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9 Soldiers Killed In Black Hawk Crash During Training Mission; Train Carrying Ethanol Derails In Minnesota, Forces Evacuations; White House Daily Press Briefing; White House: President Briefed This Morning on Reporter's Arrest. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 14:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Colonel, you mentioned a previous accident at Fort Campbell involving this kind of helicopter. And there have been more than a handful of training accidents with Black Hawks over the years.

I think it goes to show just how risky some of these training exercises are and how true to life they might be. Could you speak to that?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Sure, Boris. You know, the military fighters really the way it trains. And it becomes really important for aircrews, especially for Black Hawk helicopter crews as well as you know, all other kinds of aircraft that are engaged in combat operations, to train as realistic as possible.

There's a lot that can be done by simulators or through simulators, but that's not exactly the way things really happened when you're out, you know, going into really an operational area and fighting an operational mission.

So it becomes really important for aircrew to fly actual missions and to get the practice that they need in order to be proficient in all aspects of airmanship,. And that's really what - what they were trying to do last night.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: We are thinking of these servicemen, their colleagues in 101st Airborne Division and, most importantly, their families right now, and thank them for their service to this country.

Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Bianna. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Cleanup efforts are underway in Minnesota after a train carrying highly flammable ethanol derailed there this morning. Residents were forced to flee their homes amid concerns the hours-long fire could cause an explosion.

This morning, the governor insured residents the situation is under control.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): They are punctured. They are leaking. The good news probably is, with the relatively frozen ground, that the ethanol will burn off.

It should be noted that you can't put this out with water, that they will put it out with the foam. Burlington Northern has already made the assessment on this. This will be foam. It doesn't contain those forever chemicals you hear about, the potential carcinogens. This will not be that type of foam.

So there will be a heavy monitoring of this by federal, state, local authorities to make sure of the cleanup.


GOLODRYGA: CNN's Gabe Cohen is following all of this for us.

And, Gabe, it's no surprise that many residents are concerned there given what we've seen with previous derailments in Ohio there. How are officials working to contain this specific scene?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, Bianna, I just got off the phone with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is office. They say the next step to actually put out the fire is going to happen today.

That's when crews are going to shift these rail cars around. We're likely going to see some flare ups when that happens

GOLODRYGA: Right now - I apologize, Gabe.

We're going to take our viewers straight to the White House press briefing.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: - on this matter. These espionage charges are ridiculous. The targeting of American citizens by Russian government is unacceptable.

We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest, in the strongest terms. We also condemned the Russian government's continued targeting and repression of journalists.

Embassy Moscow has engaged the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this matter in the seeking counselor access.

I want to strongly reiterate that Americans should heed the U.S. government's warning to not travel to Russia. U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately, as the State Department continues to advise.

Now it's been three days since the tragic school shooting in Nashville, and we've heard nothing from Republicans in Congress about what they will do to stop our kids from being murdered in our schools and in our communities.

In fact, we've now heard a number of Republican members of Congress that they don't intend to do anything at all.

And in North Carolina yesterday, the Republican-controlled state legislature didn't skip a beat in overriding governor cooper's veto on a dangerous bill that makes communities less safe.

That's the opposite of common sense. And it is outrageous.

As the president has said, we need Congress to act now. Doing nothing when guns are the leading killer, the leading killer of our kids in America is absolutely unacceptable.

We need to pass an assault weapons ban. Mandate universal background checks. Require safe storage of guns. Hold manufacturers accountable. These are just common-sense policies with broad public support.

And Republicans owe, they owe answers to the American people about why they won't protect our kids. They owe answers to the Nashville families who lost their three kids, the 9-year-olds.


They owe answers to, Uvalde, the parents of Uvalde's 19 kids. They owe answers to the people in Buffalo, who, like every other American, on a Saturday, went to the grocery store. They owe answers to them and their families, that community.

Again, this is completely unacceptable. And we need to do everything that we can to protect our communities and to protect our kids.

As you all know, tomorrow, the president and first lady will travel to Rolling Fork, Mississippi. They will visit with first responders, state and local officials and communities impacted by the recent devastating storms.

They'll serve recovery efforts and reaffirm their commitment to supporting the people of Mississippi as long as it takes.

As you know, President Biden spoke with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and members of the Mississippi delegation over the weekend.

The president also approved an and expedited - expedited - pardon me - major disaster declaration for Mississippi and ordered federal funding be made available to support emergency response efforts.

Secretary Mayorkas and FEMA administrator, Deanne Criswell, we're also on the ground over the weekend. And we'll certainly have more - more details on the trip before tomorrow.

Finally, we are heartbroken over the tragic loss of nine brave servicemembers. Our hearts and our prayers go out to their families during this very difficult time, as well as those who served alongside them at Fort Campbell.

The men and women of the 101st Airborne Division represent the best, the best of our nation and play a critical role in our security. We will always honor our commitments to our servicemembers and their

families. And we stand with all who are grieving in the wake of this terrible, truly terrible accident.

And with that, Colleen, you want to kick us off?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sure. Karine, can you tell us anymore about the negotiations to get the "Wall Street Journal" reporter out of Russia?

JEAN-PIERRE: So as you know, due to privacy concerns, we are - we don't have much more to share at this time. We want to be very mindful of this.

I know you guys have heard us say this before. So again, we just want to be really mindful.

There is a process in place that the State Department is running. You just heard from my colleague, or might be still speaking at this time at the State Department. And so, again, we're just going to be very mindful.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Another topic on the Republican-led measure to end the Covid emergency. The White House had initially signaled opposition to the measure, prompting House Democrats again just to oppose it.

And then, you know, once again went to the House - or sorry, the Senate, the president said that he wouldn't oppose it.

So I wondered, you know, why was this the White House signaling opposition again and then coming back around and changing minds? Should there be improved communications, particularly for House Democrats, who are this is the second time now.

JEAN-PIERRE: So look, we - I'm going to do a little bit of a lay down because nothing has changed here. We have been very consistent on this process.

So look, if the president was planning to veto this legislation, the SAP would have said so. That's how the SAP work. That is incredibly consistent in that way.

And certainly, members of Congress know that. They understand how that works and how that process works as well.

But that being said, the SAP was issued in January for two bills that would have lifted both the public health emergency and also the national emergency immediately, which, as you know, we oppose we were very public about that.

The bill that just passed would only lift the national emergency, which doesn't impact Title 42 or Covid authorities like for testing and for treatments.

We are in a different place and time than we were in January, so that is something that you all know and have reported. We've been winding down authorities over the last two weeks - I'm

sorry, over the last two months.

And the national emergency lifting just a few weeks before the public health one will not impact our efforts to do so in orderly way. And that's what we've been very clear about when we talk about Title 42, making sure that we do that process in an orderly way,

Again, nothing has changed. We were very clear with the SAP that we put out back in January. And so we have been very consistent with how we use the SAP and how we move forward with it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: House Democrats - somehow the House Democrats aren't getting the message, I guess. So is there a better communication that needs to happen between the White House and the House?


JEAN-PIERRE: I'll say this, Colleen. We have been in regular touch in tracking - this with the with the House and also the Senate leaders since we issued the SAP back in January.

And that was - you know, we've always been very clear with them as far as I said - as far as - as early as January.

Look, the president is not going to veto a bill. It will say - if a president is going to be a veto the bill, it will say it in the SAP.

And that's how SAP works and we've been very consistent in this past two years.

I'm going to go ahead to Lucy.

I just want to let you know we are thinking about your colleague and clearly he's in our thoughts.

And so I'm going to give you the second question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Karine, can you tell us anything about the president's reaction to the detention of Evan Gershkovich? And has the president engaged with state on next steps or the family at all?

JEAN-PIERRE: So I will tell you that, as you all know, as I mentioned in my statement, the president has been briefed. He learned about this during the presidential daily briefing with his national security team and advisers, who normally provide the daily briefing.

I don't have anything else to share outside of that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you concerned at all? Obviously, this is the first detection of a U.S. reporter on espionage charges in a very long time. Do you think this marked a turning point or a new low for the relationship with the U.S. and Russia?

JEAN-PIERRE: So look, we don't - we don't - we don't have any specific indication that journalists would be targeted. As we know, this is incredibly sadly common for Russia to detain Americans.

And that's why we've been very clear about - about Americans not going to Russia. It is not safe for Americans right now in Russia.

It is a level four. My colleague at the State Department spoke to this just moments ago.

Again, we're going to continue - the State Department's going to continue to reiterate that it is not safe at this time to be in Russia or to travel in Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In regard to the "Wall Street Journal" reporter being detained, the administration called this a hostage situation.

JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, he's being wrongfully - he's being detained. And we have been very clear, there's - you know, there's no reason to believe that those charges are accurate, the espionage are accurate. I don't want to speak beyond that.

And certainly, we will have more information when we get it. There are privacy concerns. We just want to be very mindful of how we speak about this.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: John Kirby mentioned that this is not a new tactic from Putin and Russia. But this is the first time we've seen Russia detaining Americans following the prisoner swaps that secured the release of Trevor Reed and Britney Griner.

Is there a concern here at the White House that if the us continues to engage in prisoner swaps, Russia will be emboldened to detain Americans as leverage.

JEAN-PIERRE: So look, detaining Americans as - as my colleague said, my embassy colleagues said, is a tactic Russia has used for a long time. It is nothing new.

When you think about Paul Whelan, you think about Trevor Reed, they were taken prisoner to the prior administration, under the prior administration.

And so, as you all know, we're still working very hard to bring Paul home. That is something that we are committed to. You heard that from the president. You heard that from the secretary of state. You've heard that from my colleagues and NSC.

And so, right now, our best tool to prevent this is to make sure that we are discouraging anybody to travel to Russia. And we will continue to be clear about that.

But again, this is a tactic that they have been using for some time now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does this complicate Paul Whelan's situation?

JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, those conversations are incredibly sensitive. And so we're going to be very mindful. We are still very much committed in bringing Paul home. He was wrongfully detained. We have been very clear about that.

But not going to get into details on those conversations.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are the administration reaching out to others for support? For instance, Governor Bill Richardson, who has been involved in other releases before (INAUDIBLE) administration.

JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have any outside conversations to speak to. You heard directly from the State Department. This is something that when it comes to these types of events that the State Department runs and leads.

So I will - and also with our NSC team here, so I will leave it to them to speak to that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Karine, is it the administration's view that this reporter is being wrongfully held or is that still a determination -


JEAN-PIERRE: So there's a process that the State Department runs and we're going to let that process move forward. So not going to get beyond that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK. And then another topic. Do you have any response to the article that was written by Senator Joe Manchin where he particularly - the conclusion that he made that the administration is improperly putting the Inflation Reduction Act measures into place right now?

JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just first say we have a respectful, a productive relationship with Senator Joe Manchin. And we are very proud of the Inflation Reduction Act and our shared goals and values that the president signed into law, as you know, this past summer.


And a couple of things that we are incredibly proud of, promoting America's energy security, strengthening supply chains, creating good paying manufacturing jobs, and investing in energy communities and towns across America that have been left behind.

You hear the president talked about building an economy from the bottom up, the middle out, and making sure no one is left behind. This is what the Inflation Reduction Acts shows and proves.

And so we're going to continue to work with Senator Manchin on those shared priorities and values, including reducing the deficit and the permitting reform, which are both - both part of the president's budget.

Again, we are very proud of the work that we've been able to do with the Senator. And I'll leave it there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any reaction to this federal judge tracking down part of Obamacare, in particular the part about providing certain preventative (INAUDIBLE)?

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, a couple of things. I do - we do have some things that we want to put out there. DOJ and HHS are reviewing the decision made by the judge in Texas earlier today.

But we want to be very clear, this - this case is yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act, which has been the law of the land for 13 years now, 13 years.

In fact, as all of you guys know, the Supreme Court has upheld the legality of it three times. They've had to do that three times in those past 13 years.

And because of the ACA, you see 150 million Americans who have access to preventative care like cancer and heart disease screenings And 60 percent of people use a preventive care service under the ACA every year. That's 60 percent of Americans across the country.

Preventive care saves lives. It saves families money and protects and improves our health.

This case gets between patients and their doctors. That's what it gets. It gets involved in a decision that patients and their doctors should be making.

It's yet another attack on the ability of Americans to make their own health care choices.

Efforts to undermine this requirement are wrong and they take us backwards, not forwards.

So the administration will continue to fight to improve health care and make it more affordable for working families, even in the face of these attacks by the special interest groups that we see out there. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: One on Evan Gershkovich. Come on banking.

The first one, can you give any sense of when the administration, the president was informed that this happened? And then, also, when was the first time you guys reached out to your counterparts in Russia is this issue as you pushed for contact?

JEAN-PIERRE: So I don't have a specific timeline for you at this time. I can tell you that the president was briefed about on this during his presidential daily briefing this morning.

Besides that don't have any specific breakdown on when the counterparts, when State Department or NSC connected with their counterpart.

But look, this is a priority for this administration. Regardless of whether someone has received a wrongful detention designation, the State Department seeks counselor access for all Americans held abroad.

And that's what we're waiting to do. That's what we're fighting for to get - get that council representation for evidence this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Bank regulatory proposals of the president directly towards the banking agencies today, it's repeatedly clear that you guys, the agencies had the authority under law to implement those without any congressional legislation. If that's the case, and if we were taking the former administration for bowling effect, why did you take until a crisis to decide things?

JEAN-PIERRE: Let me just say, unfortunately, the Trump administration regulators weakened many important common-sense requirements and supervision for regional banks like Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, whose recent failures led to that.

We have experts out there who have said those rollbacks were caused by recent of the recent bank failures. That's what we're hearing from experts out there themselves.

So just want to be very clear. It's not just us who were saying that. That's what the experts as well are saying.

So today, the president is urging the banking regulators to consider reforms that will reduce the risk of future banking crises, stronger liquidity and capital requirements, annual stress tests, living wills and stronger supervision.

So again, because of what we saw done by the Trump administration back in 2018 - remember what happened in 2008 and what the Obama/Biden administration were able to do.

They were able to strengthen some of those requirements, make it stronger, and the Trump administration rolled that back.

And experts themselves say that because of those rollbacks that we saw in the Trump administration, it led to these recent failures.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But experts are saying that before they Silicon Valley issues as well that this was potentially problematic. If you guys have been in office for more than two years, why did you wait until now to see -



JEAN-PIERRE: A couple of things. Look, the Trump nominees had those supervision portfolios at the Fed for much of those past two years. So that's one reason. The second reason is the Fed vice chair only arrived in July of 2022. That's a that's another part of that.

But you know, I am - I'm glad, you know, folks agree with the regulations and supervision that need to be strengthened. That's what we need to see.

And that's what the president has asked the bank regulators to do and the Treasury Department, and that's what we're seeing today.

And so the president is committed to make sure that we keep our banks resilient, and that's what you're seeing today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We heard from the Pentagon. Excuse me. We heard from Vladimir Putin's top spokesperson in Russia today, saying that haven't Gershkovich was caught in his words, quote, "red handed."

Just from this podium, to rebut that, can you say declaratively that Gershkovich never worked for and does not work for the United States government?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I just said the charge of espionage is ridiculous. We cannot - that is not accurate, and we find that incredibly ridiculous. And so we're going to be very clear about that.

This is something that Russia has done all the time, many times before, right, which is -

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has he ever worked for the United States government, or does he right now, in any form? And you can put it to bed.

JEAN-PIERRE: What I can say is the charges against him are ridiculous. We have been very clear about that. I'm not going to get into more specifics.

We've been very clear in my topper and I was very clear in my statement that those are ridiculous and they're not accurate.

And right now, we're going to do everything that we can to get more details on this, on the circumstances - on the circumstances, and that's where we're going to be at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If I can, following up on the briefing that just took place across the river at the Pentagon.

We heard from the Pentagon now that an additional six American servicemembers were wounded, suffering TBI, traumatic brain injuries, as a function of those Iranian-backed, in the words of the White House, attacks on coalition bases in Syria right now?

How - because Iran continues to attack United States targets and American servicemembers right now ,the effort has been to deter them, to stop them. It has not deterred them.

So how is that strategy working? And shouldn't there be a higher cost for Iran to pay?

JEAN-PIERRE: So look, I'll say this. We have a variety of tools to protect U.S. personnel and deter attacks. And we've been - we will use those tools. We work every day to protect our people and deter attacks.

President Biden has taken a deliberate approach, using a variety of tools to reduce risk to our personnel and make clear that we will hold anyone who attacks those responsible.

And you've heard that from the president. You've heard that from the administration, on down. The president will not hesitate to take action to protect U.S. personnel and interests overseas.

And he will always take action at a time and place of his choosing. And that is the commitment that the president has to service-members and to the American people.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: - my colleagues, but just to just to push it a bit on that.

SANCHEZ: You have been watching White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, addressing a slew of different issues. But the principal questions coming from reporters circle around Evan Gershkovich, that "Wall Street Journal" reporter who has been detained in Russia.

Karine Jean-Pierre calling the accusations that he was spying for the United States government, quote, "ridiculous," and calling his arrest unacceptable.

Though, Bianna, as we were listening very closely, she stopped just short of saying that he was wrongfully detained, saying that the White House is waiting for the State Department to essentially confirm that designation.

GOLODRYGA: And there's nothing unusual about that timing there because we've seen that in the past. There is a process that the State Department goes through before they officially call someone wrongfully detained.

We also heard from her that the State Department had reached out not only to Evan Gershkovich's employer, and that's the "Wall Street Journal," overnight, but they spoke with his family as well.

Back with us is CNN White House correspondent, Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, what stood out to you? We know the president was notified, I believe, this morning, Karine said, in his presidential daily briefing.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that timeline was actually a little bit of a new detail from that press briefing.

We had previously been told President Biden had been briefed on this matter. But she specifically said that he was presented the information during the president's daily brief.

That was something that was on his schedule to take place around 10:45 this morning in the Oval Office.

And there, in the White House press briefings, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said that that was, in fact, when President Biden was first informed of this matter.

I think it's also noteworthy the way that you heard Karine Jean-Pierre really pushed back on these espionage allegations that Evan Gershkovich is facing at this moment. [14:55:03]

She said that they believe that they are ridiculous and that they have no reason to believe that they are accurate.

Of course, one of the things that the White House and the State Department have both said today is that they are focused on trying to get consular access to that "Wall Street Journal" reporter, as he is in Russia.

The State Department had previously said that it could be a matter of days, due to some of the administrative and security requirements on the Russian side.

But what will be key during that moment is for officials to be able to ascertain Gershkovich's condition so that they know for themselves, but also said that they are able to relay that for the family.

And as you noted, one thing throughout the process of this day, and each of these statements that we've seen, they have been referring to this simply as a "detention."

The White House and State Department has not gone as far to say, wrongful detention. That is a determination and a process of this currently underway over at the State Department.

But certainly, there are still many more questions about how this all unfolded as it marks just another tension point with Russia.

SANCHEZ: I did want to also note that Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the nine servicemembers that were killed in Kentucky.

And, very quickly, she said that the president's heart goes out to the families of those servicemembers killed in a helicopter accident at Fort Campbell, saying that they represent the best of our nation.

Arlette Saenz, we know you will be watching the rest of that briefing for us. Keep us up to date with what else goes on there.

And stay with CNN NEWSROOM. We're back in just moments.