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CNN This Morning

Head-on Train Crash in Greece; Questions around Finland and Sweden Joining NATO; Garland Grilled on The Hill; Poisoning of Iranian Schoolgirls. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 02, 2023 - 06:30   ET





KNOSTANTINOS IMANIMIDIS, RED CROSS RESCUE WORKER (through translator): The most difficult moment was this one, where instead of saving lives, we have to recover bodies. It is not something we like. It is not something we want to do. And it is something that will remain in our memory forever as much as we try to get rid of it.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Rescue workers there on the scene in Greece. Look at that. Look at the wreckage from that crash in Greece. The death toll has climbed to at least 46 following the head on crash of those two trains. It happened late on Tuesday night.

I want you to look at this new video into CNN. It shows the moment of impact between the freight train and the passenger train apparently traveling on the same track with nearly 350 passengers onboard. Train employee facing charges and the country's transportation secretary has resigned now.

So, we get more details from Nada Bashir, live for us at the scene of the crash in Tempi, Greece, this morning.

Good morning to you, Nada.

Where does this investigation stand right now?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, good morning, Don.

Of course, the investigation is still very much ongoing. But now, of course, we've learned from the authorities and from the prime minister himself that this is believed to be likely related to what he described as a tragic human error. And There has been now the arrest of one individual, a manager at a nearby train station in the city of Larisa (ph) who has been arrested and now charged on allegations of negligence and causing mass death through negligence, as well as grievous bodily harm through negligence. That is now the key focus of this investigation. But, of course, the recovery effort is still ongoing. And if you just

take a look behind me at the destruction here at the scene, you can see the train carriages overturned. The first two carriages, in fact, completely engulfed by flames. That one overturned is actually the third carriage, and there are believed to have been no survivors in any of these carriages.

We've been speaking to some of the rescue workers here today. They say they are not anticipating any further survivors. This is strictly a recovery effort.

And for the dozens of people now in hospital, there are real concerns for their safety, for their condition. Many still in intensive care.

But, of course, while the main focus of this investigation so far appears to be on human error, there is the question of the safety measure in place across the rail network. The country's transport minister, just yesterday, announcing his resignation, saying that rail network simply isn't up to the standard one would expect in the 21st century.


LEMON: All right, Nada Bashir, on the scene. Thank you, Nada.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, Finland is one step closer to joining NATO, but the Finnish parliament backing its government's proposal to be part of that military alliance, all a part of a push that came amid deep concerns that Finland had after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.


Finland and Sweden had pledged to enter NATO together, hand in hand, but Sweden's application has now been held up by Turkey, raising questions about whether or not they will go forward without them.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is live this morning.

Kylie, this is something that the White House had said they wanted to see happen at the same time. They wanted both of them to join together. What are they saying as it seems like Finland may join before Sweden can?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. So, they're continuing to say that they believe that NATO would be stronger if both Finland and Sweden joined at the same time. And they think that both of those countries should be moving forward.

But as you said, it's Turkey that's still holding this up right now. They say that they have concerns about Sweden harboring terrorists in their country. Sweden has taken some steps to try and make Turkey happy essentially here, making it more easy to detain and prosecute terrorists in the country. But so far that hasn't done enough for Turkey. Turkey is still the major holdup here. They're saying that they would say yes to Finland. They're saying that they would say no to Sweden at this moment.

So, the State Department's still saying that they want both of these countries to join, but they're sort of side stepping the concept that could actually become a reality where Finland actually has the support and Sweden doesn't yet. They're saying that they want to see both of these countries join, but they're not definitively saying that they would totally be opposed to one joining before the other.

COLLINS: Which is interesting because they previously had essentially argued that.

Also, Kylie, I know that a lot of foreign ministers are meeting in India right now, this G-20 summit that's happening. And we're getting word that Secretary of State Blinken has actually just met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. That, of course, you know, I believe is the first meeting between a U.S. official and a Russian official since Russia announced that they are suspending part of their participation in that nuclear arms treaty, other concerns. What are you learning about this?

ATWOOD: Yes, it's a major deal that the secretary of state has now had a meeting on the sidelines of this foreign minister's G-20 meeting in India with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Now, as far as we know, publicly speaking, they haven't had a conversation, Blinken and Lavrov, until -- dating - until, you know, dating back to the summer when there were discussions between the U.S. and Russia about releasing Brittney Griner. And so it's hugely significant that in this context of this foreign minister's meeting, they actually essentially just ran into each other as far as we can tell here. There wasn't a scheduled meeting. But the fact that the secretary of state was able to in person deliver messages to the Russian foreign minister is significant.

Now, what we're learning -- what we're looking to learn more about is exactly what he said, right? Of course we expect the Ukraine war came up, but there's also a whole host of other issues, like the New START Treaty that Russia has just left. And also the fact that there is another American, Paul Whelan, who is still wrongfully detained in Russia.


COLLINS: Yes. All right, Kylie, well, as you learn more about that meeting, let us know. We'll stay updated with you. Thank you.

Also this morning, Hunter Biden, Taylor Swift and Mar-a-Lago. Ahead, the takeaways, many different ones, from Attorney General Merrick Garland's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Also, hundreds of demonstrators who took to the streets of New York after the death of George Floyd could each get thousands of dollars from the city. We'll explain why this morning.


[06:42:43] HARLOW: Well, it was quite a day on The Hill yesterday. Attorney General Merrick Garland tackled more than four hours of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans eager to press him on the investigations into President Biden and Trump over classified documents, on top of questions about Hunter Biden, also questions about fentanyl, the sale of deadly drugs and social media and, of course, the ticketing issues around Taylor Swift's concert.

Paula Reid, live for CNN this morning in Washington.

I say that in jest, but it's a really serious issue about, you know, where there is monopoly power there. But what did you take away from this hearing?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And Ticketmaster is also one area where you can find bipartisan consensus.


REID: But one of the biggest takeaways from yesterday's hearing, I mean, remember, this is usually a pretty contentious forum, but I was really surprised by how much substance was covered. And they talked about fentanyl, violent crime, child labor. And it was nearly four hours into the hearing before any Republicans even asked about the investigation into former President Trump.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): You are the attorney general of the United States. You are in charge of the Justice Department. And, yes, sir, you are responsible.


HAWLEY: So give me an answer.

REID (voice over): Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday amid high profile investigations into President Biden and former President Trump, but warned he would not be able to reveal details of any ongoing cases.

GARLAND: So that we do not jeopardize the viability of our investigations and the civil liberties of our citizens.

REID: Though he was willing to explain why he has not appointed a special counsel to handle an investigation into Hunter Biden.

GARLAND: I promised to leave the matter of Hunter Biden in the hands of the U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware, who was appointed in the previous administration.

REID: Yet after months of Republicans railing against the FBI for executing a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, they didn't bring that up until four hours into the hearing.

GARLAND: I approved the decision to seek a search warrant after probable case was found.

HAWLEY: Overruling the FBI agents who did not want to do so.

REID: Garland repeatedly defended the department against accusations of partisanship.

GARLAND: But I also want to at least respond to your characterization of the department -



GARLAND: Which I vigorously disagree with. I believe the men and women of the department pursue their work every single day in a non-partisan and an appropriate way.

CRUZ: General Garland -

REID: As Republicans hammered the attorney general on protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices and other conservative causes.

CRUZ: Your failure to act to protect the safety of the justices and their families was an obvious product of political bias.

REID: Garland said his decision to have U.S. Marshals protect the justices 24/7 was unprecedented.

GARLAND: Senator, you asked me whether I sat on my hands. And, quite the opposite, I sent 70 United States Marshals.

CRUZ: Let me try again.

GARLAND: To defend. And let me -

CRUZ: Have you - has the Department of Justice brought even a single case under this statute? It's a yes/no question. It's not a, give a speech on the other things you did.

GARLAND: The job of the United States Marshals is to defend the lives of the --

CRUZ: So the answer is no.

GARLAND: Is to defend the lives of the justices. And that's their number one priority.

REID: Garland also engaged on a controversy that unites even the staunchest political adversaries, Ticketmaster. Multiple lawmakers brought up the Justice Department's reported antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster's parent company following the botched handling of Taylor Swift concerts.

GARLAND: We know, quote, all to well, closed quote, the importance of competition in this industry, as in all other industries. And so you can be confident that in all of our work we approach it with an understanding that highly concentrated industries are a problem for competition.


REID: Did you catch that? I can confirm from conversations to the attorney general that he is actually a big Taylor Swift fan.

Now, aside from the distrust of Ticketmaster, the other area where there was clear bipartisan consensus was fentanyl.


REID: And the fact that we are just not doing enough on that issue. And the attorney general reminded lawmakers that he can only work with the laws -


REID: And the resources that he is given by Congress and said he would welcome more help on that issue.

HARLOW: It's great that you point out, too, how much substance there was in those hearings, right?

REID: Yes.

HARLOW: Because that is critically important for the American people. It's what they deserve. Paula, thank you for the reporting.

LEMON: Taylor Swift was like, do not drag me into this. This is (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: She - she has been standing up for the rights of folks trying to -


HARLOW: You know, not get overcharged. Good for Taylor.

LEMON: Yes. Yes.


LEMON: This morning, New York City agreeing to pay millions to the hundreds of demonstrators who were allegedly boxed in and beaten during the 2020 George Floyd racial justice protest. If the settlement is approved, at least $21,500 will go to each of the 320 people who were involved in the demonstration on June 4, 2020, in the Bronx. So that would be one of the largest amounts ever awarded per person in a mass arrest case. Now, the class action case was brought on behalf of five protesters in October of 2020. Court documents allege that police boxed the protesters in before restraining them with plastic handcuffs and hitting them with batons.

COLLINS: All right, also there morning, a mystery is unfolding in Iran. Hundreds of schoolgirls have been poisoned -- yes, poisoned -- across the country. What we are learning about what could be behind these attacks.



COLLINS: We're tracking an incredibly disturbing story out of Iran this morning, where hundreds of schoolgirls have gotten sick, some have even been hospitalized with symptoms that include nausea, numbness, muscle weakness, shortness of breath. Some Iranian senior officials and local activists now say that they suspect deliberate poisoning. And a spokesman for the Iranian Teachers Trade Association believes they may be tied to the recent protest that's we've seen going on in Iran under the Women, Life and Freedom Movement.

CNN's Nima Elbagir is covering all of this, joining us live from London.

Nima, I know that you've -- we've heard from some of the schoolgirls themselves about their experiences. What are you learning about -- this is a particular schoolgirl who was in the Iranian city of Qom, who tells us her school came under attack three times. What else did you learn?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Qom, Kaitlan, has really been the epicenter of these attacks. And that's why it was so important to speak to one of the girls subjected to this poison. And I just want you to take a listen. It's incredibly disturbing how she describes the chaos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was a terrible situation. Girls had been falling on the floor and were crying. Some were unable to walk. We really didn't want to leave one another.


ELBAGIR: And her school was hit three times towards the end of last year. And there still is no end in sight. And regime officials are stationed around many of these schools. So, we are so incredibly fortunate that these students felt brave enough to speak to us, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, it's an incredibly difficult thing for them to do.

I know the State Department is tracking this. They were actually asked about it yesterday. They said it was disturbing to think that these girls may be being attacked simply because they're going to school, they're trying to learn.

What are the investigations on the ground look like? Are there actually vigorous investigations into this?

ELBAGIR: Well, the regime has gone back and forth on their version of events. Initially, they accused - just earlier this week, accused the schoolgirls of falling prey to rumor and paranoia. I mean essentially gaslighting these girls and their parents.

The real fear is that this is against the context of schoolgirls removing the Hijab, joining other young women on the streets of Iran demanding their freedoms. And the worry is that there are obvious parallels with the poisoning of schools in Afghanistan. And one of the girls that we were speaking to said, and look what happened there. People are so afraid that as they fight for more freedoms, that their basic freedom to learn, to be educated, could be taken away from them in this - just this awful, awful manner, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, all simply because they're trying to learn.

Nima, I know you'll stay on this. So, thank you so much.

ELBAGIR: Thank you.

HARLOW: Ahead, we are on the ground near Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces are dealing with non-stop shelling.


They are bracing also for a major Russian offensive. Our Alex Marquardt, what he is seeing on the ground, that is next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one. It is full power. And liftoff! (INAUDIBLE). Go Dragon. Go Falcon.


LEMON: Isn't that always fascinating?


HARLOW: Always.

LEMON: To watch.

COLLINS: Such an awesome place.


LEMON: Are you a spacey?

COLLINS: I love Cape Canaveral.

LEMON: You do?

COLLINS: Really do.

LEMON: You ever --

HARLOW: Have you been there? LEMON: Yes.

COLLINS: I've been there. And, you know, what sucks is, they get scrubbed a bunch. So, you go and then it doesn't happen.

HARLOW: Oh, yes.

LEMON: And you wait.