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Fox Producer Claims Network Layers Coerced Her; Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) is Interviewed about Financial Failure; First Full Day of Spring. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 21, 2023 - 08:30   ET




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A Fox News producer filing two new and explosive lawsuits against the network alleging that she was coerced into giving misleading testimony in Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation case against the company.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Abby Grossberg worked for the host Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson. She's now accusing the network's legal team of intimidation while they prepared her for a deposition.

CNN's Oliver Darcy is covering this and joins us now.

What is she alleging exactly? She's saying that when she was talking to these attorneys before she went in for the deposition, that they, she alleges, manipulated her into giving testimony that wasn't accurate?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: That's essentially what she's saying. This is just more legal trouble here for Fox News. This producer is saying that she was basically bullied and intimidated and coerced into giving misleading testimony when she was deposed in Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network. I'll read to you actually from the lawsuit. It says, Fox News attorneys acted as agents and at the behest of Fox News to misleadingly coach, manipulate and coerce Ms. Grossberg to deliver shaded and/or incomplete answers during her sworn deposition testimony, which answers were clearly to her reputational detriment but greatly benefitted Fox News.


And this bombshell lawsuits - or pair of lawsuits comes at a really critical time in the case. Fox News is set to duke it out in court with Dominion in a key hearing later today. And so news that she potentially was, you know, coerced into giving misleading testimony during a sworn deposition is, obviously, a pretty explosive allegation, Kaitlan.

LEMON: But isn't she saying that they were setting her and another anchor up to be the fall guys for all of this, correct? DARCY: In her lawsuit she's alleging rampant sexism at Fox News. And

so she is alleging that that sexism played a role in trying to basically set Maria Bartiromo, who she worked with, up and for her up to take the fall for some of these allegations in Dominion Voting Systems' lawsuit against the network.

I want to note, too, there are a lot of other allegations in here that deal with sexism.

COLLINS: What's Fox saying, though?

DARCY: Fox is saying that she was basically a disgruntled employee and these allegations shouldn't really be taken credibly. I'll read you their statement. They say, Fox News Media engaged in an independent outside counsel to immediately investigate the concerns raised by Ms. Grossberg, which were made following a critical performance review. We will vigorously defend these claims.

I talked to her last night, and talked to her attorney. They dispute that this was - there was a negative performance review. They say they want to -- or she wants to expose the lies and deceit she witnessed at Fox News for years and that she is now coming forward with this lawsuit to do just that.

LEMON: Another lawsuit for Fox. Thank you very much. Appreciate it, Oliver Darcy.

COLLINS: Thanks, Oliver.

LEMON: So, later today, the Federal Reserve will meet on whether to raise interest rates again. How might the banking crisis - how that could impact its decision there.

And a member of the Finance Services Committee, there he is, Republican Congressman Brian Donalds, is going to join us in just a moment. Byron Donalds. Excuse me.



COLLINS: All right, welcome back.

You are looking at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy there. He is taking questions in Orlando. This is at the Republican retreat. He was actually just asked about the hush money payments and the investigation going on here in New York with former President Trump. We'll bring you that live in a moment.

But also this morning, the Federal Reserve is facing a difficult decision as they begin a two-day meeting on whether or not to raise interest rates after we've seen the recent turmoil in the banking system. Two bank failures and an 11th hour rescue of Credit Suisse have investors expecting a smaller quarter-point increase as the central bank is continuing its fight to bring down inflation. So, joining us now to talk about all of this is Republican Congressman

Byron Donalds of Florida, who serves on the Financial Services Committee.

You're going to be holding hearings on this next week. What do you think the Federal Reserve is going to do? If they do a smaller interest rate raise, if they do a quarter point, is that helpful or hurtful in your view?

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): I think it's going to just keep things kind of going the way everybody assumes it's going to go. I think a quarter point's fine. Me, personally, I think the Fed should just go ahead and go to 50 basis points because the underlying issue.

Go to 50 basis points because the underlying issue, whether we want to talk about bank balance sheets or not, is this inflation in our economy, which is really crippling younger families, seniors, people on the lower end of the economic spectrum in America. They're suffering the most. You have to get this inflation out of the our economy. If you can do that and get that job done, you can then figure out how to contain and protect bank balance sheets the best that you can so the banking system can continue to thrive.

COLLINS: Do you think there's an appropriate legislative response here, maybe insuring deposits over $250,000? What do you want to see as a result of what we've seen play out with banks?

DONALDS: Actually, I don't really think there's a legislative response because if you look at the facts, a couple of things occurred. Number one, at Silicon Valley Bank they didn't have a chief risk officer for about six to nine months, somewhere in that time window. Obviously, they weren't paying attention to the duration risk on their bonds. A big question we have is, what was Mary Daly, who is the president of the San Francisco Fed, what was she paying attention to and why wasn't' she raising the alarms on a bank that she was regulating and overseeing, what was going on there?

You have a failure of management at this bank, not a contagion in the banking system overall. So, I don't think there's a legislative fix. What probably should have happened is the FDIC should have allowed for a sale to happen pretty quickly and then you can figure out how to manage the rest of the banks in that same kind of position with respect to their balance sheet.

COLLINS: OK, Congressman, we'll wait to see what those hearings look like.

And, also, you're joining us from Orlando, where the Republican retreat is happening right now. We just saw House Speaker McCarthy speaking. We actually want to play a sound bite of what he just said, weighing in on our next subject, which is this looming potential indictment of former President Trump.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Look, the thing I think about -- it was interesting. Someone briefed me on the use of money, a situation like this before. And you probably covered this. Remember when the DNC and Hillary Clinton paid the law firm $1 million but it -- and said that it was for something else, and we found out later it wasn't? It was all about the Russia collusion. It wasn't for a legal part. And so they went through and they got investigated. $1 million they spent. And you know what, at the end of the day, they didn't get prosecuted. They got fined. Hillary's campaign got fined $8,000 and the DNC got fined $100,000.


COLLINS: Congressman, the rest of the remarks there still playing out. He was essentially arguing that what's happening with Trump in this investigation is that it's political, that that was personal money, talking about the timeline of when the payments happened. We don't know if the indictment is going to happen or when it's going to happen yet, but Trump has called for protests. If there are protests, do you think that they should be peaceful?

DONALDS: Of course. And I think that -- of course every protest should be peaceful. We've never argued for anything different than that. I think if there are Americans who choose to protest, they should do it peacefully.


But let's be very clear, what Alvin Bragg and his office is attempting to do is use essentially an investigation that the DOJ looked at, the FEC looked at. They did not bring charges. They said there's nothing really to do with this. They moved on. And he's trying to, quote, legal experts, shoehorn some legal theory to go get Trump. That's the essence of political prosecution. That's what's happening right now in New York, which I think is wrong. He should be focused on the people who are actually perpetrating crimes against the people of New York today as opposed to playing gotcha politics.

COLLINS: Three House committee chairs are now publicly demanding that Alvin Bragg sit for a transcribed interview, turn over material from his investigation. But we haven't even seen an indictment yet. Don't you think they're -- they should wait for the actual indictment to happen before they can call for a congressional investigation?

DONALDS: No, I don't think so, because even if you have a situation where you have a prosecutor who is really now living outside the bounds of even his prosecutorial authorities and abilities, that's something that, yes, a judiciary should take a look at that, Oversight Committee should be able to take a look at that. We don't want to have a system of justice in our country that is politically motivated. And if you're going to go pull out the payments to Stormy Daniels, to Michael Cohen, and now say that there's some hidden felony nobody knows about, and you're trying to raise the stakes to bring that in, yes, Congress should look at that because we don't want an unequal application of the law. We don't want a law basically to just point at one person. That's not our system of justice in America. That is, I believe, under congressional purview. And Chairmans Jordan and Comer expressly stated that in their letter that they released yesterday. COLLINS: But how can you investigate it if you don't actually know what the charges are yet?

DONALDS: Well, this is why we're just asking for simple documentation about the communications between former members of the New York D.A.'s office and what they're going on with right now where federal money is used associated to help this investigation move forward. Those are simple requests of information that we've - that we're making at this point. We'll look at that response and make a determination from there.

COLLINS: Well, also asking him to come for a transcribed interview. You're from Florida. Your governor, Ron DeSantis, weighed in on this yesterday. This is what he said.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just - I can't speak to that.

But what I can speak to is that, if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in its jurisdiction and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, you know, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.


COLLINS: Congressman, what did you make of him making a point to note the underlying conduct here?

DONALDS: I mean, look, I just think that's the - that's Governor DeSantis trying to explain fully his viewpoint on this whole thing.

But, look, I'm not going to get into the political semantics obviously that are happening in Florida right now. We've got to get back to the issue at hand. Alvin Bragg is overstepping his bounds as a prosecutor. There have been issues with prosecutors who have been widely using their discretion, in some respects overusing it, while at the same time, in his city, he's ignoring violent crimes. The NYPD is arresting people. He's letting them walk out the back door. That needs to be the focus. You know, the back and forth between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, that will take care of itself in the future.

COLLINS: Yes, well I should note that Alvin Bragg did - his office did say homicides are down, shootings are down in Manhattan.

But on DeSantis and Trump, it is a real question. You're from Florida. If DeSantis runs, which candidate are you going to support?

DONALDS: Listen, first of all, Ron DeSantis hasn't even gotten into this race. So, the hypotheticals, I don't really get into that. Right now we're focused on what we're doing to get the American economy and the American people back on track in Congress. Governor DeSantis is doing his job as governor. I was with him the other day dealing a Hurricane Ian aftermath reports, trying to get pressure on FEMA to actually do its job and get trailers to the people who are still about 1,300 homeless in my district. FEMA doesn't want to put trailers because we live in a flood zone. I mean talk about ridiculous. We're focused on that.

And Donald Trump is running for president and he's focused on trying to get our nomination and going on to potentially becoming the 47th president. So that's the things -- those are the things that matter right now.

COLLINS: All right, Congressman, thank you so much for joining us this morning from Orlando from the Republican retreat.

DONALDS: Of course. Anytime.

LEMON: It is the first full day of spring and we have to try out an urban legend.


OK. Harry Enten -- gosh, what is going on? Just -- we'll explain. That's all I have to say here. We'll explain, coming up.


LEMON: Finally, it's spring, but Americans may be falling out of love with the season.

CNN's senior data reporter Mr. Harry Enten is here with this morning's number.

He's got an egg, I don't know exactly what that means, but do your thing, sir.


This morning's number is 68, because that's the average high temperature nationally in April and May. What nice weather we have coming for us this springtime. And indeed that's the number one thing that people look forward to in the spring, warm temps, 34, outdoor time, 26. I wonder about spring cleaning at 3 percent.

And I'll just note, this is all about a myth, Don. Can you, in fact, balance an egg? Is it easier during the spring equinox?


The answer is no, though, as before the commercial break, we did try. It's not worth trying and, you know, put down the table, Phil and I were trying to do it.

LEMON: Is that thing boiled or is it --

ENTEN: This is hard. I can throw this right to you, man.

COLLINS: Please don't. LEMON: OK. I was just going to say, because if it drops and - there's a problem.

Harry, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Welcome to spring, Harry. Thank you so much.

ENTEN: Welcome to spring.

LEMON: Welcome to spring.

COLLINS: All right, Gladys Knight is on a midnight train, not to Georgia, to Washington, D.C., because she and other stars are going to be at the White House today to receive the National Medal of Arts. Gladys Knight, Bruce Springsteen, Mindy Kaling, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jose Feliciano, and Vera Wang all are going to receive awards. President Biden will also award the National Humanities Medal to 11 acclaimed authors and journalists, including Walter Isaacson, who was the CEO of CNN from 2001 to 2003.

LEMON: I remember that.

COLLINS: You remember those times?


COLLINS: Well, he's getting an award today. So, good for him.

LEMON: Good old days.

COLLINS: Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

"NEWSROOM" starts right after this quick break.