Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Russian Officials Requested Second Convict In Response To U.S. Prisoner Swap; At Least 16 Dead In Kentucky Floods, Death Toll Expected To Rise; Pelosi Leaving Today For Asia, But Taiwan Stop Still Uncertain; $1.28 Billion Dollar Lottery Jackpot Drawing Tonight; Kushner Details West Wing "War" With "Toxic" Bannon In New Book. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 29, 2022 - 15:00   ET





ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.


We begin with Breaking News. CNN has exclusively learned that Russia responded to the prisoner swap offer for the release of two Americans in Russian prisons. Sources say now that Russia requested a colonel convicted of murder and in German custody be added along with this infamous arms dealer in exchange for former NBA - for NBA star - WNBA star Brittney Griner and business Paul Whelan.

CAMEROTA: We have a team of correspondents covering these breaking developments. Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow for us. But let's start with Natasha Bertrand who is breaking this exclusive. Natasha, what have you learned?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Alisyn. So what we've learned is that in response to the Russian proposal to trade that arms dealer Viktor Bout for the two Americans detained in Russia; Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. The Russians actually put forward their own request and they said, well, we don't want just Viktor Bout. We also want this guy named Vadim Krasikov, who was convicted in Germany in just last year, about seven months ago, in December of 2021, for murdering in broad daylight, a Chechen fighter and the Germans sentenced him to life in prison.

So the Russians, in response to this proposal submitted this kind of back channel request to the Americans. It was done through an FSB back channel. The FSB, of course, is the main security service for the Russians. And through this back channel, it was very informal, they said that they wanted this person to be included in the swap along with Viktor Bout.

Now, the U.S. did not take this request very seriously. It was very problematic for a number of reasons. Chief among them is that this guy, Krasikov, he is still in German custody. So the United States would in fact have to then use its influence to try to get him released from German custody to include him in this prisoner swap. But other than that, it just - it was not viewed by the U.S. to be a serious counterproposal to what the U.S. had said is a very substantive proposal, which is to trade Bout for these two Americans.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the Russians have put forward or will put forward any other requests, but this just shows, this underscores that the Russians did, in fact, engage with the U.S.' proposal. Now, whether or not the Americans view that as substantive, that's another question.

BLACKWELL: Fred, you share in the byline on this exclusive reporting the U.S. says that it's not a serious proposal, has it even gone far enough that Germany has responded?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Germans certainly did, at least, deal with it to a certain extent. And I think one of the things that shows just how serious the administration (inaudible) about trying to get this prisoner swap to happen about trying to get a Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan out of Russian custody is that there were quiet inquiries by the U.S. to the German government. We have that from a senior German government sourcing. This was on a fairly low level and the Germans also never really believed that it was a real, strong proposal or want to be taken seriously. It was merely an inquiry would the Germans possibly be willing to consider that.

Now, the Germans say that they never really talked about this proposal on a higher level, it never reached the top levels of German government. But certainly they did receive inquiries from the U.S. about Krasikov. However, he is a very, very important prisoner to the Germans. And again, it was something that wasn't broadly discussed in the German government. However, the U.S. did make that inquiry, Victor.

CAMEROTA: Fred, tell us more about Vadim Krasikov and why he is so important. So he was a colonel and what else?

PLEITGEN: Yes. Well, he was a colonel in the FSB, in the intelligence service of the Russians and he's obviously the one who the German court convicted of killing that former Chechen fighter in Berlin in broad daylight in 2019. And the reason why this is so important for the Germans is because the court in Germany that dealt with this case clearly stated that this was a murder that was called for by the Russian Federation that was organized by Russia's state security services and essentially led by Russia state security service.

It was something that caused a huge spat between the Russian government and the German government. Several Russian diplomats were expelled. And one of the other really things that's really important also is not only that the Germans said, look, this is a complete breach of German sovereignty.

[15:05:01] And just for that reason, obviously, Krasikov is a very important prisoner to the Germans but it also happened right after a change of government in Germany as well. It was when Angela Merkel left office. The conviction was after Angela Merkel left office and then Scholz government came into office. Right after that is when this conviction happened.

And the new German government show that it want to be tougher on Russia, immediately expelled Russian diplomats and so therefore, Krasikov is a very, very important prisoner that the Germans are holding. And certainly there's absolutely no considerations, I'm told, right now in Berlin to release Krasikov.

BLACKWELL: So Natasha, U.S. Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, spoke with his Russian counterpart today. But this was not the vehicle for that offer. How did the Russians responded and asked for this additional trade?

BERTRAND: Correct, Victor. And what we're told is that the Russians communicated this through a back channel. Essentially, FSB officers reached out to the United States through these channels to float the possibility that they would potentially get Krasikov back. They essentially told the United States, look, if you're giving - if you're offering Bout, then we want Krasikov.

And this was not viewed by the U.S. as a serious proposal because, again, it was not proposed at the Lavrov-Blinken level, it was proposed at lower levels. But it did give the U.S. an idea of the kind of proposal and the kind of swap that Russia might be looking for.

And importantly, it also indicated to the United States that Russia might not actually be serious about this swap at all, because it was just not viewed as something that the U.S. and Germany would actually be willing to do. It was viewed more by the U.S. government as an attempt to buy time, as an attempt to stall until the trial of Brittney Griner is over and then the Russians feel that they can come to the table.

So all of this was viewed by the United States really as a game that the Russians were playing. They don't view it as serious. But it remains to be seen, of course, whether the Russians are going to ask for another person in addition to Bout on a more formal level, because, of course, the U.S. is asking for two people of its own back.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Natasha Bertrand, Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much for all of that breaking news.

BLACKWELL: Urgent search and rescue efforts are happening right now across Eastern Kentucky. Historic flooding has left at least 16 people dead, including six children. President Biden issued a major disaster declaration for the state. Entire homes, look at this: buildings, roads swept away. The people who live there are describing terrifying discoveries, 5:00 am knocks on the door turned out to be rocks hitting the house in a mudslide.

CAMEROTA: For some families, overnight, emergency alerts on phones provided just minutes of warning before every last belonging was under water. And the danger is not over, more storms and flooding could be on the way this afternoon and this weekend. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in Hazard, Kentucky for us. Evan, describe what you're seeing.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, you really set this situation up so well, because the eeriest part of a flash flood is that it comes and it goes really fast. So where I'm standing right now in Hazard, Kentucky, you can see behind me there's a roadblock, there's public officials here, they're trying - they're cleaning stuff up, they're putting stuff away.

But they're still worried that there could be more water coming. We've heard emergency broadcasting service alert saying people should prepare for more floods that could come later today. And we've heard more about people who are still trying to be rescued. The governor of Kentucky went on CNN this morning to describe just how intense this set of floods have been in this area.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D) KENTUCKY: We've never seen something like this. Folks who deal with this for a living, have been doing it for 20 years have never seen water this high. Whole roads washed out. We still can't get to a lot of people. Though, there's so much water, the current is so strong. It's not safe for some of the water rescues that we need to do.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So we're standing here on the parking lot of a guy named Clint who has an auto body shop here. He builds those big trucks you go off road with. So he can - he was a great person to talk to describe what it's actually like to go through one of these things.

He was driving through the rain, driving through some of these floods that were coming in and he stopped his truck and tried to move a tree out of the way. And I asked him about what it was like, what happened next, all this mud came out of nowhere, hit his truck. And I asked him what it was like to go through that.


CLINT: A little exciting but at the same time scary. I wheel, I do four wheeling so that was kind of fun getting out of it but when it hit me, I was scared, because it shifted the truck at least five feet almost to the guardrail.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Clint is a guy who knows what he's doing and he's talking about a full size pickup truck being moved five feet by swiftly moving mud.

[15:10:05] This is the kind of thing that rescuers are up against here and the kind of thing that residents are hoping not to see too much more of in the coming days, but for now, they're still dealing with it.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Such a great point, Evan. He does that for a living and he's talked about how tense it was. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you very much.

Let's bring in Robbie Williams. He's the Floyd County, Kentucky Judge- Executive. Robbie, thank you so much for being here. I understand 80 people have been rescued in your county this week, are people still trapped?

ROBBIE WILLIAMS, FLOYD COUNTY, KENTUCKY JUDGE-EXECUTIVE: Well, thanks - first, thanks for having me. No, we do not have folks that are still trapped. We've had 55 swift water rescues on Wednesday - excuse me, that was on - I'm getting my dates correct here, because we've had so many events this week. We had an event on Monday night and then another event on Wednesday night and it looks like it's going to continue on for another week.

But the - on Wednesday, we did have 55 swift water rescues. That was from our local fire departments and rescue squad. They did an excellent job getting folks out. When I arrived on the scene, to be honest, I really thought we was going to have a greater loss of life than what has occurred in the surrounding counties. We've been very fortunate here in Floyd County. We have not had any loss of life. But our neighbors have and we certainly send out our condolences and prayers to those affected areas.

BLACKWELL: You certainly are fortunate there in Floyd County as 16 people now dead across the state. The government expects that number to double. You said that there have been these rescues, but we look at the disaster area, it's so broad that the schools and the community centers where people typically would go have been flooded too, so where are these families that are being rescued? Where are you taking them?

WILLIAMS: Actually here in Floyd County, we have a shelter, a temporary shelter set up at our community center, which is central to the county and it's a good location. So we're bringing folks in there, we're trying to get them a good hot meal. A lot of these folks are arriving with only the clothing on their back. Their lives have been washed away.

So it's a difficult situation, but we're doing what we can. We're resilient here in Eastern Kentucky. We're good hard working folks and we'll pull together and get through this as we always do.

CAMEROTA: And I read that you said that in some ways, it's helpful that it's happening in Floyd County, because everybody knows each other people. Check on their neighbors, they know if somebody is missing and that in this situation is a blessing. The Governor said that he's never seen anything like this. Do you have anything you can compare it to? WILLIAMS: No, I can't. I cannot. Not as far as flooding and I've never seen flooding this level in my - in this area. We had towns that were 10 foot underwater and I've never seen the - this volume of water and it just seems to be getting more and more frequent. The - one of the things here in Eastern Kentucky is we do not have water issues. We have plenty of water and we - but we live in valleys in the mountains and these are narrow valleys and we have to deal with water issues. But I've had never seen volumes of water back there. These were truly historic levels, 500-year flood labels on the information that we're getting from our floodplain administrators.

BLACKWELL: Well, Robbie, we are certainly hoping for some relief for you all soon as we know that there may be some more rain coming. Thank you for your time and, of course, the work you're doing. Robbie Williams, Floyd County.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. I certainly appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Certainly. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaves for a trip to Asia today but still unclear if she's going to Taiwan. China has warned Pelosi against making the possible visit to the self-governing island.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now. Melanie, what did Speaker Pelosi say today about that trip?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, not a whole lot. I mean, Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not confirm any details about her trip or even that she was going, citing security concerns. But she did talk about the importance of maintaining alliances in the region. Take a listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): President earlier - well, earlier in his term talked about a strong emphasis on the Asia Pacific. He has visited there. The Vice President has visited there, the Secretary of Commerce and others, and we want the Congress of the United States to be part of that initiative. I'm very excited, should we go to the countries that we're - you'll be hearing about all along the way.



ZANONA: Now, CNN has confirmed that Pelosi and a group of lawmakers will visit Asia. Some of the stops that are to be included include Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. But as you mentioned, it remains to be seen whether she will indeed visit Taiwan.

The Biden administration has some concerns about how China might respond if Pelosi does visit the island and some officials have been privately working behind the scenes to try to convince the speaker to not go. One thing to keep in mind here though is that Pelosi had China Hawk (ph), this could be her last term in Congress, but we'll just have to see whether she ultimately makes that decision or not. Alisyn? Victor?

CAMEROTA: Okay. Melanie Zanona, thank you for the latest.

Okay. Here's what we've all been thinking about, what would we do if we won the Mega Millions jackpot tonight. One lucky person or group of people could be $1 billion richer tomorrow. So next, we're going to talk to one man who won the Mega Millions a few years ago and how it changed his life.



BLACKWELL: More than a billion dollars on the line tonight, but to win you have to play.

CAMEROTA: Okay, obviously.


CAMEROTA: I've already gotten two tickets. Have you?



BLACKWELL: No, again.

CAMEROTA: Don't bother.


CAMEROTA: Tonight - because I'm obviously winning. Tonight's historic Mega Millions jackpot is now worth $1.28 billion. It's the lottery second largest in its 20 year history.


TONYA NIXON, CHICAGO RESIDENT: I'm not a usual player, but since it was so big, I thought, the - I guess the saying is if you don't play, you can't win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's over a billion dollars. When it crossed that threshold, what was the first thing that went in your mind?

LULA BARNES, CHICAGO RESIDENT: A house. A car. No more work. That's funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you do now?



CAMEROTA: How did you know that would be the answer, Victor?

BLACKWELL: Work, yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, exactly. A lump sum payout would net a winner more than $747 million.

Okay. Timothy Schultz won the Powerball lottery back in 1999. His winning jackpot was $28 million. He's now the host of the podcast: Lottery, Dreams and Fortune. Timothy, great to have you here. You won $28 million Powerball jackpot. That's a lot of money, but it's not as much as 1.2 billion and so how did it change your life?

TIMOTHY SCHULTZ, 1999 LOTTERY WINNER: Oh, it was completely life changing. I mean, it's not 1.2 billion, but - I mean, if you win the lottery jackpot, it can really turn your life on its head. It can be very, very surreal and I mean, it can change pretty much everything, relationships, your ability to live a life. I think it can buy time, which can be invaluable. And it's one of the most surreal life changing things that can possibly happen to somebody.

BLACKWELL: Can you take me to the moment where you realize the numbers match? What is that feeling? What is that moment when you realize 'oh, I won'?

SCHULTZ: Oh, my gosh. It is so surreal. And I won way back in 1999, so the internet wasn't what it is today. So we compare the numbers to a newspaper and when I saw the numbers, matching every single number, looking back and forth, I mean, I felt like a little kid in a candy store. It was just really, really surreal. It felt like a dream that I couldn't wake up from.

CAMEROTA: And who's the first person you call when that happens?

SCHULTZ: Well, one of the first people that I called were attorneys, as well as financial advisors. I think it's very important to contact financial advisors and gain an understanding of what you can realistically do with the money before you do anything too crazy. I think you should relax and get an understanding of what you can do, because it's just important, the average lottery winner, I would say, probably is not accustomed to dealing with millions of dollars for - how to invest it and so forth. So I think a financial advisor is very important.

BLACKWELL: After you win a $28 million jackpot, do you play again? I mean, wasn't that your turn of the wheel or do you still buy tickets?

SCHULTZ: I rarely buy tickets these days, unless something inspires me to play. But I do host a podcast where I interview other lottery winners and produce videos on the subject. And so yesterday I released a video about the - this jackpot, this really crazy high jackpot. I released a video about that asking other people what they would do if they won over a billion dollars. And so that sort of inspired me to go buy a ticket. So I bought one ticket, so we'll see. It only takes one to win.

CAMEROTA: Do you know how mad we're going to be, Timothy, if you win? I just - I think I speak for all of America when I say it's not that it will not be fair, but immediately call us if that happens. What's the most extravagant thing that you bought after you won?

SCHULTZ: I have never really been too much into material possessions, but some new vehicles, real estate that sort of thing. So I've never - I was really not into that sort of thing prior to winning. So that really didn't change. I found that for myself and for a lot of people that I've met and interviewed that if you win the lottery jackpot, it magnifies or at least it can magnify your personality. It doesn't necessarily change who you are and I wasn't really into material possessions beforehand, so - but that's just me, (inaudible) that's okay.

BLACKWELL: Well, Timothy Schultz, congratulations on your win and we hope you don't win tonight.

CAMEROTA: I think that's fair to say.

BLACKWELL: So thank you for being with us.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Timothy.

SCHULTZ: Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.


SCHULTZ: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. First on CNN, Jared Kushner is revealing details from inside the contentious Trump West Wing.


We'll bring you revelations from his new book next.



CAMEROTA: First on CNN, salacious details coming out of the new memoir from former President Trump's son-in-law. In his new book Breaking History: A White House Memoir, Jared Kushner writes about multiple clashes with fellow Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

BLACKWELL: CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins us now. So Kushner describes Bannon's presence in the West Wing as toxic, what does he say?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Listen, we reported in real time on so many of this infighting inside the west - the Trump West Wing. But these new excerpts from Jared Kushner's forthcoming memoir really do shed some new light on some of those fighting - fights. And it also is the first time that we're really hearing directly and publicly from Jared Kushner on his feuds with Steve Bannon.

You're right, he describes Bannon as a toxic presence inside the West Wing. He talks about him as somebody who constantly tried to stymie him on various fronts and often doing so by leaking to the press according to Kushner.