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Mar-a-Lago Pool Flood Raises Suspicion in Documents Probe; Ukraine Blames Russia for Destroying Major Dam; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Threatens Wray with Contempt, Even After Oversight Leadership Viewed Biden Doc. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 10:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, was it intentional or maybe a mistake? CNN has learned that an employee at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence drained a swimming pool back in October, which ended up flooding a room where surveillance videos were stored on computer servers. This happened roughly two months after FBI agents found hundreds of classified documents there.

All of this comes as the special counsel's investigation into former President Trump's handling of classified documents. It appears to be nearing its final stages. So, with us now is former Federal Prosecutor Danya Perry, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

I want to talk about this pool, the draining of the pool. The timing, notable, right, two months after all those documents were handed over. For it to be more than notable, for it to carry criminal liability, what would prosecutors have to prove?

DANYA PERRY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: They would have to prove intentionality. They would have to prove that either the pool boy or maybe his superior told him or were aware that surveillance video was being requested by investigators and prosecutors and that they knowingly drained the pool in order to essentially destroy the equipment.

That's what they would have to prove. They would have to show that it was not coincidence, that it was not an accident, that it was, in fact, knowing and willful.

BERMAN: Someone meant to damage that room by draining the pool.

PERRY: Exactly.

BERMAN: So, prosecutors or investigators have taken the cell phone from this maintenance person. Explain the significance there.

PERRY: Look, there's no doubt that the prosecutors are zeroing in, not just on Trump himself, but on some of the workers, some of his aides, and some of the equipment managers at Mar-a-Lago. And, clearly, they are looking for anything they can find any paper trail, so any text messages, any direction to this maintenance worker to say, hey, let's drain the pool today and see where that goes.

I mean, they're also looking back in time. Has this ever been drained before? Were there ever problems before? So, they're looking at all angles, but, usually, there's a paper trail with something like this or often.

BERMAN: That type of person, that level of employee, why is someone like a maintenance worker sometimes an attractive witness during an investigation?

PERRY: Yes, that's like the pick of the litter. That's what prosecutors like to pick, the low-hanging fruit, the lowest level people within a conspiracy and cooperate them up. They don't like, they never really cooperate down. So, they're looking for the pool guy to say, hey, who told you to do this, if anyone? And maybe he'll implicate someone and that person will implicate someone and will go up the chain that way.

BERMAN: So, biggest picture now, we said an investigation that appears to be drawing to a close. Why is it that that is now being said with a certain level of confidence? What are the signs that are out there that point to that?

PERRY: There are a couple of breadcrumbs out there that we're picking up in news reports, including that also yesterday we learned that Trump's lawyers came in for what's called a pitch meeting, essentially, with the Department of Justice and the special counsel's office to essentially plead their case for why it is that Trump should not be indicted.

I'm actually very curious to hear because we've heard scattershot defenses, some of which are internally inconsistent, but they have put their best foot forward in that two-hour meeting just yesterday. And that usually does come at the very end when they believe with near certainty or certainty that charges will, in fact, be brought.


BERMAN: Well, I was going to ask two things. Number one, generally speaking, those meetings come at the end. Question two, does that meeting ever work? Does that pitch meeting ever work? Do you ever talk a prosecutor out of pressing charges if they're already convinced?

PERRY: I sat on the committee at the Southern District of New York that often heard these pitches, and it did happen, absolutely did happen. I think at this level, though, with this case, I think it's highly, highly unlikely. The prosecutors here have been doing an exhaustive job for a very long time at a very, very high level. They have scorched the earth. They have talked to nearly every person, according to reports, at Mar-a-Lago, for example. They have seized phones. They really have left no stone unturned. So, it would be surprising if Trump's lawyers came in at the last minute with some Hail Mary and a defense that actually moved the prosecutors with some argument, perhaps, that they hadn't thought of. BERMAN: Danya Perry, great to see you. Thank you so much for helping us understand all the signs, all the things that are going on here. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Evacuations now underway in Southern Ukraine after a critical dam was destroyed on the Dnipro River, which separates Russian and Ukrainian-held territories. The video that you're showing will see that water there that goes straight up in the air, it spouts into the air. That is the moment when the dam was breached. Ukrainian officials are accusing Russian forces of destroying the dam, saying that they are trying to create obstacles for any Kyiv offensive. Russia is rejecting those accusations.

Floodwaters have already reached roads and neighborhoods down river in Kherson. Hundreds of people have now been evacuated.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is joining us now. You're at the point where sort of at the wall for us there to show us where all this is happening, what the significance of this is.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Sara. You can see here the Nova Khakovka dam. It is right bang on the frontline. This is Russian- controlled territory here in the red, Ukrainian over that side. Both sides are blaming each other, as you say. Ukraine is calling this a terrorist attack by Russia eco side, and said another official, a reference to the potential environmental damage there. The foreign minister is calling this a long planned terror attack. And they have now called a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

But while we don't have any evidence yet presented by either decide as to why this happened, what is clear, and you can see the danger zone here, is that this is affecting both sides of that river, the Dnipro River. We're hearing flooding reports in the town of Nova Khakovka, where the hydroelectric dam here is. We're hearing reports down in Kherson City, which is controlled by Ukraine. It is becoming more and more widespread. The Interior Ministry says 24 settlements have now been affected, over 1,000 people evacuated. So, we don't know yet the extent of this damage. We're hearing that the water levels are still rising, Sara.

SIDNER: Wow. The pictures are incredible. And now you're saying 1,000 people, was 800 earlier this morning. So, I appreciate that update for you there. Thank you, Clare Sebastian there for us. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he is threatening to hold the FBI director in contempt. This is all over a classified document that the FBI brought to the Capitol yesterday. Republicans say that the document details an unverified allegation that Joe Biden was involved in a bribery scheme during his time serving as vice president. The FBI shared the document with the top Republican and Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, but Republicans say that is not enough. Listen to this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): He doesn't allow every member in the committee to see the documents. They have -- we have jurisdiction. They have the right to see it. You're not going to pick one or two people, we'll contempt.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you're moving -- you bring it to the floor?


RAJU: How quickly will you do that?

MCCARTHY: I'll bring it -- they'll mark it up in committee and then we'll bring it to the floor.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Alayna Treene is following this. She's joining me now. So, Republicans want the entire committee, the entire House Oversight Committee, to have access to this document. What more are you picking up about this now?

ALYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, I mean, this is a month's long effort that Republicans have really pushed for to get their hands on this document. And it's all part of their investigation into the Biden family's business dealings. And they allege that this document shows that while President Joe Biden was vice president that he might have engaged in a bribery scheme.

Now, one of the striking things to come out of this briefing yesterday was that James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said that the allegations in this document are part of an ongoing investigation that's tied to Hunter Biden. The top Democrat on the committee, however, Jamie Raskin said that while the Justice Department and the attorney general then, Bill Barr, under the Trump administration, they looked into these allegations and they found that there was no corroborating evidence and no facts to corroborate this, and they basically moved on. And so it's really interesting to see how the two sides kind of have different narratives over what this document entails.


And I'll also just add that the FBI is saying that, look, this is an uncorroborated document. The allegations in it are unverified and it contains essentially raw intelligence. And that's something that really they don't want to put out there. It's not in their nature to publicize these types of documents, and they also don't want it to give it to the committee and have it potentially copies of it sent around Congress.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, considering how leaky Congress is, it's not an unfounded concern, of course, as you very well know, and covered Congress for so long. What would a contempt vote mean for the FBI director?

TREENE: Well, it's really interesting. If the committee moves forward with contempt, they're planning to do that on Thursday, begin contempt proceedings against the FBI director, Christopher Wray. If that passes through the committee, which it is expected to do, Kevin McCarthy has said that he will bring it for a full House vote on the floor, and that would likely happen next week. And if they succeed in that, it would be the first time that an FBI director was held in contempt.

Now, I will say the top Democrat, Jamie Raskin, has said that he wants to try and convince as many Republicans as he can to vote against this. He also called it a war on law enforcement that Republicans are engaging in. Let's listen to what he had to say.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Any Republican who describes himself or herself as pro law enforcement will be in a very strange position to be holding the FBI director in contempt for doing his job. It's part of a war on law enforcement that the GOP is engaged in. And I think it's sad it's all for the benefit of one guy.


TREENE: So, Kate, this is all, again, heading to proceedings that will begin on Thursday. And I will just add as well, the FBI is saying that they believe that they have complied with this subpoena and that contempt is unnecessary. They have allowed the top members of this committee to review the document in a secure setting. They also gave them a briefing on the materials, but Republicans say it's not enough. And they are pushing forward withholding the FBI director in contempt.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's see what happens Thursday. Alayna, thank you. Sara?

SIDNER: It's Prince Harry. Under cross examination this morning inside a London courtroom as parts of Britain's press go on trial.

Arizona officials stopping all new construction in Phoenix because of a worsening water crisis. Coming up, we'll talk with the Phoenix mayor about the measures and what they mean for the future of her city.

And also, a ten-year-old in a stolen car led state troopers on a high speed chase. You're seeing it there in Michigan. Coming up, why investigators say he jumped behind the wheel in the first place.



SIDNER: Stories on our radar this morning, jury selection begins today in the federal rape trial for actor Cuba Gooding Jr. The woman identified only as Jane Doe claims Gooding raped her twice inside a New York hotel in 2013. He has pleaded not guilty.

This morning, Atlanta City Council voted to approve public funding for the controversial police training facility dubbed Cop City. The vote came after hours of public comment. The project has faced strong opposition from protesters over environmental and social justice concerns. The city is providing $31 million towards the development.

Police in Michigan have arrested a ten-year-old who led them on a car chase. Investigators say the boy claims he stole the vehicle because he wanted to visit his mom. State troopers attempted to pull over the car in the highway, but he wouldn't stop. Eventually, authorities used the OnStar system to disable his vehicle. Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's wild. Thank goodness he wasn't hurt. Nobody else was hurt in the midst of all of that.

Let's turn to this, this morning. The FTC reports complaints over text message scams outnumber all other types of fraud complaints right now. And the FCC says it received more than 18,000 complaints about spam messages last year. That's six times what they have received years prior.

The agency took action earlier this year in putting out new rules in March requiring carriers to block text messages from illegitimate numbers. But we all know how well that seems to be working for all of us.

CNN's Brian Fung has much more on it. He's joining us now. Brian, what more can you tell us about this? What are you learning?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Yes, Kate. The message is text message scams are on the rise. And the Federal Trade Commission's statistics show from last year that these text messages, complaints about text message scams outnumber those from email, phone scams and even social media scams. So, this is just giving you a sense of how big a deal this is.

Now, what do these texts actually look like? Well, often they pose as delivery people or as banks or even government agencies. And that can be really problematic because the links that are in these texts are really easy to click on if you are duped into thinking that this is, you know, the IRS coming after you for some payment or whatnot.

The scale of this is just massive, Kate. We're talking about 225 billion spam tax sent in just the last year alone, according to some estimates. That's 150 percent more than the year prior. We're seeing that those same estimates saying that more than $20 billion may have been lost due to these fraudsters and scams in the past year. And this is expected to grow as the FCC and FTC try to crack down on this massive threat.

BOLDUAN: The estimated losses in just 2022, it's bonkers and eye- popping and so frustrating to even see how much has been lost just through these scams.


What can consumers do? I mean, I get text messages from Amazon, it seems, and they definitely are these kind of scam robo, whatever we call them, text messages all the time. So, what can people do?

FUNG: Yes. The government, it says there are three main things they can do. One, most phones come with features that allow you to filter or block some of these types of messages. Two, you can also install call or text blocking apps that are on the market, and the Federal Trade Commission and its website has information on that. And then, third, most importantly, the FTC recommends that you report some of these text messages to the FTC on its website so that the government can have a better sense of the scale of this problem and combat it. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's actually a good point. We might not even have a full read on the full scale and scope of this. That's just what's been reported and complained about so far. It's great to see you. Thanks for bringing this to us, Brian. John?

BERMAN: All right, Kate. We have breaking news, major breaking news in the world of sports. An announcement that the PGA Tour is merging with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour. You heard that right. I'm holding a statement that says they're forming a new, collectively owned for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game's best players. The PGA Tour merging with LIV Golf. There is sure to be dramatic reaction to this. Much more straight ahead.



BERMAN: All right. The major breaking news from the world of sports, the PGA Tour is merging commercial operations and rights with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour. Effectively, the PGA Tour is merging with the LIV Golf Tour.

CNN's Don Riddell is here with us this morning. And, Don, I just want to remind people the two sort of separate issues involved here. Number one, there were people upset within the PGA Tour that LIV was basically moving in on their long legacy in the territory traditionally held by the PGA. Then sort of separate from that were those who said that the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour, backed by the Saudis, who many hold responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, that this was a form of sports watching, that the athletes involved covering up some of the atrocities that had been blamed by some on the regime. So, how did this all come together and what does it mean?

DON RIDDELL, CNN ANCHOR AND SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, to be honest, this only broke about 15, 20 minutes ago, John, and we're all still trying to sort of process and digest it, but it feels as though it's come completely out of the blue. It did not seem as though we were heading to this point. Golf, professional men's golf has been in a state of civil war, really, for the last year, so controversial, the emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV Tour.

The players, the rebel players who kind of left to join it late last year, their careers were completely upended by this. They were roundly criticized. They were ostracized in some ways. European players were taken off the Ryder Cup, which is going to be played later this year. The Ryder Cup team of Europe even changed their captain because Henrik Stenson had gone to the LIV Tour.

And now we have this situation where the D.P. World Tour, which is formerly known as the European Tour, the PGA Tour in the States, and the LIV Tour are now merging. It puts an end to all pending litigation. It was getting pretty unpleasant with these players and tours all suing each other. I'm learning that it means that at the end of this season, the 2023 season, players will be able to reapply to join the PGA Tour or the European Tour, because as soon as they hit their first ball in a LIV tournament, they were suspended from the tours that they'd grown up on.

So, this now means, I suppose, that they can rejoin these tours. Some might say that the LIV players are going to end up having the last laugh here, because some of them were paid millions, if not tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to join the LIV Tour. And now they can come back to their original tours anyway.

So, so much to kind of work through here and make sense of, I'm sure there's going to be a lot of response and comment about this, especially with the next major tournament coming up in L.A. next week, the U.S. Open.

BERMAN: Yes, Don, I was going to say, and thank you for pointing it out, and, again, we still don't know the details here, and those are going to be important. But for those players who went and joined the LIV Tour and were criticized, a lot of them got paid a ton of money. I mean, Phil Mickelson among them, perhaps the lead American -- there's a picture of Greg Norman up here, the Australian golfer right there. But these are golfers who were criticized for this move, but it does seem as if they're getting the last laugh.

RIDDELL: Yes, it's hard to see it any other way at this point. Not only were they paid a ton of money to break away and join the tour, but then once on the tour, they were earning $4 million for winning a tournament, a tournament that only lasted three rounds without a cut. Yes, it seems as though they're going to have the last laugh here.


Phil Mickelson has just tweeted just three words, I believe, awesome day today.