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Official: One Thousand Houses Flooded After Dam Breach; Conservative Group Seek Harry's Visa Records; Suspect Charged With Sexually Assaulting Four Women In Boston Pleads Not Guilty. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Water rising as a critical dam collapses in Ukraine. Kyiv and Moscow blaming each other for the breach. And now, a wave of evacuations is underway with residents being told to do everything you can to save your life.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: From cold cases to a suspect charge. How investigators used a drinking glass to zero in on a man they say sexually assaulted four women more than 10 years ago? That story and many more, all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SANCHEZ: We begin with a major dam breach in Ukraine. You can see water gushing through the dam, which is in a critical spot on the Dnipro River and on the front lines of the war. Officials confirmed just moments ago that more than a thousand homes in the region have been flooded. One Ukrainian official is also saying 16,000 people on the west bank of the river are in a critical zone. Russia on the other hand is telling residents that there is no threat in the area.

New satellite photos show the dam has just been damaged days before the breach. These pictures actually show the road that ran across the dam and it was fully intact on May 28. But this image from yesterday, shows part of that road now missing. Accusations are flying over who bears the blame. Ukraine says it was blown up by Russian forces in a panic. The Kremlin is saying it's "deliberate sabotage from Ukraine."

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has the details.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After the Nova Kakhovka dam burst, water has been inundating villages around this area. We're in the south of Ukraine in the area around Kherson. And in fact, right now I am in the city of Kherson.

So, as you can see, the water here is not only putting villages in the surrounding area under water, but it's actually also inside the city itself. And one of the things to be aware of is in the very short time that we've been on the ground here, we could see this water already rise considerably. So, what's going on right now is that the water level continues to go up as water is gushing from the Dnipro River here towards this city and towards other cities in the region as well.

Now, we've been in touch with the local security services here. And they're telling us that everybody who works in the city, anybody who has any sort of role is helping to evacuate people from areas like over there. There are still hundreds of people who are trapped in their houses, some of them inside their houses. And everything is being mobilized right now from boats to large trucks to try and get these people out.

And again, hundreds of people have already been brought out but at the same time, this is very much an ongoing operation. The folks here tell us that the operation is going to continue to go on. Now, of course, all of this is a huge issue and also a huge risk not just as far as the environment is concerned, as far as this area is concerned but of course also as far as the safety and security of the population here on the ground is concerned.

The Ukrainians are extremely angry about this. They blame the squarely on the Russians. We've heard that the Russians for their part say that it was the Ukrainians in any case. There are a lot of people here in this city and in the surrounding areas who are suffering a great deal.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kherson, Ukraine.


KEILAR: We're also following a major development in U.S.-China relations today. CNN has learned that the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is expected to visit China here in the coming weeks. It's a visit that comes after a sharp rise in tensions between the two countries following that suspected high-altitude Chinese spy balloon. China just recently snubbed the U.S. request for high-level meetings.

CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is with us now on this story. So, Alex, what changed to prompt this?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is pretty remarkable. I mean, you're absolutely right that on the military front, China had declined a meeting between the chiefs of the Defense Ministry. So, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had asked to meet with his counterpart in Singapore over the weekend, the Chinese said no, there was a handshake between the two men that did represent really the tension that we've seen between the two countries.

This, Brianna, is on the diplomatic front, of course. And to some extent, you can compartmentalize these things. The last diplomatic meeting that was planned for Secretary Blinken came after the two presidents met at the G7 last fall, but was canceled because the spy balloon was crossing the country.

But there has been -- there has been contact. And that is -- that is crucial at a moment like this to have this kind of contact between the highest levels of the Washington and Beijing governments. We saw the National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, he went to Vienna to meet with a counterpart last month. The director of the CIA, Bill Burns, he went to Beijing itself to meet with counterparts as well. [14:05:10]

So, some of these conversations have continued but on specific areas like Burns was very specifically speaking about intelligence matters. One element that certainly contributed to this news now that Blinken will be going to Beijing is two very senior officials from the National Security Council and from the State Department that the senior most officials who handle the China portfolios did go to Beijing yesterday. They had what both China and the U.S. called candid and productive discussions.

So, now, we have learned that Blinken will be going to Beijing in the coming weeks. That is something that is certain -- that is still being worked out. The State Department has not yet officially announced it, but that is what is expected.

KEILAR: They've been working their way up to this a little bit here. But these pictures that we're looking at, this, of course, is the close call between U.S. and Chinese warships in the Taiwan Strait. You recently had that interaction between a Chinese jet and the American reconnaissance plane. This is the backdrop for this meeting. I wonder how they'll deal with those kinds of things.

MARQUARDT: It really is. And this is -- you know, this plays into specifically the low -- the military relationship and how badly that is going between the two countries. This is part of what the White House just yesterday called unacceptable growing aggression by the Chinese.

And just the past week, we've had these two incidents where a Chinese warship cut across in front of a U.S. Navy destroyer that was transiting with the U.S. called it a routine transit of the Taiwan Strait. And that just came days after a Chinese fighter jet, that one right there, crossed in front of a U.S. surveillance plane RC-135 causing major turbulence there in the cockpit. So, the White House calling this growing aggression, but at the same time, the U.S. saying that these lines of communication do need to stay open.

KEILAR: Yes. They -- it's a sign they do, right as we watch this really alarming video. Alex, thank you for the report. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Happening right now. President Biden is meeting with his cabinet at the White House. It's the first time he's gathered his top lieutenants since he announced that he was running for reelection. And the meeting comes just days after Congress passed a bipartisan bill to avert a catastrophic default.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us. Jeremy, what is going to be the focus of this meeting?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Boris. When President Biden was watching the Senate vote late last week on that debt ceiling bill, he walked into his Chief of Staff's office, he asked him first about the Democratic vote count on that bill, and then he turned to his chief of staff and he talked to him about their next task at hand, which is implementing those bipartisan -- some of those bipartisan pieces of legislation that he passed in his first two years in office. And so, this cabinet meeting that the president is having, the first one since January, really marks a sort of reset for this White House.

A White House that has been engulfed over the last month in these debt ceiling negotiations. And for weeks before then, much of the public messaging was also prepared on laying the groundwork for the potential for those negotiations. And so, I think today, you're going to hear President Biden talk about what he hopes to accomplish in the remaining time that he has in this term in office.

And that is very much focused on that implementation agenda, implementing the infrastructure law, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act with so many of those climate change provisions included there. I expect that he will also talk about the fact that that debt ceiling deal very much protected those provisions which Republicans had sought to put on the table to get eliminated as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling and attempts that the White House ultimately rebuffed. It also comes as the White House today, Boris, launched a new website that is designed to track the various public sector and private sector investments spurred on by those various laws, but very much an opportunity for this White House to look forward to what is to come.

And to the fact that that debt ceiling deal not only removed the threat of another debt ceiling standoff during the rest of President Biden's term in office, it also disincentivized the possibility of a government shutdown giving, as the White House Chief of Staff told me last week a clear runway for this administration to focus on its economic messaging, to focus on its implementation efforts in the rest of President Biden's term in office, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, to promote what it has accomplished as the president gets ready for the campaign trail once more. Jeremy Diamond from the White House, thank you so much. Brianna?

KEILAR: Still to come. While Prince Harry is in London testifying today in a phone hacking case, back in the U.S., there is a hearing this hour about a conservative group looking into his visa after he admitted using drugs in his memoir. Also ahead, a CNN exclusive. Prosecutor suspicions were raised after a Mar-a-Lago employee drained the pool back in October and it flooded the room where surveillance video logs and servers were kept.

And then later, police arrest a man for alleged sexual assaults for more than a decade ago after getting his DNA from a glass and utensils that he used at a corporate event. You're watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: Prince Harry is potentially facing some spare trouble. In just moments, an American courtroom is going to hold a hearing about the British Royal. A federal judge is going to hear an argument from the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, to unseal Harry's U.S. immigration records. Heritage is wondering how the prince was granted a U.S. visa when his recent blockbuster memoir, Spare, revealed past drug use, which can be grounds to reject an application.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is outside the DC District Court. So, Jessica, The Heritage Foundation first went directly to Homeland Security for these records. Walk us through what happened from there.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Boris, DHS denied Heritage Foundation's request to get these immigration records from Prince Harry. DHS saying that they needed the consent of Prince Harry to actually release his personal records. So, today, the Heritage Foundation is going before the federal judge inside this courthouse to ask the judge to compel DHS to release these records regardless, in an expedited fashion because Heritage Foundation is arguing here that since Prince Harry has repeatedly admitting to -- admitted to past drug use, that there were grounds that maybe DHS should not have granted his visa application because U.S. immigration law does say that past drug use when someone admits it, can be grounds for denying a visa application.


So, here's what Heritage Foundation has argued in some court filings, saying this. Widespread and continuous media coverage has surfaced the question of whether DHS properly admitted the Duke of Sussex in light of the fact that he has publicly admitted to the essential elements of a number of drug offenses in both the U.S. and abroad. United States law generally renders such a person inadmissible for entry to the United States.

Now, the Heritage Foundation in their filings, they've repeatedly pointed to many of Prince Harry's admissions throughout his memoir, Spare. They pointed in part to this admission by Prince Harry saying of course, I had been doing cocaine around this time, during his teenage years, at someone's country house during a shooting weekend, I'd been offered a line and I've done a few more since. It wasn't much fun, and it didn't make me particularly happy.

So, this hearing is basically just about whether DHS can be compelled to produce those immigration records that they are arguing are of a strictly personal nature that they cannot release without Prince Harry's consent. Now, the judge here will have to decide what to do here. This is Judge Carl Nichols. He was appointed to the bench in 2019 by President Trump.

I will note, Boris, that it is extremely rare for a federal judge to step into a case like this. This is a case involving the Freedom of Information Act. And The Heritage Foundation is really asking the judge to step in at a very early point here when DHS is saying, look, we're still working through this and it needs to go through its normal course before a judge orders any release of any personal information here, especially belonging to Prince Harry, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Such a fascinating story, and perhaps a reason to not put that in your memoir or to not write a memoir at all. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that. Brianna.

KEILAR: Was it on purpose or was it a mistake? Sources tell CNN that a flood at Mar-a-Lago is raising suspicions in the Trump classified documents probe. We're told a maintenance worker drained a swimming pool in October and ended up flooding a room where surveillance videos were stored.

It happened roughly two months after the FBI searched the former president's Florida Resort and found hundreds of classified documents. And it was the same maintenance worker who was seen on security footage moving boxes before the FBI search.

CNN's Paul Reid is joining us now on this story. Have they spoken to this maintenance worker? Have they been able to get the story from this person?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: So, we know that they have interviewed the maintenance worker and they've interviewed a lot of other witnesses. They have a lot of questions about surveillance footage, which is why this story that wouldn't be that unusual, right? Draining a pool at a beachside resort takes on a new significant. The question is whether anyone has tried to prevent investigators from being able to get all the surveillance video.

Now, in terms of this pool incident, it's not clear if this was intentional, that this flooded the area where there was surveillance footage, and it doesn't appear that the surveillance footage was damaged. But it's one of a series of incidents that investigators are looking at to try to determine if there was a conscious effort or if there was an intention to try to interfere with their investigation. We know that they have brought many witnesses before the grand jury to try to confirm whether they have all their surveillance footage. If there are any gaps, or again, if anyone tried to prevent them from obtaining all the evidence that they're seeking.

KEILAR: So far, it hasn't led to any idea that it has destroyed any evidence, right?

REID: Exactly. At this point, it's just a question. You know, it's an unusual incident that investigators want to look more closely at because they're seeing it in the full context of this investigation where surveillance footage has been so key, right?

Because we know Walt Nauta, an aide to former President Trump was seen on the surveillance footage moving boxes in and out of a storage facility. Those boxes we later learned, contain some classified materials. So, one of the questions they're looking at is, well, why did you do that? Did someone tell you to do that?

And as they're asking all these questions if there are then other concerns about the surveillance footage that they've been watching, do they have at all, was there any effort to destroy it? Somebody, they just want to take a closer look at an incident like this and say, look, was there any intention to prevent us from getting this evidence? Because it's not only looking at the possible mishandling of classified documents, possibly retaining Defense Information, but also, was there any effort to get in the way of answering this question?

KEILAR: Yes, lots of questions remaining. Paul Reid, thank you. Boris?

SANCHEZ: When we come back, it's been the focus of violent protests. But Atlanta city council just approved tens of millions of dollars in public funding for what critics are calling cop city. That story is straight ahead.

And we're learning more about who was on board that private plane that crashed in Virginia, as sources tell CNN that the pilot was slumped over in the cockpit as it flew. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: Now, to a stunning case out of Boston. Prosecutors charging a man with a series of sexual assaults that happened more than a decade ago. Matthew Nilo is accused of attacking four women between 2007 and 2008. In court on Monday, he pleaded not guilty to the multiple rape and kidnapping charges against him.

CNN's Jean Casarez has been looking into this case. And, Jean, 15 years is a long time. How did the police track this suspect down?


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forensic science, genetic genealogy, which is at the forefront right now of solving so many cases, and also preventing even more things from happening. But what prosecutors allege in this complaint is that between those years of 2007 and 2008, that they had someone who was committing rapes. And there was a pattern, they said.

And so they looked at the victims, and they looked to see exactly what the similarities were. Terminal Street in Boston was a major similarity. And it was a pattern.

The first victim -- I'll say alleged victim because we haven't gotten in court yet but she is a victim. She was with her girlfriend and then one night she would -- she said, you know, I got to try to find my car. So, she went around the downtown area to look for a car.

She thought she recognized this guy in a car and he said, look, I can help you find your car, she gets in the car. He drives into Terminal Street, says I have a weapon, I'm going to kill you, get out of the car. And According to prosecutors, he raped her.

The second girl thought she was getting into a taxi. He took her to Terminal Street where he allegedly raped her. And then the third girl, a panhandler. She wanted some money, according to prosecutors, and he offered money if she would just get in the car, took her to an area, Terminal Street, and raped her.

The fourth was a little different. This is someone who was jogging, had a bear hug from the back, and then the perpetrator started to try to sexually assault her and rape her. She had gloves on, she took her gloves and poked him through his eyes and he ran away.

Well, all of them had sexual assault rape kits done at the hospital. Every single one of them. And though -- three of them came with the same unknown male DNA profile. But they didn't know who it was.

The first one was a little inconclusive at the time. Last year is when they started doing further testing, and that further testing through genetic genealogy found that it was consistent with Matthew Nilo, a New Jersey man who is an attorney -- has been an attorney in a firm in New York City.

SANCHEZ: A fascinating development in the way that they were able to locate him. Jean Casarez, thank you so much for that.

Let's bring in CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell because prosecutors, Josh, they say that authorities put Nilo under surveillance going back to last year. So, walk us through the process of collecting DNA to be able to present in court in a situation like this.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris. This is an incredible technology that has really revolutionized the way police solve cold cases. And that is because someone who commits a brutal crime like a sexual assault often leaves behind some trace of DNA. But authorities have to have something to compare it to it.

There's not a known offender, you know, in the police databases. They have to look outward. And what they've done in recent -- in recent decade is look at these online genealogy websites, you know.

You're out there, you're looking for a long-lost relative, maybe you go to this website, submit your DNA, they make those connections. That has also proven a goldmine for law enforcement. And the way the process works, you know, DNA, the building blocks of life, we share about 50 percent DNA with our parents, about the same number with our siblings, so it doesn't have to be the suspect him or herself uploading this DNA material, the police tried to make these family connections.

And what they do, if they see a potential match, they'll start looking at that person who submitted the DNA trying to determine who are the relatives, where does this -- where do they live? Do they live near where the assault took place? Do they know potentially the victims here?

And then that moves to the next step that good old-fashioned police work once you identify a target. In this case, what we're told is that undercover FBI agents were surveilling this suspect at a corporate event. They saw him using utensils. They saw him taking a drink out of a glass.

As soon as he leaves, the agent swoop in. They grab that material. They do the testing. They're able to compare -- make that match, as they say. They believe that this is their suspect based on that technology. Truly, truly incredible that we've seen so many of these cold cases being solved just this way. SANCHEZ: And what a powerful tool for law enforcement. Josh, I'm wondering if there's been any public blowback for the use of that kind of system to catch these suspects.

CAMPBELL: There certainly has. I mean, there's this question about privacy. Now, many of these online websites will allow you to opt out of allowing law enforcement to search your information.

But groups like the American Civil Liberties Union say that there has to be greater oversight here that police should have to get a warrant before they go and search this material. There's also a question about how authorities actually collect the sample from the suspect. Now, in this case, he was at a public you know, corporate event.

And so, the question comes down to do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The FBI can't just walk in your door and grab a glass off your -- you know, your cabinet. So, the question comes down to would any reasonable person has privacy in this situation.

But there are a lot of questions because obviously, consumer privacy is something that these websites take very seriously. Some of them try not to cooperate with law enforcement, but some of the major ones still do.