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Oath Keepers Members Found Guilty Of Seditious Conspiracy; Former New Mexico Statehouse Candidate Will Remain In Jail While Awaiting Political Drive-By Shooting Trial; Poland Signals Intent To Send Leopard Tanks To Ukraine; Biden Admin In Standoff With Germany Over Tanks For Ukraine; Economic Barometer Warns A U.S. Recession Could Come Soon; Spotify The Latest Tech Company To Announce Layoffs; Cross-Country Storm To Bring 2,000 Mile Stretch Of Snow, Rain. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: A jury has just returned a verdict in the second trial against three Oath Keepers and another individual over the January 6th insurrection. All four defendants were found guilty on seditious conspiracy charges.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: CNN law enforcement correspondent, Whitney Wild, joins us now.

Whitney, what more are you learning?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a huge win for the Justice Department because, going into this case, there had been a really big question about whether or not the Justice Department was going to be able to make the seditious conspiracy charge stick with these defendants.

And here is why. In the first Oath Keeper's trial, they were only able to make it stick on two defendants. And those were much higher-level people within the organization.

So the question had been, will they be able to get a conviction on these lower-level members? And clearly, the answer to that is yes.

Again, this case targeted three members of the Oath Keepers and a fourth person associated with this far right militia.

These four men, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo, they were accused of plotting to stop the certification of Joe Biden 2020 Electoral College victory.

They say that -- the Justice Department, rather, said that that was a conspiracy that culminated in the attack at the U.S. capitol on January 6th, 2021.

Again, this is a huge win for the Justice Department as they try to bring this very rare and very serious charge.

What is really the capstone case as the Justice Department seeks to bring justice for all of these rioters who infiltrated the capitol on that day, who caused mass damage and who harmed police officers.

So this was really the main charge that the Justice Department had been seeking as they were trying to basically bring these thousands of people who went into the capitol to justice.

So again, a huge win for the Justice Department here.

Again, it follows this 10-week trial of this previous Oath Keeper's case where the top leader of the organization, Stewart Rhodes, as well as another member of that organization, another leader of that organization, Kelly Meggs, both were convicted of seditious conspiracy in that case.

Notable that there are other convictions here for this latest group that includes conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. That's also carries pretty heavy sentence of up to 20 years in prison.


Obstruction of an official proceeding, in addition to conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties.

So, as you look at the list of possible charges here, really this jury came back and said -- and made a very strong statement against these defendant.

Now the question is, how much time are they going to get in prison? We won't know that for several weeks.

But again, this is a really slam dunk for the Justice Department. After they were unable to again bring this seditious conspiracy charges against everybody in the first case -- Alisyn and Victor?

BLACKWELL: Whitney, thank you.

Let's bring back Harry Litman.

Exceedingly rare these convictions on seditious conspiracy. What's your reaction?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: They're exceedingly rare, even the trials. They have a checkered history before this episode. The last one the department brought about 10 years ago ended in acquittal.

Whitney is exactly right. This is the crown jewel, top charge, that there is.

Now it stands to reason, in a sense, because it's conspiracy, and conspiracy means an agreement to do something unlawful, an overt act. No reason lower-level people can't be part of a conspiracy.

And yet, given how difficult these are always to prove, it is, as Whitney says, a very significant victory for the Department of Justice.

Now, we'll see how the Proud Boys suit, featuring Enrique Tarrio and four other defendants, comes out with the same charge.

But this is about as big a victory as the DOJ could have with respect to the thousand or so defendants, the actual marauders who stormed the capitol on January 6th.

BLACKWELL: Whitney Wild, thank you for the reporting.

And, Harry Litman, thank you for the analysis.

The New Mexico Republican accused of orchestrating a series of drive- by shootings against his Democratic political rivals will stay in state custody until the case goes to trial.

A judge found that there was enough evidence to support the prosecution's argument that Solomon Pena is a risk to his community.

CAMEROTA: Separately, the state's attorney general has also just launched a formal investigation into whether Pena's campaign for the state legislature was partly funded with money from fentanyl sells.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now.

What did you learn at this detention hearing today?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The hearing just wrapped up moments ago. We learned that Solomon Pena will remain behind bars until trial.

This was the second time we saw him in court. A virtual hearing. He didn't really visibly react to the proceedings.

But New Mexico has a relatively high bar for keeping someone detained before trial.

But the prosecutor argued that Pena is simply too dangerous to be released. Take a listen.


NATALIE LYON, PROSECUTOR: The state believes that the defendant poses a danger to the community or any other person for which there are no release conditions that could protect our community.

Essentially, what the defendant needs access to is a phone. With access to a phone, he is able to contact individuals. He is able to convince other individuals to engage in very violent and dangerous acts.


KAFANOV: And the judge agreed.

Now, so far Pena has been linked to four attacks against the homes of New Mexico officials, all of them Democrats.

Albuquerque police say that he was fueled by election lies. He was a staunch supporter of former President Trump. He believed his own election back in November had been stolen despite having been defeated by nearly 50 points.

Prosecutors allege that Pena then concocted this plot targeting the homes of Democrats he wrongfully blamed for his election loss.

Police say he texted the addresses of these targets to a hired gunman to carry out the shootings. One of the, a man by the name of Jose Trejillo. He got caught at a traffic stop.

And inside that vehicle, police found guns that were traced back to the shootings as well as more than 800 fentanyl pills. That car was registered to Solomon Pena.

Separately, as pointed out in the intro, CNN has learned that the alleged gunman for hire also happened to be Pena's top campaign donor.

Albuquerque police are investigating whether Pena's campaign was funded in part by cash from narcotic sales that might have been laundered into campaign contributions.

Of course, New Mexico's attorney, we have just found out, attorney general has also launched his own formal investigation into his campaign finances -- guys?

CAMEROTA: Yes. We have not heard the last of this, clearly.

Lucy Kafanov, thank you for the reporting.


BLACKWELL: Troubling signs for the U.S. economy. Most business economists expect more layoffs in the coming months. We'll tell you what that means for a possible recession.


CAMEROTA: Russia is warning that Ukraine will pay if other countries send Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv.

Poland is signaling it will send the German-made tanks to Ukraine if a smaller coalition of other countries does the same. Germany says it will not block Poland from providing the tanks.

Western leaders are pressuring Berlin to send the tanks to Ukraine after President Zelenskyy asked for them again but, so far, Germany has resisted.

CAMEROTA: Now over the weekend, some members of Congress argued the U.S. should send Abrams tanks to Ukraine if that's what it takes to get Germany off the fence.

Let's bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood. She's live at the State Department. Kylie, where is the Biden administration on this whether to send tanks


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of back and forth on this. But significantly, what we're hearing again from the Biden administration today is that this is a sovereign German decision.

But the fundamentals here are still the same as they were last week when it comes to what the Biden administration feels over this. They are not fundamentally opposed to sending tanks to Ukraine.


But they say that American-made tanks, which are Abrams, are just logistically complicated and they aren't as great with gas. So they wouldn't be effective for the Ukrainians on the battlefield.

Whereas, they feel that the Leopard tanks, the German-made tank that a dozen European countries have, would be more effective on the battlefield for the Ukrainians.

While they're saying that this is a decision that's up to Germany, they are saying that this could be useful to the Ukrainians.

Listen to what John Kirby, from the NSC, said earlier today on "CNN International".


ADM. JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: I certainly can't speak for the Germans or what's going into their calculus about the Leopard tanks.

The Leopards are very good. There's a lot on the European continent and certainly they could be effective on the battlefield.

But again, what Germany does, they have to decide. They have to work through this in a sovereign way.


ATWOOD: Now, an interesting remark that you referenced there in the intro was that, over the weekend, the German foreign minister said that Germany would not stand in the way of these European countries who have these Leopard tanks, these German-made tanks, from sending them to Ukraine if they were asked to give the green light.

So that's what we're really watching for here now, is Poland going to ask Germany officially?

And Poland is actually saying they are in a position where they would move forward with about a dozen of these European countries and send these German-made tanks to Ukraine without getting the green light of Germany.

So that would be extremely an interesting situation to watch.

The other thing that we need to watch for is, if Germany doesn't give that green light, does the Biden administration feel like there's mounting pressure on them to give Ukraine these Abrams tanks that right now they have said just wouldn't be effective on the battlefield.

BLACKWELL: Kylie Atwood at the State Department. Thank you, Kylie.

CAMEROTA: A community is on edge. The family of Tyre Nichols just watched video of the deadly police encounter. And prosecutors are preparing to release the footage to the public. We have a live update.



CAMEROTA: New signs the U.S. could be heading towards a recession. A key indicator on the health of the economy dropped for the tenth month in a row. A new survey found more businesses are expecting to cut jobs this year.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Matt Egan joins us now.

Matt, explain what's happening here and why they're so concerned.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Alisyn and Victor, the concern really remains over high inflation, and the Fed's war on high inflation, right?

The fear really remains the same, that the Fed either already has or will soon go too far, right? Raise interest rates so high they slow the economy right into a recession.

And there are some flashing yellow lights. We've got two more today.

The leading economic index out today, down 10 months in a row. This is a compilation of 10 indicators on the real economy and financial markets, everything from jobs and wages to stocks and bonds.

And the problem is that every time this index -- and you can see it on your screen -- is down, and every time it's fallen by this much in this short amount of time, a recession has followed.

Let me read you a key line from this report. They wrote, quote, "There was widespread weakness among leading indicators in December, indicating deteriorating conditions for labor markets, manufacturing, housing construction, and financial markets."

Another report out for the National Association for Business Economics found that more economists expect that their own companies will cut payrolls than add to their payrolls in the next few months. We haven't seen that since 2020.

I think that the truth is, though, there are some conflicting signals about the economy, right? On the negative side, consumer spending certainly has slowed.

Manufacturing service sectors are in contraction. And housing is getting crushed by the spike in mortgage rates.

But there's positives, too. And those positives are leading some economists to predict there won't be a recession.

Inflation is cooling off. The unemployment rate is tied for the lowest level since 1969. And the Fed has gone from slamming the brakes on the economy to merely tapping the brakes. And that is a good sign.

I think, you put it all together, clearly there are some risks of a recession, but it's not a foregone conclusion.

CAMEROTA: OK. What about Spotify? What does that tell us about the economy?

EGAN: Well, they're cutting jobs. It feels like every day almost we're hearing about more companies, especially tech companies, cutting jobs. Spotify is cutting 60 percent of its work force. That equates to about 600 people.

Just last week, Microsoft and Google's parent, Alphabet, they announced they plan to cut thousands of jobs. Amazon, Salesforce, Facebook owner, Meta, they've all done the same.

Of course, the question is why tech? And the Spotify CEO alluded to this in his memo to employees.

He said, look, we thought some of the positive trends that we saw in our business during COVID were going to last. They haven't. The advertising market has slowed down.

I think the bigger question is, what does this all mean for the broader economy? And it's important to remember that tech is a small part of the overall employment in terms of employment.

And it's possible that they could cut jobs and it does not spread completely to the rest of the economy.

CAMEROTA: OK. Matt Egan, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Matt.


BLACKWELL: Investigators are still searching for a motive behind America's latest horrific mass shooting that claimed 10 lives at a Lunar New Year's celebration. We're expecting an update from officials in Monterey Park, California. We'll bring those to you as soon as they begin.


BLACKWELL: A snow drought -- first time I've heard this --

CAMEROTA: Me, too.

BLACKWELL: -- plaguing the northeast may be on its way out.

CAMEROTA: The cross-country storm is expected to bring lots of rain and snow to the region.

CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is tracking the timing of it all.

So, Derek, some cities will see their first snow day today.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's very possible, but not likely for everybody.

We've gone over half of winter, meteorologist winter, places like New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C., haven't had any measurable snow. In Central Park, only a trace of snow has fallen so far this winter.

And guess what? Places in the south have seen more snow. Atlanta, you've had a tenth of an inch. That's more than a trace. Traces aren't considered measurable.


We have had 319 days of no snow in New York City, at least measurable snow. And if we continue through the day with no snow, we'll get to the second-longest consecutive streak without snowfall.

But there's snow on the radar currently right now across much of the northeast. Think about my favorite movie, "Dumb & Dumber," and one of the quotes, "You're telling me there's a chance?" There certainly is.