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CNN This Morning

Two Americans Found Dead, Two Survived Kidnapping in Mexico; New Trove of Documents Made Public in Dominion Lawsuit Against Fox; Today, Senate Panel to Question FAA Chief on Oversight. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 08, 2023 - 07:00   ET



MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The ambassador does not feel that diplomacy is dead. He is pointing to a recent agreement between Japan and South Korea to basically resolve a long time labor dispute that goes back many, many decades. It's a dispute that has had economic, social, political, and economic repercussions for this entire region, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And we should note that comes as South Korea is getting the next state dinner at the White House as well. Marc Stewart, thank you so much.

And CNN This Morning continues right now.


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): To somehow put that in the same category as a permitted peaceful protest is just a lie.

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I think it's (BLEEP).

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): There were a lot of people in the Capitol at the time who I think were fearing for their lives. So, you can -- everyone described it. But it was an attack on the Capitol.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): I thought it was an insurrection at that time. I still think it was an insurrection today.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Why don't you tell us how you really feel?


LEMON: I thought it was -- do you know what he said.

COLLINS: Well, they were there that day. So, it changes your perspective if you're actually in Washington when that happened.

LEMON: Yes. But what's the picture that many Americans are getting from watching Tucker Carlson? That is the question. Is it an accurate one? Good morning, everyone. Welcome. So, Fox News Host Tucker Carlson facing major blowback from Democrats and Republicans after he aired selected footage of the January 6th attack on the Capitol and made the absurd claim that most of the rioters were peaceful sightseers. Does that look like a sightseer to you?

HARLOW: No, because it wasn't right. So, we're going to show you these new trove of new private text messages and emails from inside of Fox News, some of the biggest names there. They're all revealed in this new lawsuit. We're also getting an inside look at the internal crisis over Fox News' coverage of election conspiracies and what Tucker Carlson really thinks about President Trump.

COLLINS: We're following the latest updates in the deadly kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico. Two of them were dead. Two are alive and back in the United States this morning. We'll have more for you.

CNN This Morning starts right now.

LEMON: But we're going to begin with this. We begin this hour with the deadly kidnapping of those four Americans in Mexico.

Two of them found dead. The two survivors brought to the border in an ambulance protected by a heavily convoy of Mexican soldiers with humvees and machine guns. Officials say the group of friends were on a road trip for a cosmetic surgery procedure when they were caught up in a drug cartel shootout and abducted in broad daylight and one of Mexico's most violent and dangerous cities.

Mexican officials say they were eventually found in this wooden shack guarded by a man. The local governor says that the cartel moved the Americans around two different locations, including a medical clinic to create confusion and avoid efforts to rescue them. This is an image of Latavia Washington McGee in the ambulance after her rescue.

Rosa Flores is in Brownsville, Texas, for us this morning, where the survivors are recovering. Good morning to you, Rosa.

Mexican police have detained a person in connection with the kidnapping. What do you know?

FLORES: Don, good morning. Yes, Mexican officials saying that they have apprehended a 24-year-old man from Tamaulipas, Mexico, who was conducting surveillance on the Americans. Now, the Mexican officials will not say if this individual is linked to criminal organizations in the area. What Mexican officials will say is that the kidnappers moved the Americans around several times and that on Tuesday morning, they received a tip. They followed that tip that led to the Americans but not to those responsible for the kidnapping or the killing.


FLORES (voice over): Two Americans back on U.S. soil after a U.S. official says a case of mistaken identity left two of their friends dead. NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We're providing all appropriate assistance to them and their families and we extend our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased.

FLORES: Latavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams are safe and receiving medical treatment in Texas. Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodward were killed in the attack. A U.S. official familiar with the investigation told CNN investigators believe a Mexican cartel kidnapped the group after mistaking them for Haitian drug smugglers. The deadly incident seen here in the surveillance video happened in the Mexican border city of Matamoros.

Authorities there announcing one person held and believed to be connected with the deadly kidnapping. The detained individual has been identified as 24-year-old Jose En (ph). According to the governor of Tamaulipas, the individual kept watch on the captured victims. However, officials would not confirm whether the person is connected to a criminal organization.


The incident revived the debate over violent crime in Mexico drawing attention and some friction between the U.S. and Mexican governments:

PRICE: Ultimately, we want to see accountability for the violence that has been inflicted on these Americans that tragically led to the death of two of them.

ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, MEXICAN PRESIDENT: We are not allowing any foreign country to intervene on matters that only relate to Mexicans. We do not get involved in seeing what the gangs in United States distributing fentanyl are up to or how the drug is distributed in the U.S.

FLORES: The sharp rebuke from the Mexican president before this admission.

OBRADOR: So, there is cooperation. We are working in a coordinated manner with respect to sovereignty.

FLORES: A source familiar with the investigation told CNN the deceased will undergo autopsies by Mexican authorities prior to their remains being turned over to the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, the Mexican president said those responsible will be found and punished. The White House is demanding accountability.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable no matter where or under what circumstances they happen. We'll continue to work closely with the Mexican government to ensure justice is done in this case.


FLORES (on camera): The building that you see behind me is the hospital where the American survivors were brought for the initial evaluation and also for medical treatment. And, Don, the survivor that was not injured, according the Mexican officials, is Latavia Washington McGee and our affiliate, WPBE, spoke to her mom from the hospital bed and they say that Washington McGee was shaken. She was crying, as you might imagine, still distraught by what she experienced and also because she says that she witnessed her two friends die. So, just unimaginable and intense dramatic moments for this family. Don?

LEMON: Rosa Flores, thank you very much.

COLLINS: Also this morning, the latest on the lawsuit against Fox News. These quotes that we're getting from texts overnight, quote, we're very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can't wait. Another one, I hate him passionately. One more, we're all officially working for an organization that hates us.

Those are quotes from the most prominent host at Fox News. They were released as part of Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit that show some of the clearest indications we've seen yet that people inside the network, many of them had serious doubts and misgivings about the election fraud lies that were being openly touted on the network.

CNN's Paula Reid is covering this. Paula, these texts are remarkable and just give an indication of the questions of what the former president's relationship with Fox is going to be like going forward.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Kaitlan. It's incredible. If you look at these hundreds of pages of previously unreleased documents, what you see is a network that is embracing these conspiracy theories amid concerns about declining ratings. So, even though behind the scenes, they are slamming these conspiracy theories, slamming Trump himself on air. You see them promoting both because there is this constant concern about the bottom line.


REID (voice over): New internal communications from some of Fox News' most prominent figures show concerns and misgivings some had about then-President Donald Trump's claims of election fraud, and the company's handling of the 2020 election results.

According to court documents, Host Tucker Carlson texted a producer on January 4th, 2021, we're very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. The conversation continues, referring to Trump, Carlson says, I hate him passionately. I can't handle much more of this. The private communications from Carlson are a sharp contrast to his public support for the former president, as seen on his program that night.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The president, as you may have heard, believes the election was stolen from him. Georgia's secretary of state whose job it is to oversee elections disagrees. You can listen to the call yourself. It's online. You can make up your own mind.

REID: Text messages are part of a trove of documents and communications released Tuesday from Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the right-wing network. Fox responding to the latest document released in part saying Dominion has been caught red-handed, using more distortions and misinformation in their P.R. campaign to smear Fox News and trample on free speech and freedom of the press. Dominion saying in a statement that emails, texts and deposition testimony speak for themselves.

The communications reveal Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch was furious Fox News called the 2020 election for Biden and wrote in an email to the former New York Post editor-in-chief, CNN declares and Fox coming in minutes.


I hate our decision desk people and pollsters, some of the same people, I think.

More than a month after the 2020 election, Fox News' D.C. managing editor wrote in a private message to a colleague, he feared that the network's coverage of Trump's election fraud claims were becoming an existential crisis for the company. Murdoch conceded in an email to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott in January 2021 that some of Fox's top talent went too far in their coverage.

During his deposition, Murdoch asked, do you believe that Dominion was engaged in a massive and coordinated effort to steal the 2020 presidential election? Murdoch replied, no.

LEE LEVINE, FIRST AMENDMENT LAWYER: Dominion has made an effort to show that Rupert Murdoch was hands on, that is that he was aware of what people were saying on his air, that he had the ability to stop these guests from appearing and repeating these things.


REID (on camera): Both sides have asked a judge to resolve the case in their favor without going to trial. But if that doesn't happened, this case will go to court in Delaware. The trial is expected to last about six weeks, so beginning next month.

COLLINS: Is there any chance they could settle? I imagine that is probably what a lot of people whose texts are coming out are thinking about right now. Paula, what do you think? What is your sense?

REID: You make a great point, Kaitlan. And there's certainly a chance that this could settle. But there is no sign right now that any settlement is in the works. Dominion is asking for $1.6 billion. If they settle, they could settle for an amount much less than that. If this goes to a jury, the jury could always award something higher. It's a calculus for the companies right now.

Usually, defamation is very difficult to prove, actual malice, that they knew what they were saying was false. But most legal experts who review the evidence that we were just reporting on, they say, look this is a pretty strong case. You have multiple Fox News personalities and executives admitting that they knew that what they were saying on air was just not true.

So, this is an incredibly strong case for sure, unclear how it will pan out, but this significant. I mean, this is one that the country is going to be watching, not just folks like you and me, legal nerds, like Poppy and I. This is a huge case for the country and the limit to the First Amendment. Don if, you're a legal nerd, it has not revealed itself to me yet, but call me. I would like to talk legal stuff any time.

HARLOW: I can't wait. I'm just going to bug him all day with legalese.

LEMON: Have you seen these glasses? Come on.

REID: I have.

HARLOW: So, Paula, to your point, I'm obsessed with this case and totally fascinated, big picture, by what it does.

LEMON: Yes, this could be precedent.

HARLOW: Totally, that's right.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll watch it closely. We know you will as well, Paula. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. Let's talk about what is happening in the skies and in our airports, right, guys? This morning on Capitol Hill, the acting administrator of the federal aviation administration will face Congressional lawmakers against the backdrop of six major runway incidents and near misses already this is year.

Pete Muntean is with us from Washington. So, Billy Nolen, he's still acting, they have not permanently filled this position yet, and that is another story. So, Billy Nolen, the acting administrator, came before the Senate panel last month after those system outages. Now, he's there again. What are you expecting?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, lawmakers really have the chance to press him here on what is happening with these close calls on the runway ahead of this safety summit that the FAA announced for next week.

Let's just look at the timeline here. We're averaging one of these incidents every ten days. We just heard of another one on Monday. We've got JFK, Honolulu, Austin, Sarasota, Burbank, Boston. This is the chance where lawmakers could really ask what is the issue here. It is a problem with the FAA or is it a problem at the airlines?

And I want you to listen now to FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen and announcing that safety summit during his last appearing on the Hill where he said, we just cannot become complaisant in the aviation system because so much is on the line. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILLY NOLEN, ACTING FAA ADMINISTRATOR: I can say without reservation that the aviation professionals who compromise the American airspace industry are proud of our safety record. But we all know that complacency has no place in air transportation, whether it is on the flight deck, in a control tower, the ramp or the dispatch center.


MUNTEAN: I spoke with the representative from the American Airlines pilot union, Captain Dennis Tajer. He will appear on CNN This Morning later today. He told that this is just symptomatic of all the problems that the aviation system has seen lately with so many retirements, so many new pilots coming in, so much operational pressure from the airlines. And now it's being shown up in the aviation system. We're seeing all of these close calls, Poppy.

HARLOW: We are. But are they more or are we hearing about them more from great reporters like you? Is it really happening more?

MUNTEAN: Well, this is something that I've been digging in on, and I asked NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy about this, and she told me she's happy there's a greater spotlight on these issues.


She feels like these are happening in greater number, although the good news here is that because of the attention on this, that could cause a greater change in safety.

So, we're seeing more of these incidents that are more egregious. Some of them are bigger than others. The JFK and Austin incidents, those are really the severe ones, although we're learning of some also where the planes really may have not been all that close to one another. So, there is a high number of runway incursions overall nationwide, although the big questions why are these severe ones happening with such a greater number, and that is what's really concerning, Poppy.

HARLOW: That is a critical question. Pete, thanks for the reporting.

LEMON: So, the headline of The Oklahoman this morning, take a look at this, the state votes down proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure would have allowed anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Supporters of the measure argue the legalization would bring in millions in new tax revenue because there would be -- there would have been a 15 percent state sales tax, but critics say it would have led to a rise in crime and violence and put children in harm's way.

The vote comes almost five years after Oklahomans voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. This is just the latest failure for legalization advocates. Voters in Arkansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, defeated weed referendums in November. Maryland and Missouri approved them. So, there you go.

If you had been interested in this, you've been talking about it, and you, with kids, are concerned about -- it hasn't been tested enough. There is not enough research.

HARLOW: I don't know the research. What do you think?

COLLINS: Well, I don't have an opinion on it, but I do think, you know, what you heard from the people who are organized, I'm going to say it's not a question of if but when. So, they are going to push forward again. I mean, Oklahoma did approve medical marijuana about five years ago. I think -- and you have seen some states have taken it up. It has become very popular and some have rejected it.

HARLOW: I also think alcohol has to be part of the conversation.

LEMON: You just -- I don't have to say anything, yes, alcohol can be much, much worse. People have --

HARLOW: Absolutely.

LEMON: -- have bigger issues of alcohol as of now, the research that we have now.

HARLOW: But, yes, I think about it all differently when I think about my kids, when I think it about alcohol too. So --

LEMON: I just know walking around New York City, you can barely go outside without smelling marijuana.

HARLOW: It's true. It's true.

LEMON: But it's legal now.

HARLOW: It's true.

COLLINS: All right. Also this morning, our own Wolf Blitzer just interviewed the Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy. He asked him this key question --


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How worried are you about this trend among some Republicans that it could threaten the flow of support to Ukraine?


COLLINS: Find out what Zelenskyy's answer was. Next, Wolf is going to join us here live with his exclusive interview.

LEMON: There he is, Wolf Blitzer.



HARLOW: Welcome back to CNN This Morning. We're hearing from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a brand new interview with our very own Wolf Blitzer, Zelenskyy making the case for continued bipartisan support of Ukraine right here in the United States. Watch this.


BLITZER: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the House of Representatives here in Washington, Kevin McCarthy says he supports Ukraine but doesn't support what he calls a blank check, a blank check for Ukraine. That criticism is being echoed by former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, possible leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. How worried are you, President Zelenskyy, how worried are you about this trend among some Republicans that it could threaten the flow of support to Ukraine?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Firstly, I would like to thank the bipartisan support of Ukraine. It's very important. Recently, I had a meeting with representatives of the Republican Party and thankful to the congressman who visited Ukraine. They told me that they want to support Ukraine very much like the Democrats. We don't want to slow down. We have a different approach. We want to give more and now but not dragging it forever. That was the signal. We don't care about the support, defense support, as long as it's powerful and constant.

I think that Speaker McCarthy, he never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position. When you come to us, when Democrats and Republicans come to us, they see the supply routes, every shell, every bullet, every dollar, Mr. McCarthy. He has to come here to see how we work. What is happening here, what war caused us which people fighting, who is fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions.


HARLOW: So, let's bring in CNN's anchor of The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer. His full interview President Zelenskyy airs tonight, a special 9:00 P.M. Eastern hour. Wolf, I can't wait to see the rest of it. I think my first question to you is how confident or not does he actually feel that this new Congress will continue supporting Ukraine at the level that the United States has been?

BLITZER: He was -- in speaking with me, he was very confident about what he has seen so far. There have been several bipartisan congressional delegations that have actually come to Kyiv, visited Ukraine, and he says he gets that kind of positive reaction from Democrats and Republicans. He's very encouraged.

But he did go out of his way to invite the new speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, to come to Ukraine, as you just heard.


He wants Kevin McCarthy to come and see what's going on. He feels that anyone who comes to Ukraine and sees the devastation, sees what the Russians have been doing to residential apartment buildings throughout country and sees the devastation that it has caused for the people of Ukraine, what the Russians are doing, he says, that they will then come back to the United States and support continued military and economic assistance for Ukraine, which is so important. He would love Kevin McCarthy to visit, although McCarthy at least so far has declined.

COLLINS: Yes. McCarthy seemed to say he's getting briefings. He doesn't have to go to Kyiv to see it to understand what is going on. Zelenskyy seemed to be making an argument though that if you go there, you do see how they are tracking what the U.S. is sending in these massive amounts.

I thought what he said was interesting, Wolf, though. He said Republicans, what they told him was we want to give more now but not drag it out forever. That is a popular remark among Republicans that it is not something that can go on, you know, in entirety and perpetuity.

BLITZER: It was clear to me, Kaitlan, that he is following all the nuances of what Republicans and Democrats, what the Biden administration is saying, what the Republican opposition is saying here in Washington. He's very well plugged in on all of the nuances of what's going on. He is very sensitive to it because he fully appreciates that the Ukrainians need extensive U.S. military and economic support. And he made that pitch when President Biden visited Kyiv not that long ago.

He made that pitch, the Ukrainians, they need the fighter jets, they need longer range missiles. He says that will do the job and the Ukrainians can still win this war if the U.S. and the other nato allies, for example, step up and continue to help Ukraine.

LEMON: I was just sitting there when we were playing the clip, Wolf. I just wanted to hear more. I can't wait to hear more tonight.


BLITZER: Yes. I mean, it was a very powerful interview. He was very blunt. He didn't mince any words at all. And he made the case of what -- and he was so appreciative of what the United States has done for Ukraine. And what the visit by Biden alone, he said, it really encouraged the people of Ukraine. It gave them hope that this thing could be -- that their victory could be achieved.

And he was very, very, very, very tough on the Russians, saying they don't care how many dead Russian soldiers there are. They don't even know their names. He says, the Ukrainians, we know the names of every Ukrainian soldier who was killed in Bakhmut or other places where this war continues.

LEMON: Thanks, Wolf.

COLLINS: Can't wait to watch it. Thank you, Wolf.

HARLOW: You can see his full interview tonight, as Don was saying, we all want to see more. You'll see the entirety of the interview 9:00 P.M. tonight right here on CNN Primetime. COLLINS: Also in just a few hours from now, the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill is going to hold its first hearing on the U.S. exit from Afghanistan in 2021. The Republican-led panel wants to put the Biden administration under the microscope over the plan and the execution of the withdrawal, something Republicans vowed to do if they retook the House majority.

Today's hearing, we're told is going to lean on testimony from volunteers who assisted in that massive evacuation. President Biden, for his part, has long forcefully rejected criticism of the exit and has instead hailed it as an extraordinary success when it came to that massive evacuation in Kabul.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I was not going to extend this forever war and I was not extending a forever exit. The decision to end the military lift operations at Kabul airport was based on unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers.


COLLINS: Joining us now is a member of the foreign affairs committee and a former green beret who served in Afghanistan, Republican Congressman Michael Waltz. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

And I know that you and your staff were deeply involved in assisting with these evacuations at the time. What specifically, what information are you looking to find out today?

REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): Hey, Kaitlan. You're going to hear today from these veterans' volunteer groups, these grassroots organizations that had to stand up in a vacuum, frankly, that found themselves as private citizens getting call after call, desperate plea from people they had fought alongside our Afghan allies and from Americans that were being left behind during the withdrawal.

And they found themselves chartering planes, arranging international flights, arranging country clearances, coordinating safe houses to avoid the Taliban that were hunting these people down. And you're going to hear the outrage from them. You're going to hear how they felt betrayed by their own government, their phenomenal frustration with the State Department, who just wasn't getting the job done. And you're also going to hear from these veterans, many of them, who have exhausted their personal savings, their kids' 529 plans, are going into divorce because they refused to ever leave a comrade behind.