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Allies Meet Amid Fight over Tanks for Ukraine; Google Lays off Workers; Baldwin and Armorer Charged in "Rust" Shooting. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 20, 2023 - 09:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Bianna Golodryga.


This morning, a critical moment in the war in Ukraine and a standoff at this moment over sending tanks to the battlefield. A short time ago, President Zelenskyy of Ukraine said he is grateful for the support so far, but, quote, hundreds of thank you's are not hundreds of tanks. There are new developments in the last few minutes about whether Ukraine will get those tanks it says it needs for its survival.

GOLODRYGA: Also back here at home, President Biden in his first public remarks since classified documents were found at his home and office says that he has no regrets. The president will appear this afternoon at the White House with U.S. mayors. So, will he answer more questions about the documents? We're following it all for you.

BERMAN: We are going to begin, though, with this controversy over getting tanks into Ukraine.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is at the White House and chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is in Ukraine.

Natasha, first to you. Where do things stand at this moment as U.S. and German officials, and I think you need to explain to our audience why Germany is in the middle of this, why U.S. and German officials appear to be at odds here.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, John, so everything is still very much up in the air at this point ahead of this key meeting of defense leaders in Germany today that will decide really the fate of military aid to Ukraine and for the next several months. And that is because the U.S. and Germany have been in this kind of standoff over whether to provide these heavy western tanks to Ukraine.

Now, Germany has a number of Leopard 2 tanks, that is their version of the heavy western tanks that they have that many European countries also have and also have in their inventory. But Germany has said that they are not willing at this moment to provide those tanks to Ukraine unless the United States also provides its own version of its tanks to Ukraine as well because Germany does not want to be seen as being out of lockstep with the United States on this.

So it has created a lot of tension with the United States because the U.S. is not prepared at this moment to send its Abrams tanks to Ukraine because they say they are just too costly to maintain and it doesn't make sense for the Ukrainians right now to actually receive them and operate them. It would require a lot of training as well. So the U.S., right now, is trying to pressure the Germans to go ahead and send their Leopard tanks to Ukraine. And key, importantly, allow European countries who have those Leopard tanks as well to send them to Ukraine because right now the U.S. says it is not prepared to send their tanks, but Ukraine could really use additional tanks as we heard President Zelenskyy say earlier today.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and throughout Europe and NATO allies there are about 2,000 of those Leopard 2 tanks available in some countries, including Poland and Finland, say they are willing to send those tanks, but they need to get the go ahead from Germany at this point.

Clarissa, President Zelenskyy really wasting no time here, making clear the need for more advanced weapons needs to happen right now, and that is specifically regarding tanks. Ukraine's war general says they need about 300. Realistically, we're talking about maybe just several dozen tanks at best for now. Can you explain to us why tanks are so important for Ukraine at this stage of the war?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, if you look at the battlefield at the moment, you're basically kind of in a grinding close to stalemate where it's very difficult for Ukraine to break Russia's defensive positions, particularly in the eastern areas of Donbas. And the concern that the Ukrainians have right now is that Russia is basically preparing for another major offensive. That the 150,000 mobilized troops who have not already been sent to the battlefield are coming to the end of their training and will soon be sent to the battlefield.

So, they want to have the momentum on their side and they want to engage in sort of offensive operations. But in order to do that, they need things like tanks, things like long-range artillery, which President Zelenskyy has asked for over and over again. And I think the frustration that you will hear when you talk to Ukrainian leaders and Ukrainian military commanders is the sort of drip, drip, drip nature of the approach to giving weapons to Ukraine.


Ultimately, it always seems, in the end, that the -- Ukraine does get the weapons it needs, but it happens in this sort of slightly tortured and protracted process. And the argument you will hear being made here on the ground is that this is really a question of time is of the essence and that they need to engage in these active offensives before Russia has a chance to really regroup and recruit and launch another major offensive. BERMAN: Yes, the message is that time is now, particularly with the

end of winter looming.

Which gets to the next question, Natasha.

We are learning that the CIA director went to Kyiv for this meeting that no one knew about with President Zelenskyy. And a lot of that was to talk about the possibility of offensives this spring.

BERTRAND: Yes, John, this is something that the U.S. is very concerned about and is watching very closely, not least because the Ukrainians, as Clarissa said, have been sounding the alarm on a potential major Russian offensive in the works because not all of its troops that have been mobilized have actually gone to Ukraine yet, so they still have people in reserve who would be able to potentially launch a new offensive against Ukraine.

And so what we are learning is that the CIA director, Bill Burns, who really has emerged as kind of a key emissary here between the U.S., Ukraine and even Russia, went to Ukraine to brief President Zelenskyy on the U.S. assessment of where Russia might strike next.

Now, Russia, of course, they have been kind of on the defensive in certain areas of Ukraine, including in the Donbas, with the exception, of course, of Bakhmut, where a lot of heavy fighting has been happening. But what the U.S. seems to believe now is that Russia is, in fact, preparing for a potential major offensive and they want President Zelenskyy, of course, to be ready for that and to have all of the information that he needs, including, of course, key intelligence to be able to position troops and be able to fight that back.

Now, it remains to be seen whether or not Russia is going to be doing another major mobilization. That is something Ukrainians have also been warning about. Right now the U.S. seems to be a little bit more reluctant about whether that can actually happen. But the bottom line here is that the U.S. and the Ukrainians are sounding the alarm about a potential major Russian attack here.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and what's so significant about that was that it was just about a year ago that the CIA director, Burns, also had informed Ukrainians of U.S. intelligence showing that Russia would, in fact, invade. Ukraine, at the time, said that their intelligence didn't match that. Clearly they are taking what they hear from Burns this time around very seriously.

Natasha Bertrand and Clarissa Ward, thank you.

Well, President Biden finally speaking out about his classified documents controversy, pleading for full cooperation, but mostly downplaying the investigation.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.

Jeremy, this is really the most expansive the president has been. What did he say? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And

the president here in saying that he has no regrets about this situation, he's talking specifically about having no regrets about disclosing -- not disclosing this -- that these classified documents were found before the midterm elections. We know, of course, that the documents were found at the Penn Biden Center on November 2nd, days before those midterm elections. And, ultimately, none of this was revealed until it was first reported just about ten days ago by news reports which the White House then went ahead and confirmed.

The president here also reiterating a series of key White House talking points about this situation. Listen real quick to what he said yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're fully cooperating. We're looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no there there.


DIAMOND: And, look, the president saying that he has no regrets about not disclosing this before the midterm elections. You talk to people close to the situation here and they say that they also have no regrets about not disclosing this at all until it emerged in public reports. Ultimately they feel that cooperating quietly with the Department of Justice was the right strategy, even if it might have resulted in somewhat of a PR nightmare for them in that first week.

What you also hear from the president there is stressing this cooperation with the Department of Justice. That's very intentional. The White House wants to be clear that they are taking a very different tack to former President Trump. And that's because they're trying to diminish the comparisons and increase the contrast between how President Biden and his classified documents issue arose and became a DOJ investigation, and how the situation went down with former President Trump.

What we didn't hear from President Biden, though, was another part of the White House strategy, and that is one that we've seen in recent days, which is increasingly attacking House Republicans and drawing that distinction between what House Republicans, how they are proceeding with their investigation into this, versus the Department of Justice.


BERMAN: All right, Jeremy Diamond for us at the White House.


Jeremy, keep us posted. New this morning, Alphabet, which is the parent company of Google, is

announcing it will lay off about 12,000 workers, that's about 6 percent of its workforce.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, Google is just the latest big tech company to announce its making major job cuts following both Amazon and Microsoft.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now to break this all down.

If we didn't know better, this almost seems like it's a coordinated move by all of these companies.


GOLODRYGA: One day announcing 10,000, that was yesterday with Microsoft.


GOLODRYGA: And now this news from Google. What does it mean?

ROMANS: A parade of layoffs in tech land and it's cost cutting. It's cost cutting ahead of, you know, digital advertising headwinds that they're expecting this year. And it's also - and this is incredibly important context -- they have been growing gangbusters for the past three or four years. I mean adding hundreds of thousands of jobs in tech, millions of jobs in tech over the past three years or so. So, you're starting to see them take that back a little bit, 5 percent, 10 percent moves at a lot of these different companies.

We've heard from the SalesForce. The SalesForce CEO, you know, he said, look, we were - we were just hiring like crazy. We couldn't continue to hire like that. That's what they were doing there. And he actually apologized for hiring too many people.

Amazon, Coinbase, Google now, Microsoft, you've got some 37,000 tech layoffs just this month alone. And, you know, tech analysts say you could see this continue for the next few months here. The tech industry seeing layoffs way above where they were a year ago.

But the context here, overall the job market is pretty tight. Outside of tech and in some cases media, you still have companies that are not laying off very much and, in fact, are hungry to find and retain talent. So, a kind of split screen story in the U.S. economy right now, in the U.S. job market right now.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

GOLODRYGA: Well, back in Washington today, the Treasury Department is implementing extraordinary measures so the U.S. doesn't default on its debt. But those temporary measures will only last through June 5th.

BERMAN: The White House continues to insist it will not negotiate with Republicans on spending cuts tied to raising the debt limit, but now some Republicans from swing districts that President Biden won are pushing back on that hard line stance. The White House had been hoping that maybe some of these Republicans might be willing to play ball.

Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

So where does that leave things, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, so far those Republicans that the White House might have hoped would come and see their side of this debate are not getting there. In fact, they're telling our colleague Manu Raju that they think the White House is making a miscalculation when they say they are not going to be willing to negotiate on the debt ceiling.

If you take a step back, there's still about five months to have these talks, to have these negotiations. A lot is going to play out between now and June when that deadline is expected.

But one thing we should keep an eye on is, do those moderates stand strong? Do those Republicans who come from districts that even Biden might have won, do they feel like the White House is overplaying their hand? So far that's the case.

The reason that the White House cares so much about those moderate Republicans is there is an ability in the House of Representatives, if you got every single Democrat and a handful of Republicans to sign on to what is known as a discharge petition, you can force a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, even if the House speaker doesn't agree with the legislation you want to put on the floor.

So, the White House keeping a very close eye on some of those moderate Republicans, wondering if there might be a way forward in that direction, but so far no sign of Republicans breaking from their leadership. After that contentious speaker fight, everyone in the Republican Party so far sticking together.

GOLODRYGA: Meantime, we are implementing extraordinary measures, as the Treasury Department put it, for the next few months. We'll be watching this closely.

Lauren Fox, thank you.

And up next, Alec Baldwin's attorney says they were blind-sided to hear that the actor will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the shooting on the set of the movie "Rust." What the D.A. is telling CNN about her decision to file charges.

Plus, a new twist after the arrest of a stormer statehouse candidate in New Mexico. Now police are saying his campaign may have been partly funded by fentanyl sales.

BERMAN: The first March for Life since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. And CNN has new reporting that anti-abortion activists are planning to put a full-court press on statehouses this year. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


GOLODRYGA: Alec Baldwin's attorney calling it a, quote, terrible miscarriage of justice that the actor will be charged for the fatal shooting on the set of "Rust." Alec Baldwin and the armorer who oversaw all the weapons, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, are facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

BERMAN: Baldwin has maintained he was not aware the gun he was holding contained a live round. And the attorney for Gutierrez-Reed said a jury will find her not guilty but she has commit no crime.

CNN's Josh Campbell in Santa Fe for us this morning.

Josh, I think this came as a surprise to a lot of people. You spoke to the D.A. just moments after the announcement was made. What did she say?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She said that this all comes down, in her view, to negligence. I asked her if there was one piece of evidence that sealed it for her, that made that determination in her mind this had to be prosecuted. She said, no, this actually came down to looking at the totality of the circumstances, which included, in her view, a pattern on that movie set of unsafe practices. We know that there have been reports of past accidental discharges on the set, as well as employees complaining about their own safety there.

She also talked about the weapon itself and Alec Baldwin pulling the trigger on a gun that held a live round. Now, Baldwin has claimed that he never pulled the trigger, but authorities here actually sent that pistol that was used in that shooting from New Mexico to Quantico, Virginia, to the FBI laboratory, and the FBI looked at that gun and assessed that there's no way it could have gone off without Alec Baldwin actually pulling that trigger.

Now, there has been this question from many respected legal experts who have been opining that, you know, this will be an uphill battle for prosecutors. This is certainly not a slam dunk case.


The question is, is if an actor is handed a weapon by someone on set and they're told that that weapon is empty, is there liability on the part of the actor? Again, we've heard many legal experts say that that is going to be an uphill battle for prosecutors.

Nevertheless, when I spoke to the district attorney, she said that she is confident in their case, specifically as it relates to Baldwin's responsibility to ensure that he had an empty weapon.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they are going to handle that gun, point it at someone and pull the trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone.

An actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor. And that's what's so important is that we're saying, here in New Mexico, everyone's equal under the law.


CAMPBELL: Now, as far as what happens next, the D.A. told me that charges against Baldwin will be filed by the end of this month. He won't be arrested. He will receive what's called a summons to either appear here in New Mexico in-person, possibly by videoconference. And then the prosecution will start. We'll wait to hear what his plea is. We obviously expect that his team will be putting up an aggressive defense, guys.


Josh Campbell, thank you.

And here to discuss the implications of all of this is criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson.

Joey, always great to see you. So, as we heard there from the D.A., nobody gets a free pass. What is this prosecution going to look like and were you surprised to see these two counts of involuntary manslaughter?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Bianna, good morning to you and John.

I absolutely was surprised. Very surprised, in fact. I feel very strongly about this. I think it's an ill-advised prosecution. I think it's ill-informed. And I think it sets a very dangerous precedent.

You know, it's very tragic, sad, unfortunate and heartbreaking that this had to occur, Bianna. But the fact that you're going to criminalize this is very problematic. You're an actor and you have to consider the context in which anything occurred before you're charging a crime. You're on a set. There are a lot of moving parts. You're on a team. You have the ability, as an actor, and you should be reasonably relying upon other members of the team to do their job.

And so with that context in mind, if you're an actor and someone says cold gun, to which you understand that to mean that it's certainly a prop that would not hurt anyone and you point it in someone's direction, now a prosecutor is going to charge you with a crime? I just don't -- look, I don't want to prejudge before we have a jury impaneled and arguments made, but I think this is a significantly difficult prosecution that probably should not have been brought in the first instance.

BERMAN: Joey, you're a defense attorney. Wouldn't you, if you were Alec Baldwin's attorneys, call, you know, ten people who work on sets in Hollywood where there are guns and ask them, does an actor normally check the gun he or she is handed, you know, for scenes with guns. And wouldn't you have ten people perhaps say, no, the actor doesn't. I mean wouldn't that be part of the defense?

JACKSON: So, it could be. I think the first part of any defense would be predicated upon filing motions and papers to say that this should not be before a jury. It shouldn't be before the jury because, again, people work cooperatively as a team.

In the context of a movie set, in the context of a prop, in the context of you being handed a gun that should have been checked multiple times before it even came to your attention, should you not be able and should you not reasonably rely upon your team to ensure that the gun is not loaded, particularly when someone is yelling cold gun. Should you then have to, as an actor, be put in a position of an expert to check the rounds yourself before you perform?

And then we could get to the other thing you mentioned, John, with regard to what is the standard practice. Now, let's just say in response to your question that other people come and then say, yes, you do check the gun. You know, there are certain types of things in society that occur. Certainly, unfortunately, accidents happen every day. But when you look at, you know, the nature of things, you have a civil court, and civil court addresses issues of negligence all the time. And you get monetary damages and there are improvements in industries as a result of tragic things that occur.

So I think from a civil perspective, there could be a lot of liability. But you're going to criminalize that? So even if someone did say of the ten actors I would call, did you check a gun and seven say do and three say no, that doesn't change the fact that you should not be criminally charged or held accountable when you're performing, you're in costume, you're in makeup, et cetera. I just feel very strongly that I think the D.A. overreached here and this is not a case in my view that's suitable to be prosecuted and should be in civil court as tragic as this whole event happens to be.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Joey, to John's point, we have heard from the union representing the film and many actors, SAG actors, and here's what they said. Prosecutors' contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed.


They went on to say, an actor's job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert.

How would a statement like that hold up in court?

JACKSON: So I think that, you know, that statement will be backed up by -- to John's question previously -- people testifying as to what reasonably is your role as an actor, a performer, a person who certainly wants to put on a good performance, make it believable, et cetera, right, what do you have the duty to do? And certainly when you're carrying, or having a weapon, or pointing a weapon, everyone would have a duty to, you know, potentially use it appropriately and properly. But if the industry standard is that we're relying upon other people to do that for you, should we be criminalizing the last person who has it and who discharges - you know, discharges what they think to be an empty weapon? It just shouldn't happen.

So, it's a very powerful statement, I think, that was made there and we'll see that play out in court in the way that protects and defends Alec Baldwin.

BERMAN: Yes, I will be very interested to see the very early stages of this, what happens.

Joey Jackson, great to see. Thank you very much.

President Biden is preparing to sit down with mayors from across the country at the White House. Our next guest is one of them. What he wants for his city.