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CNN This Morning
Two Americans Killed in Mexico after Being Kidnaped at Gunpoint by Mexican Cartel; Documents of Communications Among FOX News Executives and Hosts about 2020 Election and Former President Trump Released in Dominion Defamation Lawsuit; More Video Set to be Released Related to Police Beating Death of Tyre Nichols. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired March 08, 2023 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. This morning we have the latest on what's happening in Mexico. Two Americans have been rescued, two others found dead after being kidnapped at gunpoint in dangerous border town in Mexico. We have new details on where they were found and what we are learning about the man who has been detained in connection to their abduction.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a new trove of private emails and text messages expose drama, division, and alarm behind the scenes of FOX News over the network's coverage of false election conspiracies.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And the city of Memphis preparing to release more video from the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols. We're going to tell you what we're expecting to see and hear from the new footage.
COLLINS: But we begin with that kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico where officials say that they found two of them alive in the wooden shack that you see here, one with gunshot wounds, the other two found dead.
Soldiers with Humvees and machine guns brought the survivors to the border in an ambulance, as you see that here. The rescue comes days after they had been abducted in broad daylight in one of Mexico's most dangerous border towns where rival factions of a drug cartel have been at war in the streets. The video of the abduction is chilling. It shows gunmen dragging and loading the four Americans into a pickup truck.
This is Latavia Washington McGee. She was one of two who was rescued, found alive. Family members say that the group of friends were on just a road trip so Latavia could undergo a medical procedure in Mexico. We spoke to her mother just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA MCLEOD BURGESS, MOTHER OF MEXICO KIDNAP SURVIVOR: They was driving through and a van came up and hit them, and that van, it started shooting at the car, shooting inside the van, or whatever. And I guess that the others tried to run, and they got shot at the time. Shaeed, they all got shot at the same time, and she watched them die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Rosa Flores is in Brownsville, Texas, where the survivors are recovering this morning. Rosa, what more are you learning about the timeline here? Because we found out about the abductions. Now we know, obviously, what has happened here with those two Americans back on U.S. soil. What are you seeing about the full picture that happened in between then?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, we are learning about some of those intense moments from Mexican officials. They are giving us a clearer picture of what happened. They say that the four Americans crossed into Mexico at about 9:18 a.m. on Friday, and that they were lost. In fact, they were probably lost for a few hours. According to Mexican officials, the Americans crossed over, their cellphone service was patchy. They were trying to contact the doctor that Latavia Washington McGee was expected to go see. That doctor was trying to give them directions.
And that dramatic video was actually taken at 11:45 a.m., which means it was several hours after they crossed the border and that they had been lost. And if you look closely at those dramatic images, you will see the white minivan that the Americans were driving. And that is what Mexican officials say was the first clue for Mexican officials, the fact that the license plates of that white minivan were from North Carolina, which really begs the question why they waited so long, several days, for the announcement, for the FBI to issue a statement regarding Americans being kidnapped in Mexico.
But what Mexican officials do say is that after that they used surveillance video, and they showed pictures of this surveillance video as they tracked that white pickup truck that the Americans were dragged on and driven away. According to Mexican officials, that trace went cold after they followed surveillance video. But then yesterday, Tuesday morning, they received a tip. They followed that tip. That led to the Americans and to the arrest of a 24-year-old from Tamaulipas, Mexico, who Mexican officials say that they don't know if he is connected to the criminal gangs or criminal organizations in Mexico.
Now, about the Americans, the two Americans who survived, Kaitlan, they were brought to the hospital that you see behind me for treatment.
And the other two Americans who died, they are still in Mexico. They are undergoing an autopsy, and of course, the FBI and the Department of State working to bring them back to the United States and reunite them with their families. Kaitlan?
COLLINS: Yes, and so much of this is going to put a focus on those cartels and the security relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. Rosa Flores, when you learn more about the autopsies, please let us know. Thank you. HARLOW: Hundreds of pages of previously unreleased documents in
Dominion's $1.6 billion lawsuit against FOX News are now public. This huge trove includes emails and text messages from top executives and talent that further reinforce that they did not believe the false claims about election fraud that they were still pushing on air. Even Rupert Murdoch himself admitted in an email to the CEO of FOX News that the hosts of his network went too far in pushing Trump's lies.
He describes a meeting with Republican lawmakers, writing this, quote, "Big morning with McConnell, meeting with Graham and other anti- impeachers, but still getting mud thrown at us. Is it unarguable that high-profile FOX voices fed the story that the election was stolen that that January 6th was an important chance to have results overturned? Maybe Sean and Laura went too far. All well for Sean to tell you that he was in despair about Trump, but what did he tell his viewers?" Close quote.
These documents also include a bunch of text messages between FOX Host Tucker Carlson and a member of his staff in which he actually says and details his disdain for former President Trump. He writes, quote, "We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can't wait. I hate him passionately. I blew up at Peter Navarro today in frustration. I actually like Peter, but I can't handle much more of this. That's the last four years, we are all pretending we have got a lot to show for it because admitting what a disaster it's been is tough too to digest. But come on, there isn't really an upside to Trump," close quote. Those are the words of Tucker Carlson. Wow.
Joining us now, Ken Turkel. He has represented several high-profile clients in defamation lawsuits, including probably most famously the case you won, Ken, against "Gawker" for Hulk Hogan that was in 2016, and that was really precedent setting, right, because you guys were able to overcoe a high bar against a media organization. What does this do to FOX? Does this put FOX in more peril?
KEN TURKEL, ATTORNEY WHO REPRESENTED HIGH PROFILE CLIENTS IN DEFAMATION CASES: When we say this, looking at what's been released, there is an awful lot of documentary evidence, text messages, emails, quite a bit to digest. Breaking it down, the thoughts that I have are, first, you rarely see that much paper in one of these cases, internal messaging rooms, things like that. But there is so much here, so much communication.
And then you have this emerging testimony of Rupert Murdoch, which is dynamite. It's tremendous evidence for a jury trial. It's storytelling. I think in their opposition to the summary judgment motion that FOX filed, Dominion started with an excerpt from that testimony, because it really is, at the end of the day we tell stories, and the stories have to make sense and they have to be compelling and persuasive. It's a great story lead-in.
But there is really no legal impact to it from an actual malice perspective because the law is always going to focus on the mindset, or what I like to call the undisclosed mental process of the speaker. And that's what usually makes these cases so hard is you are trying to prove what someone was thinking, what they knew, when there is rarely any direct evidence of that.
What is interesting about this case right now, keeping in mind that Judge Davis already denied a motion to dismiss, that I think the legal issues are going to stay the same. We are dealing with summary judgment. Is there dispute in material fact? And rarely do you see this much clear indication that a broadcaster, a writer, was disclosing their state of mind, directly disclosing it. I don't believe this. Then you have a report that's to the contrary. Fascinating. Very different.
LEMON: With all of that said, then, does it say anything to you that there has not been a settlement at this point? Because usually at this point, especially considering so much paper and depositions and all that, usually, let's get this behind us. We don't want this much disclosed about our company.
TURKEL: It's sort of a different world. These bigger cases, I can tell you, my own experience, having had to try Hogan, which was really a privacy case with bad First Amendment defense, right, but implicated all these issues. And Palin, I didn't settle those. They went to trial. The question really is, what is the end game here? What is Dominion looking for?
Because so often in these it's vindication, reputation rehabilitation, clear retraction with unambiguous language that we lied, things like that. They also have a pretty robust damages case with a nice business damages element for lost profits and lost enterprise value. But the question really is, what is their end game? That's always the issue. What is the client's goal? I would not be surprised if this thing went to trial.
LEMON: You wouldn't be surprised if what?
TURKEL: I said I would not be surprised if this went to trial given the way the litigation has proceeded. It's unclear who is the lead counsel for Dominion, an excellent attorney. I know Tom. I would not be surprised if they try this case. It's really an issue of what is the goal, what are they looking for?
COLLINS: Quickly, before you go, the idea that they are actually going to get $1.6 billion seems unrealistic when you talk to people about this case. What do you think?
TURKEL: I looked at their damages breakdown, and it's an interesting model. They have lost profits, $600 million, they have lost enterprise, lost business value. When you have business damages like that, which I had in part in Hogan, not the same kind, very different type of damages, that gives you a baseline number. They are not crazy numbers. You assume they are going to have experts that can prove up those business damages, right, forensic accountants. So not crazy. You never know until you get in the courtroom.
LEMON: I don't think this is about money. I think it's about something else. TURKEL: I tend to agree. I think there is a little more going on
LEMON: Thank you, Ken. Good to see you again. Appreciate it.
TURKEL: Yes, yes, thanks for having me. Have a good day.
LEMON: You, too.
So this morning more than 20 hours of new video set to be released related to the brutal police beating death of Tyre Nichols in January. It comes as officials reveal that a seventh Memphis police officer has now been fired. Five have been criminally charged. Following this for us, Shimon Prokupecz joins me now. Shimon, good morning to you. So what can we expect to see in the new video?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be a lot of the officers. It's about 20 hours of video. It's going to be the aftereffects, some of the officers talking about what happened, some of the other officers who we see later on arriving on scene. Significant also, and there is video of actually Tyre's mother talking to one of the officers, Officer Hemphill. He is the officer who used his taser. She comes to the scene where the car is stopped. And she has a conversation with this officer. So that video we do expect to see, and he explains sort of what happened to her and how Tyre had this super strength. And her response to that is going to be certainly interesting and something that we are going to want to hear about and see.
There is going to be some video perhaps what ultimately led up to this stop of Tyre Nichols. And then just the officers talking. Look, there are still a lot more that needs to come out about this, and I think the Memphis police department now that their internal investigation -- they investigated 13 officers. That's a lot of police officers. Of course, seven now being fired, others being suspended. So there is still a lot we need to learn and a lot more information and documents that they say are going to come out, and we are going to learn more, perhaps, about exactly everything that sort of led up to this and what the officers were saying afterwards.
COLLINS: I think the big question, though, is does it lead to more charges?
PROKUPECZ: Right, there is -- the district attorney is certainly considering charges against that one other officer, Officer Hemphill. He is the white officer who we hear saying, stomp his ass, and then he uses the taser. So that is someone certainly that is in the crosshairs of the district attorney, and we could potentially see charges.
A total of about seven or so officers are under criminal investigation. So we'll see if more. And also there is the Department of Justice investigation and whether or not they are going to bring criminal charges against these officers for civil rights violations. So there's still a lot.
But also, the other thing that's happening here, this community really besieged by crime. Crime is a significant issue in this community, and they were asking for police to do more. But last night the city council, there is a new ordinance now in place as a result of this where unmarked police vehicles can no longer do crime -- can no longer do car stops.
HARLOW: No. This is beyond the SCORPION unit.
PROKUPECZ: Right. So if you are an undercover car, unmarked car in the city of Memphis, you are no longer allowed to pull over vehicles unless there is some kind of exigent circumstance. So it's going to change how policing is going to need to be done there in the city. Significant stuff.
LEMON: It is, huge. Superhuman strength, really? Thank you, Shimon.
COLLINS: Thanks Shimon.
All right, also this morning, from China to Mexico to communities right here in the United States, are David Culver is going to take a look at the border and how fentanyl and the products that are laced with it actually make their way into the United States.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right Kaitlan, it starts with going to where it's being made and that's on the other side of this border in Mexico. So, we head to a place that's known as Cartel country, credibly dangerous but we go along with the Mexican army. And you're going to see as you join us how they're going about this, how they're trying to crack down, and all the obstacles they're facing on the ground there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There so many families out there who have kids struggling, I mean, after COVID the crisis that, you know, the phones, the social media, all that stuff. So, yes, absolutely do the struggle for sure. But fentanyl it was something I had heard of, but not something I would have ever thought would have killed our child ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That's a mom who's feeling like so many other parents across the United States. She was speaking at CNN town hall with Anderson Cooper last night that was focused on fentanyl. About her son's death and her family's experience with the devastating fentanyl crisis here in America. It is claimed more than 200,000 lives over the last two years. You can see, many of the victims here, so many of them in their 20s and 30s. It is affecting communities nationwide known for its extreme potency.
Fentanyl is not only one of those dangerous opioids that is found on the streets today, it's also one of the cheapest. CNN's David Culver is live on the U.S.-Mexico border. Obviously, David, this has such a focus on where this comes from. We were just talking to Republican Congressman Michael Waltz about this in the frustrations there. You've been tracing the path of fentanyl, and where it goes from Chinese chemical factories, how it makes its way to Mexico drug bust. What is that line there? What does it look like?
CULVER: Yes. So, Kaitlan, the biggest frustration in trying to answer this question, how do you stop the flow? Especially when it comes over borders, like the one right behind me is trying to figure out where it starts as you point out the chemicals, the ingredients that are used to make fentanyl, they come from China. So, that's a big player in all of this, and so too is Mexico. Just south of the border and what law enforcement they are doing. Now, the Mexican army and the military as a whole as well as local law enforcement in Mexico. They face a lot of allegations of corruption that they're just not doing enough. The Mexican army told us, that's not true that they are doing something, we said show us, here's where they took us.
CULVER (voiceover): Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa, Cartel country, as some see it. Here the Mexican army is on the hunt for drug labs. With 50 soldiers and in a convoy of six armored vehicles. We travel out of Culiacan into a rural and mountainous landscape. U.S. officials estimate fentanyl makes Mexico's criminal organizations, billions of dollars each year. The cartels determined to eliminate anyone or anything that might threaten their profit. Colonel Alfredo Gonzalez Cuevas, our guide. Taking us to the scene of their latest fentanyl bust. They're securing the perimeter right now.
Days earlier, he says cartel members opened fire on him and his soldiers. He said they started shooting at them hitting the vehicles. And then the four guys started running. The Army's Intel led them to this unassuming home. In a quiet family-friendly neighborhood. That white building right there. That's the fentanyl lab. The army says they seized 270,000 pills here all containing fentanyl. This is about all sorts of machines to make the pills. In is the only 35 years in the Army working to dismantle drug operations. The Colonel tells me fentanyl has been far more devastating and difficult to control than cocaine, heroin and meth.
They test substances to know what exactly they're seizing. So, it shows it here, it's a breakdown of what the chemical is and what makes it up and then David hands here listed the hazmat component to it. Crucial and understanding how fentanyl is made is knowing where the chemicals are sourced. A lot of them he says come from the port, which came in from Asia. Higher-ranking military officials have told us, most of them come from China. China's vast chemical industry is where experts say many of the ingredients to manufacture fentanyl known as precursors are sourced. And with worsening U.S.-China relations, working with Chinese officials to stop the flow, increasingly challenging.
MATTHEW DONAHUE, FORMER DEA CHIEF OF FOREIGN OPERATIONS: With China. It's extremely difficult because you don't get information from them. You don't get cooperation from them. So. CULVER (voiceover): Matt Donahue, he worked for the DEA for more than three decades, retiring last year as its Deputy Chief of foreign operations.
DONAHUE: Mexico goes intentionally making these drugs known to kill Americans and still shipping them up there, without putting anyone in jail, without seizing any properties or going after all their drug assets.
CULVER (voiceover): High-ranking Mexican officials adamantly push back on that claim. Instead, they point to the U.S. to do more on its soil. A sentiment echoed by China on Monday, the Foreign Ministry responding to our questions, saying in part, "The accusation by some people from the U.S. that China is not further controlling the export of fentanyl precursors because of geopolitical influence is a desecration of the spirit of the rule of law and is completely groundless." Adding, "Using China as a scapegoat will not solve the drug crisis in the United States."
Back in Culiacan, the army keeps a presence at these busted labs 24/7, preserving the scenes for prosecutors and preventing cartel members from restarting production. They also conduct random inspections at package facilities around Culiacan. Searching for fentanyl and the precursor chemicals needed to make it, even setting up checkpoints, working to prevent the distribution of drugs made here. Wow, he said in one of the searches, for example, it's not uncommon to find that fentanyl or other drugs will be stashed in places like the car wheel or within the car but even in the gas tank.
DONAHUE: Fentanyl, it's sad, t's dirt cheap. You can take a life for probably five cents,10 cents what cost them to make a pill. But they're charging $15.00 for, you know, what's your human life worth now?
CULVER (voiceover): Just days after our visit, Mexican army officials sent us this video from the back room of this small home. They seized 600,000 fentanyl pills. Countless lives potentially saved. But the cartel fueled production and seemingly endless and so to the devastation that awaits.
CULVER (on camera): Where we are live this morning is a pretty significant part of the seizure process. In fact, out of all the fentanyl that is seized nationally in this country, more than half come from this district in the San Diego area.
And let me show you this. Kaitlan, this was just from last week, it shows you just how potent some of these busts could potentially be. And you're looking at 232 pounds of fentanyl that were seized worth about $3,000,000. Three people were arrested for bringing it over but this has the potential according to U.S. law enforcement to kill 50 million people. I mean, that's basically combining the populations of New York State and Texas. It's significant. COLLINS: Yes, it's incredibly significant. It's every parent's worst nightmare. David Culver, that's a fantastic look at what actually happens behind the scenes. Thank you, for that reporting.
HARLOW: Wow, I can't wait to see more of his investigation into this. All right, six near collisions smoke filling cabins, a passenger threatening to stab a flight attendant going after them, so many scares recently in the air. We'll be joined by a pilot to talk about what the FAA can do about it.
LEMON: Six close calls in just two months. There have been six reported near collision.