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Soon, Opening Statements In Murdaugh Double Murder Trial; DOJ Reviewing How Classified Documents Got In Pence's Home, Trump's Legal Team Sees It As Good News; Police: Renner Tried To Stop Snowplow From Hitting Nephew; Justin Bieber Sells His Music Catalog For $200 Million; School Chief Denies Award Notification Delays Due To "Equity". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 13:30   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: A jury has just been seated in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial and opening statements are expected to begin soon.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is over at the courthouse for us in South Carolina.

What do we know?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, Abby, look, there was a lot of focus on the fact that this is a pervasive crime. Everybody in this small community already seemed to know about it.

Even on that first day of jury selection, the judge asked who had heard of this to stand up. Almost everybody did during this entire time.

So what we have in this jury panel that was just seated and sworn in a few moments ago, Abby. We have, of course, 12 jurors and six alternates. Ten of those are white, two are black, eight are women, four are men. The alternates, we have four men and two women.

Now, look, we're in a lunch period and will return at 3:00 p.m. Eastern here. And we expect, at that point, opening arguments to begin in this case.

Now, look, the state has talked about their idea of trying to push a motive here as to why they say Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and his son back in 2021.

Again, the defense, Abby, has said they feel this is all circumstantial and Alex Murdaugh has maintained his innocence.

PHILLIP: All right, a long road ahead for the case.

Dianne Gallagher, thank you.

Right now, the Justice Department is reviewing how classified documents ended up in former Vice President Mike Pence's home.

This comes as sources close to Donald Trump tell CNN that they believe that the Pence and Biden documents discoveries will make it harder for the DOJ to potentially charge Trump or anyone in his orbit.

Let's discuss all of this with former White House ethics czar, Norm Eisen. And Beth Sanner with us, a former senior official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

So, Norm, I want to start with you first.

You heard what Trump's team is saying. Do you think that these discoveries make it more difficult for the DOJ to charge Trump with something even if what they're looking at in his case is obstruction?

NORM EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Abby, of course, they increase the difficulty level. They also reduce the heat on President Biden a little bit with the Pence disclosure.

But prosecutors have to put on blinders. And the special counsel are looking at the Donald Trump situation, which is so much worse because Trump did not cooperate.

That has to be separated from the Biden and the regular DOJ team looking at the Pence documents.


So it makes it a little tougher. But as a matter of law, that's what prosecutors do, put the blinders on. It should not affect Special Counsel Jack Smith's decision on Trump or Special Counsel Rob Hur on Biden.

PHILLIP: Beth, I want to get at the underlying problem, which seems to be these top-secret documents, very sensitive documents that could have national security secrets, keep getting found in places where they should not be.

What is the fix for this? And is this showing that perhaps the processes that are in place right now are just not working?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that's exactly the point, Abby. Once we get beyond these investigations, people really need to focus on, how do we fix what clearly is a systemic problem?

And I think we're going to find other people are going to discover documents. I think, you know, the solution is probably multifold. There isn't one silver bullet. You know, I suggest that more information that's classified be put on classified tablets like iPad or Surface Gos.

I think there needs to be better recordkeeping. Right now, there isn't a single person who is in charge of the paper that goes in and out of the Oval Office.

And at the end of the day, the National Archives needs to have a much more rigorous role in sorting through every single piece of paper that leaves the building. And, you know, I think those things will help.

PHILLIP: Yes, look, I know that a lot of people, especially older folks, but even people like me, sometimes I like things on paper.

Do you worry, though, Beth, that there will be an increased risk of hacking or, you know, cyber intrusions that could compromise those digital files if we go that route?

SANNER: Well, obviously those are, you know, those are two really legitimate questions. And I don't think we can ever get rid of paper. I like reading long papers, too, but it's really hard to keep track of.

And so you kind of need to reduce the amount and keep track and in terms of the tablets being something that you can hack, yes. But there are definitely mitigation measures you can make.

And we have been in the Intelligence Community, no longer there. But when I was in charge of the president's daily brief since 2012, we've been using tablets and things like (AUDIO PROBLEM).

And we have other kinds of ways of preventing hacking. So there are things you can do.

PHILLIP: All right, Norm, so we now have a Trump case, a Biden case, two special counsels there, and now a Pence case. so are we heading toward another special counsel?

And I mean, is that going to be now the response every time that a former official finds classified documents somewhere where they shouldn't be?

EISEN: Abby, there's no question, the pressure is on Attorney General Merrick Garland to treat the Pence case as he treated the Biden and the Trump cases.

But it's not assured that we'll have a special counsel because, as the attorney said yesterday, what DOJ does is try to look at every case on the facts and on the law. We need to know more details about Pence.

It's more likely than not that we are going to get a third special counsel to look at the Pence situation.

And one other thing that can and should happen on solving the problem of these runaway classified documents, when I was in the White House counsel's office, I was the office's representative for drafting the current Executive Order 13526 that governs the handling of these documents.

Let's just add a sixth chapter that says that when a president or vice president is leaving, all documents and electronic materials are segregated and the National Archives reviews them before the president or the vice president takes anything with them.

President Biden could do that with a stroke of a pen and further signal his cooperation in the seriousness. So there are solutions besides just appointing another special counsel.

PHILLIP: All right, Norm Eisen and Beth Sanner, thank you both very much.


And still ahead for us, it turns out that "Avengers" star, Jeremy Renner, is a bit of a superhero in real life, too. We'll have new details about the actor's horrific snowplow incident and how he's recovering.


PHILLIP: There are new details about Actor Jeremy Renner's horrific snowplow accident. According to a police report, the "Avengers" star was a real-life hero. It turns out he was trying to stop that snowcat from hitting one of his family members when he was crushed himself.

CNN's Lisa France is following this story for us.

Lisa, some of these details are really horrific. What more are you learning about how this accident happened?

LISA FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: The authorities are telling us, Abby, that the Avengers would be proud of Renner as he stopped the snowplow from hitting his adult nephew.

He had used the snowcat to keep -- to get his nephew's vehicle removed and what happened was the parking brake, authorities are telling us, was not engaged and there was an issue with the parking brake light. So they say mechanical failure May 15 factored in.

In an attempt to stop it, Renner apparently climbed up on the track to get back into the cab of the snowcat and he was pulled under the machine into it and crushed.


So he's very fortunate that he was able to be saved. His nephew was able to stay with him.

Of course, they got him to the hospital. He was in ICU. He was also in the hospital for more than two weeks undergoing at least two surgeries we know of. And he's very, very fortunate to still be alive.

PHILLIP: Really kind of a miracle here.

Lisa France, thanks.

FRANCE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: Justin Bieber just got a whole lot richer, $200 million to be exact. He's joining the list of artists who are selling their music catalogs.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here to explain what is going on here. Tom, what does this all mean for Justin Bieber and his music?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means he's doing really well, $200 million from this company called H-I-P Nosis. That is H-I-P Nosis. I see what you did there.

Let's look at the details. $200 million for everything in his catalog into 2021. That includes almost 300 song songs. The last album, "Justice," did well.

And basically, they get the money from all plays of this, it's streaming, it's on a disc, it's in a movie, it's in on a commercial.

This company now gets, for this $200 million, a share of all that. That's how they would reap the rewards from having bought the details of Justin's book out there -- Abby?

PHILLIP: OK, so we've been hearing a lot about this. It seems, recently and he's not the only artist doing it.


PHILLIP: Who else is out there selling their catalogs? And I mean, I'm actually confused. Why would he not want to get that money himself from all the plays?

FOREMAN: Well, that's an excellent question. Partially, it has to do with the changing nature of the music business. Yes, they're looking at catalogs, there are books of their work, and saying, I want to sell this.

The boss Bruce Springsteen "Born to Run" to the bane, $550 million for this. The estate of David Bowie, $250 million, $200 million Bob Dylan, $150 million for Neil Young, 50 percent of his catalog, $100 million for Justin Timberlake. Dr. Dre apparently in talks for about $200 million.

These numbers are squishy because we don't know the details.

Why would you do this, though? The reason you would do this is because, one, lump sum, want to invest in films and other companies, studios, other artists, you got that money to work with.

Unpredictable tours. Touring, which used to just support the album, where you made your money. Now the tours are themselves huge endeavors that produce a lot of income but are unpredictable and there may be tax benefits.

The bottom line, do all this if you're Justin Bieber. Think back to your song "Peaches" from "Justice," you could buy 245 million peaches with that money depending on the size of the peach. Might be 350 million peaches but that's a lot.

PHILLIP: That is a lot of peaches.

(CROSSTALK) PHILLIP: That's a lot of peaches down in Georgia.

Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

And now the governor of Virginia is calling this a human rights violation. A number of schools in the state are now under investigation for allegedly failing to give students their National Merit Scholarship recognitions fast enough. More details next.



PHILLIP: Virginia's school merit scandal seems to be growing. Another county has just admitted that it was late in notifying students about their National Merit recognition.

It all started with a controversy in Fairfax County. And now there's an investigation underway to determine if this violated the students' rights.

CNN's Athena Jones spoke exclusively to the Fairfax County school superintendent about this that some parents are calling intentional.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The battle over National Merit honor shaking up Virginia school districts.

MICHELLE REID, SUPERINTENDENT, FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA, PUBLIC SCHOOLS: To characterize that as a golden ticket would not be accurate.

JONES: Fairfax County public schools superintendent, Michelle Reid, in her first media interview, responding to criticism from Governor Glenn Youngkin, who campaigned on changing education in Virginia.

Youngkin slamming dozens of high schools for failing to notify high schools of their PSAT scores won them commendations as part of the annual National Merit Scholarship competition.

GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): It impacts her ability to apply for college, scholarships, and this idea of a golden ticket as it is called was withheld from them.

SHAWNNA YASHAR, PARENT OF THOMAS JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: We did not receive it until November 21, after the deadline has passed for early admissions and early acceptance.

So we don't know. We're still waiting to hear back from colleges. We got a few rejections.

JONES: The governor arguing the accommodations were held intentionally to avoid hurting the feelings of those who did not win recognition.

YOUNGKIN: They have a maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs. REID: What I mean is for each and every student to achieve their

unique potential.

JONES (on camera): Part of the thing that has so many up in arms, this idea this was not human error. That this was intentional effort. What is your response to that accusation?

REID: We celebrate each and every one of our students' unique contributions and achievements. And there's absolutely no division- wide effort to withhold recognition or not to honor hard work and achievement.

JONES (voice-over): Virginia's attorney general is investigating high schools across Fairfax County after eight of them delayed telling students they had been commended, including Thomas Jefferson High School for science and technology, the top-ranked high school in the country.


REID: We did initiate a third-party review.

JONES: In a letter to the community, Reid said the delay was likely due to human error.

REID: We committed to contacting all of the colleges and universities, the early action, early decision schools that otherwise our commended scholars may not have that information notified.

JONES: Lost in this war were students who were recognized for the commendation are actually out of the competition for National Merit Scholarships.

RITI LIU, THOMAS JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I think I may have thrown it away. Because I didn't think much of it. I didn't put it anywhere in my honor section for college apps.


JONES: Governor Glenn Youngkin has proposed legislation in the general assembly that would require schools to immediately notify commended students.

For her part, Superintendent Reid said her office is already drafting division-wide guidance to do just that to make it mandatory so this doesn't happen again.

There also going to try to work with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to implement a more layered notification strategy.

So not just sending it in the mail to the school principal but maybe incorporating emails and that sort of thing to make sure those students get that notification -- Abby?

PHILLIP: Athena, thank you for that great report.

And that does it for me. The news will continue after the break.