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Video Shows Russian Jet Colliding with U.S. Drone; Yellen to Testify on The Hill; Credit Suisse Rescued; Camila DeChalus is Interviewed about the Banking Turmoil; Judge Promises Ruling on Abortion Pill. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2023 - 09:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill.


The moment of impact. Remarkable new video shows a Russian fighter jet as it forced down a U.S. drone over, we should note, international waters. All of this played out just south of Ukraine 48 hours ago. Video proof Russia didn't tell the truth about this. I'm going to walk you through exactly what we learned from this new video just ahead.

HILL: Also today, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen with a direct message to Americans, your money, your bank deposits are safe. She is set to testify on The Hill next hour. This, of course, as bank failures here in the U.S., in an unrelated but unquestionably ill- timed bank issue in Europe is spooking so many. So, this morning, what you need to know.

And, look, if all this banking news feels like a lot, maybe a little bit too much, how about a little distraction? How about a little March Madness, my friends. If your bracket isn't locked in, you are running out of time. But the good news is, we have just the guy to help you make those final decisions. That's a little bit later this hour.

SCIUTTO: We do begin this hour with that incredibly newly declassified video showing the very moments a pair of Russian SU-27 fighter jets forced down that U.S. MQ9 reaper drone. I am told this morning the U.S. military was able to extract this video in just the last 24 hours after the first video they were able to get was less conclusive.

This video you're seeing from the camera of that drone, pointed backwards towards its tail and the drone's propeller. We want to break this down for you frame by frame.

This still image here, released by the U.S. military, points to the tips of the propel of the U.S. drone. You can clearly see at this moment they are not damaged. But, when the camera came back online after a brief interruption, you can see the change. Damaged propeller from a physical collision with the Russian jet. Another image shows when the video feed from the reaper drone briefly

became disrupted just as the Russian jet collided with it. On Tuesday, the Russian defense ministry said in part, quote, the Russian aircraft did not use on board weapons, did not come into contact with the unmanned aerial vehicle and returned safely to their home airfield. This video clearly presents evidence to the contrary. The clearest most damaging evidence yet that those Russian fighter jets did, in fact, collide physically with that U.S. drone and then bringing it down in the waters of the Black Sea.

Joining us now to speak about this, CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Good morning to you.

Milley did say -- General Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said yesterday, this has been part of a pattern of Russian pilots acting more aggressively with U.S. aircraft, deliberately so. They have not yet established that that pilot intended to physically crash into this plane as opposed to just buzz it, as pilots will say. What is the function of such behavior?


The real problem with such behavior is that it's dangerous. And it's going to really affect the ability not only of the U.S. but of all nations to fly safely in areas around places like Ukraine, or even the (INAUDIBLE) coast or the Chinese coast. And, you know as you know from your own experience, Jim, these kinds of missions are both unmanned and manned. And when an unmanned mission like this one is impacted, the impact is not as great as if it were a crewed aircraft.

But the fact is that the damage that's been done to this aircraft and the fact that it had to be ditched in the Black Sea means that not only are we losing resources, but also there's going to be a lack of transparency because the intelligence and surveillance mission of this particular drone cannot be -- could not be completed.

HILL: Speaking of transparency, now that we have this video, as Jim ticked through each of those flames so clearly, this really contradicts, of course, what Russia had said in the wake of this incident, perhaps not surprising to a lot of folks.

Does that change anything at this point?

LEIGHTON: Well, Erica, what it does is it kind of shows that the Russians aren't quite telling the truth and it illustrates every time something like this happens.


For those of us who have been in this business for some time, we know that the Russians do this. But it's very important for everyone who is, you know, watching this to really understand that when Russia makes pronouncements, they're either giving you half-truths or no truth. And this is very critical because, you know, the believability part of this becomes very important when it comes to the war in Ukraine, when it comes to relations with Russia. And it becomes really key when it comes to these specific missions as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, of course, happens in the midst of a big lie from Russia, the war in Ukraine, which, of course, Russia invaded but somehow claims it was not its fault.

I do want to ask you this because, as you note, these are dangerous encounters and there are both crewed and uncrewed surveillance missions. How do the U.S. and its allies reduce the possibilities of such encounters leading to escalation?

LEIGHTON: Yes, so this becomes, you know, something that goes back to the Cold War days, Jim, when we actually had processes put in place all the way back to the U2 (ph) incident going back to the early 1960s, where we deliberately moved our reconnaissance assets to offshore areas so that they wouldn't overfly denied territory. Something that is, you know, clearly going to be required now, that this aircraft, of course, was not flying over denied territory. It's been flying over international waters and missions like it have always been conducted off of the Russian coastline or the Ukrainian coastline or any other coastline that we're interested in.

So international norms are going to have to be re-established. This kind of intercept is something that can happen legally, but it cannot result in the downing of these kinds of assets. That's going to be something that international bodies are going to have to look at. And military to military contacts are going to be very necessary to achieve that.

HILL: Colonel Cedric Leighton, appreciate you joining us, as always. Thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Erica.

HILL: Well, you can feel the pressure building this morning from Wall Street to Washington, frankly all across the country, banking concerns simmering here. A lot of Americans worried specifically about the money that we all have in banks in this country.

CNN's Christine Romans and Anna Stewart both joining us now.

So, Christine, the focus this morning for a lot of people is squarely on Washington.


HILL: That's because we're going to hear from the Treasury secretary in the next hour. We did get a preview of how much she may focus on the banking crisis because this testimony wasn't originally about the banking crisis.

ROMANS: It was supposed to be about the budget.

HILL: Supposed to be about the budget, but there will be questions, understandably, about what happened over the last week or so.

ROMANS: Sure. And in her prepared testimony she is very clear that Americans' money is safe. And she points out the efforts of the federal government, of the Federal Reserve, of the Treasury Department last weekend to make sure that depositors are protected here.

Here's what she's going to say about bank deposits. Americans can feel confident that their deposits will be there when they need them. This week's actions demonstrate our resolute commitment to ensure the depositors' savings remain safe.

She will answer questions. I'm sure there will be a grilling about just what kind of oversight there was of these two, actually three banks in the U.S. that failed over the past week. And also, I think, about what kind of influence we're seeing from the meltdown at Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse stock has bounced back a little bit this morning. You're finding stability in futures markets. But when we look at regional banks in the U.S., they are weak again this morning. And I think that's important to know that there's still pressure, guys, on those regional banks in the U.S. Still pressure on the banking system overall, even as the Treasury secretary will try to draw a line under this crisis, I think.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we should repeat, deposits are safe.


SCIUTTO: Stock prices are moving. Deposits are safe. The government has made that clear.


SCIUTTO: Anna, we've been watching events and markets in Europe in the wake of another bank, Credit Suisse, concerns about it. But there was the development yesterday where the Swiss Central Bank extended really a lifeline of many tens of billions of dollars to Credit Suisse to shore it up. What has been the reception to that extraordinary move from Swiss central bankers?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: I think extraordinary is the right word. What a 24 hours. Yesterday we saw shares of Credit Suisse tank, once down 30 percent. And, yes, the Central Bank of Switzerland essentially said, if liquidity was needed late last night, it would be available. And it didn't take very long for this bank to take them up on it, borrowing on a loan up to $54 billion.

Now, why Credit Suisse? Why was it at the sharp end of a broad selloff yesterday. Some issues specific to this bank. This bank undergoing a mega restructure and faces a litany of scandals, failures of risk government, failures of corporate governance. I can tell you, I report on this bank more than any other and really for all the wrong reasons. But also it's a weak link facing this broad selloff, and all the pressure - and that relates to actually Silicon Valley Bank and some of the failures you were talking about with Christine there, and that's, at the heart of it, to do with interest rates and what raised rates mean for the balance sheets of some of these banks. Now, what is going to be really interesting is, in the next ten minutes we will get the decision from the European Central Bank, the ECB, that oversees euro zone banks.


What are they going to do? They've baked in half a percentage point increase at the last meeting in February. Will they go ahead with it because given all the turmoil we've seen in the last 24 hours, they may want to take their foot off the gas a little bit on those rate hikes. But, great test case, I think. All those central banks, including the Fed, which reports next week.

HILL: Yes, exactly. And you know what, you led me right to my next question to Christine. So, thank you for that.

So, Christine, when we look at this, how closely will the Fed, how closely will Jerome Powell be watching what the ECB does in a matter of minutes in Europe, because that's, of course, coupled with everything else that's happening in this country.

ROMANS: Right. What a balancing act, right? You've got inflation that's still too high, but cooling. You've got a job market that is still too strong. And then you have fragility in the banking sector precisely because of the Fed's rate hikes over the past year. So, the Fed needs to continue to attack inflation, but not add on to the stresses of the banking system at the same time. It's a very fine line to watch - to walk.

And there's a lot of differences of opinion about exactly what the Fed chief is going to do. So, we will know for sure on March 22nd.

HILL: We've certainly seen a lot of those over the last few days.


HILL: Interesting that at the last meeting eluded to 50 percent, which, at the time, everybody said, oh, hey, this gives them a little wiggle room to only do 25.

ROMANS: If I had to guess, I would say it won't be 50.

HILL: Yes.

ROMANS: I think 50 would be to much pressure on the banking system. And if I had to guess I'd say it won't be zero because you still need to be fighting inflation. It's maybe somewhere in between. That's what the treasury - former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told us last night.

HILL: Yes. Seems to be a lot of what we're hearing.


HILL: We'll be watching.

Christine, appreciate it.

Anna, thank you so much.

Joining us now with more on what all this means from a Washington angle, Camila DeChalus is a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post."

Great to have you with us this morning.

Look, there has been plenty of discussion among lawmakers, lawmakers being asked a lot of questions, as they should be. And questions as to how specifically regulations that were rolled back, some of these Dodd-Frank regulations from 2010 that in 2018 were rolled back. Did they, did they not contribute to what we saw at Silicon Valley Bank.

What's most fascinating, I think, is it's brought back to the forefront the clear divisions that still exist among Democrats. There are some who say, look, this is fine, it worked the way it was supposed to. We should be looking at the boards. We should be looking at the CEOs. Then you have others, including Elizabeth Warren, Katie Porter, who are saying, we need more regulation, we need more oversight.


HILL: How does that play out?

CAMILA DECHALUS, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, what I've been hearing a lot on Capitol Hill is that a lot of people are re-examining the 2018 bill and really asking themselves whether that led to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. But when I talk to some Senate Democrats who previously supported that bill, they said, look, it's too premature to start blaming this bill. That we, the government, needs to do a fuller assessment of what actually went wrong. And, you know, we shouldn't just automatically begin to talk about more regulations put on banks.

I'll remind you, in 2018, when they rolled back those regulations, it was really in response to why they put them in, in the first place, was because of the financial crisis in 2008 and they really -- a lot of the Senate Democrats, even Republicans at the time who voted for the bill, really did believe that smaller banks needed regulatory relief.

And so, just right now, you know, they really want a fuller assessment of exactly what went wrong. But a lot of them are standing by that bill saying that they needed that regulatory relief and that they just want to see a better assessment to really understand what exactly went wrong before proposing any legislation to put more regulations on banks.

SCIUTTO: I wonder if that's a sufficient answer I mean because these rollbacks in 2018 dealt specifically with this size and category of bank. And by raising, in effect, the limit on the size of banks that were subject to some of these regulations, you relieved a bank like SVB from some of those restrictions. I just wonder, is there, given what we're seeing now, and the extraordinary measures that central bankers here in the U.S. and in Europe are now having to take, is there any real support for banking regulatory changes that might get bipartisan support? I mean we're watching the costs play out right now.

DECHALUS: Yes, well, I talked to senators like Richard Durbin and asked him specifically, will he take into consider Warren's bill that she's proposing to put more regulations, and he said that he's going to be looking at this. Mind you, he voted actually against the bill. But then others, like I talked to, like, Tim Kaine, who supported the 2018 bill, and asked him, will he take Warren's bill seriously or give it consideration, he just said simply that he still stands by his decision to support that 2018 bill and just really feels like it's too premature. So, he just wants more investigations to be done on what really led to the collapse of the bank before going to the table and saying, look, OK, let's start proposing legislation to make some changes. So, I think they just that it's just too much in its early stages. This just happened over the weekend. That they just want to see more assessments and investigations done before concluding that taking legislation up is necessary.


SCIUTTO: Camila DeChalus, thanks so much.

HILL: Just ahead, new details on what happened inside a Texas courtroom. This is the case we've been paying such close attention to. It could change access to medication abortions for women across the country.

Plus, we are learning investigators in Georgia has now obtained the audio from another call former President Trump made in a top Georgia lawmaker in 2020. Part of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. We'll tell you what he said on that recording.

SCIUTTO: And later, a giant seaweed blob could impact your Florida vacation this summer. We're going to speak to a scientist tracking a giant stretch of seaweed headed for the coast.


SCIUTTO: After a four-hour long high-stakes hearing, a Texas judge has now promised to rule as soon as possible. This on whether to block the FDA's approval of the medication abortion drug Mifepristone.


HILL: Now, if the judge grants that preliminary injunction, it could stop access nationwide to the most common form of abortion in this country, medication abortion. It also calls into question the FDA and its approval process.

CNN's Rosa Flores has been following these developments for us from Amarillo, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The national abortion debate heating up at a federal courthouse in Amarillo, Texas. Inside, the biggest legal battle over abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. A federal judge is seriously considering undoing FDA approval of Mifepristone, an abortion medication that has been available for more than two decades, in a lawsuit brought by an anti-abortion coalition.

DR. KATHERINE MCHUGH, FELLOW, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICIANS AND GYNECOLOGISTS: The impact of overruling the FDA's approval of Mifepristone is far reaching. Doctors and patients will not know if we can trust the national guidelines, which tell us to follow the standard of care.

FLORES: During the four-hour preliminary injunction hearing, the judge raised one possible scenario where he could keep the drug's approval intact and instead block the FDA's most recent moves to make the abortion pills easier to obtain. Legal concerns, already restricting access, Walgreens announcing it plans to stop the sale of abortion pills in states where abortion remains legal after Republican-led states threatened to sue. In this case, the plaintiffs are arguing the drug is unsafe and the FDA's approval process was flawed. The Women's March and other abortion advocacy groups say the plaintiffs went, quote, judge shopping, to find someone they believe will rule in their favor. By filing the case in Amarillo, where there is one federal judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, a President Trump appointee, who went from working at a religious liberty law firm on anti-abortion advocacy, to the federal bench.

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It would be unprecedented for a judge, a single judge, to say the FDA got it wrong 23 years ago. There's never been an instance where anyone has overturned the ruling of the FDA against the FDA's wishes.

FLORES: Judge Kacsmaryk's handling had been shrouded in secrecy. The judge saying he didn't want to (INAUDIBLE) out of security concerns, pointing to unnecessary death threats and voice mails and harassment, sparking outrage over the lack of transparency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm dressed like a clown to show what a circus he's created. He's just a joke. He's making the American court system into a circus.

FLORES: More than half of all abortions in the U.S. in recent years were medication abortions. Most using Mifepristone. And a ruling against this drug would have wide implications.

MCHUGH: Mifepristone is not just used in abortion care. It is also used for miscarriage management.

FLORES: The judge didn't rule from the bench and said he'd issue an opinion as soon as possible.


FLORES: Now, about that opinion. There is no question that the judge here is sympathetic to the plaintiffs. That's not the question. The nuance is, how far is he willing to go. And here's the nuance. The plaintiffs are asking the judge to practically yank this medicine off the shelf. But in the questions that the judge asked the plaintiffs, it's clear that he shows skepticism of being as aggressive as the plaintiffs want him to be.

Jim and Erica, here's one example. The judge asked the plaintiffs, OK, so point to one case in which another judge did exactly what you're asking me to do, and they couldn't point to a case. This is that unprecedented.

Jim and Erica.

SCIUTTO: Wow. Listen, enormous - enormous implications here. More than half of the abortions in this country, medical abortions. Good to have you there watching closely.

Rosa Flores, thanks so much.

Well, just in the last hour, Michael Cohen, formal personal attorney and fixer for Donald Trump, told CNN that New York prosecutors have a trove of evidence in their ongoing investigation into hush money payments made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Have a listen.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: They have a tremendous amount of information. A lot of people have attacked my credibility. Truth be told, at the end of the day, they can attack me all they want. This -- this -- this case is not going to be predicated on any one individual but rather it's going to be predicated on the documents, the evidence, the text message, the emails.


HILL: Cohen has met with investigators several times and testified before a grand jury twice this week. All of this as we're learning that Daniels also met with prosecutors yesterday and has agreed to testify as a witness if needed. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has also denied having an affair with Daniels.

SCIUTTO: Former President Donald Trump did not just call Georgia officials once in 2020, but we're now learning three times, pressuring them to, quote, find votes and overturn his election loss in that state.


HILL: Five jurors in the Fulton County special grand jury tell "The Atlanta-Journal Constitution" that they listened to the recording of Trump's call to the late Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.

CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes joining us now with more of these details. So, the third call now that we're learning about, what more do we know

about - about that call and specifically what was said?


Well, look, this call really shows us that that pressure campaign from Trump and his allies on Georgia officials went further than we previously knew. Now, this call with Ralston was all about trying to get the Georgia state assembly to convene a special session to overturn the 2020 election results in that state. And Ralston actually did an interview where he talked about this call with former President Trump. Here's what he said. He said, well, obviously, he would like a special session of the Georgia general assembly. He's been clear on that before and he was clear on that in the phone conversation yesterday. You know, I shared with him my belief that based on my understanding I have of Georgia law that it was going to be a very much uphill battle.

Now, the reason that would have been an uphill battle is because there's only two ways that the Georgia assembly could actually have a special session. One is by the governor, Brian Kemp, calling that special session. And as we know, Trump did try to pressure Kemp. Something Kemp rejected.

The other way would have been this general assembly calling itself to a special session, but they would have had to have three-fifths of the house sign off on that. And there just weren't enough Republicans at the time.

Now, as you mentioned, this is now the third recorded phone call that we know about. The other one, of course, to the state chief investigator asking her, Frances Watson, to find more votes, to find fraud, as well as, of course, that call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where he was asking to find more votes.

This really just shows light and - shows us what the grand jury was seeing, learning about when they were trying to make this decision on these indictments.

HILL: An interesting development, that's for sure. And as you point out, shows us a little bit more of what they were hearing.

Kristen, appreciate it. Thank you.

Seven Virginia deputies charged with murder, accused of smothering a 28-year-old man in custody. What prosecutors are saying about the case and what they call an alarming 12-minute video which prosecutors say captured those moments.