Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

U.S. Debt Deal Could Be Reached Today; Ukrainian POWs Returned from Russian Captivity; Former U.S. Army Special Forces Member Killed in Bakhmut; Turkiye Votes in Runoff Sunday; Oath Keepers Founder Sentenced to 18 Years; FBI Files Reveal Plot to Kill Queen Elizabeth II. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 27, 2023 - 02:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to all of our viewers watching here in the United States and around the world. I'm Laila Harrak.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, debt ceiling drama. The White House and lawmakers rushing to reach a deal on the U.S. debt limit. But the clock is ticking. With just nine days before the government could run out of money to pay its bills.

The final days of an American fighting in Ukraine. CNN pieces together the details of a U.S. veteran's death in Bakhmut, revealing a new perspective on the war's longest battle.

Plus, a plot to kill the queen?

The FBI releases new documents detailing a potential assassination threat against Queen Elizabeth II.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Laila Harrak.

HARRAK: Welcome.

The White House and Republicans are closing in on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and avert a financial catastrophe.


HARRAK: A live look for you there at Capitol Hill. And negotiators have been furiously working on Capitol Hill and we're told an agreement could be reached as soon as today. Any deal would then have to be passed by Congress, which is far from a sure thing. But they do have a little breathing room.

The deadline for when the U.S. will run out of money to pay its bills has been pushed back by four days to June 5th. On Friday, President Biden said he hoped a deal could come by the end of the day.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With regard to the debt limit, things are looking good, very optimistic. I hope we'll have some clearer evidence tonight before like 12 that we have a deal. But it's very close and I'm optimistic.

Negotiation going on. I am hopeful. We'll know by tonight whether we are going to be able to have a deal.


HARRAK: CNN's Manu Raju has the latest on where things stand.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The clock is now ticking. June 5th, the new date to avoid the first-ever debt default in the United States if Congress and the White House cannot agree on a deal to raise the national debt limit, which now stands at $31.4 trillion.

Default could have drastic economic ramifications in the United States and around the world. And it starts with getting a deal between speaker McCarthy, his top allies and the White House. There is no deal but they are close to one. They've been negotiating late into the night as they've horse traded on a whole wide range of issues.

And as Republicans have pushed for spending cuts to be attached to any piece of legislation to raise the national debt limit, there are indications the White House is moving closer to the Republicans' position on that.

And there are also some indications that the Republicans are getting a little bit more to the White House on how long to extend the national debt limit for. The White House wants it done through the 2024 elections. Republicans initially proposed to do it just for one year so they can get back and have this fight again next year.

The White House does not want to have this fight again. It appears Republicans would allow for a two-year debt limit increase.

The other major sticking points included over the issue of work requirements. That means actual -- for social safety net programs. Republicans want to impose on programs like food stamps new work requirements for those beneficiaries.

Democrats believe that push will hurt needy families and could be detrimental to a lot of people who rely on that for their nutrition and for their daily lives.

But all the negotiations, all the discussion going forward and as Garret Graves, one of the top negotiators, told me earlier in the day, that he will insist on work requirements to be part of any deal.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): Democrats right now are willing to default on the debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that are refusing to work. And I'm talking about people that are without dependents, people that are able-bodied between 18 and 55. And it's crazy to me that we're even having this debate.

RAJU: Are you willing to drop that work requirement in --

GRAVES: Hell no. Hell no. Not a chance.


RAJU: Even if a deal is reached as soon as Saturday, getting this into law is a whole other question, because they're going to need to have the votes in both chambers to do that. We're already hearing pushback.

Democrats don't like the compromises the White House is making in order to raise the national debt limit, particularly on work requirements and spending cuts. Conservatives don't like the fact that they've watered down, in their view --


RAJU: -- the position the Republicans had in April when they passed their own bill to raise the debt limit out of the House and included a slew of spending cuts.

It also had things like reining in Joe Biden's policies, including on student loan forgiveness. That won't be part of this ultimate deal. So a lot of these conservatives, dozens of them, are threatening to vote against this final deal.

So the whipping will take place by the leaders to try to get their members in line and push this through in a matter of days. Then it goes over to the United States Senate, assuming they get the votes in the House. That could take several days itself.

A lot of members are concerned about what they're hearing about this. And senators have been shut out of these negotiations that have taken place between the Speaker's team and the White House. So a lot of questions still remaining.

Even though there's optimism that a deal is within reach, a long way to go to avert default -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


HARRAK: Well, earlier I spoke with Katheryn Russ, chair of the economics department at UC Davis, and she outlined some of the global implications of the debt ceiling crisis that she's most concerned about. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATHERYN RUSS, PROFESSOR AND CHAIR, ECONOMICS DEPARTMENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA/DAVIS: One is on the national security side and then one is financial. But that is, of course, also linked to the national security side.

So you've got national security and then finance with national security mixed in. The national security piece of it is that we've seen that President Vladimir Putin of Russia, president Xi Jinping of China, they've really joined together in a campaign of disinformation to weaken U.S. diplomatic power and military alliances worldwide.

They're trying to position us in the world as someone that people look at as an instrument of chaos and injustice and themselves as a savior to bring stability and justice against a hegemon in the world.

So when we start kind of messing around with things like the credibility of U.S. Treasury bonds, which are held by some of our closest allies and many countries of key geostrategic importance in the world, that really plays right into their narrative.

HARRAK: Now let's focus on the economic perspective as well.

What happens if investors around the world start doubting the U.S.' reliability as a lender?

RUSS: So what that does is decrease the attractiveness of U.S. Treasury bonds as the world's premier asset, which it has held that position for decades. If that happens, people lose their confidence in U.S. Treasury bonds. That reduces the demand for dollars.

That can introduce volatility in the value of the dollar and make other dollar-denominated assets less attractive also. This can lead to an increase in borrowing costs for the United States.

And it also weakens our ability -- as I told you just a minute ago that this was related to national security, too -- it weakens our ability to use sanctions as an instrument in this new age of non- traditional warfare.


HARRAK: And we'll have much more of my conversation with economist Katheryn Russ next hour. So be sure to stay with us.

Pro-Russian officials are accusing Ukraine of striking a city it once fiercely defended. They say two long-range missiles hit Mariupol on Friday without casualties or major damage. Ukraine is not officially claiming responsibility.

But a Ukrainian political adviser says the target was the city's Azovstal steel plant, where he says Russia had set up an ammunition depot. The plant became a symbol of Kyiv's resistance to the Kremlin because Ukrainian troops defended it for weeks before surrendering last May.

Officials say search and rescue operations are still underway after Russia's rocket strike on a medical facility in Ukraine. Friday's attack obliterated the facility in the city of Dnipro, killing at least two people, leaving more than 30 wounded.

Officials say rescuers have found more human remains during their search. Forensic experts are checking if they belong to any of the three people who are still missing. Some first responders say there are no military targets in the area.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is a residential area. Behind us are facilities, playgrounds, a stadium, schools. There are not even any regular factories here or of any defense needs. It is 100 percent a residential area.


HARRAK: Well, the World Health Organization says Ukraine's health care system has been attacked close to 1,000 times since the war began and that almost 900 health facilities have been hit, resulting in 97 deaths.


HARRAK: More than 100 Ukrainians who were captured after fighting in the Bakhmut area have been released in a prisoner swap with Russian forces. Kyiv commended the troops, saying they prevented the Russians from advancing further east.

The soldiers range in age from 59 years old to as young as 21. Many of them were previously thought to be missing. Ukraine says three bodies were also repatriated during the exchange, two foreigners and a Ukrainian woman.

Officials say one of those bodies belongs to a former U.S. Special Forces member, who was killed in Bakhmut. For more, I'd like to turn to Clare Sebastian, who joins us from London.

Good to see you, Clare.

What more have you been able to piece together about the final days of the U.S. Army veteran killed in Bakhmut?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was Nicholas Maimer, a retired U.S. Special Forces soldier. He'd been in Ukraine for more than a year, doing humanitarian work; in particular involved in training the Ukrainian territorial defense forces. And we believe he was with them in Bakhmut.

And the story of how he died really runs now concurrently with the leadup to Russia's claim, which happened a week ago today, to have taken all of Bakhmut. That is something that Ukraine still disputes. They say they're still defending a very small pocket of the town on the western edge.

But as we looked at how he died, obviously this comes after nine months of very slow fighting over a city that, frankly, it would take, in peace time, 15 minutes to drive from the eastern edge to the western edge of that city.

So you see the amount of territory we're talking about. But as we looked into the circumstances of his death, it really helped us build up a picture of the battles for those final pieces of land that fell into Russian territory. Have a look.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, FOUNDER, WAGNER GROUP: (Speaking foreign language).

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Under cover of darkness, a Russian military blogger films Wagner's chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, heading into what he calls the nest, the Russian nickname for a group of what were once a high-rise residential building on the western edge of Bakhmut, one of the last areas to fall under Russian control.

Prigozhin is taken to see a body, we're not showing it, as it's graphic. An American citizen, identified by these documents and a friend as Nicholas Maimer, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier.

PERRY BLACKBURN, MAIMER'S FRIEND: On the night of the 14th-15th, Nick was in the Bakhmut area, he was with some other fellow territory defense soldiers, and they came under attack.

And unfortunately, the area that Nick was in, that particular building, took a direct hit from an artillery round and the area that he was at in that building collapsed in on him and he was unable to make it out.

SEBASTIAN: By piecing together the circumstances of Maimer's death, CNN has built up a picture of the intense battle for these final scraps of a town that has come to symbolize the destructiveness of Russia's war.

PRIGOZHIN: (Speaking foreign language).

SEBASTIAN: "This is where they pulled our American out," says Prigozhin, pointing to the building where he says Maimer was found.

That same building also identified by Maimer's friend, Perry Blackburn, based on information he got from a member of the same brigade Maimer was within Bakhmut. Here it is on a satellite image on May 13th, intact.

Then, just two days later, the day after the night, Maimer is believed to have died, this plume of smoke, evidence of that southern artillery hit. A few days after that, an obvious crater in the building's roof.

BLACKBURN: I mean, its World War II tactics using 2023 technology. And so, the idea of, you know, a constant bombardment of artillery and missile strikes is a usual thing there. But for us in the U.S., we're a lot more clinical than that.

SEBASTIAN: Over just a few days, this entire area evidence of those tactics. Satellite images revealing a battle fought from high-rise to high-rise, chunks blown out of apartment blocks, even a school. All of this damage appearing within just two days.

"The enemy has been beaten out of the nest," says this Wagner fighter in video published on May 20th by Russian state news outlet "Izvestia."

CNN has geolocated the video. It was shot from inside the building where Nicholas Maimer died. You can see this distinctive light blue building, once a day care center, and in the distance, the spire of a partially destroyed church.

Here are all three locations seen from above. After nine months of slow, brutal fighting, Nicholas Maimer had found himself in the midst of a fierce, fast onslaught.

BLACKBURN: Nick wasn't with them when they withdrew from the building. And they were trying to recover, do a recovery operation when it was a -- you know, reoccupied by the Russians. So they weren't able to do it.

SEBASTIAN: And then Wagner got there first.


BLACKBURN: Wagner got there first.


SEBASTIAN: As for Wagner they say they have now begun the process of withdrawing from the town of Bakhmut, handing over control of that territory to the Russian regular army.

Nicholas Maimer's body, we understand, has now been transferred to the Ukrainian side. His family can begin the process of getting him home, particularly poignant heading into this Memorial Day weekend.

HARRAK: Yes, indeed. Clare Sebastian in London. Thank you so much.

U.S. senator Lindsey Graham is calling on the Biden administration to send more weapons to Ukraine.


HARRAK (voice-over): Graham met with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in Kyiv on Friday. The senior Republican warns that, if the U.S. fails to give enough support for Ukraine to win the war, that would send a signal to China that Beijing could take Taiwan.

Graham is urging the White House to support sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The F-16 will matter. It is not a magic weapon. But combined with other weapons, it will be decisive.

So my message to the Biden administration is, I appreciate what you have done. You need to do more. And I am convinced that there will be bipartisan support to provide more weapons that can turn the tide of battle in the upcoming counteroffensive.

HARRAK (voice-over): Ukraine's president said in his nightly address they have made substantial progress in acquiring more modern aircraft.

Meanwhile, the Dutch prime minister says the Netherlands is seriously considering sending F-16 jets to Ukraine, but a final decision has not yet been made.


HARRAK: Voters in Turkiye are set to go back to the polls on Sunday in a runoff election that will determine the next president. We'll speak with a guest on the ground after the break.





HARRAK: Polls will be open at this time tomorrow in Turkiye's presidential runoff election. Although president Recep Tayyip Erdogan won more votes than his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in the first round two weeks ago he failed to get the 50 percent plus one needed to win outright. CNN's Nada Bashir reports from Istanbul.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well (INAUDIBLE) until Sunday's crucial runoff vote. You can see behind me the campaigns are not letting up. (INAUDIBLE) opposition rally taking place in support for he opposition nominee, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

And just across on the other side of the street, another rally is taking place in support of the incumbent, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party. In fact, visiting those supporters today was the government interior minister, Suleiman Soylu (ph).

Of course, there's still a couple of hours to go until Turkiye prepares to head to the polls on Sunday. But there is a real focus on gaining that extra support. In the last round of the vote, we saw the AK Party coming away with 45.9 percent of the vote, just short of that 50 plus 1 percent threshold to declare a victory.

Meanwhile, the opposition alliance came away with just under 45 percent. But it is still a significant (INAUDIBLE). This is the first time we have seen the opposition uniting in this way. This is a huge step for the opposition.

Of course, a loss will also be a significant blow to this alliance. But there are also huge challenges ahead for President Erdogan. He has faced significant criticism over his economic policies. This is a country facing a severe cost of living crisis, rising

inflation and a weakening lira. And, of course, we cannot forget the aftermath of the devastating February earthquake. President Erdogan has made some pretty big pledges to rebuild the affected areas in the southeast.

So, of course, there are some significant promises that he needs to fulfill. But all eyes will be on securing those extra votes on Sunday in order to declare a victory and to appoint Turkiye's next president. President Erdogan of course hoping for another term after spending more than two decades in power -- Nada Bashir, CNN, Istanbul.



HARRAK: Ragip Soylu is the Turkiye bureau chief for "Middle East Eye." He joins us from Ankara.

Thank you so much for being with us.

As people in Turkiye get ready to head to the polls for a second time to pick their president, how do you see this final round?

RAGIP SOYLU, TURKIYE BUREAU CHIEF, "MIDDLE EAST EYE": Multiple polls indicate that Erdogan is leading. But it is really hard to call. It just showed us the first round that the polls are not reliable. And currency in Turkiye in society is frequently changing.

There have been a lot of things in the past two weeks that might change people's minds. First of all, Erdogan aligned with the third- place candidate, who is an ultra-national. But at the same time, conservatives also allied with another ultranationalist, called (INAUDIBLE) Erzda (ph).

And that platform, conservative anti-refugee platform, which has been really outspoken, with posters all around the country, said Syrians will be gone if he's elected president. That might give him some sort of advantage.

But in the same time, Erdogan has been (INAUDIBLE). He's been trying to embrace wider segments of the society. He's really running a different campaign compared to the campaign that he ran before the first round because it was tense and polarizing.

But this time around, he's more silent, he's making less appearances and just trying to look like he's (INAUDIBLE). So there is (INAUDIBLE) a different campaign compared to a few months ago. But if you look at the numbers, yes, he has the advantage. But no one can say that he will win on Sunday.

HARRAK: So if I understand you correctly, you do not think that the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

How do you reflect on the role nationalism plays in this election? For instance, are you surprised by the support, the loyalty of Mr. Erdogan's supporters, during what is being described by many a brutal cost of living crisis in Turkiye?

How do you account for that?

SOYLU: I mean, it's not a foregone conclusion. I agree.


SOYLU: But nationalism played a role. But we shouldn't exaggerate. Of course, Erdogan ran a campaign based on Turkish defense and industrial (ph) products, like his basically successes in many areas, in the foreign policy.

Of course, the Turkish nationalists, due to the presence of Syrian refugees in this country and antagonism against it, it rallied their base. But in the same time, we should understand that opposition failed to convince the people that it got the proper program of this economic foreground (ph) and (INAUDIBLE) is the leader that, know, can govern the country in a better and prosperous way.

I think that is the main issue that we saw that Kilicdaroglu couldn't get the support (INAUDIBLE). But the nationalism in the stance that, you know, (INAUDIBLE) Erdogan allied that 10 percent, the E Party (ph), Kemal Kilicdaroglu by (INAUDIBLE) got 10 percent.

And you have 5 percent, the third-place candidate; altogether 25 percent of the Turkish public now aligning with Turkish nationalists, which is a really surprising development in this country.

In that sense, you're right. And we see that resonating with the campaigns of each candidate. I mean, Erdogan allying with the third- place ultranationalist candidate and Kilicdaroglu allying himself with the Turkish nationalist, anti-refugee Erzda (ph), indicate that both camps are trying to capture that voting bloc.

HARRAK: Now regardless of who ends up winning, what might be in store for the roughly 3.5 million Syrian refugees currently in Turkiye?

SOYLU: I mean, both sides have their own plans to send them back to their countries. But either way, I don't think that there will be a really quick deportation or return of those refugees to Syria.

I mean, if you talk to Turkish opposition, it shows, yes, they want to send them back but it's not going to happen. It's going to happen voluntarily with a plan with the European Union, with a deal with Assad (ph), about Assad's promises looking up there (ph).

There have to be some secret checks, some assurances for the Syrian refugees to go back there. So I think that the opposition is using a rhetoric. Erdogan, on the other hand, he has a plan to send 1 million Syrian refugees back. He's building some housing (ph) in northern Syria in areas controlled by Turkiye.

I'm not really pessimistic. But one thing that we should be cautious about is that the rhetoric is really galvanizing people against the Syrians. And that is mistaken (ph).

HARRAK: Now there's so much at stake here, of course, first and foremost, for the people of Turkiye but also internationally and particularly NATO.

In a few words, what will the outcome of this election mean for Sweden's bid to join the trans-Atlantic alliance?

SOYLU: If Erdogan wins, it will take a lot of time, it might, for Sweden to become a member. I mean, a lot of time, like a few months. But if Kilicdaroglu wins, it will be a quick call. That might not be a time to pass it through the parliament, at least executive office, a president, can tell the NATO ally that he will do his best to pass that.

But you know, the parliament is now currently controlled by Erdogan allies. Even if Kilicdaroglu wins, it will be an uphill battle for Kilicdaroglu to pass that NATO alliance, the membership for Sweden.

HARRAK: Ragip Soylu, the Turkiye bureau chief of "Middle East Eye," thank you so much for your time.

SOYLU: Thank you for having me.


HARRAK: And this programming note for our international viewers, be sure to watch CNN's special live coverage of the elections in Turkiye, hosted by Becky Anderson. That's this Sunday at 8:00 pm in Ankara, 9:00 pm in Abu Dhabi, right here on CNN.

Still to come, small business owners brace for a potential U.S. debt default. We hear about the catastrophic impact that could have -- next.





HARRAK: A deal that would allow the U.S. to keep paying its bills could be reached in the coming days. That's according to a source familiar with talks to raise the debt ceiling. White House and Republican negotiators have been hammering out the details in late- night talks. Any deal must be finalized and passed by Congress by June 5th.

That's when the Treasury Secretary says the government will run out of cash.

So what are some of the real world implications of the U.S. -- if the U.S. defaults? We take a look now at how small businesses across the nation could be affected, not just the owners but also their employees and customers. CNN's Gabe Cohen reports.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a construction site in Baltimore --


COHEN: -- Brendan McCluskey is imploring Washington lawmakers to hammer out a deal and raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. government runs out of cash to pay its bills.

MCCLUSKEY: Please, for crying out loud, just show up to your job and stop putting everybody at risk.

COHEN: He says 60 percent of his firm's revenue comes from construction contracts and they just started another project.

What could a default mean for your business?

MCCLUSKEY: So we're doing millions of worth of work over the next 30 to 60 days. When will we get paid for that?

I also have a great backlog the second half of this year as long as we don't have an economic catastrophe.

COHEN: Here now, what goes to your mind?


COHEN: So workers like Chris Church are anxious for deal.

CHURCH: You have four people dependent on you.

COHEN: You're talking about your family.

CHURCH: My family, yes. Who knows what's going to happen?

You think about it and you're going to have roof over their head or food in their bellies, you don't know.

COHEN: Tens of thousands of small businesses work on government contracts. But a default would even strangle the ones that don't. It would drive up borrowing costs making it harder to get loans and credit.

JOE WALL, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, GOLDMAN SACHS 10,000 SMALL BUSINESSES VOICES: Whether they are trying to grow or just trying to survive, it's going to be very tough for them if the government defaults.

COHEN: Are you worried this could push many of them out of business?

WALL: Potentially, if it's sustained default.

COHEN: How stressful is this time then?

ANITA CAMPION, CONNEXUS CEO: Oh, it's been stressful.

COHEN (voice-over): At Connexus Corporation, a consulting firm that helps developing countries increase incomes for the poor, CEO Anita Campion says 80 percent of their revenue comes from government contracts.


COHEN: You are already making adjustments.

CAMPION: Yes, definitely. We've stopped hiring. We have made plans to kind of limit spending, we are not being aggressive in our new business, in our new proposals that we're going after. We're just kind of treading water and waiting to see what happens.

COHEN: A long term default could erase by one estimate about 8 million jobs and $10 trillion in household wealth. It would also stall payments for federal programs like Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits and food stamps.

Ephrame Kassaye, who runs three markets in D.C., says more than half his revenue comes from customers using SNAP funds.

EPHRAME KASSAYE, STORE OWNER: We're going to have big reductions on the sales into our businesses.

COHEN: What would you have to do as an owner to adjust to that?

KASSAYE: I think it's going to be very bad. I'm going to end up cutting employees.

COHEN: So some grocery stores are already cutting back on expensive or specialty items in case a deal isn't reached in time and sales go south.

KASSAYE: I think they need to consider the people, the American people. They need to consider that. They need to consider the low- income peoples, how they're going to be impacted.

COHEN: So these businesses that are tightly tied to the government are already taking steps to prepare.

Now as for the rest of us, if a deal isn't reached, the Small Business Administration predicts raising prices, cutting services, even scaling back expansion plans. In other words, we will all feel this before long unless there's a deal -- Gabe Cohen, CNN, Washington.


HARRAK: The Pentagon is increasing its security screenings and reviewing procedures connected with the handling of classified information. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the 45-day review last month and it should be concluded in the coming days.

NBC News first reported on the increased screenings. The moves are a response to a massive leak of classified documents, allegedly by Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

He was arrested in April after he allegedly posted the classified information on a social media platform. He remains behind bars and has not yet entered a plea.

Two more members of the far right group, Oath Keepers, received their sentences Friday for their roles in the plot that culminated in the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Army veteran Jessica Watkins got 8.5 years. And Florida native Kenneth Harrelson got four.

This comes a day after the group's founder received a stiff sentence for seditious conspiracy. Here's CNN's Katelyn Polantz.


KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: In court this week, the top of the pyramid of the Oath Keepers, that right-wing group that appeared on January 6th and marched inside the U.S. Capitol building in that riot for Donald Trump, they were sentenced to federal prison.

So the top of that hierarchy of the Oath Keepers was Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the group. He was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison on Thursday.

His deputy, Kelly Meggs, 12 years. And two others, Kenneth Harrelson from Florida four years and Jessica Watkins 8.5 years. The judge who delivered all of these sentences on Thursday and Friday, his name is Amit Mehta. He's a federal judge in D.C.

And he assessed each person differently but recognized that all of these people were not foot soldiers; they were people who played different specific and very important roles within this Oath Keepers group that assembled on January 6th.

So Stewart Rhodes clearly was much different than the rest. None of them would have been there if he had not decided to bring his organization together on January 6th and to assemble them. But these others were involved in planning or organization or making sure there were guns stationed around Washington, D.C.

So each were sentenced for different things, all of them being determined by the judge that they had encaged in crimes of domestic terrorism, a pretty significant thing that resulted in those harsh sentences.

But each of these people in court during their sentences developed a very different portrait, too, of what political extremism in America looks like now.

So Stewart Rhodes, he was unrepentant. He was saying that he still believed that the election of 2020 was illegitimate, that it was a regime of the government that was currently in place that he did not agree with or believed should be there.

And he said he would continue to have these beliefs, even while he serves that 18-year prison sentence. Others were much more apologetic.

But there are more sentencings to be done. The federal judge on this case will hear four additional defendants, the arguments for their sentences next week, and determine how much time each of those people in the Oath Keepers' case should be facing -- Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Washington.



HARRAK: When the late Queen Elizabeth II visited the U.S. back in 1983, the FBI was concerned about her security. And now we know why. Coming up, new details about a potential plot to kill the queen during a visit to the West Coast. Stay with us.




HARRAK: Newly released FBI documents reveal potential plots to harm Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during trips to the United States. One document in particular provides details of a potential assassination threat against the late queen during a visit to San Francisco 40 years ago. CNN's Scott McLean has more.



SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At that time in 1983, the Irish Republican army, the IRA, was in the midst of a three-decades-long terror campaign to try to get Northern Ireland reunited with the Republic of Ireland.

And in the United States, newly released documents show that the FBI was on high alert for anyone who may have been sympathetic to that cause, especially around royal visits to the U.S.

One memo in particular describes a caller, who said that a patron at a well-known Irish Republican bar in San Francisco, who said that his daughter had been killed by a rubber bullet in Northern Ireland.

Quote, "claimed that he was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth and would do this either by dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the royal yacht Britannia when it sails underneath or would attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park."

The memo doesn't give more detail than that and it's not clear what kind of follow-up there was. It's also important to keep in mind that this memo was marked priority rather than immediate, which would have been taken much more seriously.

Also by the time it actually gets to the FBI, this is now fifth-hand information. But the bureau was not wrong to be concerned, especially considering, in 1979, Louis Mountbatten was killed when a bomb planted on his fishing boat exploded. And, of course, the IRA was keen to target anything associated with the British state.

These documents also show that even more benign protests were followed closely by the FBI, which had informants inside some of the local protest groups.

One memo describes an Irish diaspora group, which was planning to distribute free beer at a protest of the state dinner, something they said could have added a dangerous dimension to the events planned.

That same memo also makes it clear that the FBI wasn't just worried about the safety of the queen,; it was also worried about any potential incidents that could have been embarrassing either to the queen or to then president Ronald Reagan -- Scott McLean, CNN, London.


HARRAK: A scare in the air has aviation experts wondering, how could this happen?

When we return, how a mid-air nightmare became very real.





HARRAK: We're learning more about a terrifying incident on an Asiana Airlines flight on Friday.

A passenger opened an exit door on the plane while it was still airborne. South Korean authorities arrested the man and, according to the Yonhap news agency, he told police he felt suffocated and wanted to get off the plane quickly. CNN's Tom Foreman has details.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wind howling through the cabin, 200 people on board, passengers gripping their armrest. These were the chaotic minutes, before landing, for that Asiana Airlines flight, in South Korea.

Officials say the plane was still 700 feet, in the air, traveling around 170 miles an hour, when a man, in his 30s, grabbed an exit door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe the man tried to get off the plane.

A flight attendant said, "Help, help," and about 10 passengers stood up and pulled him in.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Opening a commercial jet door in flight is supposed to be impossible. The doors are locked and beveled, so that air pressure inside the plane pushes them firmly, into the door opening. Aviation experts say overcoming that pressure would be like lifting a car.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: So at altitude, you simply can't do it. There are thousands of pounds of pressure on those doors. You cannot open them. You can't open the overwing exits.

FOREMAN (voice-over): But at very low altitudes, on some older planes, experts say it might be possible.

What we know for sure is the man on the Asiana flight was arrested. And others have tried the same thing.


FOREMAN (voice-over): On a flight, from L.A. to Boston, in March, authorities say a passenger was restrained, after he attacked a crew member, tried to open the emergency exit door and said he believed the flight attendant was trying to kill him.

Soon afterward, a court ordered him, to undergo a mental health evaluation.

TORRES: Where's the Homeland Security with the gun?

Because I'm waiting for them to point the gun at me.

Then I will kill every man on this plane.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Other incidents have raised similar concerns in the air, including a woman who tried to open a door while flying from Raleigh, North Carolina.

And on the ground in Los Angeles, authorities say a man opened the door of a parked jet and jumped onto an exit slide.

And in New York, officials say a couple with their dog opened the door and took an exit slide as their plane was preparing to leave -- Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


HARRAK: Graduates at the University of Massachusetts/Boston were in for a surprise at their commencement ceremony. These lucky grads, they're walking away with $1,000 each, courtesy of billionaire Robert Hale, who delivered their commencement address.

Hale is the founder and CEO of Granite Telecommunications and owns a minority stake in the Boston Celtics basketball team. He gave graduates $500 to spend on themselves and $500 to give away to teach them about the gift of giving. Now finally this hour, maybe your dog is more likely to chew the red

carpet than walk on it but not the top dogs of the Cannes Film Festival. Beating out Malcolm the akita and Taywat (ph) the spitz is Messi, the border collie.


HARRAK: Messi fetched the top prize, the Palm Dog, for his performance as Snoop in the drama, "Anatomy of a Fall." The grand jury prize went to Alma. She played Chaplin in the romance "Fallen Leaves." The film's two-legged stars accepted the award on her behalf.


ALMA POYSTI, ACTOR: So Alma is a wonderful colleague. She made her debut -- (CROSSTALK)


POYSTI: -- in this film. And very disciplined and --

VATANEN: Hardworking.

POYSTI: Yes. And fun. Just adorable, loving, a dog of few barks.



HARRAK: This is the 22nd year of the Palm Dog. The human part of the Cannes Film Festival takes place Saturday night when the top prize, the Palme d'Or, is handed out.

I'm Laila Harrak. I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment. Do stick around.