Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Brian Walshe Charged With Murdering Missing Wife; Police: Pena Visited State Senator Linda Lopez Before Shooting; Police: Speed A Factor In Crash That Killed UGA Football Player; Helicopter Crash Kills 14 Including Ukrainian Officials, One Child; Sources: Feds Interviewed Biden Lawyer Who Found Classified Docs; Biden Probe Heats Up As Trump Admits Taking "Cool" Keepsakes; Conspiracy Theorist Rep. Greene Gets Powerful Committee Seats; Emergency Hearing Today To Stop New Illinois Gun Law. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 18, 2023 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: A high five agreement, look at this picture Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema celebrating their unity on blocking filibuster reform in the United States Senate. They were both on a panel together in Davos.

Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Erica Hill picks up our coverage on a very busy news day right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us here in the CNN NEWSROOM at the top of the hour. I'm Erica Hill in New York.

Explosive evidence, gruesome internet searches and trash bags filled with DNA. We'll begin this hour with those chilling new details all emerging from court just a short time ago as a missing mother's husband is now being held without bond on a murder charge. Prosecutors telling a Massachusetts judge exactly what they believe happened to Ana Walshe.


LYNN BELAND, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, NORFOLK COUNTY, MA: Rather than divorce it is believed that Brian Walshe dismembered Ana Walshe and discarded her body.


HILL: CNN's Jason Carroll is live outside the courthouse for us in Massachusetts. Criminologist and Attorney Casey Jordan also here this hour. Jason, first we did learn a lot this morning about what prosecutors say Brian Walshe did in the days, both before and after Ana Walshe was reported missing. You were there in the courtroom this morning. What did prosecutors reveal?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, in very specific detail. I was seated just behind the prosecutor there. She took out her notebook, Erica, and slipping over page after page reading a long gruesome list of allegedly, some of the things that Brian Walshe had Googled, in the wake of his wife's disappearance.

I'm going to read through some of it. Some of it is just really unbelievable. On January 1, for example, 4:55 a.m. in the morning, how long before body starts to smell? Minutes later, how to stop a body from decomposing, 10 ways to dispose of a dead body if you really need to. Can you throw away body parts? How to clean blood from a wooden floor?

The very next day, January 2, 12:45 a.m. hacksaw best tool to dismember. Can you be charged with murder without a body? 1:14 p.m., can you identify a body with broken teeth? Let's go to the next day, January 3, 1:02, what happens to hair on a dead body? Then he Googled allegedly, what is the rate of decomposition of a body found in a plastic bag compared to a surface in the woods? Can baking soda mask or make a body smell good?

And that's just some of the Google searches. Then they went over some of the evidence that investigators found in this case, some of this evidence stained with blood, evidence recovered from a dumpster and from a trash facility as well. That included towels, rags, slippers, tapes, gloves, cleaning supplies.

Remember, he bought those cleaning supplies, some of those cleaning supplies allegedly at a Home Depot, a hacksaw, hatchet. Ana Walshe's COVID card, one of her purses, boots, a broken necklace, some of these items, Erica, had her and his DNA on it. And then there's what investigators say they discovered on January 4th at the home.


BELAND: On January 4, when Cohasset police went to the house on the wellbeing check, office observed his Volvo with seats down in a plastic liner in the back of the car. The next day, a view of the Volvo showed his seats folded down, floor mat sets and dirt, and in the carpet, appeared to show fresh vacuum streets. When asked about the liner, the defendant said he threw in the trash. Chemist later analyze the car, and those present blood in the car.


CARROLL: And back to those chilling Google searches, according to the prosecutor here at the Quincy County Courthouse, Brian Walshe used his son's iPad to conduct those searches. When she made that point in court, he just shook his head. Erica?

HILL: Wow. I mean, there is so much in that detail, Jason. Casey, when we look at this, Brian Walshe's defense attorney just a short time ago released the following statement saying in part, "It's easy to charge a crime, even easier to say a person committed that crime. But it's much more difficult thing to prove it." Going on to say, "In my experience, as here, the prosecution leaks so called evidence to the press before they provide it to me noting their case isn't that strong."

Casey, based on what we do know publicly, how would you rate prosecutors' case?

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: I watched this live, Erica, this morning and I found it bombshell after bombshell. I mean, we had already heard about the broken knife and the blood evidence found in the basement. And then we knew that there was these things like a hacksaw found at the transfer station.

But the bombshells today were her COVID card, her purse, the clothing that she was last seen wearing on New Year's Eve by the friend who was over at their house.


And she can just say, well, no body, no crime, I really think that's what her defense is going to be. But we know that you can get convictions without entire body bodies intact, and especially based on DNA evidence. I think the worst thing are the Google searches for certain.

But, you know, Fotis Dulos just three years ago was charged with no body found and, you know, he didn't live to go to trial. But in the last 60, 70 -- 60 years, I think there have been 70 cases where they've gotten murder convictions with no body. And I think that this circumstantial evidence is already overwhelming. I think it's just going to grow and grow as time goes on.

HILL: In terms of that evidence, though, the defense attorney also questioned what may or may not be admissible in court. Anything that you heard this morning, that raises a red flag for you in terms of something that may not be admissible, Casey.

JORDAN: I haven't heard anything so far. I think she's clutching at straws because even -- you know, listen, I work as a defense attorney. You're going to poke holes in every single thing you can. The best thing she has going for her, I suppose, is that the garbage was mixed, obviously, you know, in trucks and taken to transfer stations, so that you're going to argue that the DNA was contaminated.

To me, one of the worst things that happened was the December 27, he Googled which state is best to divorce your wife. And that gives motive. So, if he was going to argue that he's been framed or that, you know, she died of natural causes, and he just got printed the body, which we've seen, like in the Robert Durst case, things like that. Self defense, whatever, he's got up his sleeve.

I've got to tell you, juries love forensics. They love DNA, and they love Google searches and cell phone pings. And they really mapped out a very compelling timeline. And together with the circumstantial evidence, I think the defense attorney should be a little bit worried.

HILL: Jason, in terms of that December 27th Google search about divorce, what else came up from the prosecution, if anything, when it comes to motive?

CARROLL: We'll just speak to that point. I think a lot of folks out here have been wondering what a possible motive could be. Should be noted, though, the prosecution doesn't have to show motive when it comes to a murder case. They have to show intent, but don't necessarily have to show motive.

However, when speaking to that, again, as was mentioned here, December 27, he did allegedly do this Google search, what is the best state to get a divorce if you're a man. And then there's the one -- another one from January 1 that I want to point out to you, Erica, how long someone missing to inherit. And so that leads anyone who's been watching this to believe that when it comes to motive, money is going to more than likely play a role here.

HILL: And in terms of the fact that technically Ana Walshe is still missing. Casey, you already spoke to this point, but it has come up again and again. Not only can you be charged with a murder without a body, but in terms of a potential conviction here, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

JORDAN: It's not out of the realm. And again, it's -- you know, I live in the state of Connecticut where almost 40 years ago, we had the woodchipper case that was actually convicted based on a fingernail before we had DNA evidence technology that we had to pay a fingernail with matching nail polish got a conviction.

So, I think we have very savvy juries today. They understand what DNA evidence is. They are very good at connecting the dots. Listen, CSI, you know, it's 50 percent fiction, but people do understand how people, how an offender could try to get rid of a body and think that without their body, there's no conviction.

We've seen it, we see it time and time again. And it's not like this man has a good history. He was already as you know, and has left the white-collar crimes. So if character comes into play, that's not going to help him either.

HILL: I have to say I grew up in Connecticut, I remember that case very, very well. We'll never forget it.

Casey, Jason, appreciate it. Thank you both.

Turning to New Mexico now, we're in just a few hours. Failed Republican political candidate Solomon Pena is set to make his first court appearance. Pena is an election denier, he is accused of hiring hitmen to shoot at four Democrats homes.

CNN's Josh Campbell joining us now with the latest details here. So as I mentioned, this court appearance happening a short time from now but also today, some new information about another disturbing visit that Pena made to one of the homes before there was a shooting at that home. Walk us through that new information.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Erica, this is such a chilling part of this case. So we have prosecutors saying that this suspect not only was there to actually shoot at these residences, but we're also learning that prior to the attacks, he actually visited at least three of the homes of these elected officials who were eventually targeted. And the reason this is important is because this is helping get inside his mindset. This appears to be someone who believed in these election lies and was so angry and irate that he wanted to confront democratic officials there in New Mexico. We know that he lost his election by a landslide, but nevertheless, persisted in claiming that he had actually won.

Now we're also learning new information about him. CNN's Paul Murphy spoke with a former campaign staffer of this Republican state House representative who said that he would often berate other Republicans who he didn't believe were loyal to Donald Trump. The staffer eventually quit saying that working for this candidate was a, quote, a headache.


But that's interesting, because we know that the former president has also been out there spreading election lies about his own race. And, you know, just to show you some of the evidence that officials have gathered in this case, I want to read you one quote that police say this was found on the suspects' cell phone.

They say that he had texted another co-conspirator in this conspiracy saying that, "They just certified it. They sold us out to the highest bidder. They were literally laughing at us while they were doing it." And again, that was -- that occurred after, according to police, the suspect was sending the addresses of these eventual targets to the other co-conspirators.

So a lot of damning evidence there. Also show you some other evidence and photographs that officials found on this suspect phone and some of the coconspirators. You see, this is video of him actually visiting one of those residents. But as part of this affidavit, they actually show photos of the guns that were allegedly used. They include a Glock 9-millimeter pistol which had what is called a drum magazine, a high- capacity magazine.

Police say they also believe that another weapon used in this attack was a high capacity, assault style weapons. So very frightening there obviously. This type of weaponry used allegedly fired at these residences. Now, no one was physically hurt, but there was damage, of course, to these residents.

Finally, as you mentioned, the suspect will be in court and just a couple hours time. He faces a litany of charges. We will wait and to see whether this judge determines that he remains a threat to the public and is not allowed to be released on bond. We have reached out to his attorney for comment.

And then finally, we're waiting to learn what is the state of those other four co-conspirators. We're told by police that they're still trying to determine whether they actually knew the identities of the targets, these democratic officials or whether they were simply hired to spray bullets at these residents.

Obviously, a very chilling stunning episode not only if you look at the attack itself, but also this political overtone as well, someone who --

HILL: Yes.

CAMPBELL: -- seemed to be believing in these lies and then determine that he would allegedly act on them with violence.

HILL: Yes, absolutely. Josh, I appreciate all the updates. Thank you.

CAMPBELL: You bet.

HILL: So speed, a factor in that weekend crash that killed a University of Georgia football player and a team staff member, that's according to police. The vehicle, according to police report was actually going faster than the 40 mile per hour limit when it hit a curb and slammed into two utility poles, two trees, and finally an apartment building.

The driver Chandler LaCroix was pronounced dead at the hospital. UGA offensive tackle Devin Willock was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. Two other passengers were injured but survived. CNN has requested the toxicology results from the driver's autopsy.

A deadly scene to tell you about in Ukraine where a helicopter crashed this morning in a Kyiv suburb coming down near a kindergarten and an apartment building. At least one child we know is among the 14 people who are confirmed dead. Also killed Ukraine's interior minister.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is at that crash scene for us. And Fred, at this hour, as far as we know, this is really just a horrific tragedy.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's certainly the way the Ukrainians are treating it, Erica. But they do say that they are looking at any sort of other possibilities that might be out there, especially something like possibly mechanical failure, pilot error.

We do understand that there was some fog here in this region, as this chopper was coming through here. I'm going to get out of your way because you're absolutely right. That chopper did crash right next to an apartment building literally on the foot of that apartment building here. And at first, it did actually hit a kindergarten as well.

It crashed into the kindergarten and then sort of travel a little further and came to a crash right there in front of that apartment building. Everybody on board. The chopper was killed several people on the ground as well, including a child, as you say. And several top officials of this country, the Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy and also the State Secretary of the Interior Ministry as well, very important politicians, especially right now, in this phase in Ukraine.

But, of course, the police forces are extremely important. And also, the emergency services. If you look at some of the operations after the Russian strikes those cleanup operations, obviously, the emergency services in this country play the very important role. And the Ukrainians are treating it that way. There's a lot of people who have an outpouring of support and even the country's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as he was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos or to the World Economic Forum remotely, he called for a moment of silence for Denys Monastyrskyi, and those who were killed on board this helicopter. Nine people were on board in total, 14 people in total have been killed.

And again, the Ukrainians are saying there will be a full investigation as to what caused this crash. They don't believe that there was any foul play at this point in time but they also say that the investigation could take weeks as we still see forensic teams there.

We see a cleanup crews there as they're trying to get the debris out of the way, but the search and rescue operation was ended pretty quickly. There was a huge explosion, they say. The chopper apparently was on its way to the sort of northeast of the country to Kharkiv.


The interior minister had said some places that he wanted to visit there and of course a lot of mourning now here in this country as Ukraine, of course, faces so many difficulties in this phase of this time, with the assault coming from the Russians, with those attacks that are taking place on Ukrainian cities from Russian missiles as well. This another big blow to a nation that is already really being tested, Erica.

HILL: Yes, absolutely. Fred, appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, the investigation into President Biden's classified documents is ramping up as former President Trump makes a surprise admission about his own document probe. Plus, the governor of Illinois slamming dozens of sheriffs in his state for refusing to enforce new gun laws. Now the courts are getting involved.

And do skyrocketing egg prices have you scrambling for solutions? Maybe you're thinking, hey, time to add a few chickens to the backyard. Hold up, what you should know before you build that coop.



HILL: After days of scrambling behind the scenes at the White House and play a public criticism, a strategy for how the Biden team plans to deal with the documents scandal is taking shape. So in short, pledging full cooperation, no plan to discuss the details and attack Republicans.

So when it comes to cooperation, we do now know federal investigators have questioned the personal attorney for President Biden who found that first batch of classified documents at the Penn Biden Center office. House Republicans meantime are also asking for information. The oversight committee requesting a host of materials from the University of Pennsylvania, including visitor logs. Here discuss, CNN Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams. So Elliot, when we look at what we're seeing here, there are some questions specifically about this interview with Patrick Moore, who's the President's personal attorney.

There's discussion about the fact that this wasn't a sworn statement. I know there's a more technical term for it, but we're going to go with the layman's term on that one. Is that, in your view, evidence of special treatment here, or is this a nothing burger?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Maybe somewhere between the two. I certainly wouldn't call it special treatment, Erica, because it's not uncommon to have an informal conversation with law enforcement, assuming that the individual being interviewed or the subject of the interview is actually cooperating with law enforcement.

Not everything ends up being a scorched earth negotiation, or, you know, subpoenas flying or that kind of conduct. And often there will be informal conversations. Now, look, this -- the conversation here was not memorialized, I believe, it wasn't sworn, which might raise eyebrows. But again, it's simply not uncommon in law enforcement.

HILL: So not uncommon there. There are also questions about attorney- client privilege, right? If this is the President's personal attorney, could that come into play?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I, there's an explanation for why the President's attorney was the one doing the search, perhaps, and pure speculation here, that they were expecting to find attorney-client privilege documents or personal documents among the matters there, which is why they have the President's personal attorney doing the search.

And you couldn't have White House staff doing it, because this isn't the work of the government. This is essentially the work of President Biden's former -- you know, President Biden, I guess the private citizen, if you want to call it that.

HILL: Right. That President Biden, the President.

WILLIAMS: Now, attorney-client privilege here would not -- yes, the vice president, right. Now, attorney-client privilege here, he's not representing the President as an attorney here. If -- what we're talking about is going through files and documents. It gets a little bit complicated when talking about when the privilege would attach or not but he's not providing advice to the President. So I don't think so, Erica, right there.

HILL: You know, it's interesting. We also heard from former President Trump today who was chiming in on his classified documents investigation. So he was noting that he kept hundreds of these files, empty folders, I should say, file folders, that were labeled classified. He said they were, quote, a cool keepsake. Could that say anything about intent? Or is these just, you know, like, cool keepsake? WILLIAMS: You know, former President Trump is 25 percent right, let's say, on one thing, which is that the outer coverings of classified documents are not themselves classified documents, right? It's those that covering and you've seen it is exists to protect the material that's inside, some of classified document. So he's right, in so far as they're not themselves classified documents.

Now, the question is, why is a president of the United States keeping the coverage of classified documents as -- it's a bizarre keepsake, to say the least. Now to this question of intent, what it suggests is that he's sloppy at a minimum with classified information, which could be a defense for him because I didn't intend to commit a crime, I'm just sloppy all the time.

Now, if he's so sloppy, as to be seen as grossly negligent, and that certainly can be evidence of a crime because there are statutes at least one of the document mishandling statutes at issue here requires the defendant to be, quote, grossly negligent in their handling of materials. So it could cut both ways for him.

I think the bigger picture issue, Erica, my goodness, why is an individual taking the coverings of declassified documents just to say he has them which is just odd.

HILL: It's an excellent, excellent point. Elliot Williams, always appreciate your insight, my friend, thank you.

Well, this week, Republican leadership in the House rewarded some prominent election deniers, including Marjorie Taylor Greene giving them plum assignments on powerful committees. When it comes to the Georgia Congresswoman, you may recall too that she touches about election conspiracies. She also believed in QAnon. She suggested Nancy Pelosi be executed.


In the last Congress, Greene, of course, was kicked off of committees because of some of those views. CNN's Lauren Fox is on the Hill for us this hour. So Lauren, all of these conspiracies, 9/11 conspiracies, now she's on Homeland Security. That is not the only committee appointment that is getting some attention. What else is is happening there?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, obviously, Marjorie Taylor Greene is the significant character in the Republican Party. And she's seen as somebody who is a hardliner on issues like immigration. Now, she's going to be serving on the Homeland Security Committee. She's also going to have oversight over investigations into Biden, his family members, and any other issue that the Oversight Committee wants to take on.

So that is another significant appointment. And like you said, she's not the only controversial figure in the Republican Party to get a committee assignment yesterday. Paul Gosar, another member of the Republican conference, who was kicked off his committees from Democrats in the last Congress. He also got back his committee assignments he had had previously, after the steering committee meeting. He is going to be serving on the Oversight Committee, as well as the Natural Resources Committee. That's a committee that's really important for his State of Arizona, where he serves.

And we should know that when you are serving on these committees, it gives you actionable items that you can take home to constituents and argue, look, I'm working for you. I'm trying to get answers to questions that I have been saying and promising I was going to get answers to. So, it is really important to remember that this isn't just about serving on these committees. But this is really used to help you get reelected in the future, as well, Erica.

HILL: Well, when we're looking at what everything else is happening, we also know Congressman George Santos was given committee assignments. He, of course, is the subject of several investigations. We know about these several significant lies. What are we hearing about him and those assignments?

FOX: Well, this really follows the pattern that you've heard from Republican leaders all along, which is they do not want to make any decisions about George Santos. They want the ethics committee and said to be making those kinds of recommendations. And what you heard from members yesterday was that we appointed George Santos on committees and he was appointed to both the Science Committee as well as the Small Business Committee.

The reason he got those committee assignments is because they argue he's still representing a million people. He was duly elected, and we have no other choice but to seat him. Of course, they can make another decision. The steering committee is often called the speaker's committee because it is full of his allies and often reflects the speaker's wishes.

So while these aren't plum committee assignments, like the Intelligence Committee, or Ways and Means, or Foreign Affairs. They still are and way for George Santos to go back to constituents and say, look, I'm doing something on Capitol Hill. Erica?

HILL: Lauren Fox, appreciate it. Thank you.

In Illinois, an emergency hearing being held today to stop a new state ban on assault weapons. Already, dozens of sheriffs have refused to enforce that law, which bans the sale of assault weapons and caps, the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines. It also bans what are known as switches which can convert legal handguns into assault weapons. And it requires existing owners of semi-automatic guns to register that ownership.

CNN's Whitney Wild is in Chicago this hour. So Whitney, what more do we know about these legal challenges to the law?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is when anticipated, Erica, and this is at the very early stage. Basically, this main lawsuit is filed by gun rights advocacy groups, and individual and two firearm stores. And basically, these parties are making a single argument and it's this.

They say that this law is so broad, that it basically diminishes the rights of law-abiding citizens. And here's how they're making that argument. They make several arguments, one of which is they basically say, look, these weapons are traditionally viewed as lawful. They are very commonly used, and they are commonly used for lawful purposes, like hunting, like self-defense.

Another one of the arguments they're making here is that the ban is just so broad, and the list of weapons that falls under this ban is so extensive, that some of these firearms are not actually meeting the definition of an assault weapon, according to these parties. So basically, they're saying, look, this list is too broad, it includes weapons that don't traditionally meet the criteria to be considered an assault weapon.

Another main argument they're making, Erica, is that these weapons are simply not frequently used in crimes enough to warrant such an extensive ban. They say the fraction of semi-automatic rifles, you know, those that do meet the assault weapons definition, are used in a much smaller number of crimes relative to other types of firearms that are not subject to this very extensive assault weapons ban.