Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

WH: Five More Pages Of Classified Docs Found At Biden's Delaware Home; UGA Football Player, Staffer Killed Hours After Championship Parade; Univ. Of Alabama Basketball Player Charged With Capital Murder. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 16, 2023 - 14:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It's good to have you along. I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Alisyn is off.

President Biden is facing renewed criticism and new questions today after the discovery of more classified documents at his home in Wilmington, Delaware. This weekend, the president's attorneys announced they found five additional pages of classified material on Thursday evening, and they found them on the same day that the Justice Department announced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the other classified material found at that home in a private office in DC. And the White House Counsel's Office said today that there are no logs of visitors to Biden's home. Now, the House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer asked for those documents and answers from the White House.

CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is following all of this for us. So, Evan, tell us more about these five pages.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, the White House says that the five pages were turned over -- or word discovered when the White House had made arrangements, and the president's personal lawyers had made arrangements for the Justice Department to come retrieve a one-page document that they say that they found in an -- in an office that was adjacent to a garage at the Wilmington home that they had previously told us about. So, this timeline, this additional piece of detail told us also that the -- there's a White House Counsel, a lawyer, Dick Sauber, who went to Wilmington to try to facilitate turning over those documents.

And so, what this means, Victor, is that you have additional witnesses that Rob Hur, the new special counsel, the FBI are going to have to talk to because you now know -- that we now know that, you know, the White House and the president's personal lawyers have allowed investigators to talk to a number of people who were involved in all of this. And you know, it just seems like because of the messiness in the way how they've explained this, they've now created new witnesses who will need to be talked to by investigators.

Of course, Republicans view this as a huge problem of transparency. Here's James Comer, one of the chiefs of the oversight at the -- on the Hill, who was beginning to ask these questions.


REP. JAMES COMER, (R-KY): We want to know the visitor logs of the resident. 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, Victor, you heard there James Comer asking for visitor logs, which the White House as you pointed out, has already said don't exist because this is the president's personal residence. Of course, the big outstanding question at this point, Victor, is you know, are there more documents? Are there additional places that need to be searched?

And now that you have a special counsel doing this investigation, who does those searches? Are you going to allow the president's lawyers to do additional searches or does the FBI need to go in and conduct a thorough search to answer once and for all, whether the government has back all of the documents that it needs to have?

BLACKWELL: Yes. As you say, a deck -- creating additional witnesses, additional questions. Evan Perez, thanks so much.

So, the White House is playing damage control today. But as that happened, President Biden paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke at an event in DC and focused in part on what his administration has accomplished to ensure racial equality in America.

CNN's White House correspondent Arlette Saenz is with us now. So, let's talk about this request. Congressional Republicans, of course, they want more information about the documents, including the request for these visitor logs, which the White House says they just don't exist.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor. The White House is facing so many questions regarding these classified documents as Republicans are vowing to ramp up investigations into it. Now, as for those visitor logs, as Evan detailed, the White House and Secret Service are saying that they simply don't exist.

The White House Counsel is saying in a statement that as it has been for previous presidents, the president's residence in Wilmington, Delaware is a personal one. Secret service saying that that it -- the details of who exactly is going into that home is not something that they keep record of. But this all comes there are mounting questions about the administration's handling of this classified documents situation as it was revealed over the weekend that there were five additional pages of classified marked -- with classified markings found at the president's home in Wilmington, Delaware.


Now, one thing that the president's personal attorney has been stressing is that they are limited in what they can share. They're saying that they can't share as much information as the investigation is still ongoing. But he also left the door open to the possibility that there could be more classified documents in the possession of the government at this moment than the council has previously said. That is because, as he described, the lawyers did not look through all of these materials once they stumbled upon them in the residence.

Bob Bauer saying in a statement, "whenever a document bearing classified markings was identified, the search was suspended. The potentially classified material left in place as found. The government was then properly notified. It is for this reason that the president's personal attorneys do not know the precise number of pages in the discovered material, nor have they reviewed the content of the documents consistent with standard procedures and requirements."

But these certainly are questions that the White House will continue to face in the coming months. But for President Biden's part, he is really trying to proceed with business as usual, today speaking at an event honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, and he also talked about his desire to find ways to work with Republicans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With folks, when we have a lot of unfinished work to do, though. A lot of unfinished work. We have to keep building on it and defend our progress because this new Congress -- this new Congress -- look, I know I get criticized by some of you and some folks in our party -- my party, but I'm ready to work with a new Republican House on any Republican -- or any Republican Congress to make progress for the people of America.


SAENZ: Of course, one of the issues that the White House will be grappling with in the coming months is the issue of the debt ceiling and raising that debt ceiling with fights expected to ensue with Congress and Republicans up on Capitol Hill. But bottom line here, the White House is hoping that this issue of the declassified documents even as the investigation is underway that it won't overshadow all of the other work they're trying to do. Though, at the moment, it does appear that these classified documents saga has dominated so much on the conversation.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Arlette Saenz, at the White House, thank you. Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois is with us now. He served on the House Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees, still waiting for those committee assignments to come out for this Congress. But, Congressman, thank you for your time.

Let's start with the request for these visitor logs with White House Counsels say do not exist for the Wilmington home, the secret service says that they don't keep logs of that. How relevant do you think of the list of visitors to this home where classified documents have now been discovered? How relevant do you think that is to the committee's investigation?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): It may be relevant, but I have to say (INAUDIBLE) he has not requested any similar visitor logs with regard to President Trump's residences. I think at the end of the day, Victor, we have to kind of go bigger here. There's just an issue with regard to mishandling classified documents that's repeatedly happening, and we have to figure out as a committee how to prevent that from happening again.

BLACKWELL: Sure. I think both parties, as you said, would agree that this issue of handling classified documents, the American people, certainly now with a third election cycle where there is some investigation, we're going into 2024, that's what I'm counting, of the handling of classified information. They certainly want answers about how those at the highest levels handle it.

Let me ask you about how cooperative the Biden administration should be with this oversight committee investigation. And let's listen to Democratic assistant leader here, Congressman James Clyburn, on what he thinks the threshold for cooperation should be.


CORI COFFIN, ANCHOR, MSNBC: Let me ask you this, Representative. Do you think that Biden and the White House should cooperate with the House investigation that's promised to be launched against him?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D-SC): Well, to the extent that the House investigates Trump, I think that this White House should respond accordingly.


BLACKWELL: Do you agree with that, that the Biden White House should only cooperate insofar as the committee investigates former President Trump?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that the Biden White House will cooperate with the investigation, and they need to be forthcoming to the extent that the requests are legitimate. Of course, there are big differences now that's been --

BLACKWELL: What determines a legitimate request, Congressman?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that anything that goes to, you know, how do we prevent this from happening again? That is really the biggest issue, which is, you know, repeatedly between the Trump and the Biden White Houses, classified documents are not handled appropriately.


I'm a member of the Intelligence Committee and one reason why I think that members of Congress don't have that similar issue is the control of these classified documents is retained very tightly by the intelligence community and we only review these documents and classified spaces nowhere else. And that's something that has to be looked at going forward.

BLACKWELL: I don't know if you were listening to the top of the show and heard Evan Perez's report but these additional five pages now that had been discovered on Thursday evening, after -- we were told that that search of Wilmington was stopped after the last page in the morning was reported. Has the White House, has the president, have his personal turn -- attorneys bungled the messaging on this with the kind of drip, drip, drip of disclosure?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know. But I think that they need to continue to be forthcoming now and transparent about everything that they have in their possession. You know, I think that they should not follow the tack of President Trump who refused to turn over hundreds of classified documents after he was notified. And that's why it brings up the issue of criminality because, with regard to criminality, it's about intention. Do you have an intent to remove? Do you have an intent to conceal documents and unauthorized spaces? And there is no evidence of such intent with regard to President Biden.

BLACKWELL: Should that not be the work of the committee? Two questions ago, you said that the scope, and I'm paraphrasing here, correct me if I'm wrong, should be how to prevent this from happening again. Should the committee, the Oversight, and Accountability committee not get to the question of intent as well in this investigation?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that if it is it properly bears on their investigation, yes. But I think that the bigger issue that we're seeing over and over again is how do we prevent this from happening again? And I think that right now is the time to figure that out because we see that it's happened on multiple occasions with different administrations.

BLACKWELL: All right. One more -- and let's switch to the debt ceiling now. A couple of days out now from the U.S. reaching the debt ceiling, that's going to happen on Thursday, according to the treasury secretary. The extraordinary measures now go into place to avoid default, push comes to shove in June. The data is the point at which the U.S. will have to default if there is no increase in the debt limit.

Republicans say there have to be spending cuts. The White House says no negotiations, no concessions. Are you willing to negotiate? The president says that he wants to work with Republicans, do you think there can be some negotiations on concessions, on spending cuts to avoid calamity?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't think that it should be connected to the debt ceiling, Victor. No -- I know that Kevin McCarthy, after his 15th vote for speaker had agreed that he would not raise the debt ceiling unless he extracts spending cuts. But, you know, if we don't raise the debt ceiling, we go into default.

And only one default is enough to nuke the economy. We can't have 15 defaults mirroring the 15 speaker votes for him to do what's right. And as Dr. King said, the time is right to always do what's right. And today, we have to do what's right, raise the debt ceiling and then deal with the other issues of spending and do it in a proper regular order.

BLACKWELL: All right, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. Thank you, Sir.

The University of Georgia's celebration of its football national championship turned tragic this weekend. A player and staff member were killed in a car crash. We're live from Athens with the latest tributes that are coming in.

And the majority of the world's chief economists say a global recession is likely this year. We'll look at what's driving this pretty sobering outlook.

All right. We're heading to break now. But first, take a look at live pictures of Denver's Martin Luther King Jr. parade.





BLACKWELL: We are learning more about the University of Georgia football player Devin Willock and team staffer Chandler LeCroy who died in a car crash this weekend. It happened just hours after the team celebrated winning back-to-back national championships with a parade through Athens, Georgia. CNN's Isabel Rosales is live in Athens. Isabel, I know you spoke with members of Willock's family, what did they tell you?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hey, Victor. I spoke with Willock's aunt and uncle, Cicely and Norman Stout who called him a gentle giant, said that he had a heart of gold, and was so kind and gentle but on the football field, he was a totally different person. So, Cicely, the aunt, her brother is the father of Devin, and she told me that her brother would travel all the time, was just so probably wanted to watch every single college football game to watch his son in action. And now, Victor, he has lost two sons.

Back in 2009, 14 years ago, he lost his eldest son in a car crash. He was -- he sustained injuries and died from that. Both of them, the same age, 20 years old. And, Victor, we're just confirming from police and from family that Devin was ejected from his car during that crash. I want you to listen now to a sound from his aunt and uncle who said that Devin would have turned 21 years old next month and before this crash, he was on top of the world.


CICELY STOUT, DEVIN WILLOCK'S AUNT: He was doing very well. He was very loved by all his peers and all the teachers and all the coaches. Devin is always smiling no matter -- no matter what Devin has a smile on his face. And he was doing very well in academics. He was doing very good. He was good. Very good student. Very good person.



ROSALES: Yes. And Devin was not the only one in that car. Chandler LeCroy, she was killed in that crash. She was a football recruiting analyst according to her LinkedIn. Plus, also in that car, two surviving passengers, one by the name of Victoria Bowles. She was seriously injured. And then Warren McClendon, another football player on the team.

And, Victor, I did reach out to the police to get a hold of that incident report that should shed some more light into how this crash came about what exactly happened. They are working to get that to me. It could be as early as tomorrow. Meanwhile, Devin's family is asking everyone just for prayers, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Ellison, that entire community -- the entire university feeling this after such a high this loss. Isabel Rosales there with the reporting, thank you so much.

Let's go to the University of Alabama now where one of its basketball players is in custody and charged with capital murder. Police arrested 21-year-old Darius Miles in connection to a shooting near campus yesterday. CNN's Martin Savidge joins us now. So, what are investigators saying, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Not much, Victor. We should say that Darius Miles was a third-year forward for the University of Alabama men's basketball team. Was because the team now has disassociated himself -- themselves with him because of the fact that he's been charged with murder.

According to authorities in Tuscaloosa, around 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning, they were called to the scene about a half mile off campus to an area known as the strip entertainment district. There, they thought a young woman dead inside of a vehicle the result of a gunshot wound. The driver of that vehicle says that two suspects opened fire after some words were exchanged. And as a result of that, the driver says he fired back.

Meanwhile, one of the two suspects was reportedly hit but non-life- threatening injury. Police were able through talking to eyewitnesses and looking at video, identified the two suspects which of course now include Darius Miles and 20-year-old Michael Lynn Davis -- 20-year-old who is also from the Washington, DC area. As to why? Well, here's the spokesperson with the Sheriff's Department.


JACK KENNEDY, TUSCALOOSA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: At this time, it appears that the only motive to this was a minor altercation that these individuals had with the victim as they were out on the strip.


SAVIDGE: Seems, Victor, as if it was a split second of bad decision- making that has now led to a lifetime of tragedy and heartbreak for a number of families. And capital murder is the most serious charge in the state of Alabama, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Martin Savidge, thank you.

The Buffalo Bills will play the Cincinnati Bengals next week for the first time since Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field. Now, the Bills and Bengals, each advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs yesterday. Cincinnati beat the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo edged past the Miami Dolphins. Hamlin visited the team's facilities in Orchard Park, New York ahead of yesterday's game. Fellow Bills player Matt Milano posted this photo showing Hamlin smiling there with a member of the team.

Hamlin later cheered his teammates on from home. He tweeted this. My heart is with my guys as they compete today. Nothing I want more than to be out there with them. The 24-year-old safety was initially hospitalized in Cincinnati but was transferred to a Buffalo facility last week. He was discharged a few days later.

If you are one of the many attempting to pull off a dry January, good for you, you're halfway through. We have some new information, some motivation that help you push through the rest of the month. Up next. New details on what alcohol does to our health. Plus, crews in Ukraine are searching for survivors after a Russian missile strike destroyed an apartment building. It is the deadliest single attack in months. We have an update next.



BLACKWELL: A new survey on the chances that will slide into a global recession shows 63 percent of chief economists think it's likely to happen this year. And the regions where the most economists think growth will be weak or very weak, the U.S. and Europe. CNN's Richard Quest is with me now from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Richard, good to see you. What's driving this?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: What's driving it, of course, is the higher interest rates. What you are seeing in those numbers is the patient, the U.S. economy, the patient is responding to the medicine that's been given by the Central Bank, the Fed. If you raise interest rates at the rate that the Fed has or the ECB or the Bank of England, you better believe there's going to be an effect, Victor. And that effect is a slowing down.

Now, you know, there's a great economic debate at the moment, will they or won't they slip into recession? I have to tell you. I think it's a moot debate because, Victor, to people watching, there's very little difference between growing by point two and contracting by point two. Unemployment still going to go up, Victor, and it's still going to feel really slow and sludgy. And it's going to remain that way. But the idea of a U.S. recession, if it happens, will be in the second and third quarter of this year.

BLACKWELL: So, what's the expectation beyond the U.S., beyond Europe?

QUEST: OK. So, really fascinating.