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E-mail Shows Murdoch Said Trump's Lies "Pretty Much A Crime"; FOX News CEO: Fact-Checking Trump "Bad For Business" & Must Stop; Ex- FOX Producer Said She Gave Misleading Testimony "To Keep My Job"; Pentagon Briefing After Deadly Black Hawk Crash; Weekly Jobless Claims Rise Slightly, Still Below 200K; Economy Grew In Q4 But More Slowly Than Expected; State Department Speaks On Arrest Of American Reporter In Russia. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 13:30   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: A new batch of documents released in Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit against FOX News reveals that FOX Corp chairman, Rupert Murdoch, directly blamed Donald Trump for the January 6th insurrection.

Just two weeks after the capital attack, Murdoch emailed the CEO of FOX News, writing, quote, "Trump insisting on the election being stolen and convincing 25 percent of Americans was a huge disservice to the country. Pretty much a crime. Inevitable it blew up on January 6th."

Now with me now is CNN's Marshall Cohen, who has been following these legal proceedings.

Marshall, Murdoch's email comes at the same time that FOX News was continuing to push Trump's election lies. What else are we learning from these documents that have just been released?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes. Another day, Alex, and another round of FOX revelations.

FOX wanted to keep these emails secret. They fought to keep them redacted. A judge disagreed. And that's why we can look at them now.

So some of these emails go straight to the top. You already read that message from Rupert Murdoch.

But there are other messages from top executives and staffers from that critical period after the 2020 election showing the chaos inside the right wing network.

So I've got another message for you from that period. It was sent by Suzanne Scott, the CEO of FOX News.

Let me give you the context of what happened before she sent this email. Early December 2020, a FOX News correspondent actually went on air and debunked the big lie and fact-checked Donald Trump, saying that there was no proof of a rigged election.

Well, after that, the CEO lashed out. This is what Suzanne Scott said. In this email, quote, she said, "This has to stop now. This is bad business. And there clearly is a lack of understanding of what is happening in these shows. The audience is furious, and we are just feeding them and material."

She closed it out by saying, "Bad for business."

Now, Alex, FOX News, their pushback on this, they say that the CEO didn't have any issue with fact-checking Donald Trump. What she was worried about was people on one show, contradicting people on another show.

But you can read it for yourself. There is a lot of evidence here. And this is why Dominion thinks that they have a strong case.

They say emails like this prove that FOX didn't care about the truth and just wanted to save their bottom line - Alex?

MARQUARDT: And this is just the latest correspondence that shows that the reporters who were actually telling the truth and pushing back got in trouble. And that people got angry with them.

Marshall Cohen, thank you so much for that reporting.

Joining me now to discuss this is former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti.

Renato, thank you so much for joining me.

A fascinating case. And of course, a potentially looming trial. We saw Rupert Murdoch, they, calling Trump's election lies pretty much a crime, in his words, even as FOX News continued to push those lies.

And then the FOX News chief, Suzanne Scott, warning that fact-checking those lies has to stop now.

So how damaging are these latest messages to FOX's case?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Very damaging. I have to say, when I saw some of the prior messages, I was wondering why FOX News and not try to settle this case.

And I'm really still floored by that, because they're facing very substantial damages here.

The - you know, this is the rare case. Usually, a defamation lawsuit is very difficult to make out. Because you have to prove that the defendant knew that what they were paddling was false or had a reckless disregard for the truth. That really seems like they have the proof on that here.

MARQUARDT: So we do have this potential trial coming up. FOX does have a history of settling lawsuits with damaging details before they become public. So if you were representing FOX, would you tell them to come to some

sort of agreement some kind of deal with Dominion before the trial starts, which could be next month.

MARIOTTI: Absolutely. I have to say, I would have - I would have counseled them to reach settlement before all these emails and text messages and so forth became public. And that's what really surprises me.

They didn't reach a settlement then. Now they face the specter of some of their hosts being on the witness stand a trial.

That really - the fact that some of those hosts are listed on the witness list tells me the other side Dominion is trying to posture and gain leverage to force FOX News into a settlement, knowing that they have the upper hand.


MARQUARDT: And, Renato, we've also heard from a former FOX News producer. Her name is Abby Grossberg. She filed a lawsuit against FOX News. She's accused its lawyers of pressuring her into giving misleading testimony in this Dominion case.

And she had this to say this morning. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: People said, you're a lousy journalist, that you - that your behavior was shameful.

Because, among other things, you had said, in reply to a question, that you did not believe that it was your responsibility to fact-check whether or not what someone was going to say on the broadcast was telling the truth.

ABBY GROSSBERG, FORMER FOX NEWS PRODUCER: It felt awful. I mean, it felt terrible. Because I knew that I was bullied, intimidated and coerced into saying that just to keep my job and stay at the company.

And the question a lot of people would have is, why would you do that?


GROSSBERG: Because I made the decision to keep my job so that I could keep paying my bills. It seemed like the safer decision for me at the time.


MARQUARDT: Renato, Abby Grossberg has since submitted new sworn testimony in the case. And what are the implications of that?

MARIOTTI: Yes, I mean, that really could be used to impeach her credibility in this case, so that's very significant. And I think the judge is really going to have a difficult time

navigating that because, if a jury heard what we just heard a moment ago, I think that they might disbelieve other FOX News witnesses.

So very powerful testimony that would really go towards not just her credibility but the credibility of others at FOX News.

Like I said, really seems, just from an outside observer's perspective, that FOX News is in a difficult position in this case.

MARQUARDT: Well, it's a very interesting set of proceedings. Lots revealed in these documents. We'll see if there's a trial.

Renato Mariotti, thank you very much for your time.

Now, up next, banking chaos, big tech turmoil, the Fed's rate hikes, none of it seems to be slowing down a hot jobs market. We'll break down today's new data, coming up.



MARQUARDT: Moments ago, a spokesman for the Pentagon spoke briefly about the fatal helicopter crash that left nine servicemembers dead in Kentucky.

Let's take a listen.



I have quite a few items to pass along at the top, so I'd ask you to bear with me and then I'll be happy to get to your questions.

First, on behalf of Secretary Austin and the Department of Defense, I would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the nine U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, who sadly lost their lives last night when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed outside of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

According to Army officials, the helicopters were performing planned night training flight operations at the time of the incident.

An aircraft safety team from Fort Rucker, Alabama, will arrive later today and we'll begin an investigation.

And again, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, units and all those affected by this tragedy.

And for additional questions, I'd refer you to Army Public Affairs.


MARQUARDT: Separately, earlier today, Secretary Austin met with room servicemembers who are part of the famous 101st Airborne Division.

Critical new economic data is rolling in today. The economy grew in the fourth quarter of 2022, meaning still no recession. And weekly jobless claims ticked up slightly. That jobs number is one that the Fed is looking at closely as it works to bring down inflation.

We're also keeping a close eye on the markets, which are currently flat as investors digest all this data and monitor the banking situation.

CNN's Matt Egan is here to break it all down.

Matt, first, on that jobs data, if you're the Fed, are today's figures frustrating because they show just how resilient the labor market is

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Probably, Alex. But they can't really say that out loud. I mean, the Fed is squarely focused on cooling off inflation. And a lot of economists think that they need to get a weaker jobs market to get inflation under control.

But you know, the jobs market is just not cooperating. It remains strong, historically strong.

Initial jobless claims coming in at 198,000. That is up, but only slightly. And it's off of low levels. You can see from that chart the trend is really in favor of workers, showing that jobless claims remain very low.

Some context here, 198,000 in the latest week. The pre-Covid 2019 average was 220,000.

So that means, despite all of these recession fears, despite the fed's historic war on inflation, despite the banking crisis, this jobs market in many ways even stronger than it was before Covid, and it was pretty strong back then.

If anything, the Fed is worried that it could be too strong.

Now. Of course, we are still hearing about layoffs, especially in tech on the latest company to announce layoffs is Electronic Arts, the video game maker of Madden and FIFA. They're cutting about 800 jobs.

But still, when you look big picture outside of tech, the numbers show that a lot of companies are holding onto their workers.

MARQUARDT: And, Matt, what about the GDP? Where does that fit into everything?

EGAN: Well, the latest numbers show that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter. That is pretty solid.

One concerning number that came out from today's report is consumer spending. That decelerated at the end of last year. We need to keep an eye on that, because consumer spending is the main driver of this economy. [13:45:04]

But listen, this is a rear-view looking number. A lot of investors - and the Fed, they're more focused on what's happening right now in the economy, especially because a lot has changed since the fourth quarter of last year. I mean, that was before the bank crisis.

And so what's interesting, though, is that despite the bank failures, there are some early signs that the economy may actually have picked up steam during this first quarter, which ends tomorrow.

The Atlanta Fed's GDP Now forecast is actually calling for an acceleration from 2.6 percent GDP in the fourth quarter to 23.2 percent.

Alex, I think the big question is how long this economy can stay resilient despite the bank turmoil and despite all of the interest rate hikes from the Fed.

MARQUARDT: All right, Matt Egan, breaking that down for us. Appreciate it.

New season, new rules. Major League Baseball's opening day is here. That's next.



MARQUARDT: The State Department is currently giving an update on the arrest of the "Wall Street Journal" reporter in Russia, Evan Gershkovich.

Let's take a listen.

VEDANT PATEL, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: - can offer. First, the U.S. embassy in Moscow has requested official notification of the arrest. And Russia is required to provide that under our bilateral consular convention.

Second, whenever U.S. citizens are arrested abroad, we pursue consular access as soon as possible. However, due to Russia's administrative procedures and security requirements, it will likely be several days before that happens.

Third, we are in close contact with the "Wall Street Journal" on this issue.

And also I would like to make it clear that it is not safe for U.S. citizens to be in the Russian Federation. Any us citizen residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately, as stated in our latest travel advisory.

Those who require assistance in departing Russia should contact the U.S. embassy in Moscow for assistance. Unfortunately, we have seen how the Russian government's escalating

repression affects journalists, as well as civil society activists and the broader Russian community.

Since February 24th 2022, dozens of outlets and more than 100, individual media professionals have been labeled as undesirable organizations or foreign agents for doing their jobs.

Russian citizens are routinely jailed or fined for reporting basic facts or daring to share any opinion that differs from the Kremlin's narrative.

Our first priority will always be U.S. citizens. But I want to reiterate to independent Russian journalists and civil society voices who continue to speak out or are jailed or are in exile. We stand in absolute solidarity with you.

Matt, if you want to?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, well, so on that, can you give us any more detail about, you know, when you knew how you knew about this arrest and you know what you're doing about it other than just reaching out to the Russian foreign ministry?

PATEL: Matt, we are still very much in their early stages here, and so that is, in fact, what we're doing. We're trying to obtain and ascertain as much information as we can.

I'm certainly not at a place to speak to the specifics of this case beyond what I already said, given privacy considerations.

But I, again, would say that we are immensely concerned over Russia's announcement that has detained a U.S. citizen journalist.


PATEL: In contact, as I said, with the "Wall Street Journal" about this situation. And we have not yet heard back from the Russian foreign ministry affairs.

But we reached out through the appropriate channels as soon as we were made aware of this reporting.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So your understanding right now is there is no privacy act waiver for this person?

PATEL: That is correct.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you recommend that people who are traveling in Russia, who do not heed your advice to leave immediately, sign one -

PATEL: I'm not -

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: - if they want to - you know, if they want you guys to be able to speak about their case? PATEL: I'm not here to offer legal advice, Matt. I am here to say two



PATEL: First, that when any American in any part of the world is detained, we moved quickly to seek consular access, just as we have - as we have in this case.

And secondly, our travel advisory warning for Russia continues to be a level four and has been for quite some time. And that continues to be the case. And it continues to be our message to any American citizen currently inside the Russian Federation.


JENNY HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: I think - when do you expect to name Evan as wrongfully detained? And if so, what is that process? How quickly do you think that designation will be made?

And then can you say when you filed this notice with the ministry of foreign affairs in Moscow? Is there any sort of timeline that they're required to meet you grant consular access or provide this notification?


PATEL: Jenny, the department regularly reviews the circumstances surrounding the detentions of us nationals overseas for indicators that these detentions are wrongful. I'm not going to get ahead of that process, as this just happened yesterday.

Of course, I'm seeing the same public reporting that you are seeing as it relates to these charges. And don't think that there is any truth to them.

But again, I'm going to let this process play out and not - not get ahead of this process.

And then again, in terms of notifications or any of the sequencing, I'm just now that ability to speak to the specifics given privacy considerations.

But the minute that we were aware, the department has been deeply engaged on this, as has been our embassy in Moscow.

HANSLER: Can I follow up? You said even citizens residing in Russia should leave, that Evan was an accredited journalists there, you're saying it's not safe for even people who are accredited, you know, with the ministry or working for international organizations -


PATEL: Our message to American citizens residing in Russia is that the travel advisory warning is a level four and that they should leave. And if they need assistance doing so, they can get in touch with our mission in Moscow.

Sean, go ahead.


MARQUARDT: All right, the State Department spokesman there updating reporters on the case of Evan Gershkovich, the "Wall Street Journal" reporter, who was arrested in Russia and is now facing accusations of espionage accusations that, of course, the "Wall Street Journal" and the United States have said are untrue.

The State Department there saying that it will likely be several days before the U.S. embassy in Moscow gets consular access to Gershkovich.

He also warned that United States citizens who are still in Russia should leave immediately. That is a warning that the State Department has been making for quite some time.

Continued criticism from the Biden administration aimed at the Kremlin for their efforts to silence journalists, civil society and the opposition.

A big question now, which was posed by our colleague, Jenny Hansler, is whether, at some point soon, the State Department will say that Gershkovich was wrongfully detained.

That will do it for me this hour. Please don't go anywhere. We have much more breaking news ahead.