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Missile Strike on Dnipro; Blinken Meets with U.K. Foreign Secretary; Indiana Dad Arrested for Toddler with a Gun; Search for More Biden Documents; Former University of Alabama Basketball Player Charged with Murder. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2023 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.


Great to be with you, John.

BERMAN: Nice to see you this morning.

GOLODRYGA: We've got a lot of heartbreaking news to begin with, unfortunately, this morning.

The death toll from the Russian missile attack on the apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine, is rising. Ukrainian officials say the total number of people killed now stands at 44. Earlier this morning, Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, speaking in the World Economic Forum in Davos, condemning Russia for the senseless murder of civilians.


OLENA ZELENSKA, UKRAINIAN FIRST LADY (through translator): There is nothing off limits for Russia. This missile was built to destroy aircraft carriers and was used against the civilian infrastructure. These ordinary people at home on a Saturday, and that's enough reason for Russia to kill.


BERMAN: We will take you live to the site of that atrocity where search and rescue efforts are ongoing.

Here in the U.S., several meetings are happening today.

President Biden hosts the Dutch prime minister at the White House, Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets his U.K. counterpart, and a high-level delegation from the United States is in Kyiv at this very moment.

All this as Russia says it is planning to increase troop levels.

GOLODRYGA: We are covering all the latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine.

Let's begin with CNN's Fred Pleitgen, outside the apartment building in Dnipro where 25 people are still missing.

Fred, what is the latest on the ground there?


Well, a couple of minutes ago the search and rescue operation here actually did come to a close. There was a little bit of a ceremony here where the search and rescuers, they put on the sirens of their ambulances and of the fire trucks. They put on their flashing lights as well. They themselves were honored. And, of course, they also honored and paid respects to the many victims that were buried underneath the rubble here.

I just want to get out of your way because it really is an imposing site now. There's an eerie quiet here now and just this massive, gaping hole where this residential building used to stand. And, obviously, many people live their lives here. Dozens of families lived here until it all came crashing down. And all that, of course, just to one massive missile the Ukrainians say.

Again, we have to point out to your viewers, the Ukrainians say that the missile that was fired into this building is designed to destroy aircraft carriers. It's a massive ordinance dropped here. And certainly the rescue operation, the search operation have been massive.

And I think you guys were referring to it, there were still bodies who were pulled from here - were pulled from here earlier today. There were four bodies that were recovered, including the body of a small child. That puts the death toll of children here to four.

And, of course, there are still people who are missing and maybe some more bodies will be found in the future, but for now the initial part of the search and rescue operation here certainly has ended.

And if you just look at some of the figures, it really is remarkable because the operation went on for about 72 hours and the Ukrainians say that in that time they put -- they got away more than 8,500 tons of debris. And, of course, there were people buried underneath a lot of that. So, a massive operation that took place here. Folks here working around the clock.

And as you guys can imagine, as people still stand here, still come here, still lay flowers here, many of them in tears, there is a lot of anger right now towards Moscow and towards the Russians.


BERMAN: Yes, in addition to the children who were killed there, I'm just reading and urgent (ph) right now that five children left without parents, orphaned by this attack according to the Ukrainian police.

Frederik Pleitgen, outside that building in Dnipro, thanks so much for your reporting.

In Washington, D.C., today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will sit down with his British counterpart to discuss support for Ukraine. This as a high-level U.S. delegation met with top Ukrainian officials yesterday to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Ukraine.

GOLODRYGA: CNN's Alex Marquardt is all over this story for us.

So, Alex, let's begin with Secretary Blinken. What is his main objective today?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a week, John and Bianna, that we will see a full display of U.S. and European unity around the issue of Ukraine, support for Ukraine.

What we can expect from Secretary Blinken and the foreign secretary of the U.K., James Cleverly, later today is an emphasis on that military support for Ukraine and that there is a commitment to Ukraine for the long haul. That this is not something that the western allies are just committed to for the past year of this war, that this will continue and that, you know, Vladimir Putin cannot wait them out.

Because there is a growing sense among many experts that time is on Vladimir Putin's side.


That despite massive setbacks, that he still has a huge number of troops and a large amount of equipment that he can carry this war for quite some time, for years to come.

The Brits have just made a major announcement just yesterday, that they are going to be sending main battlefield tanks, called Challenger 2s, to Ukraine. That is a big escalation in the type of weaponry that we're seeing going towards Ukraine. And the U.K. is hoping that other allies will follow suit.

We're going to hear the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, saying that allies need to go farther and faster in this moment in terms of the military aid that they give to Ukraine. That Ukraine can win this war if it is given the right amount of combat power with which to fight the Russians.

Now, John and Bianna, we have seen a significant amount of the U.S. support for Ukraine this week, both across the pond in Germany, as well as here in the states. Just yesterday we saw Ukrainian troops arriving here in the U.S., in Oklahoma, at Fort Sill, for training on that all important patriot missile battery that Ukraine needs so desperately to defend its skies. That is training that will take place over the course of several months.

And then we've also seen the start of training at a U.S. base in Germany for several hundred Ukrainian forces, combined arms training that will take place over several weeks.

And then this week will culminate with a meeting of the Ukraine contact group, also taking place in Germany, in which 50 countries and different organizations will come together to discuss the need of -- the military aid that is needed in Ukraine. And, John and Bianna, you can imagine that that conversation will center primarily on air defenses that are so critically needed, as well as armored vehicles, that we are seeing an increased number of heading towards Ukraine.

John and Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, Germany in the process of appointing a new defense secretary after theirs just resigned after some scandal there. Of course, a lot of pressure on Germany to continue contributing more ammunition to Ukraine.

Alex Marquardt, thank you.

Well, also this morning, President Biden is set to welcome the Dutch prime minister to the White House. Ukraine will be front and center, of course, at these discussions as well.

BERMAN: CNN's MJ Lee, our senior White House correspondent, at the White House this morning covering this.

MJ, what do you expect to see?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Bianna, we are just moments away from seeing President Biden host a major NATO ally here at the White House. He will be holding a bilateral meeting with the prime minister of the Netherlands. And, of course, as you said, no surprise here, the ongoing war in Ukraine is expected to be a major topic of discussion.

Of course, the Netherlands is a country that has already committed some billions of dollars to supporting Ukraine. And as this war has dragged on, President Biden, for his part, has made crystal clear over and over again that he believes it remains all the more important that the alliance of countries that are supporting Ukraine basically stick together and continue giving security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and that these countries ban together to continue rejecting Russia's aggression towards Ukraine.

Now, Ukraine aside, we also, of course, expect the two leaders to talk about different areas of economic cooperation. And one area that we are watching out for, of course, is containing China's economic expansion, and particularly on the key issue and the key U.S. goal of preventing China and Beijing from getting access to this important semiconductor technology. That has been a critical American goal and something that Biden has, again, made clear that he doesn't think the U.S. can do alone.

Case in point, think back to last week when he hosted the prime minister of Japan here at the White House, and that, again, ended up being a key issue of discussion.

So, again, the two leaders are going to be heading into a bilateral meeting this morning, and we expect economic cooperation and also the war in Ukraine to be two important topics. Of course, this coming on the heels of that horrific missile attack

that we've seen in Ukraine in Dnipro. Obviously, the two leaders are expected to discuss that as well.

GOLODRYGA: All right. MJ Lee, thank you.

An Indiana father is due in court today after this shocking video showing his four-year-old in diapers brandishing a gun. Now, the neighbor called 911 because she saw this little boy in a hallway outside their apartment carrying a gun. Doorbell video recorded the child seemingly alone, waving and pointing the weapon.

BERMAN: Now, the father's arrest played out on live television with responding officers followed by camera men for a series that was covering police activity across the country.

CNN's Jean Casarez is covering this for us.

Jean, walk us through what happened here.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a close call, but I want to walk you through the body cam video because I think that really shows it. And, by the way, that little toddler was pulling the trigger. And you're going to find out the gun was loaded.


First of all, the officers get the call at this apartment complex that a toddler has a gun. The neighbors are calling. So, they go and they do a cursory search. That's them right there, the officers in the apartment. The cartoons are playing. They don't find it, so they're about to leave.

A neighbor then contacts them before they leave. She walks out of her apartment, look at this, and it's her Ring video. And that Ring video is showing this toddler minutes before that, right there, at the entranceway with the gun, waving it around, pulling the trigger. The officers immediately - we've got to go back in.

So, they go back in the apartment. The father says, I have never brought a gun into this apartment. There is no gun in here. And he asks his son, where's the toy?

Well, the officers keep searching. And there you go. It's at a desk. It was in a desk, very firmly placed toward the back, underneath the television, and the desk had the rolling top right there.

So, they immediately unload it. There were 15 rounds in the magazine. But because there wasn't a bullet chambered, the gun didn't go off when the little toddler kept pulling the trigger

GOLODRYGA: Oh, my God. I mean this is horrifying to watch this.

CASAREZ: It's unbelievable.

GOLODRYGA: Do we know where the boy is now? CASAREZ: It's being reported out that he is with family. But the

father, of course, we've been reaching out, does he have an attorney at this point? We've reached out to the public defenders' office. He said that he didn't know about a gun. He wasn't aware of a gun. But there you see it, right there.

And then, I think, a pivotal question is going to be that desk that had the folding top. Could that little boy, the toddler, have put it in and put the folding top back over the desk? So, -- it wasn't disclosed, it was hidden.

BERMAN: Look, it's just chilling to see that.



BERMAN: And everyone anywhere near that is lucky it turned out the way it did.

Jean Casarez, thanks so much.

CASAREZ: Thanks.

BERMAN: Keep us posted on this.

CASAREZ: I will. Thank you.

BERMAN: Sources tell CNN new searches of President Biden's properties are still on the table as questions continue about the storage of classified documents. Who will be conducting these searches? That's ahead.

GOLODRYGA: And later, a Republican candidate who lost his election in New Mexico now arrested. Why police are calling him the mastermind behind a string of shootings at the homes of four Democratic leaders.

Plus, harrowing video purportedly showing the final moments inside the cabin of a plane before it crashed in Nepal. What investigators are finding as they search the wreckage.



GOLODRYGA: Well, there are new concerns for the White House this morning with sources telling CNN that even more searches of President Biden's properties are now possible. It's unclear where those would take place or who would conduct them.

BERMAN: CNN's senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid joins us now.

What properties are we talking about here, Paula?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, our sources did not give us specific locations, but we know from our reporting that the president used other office spaces, his family also, for example, rented a home in northern Virginia. It's important to note, it wouldn't just be potentially searches for additional classified documents, but also potentially be looking for other presidential records that would need to be turned over to The Archives.

Now, in terms of what has been searched so far, after that initial discovery of classified documents at the president's former office here in D.C., his team of attorneys decided to carry out some additional searches, but they specifically focused on locations where they knew documents had been shipped during the 2017 transition. So, that's the former office and these two residences, which you see there on the screen.

Now, the other question is, if there are other searches, who exactly would do them? Because right now they have the president's private attorney and a White House attorney conducting these searches. Now, only the White House attorney has the proper clearance. And this gets a little messy. One attorney finds something, has to stop, wait for the person who has clearance, and then it has to be handed over to the Justice Department.

Look, John, I'm not saying that there is some playbook for sitting presidents who have to undergo a search for classified materials from the time they were vice president, but this can potentially get a little messy.

Now, it is interesting, in our reporting we learned the U.S. attorney out in Chicago, who originally handled the review of this case, he didn't ask for searches, he didn't conduct any searches. The Biden team did that on their own. But it is also notable that he did not wait, the U.S. attorney did not wait for the Biden team to complete all of these searches before recommending a special counsel. He had seen enough.

There was also, we're told, a little bit of frustration with the pace and the lack of speed in these searches. And now this will likely be something we'll have to work out with the special counsel Robert Hur. Will there be additional locations searched and who will do them?

GOLODRYGA: Yes, one could argue that at least politically speaking things are already quite messy.

Paula Reid, thank you.

So with us now is Margaret Talev, CNN political analyst and senior contributor for "Axios," and Michael Moore, former U.S. attorney and partner at Moore Hall in Atlanta.

Welcome both of you.

So, Margaret, clearly not the conversation that the president had been hoping to start the new year on, and here we are.

In terms of what the White House and the administration can say going forward now that there is somebody assigned now to investigate this, what should he be doing? What more can and should we hear from this president on this issue?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, I think politically, and from a public relations perspective, the White House knows that if it could get in front of this and give a fulsome description of basically what the documents are, how they got there, all the questions that we're asking, that that would probably help them just get it over with. Apparently, the legal side of the White House and Biden team is saying, you can't do that because now this is a matter that's -- that a special counsel is involved in. And so that dissidents -- that conflict between the legal side and the political side has really created a problem for them.


And, you're right, he wants to be talking about what he accomplished in 2022 and his path forward and gearing up for a 2024 run. And this is hanging over his head. He also wanted to distinguish himself from Donald Trump. And while they're -- we still believe are a lot of differences between the volume and the handling, the response to this, it shows that Donald Trump is not the only president or former president or former vice president who ended up with documents in the wrong place that he shouldn't have had. So, it does muddy the waters.

One thing that we've heard is that this will probably prompt future conversations about what to do with presidents and vice presidents leaving office, new rules of the road for handling documents. And I wonder if that's a space that this White House would want to get involved in just to seem proactive as if they were doing something. Right now it's a drip, drip, drip. They can't get ahead of the story and it's caused a real political headache for them.

BERMAN: Yes, look, it might be a good idea to set some rules in place for this going forward.

Michael, let's talk about the legal side that Margaret was just referring to there. Why wouldn't this president want all these properties searched just to make it clear? And, frankly, why wouldn't they have done that on day one?


MICHAEL MOORE, PARTNER, MOORE HALL: Yes, well, I'm glad to be with all of you.

And there are some legal implications at play. And that is, if he were to be charged or if they were to try to use something and they're not - they're -- his team is telling him don't say anything right now. But, look, I have found that the American people and prosecutors and judges and juries are most forgiving when they don't feel like they're being, you know, led down a path without being told the truth. And so this seems to me to be a pretty simple call by this president just to come forward and say, this is what we're doing, this is what we've found, this is how it happened, this is what I'm going to do to make sure that we've recovered everything. And at that point he's dealt with it politically, but I really think, at the end of the day, he's also delt with it legally. I don't fault his lawyers for being cautious. I think certainly in this environment that's - that's probably a well-deserved place to be. But, at the same time, you know, this - this has been both a political mess and could turn into a legal mess.

I mean even in the opening I was kind of chuckling at how there's -- the comment about there was frustration over the pace of the search. For crying out loud, I mean, we're talking about a few weeks versus months or a year or more in the search down in Florida. So, we - this - these have gotten conflated together and I think that's hurting Biden. And it will hurt him to come out and just level with where we are, what he's doing, what he's going to do to fix it, how it happened and face it head-on.

GOLODRYGA: OK. And so we have differentiated the legal consequence from both of these cases, but you can't deny that the optics at least politically harm this current president, President Biden, who said that he came in with sophistication, right, with experience and criticized former President Trump with how he handled classified documents.

Michael, if I can just follow you - follow up with you on the question of the volume of documents because we've said that maybe perhaps there's some under 20 versus the 300 or so that President Trump had stored.

Does that matter as much as the level of sensitivity and classification of these documents?

MOORE: It probably wouldn't matter if all of the documents -- if 20 documents are top secret and at the highest designation, then that's - that's a pretty serious thing as opposed to some documents that may be at a lower classification level. And so, from that aspect, I would say, no.

From the optics of it, from a prosecutor looking at it, from a judge or a jury looking at it, then I think the volume matters. So, you know, you've got to sort of differentiate the threats -- the possible threat, at least, that there may be to some classified secrets getting out versus how many are there. And, again, we don't know. And that's part of what makes this whole, you know, confusion about who' going to search and how are they going to search.

I mean think about how silly it is that we're getting into an argument about form over function. I mean, for crying out loud, let's get somebody in there. These documents are typically contained in an envelope or in some type of folder marked classified. It's not like they're just laying out, you know, like a kitchen recipe on the counter or something. Let's look at the - let's look at the documents. Let them find that. And then if they need to turn any - but let's go ahead and get on with the search. We're letting form take over function. Let's let the American people know what's out there.

BERMAN: Councilor Michael Moore, Margaret Talev, thank you both very much. MOORE: Thank you.

BERMAN: And now a former University of Alabama basketball player charged with murder. And the mother of the victim tells CNN why she believes her daughter was shot.



GOLODRYGA: There are new details this morning in the case of a former University of Alabama basketball player charged with murder. The mother of 23-year-old victim Jamea Harris says her daughter was shot and killed because she rejected a man who tried to flirt with her.

BERMAN: Darius Miles and another man have been arrested and charged in the shooting. Miles has since been kicked off Alabama's basketball team. His attorneys say he maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court.

CNN's Martin Savidge is covering this.

What information is there, Martin, about what led up to this shooting?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, when we first talked to authorities, John, about what was the motive here behind the shooting, they said a minor altercation. Well, now, thanks to Jamea's mother, we understand what that altercation was about.

She says that her daughter and her boyfriend went to the University of Alabama on Saturday.


They were out that evening. They stopped to get something to eat.