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Archives to Consult DOJ Before Releasing Biden Docs to Congress; Interview with Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT): Classified Documents in Bidens Home and Office; Ukraine Mourns New Tragedy After Chopper Crash Kills 14; Family Demands Answers in Death of Southern California Attorney. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 18, 2023 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The National Archives says it will not release information on the classified documents found at President Biden's private office and Delaware home until it has consulted with the Department of Justice.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: CNN's Paula Reid joins us now. Paula, explain why.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they don't want to interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation. We know that special counsel Robert Hur will now be overseeing the investigation into the handling of these classified materials, now found at multiple locations connected to the sitting president.

And in recent days in our reporting on this investigation, we've learned a little bit more about just how far the Justice Department has gone in this investigation. We have learned that the U.S. attorney in Chicago who was tasked with doing the initial review and making a recommendation about whether there should be a special counsel, we learned that he interviewed Pat Moore, who is one of Biden's longtime attorneys. He is the one who uncovered the first batch of classified information at President Biden's office here in D.C.

But what's interesting about that interview is we learned that it didn't generate what's called a 302. That sounds technical, a little nerdy, but it's important because that is the form that the government usually uses to memorialize an interview like this. And that suggests that it is more of an informal conversation. We've also learned that the U.S. attorney didn't use a grand jury. He didn't ask them to do searches. He didn't participate in these searches of other locations.

So, it seems like the special counsel, Robert Hur, he's going to inherit a pretty thin file of evidence. So, we've learned that what he's in the process of assembling his team and once he gets that together, he'll really have to go and almost start this from the beginning. He'll have the opportunity to re-interview people, do new interviews, fire off subpoenas. We can also use that grand jury to hear from witnesses. So, he's got a lot of work to do, and The Hill could be waiting for a while before this wraps up and they get access to all this evidence that they're asking for. CAMEROTA: OK, Paula Reid, thank you for the latest.

BLACKWELL: Right, Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah is with me now. He served on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, good to have you. So, I read the transcript of a recent interview that you did over the weekend in which you said that -- that President Biden's claim this he did not know the classified documents were at his home and at his former office, you called those nonsense. What supports that claim that you say it's nonsense?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Well, if you ever have a chance to actually handle these documents, as I said before, I was an Air Force pilot, I flew the B1. Sitting on the House Intelligence Committee, we have access to incredibly sensitive information. Every single classified document, even if the lowest classification is just secret, comes in a special binder. It's very clearly marked. It's red. It says the classification level and why it's classified. It says who you can disseminate it to. And every single page within that document also has the same markings.

And by the way, every document is numbered. You can't take these documents home with you. You can't even take them -- if you are watching -- looking at them from a SCIF in the White House, you can't take them to your offices in the White House.

And my point being this isn't the kind of thing you have sitting on your desk or sitting on your night stand and you not know that they're not classified or not remember that they're not classified.


The possibility of these being in your home and in your office and you forgetting that they're classified is just, I think, is nearly zero, and that was the basis for that, that someone would have these documents around and think, oh, I forgot they were classified or forgot that I had them.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I don't know that the president says that he forgot he had them. He didn't know where they were, and I'm not on the president's defense team. He has some highly paid lawyers to do that for him, but is it possible there could have been an aide that put those in boxes with personal items marked personals, even a folder marked personal? So that is --


BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

STEWART: Well, I just say that's certainly likely, and, in fact, that's probable. I don't think that, you know, what you have envisioned there is improbable at all. My primary concern is that those aide would have those documents or the president would have those documents outside of a secure location in the first place.

BLACKWELL: Let me also point out that there is a SCIF at the former vice president, now president's home there in Wilmington. Let's turn to the former president, Donald Trump, and get your

thoughts on what he's kept as cool keepsakes. He posted this on social media. When I was in the oval office or elsewhere and papers were distributed to groups or people and me, they would often be in striped, paper folder with classified or confidential or another word on them. When a session was over, they would collect the papers, but not the folders. I've saved hundreds of them. He called them a cool keepsake. Now of course, he saved troves of government documents. He claimed that hundreds of pages of classified documents he declassified. But what's your thought on the president keeping these -- these cool keepsakes, the folders for classified documents?

STEWART: Well, and I haven't read what he wrote. I just heard you read it there, and as I understand are you saying he didn't keep the contents? He just kept the folder themselves.

BLACKWELL: Well, he certainly kept hundreds of documents of classified documents. We know that from the FBI searches of Mar-a-Lago and what was given over in the response to that subpoena, but yes, these folders as well.

STEWART: Well, I don't know -- I don't really know how to respond to that. I guess it's the contents that are classified. I can tell you, you shouldn't separate the contents from the folder. It's the folder that has the initial markings on them. But once again, the president -- both the presidents in this case apparently had classified information, in situations where it wasn't secure and we need to understand that. And by the way, one of the things that those of us on the intelligence committee are anxious to learn is, what was the contents of these documents and what is the potential security threat they may have posed?

BLACKWELL: While certainly, the difference between Trump and Biden, Biden when his attorneys found them, they handed them over to the National Archives. Attorneys for Trump have resisted National Archives requests for more than a year, and the Department of Justice still didn't believe they have all of the classified information in the former president's possession.

Let's talk about committees here. George Santos, why does he deserve to serve on a committee when really there are so many questions about who he even is, his experience, his biography. Do you think he should have these committee assignments?

STEWART: Yes, you know, that's up to the Speaker. And look, I don't know -- I said this before -- I don't know Mr. Santos. I've never had a chance to even speak with him, but it's hard to watch this and not ask these kind of questions and ask if he can effectively serve in Congress. Look --

BLACKWELL: Do you think he can?

STEWART: Well, I don't know. I don't think I could if I were in that situation. He was entirely dishonest with this constituents. He has this enormous challenge now of people like myself, his peers in Congress to earn our trust, and at the end of the day, you can't expel a member of Congress. It's up to the voters of Nassau County to decide. And he's going to have to justify to them which I think is going to be nearly impossible. I can tell you or I in that situation, I don't think I could effectively serve. But that's a question that he has to ask and answer himself, and then if he doesn't, you know, decide that he cannot serve, it's up to the voters of his district to decide.

BLACKWELL: Congressman Chris Stewart, thank you.

STEWART: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Ukrainian officials are investigating a helicopter crash that killed more than a dozen people, including a child. We're going to go there live, next.


BLACKWELL: President Biden and the first lady are offering their deepest condolences to the families of the 14 killed in this helicopter crash today in a suburb of Kyiv, in Ukraine. A child was killed, three screw members, also six interior ministry officials including the country's interior minister.

CAMEROTA: 28 others were hurt, many of them children. CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen was on the scene of the crash today. So, Fred, what do Ukrainian officials think caused this crash.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there Alisyn. Well, so far, they are treating it as a tragic accident They say there's no indication this chopper may have been shot down or there might have been some sort of other foul play.

There's several other things that they do say that they are looking for. They're looking at possible technical fault. Also, the weather possibly playing a role, and also possibly pilot error contributing as well. But again, they also say this is the beginning of their investigation, it's impossible to tell. They say it could take several weeks before they actually come to the bottom of it.


It's quite interesting because I did speak to a witness on the ground there who said that he saw the chopper coming in, and it didn't look as though the chopper was out of control but it was losing altitude pretty quickly. It apparently then first, hit a kindergarten -- where you guys already mentioned -- one child fortunately was killed. And it was apparently the time that people were dropping their children off at that kindergarten. And then crashed completely right at the entrance of a residential building.

Now course, this is a huge blow to a country that's already facing so many challenges like for instance, that massive invasion by the Russians that's been taking place for almost a year now. And the president of this country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he actually called for a moment of silence for those who were killed in that accident, in that incident. Today when he was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, of course a very important speech by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He did say however that while this chopper may have not been shot down but he does relate this to the war. Because he says all of the things that are happening right now are happening because of the war. And of course, this official, the interior minister, Denis Monastyrsky and a lot of his team, they were actually on their way to Kharkiv, to the northeast of the country where they were obviously going to see some folks who were contributing to the effort to defend Ukraine -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Fred Pleitgen for us there in Kyiv, thank you, Fred.

CAMEROTA: An American attorney was found dead in Mexico and his family believes he was the victim of a brutal crime. We have the details ahead.



BLACKWELL: The family of a southern California attorney found dead over the weekend in Mexico says he was the victim of a brutal crime.

CAMEROTA: Elliott Blare a deputy public defender, was celebrating his first wedding anniversary in Rosarito Beach. Medical officials there say he died from a fall but his family is crying foul. CNN's Stephanie Elam is following this story for us. So, Stephanie what does his family think really happened?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They definitely feel that there was some foul play. That's for sure, Alisyn and Victor, and this is all happening just south of the border may be about less than an hour's drive south of there to Rosarito Beach. And what the family is saying is that they are -- they believe that he was killed. Let's put it to that way.

In fact, let me read to you part of their statement that was put up on their GoFundMe page and that we've also received from the family lawyer.

It says: The family, which has extensive legal training in criminal law, wholeheartedly believed based on their initial investigation, that Elliott was the victim of a brutal crime.

Now according to the family this is a resort where he and his wife had visited several times over the last few years, someplace they knew. Even staying in the same room so he was familiar with the area. That he was fluent in Spanish and that he was not intoxicated when this happened. But they are saying that this happened outside of the front door to where their room was.

Now, according to the Attorney General for Baja California, telling the "Orange County Register" -- and I just want to redo this little bit here.

It says, this was a death that was a result of an unfortunate accident from a fall by the now deceased from the third-story floor. The family refutes that completely saying that is not what happened.

They have not heard from any of the Mexican officials, the family says. But they did say that they heard from a liaison from the coroner's department and this is what their conversation had -- what they say happened with that conversation. The liaison indicated the cause of death was severe head trauma and that the case forwarded to the district attorney's office to conduct a possible homicide investigation. The liaison also advised at this time the toxicology report had not been completed.

The family says they've been pushed to have the body cremated but are going to do their own investigation and so they're not going to do that. But are looking further into this. But clearly no matter how you look at this it's a tragic, tragic story and not a lot of clarity on how this could have happened.

BLACKWELL: All right, Stephanie Elam, thank you for that.

A voting system error in New Jersey altered the outcome of a local non-partisan race. Just ahead, what went wrong. We'll explain that for you.

CAMEROTA: And we're in the final minutes of the trading day on Wall Street. The Dow is down sharply. More than 600 points right now. This is on mixed economic data released today.



BLACKWELL: We have a grim new assessment of Greenland's massive ice sheet which covering nearly 80 percent of the country as reported in the journal "Nature." Scientists studied the ice sheet temperatures from 1100 A.D. to 2011. And the findings show it is now the warmest it has been in at least 1,000 years.

CAMEROTA: The study's lead author says that Greenland is the world's largest contributor to sea level rise. If the current rate of melting does not change, Greenland could contribute up to 20 inches of sea level rise by end of this century. s

BLACKWELL: So, it's probably a good idea to mess with Taylor Swift for a bunch of reasons but you don't want to end up as a subject of one of her revenge songs.

But if there's bad blood between you and yours, a new pop-up bar wants to help you drown those sorrows.

CAMEROTA: OK, so this is for Valentine's Day. Chicago's Electric Garden says it will temporarily transform into a Taylor Swift-themed breakup bar ahead of Valentine's Day. It's called "Bad Blood." It includes tarot card readers, so you can figure out, you know, who is in your future love life, you know --

BLACKWELL: Oh, nice. CAMEROTA: -- and a shake it off wheel's cocktails. I mean, I'm just happy about a wheel of cocktails. Of course, Taylor will not be there, they want you to know. She's not affiliated with this venture, except that she's affiliated with every venture. Isn't she? So, let's talk about Valentine's Day for second.


CAMEROTA: Do you observe?

BLACKWELL: If I have a man, yes.

CAMEROTA: But if you're single you ignore it. I know you're miserable on Valentine's Day?

BLACKWELL: No, no, no. I'm happy most days. What about you?

CAMEROTA: Oh, I've --

BLACKWELL: Most days, you know, you sit next to me for a while most days. Not everyone. Most days.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's for a decoration. Also, if you're one of the people celebrating dry January, you're in good company.


Sales of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits jumped 20 percent in the past year.

BLACKWELL: And now some restaurateurs are investing in the trend, opening bars specifically designed for people who are sober or something called sober curious. I don't' know what that is. Sober curious.

CAMEROTA: It means you want to go a bar but you might not necessarily want to drink. But I don't know how this is going to be a good business model. Are they going to charge $15 for a mocktail?

BLACKWELL: I don't know. But sober curious is most of every day. Right?

CAMEROTA: You're curious not to be so curious?

"The Lead With Jake Tapper" starts right now.