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Russia Arrests Wall Street Journal Reporter, Accuses Him of Espionage; Army Says, Several Casualties After Two Blackhawks Crash in Kentucky; Evacuations in Minnesota After Train Carrying Ethanol Details, Catches Fire. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 07:00   ET


JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: The court wasn't going to move too far, too fast in either direction.


But, as you know, he doesn't have that same court. Justice Kennedy has since left the bench, replaced by Brett Kavanaugh. A partner that he had in many of his negotiations was Stephen Breyer, and he left last year. So, we're not going to see as many bridge building cases down the road as we saw prior, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. It's like an end of an era, essentially. So, it shows you how much the court changing had an impact on.

BISKUPIC: That's right.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Joan, always a pleasure.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

LEMONS: We're following a lot of breaking news. CNN This Morning continues right now.


COLLINS: We have breaking news. An American reporter has been arrested in Russia accused by Russia of espionage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking about an American citizen who has now been arrested for what you can assume is doing his job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two Blackhawk helicopters crashing overnight in Kentucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, as soon they got over the house, something pop loud, loud bang.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Helicopters from 101st Airborne Division were on a routine training mission when the incident happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It resulted in, quote, several casualties. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Concerns for the health of Pope Francis as the 86-year-old is hospitalized.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those tests showed that he does indeed have a respiratory infection.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's unclear if the leader of the world's nearly 1.4 billion Roman Catholics will be able to lead the celebration of this weekend's Palm Sunday mass and Holy Week ceremonies at the Vatican leading up to Easter on April 9th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are six people are dead in that school, including three children, because you guys got rid of the assault weapons ban.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We need to talk about protecting our children the same way we protect our president, our celebrities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are worried about banning books. Dead kids can't read.

COLLINS: Elon Musk and other artificial intelligence experts are now calling for an immediate pause in the training of the most powerful A.I. systems, citing, quote, profound risk society and humanity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very inventors of the technology are saying, we can't be responsible for what's going to be done with it.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's too late. We've already shown our hand in terms of where this is all headed.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Then to say, everyone, you've got to stop, that's scary to me.


LEMON: We do have major breaking news, the detail still unfolding. We're going to bring it to you here. It is out of Russia. The Russians have arrested an American Wall Street Journal reporter and accused him of espionage. They claimed that he was trying to obtain secret information and that he was spying in the interests of the American government.

He is the first American journalist to be detained on spying charges in Russia since 1986.

COLLINS: Just remarkable. And The Wall Street Journal is now saying they vehemently denied the allegations that are being made by Russia. As for the White House, a source tells me the administration is still gathering information regarding Evan Gershkovich's arrest. They have been in touch with The Wall Street Journal.

So, for more on this, let's start with Matthew Chance, who is live in Moscow. Matthew, what is the latest that we're hearing on this from the Russian government and the claims that they're making? MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, obviously, this is something that we've been tracking for several hours now since our sources here first starting to reveal the idea of the American citizen had been detained on espionage charges.

But the Russian FSB, which is the successor organization to the KGB, have now come out with an official statement detailing what has actually happened or what they say has happened. They say that they terminated the illegal activity of an American journalist.

They named him as Evan Gershkovich, an employee, correspondent, reporter of the of The Wall Street Journal based here in accredited here for them by the Russian foreign ministry.

They said this. He was on a mission from the American side to accumulate classified evidence on one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex. He was in the process, they say, of receiving secret evidence relating to that when he was apprehended in the city of Yekaterinburg, which is about 1,100 miles away from Moscow in the Urals region of the country.

And it's that region actually one of the main industrial places in the country and there are lots of sort of arms manufacturers there, weapons factories and things like that. And so it's a very sensitive area. But, you know, there's obviously been no details on exactly what Mr. Gershkovich was actually reporting on.

You mentioned The Wall Street Journal. They initially issued a statement saying they're worried about his safety. Now, they're issuing a statement saying they categorically deny the charges of espionage that have been leveled against him by the FSB prosecutors that are engaged in this thing, they've called for his immediate release.


But, of course, this is something that the Russians are taking immensely seriously, the charges of espionage carrier maximum sentence in this country 20 years. So, it's very, very serious indeed.

LEMON: The last report from The Journal was March 28th is when he last reported there, and it was on Russia's economy starting to come undone. Investment is down, labor is scarce, budget has squeezed oligarch, there will be no money next. So, he's been critical of what is happening there.

This reporter, Matthew, is accredited to work as a journalist in Russia, but reporters have been operating under strict laws. Explain that, please.

CHANCE: Yes. I mean, it's really tough here, particularly since the invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. Laws have really been tightened up. Basically, the Russians have made it illegal to take part in critical reporting to criticize the government, to criticize the Russian military. It's now -- that carries a very heavy prison sentence, and lots of local journalists have fallen foul of this. But, you know, this isn't, remember, what Evan Gershkovich is accused of. He is accused of a much more serious offense, that of espionage, which is an entirely different category, and has said The Wall Street Journal have denied that. The kinds of things that he's been publishing in The Wall Street Journal, I mean, that there are no different to the sort of things that we've all been doing, looking at, you know, how the special military operation in Ukraine, as Russia calls it, is going down with the Russian population.

But the foreign ministry here in Russia says that the things that he was doing had nothing to do with journalism. So, they're standing by at this point their arrest.

LEMON: All right. Matthew Chance joining us from Moscow this morning, Matthew, thank you very much.

COLLINS: And joining us now is former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty, who is now an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Jill, good morning and thank you for being here.

I think the context here is really important, because you heard Matthew saying there something like this has not happened with a U.S. journalist since 1986. When that happened in 1986, that was Nick Daniloff had been arrested. And at the time, he essentially said he believed it was a tit-for-tat because a Soviet citizen had been arrested, he believed he was arrested.

We should note that the Kremlin has been asked that last week, a Russian citizen was arrested in the U.S. and accused of being a spy. They're not commenting on whether or not that has to do with the arrest of this reporter, but I wonder what you make of that, as we are still trying to figure out more details here.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's entirely possible. I mean, it could be tit-for-tat. There are things that can go on behind the scenes that we don't even know that could be tit-for-tat. But I think this is a very disturbing sign because, again, that date was Nick Daniloff was way back in the mid-1980s. And the problem right now is that the laws in Russia are -- even the ones dealing with information, period, let alone any alleged espionage, are already broadly worded so that a journalist doing his or her job could easily violate that, whatever the law is.

But this is really -- I agree with Matthew. This is much more serious. I think it indicates that the FSB is really cracking down right now, and it presents true problems for the U.S., even the embassy in Russia right now, the American embassy has very little -- very few personnel and it's going to be very difficult to deal with this. But this is a sign.

I was looking at the background of Evan Gershkovich. And he is an experienced reporter, relatively young, but he's worked for agencies in Russia for quite a while. I would presume that he speaks Russian, and he was probably quite effective in what he was doing in his journalism. But this is this is a real challenge right now. LEMON: Jill, when you look at the Daniloff situation, that was in the Reagan administration in '86, at the end of the cold war. But we, listen, we can't forget, looming over all of this is the war in Ukraine, and, you know, the Americans, what America is doing in the west to help Ukraine, I wonder if that plays, if you feel this plays into that, how it --

DOUGHERTY: There is no question. Yes, I would say there's no question, and precisely because if you look at this allegation, the charges, that it was some type of espionage in Yekaterinburg, as Matthew pointed out, there are and there specifically is an arms manufacturing plant that I found online, and this could be -- you know, a reporter could be looking for information to write a story, a normal story.

But at this point, all of this -- when this goes to trial and all of this is likely to be secret, so it will be very hard even to understand precisely what they are charging him with and trials are secret.


It's a serious situation for him to be in.

LEMON: Jill Dougherty, thank you very much. We appreciate you bringing us your expertise this morning on this breaking news story. Thanks so much.

In the meantime, we have other news to cover here. The U.S. Army -- breaking news out of Kentucky, this is what's happening here. The U.S. Army is reporting several casualties after two Blackhawk helicopters crashed during a training mission there in Kentucky. The military hasn't said how many soldiers were killed or injured, but the Army is set to hold a news conference just hours from now.

Now, these are photos of the crash site. It's from our -- from local radio station WKDZ. You can see a plume of smoke and what looks like a piece of the wreckage. A witness who lives nearby describing what he heard right before the choppers went down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two helicopters came over pretty low, and all of a sudden, soon as they got over the house, something popped, a loud bang, and everything shut down just all of a sudden. So, we jumped in the truck and came over here, and that's what we've found, two helicopters.


LEMON: We turn now to CNN National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand tracking this story for us from the Pentagon. Natasha, hello. The Army set to hold a news conference this morning. And what else do you know?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Don. We are expecting to hear from them at around 10:00 A.M. Eastern Time. But what we know right now is pretty limited. We are told that it was two Blackhawk helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division operating in Southwestern Kentucky that crashed around 10:00 P.M. on Wednesday night. And they were undergoing a routine training mission, according to a statement from the Fort Campbell Military Base on Facebook.

We are learning, in addition to that, there were several casualties. That is what the army is saying there, declining to say at this point whether there were any -- how many, I should say, injuries or even fatalities there were and that is something that we're expecting to hear more about in the coming hours.

But the governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, he is also weighing in this morning, and he said on Twitter that he does expect that there will be several fatalities that have come out of this accident. He tweeted, we've got some tough news out of Fort Campbell with early reports of a helicopter crash, and fatalities are expected.

Now, unfortunately, these kinds of training accidents are pretty common. In fact, a congressional report from 2019 found that between 2006 and 2018, about 32 percent of active duty military deaths were a result of these kinds of accidents. And, in fact, just last month, a Blackhawk helicopter with the Tennessee National Guard crashed in Alabama and everyone on board was killed in that incident as well, Don.

LEMON: All right. Natasha Bertrand following this breaking news story for us, thank you, Natasha.

COLLINS: We have a lot of breaking news and a new update that was just in on the pope's condition from moments ago. The Vatican says he is, quote, improving after he spent the night in the hospital. He has a respiratory infection, we are told. And the 86-year-old pontiff does not have COVID, which is important to note here, but the Vatican does say he rested well during the night, he even did some work this morning, but it is expected to stay in the hospital for at least the next several days.

Our CNN Vatican Correspondent Delia Gallagher is live outside of his hospital there in Rome. Delia what's the latest that we're hearing from the Vatican on how he's doing?

DELIA GALLAHGER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kaitlan, this is really what people wanted to hear, certainly compared to the uncertainty of yesterday. We know the diagnosis is a respiratory infection, but this update was very important to understand exactly where the pope's health is at.

It seems to suggest that his health is stable, certainly improving, they say, that he is continuing with the medical procedures that they had planned for him for this respiratory illness, which they told us yesterday will take a few days. So, we're expecting that.

But the fact that he was able to even do some work in his hospital rooms, which, by the way, are these five windows with the shutters down just behind me, when popes come to the Rome's Gemelli Hospital, that's where they stay. So, I would say a very encouraging report this morning from the Vatican. Of course, Pope Francis is 86 years old. He has a vulnerability to respiratory issues because when he was 21, he had part of his lung taken out due to a respiratory illness. So, obviously very important to monitor this moment with the pope, but I would say compared to yesterday, today, a bit of a sigh of relief that this update is indeed good. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, a good update we have, the rest of them are good as well. Delia Gallagher, we know you'll stay on top of it. Thank you.

LEMON: An update out of Nashville now. New this morning, Nashville Police officials say that they believe the shooter who killed three children and three adults at the Covenant School on Monday had weapons training, although it's unclear when and where that training took place.

The police are also working to recreate a timeline of the shooters movements on the day of the shooting.


They acknowledge the shooter may have made a stop after leaving the house before but before arriving at the school. This as mourners gathered in Nashville to attend a vigil to remember the victims that featured a live musical Performance from Sheryl Crow.

The first lady, Jill Biden, was also in attendance at the Nashville vigil and went to the memorial for the victims to lay flowers.

COLLINS: Also this morning, we're learning that it could actually be several weeks before we even find out if a grand jury is going to indict former President Trump here in New York. CNN has learned that the jury that is investigating those hush money payments that were made to Stormy Daniels is actually getting ready to go on a break for the most of next month.

Meantime in Washington, the former president is fighting back after several legal defeats in the special counsel's investigation of January 6th now trying to block some of his former aides from testifying, including his White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, after they were told by a judge, they would have to testify.

Our CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is here to break down both of these developments. Paula, what is the latest on what is happening here in Manhattan and is it definitive that we are not going to see this indictment or is it still kind of unknown?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question, Kaitlan. I'm glad we're talking about this, because this break that we anticipate from the grand jury is likely to ramp up speculation about what's happening behind the scenes with this investigation.

But here is what we know. We know the grand jury will meet today, but they're not going to hear evidence in the Trump hush money probe. Grand juries hear evidence about multiple cases. We also know that next week, they're expected to meet on Monday and Wednesday, as they usually do, but they are also not expected to her evidence on the Trump case.

But I want to be cautious here. I mean, some outlets are reporting nothing is going to happen until the end of the month, but I don't think we should go that far. Because grand juries, this is a secretive procedure, this is also still a fluid situation.

So, it's not expected that they'll hear anything on the Trump case next week, but we're going to continue to keep close to that and report it out, because we know that next Wednesday, they will start a previously scheduled break that spans across several religious holidays and school breaks.

Now, that is something that was previously scheduled. But as I said, people are still going to speculate about what's going on behind the scenes. The former president really set a false expectation by saying he expected to be arrested last week, which was, as his own team said, not based on any facts.

Based on our reporting right now there is no indication that they are wavering, and this was again a previously scheduled break.

LEMON: Yes. No breaks for Trump's attorneys and for Paula Reid, who is covering this story and the other investigations as well. Thank you, Paula, I appreciate that.

We're going to continue our breaking coverage here, Moscow and Kentucky, straight ahead.

COLLINS: We're also following news out of Minnesota, evacuations right now are underway after 22 cars that were carrying ethanol and corn syrup derailed. Authorities are working hard to put out the flames. Timing is everything. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is actually going to join us live not just on this, but also more. That's next.



LEMON: So, live pictures now from our affiliate, WCCO, that in Raymond, Minnesota, this morning, a train carrying ethanol and corn syrup has derailed catching fire there. Residents nearby are being evacuated as a precaution. We're still getting some new details there.

Joining us now from the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg. Secretary, thank you. Good morning to you. Can you please tell us what you know about this derailment at this point?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, of course, the information is preliminary, but we have report a car that had about 40 cars, 14 of them carrying hazardous material, including ethanol, which was released, leading to a fire. There's an evacuation about one mile in each direction from the site. This is happening in the community, a small community, about 100 miles west of Minneapolis.

I've been in touch with the governor. We have FRA personnel on the ground. EPA is headed there as well given the hazardous material situation. The most important thing for anyone in the affected area to know is that you've got to pay close attention to any instructions coming from first responders regarding the evacuation or anything else that local officials are telling you. That is for your safety, to make sure that no one is injured.

And as of now, I have not seen a report of any fatalities or injuries. Again, obviously preliminary information right now, but we'll be following closer.

LEMON: But, Secretary, the last couple of times we've had you on, we've spoken about these derailments in Ohio and other places. I'm sure people at home, people in the community, they want to know, why does this keep happening?

BUTTIGIEG: So, the reason that we are pushing so hard on railroad safety is to make sure there are fewer of these incidents. The reason that there are fewer than there used to be in the past is regulation and enforcement. But there's still far too many. And this happens more often than I think most Americans realize. This is exactly why we have called on Congress to create tougher fines and penalties and more authorities. There's bipartisan legislation that would do just that. And in the meantime, without waiting for Congress, we as a department has stepped up safety audits, taken other steps, so that we can hold railroad companies accountable.

Now, the freight railroads often resist this kind of regulation and enforcement, but this is a big part of why we have far fewer derailments and accidents than we did 10, 20 or 40 years ago. It's also the path to having fewer these accidents that we do right now.

LEMON: as you say, far fewer, but, I mean, what has happened now is catastrophic, especially when it comes to Ohio.

I want to move on now because we have so much news to discuss here and ask you about the breaking news coming out of Moscow, the arrest of an American Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia on suspicion of espionage. Wall Street Journal is denying these allegations.


How is Biden administration responding this morning, Secretary?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I'll defer to the White House and the State Department on an official response. What we know is that this is a country that believes in freedom of the press and we know that those kinds of First Amendment freedoms and rights that are so important to us here in the U.S. are not respected in a country like Russia. But, again, obviously, as news unfolds, I know there will be more from the administration on this. LEMON: You have not been briefed on this.

BUTTIGIEG: No, I've been focused on the transportation side.

LEMON: All right. Let's talk about then what's happening in Texas, and you're in Texas as part of the Biden administration's Investing in America tour to highlight improvements the administration is making to air travel and two infrastructure.

The agency has announced that Americans could see a 45 percent increase in flight delays this summer. Why are you still expecting such huge delays?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we're doing everything that we can to make sure that airlines take good care of passengers and the interventions that we had last summer, I think, have made a big difference. First of all, seeing the rate of those cancelations and delays improve over the course of the summer going into Thanksgiving and, importantly, when they do happen, making sure that passengers are taken care of.

Now, going into last summer, almost none of the top ten airlines guaranteed things like meals or hotel vouchers or Brown Transportation or rebookings, now, nearly all of them do because of the work that we've been doing, and we're going to keep pushing.

Now, as we head into spring break and into the summer, I think that many of those improvements are going to pay off, but airlines are still recovering from the pandemic. We're working on things with the FAA as well, although air traffic control, I want to emphasize, is not the reason for the majority of delays and cancelations, and we're going to stay on them to make sure that they take care of customers and passengers, to make sure this year is better than last year and on into the future.

LEMON: So, another key accomplishment Biden plants to tout over the next three weeks is the Inflation Reduction Act. But Senator Joe Manchin, who played a key role in shaping that bill, says that President Biden betrayed him, writing this, the administration is attempting at every turn to implement the bill it wanted, not the bill Congress actually passed. Your response to that, Secretary.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, everything that we do in this administration conforms to the law as written, as passed by Congress and as signed by the president. Of course, we're in constant dialogue with partners in Congress who have shaped this legislation.

The way that the administration is advancing this is designed to ensure that we have economic security, that, for example, the electric vehicle revolution is a made in America electric vehicle revolution, that benefits American workers and creates American jobs.

Some of the factories and facilities under construction that I've been able to visit in places like Glendale, Kentucky, and De Soto, Kansas, that will each employee that 4,000 people, are extraordinary. And, of course, this is also a key part of the fight against climate change. We're, of course , always ready and willing to work with Congress also implementing that law as written and doing it with urgency because we've got to make sure that we get the economic benefits and the climate benefits of this bill as quickly as possible.

LEMON: I got to ask you quickly, but moving into the summer, lots of people travel, which travelers expect this summer, secretary?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, the biggest thing I want travelers to know is that you've got a lot of rights and you've got a lot of protections. Consult the airline customer dashboard that we have put up on our Department of Transportation website. It lets you know what you were owed in a situation where an airline is responsible for cancelation or delay, have this information on things like which airlines will guarantee that you can sit with your kids without having to pay extra and other very useful information.

You know, it's been very encouraging economically to see the extraordinarily fast return to the skies and return to travels, when just two years ago, the big question around the aviation sector in the U.S. was whether it was going to go out of business.

But with that comes a lot of strain on the system, and that's part of what I'm doing out here right now, visiting four airports over two days, meeting with air traffic controllers, looking at the results of some of the runway and taxiway and other improvements that we're making and the investments that President Biden's infrastructure packages delivering across the country, including things that passengers will never see.

But as a passenger, I want you to know that these improvements are designed for you not to have to worry about and when we change the taxiway so that it's safer or upgrading air traffic controller, but the reason it does matter to you is it's part of making sure that your trip is safe.

LEMON: As we keep an eye on the breaking news coming out of Minnesota, as you know, visiting the site from Ohio, right, was a subject of consternation. Do you plan to visit Minnesota?

BUTTIGIEG: Right now, I am not going to get in the way of investigators or local officials. I did visit Ohio.


As far as we know, it's the first time that a transportation secretary has visited a hazardous material derailment site because it was very important for the community.