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CNN International: Biden and Congressional Leaders to Meet for Talks; Special Counsel Report Released on Origins of Trump-Russia Probe; Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Asks Judge to Reject Trump's Request to Toss Grand Jury Report; U.S. Congressional Staffers Assaulted by Man with Bat; Ukraine Intercepts Missiles Across Country Overnight; CIA Launches Video to Recruit Russian Spies. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2023 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Max Foster in London. Bianca is off for the day, but just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no agreements on anything, that is why I'm so concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Default must be taken off the table.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I predict you will see things that you don't even believe, the level of corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI moved very quickly to investigate these allegations of connections of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and that they did so by ignoring a lot of evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the party has developed a culture of losing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor DeSantis is the most electable, most conservative candidate out there who can both win the general election as well as govern effectively.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

FOSTER: It is Tuesday, May 16, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 4:00 a.m. in Washington. Where in the coming hours U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with top Congressional leaders at the White House to once again, try to negotiate an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling. A deal has to be reached by June 1 to avoid defaulting on trillions of dollars of debt. But with the current stalemate lawmaker say Americans are starting to get nervous.


REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): I get calls about the debt ceiling now more so than I've gotten, you know, in five months that I've been in office. And so, people are really worried because they're not hearing that progress. They're not seeing that progress. And so, yes, people are starting to understand the catastrophic consequences that would exist if we would default.


FOSTER: Well, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has also warned officials the U.S. Treasury won't be able to satisfy the government's obligations come June unless a deal is made. Fears of a default have made their way to Wall Street where markets could receive a major blow if one happens. Here is a look at the U.S. futures. They're currently down on the S&P and Dow but up slightly on the tech heavy Nasdaq.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy isn't optimistic heading into today's meeting. Telling reporters, they are nowhere near a deal. CNN's Manu Raju has more from Washington.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been pessimistic as talks have occurred on the staff level over the past week to try to avoid the nation's first ever debt default. McCarthy has been calling for talks for some time. The White House has resisted calling for the national debt limit which is more than $31 trillion to be raised without any conditions whatsoever to avoid the prospects of the United States not being able to pay its bills. McCarthy has rejected that approach. Calls for spending cuts to attached with raising the national borrowing limit.

The house did pass a bill to do just that including a host of Republican priorities that Democrats and the White House say that is dead on arrival. So, where does it go? There is not much time left in order to get a deal by that June 1 -- that potential June 1 deadline to avoid this default. The default could occur in the first couple weeks of June according to the Treasury Department or as soon as June 1. But he spoke to reporters earlier in the evening on Monday. McCarthy made clear that there is a long way to go.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: The way the president has ignored it for 100 days and then he still hasn't taken it serious. We only have so many days left in session to deal with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you would like bilateral talks between you and the president without --

MCCARTHY: You know, I haven't hid from it. That's been from the very first day. When I went to meet with the president, it was the president and I. If the president comes to an agreement, the Democrats in the Senate will vote for it, the House will pass it if we all are in agreement. RAJU: Now even if they were to get some sort of deal, it would take

some time in order to put it on paper, in order to draft it into legislative text, in order to go through the House and the Senate. All that takes a significant amount of time which is raising a lot of concerns about whether or not they will actually be able to get there.

They are discussing measures like potential new changes to permitting land provisions to expedite energy projects that are green lighted by the federal government. Whether that's included as part of this package remains to be seen. They're also talking about capping discretionary spending.


That is something the Republicans have pushed for long-term caps on discretionary spending, domestic programs. That's something the White House has pushed back on. Can they find a middle ground on that issue?

There's also discussion about pulling back on already enacted COVID aid as part this effort to raise the debt limit. But can they get an agreement on that and can they sell the wider Republican and Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate? All major questions as debt default looms over Washington.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


FOSTER: A special counsel appointed during the Trump administration has released his findings about the FBI's Trump/Russia probe. John Durham criticized the agency saying it suffered from confirmation bias. It concluded the FBI never -- should have launched a full-blown investigation into connections between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia. Now Durham is being invited by the Republican House judiciary chairman to testify about the report. CNN's Evan Perez has the details from Washington.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Special counsel John Durham released his final report casting doubt about the FBI's decision to launch a full investigation into connections between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The 300 plus page report sharply criticized the FBI and the Justice Department throughout but does not recommend any new charges against anyone. Or any wholesale changes to the way politically sensitive investigations are being handled.

And the report falls well short of expectations that were set by former President Trump and his allies who have long claimed that it would proves that the FBI's investigation was a political witch hunt. Nonetheless, Donald Trump claims vindication. Posting on his social media platform that it was evidence of a scam.

Durham's report finds many mistakes by the FBI including what he calls confirmation bias. He concludes that the FBI discounted or willfully ignored material information that did not support the narrative a collusive relationship between Trump and Russia. Republicans in Congress have already called for Durham to come up to the Capitol for a hearing to discuss more about his investigation.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


FOSTER: The FBI director sent a note to the bureau's workforce which read in part: While the failures outlined occurred years ago, the report reminds us why we've instituted so many reforms since that time to solidify the importance of doing the right thing in the right way every time.

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe defended the investigation saying that he disagreed with the report's findings. He also called Durham's probe a political errand on Trump's behalf.


ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: We've known for over a year that the Russians have been attacking us in cyberspace, specifically at political institutions and government institutions. We knew in the beginning of 2016 that they had turned those attacks on the Democratic National Committee and they had stolen an exfiltrated a large amount of information from the DNC. And we knew that they went on to use that information to weaponize it to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign by releasing it on the eve of her convention.

Then in July -- at the end of July -- we learned that months earlier before that information was released, a member of the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, told a representative of a friendly foreign government, a trusted friendly foreign government, that they had been offered exactly that assistance by the Russians.

So, we knew how what the Russian's took. We know how the Russians used it. And then we learned that the Russians offered to do exactly what they had done before they did it to the Trump campaign. So, with that information, that unverified intelligence, actual information, we opened a full investigation. And everyone who has looked at what we did other than John Durham, determined that that decision was absolutely appropriate.


FOSTER: District attorney in Fulton County, Georgia is asking a judge to reject Donald Trump's latest effort to block her investigation. Fani Willis is looking into the former president's efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Trump wants the evidence and final report from the grand jury thrown out. CNN's Sara Murray has the details.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The district attorney does not want to see the special grand jury's evidence, investigation and final report thrown out. She has told the judge that he should dismiss Donald Trump's motion, that he should not hold a hearing on the matter. And he should not allow another judge to hear the Trump team's arguments which is something the Trump team has asked for.

You know, she basically said there is no evidence that the investigative special grand jury process during this was tainted. She said there was no evidence of misconduct on her behalf. Because they also wanted her removed as a prosecutor.

And she also took issue with the fact that the Trump team is coming at this at this point so late in the game.


She says: By his own estimation, Mr. Trump has been at the center of an investigation which has progressed for over two years, but only now is he moving for the prosecutor's disqualification.

So, a very sharp rebuttal from Fani Willis today against the Trump team's argument.


FOSTER: Willis says she expects to make an announcement on possible charges between July and September.

A U.S. Congressman says two of his staff members were injured on Monday when a man struck them with a metal baseball bat. Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly told CNN that it happened at his district office in northern Virginia. The two staff members were briefly hospitalized and the suspected attacker was arrested.

CNN has learned that before the assault the man may have been involved in another incident that was caught on video. We want to warn you, the footage can be hard to watch.





FOSTER: You can see here a woman screaming as she was chased by the man with the baseball bat. Neighbors say he was the same person who was arrested on the attack on the lawmaker's staff. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The suspect's father now telling our team that the suspect suffers from schizophrenia and has not taken his medication in three months. Plus, the suspect was arrested for assaulting a law enforcement officer last year but the charges were ultimately dropped. And now the suspect is being held without bond on two charges. Police

have identified the suspect as 49-year-old Xuan Tran Pham. They say that he entered this building right behind me, which is the district officer for Congressman Gerry Connolly just before 11:00 a.m. That's when he assaulted two staffers with a metal bat. He hit one senior aide in the head. He also attacked an intern. It was her first day on the job. Both of them were taken to the hospital with nonlife- threatening injuries.

Now the Congressman, Gerry Connolly, he was not here. He was actually at a ribbon cutting event. But he says that the suspect really came in with an out-of-control rage. He said he shattered some grass in a conference room, also broke computers.

So now the U.S. Capitol Police are working with the Fairfax City Police. They've launched a joint investigation here. But this attack comes as the U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger has warned about the uptick in threats against members of Congress as well as their staff. Saying that in the last six years, the threat has gone up 400 percent.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Fairfax, Virginia.


FOSTER: In North Carolina, the Republican controlled legislature is attempting to overwrite Democrat governor's veto of a bill that bans most abortions after 12 weeks. The state Senate majority leader says a vote has been scheduled for later today. And the state's House is planning to take up the bill after the Senate vote. In each chamber three fifths of the members present must vote to override the veto and GOP lawmakers say they believe they have enough votes.

At least three people are dead and six others wounded after a mass shooting in New Mexico. Officials say the gunman was also killed. According to police, the 18-year-old opened fire in a residential area Monday morning. They say he shot randomly at police, houses and cars. The gunman used three different weapons including an AR-style rifle before he was killed by police. Two of the officers were amongst those hurt. So far police haven't identified the shooter or any of the victims.


BANC CRUM, DEPUTY CHIEF, FARMINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: We are actively looking at several blocks of this crime scene to determine what actually happened. While we were responding to the scene because of the numerous phone calls that we did receive, we are trying to gather a lot of information that came in very rapidly to this situation.


FOSTER: A candle lit vigil was held at a church on Monday night for the victims and their families.

Well, this hour we are following developments in Ukraine where a top commander says the country's air defense forces intercepted 18 missiles of various types across the country overnight. In Kyiv, one official says the capital was the target of an exceptional and complex air assault involving drones and cruise missiles. Local officials say air defenses intercepted the vast majority of the incoming strikes but falling debris is being reported across several districts.

The Wagner group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is denying a "Washington Post" report, which says he offered to give Ukraine information on Russian troop positions in exchange for Kyiv pulling back its forces from the area around Bakhmut. The story was based on U.S. intelligence documents leaked on social media in April that further alleges that Prigozhin made the offer to Ukrainian military intelligence officers during a meeting in an unspecified African country. Prigozhin has speculated the story might have been planted by his enemies.


For more on the latest developments in Ukraine, we're joined by Clare Sebastian. And a real assault overnight.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was a huge night but mainly for Ukrainian air defenses. Which according to the commander of the Armed Forces who came out himself with this news, shot down all 18 of these missiles which were launched from the sea, air and land. And crucially, Max, included Kinzhal missiles, which are much hyped by Russia. They call them hypersonic, which are actually just ballistic missiles.

But previously -- even just a few months ago -- Ukraine was saying that they had nothing that could intercept these missiles. Then just over a week ago we heard that they had used the Patriot batteries to intercept one of them. The U.S. officials later told CNN that the missile had actually been targeting that Patriot battery. We don't know if that's the case in this overnight assault. We don't know if the Patriots were used. But I think this clearly shows that the Ukrainian air defenses are becoming more effective.

The defense minister -- the Ukrainian defense minister called this an unbelievable success for the Ukrainian air forces. And this, you know, is likely to change the calculus for Russia. They don't want to waste their missiles if they get shot down. Especially a missile that was previously thought to be unstoppable by Ukraine. And especially going into an upcoming counteroffensive, a much-trailed counteroffensive where Ukraine has warned, that one of Russia's tactics is to try and wear down their air defenses.

FOSTER: It's interesting to see how they have used those defenses so effectively. On Prigozhin, just explain in layman's terms what the deal was that he was alleged to have made with Ukrainians.

SEBASTIAN: The key thing to know about this is that certainly according to the sources speaking to the "Washington Post" -- we haven't independently confirmed this. There was no deal made. They didn't take him seriously. They didn't trust him and they didn't make a deal with him. But he was essentially trying -- according to him and he has now denied this, obviously. But the report was that he was trying to make a deal where they would

give up some ground in Bakhmut and he would then give up positions -- information on positions of the Russian Armed Forces. If it's true -- and of course he has denied it -- it, you know, it smacks of an element of sabotage by Prigozhin to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Which goes a step further than the disruption and in-fighting that we've seen so far from him. So, we don't know what the truth is here, but it certainly doesn't present an image of coordination and efficiency in the Russian Armed Forces.

FOSTER: Definitely not. Clare, thank you.

At least six people have reportedly died after a fire erupted inside a hostel in New Zealand capital city of Wellington. Firefighters rushed to the scene shortly after midnight local time and were able to evacuate 52 people. Five others were taken to hospital. But authorities say dozens more remain unaccounted for. The cause of that blaze remains unknown.

Still ahead, Turkey's president is predicting victory in a runoff election later this month. But a third-party candidate could play a spoiler.

Plus, U.S. officials respond to the sentencing of a 78-year-old American citizen in China on espionage charges.

And later, researchers find a walk in the sand may leave behind more than just your footprints. Details just ahead.



FOSTER: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is predicting victory in a runoff election later this month. He faired better than expected in Sunday's vote as he looks to extend his 20 years in office. His main opponent is vowing to keep fighting and a far-right candidate has emerged as a possible kingmaker. Jomana Karadsheh reports.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to the streets of Istanbul. First a show of solidarity with their leader facing the toughest election of his 20 years in office that soon turned into a celebration. For his diehard supporters, there is one man, one cause and one Turkey, that is Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

And in the early hours of Monday morning, Erdogan doing what he does best, rallying his supporters. In the capital Ankara, their man emerged to address his voters from the balcony of his ruling party's headquarters, where he traditionally delivers his rousing victory speeches. This is no victory for the Turkish president, but certainly a win for now.

He failed to secure the 50 percent plus one vote majority to clinch a third term but emerged with a clear lead over the main opposition candidate.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): Currently the majority in parliament is in our people's alliance. Therefore, we do not doubt that the choice of our nation which gave the majority in the parliament to our alliance will be in favor of trust and stability in the presidential election.

KARADSHEH (voice over): And the wind is behind Erdogan as Turkey now heads for a runoff. But the opposition insisting they still can do this.

KEMAL KILICDAROGLU, TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): I am here, I am here, you are here too. I will fight until the end, I swear. And I know I will fight until the end, I am here.

KARADSHEH (voice over): A diverse opposition more united and more galvanized than ever thought this time would be different. They believe they could unseat Erdogan, that they could deliver change and deliver the promise of a return to a real democracy. A promise so many in this country so desperately wanted.

In two weeks time, Erdogan and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu will face off again. And this man Sinan Ogan could be the tiebreaker.

SINAN OGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): We have certain red lines, such as fighting against terrorism and sending refugees back. We have voiced these conditions before.

KARADSHEH (voice over): Ogan's five percent of the electorate is a combination of disenchanted nationalists and protest votes of those who didn't like the opposition's choice of candidate but irked enough about Erdogan to deny him their support -- at least in the first round.

No election in this country's history has meant more for this divided nation where the two competing visions of Turkey are locked in a duel. And it will be the Turkish people who will ultimately decide which leader and which vision will prevail.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.



FOSTER: While Israelis have celebrated 75 years of independence, Palestinians have held somber ceremonies for the same event. Only they call it the "Nakba" or catastrophe when hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes once Israel was founded in 1948. Thousands of Palestinians marched in the West Bank on Monday demanding recognition of their right to return. And this year for the first time the U.N. officially commemorated the day at its headquarters in New York. The Nakba anniversary comes just days after fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad killed 33 Palestinians in Gaza as well as two people in Israel last week. The U.S. State Department says it's aware of the sentencing of an

American citizen in China on espionage charges. The 78-year-old who is also a Hong Kong permanent resident, has been sentenced to life in prison by a Chinese court. Joining me now is CNN's Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. What more do we need to know about this -- Kristie?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're still trying to collect reportable details about the sensitive case, but it is -- as you just mentioned, Max -- life in prison for this elderly 78-year-old U.S. citizen in China. It was yesterday when John Leung, who is also a permanent resident here in Hong Kong, was sentenced to life for espionage in a Chinese court in Suzhou -- that's a mega-city located just west of Shanghai.

In China cases involving state security are very sensitive. They're usually handled behind closed doors. And U.S. State Department overnight says that it is aware of the case and also added this, take a listen.


VEDANT PATEL, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, the department works to provide all appropriate assistance, including relevant consular access. The department has no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas, but just given privacy concerns, I don't have anything else to offer.


STOUT: And of course, tensions continue to simmer between China and the United States over trade, over Taiwan, over tech, over other geopolitical issues. It also comes at a time when these two powers are trying to stabilize the relationship.

You know, last week as you reported here on CNN, we saw China's top diplomat and U.S. national security adviser have those two days of talks in Vienna. And during those talks, Jake Sullivan brought up the issue about U.S. citizens detained in China and he added that this was a personal priority for President Joe Biden.

There are at least three other Americans known to be in prison in China. And I want to share it with you. They include Kai Li, he's a father -- he's pictured there to the righthand side of the screen. He has been detained in China since 2016 on spying charges that he denies. There's also Mark Swidan -- at the left of your screen. He's a businessman. He was convicted in 2019. He was arrested and has been detained since 2012. And unfortunately, we don't have his photograph, but there's also David Lin, a pastor who has been detained in China, a U.S. citizen, since 2006. Now John Leung, Max, just joins this growing list. Back to you.

FOSTER: OK, Kristie in Hong Kong. Thank you.

America's top spy agency has released a slick new video in hopes of recruiting disaffected Russians. The CIA says the war in Ukraine has created an opportunity to collect valuable information on Moscow. CNN's Alex Marquardt has the details.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Is this the life I dreamed of? The path I chose?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Questions being asked in Russian in a new dramatic video by the CIA just released to try to recruit more Russian spies by appealing to Russians patriotism, frustrations, and the oppression they face under the Putin regime.

CIA officials told CNN in an exclusive interview that the war in Ukraine has created an unprecedented opportunity that they want to capitalize on recruit new Russian assets.

WILLIAM BURNS, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership beneath a steady diet of state propaganda and practiced repression.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): In the past year of the war, the CIA has been encouraging Russians with valuable information to contact them quietly, securely and anonymously through a portal on the dark web.

DAVID MARLOWE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS, CIA: We're looking around the world for Russians who were -- is disgusted with that as we are because we're open for business.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Instructions have been posted on the CIA's social media accounts. And this new video after making an emotional pitch to Russian viewers details how to do that using the dark web browser called Tor. You're not powerless, it says, contact us in a safe way.

The CIA recruitment video was first posted Monday evening on Telegram, the social media app that is highly popular among Russians who can't easily access unfiltered news or other social media sites.

JAMES OLSON, FORMER CHIEF OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, CIA: I call that hanging out the shingle, and spreading the word far and wide that U.S. and counterintelligence is open for business, and we have deep pockets. And you want to strike about back against this man you hate, Vladimir Putin. You have an opportunity now to do it safely.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): CIA officials told CNN they hope the video will resonate beyond intelligence and security officials with people who may not realize that they have sensitive information to share working, for example, in cyber, tech, finance and other fields. They may think contacting the CIA is too difficult or too dangerous. The CIA telling CNN they want to demystify that.

OLSON: We need people through the Russian economy to cooperate with us. We need to know what's going on in this adversary country.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): There is no direct mention of Putin or Ukraine, nor CIA officials insist is it meant to fuel unrest in Russia. Rather, they tell CNN, these are timeless themes that they hope will drive Russians into the arms of the CIA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): This will always be my Russia. I will endure. My family will endure, we will live with dignity, thanks to my actions.

MARQUARDT: In terms of what the CIA has already seen in their efforts to recruit new Russian spies during this war, they do say that they have been successful. One CIA official told me in his words there's contact coming in.

Now, CIA won't give any numbers or say where these Russians work, but the CIA said they wouldn't be rolling out this new video if they hadn't already had some success.

We should also note that the FBI has tried to recruiting Russian spies right here in Washington with ads specifically targeted at people coming and going from the Russian embassy, an effort that the embassy called ridiculous.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.