Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Airman Accused of Leaking Classified Documents Appears in Court; Justices Hear Case of Christian Mailman; Ryan Graves is Interviewed about UFOs. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 19, 2023 - 06:30   ET




SPEAKER #2: They bring no (INAUDIBLE) -

SPEAKER #3: The old saying is, what comes around goes around.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The people on the recording can be heard talking about digging two holes.

SPEAKER #1: I know where two big deep holes are here if you ever need them.

SPEAKER #3: I've got an excavator.

SPEAKER #1: Well, these are already pre-dug.

KAYE: And it doesn't stop there. On that same audio recording, the people talking shared their dismay that lynching black people is no longer acceptable.

SPEAKER #1 I'm gonna tell you something. If it was back in the day, with that when (NAME REMOVED) would take a damn black guy and whoop their ass and throw him in the cell? I'd run for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sheriff.

SPEAKER #2: Well, it's not like that no more.

SPEAKER: #1: I know. Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope. But you can't do that anymore. They got more rights than we got.

KAYE: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt told CNN in a statement he is appalled and disheartened by the comments in the released audio. He's calling on the officials to resign.

So is Idabel Mayor Craig Young.

MAYOR CRAIG YOUNG, IDABEL, OKLAHOMA: I hate to know that this is 2023 and we still have folks who want to live like the 1921 Al Capone lifestyle when you start talking about lynching and kill folk.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's -- it's awful.

HARLOW: It's horrible.

LEMON: I'm surprised, but not surprised, you know?

HARLOW: I also think that it just reinforces how important local journalism is.


HARLOW: And those journalists and that man and his son and what they did and, you know, what they have been working to expose.

LEMON: They know their communities. They know the people in their communities. They know that people have these feelings. So, you know, I think a reporter who was from outside of this community may not have had the wherewithal to just leave a recording there because they didn't know them.

But, still, the stuff that they're saying there is just, I mean, unfathomable. It sounds like the 19 -- not even the '60s. Sounds like the 1940s, '50s.


LEMON: It's terrible. Terrible. Even before.

The man accused of leaking highly classified Pentagon documents set to appear in court today. What officials still don't know about the scope of the damage.

HARLOW: Also, the Supreme Court hearing a case, a fascinating case, for a Christian postal worker who refused to work on Sunday because of his religious beliefs. What this conservative majority in the court signaled during oral arguments yesterday.



HARLOW: Today, the Air National Guardsman accused of leaking these documents, these private documents, classified, he's due in court just hours from now. A judge is set to decide whether Jack Teixeira should remain behind bars while he waits for his trial. Last week, heavily armed officers arrested the 21-year-old at his home, charged him under the Espionage Act.

Our national correspondent Jason Carroll is live outside the courthouse, the federal courthouse, in Boston.

Jason, good morning. You know, there's -- what's interesting in terms of what may happen in

court today is we may learn a little bit more from prosecutors, right, about what they say he did.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We could. And, you know, obviously there's going to be a lot during this detention hearing, Poppy, that the judge is going to have to consider here. I mean, but, I have to tell you, legal experts that we've spoken to say it's really going to be a tall order for Jack Teixeira to get out on bail given the circumstances, given all that he's accused of. But, still, the judge does have much to consider. He could consider, for example, whether or not the defendant in this case is a flight risk. Does he present a - a -- some sort of danger to himself or to other people in the community?

The defense, and you were talking about the prosecution, we could learn from the defense here as well what they intend to do. They could, for example, say, look, our client is a candidate for bail with certain conditions, such as no access to the internet, no access to social media or a computer. These are some of the things that could end up happening as this -- as this detention hearing gets underway later on this morning.

All of this happening, though, as the Air Force has also announced that it has stripped that Air National Guard unit in Cape Cod, where Teixeira was stationed, of its intelligence duties. A spokesperson saying for the Air Force, the mission has been temporarily reassigned to other organizations within the Air Force. This pending the outcome of an investigation. So, that happening on that end as we await on this end.

That detention hearing should get underway at 11:00 a.m.


HARLOW: OK. Jason, we'll watch closely. Thank you for the reporting.

LEMON: And happening today, the Supreme Court must make a ruling about access to the abortion drug Mifepristone before a midnight deadline. If the court fails to act, restrictions go into effect nationwide tonight. An alliance of anti-abortion doctors asked the court on Tuesday to keep in place a Texas judge's ruling that partially reverses an FDA approval of the drug. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is also expected to file a response blocking the appeals court ruling making the abortion pill available until justices hand down a decision.

A Christian mail carrier refused to work on Sundays because of his religious beliefs, and now his case is before the Supreme Court. Gerald Groff sued the U.S. Postal Service and accused it of religious discrimination. He says his boss wanted him to pick up Sunday shifts because of a new contract to deliver Amazon packages. But he pushed back because it's the day of observance, the Sabbath Day of worship -- rest and worship. Groff says that he faced increasing discipline and quit his job. During arguments yesterday, the justices seemed to be sympathetic to the ex-postal worker. Let's check in now with CNN's Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.

Joan, good morning to you.

This is a very interesting case here. In this case, what are the justices trying to balance when it comes to religious exemptions?


You know, this is a court that has been moving to offer more protection to religious conservatives. You remember last year they sided with a coach who wanted to pray on the football field after games, and they also ordered public funds to go to a religious school in Maine.


So, they have been quite sympathetic toward religious conservatives.

And you're right, Don, that they did seem to think that -- that there should be a higher burden on employers to make religious accommodations for - for their religious workers. Here, though, they're balancing not just the interests of a worker who wanted to take off Sunday, but the employer running a fairly small shop in rural - a small mail station in rural Pennsylvania and coworkers who would have to pick up his shift.

So, there's a lot to balance with the court. And the question is, what would be the undo heart - the law says that an employer must accommodate somebody's religion unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer. And the question was, what standard should measure that undue hardship, Don.

HARLOW: If this changes the precedent, or what precedent this will set if you look at Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act, what would it mean like writ large for companies going forward? Because you can imagine what would happen, right, and sort of what would hit that undue burden bar for a lot of other companies and a lot of other employees.

BISKUPIC: That's right. Right now the Biden administration, the Justice Department lawyer said, don't change anything. Things are working out. The lower courts are adequately measuring, you know, this balance between employer, employee and coworkers. And it's interesting, Justice Alito had some pushback to that, saying, if everything's working so well, why are we hearing so much from the seven-day - Seventh Day Adventists, why are we hearing from the Church of Latter Day Saints, why are we hearing from Orthodox Jews who say that there isn't enough accommodation? And so that's a very real question.

And Elena -- Justice Elena Kagan said, well, isn't this more of a policy issue that should go to Congress rather than the courts?

But I have to say, Poppy, just given the way this conservative court has been going, I would think that they would actually make it tougher for employers to decline a religious workers' request. HARLOW: Really? That's really, really interesting.

Joan, we'll watch it. Thanks very much.

BISKUPIC: Sure. Thank you.

HARLOW: The Pentagon raising with -- releasing, I should, eyebrow raising video of unidentified flying objects ahead of today's really historic UFO Senate hearing. What to expect, next.

Plus this.


DAMAR HAMLIN, BUFFALO BILLS SAFETY: This event was life-changing, but it's not the end of my story. So, I'm here to announce that I plan on making a comeback to the NFL.


LEMON: All right now, in an inspiring comeback, Buffalo Bill's safety Damar Hamlin is fully cleared to play football again after suffering cardiac arrest on the field. More on his recovery. That's straight ahead.

HARLOW: So good to see that.


HARLOW: Can you - was it January?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! Got it! Ha ha ha! Whoo hoo!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, they're - they're still shooting (ph) - shooting (ph) (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you box a moving target?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I took an auto-track.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh, dude!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow! What is that, man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at it fly! Ha ha!


LEMON: Their question -- the first question they ask -- asked was, what the -- and what was it? We - I don't know. Are we alone in the university?

HARLOW: I don't know.

LEMON: Do, do, do, do. We not - we may - we many not find out the answer to that question today, but we might learn a little bit more about objects flying above earth, like the one you just saw in that video right there. It's a recording from fighter pilots doing exercises off the East Coast of the United States. That was back in 2015. The Pentagon releasing two other videos of similar incidents. And you see them right here. Later today, a Senate subcommittee will hold an unprecedented open hearing on what the U.S. government calls unidentified aerial phenomena. De, de, de, de, de. Or what most people call UFOs, right?

So, a former fighter pilot, Navy fighter pilot and defense contractor Ryan Graves was one of the first active duty pilots to go public about his personal UFO sightings. His story was highlighted on "60 Minutes."

Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're seeing it both with the radar and with the infrared. And that tells you that there is something out there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These photographs were taken in 2019, in the same area. The Pentagon confirms these are images of objects it can't identify.

Lieutenant Graves told us pilots training off the Atlantic coast see things like that all the time.

GRAVES: Every day. Every day for at least a couple years.


LEMON: So Ryan Graves joins us now. He is the founder of a non-profit called Americans for Safe Aerospace.

Good morning to you, Lieutenant. We're so happy to have you on.

So, questions. I'm sure you will have a lot for these phenomena. What do you want answered at this hearing today?


And as you said, this hearing is unprecedented. There are a lot of questions. I think, that need to be answered right now. The American public is hungry for answers, especially after the recent shootdowns we had over our national airspace. And so some of the questions that come to mind is, do we have a domain awareness gap? And if so, what is being done to correct that? Are pilots in the commercial space and in the military comfortable reporting these in order to provide that intelligence to be able to prevent these incidents from happening?

And the arrow (ph) has been tasked with looking back at the historical record in relation to UAP, all the way back to 1945. How is that going? Have we received testimony from any whistleblowers and has that been properly reported to Congress?

HARLOW: Right, because I assume you're pointing to the fact that many of these people may have been discounted, called crazy. That couldn't happen, right? And you're saying, look, we have to seriously look at this.


GRAVES: Yes. When we have things flying above our airspace, as we've recently seen, it's - it's a serious national security issue. And if we determine that they are not adversarial spy platforms, then we have something to be scientifically curious about. As we've seen, if these objects are floating in our airspace, that's a serious concern to our commercial aviators.

HARLOW: Right.

GRAVES: And, right now, they don't have the mechanisms or the comfort to even report these objects do to the stigma that has preceded these events.

LEMON: I wonder if there is -- I mean people are - I mean people think about that. They think about, you know, little green men, that's Martians. That's not necessarily so. Many of these are, I think, with some investigation, who could be explained.

But I want you to take a look at this and explain this. This was another video called the gimbal video, and then we'll talk. Here it is.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a whole fleet of them. Look on the ASA.


They're all going against the wind. The wind's 120 knots out of the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing, dude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not an (INAUDIBLE) though, is it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing!



LEMON: So, my question is, I -- look, could it be a helicopter? Could it be a spy balloon? I live in a high rise. Sometimes you have like a plastic bag looking - and I'm like, what the heck is that? Or a mylar balloon will come up, obviously not going 120 miles an hour. How common are these sightings for other pilots you've talked to and what have the conversations been like with them?

GRAVES: Sure. So, the video that you just played is referred to as the Gimbal (ph) video. And that was recorded during our work up cycle aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. And we were as -- as you heard in the "60 Minutes" clip, seeing these objects nearly every day as we were operating off of our working areas off the coast of Virginia Beach.

However, we then left Virginia Beach, boarded the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and proceeded for training off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. And when we got there, these objects were already out there, or they followed us, but we were detecting similar objects. However, from the video that you just played, that was during one of our air to air exercises. And an aircrew from my squadron was returning back to the ship after essentially conducting their training and they detected these objects east of the ship as we were already about 400 miles off the coast of Florida. And these objects were maneuvering and behaving in a way that isn't familiar to us. As jet pilots, we wouldn't expect a helicopter to be forming at these altitudes. We wouldn't expect them to be able to flip up vertically and change directions in an instant. And we wouldn't expect them to have the fuel to be able to hang out in that operation area.

And so, as you can hear from the air crew, this was clearly an anomalous event. They had no idea what they were looking at. And these are seasoned pilots with potentially thousands of hours that have been just returning home from an air to air combat mission using these very tools they're using to identify these objects.

LEMON: Alien in origin?

GRAVES: It's not about conclusions right now. We just don't know. We don't have enough data. And an F-18 isn't the proper scientific tool to be able to investigate this.


GRAVES: So, we need to figure out the best tool to be able to gather more data. And I think what's going on now with Senator Kristen Gillibrand of the Senate Armed Service Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, with this hearing that's coming up today, we're going to be able to ask questions, or they're going to be able to ask questions of the All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office, who is tasked with resolving these issues that we're having in our military aerospaces, in our training spaces, and over our military bases as well.

HARLOW: Totally fascinating. We'll pay close attention today.

Ryan Graves -- Lieutenant Graves, thank you.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

GRAVES: Thank you.

HARLOW: An 11th hour settlement. Fox News agreeing to pay more than $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems over its 2020 election lies. See how Fox News covered it and the legal cases they still face ahead.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Fox News settled there defamation suit with Dominion Voting Systems, averting a trial. Dammit! I want my trial. I want it. You were supposed to provide me six weeks of delicious content.




HARLOW: We're going to make you smile this morning with what may be one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports.

LEMON: What?

HARLOW: Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin -


HARLOW: Has been cleared to resume his football career less than four months after going into cardiac arrest and having to be resuscitated on the field in the middle of a game. Hamlin saw many doctors during his road back, and they all agreed that he suffered a rare incident in which a traumatic blow to the heart, at a certain time during the heartbeat, caused it to stop.


DAMAR HAMLIN, BUFFALO BILLS SAFETY: I died on national TV in front of the whole world. You know what I mean?

The biggest blessing of it all is for - for me to still have my people and my people still have me.

Some people might say that coming back to play might not be the best option. But that's their opinion. And, like I said, I've been being statistics my whole life. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Certainly has. The 25-year-old already back at the team's practice facility, participating in voluntary offseason workouts. Those begin on Monday. And can you imagine, the whole new look on life, I am sure.

LEMON: Yes. We were at -- it feels like we were just here reporting on the tragedy up here -


HARLOW: Yes, waiting for him to wake up.

LEMON: To wake up, to see what was going to happen. Yes. And now -

HARLOW: Now this.

LEMON: I'm sure mom - hi mom - I'm sure that mom is really happy as well.


LEMON: All right.