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Veteran Says Santos Took Money Meant for Dying Dog; Defeated Republican Charged in Attacks Appears in Court; Search Warrant for Kohberger's Home and Office Unsealed; Ukraine Investigating Helicopter Crash That Killed 14; U.S. and German Defense Chiefs Meet in Berlin. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 04:30   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

Prosecutors in Massachusetts have charged Brian Walshe for the alleged murder of his wife, Ana Walshe. They say Walshe dismembered her body and attempted to destroy evidence by spreading her body parts across Boston.

The Iraqi state news agency INA reports at least one person has been killed, dozens of others injured in a stadium stampede in the city of Basra. Large crowds of fans were gathering outside the international stadium waiting for the Arabian Gulf Cup football final match between Iraq and Oman. We'll bring you any further details when we get it on that.

Now though to the growing controversy surrounding embattled Republican Congressman George Santos. Newly uncovered immigration records appear to contradict his repeated claim that his mother was at the World Trade Center during the September 11 terrorist attacks. He's even said that played a role in her death from cancer. But the records show his mother was still in Brazil in 2001. And we're also hearing from a Navy veteran who says Santos promised to raise funds to help his dog get life-saving surgery but instead he took the money. CNN Eva McKend has the story.


EVA MCKEND, CNN U.S. NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: The Navy veteran was connected with Santos, who at the time was going by the name of Anthony Devolder, which Osthoff's dog Sapphire had a tumor.

Santos posted on Facebook, using the name George Devolder soliciting funds through a GoFundMe for the vet and his dog.

On Facebook Santos wrote: Will you help this baby in her daddy stayed together for a few more years? Does he not deserve to have her? Let's all come together to help this family of two stay healthy. But when Osthoff, when he tried to retrieve the money, he kept getting

the run-around from Santos. And Santos never transferred the $3,000 to the veteran. Santos told the news outlet Semafor, the story first reported by Patch, was fake and that he had no clue who is. Osthoff said he didn't get they far with the police when he alerted them. Sapphire died about six months after his last contact with Santos. Osthoff was forced to panhandled for the money to pay for her euthanization. GoFundMe tells us they did remove the fundraiser from its platform after receiving a report about it.

In a statement they said: When we received a report of an issue with this fundraising in late 2016, our trust and safety team sought proof of the delivery of the funds from the organizer. The organizer failed to respond, which led to the fundraiser being removed and the email associated with that account prohibited from further use on our platform. The police said when we got, we sought delivery of the funds from the organizer. He organizer failed to respond which led to it the fund-raiser being removed and the account prohibited from further use on our platform.

This, of course, is not an isolated incident involving Santos. This appears to be part of a long pattern of alleged deception.

Eva McKend, CNN, Washington.


FOSTER: That Navy veteran spoke with CNN about his claims and the text that he says he exchanged with George Santos.


RICH OSTHOFF, U.S. NAVY VETERAN: She died about four months after this all went down. There was a string of texts between me and Devolder. I talked to him one time on the phone. And then one of the texts I was so upset about -- I knew I wasn't going to get the money at that point. I knew there was something going on. I was like, I know you mined my dog and my friends' and families' hearts to raise money for himself. And he told me that was the most offensive, horrible thing anyone had ever said to him. And that, I think was the breaking point where he decided he was not going to get the money or where he could actually break away from me. He knew I wasn't going to call him back anymore. He was off the hook. He wanted to create a problem, a wedge between us.


FOSTER: George Santos is responding telling CNN's Don Lemon, quote, I have no clue what he's talking about and the crazy part of that is anyone that knows me, knows I'd go to hell and back for a dog and especially a veteran. So, this is just more of the pile-on effect. I have dozens of people reaching out to me in support sharing their stories about their dogs and cats that I helped save and rescue.

A defeated Republican candidate for New Mexico's legislature made his first court appearance on Wednesday. He's accuse of masterminding a plot of shoot at the homes of Democratic officials.


But Solomon Pena's attorney says at this point the charges against her client are merely accusations. CNN's Josh Campbell has the details on that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While we are on the record on Solomon Pena.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Solomon Pena, wearing a red jumpsuit shackled at his wrist and ankles appearing in front of a judge for the first time since his arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Mr. Pena, your attorney, you're going to be calling you at that podium behind you.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): He gave a thumbs up to the judge in response to a question and the court ruled the case will move to District Court. The 2020 election denier and former Republican candidate for the New Mexico State House is accused of conspiring with and paying for other men to shoot at the homes of four elected Democratic state leaders.

SAM BREGMAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, BERNALILLO COUNTY, NEW MEXICO: There's a lot of evidence there. We have the electronic communications we have a significant amount of evidence and we're very confident in our case moving forward.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): According to the arrest warrant affidavit Pena, provided quote, firearms and cash payments and personally participated in at least one shooting. Additionally, the arrest warrant included images from the phone of one of the co-conspirators photos that were sent to Pena. Those images show Pena with one of the four suspected shooters who when arrested had a gun that police say was used in one of the shootings. Albuquerque's police chief tells CNN Pena's intent went beyond political intimidation.

CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO POLICE DEPARTMENT: He was becoming more aggressive in his manner and he was starting to ask them to do activities which clearly put lives in danger. I think it may have started in one place, but I think it quickly ended up in another place. And it was a to hurt people.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Days after his arrest, more details about Pena's criminal past and extremism are emerging. He served roughly seven years in prison for burglary and larceny. Last year after getting crushed by almost 50 percentage points in his bid for a seat in the New Mexico State House, he accused his opponent of rigging the election. One former staffer tells CNN that the 39-year-old was, quote, quite eccentric and a lack of allegiance to former President Donald Trump could set him off. Once calling out another Republican politician for being anti-Trump.

Evidence of Pena's devotion to Trump are prominent. Video appears to show him at three rallies in Washington D.C. And CNN's cameras captured what appears to be Pena at a Trump rally in Phoenix last summer. He would later post a tweet of himself attending. In another post sporting a red MAGA hoodie, Pena wrote he stands with Trump and never conceded his own race in New Mexico. The same type of election conspiracy theory that law enforcement has warned could lead to violence.

BERGMAN: And I don't care whether it's a Republican or a Democrat elected leader, violence against elected leaders will not be tolerated.

CAMPBELL: Now in a statement Pena's attorney says that these charges are merely allegations. They have not yet been tested by the rigorous judicial process. He says he will aggressively defend his client. One question we had going into that hearing on Wednesday was whether the judge would release the suspect on bail. The court ordering that for the time being he will remain in custody.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.


FOSTER: Italy's former most wanted man is scheduled to be in court right now, Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was on the run for 30 years until he was finally caught checking in at a private health clinic on Monday. He's now facing his first court hearing since he was put behind bars. Barbie Nadeau is monitoring the developments from Rome. She joins us now live. We're going to get details. What's the process with this legal hearing?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, you know this is really interesting. It's a really big day for Italian justice certainly. You know, this is a man who was convicted in absentia on a number of murder trials, given a number of life sentences. But the way the Italian court system works, it's a three-tier system. He was convicted in the first degree. Everyone here is allowed an automatic right to an appeal.

So, this is actually the appellate level. And it's the first time were going to see anyone defend him. And his lawyer happens to be his niece, who is the daughter of his sister. She's sort of an untried criminal defense lawyer. We'll be learning more about her defense of him. But this is the first time he'll be facing a judge. And it's not the last time either. All of the cases that he was convicted in absentia will have to go through this process. So, we can expect the coming months to be filled with him facing the court.

He's not in the courtroom today. He's in a maximum security prison with the cancer wing. He's being treated for cancer here on the mainland. So, we don't know if he'll eventually go into a courtroom but today just appearing by video link -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Barbie, we'll be watching. Thanks for joining us from Rome.

The U.S. Justice Department says authorities have arrested the founder of cryptocurrency exchange accused of being an international money laundering exchange. The exchange allegedly help funnel more than $700 million in illicit funds through the dark web. At least five other people were also arrested in Europe in connection to the case. The Hong Kong based exchange is found by a Russian man that allegedly did business with drug traffickers and ransomware hackers. It's not clear why he had traveled from China to Miami where he was arrested.


A court has unsealed the search warrant for the home and office of Bryan Kohberger who is accused of murdering four University of Idaho students back in November. Investigators say they already have DNA and other evidence linking him to the killings but they retrieved additional items from his home. CNN's Veronica Miracle has detail.


VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police cast a wide net in terms of items they were looking for inside of Bryan Kohberger's home and apartment. And they were able to find more than 12 items that appear to be pretty significant in this case, including strands of hair. They found multiple strands of hair inside of Bryan Kohberger's apartment as well as a possible animal hair.

This is important because according to the affidavit, we know that Kaylee Goncalves's dog was home during the time of the murder. They also were looking for blood and bodily fluids. And inside Bryan Kohberger's apartment they found a collection of a dark red spot that they extracted, two reddish brown stains from a pillow and two mattress covers with multiple stains.

Something else they were searching for was clothing. According to the surviving roommate, that suspect walked right past her in dark clothing from head to toe, including a mask that covered the nose and the mouth. They were able to find a Walmart receipt with a Dickies tag, to Marshalls receipts and one nitrate type black glove, which essentially like a medical glove.

But what they did not find and what they were looking for in that apartment, was a murder weapon. That still has not been recovered.

Veronica Miracle, CNN, San Francisco.


FOSTER: Still to come, investigators in Ukraine are searching for clues in that helicopter crash that killed the interior minister and 13 others.


FOSTER: The death toll from anti-government protests in Peru is rising just as the capital of Lima braces for more rallies.


Protesters clashed with police there on Wednesday, as part of nationwide demonstrations that have been paralyzing the country for weeks. The country's ombudsman says one more person was killed on Wednesday, raising the death toll since the protests began to 51. The protesters want new elections and President Dina Boluarte to resign. She took office after her predecessor was ousted last month. She's now under investigation for alleged violence against protesters but says she'll cooperate.

Ukraine is a country in mourning after the death of its interior minister and 13 others in a fiery helicopter crash. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered an investigation but at this point there's no evidence to suggest that this was anything more than a tragic accident. The helicopter went down in low visibility near a kindergarten in the residential suburb of Kyiv. At least one child was killed, more than two dozen others were injured.

Among those killed, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, his top deputy and Ukraine's state secretary. The helicopter had taken off from Kyiv en route to the Kharkiv region. President Zelenskyy asked for a moment of silence as he addressed The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He says ultimately Russia is to blame for this tragedy.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is not an accident. This is war. And war is not only going on, on the battlefield. There are different directions of war. There are no more accidents. This is a result of the war.


FOSTER: The mayor of Brovary where it happened has declared three days of mourning for the victims. CNN's Clarissa Ward reports from the site of the crash.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A quiet Kyiv suburb turned into an inferno. The sounds of screaming can be heard.

Minutes after a helicopter crashed outside an apartment building just steps away from a kindergarten.

On board the leadership of Ukraine's interior ministry, including the minister himself, Denys Monastyrsky and his deputy Yevheniy Yenin.

The chopper was bound for the city of Kharkiv when it lost control smashing into the kindergarten as it descended. One child was killed.

Rescue Services work to clear the smoldering wreckage and search for survivors. Its neighbors looked out at the scene of horror.

Ella (ph) tells us she ran outside as soon as she heard the explosion. We saw only injured children who were on fire. Sorry, she says. They were crying and running out from the school. Ukrainian security services have opened an investigation into the crash. For now, there is no suggestion that foul play was involved. There was heavy fog in the morning.

But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said every death is the result of war even when it is far from the front lines.

The wife of Deputy Minister Yenin sobbed in shock as she took in the scene. Another tragedy in a nation that has borne witness to so much horror.

As day light faded, emergency services declare the end of the search and rescue and the bodies were taken away.


FOSTER: Rising temperatures in the arctic have put Greenland's glaciers at the tipping point. Just ahead, we'll explain what all that melting ice could due to global sea levels.



FOSTER: Scientists studying Greenland's vast ice sheet are issuing dire findings about rising temperatures in the Arctic. They say temperatures there are now the warmest they've been in at least 1,000 years. Researchers have been studying vice core samples that were first drilled in 2012. CNN's chief climate correspondent Ben Weir explains why drilling into the thick, Arctic ice is valuable to understand climate change. Take a listen.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: As a result of studies that looked at core samples, looked at the tiny pockets of gas, and all the level layers of ice. Each year it snows and adds another layer, and they can go back, and the data just gets longer and proves what a lot of these scientists have been warning, that the planet heated up by fossil fuels now is especially cooking the top of the globe.

The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest, and at the current rates, just Greenland's melt would add about 50 centimeters to global sea level rise, which mean -- which would mean engine -- reengineering every port city in the world. So, it's just further science, and yet another red flag.


FOSTER: Indeed, it is. We'll take you now to Berlin, live images as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is meeting with new German defense minister Boris Pistorius. Pistorius officially took office today. Earlier he spoke by phone with his French counterpart, according to the German defense ministry on Friday. He'll be part of the key meeting with NATO's Ukraine defense contact group at the Ramstein Air Base. That meeting will focus on more military aid for Ukraine. Should we just have a listen?


FOSTER: Speaking German there, but we'll bring you the British -- the English translation. Lloyd Austin will be speaking in English when it crosses to him. But currently, this is the new defense minister addressing the group there.


As Anna and Clare were describing to us earlier, you saw the dynamic here is currently very much focused on Ukraine and what sort of support the West can be offering Ukraine. And Germany suggesting that it can only offer certain vehicles if America offers them first. So, we're trying to hear from the U.S. about what sort of vehicles they'll be sending, military vehicles and defense vehicles over to Ukraine. And that will probably define what the Germans send, too.

But there's a lot of apprehension that, you know, the more lethal the weapons are that they send there, the more that could be seen as an escalation in the conflict by Russia and could have a side effect of creating more aggression from Russia. But we'll wait to hear what Lloyd Austin has to say when he speaks.

LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Good morning, everybody. Minister Pistorius, thanks for hosting me today. I know that I'm your first visitor since you've taken office, but since you've only been in office for an hour, that's not surprising. But nonetheless, thanks for hosting us. And congratulations on your appointment as minister. I very much look forward to working together with you.

And it's great to be back in Germany. You know, I've got a lot of fond memories of your country from my first assignment here as a young officer. And Germany remains one of our most important allies.

Now, I wanted to express my deep sorrow over the tragic helicopter crash near Kyiv yesterday that took the lives of more than a dozen people, including Ukraine's interior minister, Denys Monastyrsky.

It's been a turbulent time for European and global security, but throughout the crisis caused by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Germany has remained a true friend of the United States and a staunch defender of our allies and values. So, we'll continue to support the Ukrainian people as they resist Russian aggression and defend their sovereign territory.

I like to thank the German government for all it's done to strengthen Ukraine's self-defense. Your contributions of security assistance and training for Ukraine's defenders have been invaluable. I also appreciate your strong support for our increased presence and for logistical operations to quickly move soldiers and equipment to and through Germany to reinforce our eastern flank allies.

Tomorrow at Ramstein, and we'll join our allies and partners at the year's first meeting of the Ukrainian defense contact group. And we'll renew our united commitment to support Ukraine's self-defense for the long haul.

So, at our meeting today, we'll discuss some of the issues that we'll tackle tomorrow at the contact group, together with our friends. We'll also discuss other key issues for NATO and for our bilateral defense relationship and ways we can do even more together.

So, Mr. Minister, thanks again for the warm welcome and I look forward to a great discussion today and to working very closely with you. So, it's great -- again, great to be back in Germany. Thank you very much.

FOSTER: The U.S. and German defense ministers there meeting for the first time. The German defense minister, as Lloyd Austin was pointing out, has literally been in office for an hour. So, a pretty generic set of statements there ahead of the key meeting. But obviously, at the absolute center of their discussions will be Ukraine. Obviously, the United States providing, by far, the largest amount of military aid to Ukraine. But with the support of Europe and certainly Germany a key player there. And a completely new type of policy really for the Germany, which in the past pre-Ukraine would not have been adding much military support, but it is now. So, it's a huge change for Germany and the German defense minister leading that.

We'll have more on "EARLY START" coming up with Christine.