Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Document Scandal; Italy's Most Wanted Man Arrested; University of Alabama Basketball Player Charged With Murder; California Rain; Nepal Plane Crash; Russian Attack Destroys Apartment Building in Ukraine. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 13:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Top of the hour here on a Monday. I'm Erica Hill in New York.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Will we choose democracy over autocracy or community over chaos, love or hate? These are the questions of our time that I ran for president to try to help answer and that Dr. King's life and legacy, in my view, shows the way forward.


HILL: President Biden delivering a message of unity on this MLK Day as he faces cameras again after a third batch of classified documents were found, Republicans demanding more information.

Let's get you caught up to speed right now on what we know. So, over the weekend, five additional pages of classified material were discovered at his Wilmington, Delaware, home. That, of course, comes just two days after we first learned that documents had been found there, period, and, of course, after a special counsel was announced.

This is also two months after documents were initially found in a private office in Washington, D.C.

CNN's Arlette Saenz and Evan Perez leading us off this hour.

So, Evan, first, this does feel like it's heating up. And we know Republicans want more answers. What are they demanding at this point?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they want is for the White House and the Justice Department to provide more information about exactly what these documents are and how many and where these searches have been done.

They want to know everything about this investigation, in contrast with the way they have -- essentially not wanting to know very much about the investigation involving former President Trump and his handling of classified information. But you heard from the Republicans they see a moment, Erica, that --

certainly for the for the White House and for President Biden, who are claiming to have the moral high ground. They see that is not so anymore. Here's James Comer, who is one of the incoming -- one of the new people who is going to be demanding these answers. He's running the Oversight Committee talking about this.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We want to know the visitor logs to the residence. 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.

We don't know exactly yet whether they broke the law or not. I will accuse the Biden administration of not being transparent.


PEREZ: And what you heard there is him asking -- he wants to get access to visitor logs.

The White House says there are no visitor logs, certainly not for the president's Wilmington home. But you can bet that that is not going to be the last time we're going to hear from Republicans wanting answers.

HILL: Yes, it certainly will not be. We should point out Democrats also asking for some answers, as we know, over the weekend.

Arlette, what is the latest from the White House?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, the White House is -- has said that they will cooperate with the special counsel investigation, but they are also facing all those questions, as Evan outlined, from Republican committees, which are eager to investigate the White House.

Now, as for that question regarding the visitors logs, both the White House and Secret Service have said that visitors logs of the president's home in Wilmington, Delaware, just simply don't exist. The White House noting that, like previous presidents, his personal home is personal.

But this all comes as there are growing questions about the amount of classified documents that the president had at both the Penn Biden Center here in Washington, D.C., and also at his Wilmington home. Over the weekend, the White House acknowledging that there was actually more classified material found this week at the Wilmington residence then initially stated.

The White House counsel releasing a statement revealing that he actually traveled up to Delaware to facilitate the transfer of what they thought was one document with one page to the Justice Department. But, ultimately, it ended up being five additional pages. Now, this is just the latest example of the shifting narrative and

explanations that we have gotten from this White House since the news of these classified documents first broke last Monday. And over the weekends, the president's personal attorney, Bob Bauer, tried to defend their information-sharing approach, sat that they don't want to impact the investigations under way.

Bauer said in a statement -- quote -- "The president's personal attorneys have attempted to balance the importance of public transparency, where appropriate, with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation's integrity. These considerations require avoiding the public release of detail relevant to the investigation while it is ongoing."

But there are still so many questions facing this White House. It is increasingly becoming not just a political problem, but also potentially a legal problem, as the special counsel investigation gets under way.


HILL: Well to that point, Evan, in terms of the legal issues, their -- these latest documents that we have learned about, are there any new legal questions that come along with them that we know of?

PEREZ: Absolutely. And

one of the important new things that happened over the weekend is that we learned that Dick Sauber, who is the special counsel inside the White House Counsel's Office, this is somebody brought in specifically to handle these oversight requests from Republicans.

He traveled up to Wilmington because he has a security clearance. And he said he handled -- he handed over documents to the Justice Department that came to pick them up. The question there that this immediately raises is, why is a government employee, somebody who works in the White House Counsel's Office, going to the president's personal residence?

As Arlette pointed out, one reason why they don't have visitor logs is because it's a personal residence. Well, now you're mixing the personal with the government, and that's going to make Sauber a new witness that the Justice Department, the FBI is going to have to talk to.

It's just they're adding messy components to something that's already a pretty big problem. And here's a final thing I'd say. For investigators, often, when they see shifting narratives like that, they begin to suspect that there is something else that's being hidden.

Are there more documents somewhere else that have not been accounted for? And how do we make sure that we do that?

HILL: Yes, it's a great point. And the word choice of messy seems entirely appropriate at this point. PEREZ: Yes.

HILL: Arlette, Evan, appreciate it. Thank you both.

In Ukraine, a desperate search for survivors after a Russian missile strike destroyed an apartment building in Dnipro. At least 40 people are dead. The search for survivors goes on, and just some heartbreaking moments, including this scene. This is a young girl cleaning up the rubble in the aftermath of that attack.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is at the scene.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The morning brings to light the full extent of the destruction, the residential building, home to dozens of families, annihilated down to the foundation.

Even though rescue crews still work, the chances of finding survivors now virtually zero. All night, residents watched in fear, anger and grief.

Olha Mevchanaya (ph) says she passed by the building only about half- an-hour before it was hit. "There are many friends and people close to me here, many, many," she says.

Elena Loyan (ph), stunned by the scale of the destruction, curses the Russians.

"I simply hate them. Children, people die here." And then she can't speak anymore.

Throughout the night, the death toll continued to jump. On top of the many killed, Ukrainian authorities say dozens were injured, many of them children in just this location in Dnipro, one of many sites in Ukraine, Russia targeted with barrages of missiles this weekend.

(on camera): The Ukrainians say the reason why the damage here is so extensive is that this building was hit with a cruise missile called the Kh-22. That's designed to destroy aircraft carrier strike groups.

And, obviously, when it hit the building, it completely annihilated it, burying dozens of people underneath.

(voice-over): The Ukrainians call the attack state terrorism. And the president says rescuers will continue to try and save anyone trapped here.

"Let's fight for every person, President Zelenskyy says The rescue operation will last as long as there is even the slightest chance to save a life."

But even the slightest hope has now all but died. And this is essentially a recovery operation, the crews searching for bodies where so many lives were violently ended in an instant Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Dnipro, Ukraine.


HILL: Just horrific.

In Nepal, officials, we're learning, have recovered the black box of a Yeti Airlines passenger plane that crashed on Sunday, 15 foreign nationals among the victims, including citizens from Australia, France, and Ireland.

And CNN's Vedika Sud is following all those developments for us.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After two days of search operations, rescue teams have recovered at least 69 bodies from the crash site in Western Nepal's Pokhara city.

These bodies were pulled out from a gorge using cranes. Three people are still missing, and officials say the chance of finding survivors is extremely low.

(voice-over): A video on social media appears to show the passenger plane banking suddenly moments before the crash in Western Nepal. On Sunday morning, a Yeti Airlines-operated flight embarked on a roughly 30-minute flight from the capital of Kathmandu to Pokhara, the country's second most populous city.


MEHMOOD KHAN, WITNESS (voice-over): We heard a loud, thunderous crash, and reached our terrace to see what had happened. We saw a lot of smoke and realized it was an airline crash, and we rushed to the site.

SUD: The flight was lost in contact with the Pokhara airport about 18 minutes after takeoff, before it came crashing down in the nearby Seti River Gorge. It's the deadliest car crash and more than three decades in Nepal.

Dozens of bodies have been pulled out of the gorge using cranes. Some are yet to be identified by family members. On Monday, rescue teams retrieved the black boxes, the flight data and cockpit voice recorder that could help understand the moments leading up to the crash. The Himalayan country has a record of air accidents due to its mountainous topography and sudden changes to the weather.

But, in this case, officials say, it was a clear day. The Nepal government has set up a panel to prove the air accident and will hopefully find answers to what led to the third worst aviation accident in Nepal's history.

(on camera): The probe panel appointed by the government is expected to submit its report within 45 days. Hopefully, the black box will hold the answers investigators and families are looking for. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Vedika Sud reporting there.

Well, there may be some relief finally insight for millions of people in California still reeling from the nonstop rain and, of course, the devastating floods. Today, though, there is expected to be one last day of intense showers, and the aftermath could last long after the skies clear. We have the very latest.

Plus, a player for the University of Alabama's basketball team is now behind bars after police say he and another man shot and killed a woman near campus.

And he was on the run for 30 years. Now officials in Italy, though, say they have their most wanted mob boss, having nabbed him -- ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HILL: The latest storm system to pound California with heavy rain, high winds and massive flooding is slowly coming to an end, the aftermath, though, far from over.

Eight million people remain under a flood watch and some roads have just collapsed. Take a look at this one, some of those roads slide -- look at this -- sliding down the hillside, a number of other roads in the state impassable due to flooding, mudslides, downed trees, debris,

CNN's Natasha Chen is just north of San Francisco. She's in Novato, California, for us.

So, Natasha, where you are, we don't see rain right now -- it's dry at the moment. But that really is -- is just a small part of the story because we know there are these major lasting problems. What are the -- what are the issues today?


Erica, the rain may have passed for today. It was pouring early this morning. But really the issue is, because there has been so much rain, storm after storm after storm, for the last three weeks or so, there is so much saturation, there's nowhere for the water to go.

So, those mudslides, the roads giving way, that is still going to be happening as the day progresses. Here, this traffic backup is because of a closure on State Route 37 here in Novato.

And if we have a couple of the still pictures that Caltrans has sent us, that's an example of water just flowing over the roadway. And they did a good job pumping that water all off yesterday. But then they told me, this morning, it flooded again overnight because of that extra rain. That's a common story that we're hearing all across the state, where I

continue to see these alerts from different county emergency management officials telling people about road closures because of mudslides. That soil is just so saturated. We're also, of course, seeing some incredible footage of rescues, including in Orange County in Southern California, where, in Laguna Hills, a woman was rescued when -- after she was hanging on to a tree by a fast-moving creek right there.

And the same Orange County fire authority also sharing a picture of them rescuing a man out of the water overnight as well. And then, in Southern California as well, you -- we saw the multiple trees coming down on a number of cars in a shopping mall parking lot. So these are the types of things that may continue to happen because, again, the ground, the rivers is all so -- it's so saturated from what we have experienced over the last couple of weeks -- Erica.

HILL: Yes, just nowhere for that water to go. So much of it coming in at once.

Natasha, appreciate it. Thank you.

A University of Alabama basketball player is in jail, charged with capital murder. Tuscaloosa police arrested Darius Miles and another man after a shooting near the campus in a shooting which left a 23- year-old woman dead. Miles has been kicked off the team.

CNN's Martin Savidge joining us now with more.

So, Martin, what led to the shooting in the first place? Do we know?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's still being determined exactly.

But it appears to be one of those instances where you have had a split second of bad decision-making that's going to lead now to a lifetime of heartbreak and tragedy for a number of families. Darius Miles was a third-year forward on the University of Alabama men's basketball team, but, as you say, not anymore.

He has been kicked off the team. That's because he has been charged with murder, along with another man, Michael Lynn Davis, 20 years of age. The two men were arrested after an incident that authorities in Tuscaloosa say they were called to around 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning in an area about a half-mile off campus, an entertainment district.

When police arrived on the scene, they said they found a female dead inside of a vehicle 23 years of age. She died of a gunshot wound. The driver of that vehicle said that the two suspects opened fire on them. The driver says he returned fire, believed he wounded one of them.

And it was after talking to witnesses, looking at surveillance video that authorities were able to make the arrest. And, yes, one of the men was wounded. We don't know which one. The question here is why.

[13:20:00] And authorities will only say that there was apparently some minor altercation that led up to this and then came the gunfire. And now comes the heartbreak. Capital murder, which both of these men have been charged with, is the most serious crime in the state of Alabama -- Erica.

HILL: Just a horrific and tragic, as you point out, situation.

Martin Savidge, thank you.


HILL: We also have new details today about a tragedy at the University of Georgia.

Football player Devin Willock and a team staff member killed early Sunday morning in a car crash. This happened just hours after the Bulldogs' national championship celebration. So you can see Willock there in the parade, fans there, as you can tell, just a terrible, terrible story.

CNN's Isabel Rosales is in Athens, Georgia, this morning.

And I know that you actually just spoke with Devin's family. What more are you hearing?


I just spoke with Devin Willock's aunt and uncle, who, as you can understand, are just overwhelmed by this with emotion, just so incredibly sad at what has happened, calling a Devin a gentle soul, but, on the football field, he was a different man.

They also told me that his father was just so incredibly proud of him, actually traveling with him all over to watch every single college football game. The family is just devastated. And that grief is just echoing because, Erica, this is not the first time that they have been through this.

Nearly 15 years ago, Devin's older brother, Jonathan, got into a car crash and died from his injuries, same age, 20 years old, that father losing two sons in the same manner. But I want you to listen now to how his aunt and uncle want Devin to be remembered.


NORMAN STOUT, UNCLE OF DEVIN WILLOCK: He had a great future. He had such a -- he was just always smiling. He was always happy, always wanting to help people. The kid had a heart of gold.

CICELY STOUT, AUNT OF DEVIN WILLOCK: He was a good kid, very good nephew. He's a good kid, good heart. He loves people, very caring young man. And he had a bright future ahead of him.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROSALES: Yes, and also in the car, Chandler LeCroy. She was the driver. She was a football recruiting analyst, according to her LinkedIn. She was killed.

And we heard from Athens-Clarke County Police about the two survivors, Victoria Bowles. She had serious injuries. And also UGA player Warren McClendon. And, Erica, I am anticipating and have asked for the police department to give me a copy of that incident report. They're working on that. Hopefully, that should shed more light into what exactly happened behind this crash.

They're anticipating that that report could be out as soon as tomorrow -- Erica.

HILL: All right. We know you will bring that to us.

And just heartbreaking for a family and to hear what has happened to Willock now twice. Isabel, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

One of Europe's most wanted men on the run for 30 years arrested. How agents in Italy finally nabbed a notorious mafia boss.

And an American wrongfully detained in Iran goes on a hunger strike to draw attention to his case. What the White House is now saying -- that's ahead.



HILL: Decades after being convicted of murder, Italy's most wanted man is now in custody.

This morning, authorities arrested notorious mob boss Matteo Messina Denaro in Sicily. Get this. He'd actually been in the run for 30 years after getting a life sentence for the murders of two anti-mafia prosecutors, although Messina Denaro is suspected in dozens of other mafia-related killings.

CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau joining us now live from Rome.

So, 30 years is a long time to be on the run, essentially. What do we know about this arrest and how they finally found him?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really astonishing. Thirty years is a long time, but he was kind of hiding in plain sight. He didn't look that different from the age progression images that the police have been putting out.

He was at this clinic in Central Palermo, a very busy city, the biggest city in Sicily, for some sort of treatment. The police say that they had been honing in on him, that they knew he had some medical problems. He was using an alias, Andrea Bonafede, which translates to "Good Faith," which is probably a joke on the prosecutors and the police. But they arrested him without incident, that he said his real name

when they took him into custody. But this is one of the most notorious criminals of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. He has been involved in and suspected of involvement in a number of crimes, including the death of a 12-year-old boy whose body was dissolved in acid.

Getting him off the playing field, as it were, in Sicily is a very big score for the Italian police officers. But it can be not mistaken that there's already somebody out there ready to replace him, Erica.

HILL: Wow.

Barbie Nadeau with the latest for us, appreciate it.

Well, an American wrongfully detained in Iran began a week-long hunger strike earlier today. The protest marks seven years since he was left behind in a prisoner swap. Siamak Namazi is calling on President Biden to do more to free him and other detainees in Iran. He's actually one of three Americans still being held.

CNN's Kylie Atwood joining us now from the State Department with more.

So, there's this impassioned plea and appeal to the president. What more is he saying? And what's the response?


Well, listen, he wrote a pretty moving letter.