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Fox News Will Pay $787 Million to Dominion to Settle Defamation Case; Two Texas Cheerleaders Shot After Getting into Wrong Car in Parking Lot; Airman Accused of Leaking Classified Documents to Appear in Court. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2023 - 07:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: On the tragedy --


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Waiting from the wake up.

LEMON: To wake up, to see what was going to happen. And now, it's your mom. Hi, mom. I'm sure that mom is really happy as well.

All right, CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a settlement, a settlement in the high- stakes trial between Dominion and Fox.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: $787 million and change. This is not over for Fox. This is probably just the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of those decisions will have a huge bearing on those other lawsuits as they play out.

JUSTIN NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: Today's settlement represents vindication and accountability. Lies have consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you're a Fox News viewer, you won't even know this happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 84-year-old white homeowner charged with shooting Ralph Yarl turned himself into authorities and was released.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want him out, but we understand that's part of the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a stand your ground state combined with completely unfettered access to firearms and implicit bias. You have a recipe for disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was heinous. It was evil. It was criminal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One person dead and several others injured after a parking garage in Lower Manhattan, quote, pancaked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using the necessary technology, we're able to get a clear view of what's happening inside the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that we have everybody accounted for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it going to take awhile to make it safe for the public?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senate Republicans blocking Democrats for temporarily replacing California Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): That's ridiculous. I'm not replacing Dianne. No, she'll make her decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all about four judges that they can't get Republican votes for.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I don't know any other job where you cannot show up for a year and expect to hold your job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sexy as a tortoise, that's Netflix, a company that rents movies on DVDs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Netflix is officially saying goodbye to its red envelopes that made it a household name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the hare and the tortoise, and we were the tortoise. The hare got ahead and then they're all bankrupt, and we're now cash flow positive and successful.


LEMON: Good morning, everyone. It is Thursday --

HARLOW: Wednesday.

LEMON: Wednesday.

HARLOW: Good try.

LEMON: God, I need some sleep. I need some sleep. You know who else is getting probably resting very well this morning, the attorneys for Dominion. And I would imagine some of the Fox folks are really relieved that they won't have to go to court or appear in court and testify this morning. They know what day of the week it is.

HARLOW: A good day for democracy.

LEMON: It's a good day for democracy. We're talking about broadcasting lives. We're talking about broadcast conspiracy theories about the 2020 election has come to an enormous and historic costs for Fox News. Wait until you get a load of the number here.

In a last-minute deal, Fox agreeing to pay Dominion Voting Systems more than $887 million to settle the defamation suit. It happened right before the trial was about to start. Watch.


NELSON: The truth matters. Lies have consequences.

STEPHEN SHACKELFORD JR., ATTORNEY FOR DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: Dominion needed justice. We got into this case with two goals, accountability and justice, and we achieved accountability when we exposed everything that had been going on at Fox News.


LEMON: So, this is the largest known defamation settlement ever for an American media company. Under the agreement, Dominion tells CNN that Fox News will be -- will not be required, not be required to go on air until its viewers that it spread lies.

So, let's bring in our CNN Media Analyst and Axios Media Reporter Sara Fischer and attorney Ken Turkel, he represented Sarah Palin in her failed defamation suit against The New York Times, as well as Hulk Hogan, who successfully sued Gawker for invading privacy and was awarded $115 million. So glad to have both of you on, thank you so much.

Sara, we're going to start with you. You were in the courtroom for this last-minute decision. What was that like?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: It was not a total shock, Don, because we were waiting for opening statements after the jury selection was finalized for many hours, and they kept saying, oh, this is just a five-minute bathroom break, but here we are 2.5 hours later, we knew. We also are watching the dominion attorney, Justin Nelson, walk over to the Fox attorney, Dan Webb. They did not look flustered. They looked very calm. They looked kind of happy. And so when you're watching two attorneys interact that way, you know something is coming.

At that point, every single reporter in the courtroom is sort of pre- writing this settlement decision. We kind of knew it was coming. But it was still a shock because we had gotten all the way here. You know, we've had months of pretrial testimony and hearings, and we had figured that at this point, you know, they had done everything they needed to do to allude to the fact and prepare for possibly going to trial. So, this was truly an 11th hour decision.

HARLOW: Ken, can you take us into the scenes, behind the scenes of what, you know, a settlement discussion like this is after a jury has already been selected seated, you're about to do opening statements, because notably missing in here.


It's a lot of money. Notably missing is a requirement, which Dominion wanted initially for the Fox News personalities to publicly apologize on-air. KEN TURKEL, TRIAL ATTORNEY WHO REPRESENTED HULK HOGAN AGAINST GAWKER: Um it's always interesting to me when cases settle, at these moments, right, when a jury is picked, right when they're about to open or on a mid-morning break. I like to say if I've gotten ready for trial, if I prepared the trials, actually the fun part, but the -- you know, you can never put a finger on what's going on behind the scenes. It could be the non-monetary conditions. Somebody could be hung up on some of the monetary confidentiality, which, obviously, at least in part, is it happening here because we know the number.

I thought I'd heard yesterday, I haven't seen a hard copy, even a settlement agreement. I thought I heard yesterday that there was some apology components, some non-monetary component. But at the end of the day, you know these high stakes cases, and I think one thing it's easy to lose sight of in the public eye is the idea that there's no risk, let's say, on the Dominion side. When you're trying a jury, there's always a risk. There's always some risk, okay? You lose certainty. You lose, you know, your self-determination of the closure of it.

And you start with your client's goals, and they had monetary goals, obviously large monetary goals that were predicated on lost profits, business valuation, issues that diminished the value of the business. They're achieving their goals at that number, okay? And it's reckless to a degree did not settle a case under those scenarios. So, I wasn't that surprised. I really wasn't.

LEMON: You weren't?

TURKEL: Not really, no.

LEMON: Listen, we were sort of monitoring the papers here. It is in The Wall Street Journal, which was looking at above the fold above the fold for, you know, the Murdoch-owned papers, not in The Post and all looked through it. Look, I can't be 100 percent, but I went to New York Post. I went through it like two or three times, just sort of went through it. I did not see it.

The thing here, though. I think, Sara, is people are disappointed not about the amount, because I think it's a it's a it's a good amount, but that the people who actually need to hear this. The Fox News viewers won't get to hear it because it's monitored. We looked at -- say, we checked the Fox News website last night. There was no mention of it on their homepage. The article they do have written doesn't even say how much money Fox is paying. So, who actually wins here?

FISCHER: It's interesting. I actually was sitting next to a Fox News reporter in court, and I was watching them diligently take notes. And just having them be in court, to me, felt like a little bit of a level of accountability. Their media analyst, Howie Kurtz, did end up covering it towards the end of the trial. He said in the beginning, he wasn't allowed to.

But to your point about not making an apology, you know, the thing that actually makes me more upset is they don't have to issue any corrections or any retractions. In a journalistic entity, if I get something wrong, I have to correct it. That's the way that it goes. But to your point about what are the broader implications here, you have to remember, Fox is facing many defamation suits. It's not just Dominion. They have a suit from Smartmatic. They also have a suit with one of their own producers that's suing them, claiming that they misled her during testimony.

And so what happens is when you settle a case like this, you're setting a precedent for how you legally are going to likely need to handle all of the other cases. In this case, we know that what they're willing to do is pay up in order to make sure their execs never have to face a trial.

You can best believe that Smartmatic, who's, by the way, their lawsuit is much bigger than Dominion's, it's going to leverage the discovery that they found during the Dominion hearing to strengthen their case and they're going to leverage the fact that Fox just made a huge payout to a different competitor when they're trying to negotiate for their settlement, if they do.

LEMON: Poppy, we all have been here before, and, I mean, not a lot, but where you've had to go on air and say, even if we didn't do it, we start -- we regret the mistake, we apologize, whatever, and we correct it and move on.

FISCHER: And viewers don't care, by the way. Like viewers don't care. If you get something wrong, it builds credibility to own your mistake.

HARLOW: A great point. Ken, just can we talk about Smartmatic, $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit? To Sara's point, their attorney essentially said yesterday we got all this discovery from Dominion, we're going to use that. So, what is -- do you think this case settles as well?

TURKEL: Smartmatic is lagging behind. They were appealed. I think they were in New York and you get an intermediate appellate right immediately on any motion there. So, their discovery I think it's just starting, but there's no way they're not going to capitalize on what's out there.

And interesting point, because Sara brought up the Abby Grossberg tapes, right, that should have --

HARLOW: Yes, the producer.

TURKEL: Right. And think about this, because this (INAUDIBLE), when you ask what's going on, the special master appointment occurs yesterday afternoon. I believe Judge Davis rules on this.


Shortly thereafter, we get the settlement announcement. And I'm wondering how deep those tapes go and what's in there. So, they've got a treasure trove here.

Now, listen, whether it's admissible in their case or not, it is a different issue, but at the very least, it's going to give them a very broad set of boundaries to design an attack on their own discovery front and there's just no way that it doesn't help them immensely. It's honestly like having a peek behind the curtain. It makes your job a lot easier.

I can't see in the context. I don't know much about Smartmatic in the sense of how they designed their damages. You know, Dominion's was a pure breakdown of business damages, right? Resident Hogan, I got like $60 million non-monetary, right? So, at the end of the day, we'll see how valid the numbers but I cannot see Fox in the wake of this protracted that and not trying to resolve. It doesn't make sense, right? Sort of clean you the house up completely, put it all the rest. But who knows? Maybe Smartmatic won't let them.

LEMON: Listen, and we're discussing all of this, but that is what settlements do. You negotiate. We don't have to do this. We're going to pay you this in order for us not to do that, then that's how it happens.

Thank you, Ken, thank you, Sara. I appreciate it.

TURKEL: Yes, thanks for having me. Good talking to you all.

LEMON: Absolutely. Thank you, you as well.

Next hour, we're going to speak with Justin Nelson, the lead counsel for Dominion. We're going to ask him why his team ultimately settled with Fox News. Stay tuned for that.

We do have new details this morning after a gunman reportedly opened fire on a car full of elite Texas cheerleaders, sending one of them to the intensive care unit and injuring another. Police say the suspect started shooting just after midnight on Tuesday morning after one of the girls says she accidentally tried to get into the wrong car at their carpool meet up spot after practice.

So, in when less than a week -- just step back for a minute, right? In less than a week, simple mistakes by these young people, three young people have turned them into victims of gun violence. Ralph Yarl shot and injured after just ringing the wrong doorbell where he thought his siblings were in Kansas City. Kaylin Gillis shot and killed after turning down the wrong driveway in Upstate New York. And now Payton Washington shot and injured after her teammate tried to get into -- she and her teammate tried to just get into the wrong car by accident in Texas. She's in critical condition this morning.

Here she is just a few days ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Payton Washington of Woodlands Elite Generals. Come tumbling down with us at world's fest this Saturday. See you there.


HARLOW: Wow. Look at her a few days ago. Brynn Gingras is covering this all. Now she's fighting for her life.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And like you said, let's step back for a minute, because what the heck is going on? I mean, like I was just here yesterday talking about a different incident, which we'll get to in a minute, but, yes.

So, this is something that happened just out of the Austin, Texas area, guys. It's with a competitive cheerleading group, as you just saw. And what we're learning is that these teenagers were in an a parking lot of a grocery store, which is basically used as a carpool spot because they travel hundreds of miles round trip just to have these practices to compete nationwide.

And one of the cheerleading girls got out of her friend's vehicle, there were four of them in the car, tried to go into what she thought was her car, opened the front door in the passenger seat as a person she didn't recognize, she kind of freaked out, went back to the friend's. And I want you to hear how she describes what happens next. She talked about it with her cheerleading team, her squad at their gym, and we have this from our affiliate, KTRK. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're backing up. I see the guy get out of the passenger door. And I rolled my window down and I was trying to apologize. And then he -- just halfway, my window is down, he just threw his hands up and then, he pulled up a gun and just started shooting at all of us.


GINGRAS: Tried to apologize, and he's just start shooting at the car hitting, grazing a bullet of that woman, Heather Roth, but hitting her teammates here, Payton Washington, who is now in the ICU. She would be actually air flown to the hospital to receive care.

And so now there was a GoFundMe page. These cheerleaders are -- we're gearing up for a huge competition. She may not be able to do it, won't be able to do it because she's in the hospital, but it's so sad. I mean, what is going on?


LEMON: I can't even. I can't even.

Can we talk about what happened in Upstate New York now with Kaylin Gillis, shot and killed in Upstate New York? We're learning more about what happened before, right just before the shooting, right?

GINGRAS: Yes. So, I had like a very lengthy conversation with the defense attorney for the suspect in this case, Kevin Monahan. He's actually waiting for bail hearing. Interestingly enough, it's been delayed because the judge is his neighbor, so he had to recuse himself from this case. So, we're waiting for that.

But what this attorney says is that Monahan actually did feel threatened.


It wasn't just one car that pulled into his driveway that evening 10:00 on Saturday in this upstate rural area of New York, but it was actually another vehicle and a motorcycle. He says -- his client says he didn't know what was going, their engines were revving, these cars pull up, and according to the sheriff's department, they all turned around quickly.

Now, the sheriff, I brought this to him and he said, listen, that that's just not the case. There were no reports of engines revving from not even this suspect or any of the neighbors and ballistics and witness accounts show that the firing happened as they were actually turning around.

But I wanted to hear more from the sheriff about what he said about the suspect.


SHERIFF JEFFREY MURPHY, WASHINGTON, COUNTY, NEW YORK: He has not made any statements. He obtained a lawyer before he came out of the house and he has not made any statements and, quite frankly, it's not shown any remorse in this case.


GINGRAS: And as far as the actual remorse, I also asked that to the defense attorney. He says, listen, his time didn't even know what he was actually having deputies come to his door because he didn't know he actually hit someone. But, again, Don, you just said it just there, revving your engines, you're feeling threatened and you start firing a gun. At the end of this, listen, a 20-year-old is dead because of this.

And I want to make sure that we talk about her. Kaylin Gillis, 20 years old, she had huge aspirations. Her family gave me a statement and said Kaylin that talented artist, an honor student, a Disney fanatic and loved animals. She was looking forward to starting college in Florida to pursue her dream of becoming a marine biologist. She was taken from us far too soon, and we are devastated. And, in fact, she actually had a boyfriend who was in that car with her. And, remember, she passed away on the side of the road as they were calling 911 to get help.

LEMON: It's just awful. Thank you, Brynn, I appreciate it.

So, this morning, the 84-year-old white man accused of shooting a black teen who accidentally rang his doorbell in Missouri set to be arraigned. Andrew Lester is his name. He turned himself in Tuesday and was released on a $200,000 bond. He is facing two felony charges in the shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl.

Lester told police that he did not exchange words with Yarl before he fired at him and that he was scared to death due to Yarl's size. Yarl was shot in the head and arm after he went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings.

Shocked by the news, Yarl's community came together this week to hold a unity walk to voice their support.

Yarl is now back home from the hospital. He is with his family. And he is beginning his long road to recovery. We will continue to follow that story, and we'll check in with the family as well.

Meantime, the man accused of leaking top secret military documents set to appear in court today, as senators are expected to learn more about what classified information was exposed. Senator Angus King will join us live with the biggest questions he has ahead of the briefings. That's next.



HARLOW: In just a few hours, the suspect in the leak of classified Pentagon documents will appear in federal court in Boston for detention hearing. 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira is charged under the Espionage Act, with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and also unauthorized removal of classified information and defense materials.

Those leaked documents have exposed so much. They exposed a blunt U.S. assessment of the war in Ukraine, as well as details on U.S. intelligence collection on allies. They also revealed advancements that we've just learned about in The Washington Post today, serious advancements in Chinese spying military operations, including, according to The Post, that the Chinese military could soon deploy a high altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound.

Let's talk about this hearing and what questions he has with Senator Angus King of Maine. He serves on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees. He and other senators will receive a classified briefing on these leaked documents today. Well, Senator good morning.

I bet you have a whole lot of questions, and I wonder what the top ones are.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, first, let me with two disclaimers. One is I haven't yet had any classified briefings on this, so I'm not talking about anything that's not in the public domain. Secondly, this young man has been charged. He hasn't been found guilty. So, we got to be careful about assuming guilt.

However, having said that my principal question is how in the world did a 21-year-old National Guardsman have access to this level of top secret information? One of the classifications is called TS SCI. That's just about the highest classification TS stands for top secret, SCI, secure compartmented information. That means there are people, for example, in the CIA that can't even see it. You're only supposed to be able to see that information if you have a need to know it in some operational sense. So, there's no way to sugarcoat it. This is a really serious breach, and it also shows a serious gap in the structure of our intelligence organization.

HARLOW: Do you think that an incident like this or this much access to, as you said, TS SCI, such highly classified information could be changed through legislation?

KING: Well, I'm not sure it's legislation. I mean, we may have legislation as a result, but, you know, you can't legislate common sense. I mean, this was really the responsibility of the military and it was just not a responsible way to handle this material.

It's important to also to realize this young man allegedly, apparently, was not an intelligence analyst or a member of the intelligence community. He was a technician running the network. So, the question is, can you keep the network running without having access to the content on the network or are there ways to secure it.


And that's really -- it's sort of a mechanical problem in terms of how this information is shared.

There's one other interesting aspect of this popular. If you go back to September 11th, one of the problems that was identified was not that information wasn't shared across the United States government about the impending possibility of September 11th. So, there was a lot more sharing going on. Well, okay, now it looks like, you know, in this case, it was too much. But, again, this young man shouldn't have had access to these documents.

HARLOW: So, you obviously have a lot of questions. We heard the same thing echoed from Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on CNN Sunday morning, saying, you know, why were these documents lying around, why did this person have access to them, what was the custody. A lot of questions you both have for Biden administration, for the Pentagon. So, I wonder, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, are you planning a hearing to question Defense Department officials directly on all of that?

KING: Yes, absolutely. But that's going to begin this afternoon. We're having a classified briefing this afternoon with members from the Pentagon and the intelligence community. So, that's the important part. Why is this so important, Poppy? Well, that remains to be seen. I think we need to determine what can be public. I think we should have a public hearing.

But, again, here's the real danger here. The term is sources and methods. The information that's become public is bad in many ways, it's not a good thing to have this out in the public and among our adversaries, but the other problem is it can compromise how we got the information. In other words, if we learn something, they can take the fact that we know and reverse engineer and say, oh, here's how they got that. And that can compromise people's lives. It can also certainly compromise our ability to obtain critical information in the future.

HARLOW: Are you saying you believe this leak may have put American lives at risk?

KING: I think that's entirely possible. As I say, if the people -- our adversaries look at this information, and they say, well, how did they get this, and then they trace it back, I think that's one of the possibilities. That's why there are sort of two levels of problems here. One is the content itself. But the second is compromise of what's called sources and methods, which can put lives at risk.

HARLOW: Also leading to a rare rebuke from the spokesperson for the United Nations secretary general about how this spying on him, not surprised by the spying, but that it calling it malfeasance or incompetence that allowed private conversations to be distorted and become public. Do you agree with that?

KING: Yes, I do. And, again, one of the problems is we don't know what this -- if -- assuming this young man did this, we don't know what he chose and how he decided what to what to release.

And here's another problem. How did this fellow get a security clearance? He had to have some level of security clearance. The question then is -- we've done a lot of work on security clearances. The question is, would this -- should this -- have been his proclivity to do this, should it have been picked up?

And that's really hard to determine if he was just showing off for his buddies, which is what it looks like. I don't know that any kind of security clearance process would have picked that up. Usually, they look for things like financial compromise, other ways you can be you can be compromised.

HARLOW: Senator Angus King, thank you for that. As you said, you cannot legislate common sense. Please come back and let us know what you can after you have this briefing. We appreciate your time.

KING: Absolutely. Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you. Don?

LEMON: Okay. We're breaking down the president's new executive order that expands access to child and elderly care, what it means for you, and a new warning from doctors about teens abusing ADHD drugs.