with the FEC, that he is a candidate and there will be a soft launch either digitally or otherwise that hints at a larger announcement to come.

And then the donors will assemble May 24th through the 26th at a Four Seasons hotel in Miami, to start to raise money for the presidential effort. I am told that the goal for each person down there is raising between $100,000 to $150,000 so that DeSantis can come out of the gates with one of the largest fund-raising days in history.

And some time after Memorial Day, he is going to be making an official launch in the campaign in his hometown, where he grew up and became a Little League star and went on to go to Harvard, Yale, military career and now governor of the state of Florida.

Now I'm also being told by sources that this is all subject to change, because DeSantis likes to keep people on their toes. And even his closest donors and advisers are in the dark about his movements. And he does not like the media to preempt the announcement. But this is what we expect in the coming weeks.

BOLDUAN: It is hard when you have this many important steps to launch a presidential campaign.

Good to see you, Steve.

SIDNER: A CNN exclusive now: the National Archives, according to sources, is set to turn over what may be critical evidence, 16 records, some of them showing former president Donald Trump and his top advisers did have knowledge of how to correctly declassify documents when he was president.

He has long claimed that he could declassify them by simply removing them from the White House. And he has repeated that claim just last week.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you still have any classified documents in your possession?


COLLINS: Do you?

TRUMP: I don't have any declassified documents. And by the way, they become declassified when I took them.


SIDNER: Not true. Paula Reid is joining us now.

Paula, why is the special counsel interested in these particular records?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, these 16 records could shed light on the extent to which the former president was aware of the proper process for declassifying documents.

According to the letter from the Archives, that was exclusively obtained by our colleague, Jamie Gangel, it says that some of the letters reflect communications involving close advisers, some directed to you, Trump, personally, concerning whether, why and how you should declassify certain records.

Now here the former president has cited a constitutional privilege to try to block the special counsel from obtaining these records. But the Archives said that the special counsel is willing to go court to establish why these are so critical to his ongoing investigation.

We know that among the crimes he is investigating is whether someone should be charged with mishandling classified material. And to do that, they have to acknowledge they had knowledge, that they were transferring materials without proper authorization.

Attorneys have made different and sometimes conflicting explanations for how this all went down. Just last night, one of the former president's lawyers said that he didn't have to go through what he called a bureaucratic process, that he had the constitutional right to declassify the documents.

And they also said that the former president had a standing order but over a dozen former officials said they were not aware of that. So if he did declassify them, how he went about doing that. And it is a question to be settled by the courts.

The extent of this very broad power to declassify comes amid a flurry of activity by the special counsel and, as of yet, we don't know when he is going to submit the final report.

SIDNER: We know that the documents are headed to the special counsel by Wednesday next week -- John.

BERMAN: Republican lawmakers North Carolina vote to ban most abortions after 12 weeks.


BERMAN: We will speak with governor Roy Cooper.

Prosecutors say the National Air Guardsman accused of leaking documents was repeatedly warned over his mishandling of classified materials.

And if convicted, a Minnesota man may have to follow the Yellow Brick Road to prison, because he is accused of stealing the original ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz."





BERMAN: A conviction in the catastrophic 2018 limousine crash that killed 20 people in New York. The driver was found guilty of manslaughter. A report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that the limousine was going over 100 miles per hour before it struck a car and two pedestrians and ended up in a ravine.

His attorney is planning to appeal the decision.

Today, bank CEOs meeting with Janet Yellen as part of debt ceiling discussions. Bank of America, JPMorgan and Citigroup scheduled to meet as part of an annual trade group meeting in Washington.

This is as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy today for first time really sounded positive about the direction of the debt limit talks. He told Manu Raju he could get a deal and wants a bill on the floor next week.

And the man who is accused of stealing the iconic ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" in 2055 was indicted by a federal grand jury. Authorities say he smashed a glass case in the Judy Garland Museum and stole the slippers, which is one of four remaining pair from the movie, valued at $3.5 million.

SIDNER: State lawmakers in South Carolina are one step closer to nearly a complete ban of abortions. After 20 hours of debate, they voted in favor of a six-week abortion ban. It bans most abortions once cardiac activity can be detected. They can be at six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant.

There are a few exceptions, like fetal anomalies, like heart or nerve defects or the health or life of the mother or cases of rape and incest or underaged pregnancy. Only five women by the way hold Senate seats. And all of the women opposed this bill and they held it up last time. They say they plan to do it again.


SANDY SENN (R-SC), STATE SENATOR: This going to be the fourth time our body has taken up an abortion bill since September. There are many things that we need to do in our state. Instead, the overwhelmingly white male Republican majority is going to focus again and again on abortion.


SIDNER: Now if this bill does pass, South Carolina is going to join almost every other state in the south besides Virginia with very strict abortion bans.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Sara.

In North Carolina, Republican state lawmakers are bigfooting the Democratic governor, voting this week to override his veto on the ban of most abortions after 12 weeks.

A few exceptions in the ban include the cases of rape and incest and life limiting anomalies as the bill is written. It is also making it harder to get a medication abortion, which makes up more than half of the abortions nationwide. All of this is going to go into effect July 1st.

Joining us is governor Roy Cooper. After the override was announced, you statement afterward was that you

were going to continue to do everything that you can to protect abortion access in the state.

What can you do, Governor?

GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): We are going to work every single day to make sure that women have as much access as possible in the law. A majority of the North Carolinians do not want right wing politicians in the exam room with women and their doctors.

People are angry and women feel like they have been slapped in the face. All we needed was one Republican to keep a campaign promise, one Republican to have the courage to stand up and not a single one of them did it.

But one thing that we did do is that we brought forth the information about this bill during the period of time right before I vetoed it. They rushed this thing through in 42 hours with no amendments allowed, with no public input.

And consequentially, this legislation was confusing and complicated and contradictory. And during this period of time, we put them on the defensive so much, that a lot of the Republican leaders began arguing that the legislation was less restrictive than we had warned.

So we are going to work really hard over the next few weeks, to make sure that it comes true, that the statements come true. It is really important for women to have as much access as possible. There is a lot of room in the legislation for interpretation.


COOPER: When you write something, you don't get the medical providers provide input, don't allow amendments and you do it in less than 48 hours, you know, you are not going to get a good product and that is where we are.

BOLDUAN: You have been a major figure in politics in North Carolina for decades, as a local news reporter in Raleigh and Durham, I covered you as attorney general. And right now, polling shows that a majority of North Carolinians do not want more restrictions on abortion.

If that is the case, do you see this as a political failure for you?

COOPER: Well, this is a result of the super partisan gerrymandering. In North Carolina, we had a court last year that ruled that partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional and the legislature had to redraw maps. And we sent a bipartisan group to Congress.

The new Republican Supreme Court has overturned that. So we have a legislature that doesn't reflect the people. We are a 50-50 purple state. But with the gerrymandering, we have a supermajority.

We've had enough Democrats to uphold my vetoes. But because we had one Democrat switch to Republican, they now have supermajority by one vote. But we have pulled Republicans to expand Medicaid, to improve clean energy legislation.

We're going to keep working because we know the people of North Carolina are behind our public schools, want women to have health care and don't want restrictions on the voting. And we are not finished. I will never ever back down when it comes to women's health. And I think that is what the people of North Carolina want me to do.

BOLDUAN: That is why I am curious on your perspective of this and from what you experienced, what is the fight over abortion access going to mean for Democrats and Republicans nationwide moving into 2024?

COOPER: The Republicans passed this so fast and under lock and key and gave only 42 hours to introduce it and pass it, because they did not want to light a fire under Democrats and the independents. They knew it was something that the majority of the North Carolinians did not want.

Too late. That fire is blazing. Thousands came out for a rally as I vetoed this legislation. The people are making their voices heard now. The legislature did not give them any time at all to make their voices heard. Now they will. And they will in the ballot box in 2024 as every legislative seat is up.

There will be a new governor because I am term limited and I have a little more than a year and half to serve as governor. I believe they will go for President Biden and put emphasis on the state. And the women's reproductive rights are on the line.

And the legislators have done this 12-week ban but they have forecasted more is to come and some of the states around us have ways to make it worse. So people are going to rise up and say, we have had enough of this.

And I think we will have a successful 2024, because people care about this issue deeply and they have made their voices heard and this legislature ignored them.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Governor Cooper. I look forward to hearing what your plans are when your term ends. Thank you, Governor.

SIDNER: And now to a technological ban. Montana just became the first state to ban TikTok from everyone.

How does that work?

Also if you are going to the gym today, think twice when deciding what to wear. The toxic chemical found in a growing number of sports bras, leggings and other athletic wear.




(MUSIC PLAYING) BERMAN: The first state in the country to ban TikTok. The governor of

Montana signed a new law taking on the social media app and others over what he is calling national security concerns. The law is going to block the app from operating within the state lines as of January. CNN's Brian Fung is here.

Brian, what does that mean?

Will your phone explode when you cross the Montana border?

Will TikTok not work when you cross state lines?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, that is a really great question and a lot of it is still unclear.