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American Journalist Arrested in Russia on Allegations of Spying; Two Helicopters Collide During Army Training; New Emails in Dominion Voting Systems Lawsuit against FOX News Reveal Rupert Murdoch Critical of Former President Trump's Claims of Election Fraud; Another Major Storm Hits California. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 08:00   ET



ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the pitch clock and the new rules are arguably the biggest changes we've ever seen in baseball history. And Major League Baseball, they surveyed the fans, Don and Kaitlan, and they asked what you didn't like the most. And people said the games last too long, and sometimes it's not a lot of action on the field. They get pretty boring. These new rules, they fixed both of those problems in a big way. And as someone who has three sons who loves watching the games and going to baseball games with them, a game that lasts about two-and-a-half hours, that sounds pretty awesome.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know. As long as there's still time to get a hot dog and a beer.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You just read my mind. I was saying, yes, I was just going to say that. The best thing about a baseball game, the hot dogs and the beer.

COLLINS: You call it baseball season, Andy. We call it hot dog seasons.

SCHOLES: You might miss a whole inning now.


COLLINS: All right, Andy Scholes, thank you.

LEMON: CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

COLLINS: Good morning, everyone. Poppy is off this morning. We are here. We have a lot of breaking news for you. Some major updates that are happening after Russia has arrested an American journalist and accused him of spying. We're going to take you live to Moscow.

LEMON: We'll have that, and two Army helicopters crashing in Kentucky. The military is reporting several casualties, and we're expecting to get an update just a short time from now. COLLINS: Also evacuations underway at this moment in Minnesota after

a train that was loaded with ethanol derailed and caught fire.

But we're going to start this morning with the major breaking news out of Russia that we are following where a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" has been arrested. Russia is now commenting on this, arresting this reporter, and accusing him of espionage. The Russians claim he was trying to obtain secret information. A source tells me that the White House has been in touch with "The Wall Street Journal" on this matter. Right now, U.S. officials are still gathering information regarding Evan Gershkovich's arrest.

LEMON: The last time Russia accused a U.S. journalist of being a spy, that was in 1986 during the Cold War. "The Wall Street Journal vehemently denying the allegations and is demanding his immediate release. CNN asked the Kremlin if it was a tit for tat for the U.S. arresting the suspected Russian spy just last week, allegedly posed as a Brazilian graduate student. Putin's spokesperson responded to that, and he said it had nothing to do with that -- had nothing to say about the topic.

So let's start now with CNN's Matthew Chance. He joins us now from Moscow. Matthew, good morning to you. What is the latest that we're hearing from the Russian government right now about this?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. Well look, this is a very, very fast moving, developing situation, and we're not getting a lot of information, as you might expect, from the Russians. Although we've been tracking the plight of this "Wall Street Journal" reporter for some time now, since he basically disappeared when he was on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, which is about 1,100 miles away from Moscow.

But within the last couple of hours, the Russian FSB, secret service, in other words, the successor organization to the KGB, has issued a formal statement saying that they terminated the illegal activity, as they phrase it, of an American journalist. They've named him as Evan Gershkovich of "The Wall Street Journal". They said he was on a mission from the American side to accumulate classified information on one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex.

Now the Yekaterinburg has got a lot of military factories there, tank manufacturing plants, ammunition plants as well. It's possible that Evan Gershkovich was doing some report for "The Wall Street Journal" on them. The FSB says that while he was attempting to receive secret evidence he was apprehended in the city of Yekaterinburg. You mentioned that "The Wall Street Journal." They have categorically denied, vehemently denied the allegations against him and have called for his immediate release, but the foreign ministry has issued a statement. Their spokesman, Maria Zakharova, saying that there is no question that the activities, and I'm paraphrasing here, the activities of Evan Gershkovich were not compatible, were nothing to do, she said, with journalism. So the Russians are standing by this arrest right now.

COLLINS: Yes, well, a lot more to be learned about this, especially from the U.S. side of this.

LEMON: Can I ask you something. Did you know him? Have you run into him on assignment at all since you're both in Russia?

CHANCE: I didn't know him personally, but I know his name very well. He's a very prominent journalist in Russia because he's been working not just for "The Wall Street Journal" but for the French news agency for a long time, and before that for "The Moscow Times," which is an English language newspaper here, so I've been reading his bylines of for many, many years.

LEMON: Thank you, Matthew, appreciate that.

I want to bring in now CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Jim, good morning to you. This news coming overnight. In all of your years, I know there's the last time this happened was 1986 as we have been discussing, but this is quite rare, but quite serious.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, we should take any Russian claims or accusations here with enormous skepticism and doubt, right? It may have been many years since a journalist has been arrested on these charges. But we've had other Americans. We have Paul Whelan, a former Marine, accused of spying as well. And of course, the Brittney Griner case, a case where Russia greatly Trumped up their accusations of drug trafficking, right, before she was released. So Russia's track record on this inspires zero -- little to zero confidence.

And Russia does, we know, have a habit of taking Americans and other foreign nationals in effect as hostages, right, hostages to be used as collateral for exchanges for Russians held in the U.S. or other countries. So we have to be conscious of the track record, conscious of Russia's doubtful track record on making accusations like this.

And then bigger picture, just the state of the relationship between these two countries, declining, virtually -- I'm writing a book about this, but virtually every day, there's another sign of really escalation. You have Russian aircraft hitting a U.S. drone. You have the escalation of the war in Ukraine. You have Russia pulling out of many aspects of a nuclear treaty just this week. And I think we could look at this as part of the decline of that broader relationship.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, and that's what's so concerning here, is because the relations are not good between them. Obviously, Brittney Griner was released amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But Jim, the broader context here of the question, when Nick Daniloff was arrested in 1986, he argued that he believed that was in part because of someone that the U.S. had just arrested, a Soviet citizen. I think that's the question here. Obviously, the U.S. arrested a Russian, someone they accused of being a Russian spy last week.

SCIUTTO: Exactly, and someone where, if you read the reporting on that Russian national, there seems to be a lot of data and information to back up what he was actually up to, using a false identification. There are pictures of him in a Russian military uniform going back. It appears the case against this Russian national arrested here, there's actually some substance to that charge he was working as a spy. At this point, we certainly haven't seen that substance, and again, Russia's track record is just horrendous on this in terms of them backing up accusations like this.

Listen, big picture here, too, this is a human story. You have an American national, a young man now thrown into a Russian judicial system, if you want to call it that, but one that is controlled by the government, and that that puts him at enormous risk right now in terms of how Russia operates.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, our chief national security correspondent will be covering this at the top of the hour as well. Jim, thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Thanks.

COLLINS: We want to get to another breaking story overnight. The U.S. Army now reporting several casualties after two Blackhawk helicopters crashed while on a training mission in Kentucky. The military has not said yet how many soldiers were killed or injured, but we are told that the Army is going to hold a news conference in just a few hours. These are the photos of the crash site. This is coming from a local radio station, WKDZ. You can see a plume of smoke and what looks like a piece of the wreckage here. A witness who actually lives nearby described what he heard right before the choppers went down.


JAMES HUGHES, LIVES NEAR CRASH SITE: Two helicopters came over pretty low, and all of a sudden, as soon as they got over the house, something popped, loud banging. And everything shut down just all of a sudden. So the truck came over here, and that's what we found, two helicopters.


COLLINS: CNN national security reporter Natasha Bertrand is tracking this story for us from the Pentagon. Natasha, we know we're set to hear an official update this morning. What else are we learning, though, about what's happened here?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Kaitlan, we are expecting to hear from the Army at around 10:00 a.m. eastern. And right now we have pretty limited information on what happened, but what we are told is that two Blackhawk helicopters did crash last night around 10:00 p.m. in southwestern Kentucky, and those helicopters were engaged in a routine training mission, according to Fort Campbell military base, which posted a statement on Facebook earlier today.

Now, the Army is not saying at this point whether there were any fatalities that resulted from this crash, but they are saying that there were casualties. And the governor of Kentucky has also weighed in on this, and he said on Twitter that he does expect that there will be several fatalities that do result from this crash. Now, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also weighed in on

this this morning. Of course, he represents Kentucky, and he said in a tweet that he is "devastated to learn about the Army helicopter accident over Kentucky involving our brave 101st Airborne." And he says his team is in contact with the Army and authorities on the ground. So we are expecting to learn more.


But look, these kinds of training accidents, unfortunately, they are very common. Just like last month, another Blackhawk helicopter that was training with the Tennessee National Guard crashed in Alabama and killed everyone on board, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, it's incredibly tragic. And obviously, Fort Campbell is such a source of pride for many people in Kentucky. Natasha, we'll stay with it as these developments come in.

LEMON: There are also new developments this morning and the Dominion Voting Systems $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against FOX. A bombshell email revealing FOX Chairman Rupert Murdoch called former President Trump's election lies pretty much a crime scene. CNN's Oliver Darcy joins us now. Good morning. These emails are something else. And what is funny -- what does FOX have to say about this?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: I mean, these are more blunt, candid, honest remarks from Rupert Murdoch behind the scenes after January 6th, and we're getting these because of Dominion's lawsuits against FOX News, which could go to trial in a few weeks. This one is Rupert Murdoch. He emails the CEO of FOX News, Suzanne Scott and CC's his son Lochlan, the CEO of FOX Corporation. And in it, I'll read to you, he says, "Trump insisting on the election being stolen and convincing 25 percent of Americans was a huge disservice to the country pretty much a crime. Inevitable it blew up on January 6th." And then he goes on to say, "Best we don't mention his name unless essential, and certainly don't support him."

So really candid remarks from the FOX chief behind the scenes about Trump, and this is why Dominion wants to put him on the stand, because it shows that he did have editorial oversight over FOX News, and it also shows that he that he was willing to use that editorial oversight to basically banish Trump from his network.

COLLINS: These aren't just low level people we are talking about. This is Rupert Murdoch who is emailing saying that what Trump did, he called it pretty much a crime. I mean, that was the most striking part of the email to me.

DARCY: The thing that I find interesting, though, is he says that pretty much a crime was convincing a quarter of Americans that the election was stolen. No mention of his host who he says, he admits on air, went and endorsed these election lies. Rupert Murdoch, at the end of the day, is responsible, as you can see demonstrated in this email he has editorial oversight over the network, he is responsible for what his hosts went on air and said. Many of them went on air. They lied to Americans. They lied to their viewers about the election results. He has no mention, strangely, about that in this email. But he lays the blame at Trump.

LEMON: But it's important point out, didn't Suzanne Scott also send emails, and they were revealed in the courtroom as well, saying, and I'm paraphrasing here, we're not serving our viewers by talking about the insurrection, or fact checking the former president. Don't fact check him.

DARCY: And this is problem FOX News found themselves in because Trump had convinced the audience that the election was stolen. And so when FOX fact check those lies, the audience rebelled against them. So yes, there are emails that we're also getting today that show that Suzanne Scott basically said fact checking Trump was bad for business, in her words. Now, FOX says that that was because of a specific fact check where an anchor and a correspondent fact checked a guest who appeared on Sean Hannity's show and spread election conspiracy theories.

But regardless, if someone goes on CNN and they spread election conspiracy theories, it would be expected that the rest of the network would probably fact check those conspiracy theories. And over a FOX that that is apparently considered bad for business.

LEMON: We'll continue to follow. Oliver Darcy, thank you very much.

COLLINS: Also this morning, there is another major storm that has hit California not just with snow, but also rain. Some areas actually accumulated more than two feet of snow overnight. CNN's Stephanie Elam is live on Mammoth Mountain. Stephanie, it feels like every day we check in with you, and there is some other significant storm that has happened there in California. We see you there this morning in Mammoth Lakes, California. How are the residents they're doing?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the people up here are hardy, Kaitlan. They're used to this kind of stuff. I'm from California. I've got to tell you, I've never seen snow like this. You see this measurement here? We could use this and say, oh, watch out. There's something there. This is why they have them there. Look at how it's dwarfed by what we are standing under here.

We know that up here they have received almost 700 inches of snow, a record for here at Mammoth. In this March alone 185 inches, which is a record for March. We just have one more day to go. And then just to -- in just like over 24 hours we've seen maybe two feet of snow, more than that up here. Just to give you an idea, look at this. Look at how hard and high this goes. Because of this Mammoth is saying, hey, we're going to stay open to ski through the end of July.

But it is just amazing to see this much snow compiled here, all of this leading people to think perhaps that the drought is over.


And actually, while the numbers are really a lot better, this is going to help out a lot, but we still have to worry about groundwater because there's been so much groundwater pumping here in California. But obviously up in the mountains, this is quite a different picture. If you take a look here, and you look down here at Mammoth, it this is a part of a downtown Mammoth Lakes, but you can see just how massive these snow mounds are. It's almost unbelievable to see the trees look like bushes coming out of what we're seeing here, you see the snow ploughs around here as well. So, just really just an amazing amount of snow. And I hope this gives you an idea of what we are seeing here. But really, some fresh snow here because it's still snowing. We have one more day to increase these records, guys.

LEMON: Oh my God. Stephanie, I got to check you on something that almost unbelievable, it is unbelievable. How did you even get there?

ELAM: Well, luckily, because up here, they're used to keeping the roads clean. We actually didn't even need change because the storm came through. They plough the roads. But we got up here we actually left later to make sure that that storm was making its way out because we are at about 8,000 feet. The summit of Mammoth Mountain is above 11,000 feet and up there they're saying they have like 900 inches of snow. And just to get this into perspective, I know it says like 700 inches. Well, what is that really? It's approaching close to like 60 feet, and that is about six story building that we have seen of snow falling this season up here in the Eastern Sierra.

COLLINS: 60 feet of snow Stephanie Elam. Please, be careful, and thank you for that just --

LEMON: Great job Steph, yes.

COLLINS: Amazing.


ELAM: More snow for you guys, there you go.

COLLINS: We'll let you keep that.

LEMON: Careful Steph.

COLLINS: Alright, also this morning, not just what's the worst thing in California. Also, we're tracking developments out of Raymond, Minnesota where evacuations right now are underway. After a train that was carrying ethanol and corn syrup derailed overnight. We have new details coming in.

LEMON: Plus, tensions boiling over on Capitol Hill, over guns following the National School shooting.


REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): You know, there are six people that are dead in that school including three children because you guys got rid of the assault weapons ban. You guys are worried about banning books dead kids can't read.


LEMON: Well, that was Congressman Jared Moskowitz, yesterday, there he is today, live next, right here on CNN. [08:20:00]


COLLINS: Tensions boiled over on Capitol Hill yesterday in the wake of the mass shooting at a national elementary school. There was a tense moment between Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman and Republican Congressman Thomas Massie that happened last night.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): They have controlled the house. The American people need to know that they don't have the courage, to do anything, to save the lives of children. Are you listen of what I'm saying?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): Yes, calm down.

BOWMAN: What? Calm down? Children are dying. I was a teacher, I was a school counsellor, I was a middle school principal. I was in cafeteria's protecting kids every day in my career.

MASSIE: Every school that allows teachers to carry -- there's never been a shooting.


COLLINS: There was also this heated exchange between Democrat Jared Moskowitz and Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, during a hearing between the House Oversight Committee.


MOSKOWITZ: We want to talk about crime and murder? Let's have a hearing on murder in schools, it's murder. Is there any question? I'll yield to anyone on this committee who disagrees that murder in schools is not murder. I yield.


MOSKOWITZ: Oh, I'll yield. Yes, please.

GREENE: Yes, I was -- when I was in 11th grade and Joe Biden made our schools gun free school zones. One of the students in my school brought three guns to school, and our entire school went on lockdown. Because he was the only person with a gun. There was no good guy with a gun to protect us kids at school. You want to know why the shooter is dead in Nashville the trend shooter? You want to know why? Because the good guy with a gun killed that woman.

MOSKOWITZ: You know, there are six people that are dead in that school, including three children because you guys got rid of the assault weapons ban. Because you guys made it easy for people who don't deserve to have weapons who are mentally incapable of having weapons of war, being able to buy those weapons and go into schools. If you guys are worried about banning books dead kids can't read. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Joining us now is the lawmaker you saw there, Democratic Congressman Jared Moskowitz of Florida, who serves on the House Oversight Committee, as well as the foreign affairs committee. And good morning, Congressman, and thank you for being here. We want to talk about that moment there. That is -- I saw that yesterday, I wanted to book you on the show immediately. But I do want to ask you about the breaking news this morning. Given that you serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, what we're hearing about this U.S. journalist who has been arrested in Russia on espionage charges, the first time we've seen something like this since 1986. What's your response?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, thank you for having me. Obviously, it's distressing news, I mean, we have been in unprecedented territory with what's going on in Ukraine with Russia. You're talking about a permanent Security Council Member invading another country and being able to veto resolutions at the U.N. about it. Putin, again, a Security Council Member head of state, being declared a war criminal and now obviously, him kidnapping an American.

And so, this is him raising the specter, we are in very dangerous territory with him. This is all about leverage. And so, now we have a human life, in the balance and American. And so, you know, this obviously complicates things for the President, because obviously Putin is going to use this as leverage. But, you know, this is why the, you know, Joe Biden put together an entire coalition of the world and of nations against Russia. And, you know, listen, we all we pray, obviously, for his safe release.

COLLINS: You said kidnapping in America, I assume you believe that Russia should release him immediately?

MOSKOWITZ: Immediately. I mean, you know -- you know, the problem is that, you know, they're now going to use him as leverage. And so, it's not going to be that simple, unfortunately, but obviously, you know, this is not the game that Putin should be playing. I have -- I think Joe Biden has shown that he's not someone who's going to be toyed with when it comes to these sorts of things. And so, yes, for his family sake, he should be release, immediately. I'm from the town where, you know, Robert Levinson lived and so, I've seen what happens when members are, you know, taken away from their families. And so, you know, I'm hoping that's not the situation, obviously.


COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. And to get back to the moment in that hearing yesterday. I think important context for our viewers is that you graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, obviously, you were integral in the response to that and how people responded to the Parkland shooting. What was going through your mind as you were having that exchange with Marjorie Taylor Greene yesterday?

MOSKOWITZ: What was going through my mind is I still remember that there are members on the Oversight Committee that called Parkland a false flag event, right? And so, I know what I'm dealing with there. I yield it on purpose, because I knew what I would get. And so, you know, listen, this is a very serious issue for me. Because I've seen what it's like, you know, when you go to your school that you graduated from, and there are bullet holes through the windows. Where backpacks are piled up outside. Where homework is scattered through the hallway.

Where there's blood stains in front of the door, because someone you went to high school with passed away. And so, she has never seen that. A lot of these Republicans I've served with have never seen that, they've never seen what it's like to watch parents put their kid in a box, testify at their funeral and say the only thing they did wrong was sending their kid to school. That's not a statement, that is an indictment on the elected officials who have refused to do nothing. We have allowed schools in this country to be turned into slaughterhouses.

And so, I knew what I was getting myself into. But it's so important for us to tell the American people and continue to do everything we can here, I'm not giving up. I got Republicans in Florida, to raise the age to 21 to buy a gun, red flag laws, which have been used 9,000 times, three day waiting periods and hundreds of millions of dollars for school. Resource officers' mental health and school hardening. If we can do that in Florida, Rick Scott signed that bill became a U.S. senator. If we can do that in Florida, we can do that in Washington.

COLLINS: Yes, Rick Scott, a Republican, but President Biden in the wake of this is calling on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban. All eyes turn to the halls of Congress, when something like this happens. But if Democrats could not get that assault weapons ban passed, when they control both chambers. How do you do it now when Republicans control the House?

MOSKOWITZ: Yes, well, look, I'm obviously, it's even more difficult. And so, look, I think we need to institute the assault weapons ban, but we also can't be afraid to do smaller things. Everything we do is about mitigating this event and mitigating this crisis in this country. And so, look, if we can go out and pass a bill that saves a hundred lives, I'll take that. If we can pass a bill that save five lives, I'll take it, that's five more children that are alive. That's five more families that are not broken.

And so, you know, I'm here to work with my colleagues across the aisle. You know, I want to ban assault weapons. But if we can't get that done, and we can talk about mental health, and we can talk about hardening schools, and we can talk about SROs, and we can talk about single points of entry. And we can talk about threat assessments, I'm willing to do all of the above, because there is not one thing that's going to solve this problem. We have to do multiple things.

COLLINS: The President said recently that he believes he's basically exhausted the full extent of his executive authority, what he can do personally on guns? Do you think that's right, or do you think there's more room for the President?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, listen, I'll leave that up to, you know, the President and, you know, his lawyers who know the extent of how you can use, you know, executive orders. But listen, maybe they -- maybe they should look at considering something like a pause on their end. Maybe that's something they can examine, rather than an all-out ban. I mean, you know, obviously, we have to think outside of the box.

We have to do whatever we can, you know, the President has been someone who has talked about this over and over and over. He's made this a significant issue, not just in his campaign, but in his State of the Union. He has met with the families; he has cried with the families. There's nobody in this country who understands loss more as an elected official than Joe Biden. And so, I know the administration is doing everything they think they can do within their legal limits.

COLLINS: Congressman Jared Moskowitz, thank you, for your time this morning for weighing in both of those important issues. We really appreciate it.

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right, also, today we are tracking the battle between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Disney. It's not over yet, it's actually ramping up. There are legal maneuvers that Disney has used to try to hold on to power.

LEMON: Also, this morning, the breaking news this morning and American journalists detained in Russia. New details on what Moscow accuses him of and how the Wall Street Journal is responding.