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Marine Veteran Freed From Russia On Wall Street Journal Reporter's Arrest; Trump Indicted, First Former President Criminally Charged; Verdict: Jury Decides Gwyneth Paltrow "Not At Fault." Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 05:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This morning, you can see here, an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal is waking up in detention in Russia on charges of espionage. Evan Gershkovich is a 31- year-old correspondent based in Moscow. He was arrested yesterday and accused of trying to steal state secrets about a Russian military factory -- accusations that we should take with a grain of salt considering where they're coming from.

In a statement, the Journal said it, quote, "...vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter."

Russia has not arrested a reporter on charges like this since the Cold War in 1986. That's the last time that an American journalist was detained by Russia, simply for doing their job, on charges of espionage.

Few people really know what Evan Gershkovich could be going through right now possibly. One of them, though, is Trevor Reed. He was released last April in a prisoner swap after he was detained in Russia for 985 days. Reed is a former Marine. He had been sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 for apparently and allegedly endangering the life and health of Russian police officers in an altercation. Those are charges we should note that he has steadfastly denied.

I spoke to Trevor Reed last night about the arrest of Evan Gershkovich.


COLLINS: What goes through your mind when you hear that another American -- this time a journalist arrested on espionage charges -- has been detained in Russia?

TREVOR REED, U.S. MARINE CORPS VETERAN RELEASED FROM RUSSIAN PRISON IN 2022: Well, first of all, it immediately comes to me as being another wrongful detention of an American in Russia. Obviously, those charges sound extremely fishy -- charging a journalist with espionage. And I think that also kind of signals the escalation that the Russians are taking by taking a journalist and wrongfully detaining them and basically taking them hostage.

COLLINS: You have an experience that so few people have because to a degree you know what he's going through. Can you just remind us what were your first few hours in detention like? What do you imagine that he's going through right now?

REED: The first few hours when you're wrongfully detained are extremely confusing. You're in a state of shock. You're also in a state of denial. You're thinking that there's no possible way that this is happening to me. Maybe it's just a nightmare or maybe I'm going to wake up and this didn't happen. And unfortunately, for me, that kind of just surreal feeling lasted for basically the whole almost three years that I was detained.


When he was -- when Evan was formally arrested his own attorney wasn't even allowed in the courtroom. You obviously dealt up close and personally with the Russian judicial system, as I guess we'll call it.


How do you fear that he's going to be treated by them?

REED: There's no -- there's no question that the Russian judicial system is a joke. It's a facade. They violate all of their own rules, regulations, laws there and there's no type of accountability for Russian officials who break those laws. They can basically do anything that they want and unfortunately, they will do whatever they want.

COLLINS: Some members of Congress have said they think he -- they basically just outright call this a hostage situation. Do you agree with that?

REED: Yes, absolutely. I think that it's -- the wrongful detention is equivalent to taking a hostage. They've clearly done this for political purposes to gain some kind of leverage over the United States or make an example out of him to make a point. Maybe it's like a revenge thing.

COLLINS: After you were released you gave an interview with my colleague Jake Tapper and you talked about, essentially, the way you were treated. That the Russian government isn't just operating from the top down. You said, speaking in a quote, "They have absolutely no value of human life." You said that "...apathy permeates every level of the Russian government. Everyone who works for that government has absolutely no empathy for other humans."

Do you worry that treatment -- the way that they treated you has only gotten worse -- the way that they're treating Americans now?

REED: Absolutely. I think that as Russia becomes more desperate due to sanctions, the war in Ukraine failing, political pressure from the United States -- I think that the more desperate they get the more brutal and kind of apathetic they're going to be regarding our citizens there.

COLLINS: What does it say to you about the state of U.S.-Russia relations at this point?

REED: I think that this is a perfect example that relations have hit an all-time low. Russia hasn't taken a journalist and accused them of espionage since the Cold War and taking a journalist -- that kind of puts it into perspective for you how desperate the Russians have become.

I think the next step after taking our journalist hostage there is basically diplomats is the next level and it says something about how far they're willing to and how much they just basically don't care about their image in the international theater.

COLLINS: Given you lived through this what's your advice to his family and his friends at this point, and his colleagues as they're watching this?

REED: I would tell them that they need to prepare themselves for a long fight and they need to start taking steps immediately to prepare them for that fight. And I would also tell them to be cautiously optimistic. My family put in an enormous amount of effort and time in order to get me out and that paid off. The Biden administration and President Biden agreed to do a prisoner exchange and that got me out, and that was pretty much because of what my parents had done there.

COLLINS: Yes, your parents. I mean, I was at the White House the day your parents came out. It was pouring rain and they stood out in front of the White House because they wanted a meeting with President Biden to be able to raise you -- to raise your detention.

What do you -- what do you think President Biden should do in this moment? What do you want to see from the U.S. government here?

REED: I want to see some definite action. They're going to have to make some type of agreement to get him out. I don't know if that's going to involve a prisoner exchange. Obviously, there's a lot of different things that go into those negotiations. But I think that it's our government's duty to do whatever it takes to get innocent Americans out.

And also on that note, I want to thank you because it's actually a year since you asked President Biden if he would meet with my parents at the White House.

COLLINS: Will you meet with Trevor Reed's parents, Mr. President, while they're here in Washington? They say that you've (INAUDIBLE) a meeting.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to see if I can get to see them. They're good --


BIDEN: They're good people. I haven't -- we're trying to work that out.

REED: My mom will get real angry with me if I don't mention that and say thank you from all of us.

COLLINS: Well, your parents are amazing and that was what any reporter should do, and anything to help.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm just so glad he survived. And he -- I noticed first thing when I looked at your interview running on the air, I said he looks healthy. He was so thin when he returned.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, he lost a lot of weight. And, I mean, his perspective -- you know, when he did that interview with Jake he talked about how bad the diet was. Things -- small things from just everyday life in Russian prison and also talking about he just thinks there's a complete apathy and, like, lack of regard for human life in Russia, saying it's not just with Putin, it's the entire government. Just a remarkable moment, so I'm really glad that Trevor Reed sat down with us.

LEMON: And mentally healthy as well. We're glad that he's doing well.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, to what Evan is going through --

LEMON: Nice interview, Kaitlan.

HARLOW: -- actually now. And shows the power of a reporter question to the president.


HARLOW: Good job.

LEMON: Speaking of presidents, former President Donald Trump becomes the first former or sitting U.S. president to face criminal charges. We're going to discuss this unprecedented moment in American history.

HARLOW: Also, we want to tell you there is a real ramp-up of security and police presence right here in New York City. How law enforcement is preparing for Trump's initial court appearance, the potential demonstrations, and the Secret Service detail.



LEMON: We can't really overstate this because for the first time in U.S. history, a sitting or former U.S. president has been indicted on criminal charges. Trump is now expected to turn himself in for arraignment next Tuesday. I can't believe I just said that -- turn himself in for arraignment next Tuesday. Speaking of being a first, he was also the first U.S. president to survive two impeachments. Joining us now, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer who also -- he's also a historian and a professor at Princeton University. So glad to have you to put this in perspective. Good morning --


LEMON: -- to you.

HARLOW: Morning.

ZELIZER: Good morning.

LEMON: So let's talk about -- let's put this in perspective. He is not the first U.S. president, right, to face criticism for wrongdoing or at least possible consequences, but the first to be indicted.

You have Richard Nixon almost indicted back in 1974. They drew up the papers and it did not happen. He resigned. They made a deal. So -- and President Ford pardoned him.


LEMON: So how different -- how different will this be --

ZELIZER: Well, the --

LEMON: -- that we know?

ZELIZER: Well, it is different already, meaning once Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974, we haven't had a question of could a president or a former president be held legally accountable. So what we do know right now based on the grand jury, based on Bragg's decision, that is a yes, meaning they can be held legally accountable.

We don't know how the case will turn out. We don't even know the details of the case. And politically, the story might be very different. This might, in fact, be a way that the former president weaponizes attacks against him to his advantage.

But legally it's significant. It's a different direction from what Ford said when he pardoned Richard Nixon.

HARLOW: I love that you pointed out, getting into this, a first and not -- this isn't the only way Trump is a first in the legal realm.


HARLOW: He's also the first to survive, as you said, two impeachments. To be acquitted both times by the Senate.

So there's just no -- this is uncharted legal territory and this is a guy who has withstood so much legally. It's fascinating.

ZELIZER: And if you had told me seven-eight years ago could a former president running again survive an indictment -- an indictment about a relationship with an adult film star -- the answer would have been no. That would be the end of the candidacy. But yet, here we are not just saying he can survive, as he did the impeachment, but he might thrive from it, which tells you a lot about him and about how our political system has changed since 1974 when the weight of something like this would have been too much for a candidate or a former president to bear.

COLLINS: And I think the important thing also to note here is this isn't impeachment. This isn't political. He can't call up a --


COLLINS: -- Republican senator or a Republican House lawmaker and talk about this and try to convince them not to vote to impeach him. This is in the legal system's hands.

But you make a great point and I think it's so important for the viewers to note this. This is an indictment; it is not a conviction. There is still a very long road ahead and we don't actually know what that road even looks like.

ZELIZER: And it's possibly one of several indictments.

So this indictment, in itself -- we don't know the details. And some legal experts will tell you this is maybe the thinnest or the weakest of all. There's still the Georgia case, for example, which is looming out there. So we don't know how this one unfolds and they unfold together in terms of the politics.

But you're right. In impeachment he was protected by a partisan bubble, meaning Republicans could essentially save him in the Senate. The legal system is different. Politics will matter and public opinion can have an effect, but it's a much narrower court, and that's why Trump is less able to protect himself from this indicted moving forward.

LEMON: I think that because he survived two impeachments and he had the political bubble, as you said -- I think this is different though. I'm not so sure about the thriving after this because this is uncharted territory. I just -- I just don't believe -- look, history, according to Trump, right -- Trump's history -- yes, he will thrive from it. He'll use it. But I don't know if that necessarily applies to this particular time.

ZELIZER: I mean, we don't know but think of this. When Nixon was in trouble in '74, Republicans, in the end, came out against him --


ZELIZER: -- and Republicans wanted nothing to do with him for a long time. He was essentially ostracized.

Within hours, Republicans are rallying around him right now, including Ron DeSantis who called this unpatriotic. So there is a different political moment so we'll see how that plays out.


LEMON: Some, but not all. And Mike Pence, who was on last night, is obviously not a fan of the former president right now but also defending him last night.


HARLOW: Julian, thank you --

ZELIZER: Thanks, Poppy.


HARLOW: -- very much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

HARLOW: So, Kaitlan's reporting overnight -- some people in the president's camp were really caught off guard by his indictment. Why they thought the case might be falling apart just ahead.

COLLINS: Also up next, another legal development -- this one very different than the one we've been talking about all morning. Gwyneth Paltrow has proved victorious and is a dollar richer this morning. We'll tell you what happened with her case next.



LEMON: Everybody is talking about this.

HARLOW: This is a story Don is saying everyone is talking about because a lot of people are talking about what the Utah jury has done clearing Gwyneth Paltrow in her civil trial over this ski accident in 2016. Terry Sanderson was suing her for $300,000 claiming she'd crashed into him on the slopes causing broken ribs and a brain injury. She said he crashed into her and she countersued him for a dollar plus legal fees.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was Gwyneth Paltrow at fault? No. Did Terry Sanderson's fault cause Gwyneth Paltrow's harm? Yes. What percent of the fault do you assign to Terry Sanderson? One hundred percent.

Damages. What amount fairly compensates Gwyneth Paltrow for economic damages? One dollar.


HARLOW: A jury deliberated for just two hours before returning that verdict.

You know what? She took the stand. She stood by. And this was not about money; this was about principle for her.

LEMON: Yes. But it was fascinating. This came down almost at the same time that the --


LEMON: -- Trump indictment came down and people were talking about this. And social media bubbling almost as much as Trump. They call it, what, Gwynoccent?

HARLOW: I don't know, but --


HARLOW: -- she is --

LEMON: She is.

HARLOW: -- according to that jury.


HARLOW: All right.

LEMON: Up next, we have more of our special coverage of Donald Trump's indictment. Reaction from his lawyer, his potential 2024 opponents, and the star witness in the case.

COLLINS: The former president is expected to be in a New York courtroom for his arraignment Tuesday. What that could look like. What it will look like still ahead.