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Biden: U.S. To Send 31 Abrams Tanks To "Enhance" Ukraine's Capacity; CA Gov. Newsom Renews Call For Federal Gun Safety Legislation; Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) Discusses About The Mass Shooting At Monterey Park And What The Government Should Do; Opening Statements In Alex Murdaugh Double Murder Trial; Reps For Clinton, Obama, Both Bushes Say All Classified Docs Returned. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 15:00   ET


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could be highly effective, but it could be highly risky. Ultimately, though, the Ukrainians are also saying and in the same interview said, we've got a shopping list of stuff we need. We need modern aircraft. We need more artillery.

They need the equipment to give them the edge because the Russians still have dominance in the terms of numbers of people that can throw into this fight and this - the weaponry that they can use. It's unsophisticated weaponry and that's the key aspect for Ukraine.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Okay. Sam Kiley, thank you very much for being there for us.

Let's bring in Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder. He's the Press Secretary for the Defense Department.

General, thanks so much for being here.

So it was just a few days ago that we heard about how these M1 Abrams tanks were too labor intensive, too complex, too hard to refuel to be able to send to Ukraine, so what changed in the past couple of days?

BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it's important to highlight too that what we've been focused on is the near term requirements for Ukraine on the battlefield. The capabilities that they need to be immediately effective to address the kinds of things that Sam highlighted.

However, we do assess that Ukraine requires a combination of armored personnel carriers, infantry, fighting vehicles and tanks to be able to have the maneuver capability that they'll need to be successful, both in the near term and in the longer term in this fight.

And so really, what you're seeing here is the United States making a commitment, demonstrating its commitment to Ukraine for the long term, combined with the near term capabilities that some of our allies and partners are providing like the Leopards, and the Challenger tanks, and the Strikers and Bradleys, by the way, that we recently announced. So all that comes together to create real combat capability for Ukraine. VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: But General, wasn't all that true last week when the U.S. said that it would not be sending the M1s and only after Germany said, well, we're not going to send these Leopards or allow any of the countries to which we've sold these German-made tanks to release theirs unless the U.S. does it first. Is there a direct correlation between the Germans' requirement that the U.S. send these tanks and the announcement that it would?

RYDER: Well, yes, thanks, Victor. So I mean, we've said all along that we're going to continue to consult closely with Ukraine with our international allies and partners on what Ukraine's security assistance needs are and this is no different. The M1 is a complex tank, it is difficult to maintain and requires a very complex logistics and sustainment network to support it. And so that was true yesterday, it's true today.

And so as we look to provide this capability, we'll use the time that it will take to procure the tank to help train the Ukrainians, to help build that logistics and sustainment network so that when they do get it, they'll be able to employ it.

But we've never taken anything off the table when it comes to the medium to the long-term support for Ukraine. And so again, we're going to continue to evolve as the battlefield conditions evolve. And we're going to continue to adapt to ensure that Ukraine has the support they need to be successful, not only in defending their territory, but also taking back their sovereign territory.

CAMEROTA: Well, in terms of what's on the table, what about fighter jets? We just heard from Sam Kiley that that is also something that's on the Defense Minister - Ukraine Defense Minister's shopping list as he said.

RYDER: Sure. I don't have anything to announce today. Again, we'll continue as we have been consulted closely with our Ukrainian partners, with our international allies and our partners around the world to look again at what it is that Ukraine needs, importantly, to be successful now, but also to defend their homeland in the long-term.

BLACKWELL: The U.S., obviously, wants Ukraine to win, believes Ukraine can win, the President said that these tanks would not be used in an offensive manner, but is a defensive posture enough to win this war?

RYDER: Well, again, I think when you step back and you look at what happened here, Russia invading a Democratic sovereign country, unprovoked illegally, Ukraine has the right to defend itself. And the international community has the right to support Ukraine as they defend their people. And so again, that's what we're focused on is giving them the capabilities they need to be able to defend their territory and take back their sovereign territory.

Because the consequences aren't just about Ukraine, it's about the message it sends that if a belligerent neighbor can invade your country and conquer it, what does that pretend for European security or international security, so really we are focused on supporting Ukraine and we're confident based on past precedent that they will ultimately be successful.

CAMEROTA: And so, General, for the layperson, what will these tanks change on the battlefield?


RYDER: So again, combined with the other capabilities that I highlighted, armored personnel, vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, it's all about maneuver. If you look at the current situation on the battlefield and largely along the front lines, it's static right now, with the exception of operations in Bakhmut or near Kreminna.

And so in the near-term, what I think you'll see is Ukraine attempting to change the equation, maneuver and be able to push back Russia. But in the medium to long-term, having this capability that these advanced tanks will give them the upper hand to be able to secure and defend the territory that is rightfully theirs.

BLACKWELL: Pentagon Press Secretary, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, thanks so much.

The 66-year-old man accused of killing seven people at two Northern California farms is expected in court this afternoon.

CAMEROTA: Authorities say the suspect legally owned the gun that he used and it was registered to him. Investigators are also calling it a workplace shooting in which he allegedly targeted specific people.


SHERIFF CHRISTINA CORPUS, SAN MATEO COUNTY, CA: Only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been co- workers. The coroner's office will - is still working on identification of the victims and notifications of next of kin. As some of these victims are members of our migrant community, this represents a unique challenge.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Veronica Miracle joins us now from California. Veronica, so what else do we know about this shooting?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn and Victor, Chunli Zhao makes his first court appearance today here behind me in Redwood City. It's the first time that he will be in front of a judge since being accused of murdering seven people and critically injuring another person.

But we are learning, Alisyn and Victor, that this is not the first time that he has been accused of workplace related violence. Back in 2013, according to court records obtained by CNN, he is accused of attempting to smother a former coworker and roommate with a pillow attempting to murder him. That resulted in a temporary restraining order, which meant that he could not obtain or own a gun, but that expired in July of 2013. And as you mentioned, in this particular instance, he owned that gun and had a license for it. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom toured Half Moon Bay and met with victims and victims' families and met with community members deeply impacted by this mass shooting. Of course, it's the second mass shooting tour that he's done in just days.

And I mentioned to him, California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and so why is this happening in the state. Take a listen to his response.


MIRACLE (off camera): Are these strict laws working?

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, there are mass shootings every few years. We're the size of 21 state populations combined, we also have one of the lowest gun death rates in America, but also lead the national conversation on common sense and gun safety reform. And the data proves, doesn't assert, it proves it saves lives. We need the federal government to do its job. This is on everybody. We've chosen this. This is our decision to live in these conditions.


MIRACLE (on camera): And back here in Redwood City, Chunli Zhao makes his first court appearance today at 1:30 Pacific Time, Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Veronica Miracle, thank you so much. Just two days before the mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, 11 people were shot and killed in Southern California's Monterey Park. A 72-year-old man just started shooting there in a dance studio. A candlelight vigil was held last night for those victims.

Joining us now is Congresswoman Judy Chu, whose district represents or includes Monterey Park.

Congresswoman, thank you for being with us.

The Vice President will be in California today, will be in Monterey Park, what do your constituents need to hear?

REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): They want to hear that there is concern for their welfare. They are, I think, in a state of shock right now. And they need to have that human touch from someone who is so high up, who is expressing concern for them and how they are feeling. But also, I think they want the reassurance that there will be the resources there available for them.

I've heard that some of the victims that are still in hospital are worried about how they're going to pay their medical bills or will they still have a job. These are things that we have to help them with and I think that Vice President Harris can do an excellent job in reassuring them.

BLACKWELL: Well, certainly, the compassion and condolences after all in a tragedy like this are welcome. [15:10:02]

But California governor, Gavin Newsom, says that's not enough, that there must be more. Here's a bit of his frustration.


NEWSOM: We need the federal government to do its job. This is on everybody. We've chosen this. This is our decision to live in these conditions. It doesn't exist anywhere else in the world, so we've chosen this, we've accepted this.


BLACKWELL: He says the federal government needs to do its job. What do you think that job is and could there have been legislation or is there legislation that could make these shootings, what we know about them, less likely to happen again?

CHU: Well, he is so correct. We need federal legislation, because there's nothing to prevent somebody from buying an illegal gun in Nevada and then crossing the line to California. And so it is important to have these laws across all these different states.

And we did pass the bipartisan gun safety law last year. It was a step forward and required such things as enhanced background checks for people under 21 who are trying to buy guns, amongst other things.

So that is good, but in terms of these mass shootings, one thing we need to do is to ban these high capacity magazines. That high capacity magazine is what killed so many people all at one time ...


CHU: ... at that spa, at that dancing spa.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And we've seen, of course, these high capacity magazines in, unfortunately, so many mass shootings across this country. You've served on House Budget Committee Ways and Means as well, let me ask you quickly about the debt limit. We hit it last week, default could come in a couple of months.

Democrats want to clean bill, Republicans demand some cuts. There is an option of what's called the discharge petition. Democrats would need just a handful of Republicans to vote with them. They could pass legislation without the approval of the speaker, of the GOP leadership, should you take that route and do you think you can get five House Republicans who could defy Republican leadership to raise that limit?

CHU: Well, it is an intriguing idea. And I would certainly rather try something like that than default on all the bills. Remember, the debt ceiling only allocates monies to pay the bills that already outstanding. It doesn't create any new spending, so there shouldn't even be a discussion about this. And if we default, that would be devastating to the economy around the world. So if the discharge petition is the route, then I would certainly support it. I actually think that there are Republicans who are concerned about the economic safety of America and I - but I don't know if they would sign the discharge petition. I certainly hope so - I hope - I certainly hope that it would be in their conscience to do such a thing.

BLACKWELL: Congresswoman Judy Chu, thank you for your time.

CAMEROTA: More classified documents were found where they should not be this time, as you know, inside former Vice President Mike Pence's home. How the Justice Department is responding.

BLACKWELL: At any moment now, the opening statements in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial will start. We'll get you right there to South Carolina in the courtroom when they begin, stay with us.



CAMEROTA: Opening statements expected to begin any moment in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. This is a case that has drawn international attention. Prosecutors alleged the disgraced former lawyer shot and killed his wife and 22-year-old son in an attempt to cover up insurance fraud.

BLACKWELL: Alex Murdaugh denies he was involved in their deaths. He's pleaded not guilty to the charges.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live in Walterboro, South Carolina, also with us, defense attorney Misty Marris.

All right. So we're waiting for these opening statements to begin, Dianne, set the table.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So look, this has moved a lot quicker than most of us initially thought it would. Part of the reason being that literally everybody in the low country of South Carolina and really around the nation at this point has been captivated by all the twists and the turns and the allegations that have surrounded Alex Murdaugh.

Now, the trial that will begin today with opening statements, any minute now, is of course for the murder of his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul, back in June of 2021. The state says that Alex Murdaugh killed his wife and his son on that night as a way to distract from a long-standing scheme he had of stealing, they say from clients, and he owed money and was afraid he was going to get found out and so he was trying to do this as a way to distract and gain sympathy.

I will tell you through the pretrial motions, the defense has says that is ridiculous and they believe that the state has no evidence to prove this whatsoever. They have said and Alex Murdaugh has maintained that he is innocent in the killings of his wife and his son. I will tell you just a few moments ago right before three o'clock, we saw the Murdaugh's only surviving son, Buster, come into the courthouse. This is the first time that I have seen Buster at any of his father's court proceedings, since he was initially charged here. He came in with Alex Murdaugh's younger brother.

There's a lot at play here. In addition to the murder charges, the state is going to try and discuss some of the other allegations and criminal charges that Alex Murdaugh is also facing, but has not been convicted of. We're talking about roughly a hundred different charges, the majority of them financial dealing with fraud and allegations of stealing from clients and his law firm.


There's also that bizarre unsuccessful alleged suicide for hire plot to get $10 million of life insurance for Buster, his surviving son. And then, of course, there's all the other intrigue that does surround the Murdaugh family, those unexplained or mysterious deaths that have been connected to the family in some way.

This has really been sort of a true crime obsession for many people across the country. They've been watching this closely. We have 12 jurors seated, six alternates here of that 10 of those jurors are white, two are black, eight women, four men and the alternates are four men and two women. We do anticipate the state to kick things off again any minute now.

CAMEROTA: Misty, I mean, Dianne just referred to it, this is - there's so much mystery surrounding this, so many shady things, that Alex seems to have been connected to, these other deaths around him and so will that be able to be introduced in this trial?

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, that's a great question, because that's what's captivated those who have been following this story since its inception and it keep - continues to be a more complicated web.

However, the question for the trial is what is actually going to come into the courtroom. And right now, it appears the judge has taken this position that he's going to decide on a case by case basis as the trial unfolds. What if any of the other allegations relating to the financial crimes by Alex Murdaugh are going to come into the case?

Now, prosecutors are looking to bring that in to establish motive and that's the avenue they're looking to actually bring those issues before the jurors, but the judge hasn't decided. So what I'm going to be looking for in these opening arguments today from the prosecutor, how much are they going to talk about motive if they're not sure what is actually going to come into the courtroom.

Remember, from a prosecutor's perspective and opening statements, you do not want to over promise. If you say that the jurors are going to see something or hear from a witness, you better deliver because the jury really pays attention. This is the roadmap for the case, so that's certainly something we're going to be looking for as the prosecutors lay it all out on the table.

BLACKWELL: Dianne, tell us about this Snapchat video that prosecutors say Paul Murdaugh sent to some friends just before he and his mother were killed.

GALLAGHER: Yes, it's right. Essentially, according to the state and this all came from a subpoena that the judge signed off on of a Snapchat representative. The state says that it has a video that Paul sent to several friends at 7:56 pm the night of the murders. They say that it is chiefly important to their case, according to the state.

Now, likely what a large part of that because we don't know what's on the video, the state did not divulge that. But is the timing of that snap and the fact that it came at 7:56 pm. According to authorities, they believe that Maggie and Paul were shot and killed sometime between 8:30 and 10:06 pm that night.

And so it is going to be crucial to find out what was on that video, of course, but the judge said the Snapchat representative must come in. And we're talking about a potential witness list of more than 250 people. A lot of that is law enforcement, but so many from here on Colleton County who knows something about the Murdaugh family.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Keep us updated on what happens in the courtroom. Dianne Gallagher, Misty Marris, thank you both very much. We'll bring you the opening statements when they begin.

BLACKWELL: Well, the web of lies just keeps spreading around embattled Congressman George Santos, now questions are mounting over his campaign loans. Details ahead.



CAMEROTA: Representatives from the offices of President Clinton, Obama and both Bushes say they all have turned over their classified records to the National Archives upon leaving office.

BLACKWELL: Okay. So they say don't look over here.

It's a question that had to be asked, of course, after classified documents were found in the homes of President Biden, former President Trump and now his Vice President Mike Pence.

CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins us now.

So now that the classified material has been found at Pence's home, what does that mean for DOJ and the investigations into Trump and President Biden?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. These are now questions that have to be asked, right, because of this new discovery. The Justice Department is still trying to assess these documents. The FBI is working with the intelligence agencies that own this information to try to figure out what harm there could be from the fact that these were being stored in a place that is not where they're not supposed to be.

For the Justice Department, though, these are separate investigations. It's not clear what is going to happen next with the Pence review, whether this leads to yet another special counsel. We know that Mike Pence is thinking about a presidential run which could perhaps play into a decision as to what to do in this case. But you can see already the reaction from Trump world and from the White House.