Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Man Attempted to Open Plane's Door, Stab Flight Attendant; Families Identify 4 Americans Kidnapped at Gunpoint in Mexico; Pence Asks Judge to Block Subpoena for His 1/6 Testimony; Arrest Warrant Issued for January 6th Defendant Who Failed to Show for Trial; Tucker Carlson Attempts to Downplay January 6th Violence; Florida Legislature Returns with DeSantis's Agenda in Spotlight. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 07, 2023 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's now the fifth ever film to sweep the top prizes from Hollywood's major guilds, which also includes the Directors Guild, Producers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild. Those are widely considered the most reliable predictors of the Best Picture Oscar.


All right. Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.


FRANCISCO SEVERO TORRES, UNITED PASSENGER: Well, tell them to bring squads to shoot me down, because they're going to have to shoot me down today. Remember that. Or they need the gurney bus (ph), because everywhere it is there's going to be a blood bath everywhere. You can run away. You can all run away if you want, and then you can run. I won't kill you. I'm Balthazar.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Just a terrifying moment again in the sky. We are glad you're with us this morning. It is Tuesday.

But look what happened on that United flight. A passenger accused of trying to stab a flight attendant after trying to open the emergency exit door. Later, we're going to speak with the person on that plane who actually filmed that video.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: That's something you don't want to hear on a plane or anywhere. But especially on a plane.

Plus, Americans kidnapped at gunpoint in Mexico, possibly a case of mistaken identity. What we're now hearing from their family as the desperate search continues.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And it looks like Weight Watchers could be getting in the Ozempic weight loss craze that's been happening.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. We're glad you're with us.

We do begin with another terrifying incident in the sky. Federal investigators say this man tried to open an emergency exit door on a plane, then tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck with a broken metal spoon. This was during a United Flight from Los Angeles to Boston yesterday.

Other passengers tackled and restrained him. Watch this video.


TORRES: You can put up your hands and say, "Don't kill me," then. Or don't approach me, because I'm Balthazar, as renamed by God Baldur (ph). I'm taking over this plane.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put it down. I'm telling you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, did he grab a gun?



HARLOW: So we're going to be joined by the woman who filmed that video in our 8 a.m. hour. She says the flight was quiet for five hours until that suspect went into the bathroom with a backpack, came out agitated with that broken spoon.

She also says that he was zip-tied for the rest of the flight.

We've seen a whole string of scary incidents recently that are putting a spotlight on aviation safety. On Sunday, a Southwest flight from Cuba to Florida was forced to make an emergency landing. That's after birds hit the engine.

Police say severe turbulence killed a woman on a private business jet flying from New Hampshire to Virginia over the weekend.

And just yesterday, the tail and wing of two United flights collided on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport. That was low- speed. No one was hurt. But the FAA is investigating several recent close calls between planes, including the incident at the same airport last week, when a JetBlue flight nearly collided with a private jet as it was landing.

LEMON: Not only did he try to, allegedly, stab the flight attendant. There was video of it. He did. But he tried to open the door --

HARLOW: Yes. LEMON: -- in mid-flight. They got an emergency alarm that the door to the plane had been disarmed. And the slides, whatever, the slide lever had been disarmed, as well. So that is really, really frightening.

You know, what do you say? You don't want to hear, I'm going to take you over this plane. You're going to die. You don't want to hear that.

HARLOW: It takes you right back.

LEMON: Yes. You don't want to hear that anywhere, but --

HARLOW: It takes to right back.

LEMON: I don't want to even go there.



Well, we're going to move on now. This morning, we know that [SIC] the identities of four Americans missing in Mexico after being kidnapped at gunpoint. Family members say Latavia Washington McGee, Shaeed Woodward [SIC], and Zindell Brown and their friend Eric were traveling so one of them could undergo a medical procedure.

Investigators believe that they were targeted by a Mexican cartel in a case of mistaken identity.

CNN's Rosa Flores, live in Houston with more this morning.

Rosa, good morning. The latest on the investigation?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Don, very little is being released by both Mexico and U.S. authorities. But we are learning more about these missing Americans from their loved ones.

Their loved ones telling CNN that these are a group of friends, a very tight group of friends. They're from South Carolina, and they include a mom of six who was supposed to be in Mexico for a medical procedure, but she never made her appointment.


FLORES (voice-over): Four U.S. citizens were kidnapped by gunmen in Mexico in a case of mistaken identity, according to a U.S. official. Investigators believe the Mexican cartel likely mistook the Americans for Haitian drug smugglers, according to the U.S. official.

Family members told CNN the group was traveling to Mexico for a medical procedure. According to the FBI, the four crossed the border in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates on Friday when they were fired upon by unidentified gunmen and were placed in another vehicle and taken from the scene.


An innocent Mexican citizen was also killed in the encounter.

In this video, obtained by CNN, armed men are putting four people in the bed of a white pickup truck. It's unclear if they're the missing Americans.

In this photo, a woman is sitting next to three people outside a white minivan with all the doors open.

The FBI will not authenticate the images, but a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation authenticated them.

The four were assaulted and kidnapped in Matamoros, Mexico, a Northern city in the state of Tamaulipas.

The incident highlights the ongoing violence in some Mexican cities, which have been wracked by organized crime at least since the Mexican drug war began in 2006.

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We do also remind Americans about the existing travel guidance when it comes to this particular part of Mexico. The travel advisory for Tamaulipas state remains at Level 4: Do not travel. We encourage Americans to heed that -- heed that advice.

FLORES (voice-over): The kidnapped Americans were not identified by official, but two families from Lake City, South Carolina, confirmed to CNN their loved ones are among those kidnapped.

Zalayna Brown says she spoke to the FBI on Sunday when she realized her brother, Zindell Brown, and his three friends, Latavia Washington McGee, Shaeed Woodward [SIC] and their friend Eric were missing in Mexico.

Brown's mother says she didn't know her son was traveling to Mexico.

CHRISTINA HICKSON, MOTHER OF ZINDELL BROWN: When I found out, he was en route in Mississippi.

FLORES (voice-over): Brown's sister tells CNN affiliate WPDE that she was uneasy about his trip.

ZALAYNA BROWN, SISTER OF ZINDELL BROWN: I told him I had a dream. I'm just checking on you. That's what I told him Thursday. And then like I said, Friday morning, I texted him. I didn't get anything.

FLORES (voice-over): McGee's mother, Barbara Burgess, says she last spoke to her daughter on Friday. On Sunday, the FBI told her McGee was kidnapped and in danger. Burgess is hopeful her daughter, who is the mother of six children, will be released.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOSE PRESS SECRETARY: These sorts of attacks are unacceptable. Or thoughts are with the families of these individuals, and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: Rosa, I know you know the border well, and I'm wondering how common is it for Americans along the border to go to Mexico for medical care?

FLORES (on camera): You know, Don, it happens every day. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. I grew up going to Mexico for medical care.

When you're a border kid and you don't have money for medical care in the United States, that's what you do. That's what a lot of families do.

Now, of course, word has spread, and there's medical tourism, if you will, individuals from other parts of the country that go to these Mexican border towns to get medical care, to get procedures.

But I can tell you from growing up there, when you grow up there, when you know people on both sides of the border, the way that it usually works is you have the cell numbers or WhatsApp numbers for individuals who live on the Mexican side.

And what usually happens is you call a few people, and you say, Hey, how's it going? How's the situation in Mexico?

If everything's OK, you cross.

The other thing that -- that I know we did growing up is you also determined what bridge you're going to cross over, based on how safe it is.

Now, what I mean is, this happened in Matamoros, Mexico. Just about 35 miles to the West is Progresso, Texas; Nuevo Progresso, Mexico. So Don, what happens in that location, is you can drive to Progresso, Texas, park your car on the American side, walk across the bridge.

And just yards from that international bridge, there are dentists, general practitioners. And so, again, there's a lot of local knowledge that is exchanged when individuals go and get medical attention on the Mexican side. But again, a lot of that is information that the locals have.

These individuals were coming from out of state. I don't know what kind of connections they had.

But again, back to your question. It is very common. People do it every single day.

LEMON: Yes. And we'll be paying a lot more attention to it after -- especially after this. Thank you, Rosa Flores.

COLLINS: I want to turn to some news that was first broken here on CNN. Former Vice President Mike Pence has asked a judge to block a federal grand jury subpoena, compelling his testimony about January 6th, on the grounds that he is protected by the Constitution's Speech of Debate Clause.

A source tells me that his legal team filed the motion on Friday, the same day that Trump's legal team argued to block that subpoena because of executive privilege.

Pence's team is arguing something differently, though, hoping to block him from testifying about anything pertaining to his legislative functions that day. This could potentially be a pretty significant part of his testimony.

This is because the former vice president is arguing that, because he was also acting as the president of the Senate on January 6th, he is shielded by the Speech or Debate Clause.


That is something that you've seen other lawmakers invoke. It protects them from certain law enforcement actions targeted at their legislative duties.

One thing that could complicate matters here is that Pence has written a memoir detailing his interactions with his boss at the time, former President Trump, leading up to those Capitol attacks.

And that is something the Justice Department will likely push back on, whether it comes to the executive privilege argument that Trump was making for why he shouldn't testify, or what Pence is arguing here on speech and debate.

HARLOW: It's your reporting. I was fascinated by the fact that he's saying, Well, this was in my capacity, vis-a-vis the Senate that day.

COLLINS: Yes, it could be a legal argument that works. We don't know.

HARLOW: OK. All right. Let's move on to this.

The FBI has issued an arrest warrant for the January 6th defendant who seems to have gone missing ahead of her trial. The FIA (ph) is looking for this woman -- That's Olivia Pollock -- after she failed to show up in court yesterday in Washington, D.C.

And according to this warrant, court officials haven't been able to locate her since late February.

Our senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid joins us now with more. What have you learned about the defendant?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, this is pretty wild. As you just said, they've been looking for her since late last month. But they kept this search under wraps until she failed to show up for her trial yesterday.

Now, she is charged with four other co-defendants in what is described by prosecutors as a coordinated attack on law enforcement. She specifically is accused of elbowing an officer in the chest and trying to strip away an officer's baton during the attack.

But hers wasn't the only warrant issued yesterday. They also issued a warrant for her co-defendant, Joseph Hutchinson. He is accused, though, of pulling back a fence during the riot that allowed rioters to swarm police, who were trying to defend the Capitol.

He's also accused of punching and grabbing the sleeve of an officer.

Now, both of them are still scheduled to be tried later this year, but that is only if, of course, they can be located.

HARLOW: One of the things that is interesting is, like a lot of the defendants, because there are hundreds, she wasn't held in jail before the trial, right? I believe she had a GPS monitoring system? Which you would think --

REID: Yes.

HARLOW: -- wouldn't be able to get past federal monitoring. Do we know why?

REID: You would think, Poppy. But we've learned that the FBI allegedly believes that both Pollock and Hutchinson tampered with or removed their ankle monitors.

Now, publicly, an FBI official says they have retrieved one of the monitors. It was unclear whose monitor they have retrieved. And at this time, they're both missing.

HARLOW: OK. Paula Reid, thank you for the reporting. Update us when you hear more. Thanks.

COLLINS: Also this morning, we are aarere watching FOX News and how they are getting special access to footage from January 6th. This is something that premiered last night on Tucker Carlson's show, in what appeared to be an attempt to rewrite what happened on January 6th, as they revealed a portion of the 40,000 hours of footage that was given to FOX News, and only to FOX News, by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Tucker Carlson aired a portion of the video, talking about what happened that day, in what appeared to be an attempt to sanitize it.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST (voice-over): The crowd was enormous. A small percentage of them were hooligans. They committed vandalism. We've seen their pictures again and again.

But the overwhelming majority weren't. They were peaceful. They were orderly and meek. These were not insurrectionists. They were sight seers.

Footage from inside the Capitol overturns the story you've heard about January 6th. Protestors queue up in neat little lines. They give each other tours outside the speaker's office. They take cheerful selfies, and the smile.

They're not destroying the Capitol; they obviously revere the Capitol.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: Of course, many of the people that you see in these videos here, as Poppy was just referencing and as we've covered here on CNN, were actually charged with crimes for what happened on January 6th.

Three hundred and twenty-six people were charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees. The Justice Department says 140 officers were assaulted that day at the Capitol. Some left with head wounds, cracked ribs, smashed spinal disks, and burns.

Joining us now to talk about this is CNN media analyst and Axios media reporter, Sara Fischer.

We knew this was coming. We knew that he had gotten access to this. And you've seen Kevin McCarthy say that he is trying to widely disseminate more of it. But so far, they've only given it to one outlet.

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yes. He says it was an exclusive to FOX News. But the problem, Kaitlan, is that an exclusive is done so that you can set the tone of a story.

Once you give it to other outlets, of course CNN and Axios, others are going to try to analyze it the best that they can, and their analysis will definitely look different.

But now a narrative has been set. Don just was holding up a "New York Post" that shows the "Tour de Farce." This is an example of when you give an exclusive, how the narrative is set for the next day and the next coming days.

And remember, Tucker Carlson said he's going to release more footage tonight. So it's not like we're going to get that access immediately.

LEMON: You want to --


HARLOW: No, no, no. Go. You've been talking about this all morning.

LEMON: I've been talking about it for -- not just all morning. But I mean, this is again the danger of when Kevin McCarthy -- and this also relationship that we're talking about with FOX News.

Look at the --the situation they're in right now with Dominion.

But then, this is the danger of fairness, unfairness. They should give it to every news organization at the same time, so that they're able to, as you say, analyze it -- each in real time and not one -- particularly, especially someone who is not considered to be a journalist, to be able to disseminate it and give his take on it.

FISCHER: And my take on it is if Kevin McCarthy thought that there was something really problematic in the way that the media, writ large, covered January 6th, and that these tapes disproved it, you'd give it to your colleagues in Congress.

LEMON: Right.

FISCHER: And you'd let them run an investigation on it. You wouldn't do an exclusive leak.

But let's take a 30,000-foot view. I cover media; I cover tech. This is becoming a bigger trend. You have Elon Musk hand-picking journalists that he's going to do these big doc dumps with so they can set a narrative around what's happening there.

You have Kevin McCarthy doing the same thing at FOX.

This is how you create this shock-and-awe factor so that you can recreate the narratives that you want. It's the new tactic for people in power.

So don't expect this to go away. Moving forward, expect a lot of people in power to pick their favorite outlets and journalists and do these leaks.

HARLOW: I just keep coming back to the people who died. And let's take Officer Brian Sicknick, for example. Tucker Carlson addressed him on the show last night. Let's play that and then hear from Sicknick's family. Here is Tucker.


CARLSON (voice-over): Here's surveillance footage of Sicknick walking in the Capitol after he was supposedly murdered by the mob outside. By all appearances, Sicknick is healthy and vigorous. He's wearing a helmet, so it's hard to imagine he was killed by a head injury. Whatever happened to Brian Sicknick was very obviously not the result of violence he suffered at the entrance to the Capitol. This tape overturns the single most powerful and politically useful lie the Democrats have told us about January 6th.


HARLOW: So for the Sicknicks -- family and on their part, they say doing things like that -- it says, "Organizations like FOX rip our wounds wide open."

And just looking back at what the medical examiner said, although, they said, yes, he died of natural causes, the medical examiner went on to say, quote, "All that transpired" -- meaning on January 6th, a day before he died -- quote, "played a role in his condition."

These are real people who died.

FISCHER: Yes, and trying to sanitize that day is trying to sanitize the deaths of all the people that occurred that day and all the people who maybe they didn't die, but they suffered a lot of mental illness. They suffered a lot in the following.

Think about the Capitol Police officers, the Capitol Hill staff members. You know, people even from Kevin McCarthy's own staff who were inside that building. It's tragic to watch this play out. I hope that those tapes get

released more broadly so that the media can cover what really happened, factually and fully.

COLLINS: Also, I think it's worth pointing out that when you see what they're talking about, when you see in the footage of how the Capitol police officers are acting that day, is that a lot of them testified they felt like they couldn't really engage in a certain way with the rioters, because they were outnumbered. They were so greatly outnumbered that they were worried about escalating it.

So when they try to say, Oh, look, they're just walking them through, they're doing this, that was actually their testimony. We'll see what footage --

LEMON: Can I just read this please? I'm sorry. "Every time the pain of that day seems to have ebbed a bit, organizations like FOX rip our wounds wide open again, and we are frankly sickened." That's from the Sicknicks.

FISCHER: Yes. It's devastating.


COLLINS: Sara Fischer, thanks so much.

FISCHER: Thank you.

COLLINS: New overnight, the secretary of -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise trip to Iraq. CNN has new details about his visit.

LEMON: And happening today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's culture war agenda getting a boost from his state's legislature. We're going to tell you the new proposals on the table.

You're looking at a live picture now of the moon over Miami. Sounds like a movie, right? CNN THIS MORNING continues next.



COLLINS: New overnight, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced trip to Iraq. He just landed in Irbil after meeting with Iraq's prime minister and other senior officials in Baghdad.

Austin is the highest-ranking member of President Biden's cabinet to visit the country so far. It comes just days before the 20th anniversary -- hard to believe it's been that long -- of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that ousted the dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Today, Austin reaffirmed America's commitment to keeping troops on the ground there.


noncombat advise, assist and enable role to support the Iraqi-led fight against terrorism. This is critical mission, and we're proud to support our Iraqi partners, but we must be able to operate safely and securely to continue this vital work.


LEMON: This morning, Florida state legislators beginning a new term, continuing governor DeSantis's so self-declared war on "wokeness." Loosening gun restrictions, making it easier to sue the news media, further restricting abortion, and sweeping education changes are just some of the more than 1,600 measures Republican lawmakers are taking on in the next nine weeks.

Leyla Santiago, live in Tallahassee with more this morning.

Good morning to you. What do we expect from Ron DeSantis today?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Don.

Today, we expect Governor Ron DeSantis to give his State of the State address. And if that is anything like what we've heard from him over the last few days as he has promoted his recently-released book, yes, you can absolutely expect him to talk about that war on wokeness you mentioned, Don, especially in the classrooms.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The bill prohibits classroom instruction about sexuality or things like transgender.


DESANTIS: This is inappropriate.


DESANTIS: Florida is where woke goes to die.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): One of the latest targets for Florida's war on woke: the classroom. Republicans introducing bill after bill aimed at changing education.

DESANTIS: I believe parents in the state of Florida should be able to send their kids to elementary school without having an agenda jammed down their throats.

ANNA ESKAMANI (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: I believe firmly that public education is the ultimate equalizer. And we erode and restrict access to that, then we are are -- we are shifting the trajectory of the state.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): As lawmakers head to the state capital this week, a wish list from Governor Ron DeSantis and his allies pushing to reshape education from pre-K through college. On the table, a bill that eliminates diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at public universities; prohibits instruction on gender studies and critical race theory. It also ends protections for tenured faculty.

DESANTIS: No more discrimination. We're going to promote merit.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): This proposed legislation bans any requirements to use pronouns deemed incongruent with the person's sex in schools. It also bans classroom instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity until ninth grade.

DESANTIS: They should not be teaching a second grader that they can choose their gender. That is wrong.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): This proposal creates a new statewide standard for sex education, requiring teaching that, quote, "biological males impregnate biological females."

DESANTIS: We need to spend time on teaching kids the basics. And when there are things that are injected, that are clearly inappropriate, you know, make sure that we're not doing that.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): This school establishes a universal school choice voucher program and expands who's eligible to receive a school voucher scholarship.

DESANTIS: That basically raises the bar for everyone.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): With the Republican-controlled legislature, the bill could add to the list of political victories for Governor Ron DeSantis to tout as he gets set to embark on an expected 2024 presidential campaign.

DESANTIS: I think we've got it right on all the key issues, and I think these liberal states have gotten it wrong.

I think it goes back to this woke mind virus that's infected the left and all these other institutions.

ESKAMANI: Everything is about out-Trumping Trump, which means the policies before us are incredibly extreme and not necessarily popular among every Floridian but more attempting to appeal to a conservative base.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Education has become the battleground for students, teachers and for politicians.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And a reminder, Republicans here the supermajority. They control the House, and they control the Senate. So if Republicans can get behind what is on this DeSantis agenda -- in all likelihood they will -- this should be something that will be pretty easy for them to pass here.

LEMON: "Woke," the new Republican buzzword. Thank you, Leyla. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: So major headlines about China overnight. China's warning of, quote, "conflict and confrontation" with the United States if Washington does not significantly change course. We'll explain right ahead.