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W.H.: Five More Pages Of Classified Docs Found At Biden's Delaware Home; House Republicans Demand More Info In Biden Classified Docs Probe; Biden Atty Explains Why They Haven't Been Fully Forthcoming On Docs; NTSB Investigating Near Collision On Runway At JFK Airport; Flight Data Recorder Recovered From Site Of Nepal Plane Crash; At Least 40 Killed In Deadliest Russian Strike In Months. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired January 16, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Comer is now asking the White House to turn over evidence as he plans a congressional investigation. All of this, as you might imagine further dividing Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
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REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I still would like to see Congress do its own assessment of -- and receive an assessment from the intelligence community of whether there was any exposure to others of these documents where there was harm to national security.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Just shows the hypocrisy in why the American public does not trust their government. You know, Congress has an independent constitutional obligation to oversee all aspects of the Justice Department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: CNN Legal Affairs Correspondent Paul Reid is following all of these. Paula, let's just start with these five additional pages of classified material that were found in President's home in Delaware. What do we know about that?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. These five additional pages were found among previously disclosed documents uncovered at the President's Wilmington home. Let's take a step back. Right now, there are approximately 20 known documents with classified markings that have been uncovered at two different locations connected to the President.
The first is his former office here in D.C. We know 10 documents have been uncovered there. And they include top secret information. Now the rest of the material has been uncovered at his Wilmington home. And there was one document that they thought just consisted of a single page. And then they realized late last week that it was actually six pages consisting of multiple documents. And John, I'm sure a lot of people asking, OK, well, is this it? And I can tell you definitively, we have no idea, because we still know from our sources that not every possible location has been searched. The U.S. attorney when he was conducting this initial review, he didn't do any searches, he allowed the Biden team to do that. It's taken quite a long time to only search locations where they know documents were shipped during the transition.
And now there are other spots, though that could be searched. And it remains to be seen whether the Biden team will do any of those searches, or if that will be passed off to the Special Counsel and the FBI. Also unclear right now, John, if we will be alerted to any additional classified material that is uncovered.
BERMAN: And how the White House intends to release this information, Paula? Is this something of a shift in their strategy?
REID: Yes, it was interesting. Over the weekend, we did see a shift, John, because over the last week, it seemed that almost every day there were new disclosures, new documents being revealed, but almost all of it was coming through press reports. And then followed by begrudging confirming statements from the President's lawyers. And they took a lot of heat for that.
Now, the White House argued they wanted to defer to the Justice Department, let the process play out. But it was interesting over the weekend, they got out in front of this, they disclosed these additional five pages, but they said effectively don't get used to this. They said going forward, they want to now defer to the Special Counsel and that ongoing investigation.
They emphasize they are cooperating, but as of right now, John, it's not clear if they are going to update us if additional classified material is found. And that's how potentially this could continue to balloon into even a bigger political problem. Because the average person, right, they're just hearing more and more and more classified information.
BERMAN: All right, Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid, keep us posted. Thank you.
And a letter to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer says that he wants more information on these classified documents. CNN's Melanie Zanona is up on Capitol Hill with the latest here. So what is Chairman Comer after here?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: So Comer wants access to all the classified documents that have been retrieved thus far. And he is also seeking more communications and documents regarding the searches of Biden's home and other locations for those classified documents.
Comer also wants to get his hands on the visitor logs from Biden's Delaware residents from Inauguration Day to present. And part of his reasoning is that he says the Biden administration has not been fully transparent throughout this process, noting that the administration did not reveal the discovery of these documents shortly before the November election.
Here's a little bit more of what Comer had to say with our Jake Tapper yesterday.
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REP. JAMES COMER (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: We want to know the visitor logs to the residents. We want to know who had access to the Biden center for diplomacy because this is the same type of investigation that the Democrats were so outraged and launched and demanded happened to President Trump. The administration hasn't been transparent about what's going on with President Biden's possession of classified documents, and we just won't equal treatment here.
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ZANONA: Now, Jake Tapper also asked Chairman Comer why he is not also investigating Trump's handling of classified documents and Comer 's response is that Democrats have already thoroughly investigated Donald Trump throughout their years in the majority. And he also claimed that Biden and Trump are being treated differently here and that there's a discrepancy in how they're being treated. But we should note, John, that there's a reason for that.
Joe Biden has been cooperating and turning over documents as they've been discovered, whereas, Donald Trump did not and that is why Mar-a- Lago was ultimately raided. That is something that Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, also pointed out. Take a listen.
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REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: We were delighted to learn that the President's lawyers, the moment they found out about the documents that day turned them over to the National Archives and ultimately to the Department of Justice. That is a very different posture than what we saw with Donald Trump, where he was fighting for a period of more than eight months to not turn over hundreds of missing documents.
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ZANONA: So this is going to be a huge clash between Republicans and Democrats on the Oversight Committee. Republicans were already vowing aggressive oversight into the Biden administration. And now they feel like they have a new line of attack to go after Biden, this is going to be an investigation. There are going to be hearings. I asked Chairman Comer that last week, and so this is going to be a big battle in the coming weeks and months, John.
BERMAN: Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill for us. Melanie, thank you for your reporting.
Here now, John Dean, who served as White House Counsel for former President Nixon and Laura Barron-Lopez, White House Correspondent for PBS News Hour. Laura, first to you. Our Paula Reid said something which was interesting. She said, is this all the documents now at this point? Could there be more? And Paula's answer to that was, we just don't know. There's still could be more documents out there in Biden world. How much of a problem is that?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, obviously, this is not something that the White House wanted to be dealing with right now, right, as President Biden's approval ratings were just starting to improve earlier this year. And he was feeling pretty emboldened after the midterms went better than Democrats expected.
And, of course, when you're sitting president, you don't want to necessarily have to look at the fact that you're being investigated by a Special Counsel. But Paula was right, we don't know how many documents are left out there. The White House clearly was trying to get ahead of it this weekend with President Biden's personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, who used to be the White House Counsel, under President Obama has now taken that over and he tried to put out a more full timeline to the press this weekend. But again, we don't know if they're going to continue to do that.
BERMAN: John, what are the potential legal pitfalls for the President and his team here? What do they need to be most careful of?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they have -- their cooperation is the key and they are doing that. They're doing nothing to obstruct this investigation. They're trying to alert the Justice Department and the National Archives as to what was involved, and doing it as quickly as possible.
So I think this is more an investigation of what happened. How did they get there? Why were they still in the Vice President's belongings, the former vice president's belongings, and trying to understand the backstory. That's really a political question, and not a legal question. But I think they need to answer all the questions, because the way this has been handled has, obviously, created something of a mini scandal.
BERMAN: Is there a legal issue for them, John, in the fact that there are still documents being found? If you were an investigator at this point with the FBI or yes, the Special Counsel's office, and you were told by Biden's team, hey, here is still more. And then a week later, here is still more, is that something that would irk investigators?
DEAN: Well, it's a little surprising when they first discovered the documents, they didn't do a sweep. That's one of the reasons they have this problem is they were less than forthcoming on some of this. They should have gone everywhere where he could have had documents. They should have uncovered themselves.
Why they -- the documents were still there? What use was made of them, if any? How they were secured, if at all? Those questions, if they have volunteered all that, they might have nipped this in the bud. But for reasons we don't know, at this point, they were slow. They were -- you know, national security information is delicate.
And Bob Bauer, who did not have a current clearance, I think, he could have been cleared just by the fact if the President himself assigned this. He could have said, Bob, I want you to go find what's going on here and then given him the necessary clearance just by that instruction.
BERMAN: You know, Laura, it's interesting. Jake Tapper yesterday with Chairman Comer, he had an interesting conundrum for Republicans here. Yes, they have an oversight capacity and responsibility over the White House, but at the same time, it's going to be hard for them to press just on President Biden's documents issue when they didn't really express any concern over Donald Trump's document issue.
BARRON-LOPEZ: That's right. Congressman Comer himself, you know, never asked for the visitor logs from Mar-a-Lago while he's currently asking for the visitor logs for President Biden's Delaware home. And a lot of Republicans, including Representative Comer, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy, all rallied behind former President Trump after the FBI went into search.
And now they have -- as a part of these new investigations that they're launching, one, is into the FBI. One is looking at the FBI and arguing that it has been weaponized because of the fact that they conducted that search of Mar-a-Lago. So a lot of the Republicans are even admitting and I think Comer did to Jake Tapper, that it's not so much the classified documents they're concerned about. They think that there has been some unequal treatment.
But there's a very valid reason from officials, from DOJ officials from the FBI why there was different treatment because of the fact that President Biden's lawyer so far appear to be cooperating and immediately sending back documents. And that's not what Trump and his team did. They withheld for more than a year.
BERMAN: Yes, different treatment because they're different cases and way different behavior as far as we know at this point. Laura Barron- Lopez, John Dean, great to see both of you.
The FAA is investigating a close call between two planes at New York's JFK Airport. You're going to hear how swift action by an air traffic controller kept the jets from colliding. Plus, a desperate search for survivors after a plane crash in Nepal. Investigators found the plane's flight data recorded this morning. We will tell you what we're learning.
And CNN gets a rare look inside the safety meeting where NFL medical teams prepare for emergencies on the field, the same preparations that are credited with saving Damar Hamlin's life.
[10:16:13] BERMAN: The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what led to a near collision between two jets on a runway at JFK Airport here in New York. On Friday night, quick action by an air traffic controller prevented a Delta plane and an American Airlines plane from slamming into each other.
CNN's Pete Muntean is here with the very latest on this. Pete, this seems close.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Super close, John. You know, the good news here is that the disaster was averted but only with seconds to spare. Thanks to the quick action of the air traffic controller in the JFK control tower. But also the very quick reaction by the Delta Airlines Flight.
I want you to look at the animation here from Flightradar24. It shows that Delta Airlines 737 lining up for takeoff on runway four left at JFK. And I want you to listen now to the air traffic control recording when the controller heard and realized that an American Airlines 777 was taxiing across the same runway. Listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance. Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rejecting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUNTEAN: Now the FAA says these planes came in within about 1,000 feet of one another which might sound like a lot but that's really only about three football fields, very close, in aviation terms. You know, this is known officially, John, as a runway incursion. And in the year of 2022, the FAA saw about 1,600 of them had them reported by flight crews to the FAA.
That sounds like a high number, but most of them pretty minor not near as significant as this one. It's been a huge focus of airlines, the FAA, the NTSB, which is now also investigating this, because these accidents have really, really big consequences. They're really written in blood. The Tenerife accident of 1977, two 747s hate each other.
On the ground, one was taking off, the other one was taxiing. The single worst airline disaster ever. More than 580 people killed came so close to another one here, John.
BERMAN: You can really see it in that graphic, and then hear it in the voice of the air traffic control of the very first word he used. They're a very technical word to describe --
MUNTEAN: A lot of urgency,
BERMAN: Yes, I know how close and how dangerous this really was. Pete Muntean, great to see you. Thank you very much. This morning, three people still missing after a plane crash in the mountains of Nepal. This is that country's worst aviation disaster in 30 years. At least 69 people died when the Yeti Airlines flight went down Sunday in a gorge in the central part of the country. The flight data recorder has been recovered, that happened just this morning. But authorities say the chance of finding survivors at this point extremely low.
CNN's Vedika Sud joins me now with the very latest. What have investigators learned about the crash?
VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Well, I think what you mentioned is the most important development from today, John, which is the black box is being recovered, which has the data recordings in it. Now that's going to prove vital to the investigations, which is going to be representation from the government.
You have a five-member team that's going to look into the investigations and the black box will be extremely important and crucial to the findings. And there are a lot of answers not only investigators, the Nepal government, but even family members of those 72 people on board are looking for.
Like you pointed out, the other big development of the day is that another body was retrieved yesterday on Sunday. The count was 68 bodies and another body has been retrieved today which makes it 69. But only 38 of those bodies have been identified as of now. We're being told by officials that these bodies will be sent for post-mortem after which they will be handed over to family members.
As far as the 15 foreign nationals who were on board is concerned, their bodies will be airlifted to capital Kathmandu where the post- mortems will take place after which those bodies will also be handed over to family members.
We were told by officials and this, in fact, was a quote from the Yeti Airlines' spokesperson that the weather was clear on Sunday in Pokhara, that's where the crash took place, and the wreckage was found in a gorge. In fact, the bodies, John, were pulled out using a crane from the gorge.
So, it seems that the weather was holding up. Now, all eyes will be on the investigations. This committee has 45 days to submit the report to the government and we're hoping we get to know what really happened in the moments that led to the crash in Pokhara through these investigations. John?
BERMAN: Yes, these families, they want answers. Vedika Sud, thank you so much for your reporting.
So it is one of the deadliest attack in Russia's nearly yearlong war on Ukraine. We have a live update on the search for survivors after the devastating missile strike on an apartment building.
BERMAN: This morning, rescue crews are combing through the rubble of a bombed-out apartment building in Dnipro in Ukraine searching for survivors. A Russian missile strike destroyed part of the nine-story building Saturday killing at least 40 people.
Now the Kremlin has denied targeting the building saying the strike was a result of counter missiles and air defense. But this contradicts Ukraine's claim that a Russian Kh-22 missile was used. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is on the scene just outside that apartment building. We can see it behind you, Fred, the rubble. Give us the latest from there.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. You can see the rubble, you can also see that gaping hole where that actual part of that building used to be. And, you know, standing here you can up close, you can really see that the structure was just absolutely flattened all the way to the ground, all the way to the ground floor.
And you can still see the rescue crews that you were just talking about. They are indeed still sort of sifting through the buildings still, of course, hoping to maybe find people who might be buried somewhere, trapped somewhere. But, you know, John, I spoke to the local mayor here a couple of minutes ago, and he was telling me, yes, this is still a search and rescue operation.
But they do understand that the chances of finding anybody alive underneath that are very slim. And, of course, throughout the course of the day, we have seen the death toll really jump from from about 30 early this morning to 40. Now and, of course, the rescue crews here, they do fear that there could be more people who lie dead underneath that rubble, but an absolute scene of devastation.
You know, we have seen some really tragic things play out throughout the course of the day. We were at the funeral of a 15-year-old girl earlier today. And there were just a lot of her classmates, a lot of her teachers who were also there who are an absolute grief and agony. A lot of them cursing the Russians.
And, you know, you mentioned that the Kremlin has said that the Russians deny being behind all this thing. They don't target civilian areas. But the Ukrainians do say that they are certain that the missile that hit this building was that Kh-22 cruise missile. And, you know, we have to tell our viewers that that missile is one that was designed to destroy aircraft carriers.
And, obviously, if a missile like that hits a residential building like this, it leads to the kind of destruction that you're seeing behind me right now. The other thing about that missiles, it's also one that was developed in the time of the Soviet Union, is known to be very inaccurate. The sort of margin of error with that rocket is about 500 yards that it could miss its target.
And the mayor told me, there are some power plants here, some critical infrastructure in the vicinity of this area, but certainly no military installations whatsoever. The Ukrainians, obviously, extremely angry.
One of the things an official told me is they say this once again shows that they need more modern air defenses. Of course, we know that Ukrainians are currently learning to use those U.S. patriots missile defense systems, anti-aircraft systems, and they say that's certainly something that is needed and could possibly help them to defend against strikes like the one that we saw here.
BERMAN: At least three children killed, 40 people at a minimum at this point killed in their homes, in their apartment building. Frederik Pleitgen on the scene in Dnipro. Thank you very much, Fred.
With me now is Retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian. He is a Senior Adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Colonel, thank you so much for being with us. First, is it reasonable to think that Patriot missiles or enhanced air defense may have protected that building from this attack?
COL. MARK CANCIAN (RET.), SENIOR ADVISER, CSIS INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM: Well, in theory, that would certainly be possible. The problem is that just aren't enough air defense assets to go around. Keep in mind, the United States has committed to sending one Patriot battery to Ukraine that will defend one city. The Germans have committed to another battery.
That means that they could defend two cities, probably Kyiv and maybe Kharkiv. It's unlikely that Dnipro city would come under that umbrella. The problem with that great offense in general is that NATO got rid of most of its ground-based air defense. So there just isn't a lot of inventory to provide to the Ukrainians.
BERMAN: You know, we're looking again at the pictures of the destruction there. This apartment building that's just gone, the hole where that building once stood. does it make sense to you that as the Ukrainian say it would be this Kh-22, this cruise missile that did that damage?
CANCIAN: Absolutely. And as your corresponded said, they have a very large warhead. It's about 1 ton. They're designed, however, to attack ships, very inaccurate. Probably, the Russians were aiming at one of the power stations.