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Ukraine Mourns "New Tragedy" After Chopper Crash Kills 14; Brian Walshe Charged With Murdering His Missing Wife; Soon: Failed GOP Candidate Accused Of Targeting Dems Appears In Court. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 18, 2023 - 14:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.


Ukraine's top officials are mourning the loss of more than a dozen of their own, though it's not clear if the deaths are directly caused by an attack, an accident, or something else. 14 people were killed after a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten in the Kyiv suburb Brovary. The dead include the crew, a child, and nine government officials and staff including the Ukrainian interior minister.

BLACKWELL: Now, last year, CNN interviewed that Minister, 42 years old, a lawyer in politics, trying to reform Ukrainian law enforcement. 25 others were injured on the ground, nearly half of them children. Government and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland held a moment of silence for the victims at the request of Ukraine's President Zelenskyy.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is on the scene there in Brovary. Fred, are investigators any closer to knowing why this helicopter went down?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, Victor, they say -- they say they're not. They're still looking into the so early stages. One of the things they don't believe is that there was any foul play involved. They don't believe that this chopper was shot down. But they do say they are exploring all sorts of possibilities, like for instance, a mechanical failure and possibly also pilot error due to weather. We do understand that there was apparently fog here in the area at the time that that chopper came down.

It was quite interesting because I was speaking to a witness here on the scene, and by the way, the rescue crews -- the search crews right now, they're clearing -- they're finishing up those clearing operations. Most of the debris has already been cleared away from the area now. They do say that the fog was very heavy, but a witness that I spoke to said he saw the chopper coming in. It didn't look as though the chopper was out of control but he said that it was coming in very low. It then actually did hit that kindergarten, bounced over the kindergarten, and crashed right in front of the door of a residential building.

And you know, as you mentioned, all the people who were on board that chopper, they were all killed, including the interior minister, his deputy, and the state secretary as well, and also several people on the ground, including a child. But again, right now, the Ukrainians are not treating this as something that is related to the war. However, the president of this country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, when he was speaking, he did say that of course in certain ways this is related to Russia's invasion in Ukraine. Here's what he had to say.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: (Speaking in a foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no accidents. This was the result of the war. And it's absolutely horrible. Everything was just happening. Rockets that hit our people -- civilians, what is happening with kindergartens, and schools.

ZELENSKYY: (Speaking in a foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every death is a result of war.


PLEITGEN: Volodymyr Zelenskyy, of course, also speaking about some of the things -- some of the incidents that we've seen here recently in the war in Ukraine. Before coming here, I was actually in the town of Dnipro where the Ukrainians say a Russian missile struck a residential building there, a missile that's actually designed to destroy aircraft carriers, and it completely annihilated that building, and the death toll there stands at 45. So, obviously, the Ukrainian and their president, they're angry generally about the situation. But here right now, what you have is mourning really throughout this country and certainly in the high echelons of this government of the interior minister, certainly one of the most important politicians here in this country at this moment, guys.

CAMEROTA: OK. Fred Pleitgen, thank you for all of that.

Two U.S. Officials say the White House will announce one of its largest military aid packages to Ukraine soon, but Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is pleading for shipments of more modern tanks. That's a request the U.S. long -- has long said they are not willing to grant.

BLACKWELL: CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann is following this story. So, there are also reports, Oren, that Kyiv is bracing for a possible large-scale Russian counter-offensive. How could this latest package -- this huge package coming from the U.S. help?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Perspective first. To date, the largest U.S. package to Ukraine was just a couple of weeks ago, it was $3 billion, including much of that coming directly from U.S. stocks so it can be shipped quickly. Before that, just before Christmas, was a package that was nearly $2 billion. So, if we're talking about that kind of range, and two U.S. officials have told us it is expected to be one of the largest packages, you're almost certainly expecting there to be a tremendous amount of ammo in there as well as other capabilities. And that's critical for Ukraine because as much as they've innovated, as much as they found new ways to use advanced U.S. technology to take the fight to Russia, there's still on the ground a brutal war of heavy artillery, and that's where any ammo is critical to this fight so it keeps Ukraine in the fight especially as we see Russia trying to make moves in eastern Ukraine.


Of course, any weapons package is something you hear from Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a tremendous amount of appreciation. We also expect that later this week, perhaps with the announcement from other countries, of the weapons they're willing to send. The UK has already announced they'll send their own Challenger 2 tanks. Poland, Finland expressing their willingness to send German-made Leopard tanks, though Germany has not yet given the sign-off to that from what we understand.

And then there's the question of U.S. tanks. From the U.S. perspective, M1 Abrams tanks are still too heavy in terms of maintenance, too heavy in terms of what they can go over on the ground, and then they guzzled gas. So, from the U.S. perspective, it's not the right fit right now but perhaps that has kept other countries from sending in their own tanks. That's been sort of the discussion around what's going in.

Around the questions of the offensive. Ukraine has said they're bracing for a Russian offensive. And the National Security Council here has said after this winter is over, perhaps they expect Russia to try to carry out more offensives and take more territory. The question, Victor and Alisyn, does Russia have the manpower and the capability for that at this point?

BLACKWELL: Oren Liebermann force at the Pentagon, Oren, thank you so much.

Also, in Davos today, Ukrainian president Zelenskyy, he thanked his allies for providing such a wide range of support but he said as his country prepares for a new wave of possible Russian retaliation, what he needs most is speed.


ZELENSKYY: The supply of Ukraine with air defense systems must outpace Russia's next missile attacks. These supplies or Western tanks must outpace another invasion of Russian tanks.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is retired Major Mike Lyons. Major, great to have you here. Let's talk about this huge shipment that the U.S. is preparing to send to Ukraine. Is there any risk of the U.S. -- I mean, having sent so many billions of dollars worth of U.S. weaponry over, is putting its own stockpile in a precarious position?

MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET), U.S. ARMY: Yes. We've likely had to increase our industrial capability. We're not going to a trade ourselves down to a level where we're going to put our country at risk. So, that's number one. But we're likely getting to the point where it's worth the discussion to make sure that just doesn't happen. And it might take the government to tell the industrial-military complex to start producing more of these weapons. They have some of the air defense platforms and some of the artillery rounds as well. But fundamentally, we're not going to put ourselves at that risk.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's talk about these 300,000 munitions that the U.S. is moving from its stockpiles in Israel and sending to Ukraine. Put that into context of what was promised, how long that potentially could last the Ukrainians, what do we need to know.

LYONS: Sure. So, just a kind of a quick and dirty update on what the ammunition looks like. We promised a million rounds, 155 military -- millimeter rounds to Ukraine. 300,000 came from the stockpile in Israel. It weren't from Israel itself, there were U.S. supplies there.


LYONS: 200,000 came from South Korea as well. And then NATO put the rest of the 500,000 in. So, let's say that's where the million initially came from. Our industrial military complex makes about 50,000 rounds a month.

Ukraine right now has, let's say about 500,000 of those rounds remaining on site. They're at a firing rate of about 90,000 rounds a month. And let's say of the 50,000 were manufacturing, we're giving them 40,000. I think that's a high number. I think that potentially does put our military at risk.

So, what's -- let's say they're actually at a 50,000 round a month attrition rate with their rounds, that means they exhaust their ammunition in 10 months. And if you're the defense minister of Ukraine, that's just too short of the timeline. That -- something's got to change. This number has got to improve or we have to find more artillery rounds.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the tanks, the modern tanks that Ukraine is asking for. And the U.S., I guess, doesn't think is more practical to send over there. Why the disconnect?

LYONS: Well, they'd be difference-makers, no question about it, especially in the numbers that the Ukraine military wants them. But the tooth-to-tail ratio to support those tanks is just too high. The amount of ammunition, the amount of debt -- diesel gas, material, mechanics, all the things that support those are just too high. It's too much to really ask the Ukraine military to absorb that.

Now, the question is, does the U.S. military support that in Poland or in Romania? Do we -- do we kind of played backup to that? That puts a significant increase from Russia's perspective on U.S. support there and really tips the balance completely back in the favor of Ukraine. BLACKWELL: So, without these advanced tanks, the Western modern tanks, is it possible that Ukraine can go on this attempt to retake some of the territory that Russia has taken?

LYONS: Yes. I don't think so. From my perspective, they've reached a stalemate. We've got a World War One artillery battle stalemate right now. They need offensive weapons to do that, ATACMS, longer-range missiles to possibly -- maybe that's the next step that comes. But if they send these ground armored vehicles like that, that would change the -- change the game completely but I just don't see us sending them just yet.


CAMEROTA: Major, are you as struck when you see President Zelenskyy speak to world bodies like he did in Davos today? Just by his steadfastness, his unwavering, he's just to me, seems to have had this kind of North Star always, which is Ukraine is going to win this, but -- I mean, despite incredibly long odds. And now, one of his top military people who was in charge of tens of thousands of fighters has been killed.

LYONS: Yes. No, he's been compared to Winston Churchill. I think about the soldier on the ground that's also listening to what he says. But he does have to align the strategy with the ways and means of their capabilities because we don't want to see Ukraine throw their soldiers into this fodder that Russia is doing. So, at some point, he's got to decide, you know, what's more important. He's not only talking to the world, he's talking to the -- his troops on the ground, they're listening very closely. They want ways and means in order to finish this off.

CAMEROTA: Major Mike Lyons, thanks for all the information. Really helpful.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Major.

New evidence laid out in court against the man charged with killing his missing wife, including the Google searches made after her disappearance. Among the most disturbing, can you be charged with a murder without a body? We're live outside the court with more.

CAMEROTA: And soon, the suspect behind a string of shootings at the homes of Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico will make his first court appearance. We have new details next.



CAMEROTA: Prosecutors in Massachusetts revealing a mountain of new evidence against Brian Walshe, the man charged with murdering his wife, Ana. Walshe appeared in court early today as prosecutors laid out their case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LYNN BELAND, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, NORFOLK COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS: Rather than divorce, it is believed that Brian Walshe dismembered Ana Walshe and discarded her body.


BLACKWELL: Prosecutors say they found several trash bags that included Ana's DNA. They also outlined dozens of disturbing internet searches they say Walshe made soon after his wife's disappearance.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live outside the courthouse in Quincy, Massachusetts. Jason, as the prosecutor listed off these internet searches, especially I mean, this is some damning evidence. What more can you tell us?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we were sitting there in the courtroom earlier this morning, Victor, the prosecutor, she literally just had a notepad, old fashioned style just reading after list, list, list. One Search after another search of these disturbing searches that Brian Walshe allegedly made in the wake of his wife's disappearance. Beginning on January 1 at 4:55 a.m., listen to this one, how long before a body starts to smell? 4:58 just a few minutes later, how to stop a body from decomposing, 10 ways to dispose of a dead body if you really want to, can you throw away body parts, how to clean blood from a wooden floor.

Then the very next day starting at about 12:45 a.m., hacksaw best tool to dismember, can you be charged with murder without a body, can you identify a body with broken teeth? January 3, the searches continue. Brian Walshe allegedly searches for what happens to hair on a dead body. What is the rate of decomposition of a body found in a plastic bag compared to a surface in the woods, followed by can baking soda mask or make a body smell good?

And then the prosecution went to some of the evidence that they found in this case, evidence found at a dumpster and also at a trash facility north of Boston including towels, rags, slippers, capes, gloves, some of these items containing bloodstains, cleaning supplies found there, a hacksaw, a hatchet, Ana Walshe's COVID card. One of her purses found there. Her boots found at the site as well. Some of these items containing both DNA from Ana Walshe and Brian Walshe. And then there's what investigators found at the home on January 4.


BELAND: On January 4, when he has the police went to the house for a well-being check, officers observed his Volvo with seats down in a plastic liner in the back of the car. The next day, a view of the Volvo show his seats folded down floor mats with some dirt in the carpet appeared to show fresh vacuum streaks. When asked about the liner, the defendant said he threw in the trash. The chemist later analyzed the car and the presence of blood in the car.


CARROLL: Brian Walshe as we sat there in court and watched him, Victor and Alisyn, he stood there and was stoic as these items were read off in court. At one point, he did shake his head with a prosecutor brought up saying that he had used his son's iPad to conduct these searches.

CAMEROTA: Hmm, OK. What does the defense have to say about all of that?

CARROLL: Well, not much in court, but we did get a statement from the defense attorney in all this. Tracy Miner, she actually sent this statement to me. I received it on my phone at about 9:17 a.m. That was before the court proceeding was even over. I'll read part of it to you.

It says it is easy to charge a crime and even easier to say a person committed that crime. It is a much more difficult thing to prove it. In my experience, where, as here the prosecution leaks so-called evidence to the press before they provided it to me. Their case isn't that strong.

Again, that coming from Tracy Miner, defense attorney. I think a lot of legal experts would disagree. And based on what we heard today, they would probably tell you, their case, at least at this point, appears to be very strong. Back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jason Carroll, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Next hour, failed GOP candidate Solomon Pena is set to appear in court. The New Mexico election denier was arrested on multiple charges related to four shootings at the homes of local Democratic officials.

CAMEROTA: The arrest warrant says Pena intended to cause death and serious injury to those who targeted. He visited the homes of at least three of the officials before the shootings. CNN's Josh Campbell is following this story for us. So, what's the latest, Josh?


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Alisyn, what you just mentioned there about this suspect allegedly going to the homes is so important because I can tell you having worked investigations when you have a crime, what authorities will do is look into what's called the victimology, what is the relationship between an offender and a victim. Here, it appears that the suspect went to at least three of the residences that were ultimately targeted by gun -- with gunfire in this alleged conspiracy. And what we're hearing from these officials who were targeted is that the suspect was very irate. He was talking about -- he felt that he lost his own election despite having lost it -- or excuse me, won his own election despite having lost it in a landslide.

And again, there's a trove of evidence that authorities unearthed that they presented in this criminal affidavit, including text messages between this suspect and these other alleged co-conspirators actually sending the addresses of these places that were ultimately struck by gunfire. Authorities also uncovered the weapons that they believed were used. They include a pistol with a high-capacity magazine, as well as what they're describing as an assault-style, fully automatic weapon. So, again, very troubling there.

Finally, it's important to note on the evidence part that authorities say they have a cooperating witness, someone who was involved with knowledge of this conspiracy, who has flipped and is now providing information to investigators. So, a very strong case there. I want you to hear from officials who were on CNN this morning, we heard from the police chief, we heard from the district attorney, talking about the dangerous nature of this case and why prosecution here is so important. Take a listen.


HAROLD MEDINA, CHIEF, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO POLICE: As you follow the course of the investigation and you read statements, he was becoming more aggressive in his manner. And he was starting to ask them to do activities, which clearly put lives in danger.

SAM BREGMAN, BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It is unacceptable at every level. It doesn't matter if they're Democrats or Republicans. We're going to do everything we can to bring all the individuals involved, including Mr. Pena to justice.


CAMPBELL: And this is exactly what law enforcement has been warning about that there are people out there that are receiving these election lies, believing them, internalizing them, and could prove to be very dangerous. We have reached out to an attorney for an opinion for comment. As you mentioned at the top, we are waiting for that court hearing to begin any minute now. We will wait and see whether this judge determines that this individual remains a threat to the public whether he is issued no bail. But again, very serious charges here in a very serious case. The area there obviously, New Mexico, very troubled by elected leaders apparently targeted in a politically motivated attack, guys.

BLACKWELL: Josh Campbell with the reporting for us there, Josh, thank you.

Let's discuss now with CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. Andy, good to see you. Listen, we've discussed how election denialism is dangerous for our democracy. We saw on January 6, and several times since, how it is dangerous to life and limb. When you see this suspect, Solomon Pena, targeting these lawmakers going to their homes. I mean, what does that tell you about our climate and this suspect, specifically?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Victor, it tells me that the concerns that we've had and the concerns that law enforcement and our -- and our law enforcement and intelligence leaders have had, that we may be entering a period of political violence has happened. We are there. This is no longer a kind of strategic discussion about the next threat that might be over the horizon. It's here. We've become a country in which people resort to violence to express their frustration over politics. And obviously, January 6, the best example of that.

But as you said, we have had many other examples in the last few years. Cesar Sayoc, who went on -- who's -- who began mailing pipe bombs to people he felt were political enemies. Ricky Shiffer who tried to attack the FBI Cincinnati field office with an AR-15 acting out on you know, another guy who we know that was consuming a lot of these election deniers and lies and propaganda. So, the list goes on and on, and this one, unfortunately, will be added to that as yet another example of what's happening in this country.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I remember having to flee my office because of Cesar Sayoc. Because of the -- you know, bomb that he sent to his perceived enemies. And so, the fact that election denialism lights the fuse, and it's a pretty quick line to the explosion of political violence, how does the FBI now change their approach, if that's the right word? I mean, knowing that we are now in this climate, what are they doing?

MCCABE: So, Alisyn, it requires both deploying the sort of techniques and tactics that we've used for many years over the course of successful investigations of domestic violent extremists, that is searching for sources of information, searching for sources of intelligence, recruiting people to report on the activities of their co-conspirators, things like that. But it also requires a little bit of a new shift. The FBI and DHS and their law enforcement intelligence partners have to pivot a little bit and recognize that this threat is coming from a slightly different place.


Should no longer looking at discrete groups that are focused on maybe you know, anti-black discrimination, anti-immigration, anti-government feelings, generally, what have you, you have a -- you have a collection of those sorts of motivated groups who are all rallying around the same sort of political motivation now, and that is the pursuit of a kind of extreme right-wing politics. And that is actually where the threat is coming from. It doesn't mean that all people who are -- who believe -- you know, have conservative beliefs and support right-wing politics or terrorists, but now we know that some are. So, that is the direction that the FBI needs to look at.

CAMEROTA: Andrew McCabe, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Two controversial GOP lawmakers are awarded committee assignments. George Santos, he has multiple committee seats despite egregious lies up and down his resume and biography.

CAMEROTA: And -- you are not done. You have more to say. Now -- there are so many lies.

BLACKWELL: There are so many lies.

CAMEROTA: I agree -- I agree with that. And Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for insane conspiracy theories, she'll serve on Homeland Security. How's that going to work? All of that, next.