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CNN This Morning

Records Contradict Santos's Claim That His Mother Was in WTC on 9/11; U.S. to Hit Debt Limit Today; Microsoft Laying off 10,000 Workers; U.S. Set to Deliver Stryker Combat Vehicles to Ukraine; New Zealand Prime Minister to Step Down; Prosecutor: Brian Walshe Killed and Dismembered Wife. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: GPS services are routinely used by smart phones. But Lockheed Martin says it also serves military purposes.


All right. Thanks for joining us here at "EARLY START" this morning. I'm Christine Romans. I hope you have a wonderful Thursday. CNN THIS MORNING starts in just a minute.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was in the South Tower, and she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud. My mom fought cancer till her death.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, it's really -- I don't know, what is it becoming? Like?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know, but there is a line that gets crossed in the level of lies we've talked about. You know, we joked about things like the scarf and volleyball championship team. This is, like, a different level.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, everybody. Kaitlan and I are here. Poppy is off today. We were talking about George Santos.

And the question I was really asking her is, is there no bottom? Right? Like, where does this end?

It's one of -- one of Republican Congressman George Santos's most brazen claims, OK, that his mom was inside the World Trade Center, survived the 9/11 attacks, only to die of cancer. CNN uncovering evidence that his mom wasn't even in the United States at the time.

Plus this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He searched, "How long before a body starts to smell?" At 4:58 a.m., "How to stop a body from decomposing."


Gruesome Google searches and a disturbing shopping list prosecutors laying out explosive evidence as the husband of the missing Massachusetts mother, Ana Walshe, stands accused of murder.

LEMON: And let us talk about the U.S. economy, headed toward a cliff? We could hit the debt limit today. We're going to break down what that means for you and the serious fallout Americans are facing if Congress fails to act.

But we have to begin with this. OK? Another day, another apparent George Santos lie.

New York's new Republican Congressman has repeatedly claimed that his mother was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, but new immigration records obtained by CNN contradict that claim.

Straight now to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, who joins us now from Washington this morning.

Good morning. The lies just keep getting worse and worse. What do you know at this moment?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: They certainly do, Don. And this is on such a sensitive subject: how and when his mother died.

On multiple occasions, Santos has claimed his mother was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and intimated that led to her death later on in 2016. And this is a claim that was on his campaign website and he repeated many times. Here's how he put it in his own words just in the last year.


SANTOS: My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was in the South Tower. And she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud. My mom fought cancer until her death.


SERFATY: But we now know that his mother was not in New York and was not even in this country during 9/11. Newly-uncovered immigration records show his mother was actually in Brazil between 1999 and 2003.

Representatives for Santos, Don, did not even get back to CNN when asked about this contradiction.

LEMON: Well, Sunlen, I've got to ask you, because we also learned that -- that Santos allegedly stole $3,000 from a GoFundMe that could have saved a sick dog. What do you know about that?

SERFATY: That's right. This was a GoFundMe page that George Santos set up for a veteran to help raise funds for a life-saving procedure that his pit bull needed at the time. And the owner of the dog, as well as another veteran, they're saying

now that they never saw that money. They never received the $3,000 that they said was raised for this dog.

And the veteran says when he tried to go and access the funds Santos was uncooperative in getting him the money. And they produced these text message exchanges with Santos, one where they accused him directly at the time of running a bogus charity.

Santos tells CNN that he has no clue what this veteran is talking about.

LEMON: Sunlen, joining us from Washington. Thank you very much, Sunlen. Appreciate that.

By the way, the veteran is going to join CNN this morning live in our next hour -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Also today, the United States is expected to hit its debt ceiling, technically. The limit currently stands at $31.4 trillion. Here are three things to know about this, why this matters to so many people.

Because it's not just this big idea of just a fight for Washington. This actually really matters, Christine Romans, about what the implications of this -- hitting this today and how much time is left. What does it mean?

ROMANS: This is a really important moment, really. Because this is the upper limit of what the U.S. can borrow. And the United States is run on borrowed money. Right? We run deficits, and that adds to the national debt.

This is going to be a political fight, but this is a Main Street story here. No question this is a Main Street story.

And what will happen here next is the U.S., starting today, the treasury secretary is going to have to do what we call extraordinary measures. Essentially, it buys time. Four or five months, I think, is how much they can -- they can stop some investments, suspend some new investments, which is a point of weakness for the U.S. government.


You want to be always investing in the right retirement accounts for civil servants, for example.


ROMANS: But this will be moving the money around, if you will, accounting moves for four or five months until this becomes a real crisis that could be a default.

COLLINS: So it buys time, but it doesn't actually solve the problem.

HARLOW: That's absolutely right. And the problem is that the U.S. borrows so much money and then fights

over whether to pay the bills they've already spent. And I want to be really clear here.

What you're talking about, if you don't raise the debt ceiling, if not paying for what you have already spent. New spending is something else. Right? And we know that the GOP wants to put -- some of the GOP want to put some spending restrictions on any kind of rise in the -- in the debt limit.

But if you don't raise the debt ceiling, eventually, you have to decide which bills to pay. Right? You could default on your debt. That is something that has never happened and can never happen. The reason why the U.S. is the gold standard in the global financial system is because we always pay our bills on time.

Or you start to delay payments to federal workers. You delay Social Security and veteran benefits. Can you imagine in the position where you are giving an IOU to a member of the military, who's defending this country, because you haven't raised the debt limit and you can't actually pay your bills?

That's an incredibly weak position for the U.S. to be operating from.

COLLINS: Yes. And basically, this is -- I mean, this is something that I feel like we always deal with. It's always this perennial issue. We've seen showdowns before.

But this is going to be -- I think, given this new Republican House majority, and the fight we just saw play out over how to pick a House speaker, this is going to be, potentially, the messiest fight that we've seen in a decade.

ROMANS: I think it is. The political risk is the most it's been in a decade.

But I spoke to someone this morning, a financial manager this morning, who said, look, they always go to the brink and then realize what the risks are and then step back.

And the risks are big. You're talking about job losses. You're talking about a 401(k) shrinking. You're talking about higher costs for mortgages. Spiking borrowing costs that, ironically, would add to the national debt, which is what we're fighting about in the first case.

So if you don't handle it right and smartly you make the problem worse. And then it's all a self-fulfilling problem.

So there's a big discussion. Financial -- people in financial markets, we just shake our heads about why Washington does this. You know better than I do.

COLLINS: Do you want them to get rid of it? I mean, what is --

ROMANS: Yes. There are a lot of people who say that have done so many times, they go to the brink on this. They should just get rid of it. And the spending restraint comes in the appropriations process, right?


ROMANS: It comes in the beginning. It shouldn't come at the end when you're paying the bills.

COLLINS: Well, here it is. We'll see what happens.

ROMANS: Here it is.

COLLINS: We're going to talk to some officials at the White House later on. Christine Romans, thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.


LEMON Yes. I mean, it's obviously a big issue, just looking at the couple papers. "The Wall Street Journal" has "Retail sales post biggest drop of 2022." And then it's also one, "Microsoft cuts cast a pall on the economy," which we're going to talk about now with Vanessa Yurkevich.

The tech industry is taking another hit. Microsoft plans to lay off 10,000 workers. The tech giant says it's part of a broader move toward cutting costs.

Vanessa is here. Vanessa, what is going on with this? This is another hit to tech jobs in 2023.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Another one in a line -- in a string of tech layoffs that we've seen from major companies.

One analyst saying these companies were spending like rock stars during the pandemic, and now they're facing a new economic reality.

And just yesterday, we heard from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Davos, at the World Economic Forum. And he really put it into perspective.

He said, quote, "No one can defy gravity, and gravity here is inflation adjusted economic growth."

And a lot of these tech companies are hedging on a potential recession. That's not off the table yet.

And so Microsoft laying off 10,000 workers. That's a little less than 5 percent of the overall company. But they join Amazon, Lyft, Coinbase, and other major tech companies that have done layoffs over the last couple of months.

Just in January alone -- the month is not over yet -- just this month, 37,000 layoffs in tech.


YURKEVICH: That is the largest amount of tech layoffs that we've seen in the last year, going back to January 2022, except for one month when you had all of those major, major companies laying people off in December.

But significant, just adding to the toll that it's really taking on these tech companies.

LEMON: Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

COLLINS: Also today a definitive declaration from President Zelenskyy, bluntly saying that he does believe Ukraine will retake Crimea, which, of course, was illegally annexed by Russia nearly a decade ago under the Obama administration. President Obama was in office, I should say.

Both Russia and Ukraine both claim ownership over Crimea. It has become the symbolic battleground in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking to the World Economic Forum, President Zelenskyy said Crimea is, quote, "our land," and he urged Western allies to provide him with more weaponry to regain what is ours.


And now President Biden may be willing to do just that. According to a new report from "The New York Times" this morning, they say that, despite the hard line that they've taken in the past, with the United States refusing to provide Kyiv with far-reaching weapons, now that line is starting to soften.

Of course, the United States has always maintained that Crimea does belong to Ukraine, that it was illegally taken by Russia. But this comes as the U.S. is also set to announce one of the biggest military aid packages to Ukraine since the beginning of this war nearly a year ago.

It is expected to be worth $2.5 billion, and the first time, it's going to include Stryker combat vehicles.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is joining us now. Alex, good morning. Tell us exactly what these Stryker vehicles mean to Ukraine and what it is going to do for the forces there on the ground who so clearly need the help.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, what is notable in this massive new package, expected to be around $2 billion, as you say, is both what is new in it and what is not in it that the Ukrainians have been desperately asking for.

The new elements are the Stryker combat vehicles. They are armored vehicles that will allow Ukrainian troops to be carried across the battlefield, giving the Ukrainians a significant new mechanized capability, particularly when combined with the Bradley fighting vehicles, which were just committed to Ukraine by the United States in the last aid package earlier this month, which was and is to this date the biggest military aid package.

Those two together will allow Ukrainians to really go on the offensive, to try to take back territory.

Now, the Stryker is lighter and faster than the Bradley. But the two together really do give the Ukrainians a significant new mechanized capability.

COLLINS: And Alex, this also comes as there's this remarkable showdown happening between the United States and Germany. It seems to be kind of percolating here, where there is this new German defense minister, over the decision about sending tanks to Ukraine. What's the latest on that?

MARQUARDT: Well, Kaitlan, the U.S. does want Ukraine to get new Western tanks. They are not sending their own tanks, American tanks, because they're too logistically challenging.

The tank that most have settled on that would be best for the Ukrainian fight is the Leopard 2, which as you say, is made by Germany.

In fact, the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, is in Germany as we speak, in Berlin meeting with his German counterpart to press the Germans to send this tank to Ukraine.

Now, the Germans have said they don't want to go this alone. They don't want to be the only country out there doing that. And other countries are saying, we're ready to go with you. The Brits have committed a squadron of their tanks. Other European countries saying they're ready to send their Leopard tanks if Germany gives the word.

Germany has to give permission, because these are German tanks. Senior defense officials saying just yesterday they are very optimistic that they can get Germany to that point by the end of the week -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: All right. We'll see what Secretary Austin does. Alex, thank you.

LEMON: And something else this morning. A political stunner out of New Zealand. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, says she is stepping down in less than a month.

She choked up as she explained her decision, saying that she just doesn't have enough energy for the demands of the job anymore.


JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have. But also one of the more challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges.

This summer I had hoped to find a way to prepare not just for another year but another two, because that is what this year requires. I have not been able to do that.

And so today, I'm announcing that I will not be seeking re-election. And that my term as prime minister will conclude no later than the 7th of February.

Politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can, and then it's time. And for me, it's time.


LEMON: Well, Ardern was elected in 2017 when she was just 37 years old, and she handled a lot in her five and a half years in office, including a baby. She gave birth a year after she took office. Only one other leader in modern times has done that, and that's Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto.

Ardern was the first to bring her infant to the U.N. assembly hall. The babe, Neve, was just three months old at the time. But the P.M. chalks it all up to just being a working mom.


ARDERN: Obviously, this is -- this is the norm for women who enter into motherhood. So whilst I hope there will be a day when it isn't worthy of comment, currently it is. And so I accept that. But there will be a time.


LEMON: Her tenure has just seen its challenges -- has seen a lot of challenges, including what Ardern herself called one of New Zealand's darkest days, when a gunman opened fire at two Christchurch mosques, killing more than 50 people. That was in 2019.

In the aftermath, she refused to speak the killer's name.



ARDERN: He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. And to others, I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we, in New Zealand, will give him nothing. Not even his name.


LEMON: And weeks later she spearheaded the passage of a bill that banned most semiautomatic weapons.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic.


ARDERN: If you're not working in essential services, then -- then you shouldn't be going out to work. But by and large, we're very keen that you stay home. That you stay within what we call your bubble, the bubble of people THAT you'll be with for the next four weeks.


LEMON: Well, early on, Ardern was praised for her go-hard and go early approach, which played a major role in her 2020 re-election.

But she faced growing backlash as time wore on from people opposed to those mandates.

There was a three-week long protest outside the Parliament last year that ended with -- with hurled rocks and fires.

Another legacy: dealing with sexism. Last fall, she hit back at a reporter who suggested she only met with Finland's prime minister because they're both young women.


ARDERN: My first question is, I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were of similar age? We, of course, have a higher proportion of men in politics. It's reality. Because two women meet, it's not simply because of their gender.


LEMON: Well, she may be an icon to some, but her popularity at home has waned recently. Radio New Zealand polls from last year showed that her support as preferred prime minister was hovering around 30 percent. That is the lowest level since she took office, a s New Zealand braces for a recession and confronts a cost-of-living crisis.

Certainly an interesting turn of events.

Again, it doesn't feel like she -- it was that long ago that she was elected. But in that time, in that short time, since 2017, she's definitely dealt with a lot.

COLLINS: She's been in office for -- yes, for several years, and she has dealt with serious challenges.

But she's been one of these world leaders who has really stood out. She's faced all of these, you know, criticisms and whatnot. And she had that moment recently with the other PM, the other young woman. And they were talking about what it's like. They got this question about if they were meeting because they had so much in common.

LEMON: So wasn't she part of the one who was like you're so young -- maybe that was someone else. But I think when she came and talked --

COLLINS: I think that was the Finnish PM, yes.

LEMON: They were asking her, too, when she came into office about her age and what have you. Certain challenges that she faced as a woman. COLLINS: Yes. And she was saying no. No, I'm just a world leader.

LEMON: Just a world leader.

COLLINS: It has nothing to do with me being a woman or my age.

LEMON: But can you believe, though, Kaitlan, that she -- like, no one had brought their baby. I mean, that speaks volumes. That a simple act of bringing your child to work could have such a worldwide impact.



COLLINS: Absolutely.

LEMON: All right.

COLLINS: All right. Also this morning here at home, one of the FBI's most troubling discoveries at Mar-a-Lago were empty folders with classified markings, 48 of them that they found. So what happened to the highly-sensitive documents inside? Were there ever documents inside? Former President Trump has a new explanation. but the question is, does it hold any water?

LEMON: Plus, disturbing Google searches and a shopping trip to Home Depot. Prosecutors beginning to lay out their murder case against the husband of the missing Massachusetts mother, Ana Walshe.



COLLINS: All right. A hazmat suit, a hacksaw, and a gruesome list on online searches on how to get rid of a body.

Prosecutors say this is all proof that Brian Walshe murdered his wife, Ana, the missing Massachusetts mother who vanished more than two weeks ago. Notably, investigators have not found a body, but they decided to file a murder charge anyway, based on all the evidence that they have been able to uncover.

As they read that list of what he had Googled, Brian Walshe shook his head in court yesterday, as the prosecutor went through what he was searching for, allegedly, on his young son's iPad.

It was almost too difficult to listen to. Among the searches, quote, "Can you be charged with murder without a body?"

Jason Carroll is live in Quincy, Massachusetts. He's been covering this story for us. Jason, you know, obviously, we don't believe that prosecutors have been able to locate a body, but they have been able to find DNA evidence and tools that they say he allegedly used to dismember this body.

What else did we learn from prosecutors yesterday? JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, key to their

case, Kaitlan, some of it you mentioned there, will be those alleged Internet searches from Walshe. Searches that included information not only about DNA and divorce but also about decomposing bodies.


LYNN BELAND, PROSECUTOR: Rather than a divorce, it is believed that Brian Walshe dismembered Ana Walshe and discarded her body.

CARROLL (voice-over): Chilling new details revealed in court by prosecutors, describing the evidence against the Massachusetts father who allegedly murdered his wife and allegedly tried to cover it up.

Brian Walshe, in custody since January 8th, when he was charged with misleading investigators for searching for his wife, was in court for the arraignment Wednesday and formally charged with Ana Walshe's murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you understand the charges, Mr. Walshe?


CARROLL (voice-over): The prosecution laid out some of the disturbing evidence against Walshe, saying he used his son's iPad to make numerous online searches.

BELAND: On December 27th, defendant Googled, "What's the best state to divorce for a man?"

At 4:55 a.m. on January 1st, he searched, "How long before a body starts to smell?"

At 4:58 a.m., "How to stop a body from decomposing."

CARROLL (voice-over): Later that morning, he Googled, "Can identification be made on partial remains" and "Dismemberment and the best ways to dispose of a body."

On January 2nd at 12:45 p.m., Walshe searched, "Hacksaw, best tool to dismember." And at 1:10, "Can you be charged with murder without a body?"

The following afternoon, the searches continued, with Walshe searching at around 1 p.m., "What happens to hair on a dead body?"


During the course of the investigation, police found ten trash bags from a Dumpster and trash facility, with items including towels, rags, slippers, tape, gloves, cleaning agents, a COVID-19 vaccination card with Ana Walshe's name on it, a hacksaw and a hatchet.

They also discovered personal items, including a portion of a necklace believed to have been worn by Ana Walshe in several photos. Tests of some of these items by the state crime lab determined the presence of DNA from both Ana and Brian Walshe.

After the arraignment, defense attorney Tracy Miner called out prosecutors for leaks in the case, saying in a statement, "In my experience, where, as here, the prosecution leaks so-called evidence to the press before they provide it to me, their case isn't that strong."


CARROLL: And Kaitlan, also during the arraignment, we got some sort of a hint as to what could be a possible motive in all of this. Again, I point you back to some of those alleged Internet searches, two in particular.

One that had to do with Walshe allegedly searching "What is the best state for a man to get a divorce in," and the second one, "How to inherit once someone has gone missing" -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Just so awful for her and for her friends and family. Jason Carroll, thank you for that update.

All right. Not in the World Trade Center, not even in the United States. New documents obtained by CNN overnight debunking Congressman George Santos's claim about his mother's death and 9/11.


COLLINS: Will his party and the leaders respond?

LEMON: Sorry about that "Wow." It's just every day it gets crazier.

Plus, the Coast Guard is keeping its eyes on a Russian ship that is sailing off the coast of Hawaii. Is it being used to spy, is the question.