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CNN This Morning

Today: Supreme Court Hears Biden's Student Debt Forgiveness Plan; Murdoch Admits Some Fox Hosts "Endorsed" 2020 Election Lies; Murdoch: It Was "Wrong" For Carlson To Host Lindell After Election; Yellen Visit Kyiv, Reaffirms Economic Support To Ukraine; Vladimir Putin Addresses His Federal Security Service; Contaminated Waste To Facilities, EPA Chief To East Palestine; Contaminated Soil & Liquids To Resume Trips To EPA-Certified Sites. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 28, 2023 - 07:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: In this this case, because there's two arguments we made before the court is that you guys are picking and choosing. That you're picking those with federal student loans and not those that are -- have private loans. How do you respond to that argument for folks that say, where's our relief?

MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Right. We can control our loans. We can't control other loans. And I think it's very hypocritical for some who are making an argument that we shouldn't do this, because some of them have received debt relief themselves.

I know one representative who has received over $1 million in debt relief last year or the year before, and is now arguing against $10,000 in debt relief for veterans? Please. That's hypocrisy. So it is the right thing to do.


CARDONA: 40 million Americans are waiting. And we have the legal authority to do it.

HARLOW: I hear you. I -- look, at the crux of this is how much power does the President have? Where's the legal authority? Should this have gone through Congress, through an act of Congress, with the power of the poor (ph)? Secretary Cardona, we will listen to oral arguments at 10:00 a.m. Eastern today before the court. Thanks very much.

CARDONA: Thank you.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, the 2020 election lies at Fox News personalities told their viewers and what Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted about them under oath.


[07:35:19] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The billionaire chairman of the company that owns Fox News is now admitting under oath that the host on the network promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen. An acknowledgment that we're learning about because of a lawsuit that was filed by Dominion Voting Systems.

Rupert Murdoch conceded in his deposition that his hosts were pushing lies to the audience. I want to read you parts of the deposition compared with what the hosts were actually saying in real time telling people who are watching on air.

One of the questions he was asked was, "You are now aware that Fox endorsed at times this false notion of a stolen election? Murdoch answered, "Not Fox. No. Not Fox. But maybe Lou Dobbs, maybe Maria, as commentators. The lawyer asked question, "We went through Fox hosts, Maria Bartiromo, yes? And Murdoch responded, "Yes. Come on."


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS HOST: And Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.

SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL FLYNN: Let's put it mildly, the computer glitches could not and should not have happened in -- at all. That is where the fraud took place.


COLLINS: Then Murdoch was asked, "What about Fox host Jeanine Pirro?" He answered, quote, "I think so."


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: The president's lawyers alleging a company called Dominion, which they say started in Venezuela with Cuban money and with the assistance of Smartmatic software, a backdoor is capable of flipping votes.


COLLINS: Another question posed to Murdoch, "Fox Business host Lou Dobbs?" His answer, "Oh, a lot".


LOU DOBBS, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: This President has to take, I believe, drastic action, dramatic action to make certain that the integrity of this election is understood or lack of it, the crimes that have been committed against him and the American people.


COLLINS: "But what about Fox host Sean Hannity?" Murdoch's answer, "A bit."


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: It will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results.


COLLINS: In a statement to CNN yesterday, we should note that a Fox News spokesperson said, quote, "Dominion's lawsuit has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual scrutiny." The network's attorneys are also arguing that Fox's coverage was protected under the First Amendment.

Our CNN Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcy has been following this very closely and joins us now. Oliver, you know, Fox is arguing basically, that they're selectively pulling parts of this that we'll be talking about. But even if you look at what they have pulled, and you look at these answers, it seems to paint this picture that they knew that they were pushing this, some of them knew but they were doing it because they wanted to keep the audience there.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: That's right. And I think this exposes that Fox News really has -- from the highest levels, really no regard for basic news ethics. I mean, behind the scenes, we are just continuing to see that the highest-ranking executives, Rupert Murdoch himself, and the highest-ranking host, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs -- or Lou Dobbs is a former host, but Tucker Carlson, et cetera, et cetera, they knew behind the scenes that the lies that they were pushing were just that, lies.

Now, Rupert Murdoch, in his deposition that was revealed for the first time yesterday in this legal filing, he says now, in hindsight, he wishes they did more to tamp down these election conspiracy theories. And, of course, hindsight is 2020. But it really didn't take a news genius in the aftermath of the election to understand the ramifications of undermining the U.S. -- the integrity of the U.S. electoral system, election system.

What it took was someone with a spine and someone who puts the country, the Republic, the democracy ahead of their own pocketbook. Unfortunately, Rupert Murdoch doesn't appear to have been that person. And now he may have to pay a big price in this Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit.

LEMON: What about for the folks who may mistakenly consider Fox News overall as a news organization and touting the actual journalism of Fox News? This, obviously, does not hold up, right? If you think about it, this is the most egregious thing that you can do as a journalist, mislead people, and then force them really into an insurrection on falsehoods. That is what came out of this.

DARCY: News networks are supposed to inform viewers.

LEMON: Can you call them a news organization?

DARCY: No, and that's because news networks are supposed to inform viewers with the truth. In this case, we know that Fox News knew the truth and refused to not only tell their viewers but they actually fed them lies to keep their audience because of the financial incentive. That's not what news networks do. That's what maybe, you know, propaganda outlets might do, but it's certainly not what a news network would do.


And I would note that a lot of these revelations just on their own would be major scandals that any actual news network, for instance, this legal filing says that Rupert Murdoch gave Jared Kushner advanced copies of Biden's ads, really giving him an edge over the other campaign.

That's not something a news network would do. And if that happened at a news network, it would result in an investigation and likely disciplinary action, perhaps, a firing as a result of that action. At Fox News, this comes from the top.

HARLOW: Yes, and debate strategy shared with Kushner as well, it says. Let me just end on this because it comes down to, as was said in here, not red or blue, it's green. In the filing, Murdoch said Carlson's decision like Mike Lindell, the founder of the My Pillow Guy, come on his program over and over again and push these conspiracy theories and lies was not a red blue, or blue decision, it was a green decision?

DARCY: Yes, you don't have to take it from me. Rupert Murdoch himself is saying that the financial incentive was driving coverage here. He's saying it was a green motive, green as in money. I mean, I know that we knew a lot of these things before these legal filings came out, but it's really just damning to see it in black and white coming from the horse's mouth itself.

LEMON: It wasn't just that My Pillow Guy, it was also they questioned the judgment of letting Rudy Giuliani on the air and other election deniers and conspiracy theory.

DARCY: They privately trashed these people.


DARCY: And Rupert Murdoch said it was horrible that Rudy Giuliani was advising Trump, but they allowed them to go on the air to peddle these election conspiracy theories to their audience. And in Rupert Murdoch's own words, it was because of a financial incentive.

COLLINS: And he wasn't just advising him, he was his attorney.


COLLINS: Yes, that's what happened.

HARLOW: Very good point. Oliver, thank you very, very much.


Also this morning, Russian President Putin is currently meeting with his Federal Security Service. What is he saying? We're live in Moscow next.



HARLOW: Biden administration officials back in Ukraine after the President's own surprise visit to Kyiv last week. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the warzone to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And in an interview with our very own and exclusive conversation with our Melissa Bell, Yellen warn what may happen if China were to provide lethal aid to support Russia.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. administration believes that China may be considering delivering lethal aid to Russia. What would the consequences be for Beijing, Madam Secretary?

JANEY YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, we have been extremely clear that we will not tolerate systematic violations by any country of the sanctions that we've put in place that are intended to deprive Russia of access to military equipment to wage this war. And we've been very clear with the Chinese government and have made clear to try and use firms and financial institutions that the consequences of violating those sanctions would be very severe.


HARLOW: And happening now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is meeting with his Federal Security Service where he is expected to have a, quote, serious talk with them. That is according to the Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

So let's go to our Fred Pleitgen, he joins us in Moscow. Fred, good morning to you. We just heard from Putin. What's he saying?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he just finished his speech, Poppy, and it was so -- it was quite interesting. I mean, first of all, he thanked, obviously, the Federal Security Service. And he acknowledged that they were active on the front lines in the Ukraine war. He said that he would like to thank especially the ones who were active on the front lines.

And I think one of the interesting things that he took from that is that he also acknowledged that there were some who were killed on the front lines in Ukraine. The other interesting stuff that he said is that the entire speech was really him ripping into the West, ripping into Ukraine, but then also saying how important he thinks that his intelligence service is, especially in the areas that are occupied by Russia.

Now, of course, the Russian say that these territories have been annexed, that these are now part of the Russian Federation. But he essentially urged to set up the intelligence service in these places. And to make it stronger because it was going to be such an important place. He also claimed that there were attacks by the Ukrainians inside those territories. And he said that it was up to Russia's intelligence services to thwart those attacks and to stop those attacks.

So really, the Russian President really and a very important speech that he gave there at the Federal Security Services of Russia, talking about how important that agency is, how important it is to be against some of the attacks that are taking place by the Ukrainians as he put it.

And really, Poppy, what we're seeing the Russian President do over the past couple of days is really trying to rally some of these special services here in Russia. Just yesterday was the day of the special operations forces here in Russia where he told them how important he thinks their work has been.

So you can see, as things drag on here in Russia, the Russian President really trying to rally not just the Russian military forces but some of those special services as well obviously as things are going difficult on the battlefield, Poppy.

HARLOW: And just very quickly before you go, the airport, St. Petersburg Airport, they totally suspended operations for about an hour this morning. Why?

PLEITGEN: Yes, it was -- that was a really strange thing as Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg with a suspended operation saying that was an unidentified object in the skies that had been detected. They opened it, then later there was talk that apparently some jets might have risen from the Russians to see what was actually going on.

But it was quite a while that the airspace there was closed. Later the Russians came out and said that falsely some radio stations had been hacked and were broadcasting that there was an air raid alarm. They claim it wasn't true. The airspace is open once again, but it certainly was an interesting incident that took place there this morning.


HARLOW: To say the least. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks.

COLLINS: All right, also back here in the U.S., it is election day in Chicago. You're looking right now to live picture. Voters are getting ready to line up to cast their ballots. We're going to break down the mayoral race that is getting primary race and is getting national attention with David Axelrod next.

LEMON: I remember those Chicago days and piles and piles -- look at this -- of toxic dirt dug up in East Palestine, Ohio as House Republicans continue to question what they call the Biden administration's flawed response to the disaster.

Just ahead here on CNN This Morning, we're going to ask the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the state of the cleanup.



COLLINS: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for sticking with us. This hour on CNN This Morning, we have the newsmakers who are at the forefront of the biggest stories and national conversations. We're going to take you live for the toxic train disaster cleanup that is still underway in Ohio.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is going to join us live as House Republicans are launching an investigation into his response.

HARLOW: And new this morning, we have fresh CNN reporting on why the Department of Energy now believes the COVID coronavirus originally leaked from that lab in China. The former White House COVID Response Coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx will weigh in on just how significant this is.

LEMON: Plus, we have this, CNN goes one on one with comedian and political firebrand Bill Maher. Our very own Jake Tapper talked to him about canceled culture who he thinks has a leg up in the 2024 presidential race. Jake will join us live with part of his fascinating interview coming up.

COLLINS: But we want to begin this morning in East Palestine, Ohio where the EPA Chief Michael Regan is set to arrive any moment now. Crews are working to clean up the toxic waste from the train derailment that happened February 3rd, almost a month ago.

The agency recently approved four sites for incineration, three are in Ohio and one is in Indiana. We are continuing to track all of this. Obviously, we have been live on the ground in East Palestine. And we will continue to follow that as this cleanup is underway. What it looks like going forward.

LEMON: Of course, that's happened -- that happened on February 3rd, and they're still reeling with what's happening there. Residents, some of them saying that they are afraid to drink the water. They're worried about seepage. We heard Miguel Marquez on yesterday talking about all of the water that they pumped onto this fire --


LEMON: -- and then, you know, that has to go somewhere and they're concerned about toxins. Miguel Marquez live at East Palestine right now with the very latest there. Good morning, Miguel, where do we stand on this issue right now.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing lots of both soil and water being pumped out of East Palestine and the most toxic area of this train derailment to four different local locations now. Three in Ohio, one in Indiana, we are in East Liverpool, it's about 20 miles south of here where a lot of that solid waste is being taken.

And it sounds like they are making pretty fast headway through moving the most toxic material out of that site. This is -- I just wanted to show you, so this is the EPA. Director is back in town for the third time or the administrators back in time for the third time since this derailment happened. And he'll be meeting with business owners here. Businesses here in East Palestine really concerned about the black eye that this incident has given the town itself and it is a town that is struggling to sort of regain its former glory.

And this does -- certainly doesn't help. But, you know, the mayor is saying that after all of this that he is hopeful that they will not only get through this, but they will emerge stronger. EPA administrator meeting with teachers and students today. Business leaders also going over to the site to see some of the work that has been done and where do we go from here. Back to you.

COLLINS: Yes, and those are the big questions that everyone in that community has, is where it does go from here. Miguel, we know you'll be covering it. Thank you.

LEMON: So joining us now, the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Secretary -- Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it, here on CNN This Morning. Is this cleanup in your estimation happening fast enough? Is there a deadline when all this contaminated material will be removed from East Palestine?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, it has to be driven by safety, but it is definitely something that's moving swiftly. EPA is on the ground as they have been from the very first stage of this situation. And, of course, you've got a lot of water, a lot of soil, a lot of material that has to be moved, has to be disposed of. And all of that has to be done safely.

My colleague, the EPA administrator I think is going to be on the ground again, shortly. And he's been very focused on making sure this is done right. Over on our side in the Department of Transportation, we're focusing on lessons learned when it comes to rail safety. The reality is that the freight rail industry has wielded a lot of power in Washington.

But this is a moment when I believe we can raise the bar in terms of what we expect and what we require from freight railroads so that fewer communities have to go through what the people of East Palestine are dealing with right now.

LEMON: All right, let's follow up on that a couple of things that you said. You said water, oil and material that needs to be disposed of nearly 5,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. Close to 2 million gallons of liquid waste have been removed from the site bound for EPA certified locations across Ohio. One in Indiana as a matter of fact. So, speaking of the shipping process, the safety of the railroads, what can you tell us about this process? And is this shipping process safe, Mr. Secretary?