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New Claims by George Santos; Mark Esper is Interviewed about Classified Documents and Ukraine; New Study on Mass Shootings. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 06:30   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: George Santos' claim uncovered.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY) (through translator): We have suffered life attack, assassination attempt, threatening letter, having to have security guards and police escorts standing in front of our house.


LEMON: OK, so Santos telling a Brazilian podcaster he survived an assassination attempt on his life. That's not all.


LEMON: OK, today there's another one. Another story about George Santos and the list of his wild claims just keeps getting longer. New York's newly minted Republican congressman telling a Brazilian podcaster in December, after winning his seat, that he survived an assassination attempt. Santos also claimed that he was mugged by two men in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue.

CNN's Eva McKend with the latest from Washington.

OK, Eva, what - good morning. And now what?


You would think if there was a mugging in broad daylight in the middle of the summer in Manhattan as someone was leaving a commercial building and the victim was robbed right down to his shoes, as Santos claims, there would be a police report.


But a source at the NYPD tells CNN, no such report exists.

Now, to be clear, that doesn't mean this incident didn't occur, but it certainly raises eyebrows in the context of the many false claims that Santos has made. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us if you lied on your financial disclosure report to Congress?

MCKEND (voice over): Embattled Congressman George Santos, back at work on Capitol Hill, dodging tough questions from reporters, as new revelations about public claims he's made continue to pile up.

The latest coming from a recently released interview with a Brazilian podcast that was taped in December, shortly after Santos won election in New York's Third District. Santos claimed in the interview, done in Portuguese, that he was mugged on Fifth Avenue in New York City in the summer of 2021 as he was walking out a commercial building in broad daylight.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY) (through translator): They robbed me, took my bag, my shoes, and watch.

MCKEND: But a source with the New York Police Department tells CNN there's no record Santos reported the alleged crime. The lack of a report doesn't mean the alleged incident didn't take place, but it draws further scrutiny of the claim made by Santos, who has already admitted to lying about key parts of his biography.

Another claim Santos made in the interview that's raising eyebrows, that he survived an assassination attempt.

SANTOS (through translator): We have suffered life attack, assassination attempt, threatening letter, having to have security guards and police escorts standing in front of our house.

MCKEND: But Santos did not go into any further details or provide any corroborating evidence.

In the same podcast, Santos suggested he was living comfortably, enough to make a pledge to donate his congressional salary to charity. He declined to answer questions about that vow on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On a Brazilian podcast, you said you would donate your salary. Do you still plan to do that?

MCKEND: The 34-year-old did say he would cooperate with a potential upcoming House ethics investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you cooperate with an ethics investigation.

SANTOS: Absolutely.

MCKEND: Santos wasn't among his colleagues at the new member reception this evening at the White House, though he was invited.

SANTOS: I just didn't have the time. It wasn't on my schedule. Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing instead? SANTOS: Constituent services.

MCKEND: Santos already facing questions about his future plans, including whether he'll run for re-election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you running for re-election in 2024?

SANTOS: Wow, it's so early for that question. I just got here, guys.


MCKEND: So, I reached out to Santos' congressional staff about the many claims he made in that podcast. Didn't get a response.

But back in Santos' district, the Concerned Citizens of New York Three, that's a bipartisan group organized by a Democrat though, they are calling on Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, their fellow New Yorker, to use her leadership position to drive Santos out.


LEMON: All right. I'm sure there will be something else tomorrow, Eva. Thank you very much for that.

In the meantime, another leader caught with classified documents at home. This time it is the former VP, Mike Pence. How does this keep happening? Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is going to give us his take. There he is. You see him in the wall. That's next.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Also, emotions running very high in Memphis as people demand accountability, answers, transparency and they want to see the video of the police beating of Tyre Nichols. A warning, some of this language and what you'll see is very disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about transparency. And, damn it, we gonna have it or we need a refund on our tax dollars that we pay.

The public wants to see what happened. We want to know, are we really employing people that think it's OK to beat the shit out of folks?


LEMON: Wow. A live report from Memphis is straight ahead.




STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Now both Joe Biden and Mike Pence have been found to have material dating from the time that they were vice president. This never used to happen. Previous Veeps had method to dispose of this kind of thing. Al Gore would immediately recycle documents, and, Dick Cheney, of course, would shoot them in the face.


LEMON: So, the FBI, the Justice Department, are investigating a dozen new classified documents found in former Vice President Mike Pence's Indiana home. And now federal law enforcement wants to know what's in the documents and how they ended up at Pence's home.

Here's what Pence said last fall.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?


MUIR: Do you see any reason for anyone to take classified documents with them leaving the White House?

PENCE: Well, there would be no reason to have classified documents, particularly if they were in an unprotected area.


LEMON: Yes, well, these responses, a lot of them getting these folks into hot water now.

And joining us now, the former defense secretary under President Trump, and that's Mark Esper. I should say President Trump and Vice President Pence, as a matter of fact, right?

Good morning to you, sir.


LEMON: Thanks for joining.

OK, so, listen, when he said I didn't take, maybe he didn't. Maybe it was a staffer. But still, you know, he's saying there's no reason for someone to have them in their possession. What do you think of Pence's - of them finding in his home and his denial in that ABC interview?

ESPER: Well, first, I -- I've known Mike Pence for a few years now as vice president. I think he's a man of integrity. And I think he -- he takes the handling of classified documents seriously.

And with regard to his response, he's correct, there's no need for anybody to have classified documents outside a secure facility.

But, look, an investigation needs to happen to find out what occurred. I did see a report yesterday that apparently the boxes were never unpacked or touched since leaving the White House a couple years ago.

[06:45:04] But we need to find out what happened and do an assessment.

LEMON: I wonder if you feel the same way about the current president, because Lindsey Graham has said the same thing that you just said similarly about the current president saying that he's a man of integrity and he would highly doubt that there's something nefarious going on. Do you feel the same way about Biden?

ESPER: Again, I think you need to - you need to investigate it and find out what happened.

What's - what's really perplexing for me --

LEMON: I meant the integrity part. I meant the - the -

ESPER: Oh, well, I don't know -


ESPER: I don't know President Biden well. I know Mike Pence. And I've had numerous interactions with him. So, that's not to say one way or the other.

But what's most perplexing about Biden's thing or the documents from the Senate, you know, that was over 16 or so years ago. I worked in the House, the Senate. There aren't that many documents floating around, and certainly not outside of really secure facilities and committee spaces.


ESPER: That's a really one perplexing for me.

HARLOW: I think that's a fair point, especially given that he was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the issues you would deal with that would be classified there.

Secretary, there is, though, the question of overclassification, right? I mean when you tried to get your memoir cleared during your time in the - in the Trump administration, the Pentagon blocked a lot of it because of overclassification - or classification claims. Take them to court. You win. They pull back a bunch of their redactions.

Looking back at a "Washington Post" editorial all the way back in '98, 1998, governments keep too many secrets, it keeps materials classified far too long.

Is this evidence perhaps that's correct?

ESPER: Could be. There is a lot of overclassification. And overclassification of things that should be transparent to the American people or overclassification that has - that actually hurts our national security because we don't share this information with allies and partners. And so it's -- it's gone on for years, this overclassification. We need to tackle that problem. And, of course, I had that issue with my book. And, you know, after I took them to court, they quickly backed down on nearly all the things that they had classified, although still -- there are still are a few things that remain redacted in my memoir.



HARLOW: Go ahead.

LEMON: I'm sorry, go ahead.

HARLOW: I just thought we should turn to Ukraine.

LEMON: Yes, that's what I want to do, I want to talk about Ukraine.


LEMON: Because it appears some good news this morning, Germany is saying that they're going to send their Leopard II tanks to Ukraine. The U.S. is, of course, sending tanks as well. Will this make a difference on the battlefield do you think?

ESPER: Tanks will make a extraordinarily big difference because they are what is needed to conduct a counter offensive by Ukraine to really push Russia out of eastern Ukraine and out of the south, to include Crimea.

The challenge now is to get those tanks quickly to the Ukrainian army, to train them, to make sure the maintenance and logistics are in place because we all expect one of two things will happen, Russia will conduct an offensive in March or hopefully Ukraine will conduct a counter offensive before then.

But March is only five weeks away. And you have to get the tanks there, you have to train crews. That takes a lot of time as well. So, we're really up against the clock right now.

HARLOW: Just one question to you before you go, Secretary, on our colleague Natasha Bertrand's reporting yesterday that I think is really important, and that is how closely the Biden administration is -- will have raised concerns, actually, with China about anything potentially -- Chinese companies selling non-lethal equipment to Russia.

You've talked about how Beijing is watching very closely what the U.S. is doing right now. What is your concern, because remember at the outset of the war they -- China and Russia had publicly declared this friendship without limits.

ESPER: Right. No, they announced that strategic partnership in very explicit terms just before the February 24th invasion last year. And it's continued. We believe that Chinese entities are buying Russian energy and things like that.

But, look, I think clearly Russia is suffering. They've -- due to economic sanctions, financial sanctions, other things. And what we don't need are countries like China providing them arms, armaments, assistance, technology, you name it. Whatever Russia needs to resuscitate its military machine, we need to block that. And that would be my immediate concern with regard to Ukraine.

HARLOW: So you would share that concern.

Secretary Esper -

LEMON: Can I -


LEMON: Can I just get one clarification just to make sure here because you never know. And I'm wondering how many officials in Washington are going through their things, Secretary, to make sure that they don't have documents.

You have handled classified information for decades. Have you taken a look, excuse me, in your home to make sure that you don't have documents anywhere or in your offices or any of your possession?

ESPER: Yes, look, I've had a security clearance since the age of 18. And we handle it very, very diligently at DOD. And I'm confident I have no documents. I - you know, when I left office last year, the few boxes I went through, I went through quickly. And my staff was very diligent about these things. So, I'm confident that's not the case.

LEMON: Thank you, Secretary. Always a pleasure. Appreciate you joining.

ESPER: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

HARLOW: A new study looks at the patterns of people who commit acts of mass violence. What most of these attackers have in common. We will tell you ahead.



HARLOW: Welcome back to CNN THIS MORNING. There is a new mass study and it finds that most -- there's a new study that finds that most mass shooters have something in common. They have usually suffered a major setback in life. This report looked at 173 mass casualty incidents between 2016 and 2020 and it found that most attackers experienced a significant personal change in the year before they carried out that attack. Fascinating.

Our Whitney Wild joins me with more.

Whitney, good morning. What else can you tell us?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. Well, as they shared this, basically major life setback in the year

before the attack, attackers also frequently display concerning or threatening behavior in the years prior to actually committing an attack. And these behaviors are often noticed and reported by people closest to them.

Again, this includes, in the year before the attack, a significant personal challenge that can include a financial problem, a family problem, a health problem. Interestingly, the motivations varied, but half of the attackers were motivated at least in part by some kind of grievance.


And while behaviors are similar, there's no standard demographic profile. So, let's look at the demographics here. About half of the attackers were white, 34 percent were black, two-thirds of the attackers had a criminal history. And, notably, 73 percent of the attackers used firearms.

And when we look across the spectrum of -- for whom this information is so important, Poppy, what the data really shows is that this is affecting every sector of society. The head of the National Threat Assessment Center for the Secret Service pointed out that they are hearing from people who are eager for this information and eager for training. They train tens of thousands of people across the spectrum every day. That includes people who represent a range of groups, like law enforcement, major sports leagues, major sports teams, and they concluded by saying simply, to combat this issue, it takes buy-in from all levels and it takes the money and the people to actually respond. Poppy, that falls upon all of us.

Back to you.

HARLOW: It certainly does. That is fascinating, Whitney, thank you very much for explaining it to us.

Coming up we've got a new CNN poll about how the American people, how you feel about the appointment of special counsel to investigate classified documents found at President Biden's home.