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U.S. House Approves Debt Limit Deal; Bill Now Goes To Senate; Sources: Trump Captured On Tape Talking About Classified Document He Kept After Presidency; Federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which former President Donald Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, multiple sources told CNN, undercutting his argument that he declassified everything; U.S. House Approves Debt Limit Deal Bill Now Goes To Senate; North Korea Promises To Put Spy Satellite Into Orbit Soon; Sackler Family Grand. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired June 01, 2023 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And a warm welcome to all our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Paula Newton. Ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We put the citizens of America first. We didn't do it by taking the easy way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy taking a victory lap after the House passes a bill to raise the debt ceiling. But is his leadership now in jeopardy?
Plus, one of Australia's most decorated soldiers loses a defamation case against several newspapers. We'll go live to Sydney for the latest.
And no letup in Russian airstrikes on Kyiv. There's been another overnight missile attack on the Ukrainian capital.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Paula Newton.
NEWTON: So, it hasn't been easy but the hard-fought deal suspend the U.S. debt ceiling and dodge a catastrophic default is now heading to the Senate despite weeks of haggling and hand wringing it cleared the House. But you know what was a comfortable bipartisan margin? More than 300 voting yay and 117 nays. Conservatives angry about the deal are threatening though to house the House Speaker who said the vote marked one of his best nights. In fact, Joe at a US president Meantime, Joe Biden tweeted that the House took a critical step toward preventing a first ever default. He also urged the Senate to pass the bill as quickly as possible so he can sign it into law. CNN's Melanie Zanona picks up the story from there.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, a big bipartisan victory in the house Tuesday night for both President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The House passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling and limit spending with a number of members in both parties voting in favor of the bill. In the end, 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats joined forces to get this bill over the finish line where it now goes to the Senate.
But this was not an easy vote. It was not an easy road to get here. It took weeks of intense negotiations. There were a number of breakdowns in the talks along the way. And there was also a last-minute revolt from some rank-and-file members, particularly among conservatives. Republicans were not happy that the debt limit is extended for two years now. They also wanted it to go further and cutting spending.
And then some Democrats were worried about the new stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients. But in the end, leadership works behind the scenes to whip this bill to sell members on the steel. And they are confident that it is also going to pass in the Senate. But there is a question of how quickly they can get it done because over in the Senate, it takes the cooperation of every single member in order to be able to move quickly.
But Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader is planning to take a first procedural step on Thursday to move this bill along. Then him and Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader over there will have to work out a deal likely offering some amendment votes to get all their members on board. But the bottom line, Congress is poised to avert a crisis although barely.
Melania Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.
NEWTON: CNN has learned federal prosecutors now have Donald Trump's own words as an important piece of evidence in the classified documents investigation. Now that word comes from sources who say the former president can be heard on tape, acknowledging that he held on to a classified document and admission that could undercut his defense.
CNNs Katelyn Polantz has the details from Washington.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN JUSTICE AND CRIME REPORTER: We have exclusive reporting that federal prosecutors, so the special counsel's investigation around Donald Trump his handling of classified documents and possible obstruction of justice. They have an audio tape now of Donald Trump in a meeting in July 2021, where he talks about a classified proposal from the Pentagon on what it would look like to bomb Iran.
And then, he appears on this audio tape to be waving around the sound. You can hear the sound on the tape of him referring to a document waving it around. Now CNN has not listened to this audio at this point. But multiple sources have described it to us and have told us that it is quite significant in this Justice Department investigation. We know that they have the audio, they've also been asking people about it.
They've talked to witnesses, they've brought in people for the grand jury testimony related to it. All working towards the possible case which they haven't brought yet against Donald Trump but that they could.
And one of the things in this audio tape that makes it so significant is the Donald Trump on the tape, not only is referring to a classified document that he says he has in his possession, but he also is making clear that he's unhappy that he can't share it more widely. That he's realized that it is classified and that he didn't declassify it when it was president. All of the things that would stack up in a very important possible case that the Justice Department could be looking at bringing against the former president, really an unprecedented situation.
Now the reason for this meeting, the reason that Donald Trump is talking about this plan to bomb Iran is because he was mad at the time in July 2021, about public reporting. A story in The New Yorker, in fact, that said that he had to be stopped by the Pentagon and other advisors including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to execute a plan to bomb Iran. And Trump is trying to show the people in the room that that is not the case.
That he actually would be undermining what Milley is -- had been saying to him at the time, or what is being reported in this story, such as in The New Yorker. And so, the people he's talking about, this classified plan to and that he's waving around a document in front of those people are aides. And in our reporting, we've also learned they are people working on a book for his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, all people who would not have a security clearance to be able to access classified documents at that point in time.
So taken together quite a big step in the investigation and something that the Justice Department will be very much looking closely at and already has in their grand jury pursuit.
Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Washington.
NEWTON: Joining me now is former Nixon White House Counsel and CNN contributor, John Dean. And good to see you as we continue to truly try and parse this news, the CNN exclusive. I want to get to the point of what you think the impact will be here legally, because we're dealing with a couple of things. In the first instance, Donald Trump says, look, I can declassify whatever I want.
On the other hand, though, it seems like at this point in time, from what we know, possibly the Espionage Act here, definitely there are elements here that prosecutors can look at and say that he has definitely run afoul of that law.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You raised a couple of good points, Paula. First of all, this is important evidence. It's very significant, because it'll show his intent very clearly. He's aware of the fact he cannot handle or mishandle or show classified information. And that's what he claims he is handling. So, he's acknowledging he has classified information. But your point on the Espionage Act is that it doesn't have to even be classified to be a crime.
If it's national security information which he seems very aware it is. And if this is, as reported, it is Iran war plans, there's not higher classified information. So, this is very important evidence. And Trump again, in his own -- through his own words is hanging himself, so to speak.
NEWTON: You know, many people have doubted whether or not there would be an indictment in this case. Given the evidence that you've just heard, do you think it's inevitable that an indictment would have to be handed down?
DEAN: I thought when they broke the attorney-client privilege some weeks ago, that that was pretty clear evidence that they were going to indict come what may if they got that evidence from the attorneys. This is just further as somebody who's familiar from the inside of past investigations during Watergate, the news tends to break weeks to months after the events. I was always kind of surprised how late the news was when catching up what was actually happening in the Nixon White House, for example.
Here, I think the same thing is happening. We're just catching up with what they already have developed. And they have a very powerful case. So, I think this is just another breadcrumb that has come out that we can see where they're going.
NEWTON: John, how do you counter the opinion, though that, you know, that Trump's legal defense team says that, look, this is just a persecution. He is president. He does -- he was the president. He does have that kind of leeway in terms of having these documents. Other presidents have had these kinds of documents in their possession?
DEAN: It's a pretty weak defense because other high officials and men who might be president but for the fact they had misused national security and for information. David Petraeus, a general who many thought was presidential timber and a very likely candidate to become President of the United States. He was prosecuted and agreed to plead guilty when he mishandled the diary where he can -- had lots of national security information, classified information that he'd given to a biographer.
So, this shouldn't be an exception for Trump that he's -- he -- the President doesn't suddenly get bestowed some quality that places him beyond the rule of law. To the contrary, there's no money more important to hold the rule of law. So, I think his defense that, oh, I'm being persecuted and they're just out there leaking stuff is weak. And we don't know the source of this story. CNN isn't putting that out.
But I doubt if it's the Department of Justice, that would be very unfair, like the department in modern times. Post-Watergate, they put down very strict rules. And neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice are leakers anymore.
NEWTON: Yes. And obviously, subject to prosecution if you do, in fact, leak. John, I have to ask you a politically, if you look at this, look, we have seen so many things, in terms of the background of Donald Trump, whether it has to do with his past, his past as president or the present. Voters, his base do not seem to care. We are certainly looking at a situation where if you were a betting person, you might say it is likely Donald Trump could become the GOP nominee and then president again.
In the context of everything you just heard, what would a second Donald Trump term look like when it comes to national security issues knowing what you know now?
DEAN: Voters aren't concerned because they're a certain kind of voter. They're authoritarian personalities that like strong leaders like this. And they like an autocratic system. They would be just as happy to have a dictator as they would a president. So, they would be happy if Trump were in jail and running the country, because they think, I see him as a strong leader. So, it's only if he trips on the way to trying to get back to the White House will he lose that hardcore.
But that's really not enough, Paula, to elect him. And I think the general public, the wider in general election population is not going to buy it twice. I don't think he can get back to the White House. But the premise of your question, what if he does, I think it'll be a horror show. He knows where the light switches are this time, he didn't last time. He knows where the levers of power are and he'll use them. It's a very frightening prospect ahead if he ever gets the White House.
NEWTON: OK. John Dean, we will leave it there. Thanks so much. Appreciate your time.
DEAN: Thank you, Paula.
NEWTON: We're following a deadly new round of missile strikes on Kyiv as NATO foreign ministers gathered in Norway to discuss the war and Ukraine's bid to join the alliance. Stay with us.
NEWTON: Kyiv's mayor reports three people have been killed in at least 14 injured in the latest Russian strikes on Ukraine's capital. Now the city's military administration says Moscow's forces launched ground- based tactical missiles, all of which were shut down. Now, the casualties came as debris fell on healthcare clinic. A residential building and a roadway. Russia meantime is reporting new shelling across the border from Ukraine in the Belgorod region. The governor says five people were injured Thursday morning. Hundreds of people are being evacuated meantime after days of attacks and Ukraine blames Russia -- blames Russian forces for an explosion near the Three Sisters monument along the border with Belarus. Now a border guard spokesperson says Putin's only probably fear Ukraine would use the area to launch an offensive on Russian territory.
Meantime, NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to meet this hour in Oslo, Norway where Ukraine's push to join the alliance up for discussion. Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg says he can't anticipate the outcome but added that NATO's door is open. He's also floating a plan for half a billion dollars a year to help Ukraine's military. I want to go live now to London and CNN's Clare Sebastian, who has been monitoring all of this for us.
Good to see you, Claire. You know, despite what is really extraordinary NATO unity since this war began, there are contentious issues here for the alliance. What can we expect?
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a really delicate situation, Paula, because on the one hand, you know, Secretary General Stoltenberg has said Ukraine -- NATO's door is open. But Ukraine is, you know, actively involved in defending itself in a war right now. So, I think most people would agree that now is not the time for them to join. But the task at hand is to advance them beyond the decision made at the NATO summit in 2008.
When back then, the alliance said it supported Ukraine's bid. It would sort of actively engage on a path to membership. And since then, we haven't had any official advancements. So, they're looking for some way to push forward while stopping short of actually joining whether it's bilateral security guarantees or some kind of other mechanism to do so. That is one of the key tasks. We've just actually heard from Jen Stoltenberg as he -- as he entered the summit in Oslo.
And he said, look, it's not just about the short term, obviously, we support Ukraine, we support their right to defend themselves, but they're looking as well, as you say, at the long term at a multiyear commitment to support Ukraine's transition away from Soviet weapons to the kind of army where its equipment has interoperability with what NATO has. So, that's a key task. They're also looking at advancing Sweden's bid to join NATO which has been held up as you know by Hungary and Turkey.
And things like defense spending and all of that. So, a lot of thorny issues as they have this meeting sort of a prelude to the Vilnius summit of the entire alliance that we'll see in July.
NEWTON: Yes. Which will be a -- an important centerpiece for the summer as they decide how to go forward on those issues. U.S. military aid meantime, for Ukraine keeps pouring in 37 billion and counting. What were the latest aid do for Ukraine's military capabilities?
SEBASTIAN: So, if you look at the choice of weapons in this latest package, the 39th drawdown of U.S. stocks for Ukraine since the beginning of the war, you can see exactly what's happening here. They're going to really increase the number of air defense missiles. They're sending ammunition for the battlefield. We know that in the east of Ukraine there's been an extraordinary consumption of ammunition that has really characterized this war.
There you see it, and of course, aerial bombardment is yet another one overnight have become a real hallmark of this conflict stepping up, Paula, in the month of May.
I think that was the 18th overnight assault on the capital Kyiv this month. So, that is critical, I think as well essential to look at the Russian reaction for this absolute fury by the Russian ambassador to Washington. Let's take a look at some of what he said in the Telegram post, saying, instead of calling the Zelenskyy regime to account, Washington is clearly demonstrating its indifference to the crimes of the Banderites. That's of course a reference to Stepan Bandera who is a Ukrainian nationalist known to have collaborated with the Nazis in World War II.
He continues to public statements of the White House that they supposedly don't support incursions by the Ukrainian armed forces into the hearts of our motherland and not worth a penny. A reference, of course, to the fact that all of this comes after those drone attacks on Moscow averted by Russia but blamed on Ukraine. Paula?
NEWTON: An interesting choice of words there. Clare Sebastian, you're going to be following the NATO meeting for us and we'll continue to bring you updates on that as we get them.
Now to Australia where there is some developing news. A judge has just dismissed the multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit brought by a highly-decorated war veteran against several Australian newspapers. After more than 100 days of hearings over the past year, the judge ruled the articles in fact did not defame Ben Robert-Smith when they alleged, he had a role in the unlawful killings of Afghan prisoners.
The judge found that the papers establish substantial truth in fact and a number of claims, though not all of them.
CNN Producer Angus Watson has been following this story closely. And he joins us now from Sydney. I mean, an extraordinary really hearing here and verdict. I know that in fact, Australia has been watching it very closely. But how will this affect Australia's military legacy in Afghanistan?
ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Paula, this is a major victory for these three newspapers and a major victory for the three journalists who delivered these highly-researched stories back in 2018 which alleged that Ben Robert-Smith, Australia's most decorated war soldier, the winner of the Victoria Cross had committed war crimes in Afghanistan that he had been a part of the unlawful killing of six Afghan noncombatants between 2009 and 2012.
Now, Ben Robert-Smith has always denied those charges. And he brought this defamation case against the newspapers and the journalists who wrote the stories. And the big news today is that the newspapers won. Now the newspapers played a truth defense, more evidence was brought before the court in their efforts to prove the veracity of their journalism. The judge decided that the most egregious elements of their reporting were true.
Some of the allegations that the newspapers had brought forward in their reporting could not be proved by this truth defense. But the judge ruled that the context around those allegations was enough to ensure that Ben Robert-Smith had not been defamed by that reporting. Now, this is not a criminal case. This was a defamation case, but what it did was it served as a proxy for a war crimes hearing.
This was the first time that war crimes allegations have been tested in Australian court and as I said, the most egregious of those have been proven to have been most likely true. Those include the shooting of an unarmed noncombatant with a prosthetic leg. Those included the allegation that Ben Robert-Smith had kicked an elderly Afghan man off a cliff and then ordered other Australian soldiers to shoot him.
Some of the people who served with Ben Robert-Smith in Afghanistan testified against him in this blockbuster trial, which has been called by some here as Australia's trial of the century. Afghans, from their villages beamed into Australia's federal court by video leak to describe what Australian soldiers had done in their villages over 10 years ago. So, this has grant -- gained huge fraction here in Australia.
It will have huge impact on Australia's military legacy in Afghanistan as we know a separate Australian military war crimes investigation has shown that 39 Afghan civilians or noncombatants were killed by Australian soldiers throughout Australia's longest war. Ben Robert- Smith faces the possibility that he might face other charges, criminal ones, potentially in the future. Paula?
NEWTON: Yes. And that's the interesting part of this case. It is not over. And as you point out, one of the most decorated soldiers Australia's ever seen. We saw him there even meeting with the Queen in 2021. Angus Watson for us. Thanks for the update. Appreciate it.
Still to come for us. The U.S. is another step closer to averting a disastrous default on tens of trillions of dollars in debt.
The results of the House vote and what happens next.
NEWTON: After weeks of deadlock and threats, the U.S. House has finally passed a bill to suspend America's debt limit until 2025. Now the final tally on the vote, 314 to 117 with much of the opposition, in fact, coming from hardline conservatives. The Senate will take up the Biden-McCarthy deal in the hours ahead. It takes the threat of default off the table until after next year's presidential election.
It also caps federal nondefense spending, expands work requirements for some food stamp recipients and clause back unused COVID-19 relief funds.
Joining me now is CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. He is also a senior editor at The Atlantic. Ron, we've been talking for years, right? That they never get anything done. No bipartisan wins. There's one here. There's -- one deal looks like it could actually happen. Why doesn't it feel like it?
Why does it just feel like both parties are still coming out bruised from this experience?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It because the process by which this happened was so excessive, and disproportionate to the issues under debate. I mean, to risk global financial catastrophe, for the set of policy issues that they were debating here was just a wild mismatch of ends and means. You know, at least in 2011, the last time we did this, the two parties were debating a true grand bargain that had everything on the table and would have had a material long term impact on the U.S. fiscal picture.
Here are the Republicans ruled out the -- they ruled the Pentagon changes, and they ruled that anything to do with our large entitlement programs, which are the principal driver of increased spending. And so, you're left arguing about a relatively small slice of the Federal budget or the kinds of things you would argue about in a normal appropriations process. And against that you had the guillotine of an unprecedented debt default. So, I think everybody felt kind of soiled at the end.
NEWTON: You put that, so well, Ron, because we do all feel soiled at this point. It does have to go through the Senate likely, we'll be fine there. If we take Speaker McCarthy, President Biden, political winds for both?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. In the sense that the alternative was catastrophic. I, you know, it's not clear we really had to go through this, except that McCarthy had to show that he was standing up to Biden. As I said, to risk the Global Economy, to get two years of a spending freeze on 1/6 of the Federal budget. And changes in work rules in some of the federal entitlement programs, that would not even qualify as a rounding error in their impact on the budget.
Plus a few other things were just so wildly disproportionate, that it really was illogical, except, you know, on its own terms, the fight was the point of the fight. In that sense, you know, it is a win because we are not going to tumble through the plate glass window. But it is just a reminder of how much mischief having this debt ceiling of law in place invites in the first place. And really makes you wonder why Democrats didn't try harder to either extend it past 2024 or eliminated altogether, when they had unified control of governments for 2022.
NEWTON: Yes, you make an interesting point there because there were some wins to have here on this deal on the sidelines. And one of the winners apparently is Senator Joe Manchin, right? The Democrat from West Virginia.
NEWTON: He got a whole pipeline, Ron, apparently, he's going to get it the mountain valley pipeline, it will be built in his home state. Of course, I don't have to remind you environmental activists are fuming about this. What does that tell you about the environment, the political environment in D.C. right now?
BROWNSTEIN: Tells you Joe Biden is a dealmaker, right? You can take the boy out of the Senate; you can't take the Senate out of the boy. You know, he has shown himself to be a very skilled inside player as president. And he, you know, has been able in his first two years. He was able to get a bunch of things done that people didn't think he could, including some big bipartisan deals. And he did it generally by lowering the temperature and quietly negotiating.
He has a lot of reasons to keep Joe Manchin happy. Even though Manchin probably is one of the principal reasons they didn't deal with the debt ceiling in the first place in 22 parenthetically. Joe Biden is someone who generally believes based on all those years in the Senate, that, you know, catch more flies with honey than vinegar, more likely to try to make a deal than to punish someone who's standing up who is quietly opposing him.
NEWTON: Yes, it's certainly that, Ron, I've got 30 seconds left.
NEWTON: Donald Trump saying, look, I would have gone to default. Ron DeSantis basically, saying the same thing, this deal is no good. What do you make of that?
BROWNSTEIN: Inevitable, right? And also, here's the strange paradox, Paula, with Trump openly calling for default, it meant that there were always going to be dozens of Republicans voting against the deal. Which meant that McCarthy, if he was not willing to default, and I'm betting the big donors in the Republican Party, told them don't think twice about that. If he wasn't willing to default, he was always going to need Democrats to pass it because so many Republicans were inevitably going to vote against it.
What did that mean? That mean, he had to make the very concessions that the conservatives then, denounced in voting against it. Their opposition reinforced his need to make the concessions that they then complained about and much of that rolls back to Donald Trump's open calls for default, which he thought would help him by, you know, inaugurating domestic and global chaos.
NEWTON: And a reminder, there was no such fretting about the debt ceiling when Donald Trump was President. Ron Brownstein.
NEWTON: We will -- we will leave it there. Thanks so much, as always.
BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.
NEWTON: As an exurb returned to the streets in Kosovo, but there's no major violence this time around. Instead, they tried to send a message with a flag that's more than 800 feet long. Stay with us.
NEWTON: North Korea remains determined to put a military spy satellite into orbit that's according to the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. His comments were reported by state media just one day after North Korea's failed satellite launch attempt captured in these new images. A South Korean lawmaker says his country's intelligence agency believes that launch failed partly because North Korea rushed preparations and tried to change the flight path. As the Serbs rallied in Kosovo again on Wednesday according to Serbia state T.V. But this time, they carried 800 an over 800-foot flag, Serbian flag that is the same town where violence broke out two days earlier.
Serbian protesters clashed with NATO peacekeepers on Monday leaving dozens of people injured. Now, the Alliance is sending in reinforcements to Kosovo. The protesters were furious that ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the area following local elections that the Serbs boycotted. Sudan's Armed Forces has suspended participation in the U.S.-Saudi brokered ceasefire talks in Jeddah. They're accusing rival paramilitary forces of violating the latest truce, which was extended on Monday.
Now, in the month and a half since the Civil War broke out, ceasefires have been constantly violated on both sides on Wednesday. At least 17 people were killed, and more than a hundred people wounded in a market in Khartoum hit by heavy shelling. All right, I'm Paula Newton, for our international viewers, "WORLD SPORT" is up next. For viewers here in North America. I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM right after the break.
NEWTON: Two more prominent Republicans are expected to announce next week. They're running for U.S. President. Donald Trump's former Vice President Mike Pence plans to kick off his campaign in Iowa on June 7th. On Wednesday, Pence said he'd like to shut down the Federal Education Department and send that money to the States. And in a veiled swipe at his former boss, he told supporters in Michigan that democracy depends on civility.
CNN has also learned that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plans to declare his candidacy next Tuesday in New Hampshire. He is a longtime Trump critic who ran for the Republican nomination in 2016. Meantime, Florida Governor and Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis is pitching himself as the top Trump competitor. He's just spent another day in Iowa where the all-important caucus will determine the direction of the Republican nomination process. CNN's Jeff Zeleny tells us how DeSantis is hoping to set himself apart from the Former President.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We can't make excuses. We have to be able to get the job done.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is trying to seize the reins of the Republican Party from the hands of Donald Trump. Pitching himself as a fighter who can win.
DESANTIS: This bureaucracy has imposed its will on us for far too long. It's about time we impose our will on it. And that an answers to we the people.
ZELENY (voiceover): On his first full day of campaigning across Iowa as a declared presidential candidate. DeSantis made clear; he would draw distinctions with the Former President on his terms.
DESANTIS: I am going to counterpunch. I'm going to fight back on it. I'm going to focus my fire on Biden, and I think he should do the same. He gives Biden a free pass. I'm focusing on Biden.
ZELENY (voiceover): But long before DeSantis can confront President Biden, he must first get through a Republican primary. And a growing field of challengers, including former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who are poised to enter the race next week. But Trump still looms largest over the race. He arrives here to offer something of a rebuttal to DeSantis. The latest sign the race is intensifying with the Iowa caucuses early next year, among the first test for the strength of Trump's grip on the GOP. Simona Yentas (PH) is among the Iowa Republicans weighing their options. And at this point, She's utterly undecided.
SIMONA YENTAS, IOWA REPUBLICAN: I have a tremendous amount of respect for many things President Trump did in office. So, I have to keep that in mind. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for what Governor DeSantis has done in Florida.
ZELENY (voiceover): DeSantis addressed those Republicans directly, bluntly saying Trump can't win a general election.
DESANTIS: I think our voters are looking at this and they say, you know, yes, we appreciate what he did. But we also recognize there are a lot of voters, just aren't going to ever vote for him. We just have to accept that.
ZELENY (voiceover): Even his questions about his own electability remain unanswered. DeSantis touts his deeply conservative Florida record. As he introduces himself to Iowa voters, he stepped up his subtle contrasts with Trump.
DESANTIS: At the end of the day, leadership is not about entertainment. It's not about building a brand. It's not about virtue signaling. It is about results.
ZELENY (voiceover): At his side was one of his closest political advisors, his wife, Casey. Who picked up the argument where he left off.
CASEY DESANTIS, WIFE OF RON DESANTIS: The end of the day, I say that it matters in the moment, and you see how a leader conducts himself when the lights are on it.
ZELENY (on camera): As the Florida Governor heads on to New Hampshire and South Carolina to campaign this week. Former President Donald Trump arrives in Iowa and will be campaigning on Thursday. But no big rallies this time, instead, he'll be meeting with small groups of conservative supporters, evangelical supporters. Trying to make the case that he is fighting for this Republican nomination in a new way. But there is no doubt, as this Republican field keeps growing and growing, this could still be advantage to Trump. Because that Never Trump Lane is fractured and divided by so many candidates. Jeff Zeleny CNN, Pella, Iowa.
NEWTON: One of the stars of That 70s Show, has been found guilty of rape. A Los Angeles jury convicted Danny Masterson on two of the three rape counts he faced. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the third. This was his second trial on the charge, the first one ended in a mistrial. Masterson is facing a possible sentence of up to 30 years to life in state prison. On New York appeals court has ruled OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma can protect the billionaire Sackler family, which owns the company, from lawsuits over their roles in the business. Now, the immunity is part of a $6 billion settlement, which clears the way for Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy deal. The company calls the ruling a victory. But many victims of America's opioid epidemic are not celebrating. CNN's Brynn Gingras has that story.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Drugs like OxyContin made one American family very rich and helped fuel the opioid crisis killing many of those who became addicted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my niece couple years ago to an overdose. I lost a brother. That family should have to start going to funerals.
GINGRAS (voiceover): That family is the Sacklers. They'll get to keep the bulk of their fortune and be shielded from current and future civil lawsuits, as part of a settlement just upheld by a federal appeals court. Their company Purdue Pharma made billions developing opioid based drugs misrepresenting the risk of addiction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Sackler's directed and approved hiring sales representatives whose job was to visit doctors and persuade them to prescribe more opioids, higher doses of opioids and for longer periods of time.
GINGRAS (voiceover): Now, Purdue will pay up to $6 billion, "Our focus going forward is to deliver billions of dollars of value for victim compensation, opioid crisis abatement, and overdose rescue medicines." The company said in a statement. The settlement also ends years of civil lawsuits against the company and the family. The Sackler family continues to deny wrongdoing but expresses regret for the effect on communities.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That they had took into no accountability of what they were actually doing to people.
GINGRAS (voiceover): Dozens of states and individuals sued in the wake of the company pleading guilty to federal criminal charges for how it marketed and sold OxyContin. For some victims' families, the settlement feels like the best deal they could have gotten.
DEDE YODER, MOTHER OF OPIOID VICTIM: The alternative would have been thousands and thousands of lawsuits that could have spread. It gone on for years and years.
WILLIAM TONG, CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It gets the Sackler's out of the opioid business, it shuts down Purdue Pharma. It gave families the opportunity to address the Sacklers and tell them how they wrecked their lives, and it gets money to families.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry, it's an excellent drug.
GINGRAS (voiceover): The family dynasty dramatized in T.V. series like Dopesick. They say their reputation is unfair.
DR. KATHE SACKLER, FORMER PURDUE VICE PRESIDENT: It distresses me greatly, and angers me greatly. That the medication that was developed to help people and relieve severe pain has become associated with so much human suffering.
GINGRAS (voiceover): In a statement the family says, they are pleased with the settlement, "The long-awaited implementation of this resolution is critical to providing substantial resources for people and communities in need."
GINGRAS (on camera): There has never been a criminal charge against the Sackler family. And look, those who have had an opioid addiction or lost someone to an opioid addiction. They have said that this family is no different than, say, a heroin dealer and they'd like to see those criminal charges filed. It's important to note that this settlement does not shield the Sackler's from that possible prosecution. Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.
NEWTON: A NASA taskforce plans to publish its first report this summer on unidentified anomalous phenomena, or you and I know it, as UFO was it right? The team of Independent Scientists is creating guidelines to turn creepy stories and that grainy footage into hard science. And hopefully, some answers. CNN's. Tom Foreman explains.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For many years, the U.S. government just denied all of these reports of people seeing things in the sky. The idea that there even were unidentified objects up there. But now government agencies in the past few years have come around to saying, yes, there's clearly something there, because we have video of it. We have too many reports on it. But what exactly is it? This is NASA's time to come on board with all of that with this committee. They put together that's going to have a report out this summer basically saying, here's what we think is going on up there.
Now, they're not going to answer a lot of things because they will say some things can be explained as balloons or flights of birds or maybe aircraft that people didn't know were up there. Some of it they'd say they can't explain but more importantly, what they're saying, is they're trying to put together a roadmap going forward. A way to combine actual scientific observation of these things with the anecdotal observation you have. Because the problem is, if too much of that right now. There are too many people with iPhones and saying I saw something, and maybe it looked like this.
Did they come up with a general idea of what these things look like, based upon what they have heard anecdotally? Yes. They say generally the characteristics of these unidentified anomalous phenomenon as they call them now. Or they're round and small, white silver or translucent, around 10,000 to 30,000 feet, stationary to mock to twice the speed of sound. And there's no thermal exhaust. But that is nothing but an average of a lot of people saying, well, I think I saw this. And what NASA is trying to say is, it's easy to say what you think you saw. If we really want to get to the bottom of what's going on here. We need to quantify this, we need to be able to say exactly what was happening, where was it? How fast it was travelling?
They think by doing that, they will get rid of a lot of the noise and get down to the few items that they really don't know. Are they advanced weapons systems? Are these surveillance systems from other countries? Or even the NASA people say or are they from somewhere else? Some other place out in the galaxy. They don't think it's that -- they don't think it's that and even though many sceptics, even if they knew they would never tell us. The NASA people at the end of all they said, look, many of us spend our lives wondering if we can find life out there. If we can find it, we'd sure like to. We'll see what the report says later this summer.
NEWTON: All right, thanks to Tom Foreman there. I'm Paula Newton, thanks for your company. I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.