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Failed GOP Candidate Paid For Shootings Targeting Democrats; Voting System Error Alters Outcome Of Local NJ Race; Today: Husband Charged With Wife's Murder To Be Arranged; Helicopter Crashes into Kindergarten in Ukraine Killing Top Members of Ukrainian Government; President Biden's Personal Attorney Who First Discovered Classified Documents in His Office Interviewed by Federal Investigators; Controversial Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and George Santos Given House Committee Assignments. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2023 - 08:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Breaking news out of Ukraine. A helicopter crashing into a kindergarten, killing top members of the Ukrainian government. Our Clarissa Ward is there live.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Just a short time from now, the husband of the mother who disappeared nearly three weeks ago will be charged with her murder. The new evidence that is leading investigators to this decision.

LEMON: New video shows the losing Republican candidate visiting the homes of Democrats before he allegedly organized the shootings that targeted him. The district attorney will join us live.

COLLINS: She once pushed 9/11 conspiracy theories and supported QAnon lies. Now Marjorie Taylor Greene is sitting on a committee, a powerful one, with access to some of the nation's most sensitive secrets.

LEMON: And speaking of committees, George Santos will sit on the Small Business Committee even though he told lie after lie about his business experience.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

But first, tragedy on the outskirts of Ukrainian's capital. Seventeen people are dead, including Ukraine's interior minister after a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten in residential buildings east of Kiev. Four children are among the dead with 11 more being treated in the hospital.

Straight to CNN Clarissa Ward live for us at the scene now in Ukraine. What are you seeing, Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, you can probably see behind me there are still rescue workers on the scene here. They have been combing through that building for hours now, trying to make sure that there is nobody else inside, because basically, this is where the helicopter crashed. The building right behind me was clipped, and then the helicopter nosedived into the playground at the back of the kindergarten. We know that all nine people who were on board the helicopter, including this country's interior minister, Denys Monastyrskyi, the deputy interior minister, the secretary of state of the interior ministry, as well as six other on board that helicopter, they were all killed immediately.

Also among the dead, children and parents who were just bringing their kids to school here, Don. I spoke to one woman who said that she didn't see the crash, she heard it. And that when she ran out towards the kindergarten, she saw children being rescued from the scene. Some of them were literally on fire because the jet fuel led to a massive blaze. And when our team arrived on the scene, saw at least four bodies on the ground. There's wreckage everywhere in there from the helicopter. We've seen them remove some large pieces of the chopper just in the last hour.

But so far we don't know yet what caused this. It was bad weather this morning. Another man said he was smoking a cigarette on his balcony and he couldn't even see, he could only hear the crash because the fog was so thick. But we don't yet know conclusively. Authorities here saying that they are looking into every possible potential angle. But needless to say, a truly tragic day in a country that has experienced so much horror, so much sadness, and so much loss.

LEMON: Clarissa Ward, thank you very much.

COLLINS: Also this morning, the attorney who was the first one to discover those classified documents in President Biden's office has been interviewed by federal investigators. The personal attorney, Patrick Moore, made the discovery as he was packing up the office for the president. The administration turned over those documents, as we know, to the National Archives the next day. They vowed to keep up that kind of cooperation as they have found more documents.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: The president has been clear. We will absolutely fully -- and we have fully cooperated with the Justice Department. Certainly, we are aware of congressional concerns, and we'll answer those concerns fully appropriately. You can expect that the cooperation that this administration has exhibited to date will absolutely continue going forward.


COLLINS: Paula Reid is live in Washington. Paula, what do we know about this interview of Biden's personal attorney and how fast it happened?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, of course, Moore is at the center of this document discovery. So anyone looking at this is going to want to talk to him. What's interest that we learned in our reporting is this was not the kind of interview that involved a 302, that is the form that the government uses to memorialize interviews. So that suggests this was more of an informal conversation.

Of course, this was not a formal criminal investigation. This was just a review of the facts to determine whether or not a special counsel should be appointed. But this also suggests that special counsel, Robert Hur, is not going to get a lot of evidence. There is not a big paper trail here for him.


But now that he is working on putting together his team, once he completes that, he will have the opportunity to conduct other interviews, to reinterview view people like Moore if he wants. He can also avail himself of using a grand jury, something that the U.S. attorney in Chicago did not do during his review.

COLLINS: And Paula, we also have this new letter this morning from the National Archives to James Comer who is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee essentially saying they need to talk to the Justice Department before they can provide him with any of the information he's requesting. What else are they saying to Congressman Comer?

REID: That's exactly right. They're saying, look, we don't want to get in the way of an ongoing criminal investigation. So we have to consult with the Justice Department. They have to consult with the special counsel before we can share anything with you. They also pushed back on criticism that the Archives has somehow treated President Biden's case differently than former President Trump's case, specially noting that they did not publicly disclose their conversations with former President Trump until nine months after they began once they were reported in the press. They also note here that they've already met with lawmakers to discuss all the things that they are demanding. But of course, this response is unlikely to quell claims by Republicans that there is somehow some sort of double standard in these two cases, because, of course, we know from our reporting that these are two very different cases, and so far it does appear that the Archives is handling and proceeding pretty much the same way.

COLLINS: Yes, it says the National Archives had no knowledge of the raid that happened at Mar-a-Lago before it actually occurred. Paula Reid, I know you're staying on top of this, so thank you.

LEMON: Also in Washington, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is now official an insider. The once shunned conspiracy theorist has landed a pair of powerful committee assignments, Homeland Security and Oversight. I want to underline that point, the same woman who pushed 9/11 conspiracy theories is now on the Homeland Security Committee. And that's just scratching the surface.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R-GA): The so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon, it's odd there's never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.

There is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now.

How do you get avid gun owners and people that support the Second Amendment to give up their guns? Maybe you accomplish that by performing a mass shooting into a crowd. You make them scared. You make them victims, and you change their mind sight.

Kennedy getting killed in a plane crash, that's another one of those Clinton murders, right.

We're talking about who is Q, who I'm going to tell you what he says. According to him, many in our government are actively worshipping Satan, or they call Moloch. Q is saying that they participate in pedophilia and spirit cooking.

We already saw there was an email that came out of the WikiLeaks emails where, was it Cheryl Mills, and she told Hillary Clinton in an email that she was going to sacrifice a chicken to Moloch in her backyard.

Saudi Arabia, the Rothschilds, and Soros, he says, are the puppet masters that fund this global evil.

There's a once in a lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan worshiping pedophiles out.


LEMON: Don't forget about Jewish space lasers. Homeland Security Committee oversees the border and will likely play a role in the potential impeachment of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and a seat on the Oversight Committee will put her in a position to investigate President Joe Biden. It's a lot of power for someone who was stripped of her committee assignments two years ago because of her extreme views.

COLLINS: Not just Marjorie Taylor Greene, another Republican in the House has also been placed on committees to some controversy. Newly elected Congressman George Santos is not on one but two different committees despite growing pressure for him to resign because of the lies and exaggerations and fabrications he has made about his resume and background. A good chunk of those lies had to do with his business experience. One of the committees he is going to serve on is the Committee on Small Business. He did not get the financial committee that he wanted to be on, though. The other that he is going to be sitting on is the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Some of Santos's Republican colleagues are defending the decision to give him those committee seats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are concerns about his past. Why give him committee assignments?

REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK, (R-GA): Again, he hasn't committed a crime. He hasn't been indicted on anything at this point. And in this country, you're innocent until proven guilty. So we're going to treat him like any other member, and keep an eye on it.


LEMON: Keep an eye on it.

COLLINS: For perspective now, I want to bring in Miles Taylor, former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. Miles, neither of these are really plum assignments, they're not ones that a lot of lawmakers are seeking to get. But the fact that he did still get two committees seems to be an obvious indication of how Republicans are going to deal with George Santos.


MILES TAYLOR, FORMER DHS CHIEF OF STAFF, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Yes, it says a lot, Kaitlan, about what they're going to try to do. But I think even more significantly is where they didn't put George Santos. So my sources on Capitol Hill tell me that they had originally considered him for several national security committees, but decided against it because they didn't want to trust George Santos with classified information.

So that tells you two things. One, it tells you they view something like the Small Business Committee as a throwaway committee, and two, that I guess somewhere within the Republican caucus, they do draw a line on which members they do and don't trust with classified information. And given all of the allegations surrounding George Santos, they decided to put him in, quote, safer committees.

LEMON: I wonder, Miles, if there is -- I don't want to say sleight of hand there -- if they're not telling him everything, because I would imagine that he thinks that, oh, I'm all good with everyone. I have these committee assignments. But are they essentially meeting behind closed doors and we can't trust this guy with this, or as my mom would say, treating him with a long handle spoon?

TAYLOR: Yes, I think that's probably right. I think that they're probably trying to put George Santos in the place that they think he can do the least amount of damage, I would like to say to the country, but probably the reality is they're probably putting him somewhere where he can do the least amount of damage to the party and to the House Republican Caucus before they're told by the House Ethics Committee where they stand on then things that George Santos did. You have to note that Kevin McCarthy and others keep trying to buy themselves time when it comes to George Santos by saying it will go through normal processes. In other words, that the ethics committee will look into the allegations and provide a recommendation. In the meantime, they want to handle him with kid gloves.

COLLINS: Yes, because the Ethics Committee moves famously very quickly. I'm kidding. It does not. It's so sluggish.


Miles, what's your reaction to Marjorie Taylor Greene being placed on the Homeland Security Committee?

LEMON: And the Oversight Committee as well.

TAYLOR: Look, no doubt. If I was still chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security I would tell the department something right now. I would tell you, you are not to brief her without my authorization. I don't think DHS, I don't think the intelligence community should trust this member of Congress. That's not speculative. That's based on what she's said in the past.

But even more significant is this. She is on the committee that's responsible for preventing acts of domestic terrorism. The January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol was by definition the largest domestic terrorist attack on the United States in a generation, and what did Marjorie Taylor Greene say about that attack? If she had been in charge, quote, "We would have won." That's extremely alarming.

In addition, the committee oversees election security. She tried to overturn an election. And of course, we've talked about, it receives very sensitive intelligence. And in the past she's accused the intelligence community of running deep state operations against Americans. So you really worry what she'll do with the information she gets on that committee. And remember, Donald Trump is always a phone call away. She's in regular touch with him as we've seen from pictures on the House floor during Kevin McCarthy's speakership battle.

LEMON: Interesting. Six Republicans have now placed six people who question the results of the 2020 election on Homeland Security, seven more on the Judiciary Committee. That kind of tells you where the GOP is going, and the American people are going to have to hang on for the ride. Miles, appreciate it.

COLLINS: I want to also remember Marjorie Taylor Greene became a close ally of Kevin McCarthy's in that speaker fight because he promised her a seat on the committee.

All right, this morning, also there's some chilling new video of the failed New Mexico State House candidate visiting the homes of local Democratic leaders, you see him here on this footage, before investigators say he orchestrated a conspiracy to target their homes with gunfire. We're going to talk to the district attorney who is handling the case with his questions next.

LEMON: And an attempted kidnapping of a barista, it's all caught on video. Something else that was caught on video, what police are saying about the disturbing encounter next.





KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR (voiceover): Caught on tape. This video showing the moment a man was trying to kidnap a barista from a drive- thru window. This incident took place from 5:00 a.m. Monday, it was in Washington State. You can see the barista was trying to hand the man change, when suddenly he grabbed her arm, yanked it toward him. Police say the suspect was trying to drag her through the window with a zip tie. The woman suffered minor cuts to her arms, and the police do now say the suspect is under arrest thanks to overwhelming support from the community. Just remarkable.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So, failed Republican candidate for New Mexico State Legislature Solomon Pena is set to be arraigned later today. Investigators said Pena ordered or directly participated in a series of shootings, at the homes of local and state Democratic officials, after refusing to accept the results of his landslide election loss this past November. Now, he has posted repeatedly to social media saying that the election was rigged. He has been charged with 15 felonies so far, and authorities are calling Pena, the ringleader of the string of shootings. So, joining me now Bernalillo County's District Attorney Sam Bregman. D.A. Bregman, thank you so much for joining us. Really disturbing --


LEMON: -- story. Key pieces of evidence that link Pena to these shootings. What do you have?

BREGMAN: Well, we obviously have the gunshots fired, the casings we -- you know, we -- there's a -- there's a lot of evidence there. We have the electronic communications. We have a significant amount of evidence, and we're very confident in our case moving forward.

LEMON: I want to ask you because I wonder if one of the key pieces of evidence is this Ring doorbell video, showing Pena looking for Debbie O'Malley in an address where she once lived. She didn't live there when he went, but there it is right there. What do you think about the efforts to speak to these officials in this video?

BREGMAN: Well, certainly, it clearly puts him at people's residences before the actual events occurred and crimes occurred. But yes, it indicates that, but thank God, no one was hurt on this. Thank God we don't have victims of -- more severe victims. In other words, hurt individual, but yes, it puts him -- it puts him at the residences.


LEMON: Yes, I've got to ask you about this, which is interesting because there's this confidential source that has told officials that Pena tried to -- he instructed shooters to aim low at around 8:00 p.m. because the targets would likely be lying down. I mean, what is that all about? This was clearly, if true, clearly thought out.

BREGMAN: Listen, this is an -- when you attack elected officials with violence, it is an attack on our democracy, it is unacceptable at every level, it doesn't matter if they're Democrats or Republicans. This kind of violence carrying out your politics, or election denying, or whatever it might be, in the -- in -- with acts of violence, shooting firearms into homes is unacceptable. We're going to do everything we can to bring all the individuals involved, including Mr. Pena to justice. And we are going to -- we're going to -- we're going to take care of this in a way to make sure that we're doing everything we can to -- because this is -- this is an attack on the entire community, right? This isn't just -- and this is an attack on democracy, and we're going to do something about it. And I'm looking forward -- I'm going to actually prosecute this case personally.

LEMON: OK, so let's talk about then some more of the evidence, because you have the video. Then we were showing pictures you saw on there with guns and seen him in a car with other people. But the Albuquerque Police Department have released photos, it says that they recovered from Pena's phone. They show him posing with guns, driving in a car with another man, there's the gun photo right there. There's one of him in the car with another man. The significance of these photos?

BREGMAN: Well, it clearly put some of the folks together, it clearly shows the kind of weaponry that was being used. It clearly shows a certain mentality here that we're dealing with. And it's not just that, it's the -- for example, all of the social media posting. I mean, we -- there is clear that this has been politically motivated in every way, shape, and form. And that's -- it's unacceptable.

LEMON: Why is it so important? You said you're going to prosecute this yourself. Why is this one so important to you?

BREGMAN: Because this was -- listen, every act of violence is unacceptable in Bernalillo County, in Albuquerque, and this office, the career prosecutors do a tremendous job with that. But I think the importance for the community -- you know, quite frankly, the community's pissed off about this stuff. And so am I, and I took this job with the -- with the idea that I was going -- I mean, I love being in the courtroom. I was going to prosecute some cases, and this is an important case for the entire community. And we cannot have elected officials being elected to office and then being terrified and -- or attempted to be terrified and intimidated. We're going to hold people responsible when they commit crimes, all levels of crimes, and especially this kind of political violence is absolutely unacceptable.

LEMON: All right. Bernalillo District Attorney Sam Bregman. Thank you. I appreciate it. Please come back and update us.

BREGMAN: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

COLLINS: He's got quite a case on his hands to deal with.


COLLINS: Yes. Also this morning, a voting system error has altered the outcome of a local election in New Jersey.

LEMON: And the Labor Department vowed to release a key inflation report. We're going to bring you those numbers, that's next. [08:25:00]


COLLINS: All right, a voting system error altered the outcome of a local election in New Jersey. Monmouth County's election systems vendor reports that a technician mistakenly uploaded votes two times from a USB during last November's election, which impacted a single race there. CNN's Omar Jimenez is covering this, and reporting on it here. Omar, what exactly was the error? What happened here?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the Monmouth County election vendor -- election system, basically said that this goes back to last July. They're reinstalling some software, and that there's an error that missed a step, that would have caught double counting of votes. That didn't happen. And so, we ended up with a situation where they say some -- a technician inadvertently double-counted votes as a USB drive was being uploaded.

Bottom line, this changed the results of an actual race, even though it was very, very small. So, Steve Clayton, this is a local school board race, I talked to him. He thought he won. And now, he found out only yesterday actually, you didn't win. And he told me this morning that it has been very difficult. I was elected two months ago, declared -- certified the winner. Got sworn in before friends and family on January the 3rd, worked very hard to return to the board he had previously served. Walked 21 miles the day before the election, earning votes through canvassing. And this was a race that initially came down to just 20 votes.

So, whatever the new difference is now, he told me that he hasn't given up yet. He's going to try to file for a recount because he says with anything that's close, might as well see what happens. But obviously, it's very concerning. And we've reached out to the county, the state officials as well for more details on how this could have happened, and haven't heard back. But obviously, concerning when you look at this. Didn't happen on a widespread, wide range in any manner, but obviously, (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: They say this is just an error, nothing nefarious that we don't know at this point.

JIMENEZ: They, at this point, at least the election system thinks, it's nothing nefarious. They know why this happened. But we're still trying to figure out what prompted basically an audit of this election that came from the county. We don't know what that specific reason was, but at least the election system says, it was for this reason, doesn't seem to be anything crazy.

LEMON: All right.

COLLINS: And we'll see how he handles it. I mean, of course, you know, we've been talking all morning about what's happening with Solomon Pena, and how he handled his election loss. It was clear as day. Omar Jimenez, thank you for that report. Yes, quite different. Just in, another new charge for the husband of the mother.