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Container With $15 Million Worth Of Gold And Valuables Stolen From Toronto Airport; Men Accused Of Intimidation During White Nationalist Rally To Appear In Court; House GOP Passes Bill To Bar Trans Athletes From Female Sports Teams. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 21, 2023 - 07:30   ET




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, just moments ago we got confirmation that a U.S. citizen has died in Sudan. The State Department says that they are in touch with the family. Sudan's military and a rival paramilitary group have been fighting since last Saturday. At least 413 people have been killed so far and it hasn't even been a week yet.

And this morning we're learning that the U.S. is deploying, quote, "additional capabilities" near Sudan to secure the embassy there and assist with a potential evacuation. Hundreds of Marines are already based in Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti. As of December, there were 14 active-duty U.S. military personnel in Sudan providing Embassy security.

All this comes as a 72-hour ceasefire was announced overnight. The truce aligns with the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. The ceasefire could provide a crucial window for aid to be distributed to the people caught in the conflict zones.

The World Health program warns that if the fighting continues millions could be forced into hunger. Tens of thousands of people have already fled Sudan and are now refugees.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Russia and what some are describing as an accidental firing. At least two people have been injured. And this happened because a Russian warplane dropped a bomb on the Russian city of Belgorod last night. It's about 25 miles north of the country's border with Ukraine. The region has been the scene of several explosions and bombings since Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago.

And take a look at this because here you can see some of the damage from the explosion. According to state news agencies, the Russian Defense Ministry said it was caused by an emergency drop of aviation munition. It's not clear what kind of weapon was involved and no deaths, so far, have been reported.

LEMON: A rare heist at Toronto's Pearson Airport. Police say daring thieves made off with about $15 million worth of gold and other valuables stored in a cargo container taken illegally from an airport holding facility.

Straight now to CNN's Paula Newton live in Ottawa, Canada. Paula, good morning to you. Tell us more. What happened?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is quite a head-scratcher, Don. I mean, think about it. This is an airport. It's supposed to be one of the most secure places. And yet, on Monday evening, it seems a cargo container about five or six feet square was loaded off an airplane -- so far, so normal -- and was put into a holding warehouse. And then in terms of what the police said it was taken illegally.

You got it, Don. This is high-value contents. They're saying about $15 million worth. Some of it was gold; some of it was other articles.

They weren't really willing to say what and I think that's the point of this. Police weren't really willing to say too much. They wouldn't tell us which airline was involved, who they thought was involved, what else was in the cargo hold there.

But I want you to listen now to police at the airport yesterday during a press conference when asked if they thought this was a professional job -- listen.



STEPHEN DUIVESTEYN, PEEL REGIONAL POLICE INSPECTOR: Our investigators have got their eyes open to all avenues, so we really don't want to make an error and sort of focus on one particular area. We're kind of keeping a broad outlook on it. So we're looking at all angles on how this item was stolen. But, I mean, for me to come on the record and say it's professional at this time would be really, really early for me and I'd be hesitant to say such a thing.


NEWTON: But think about this. At this point, they are not telling us whether there is any surveillance video of how and when this container was stolen, and they don't even know if it is still in the country.

Now, no one wants to be too flippant about this, right? This is an airport. It should be much more secure.

HARLOW: Secure.

NEWTON: A cargo container shouldn't just go missing. But you can't help but have your "Ocean's 11" soundtrack playing in the background here because it is still quite a mystery.


HARLOW: And if they don't know any of that -- like, they don't know surveillance and they don't even know if it's still in the country, does that mean the police don't have any leads? NEWTON: You know, there are no suspects, certainly. They didn't ask the public for help, Poppy, and this is what was so extraordinary. And you got the feeling that the press conference was hastily arranged because it had already leaked out from the press on Monday. They wanted people to know about this. At the latest, we would have had some kind of police statement by Tuesday. That didn't happen.


NEWTON: This was late Thursday night. You've got it, Poppy, for them to say that it's not -- they don't even know if it's in the country.

HARLOW: Right.

NEWTON: Not too many leads as far as we understand right now.

HARLOW: Wow. When I read about it waking up this morning I was like this is out of a movie. It's --


HARLOW: -- real, though.

Paula, thanks very much.

LEMON: Thank you, Paula.

Today, two of the men involved in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville will be in court. We're going to take you live to Virginia. Plus, this.


BRIAN FITZGERALD, DOUGLAS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT BUS DRIVER: You guys want to see how dangerous that is? (Slams on brakes).


HARLOW: Oh, that is a bus driver caught slamming the brakes all to, quote, "teach kids a lesson." Well, now he's facing charges.

LEMON: Uh-oh.



LEMON: Just hours from now two men accused of marching through Charlottesville, Virginia with a group of white nationalists set to appear in court. In 2017, the group shocked the country when they carried lit tiki torches through the city. During the march they chanted hateful phrases like "You will not replace us," "Jews will not replace us."

Well, on Tuesday, six years later, a judge in Virginia announcing a grand jury indicted three men on charges of intent to intimidate during that march -- six years later.

CNN's Brian Todd live for us in Charlottesville this morning with the very latest. Brian, what are we expecting today?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, in a couple of hours, this is going to be a bond hearing for one of the men, and that's Will Zachary Smith from Texas. He has been in custody since January. It's going to be an initial court appearance for another one of the defendants -- his name, Tyler Bradley Dykes. He's from Bluffton, South Carolina. A third defendant, Dallas Medina from Ohio, has been arrested but is not in custody -- at least he wasn't as of a couple of days ago. So a bond hearing for one; an initial appearance for the other.

These men, as you mentioned, Don, charged with, quote, "burning an object with the intent to intimidate." And that was related to that torch march that was held in Charlottesville the night before the Unite the Right rally -- the night of Friday, August 11, 2017.

These white nationalists marched through the campus of the University of Virginia. Don mentioned those horrible slogans that they chanted -- "Jews will not replace us." One of the slogans was "blood and soil" which is a Nazi reference.

And for many years, the people who led that torch march were not charged. The former commonwealth's attorney for Albermarle County, Robert Tracci, declined to press charges against them. But the current commonwealth's attorney for the county -- his name, James Hingeley -- he was the one who kind of led the charge to bring charges against these defendants.

And so we'll see where it goes from here. Are other people who took part in that torch march going to be charged? Could there be others who were involved in the Unite the Right rally on that Saturday which, of course, led to so much horrible violence that day and the death of a counter-protester Heather Heyer when she was struck by a vehicle that rammed a crowd of protesters? Is there going to be -- are there going to be charges for any of the -- of the people who were involved in that?

Interestingly, Don, this is kind of a continuation of an effort to bring some justice for that event six years ago. Because I was here about a year and a half ago when there was a big civil trial. Some of the leaders of the Unite the Right rally -- some of these white nationalists were successfully sued for about $26 million. And this was -- the plaintiffs were people who were victims of the violence and civil rights groups. They won a lawsuit against them.

So, interestingly, a continuation here, Don, of the effort to bring justice for those events in 2017.

LEMON: Thank you, Brian. I'm glad you answered my question, though. I was wondering what took so long. There is a different prosecutor now. Thank you --

HARLOW: Yes. LEMON: -- Brian Todd in Charlottesville, Virginia.

TODD: Right.

LEMON: Appreciate it.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

A Colorado school bus driver who intentionally slammed the brakes while driving children now faces 30 years -- 30 child abuse charges, I should say. He defends his actions saying it was to educate them -- listen.


FITZGERALD: You guys want to see how dangerous that is? (Slams on brakes). Did you get that? That's why you need to be in your seat. Turn around and sit down properly.


HARLOW: The children from Douglas County's Castle Rock Elementary School are between five years old and 12 years old. One girl called her mom from the bus telling her mom someone was hurt.


CHILD: Hello? Um, the bus driver hit the brakes and someone got hurt so badly and is, like, bleeding on their cheek.



HARLOW: Sixty-one-year-old former bus driver Brian Fitzgerald has his first court appearance in May.

LEMON: A sheriff's department in California going beyond the call of duty. Deputies in Fresno County risked their own lives last month to deliver a lifesaving medication to a man stranded in a home surrounded by feet of snow.

CNN's Veronica Miracle has more on the heroic mission.


VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The call came in early March after unusually heavy snowfall closed off this mountain community near Fresno, California.


MIRACLE (voice-over): Jared Cook was at his family's cabin near Huntington Lake for what he thought would be a weekend getaway until a monster storm hit. COOK: Every day, another two feet of snow kept coming in and there

was no way to get out. Ultimately, I was just trapped.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Ten to 12 feet of snow had piled up. The National Weather Service issued a dangerous weather alert and the only road in was completely shut down for weeks.

DEPUTY SHERIFF STEVEN KIRKPATRICK, FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: It came so fast and so dense between each storm. So within that, it was just powder on top of powder.

COOK: It was kind of like Groundhog's Day.

MIRACLE (on camera): Like, a couple of day thing turned into two weeks of you in isolation.

COOK: Total isolation. Total solitude with no other human beings around.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Two weeks in, Jared was running out of his three heart medications. Out of desperation he reached out to the local Huntington Lake Fire Department but even they had no way to reach him. So they called in the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, which tried to reach Jared by helicopter during extreme weather conditions.

DEPUTY GREG VILLANEUVA, FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We kind of reserve this one as our rescue helicopter and this is the one that we were actually flying that day.

MIRACLE (voice-over): In a remote location --

VILLANEUVA: This cabin was stuck between 100-foot-tall trees.

MIRACLE (voice-over): -- amid snow piled higher than the cabin.

VILLANEUVA: We land. We could get what we call a whiteout condition where the snow just comes up and basically you lose all visual reference.

MIRACLE (voice-over): The team in the air had to come up with an alternative way to get the medicine to Jared.

COOK: And they said when you hear us go outside and try to get in view and wave us down.

VILLANEUVA: We ended up going with plan B and just kind of hovering over the house and over the roadway, and then we dropped it off to him.

MIRACLE (on camera): In flight, you got the door open and you're about to drop it. What's going through your mind about, like, what could go wrong?

VILLANEUVA: Well, number one, it was flying high enough so we don't hit the trees. Number two would be probably not hitting the gentleman with the bag. And the most important is probably not damaging the helicopter while we're in flight.

I had to pull the door open with my left hand and I had to drop the bag in between the skid and drop it into this little area right here.

COOK: They did the drop and I just saw powder fly. The bag had dropped through the snow so I dug it out. And once I had it -- had located it, I just gave them the thumbs up.

VILLANEAUVA: I think that's why we all do the job -- the teamwork. The sheriff's office came together as a team and we made a plan quickly and we were able to help somebody that was in need.

COOK: They really are heroes to me.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Veronica Miracle, CNN.


HARLOW: Heroes -- real heroes.

LEMON: Yes, of course.

The House just passed a bill that bans transgender athletes from competing in female school sports, but what does the polling say about American support for LGBTQ protections?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...the underlying bill, which would completely ban participation of all transgender kids across our country. The other side does not even want to acknowledge that transgender kids exist, that transgender people exist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a woman who is pro-LGBTQ, I don't care how you dress. I don't care what pronoun you take. I don't care if you change your gender. But we ought to protect biological women and girls in their athletics, in their achievements.


HARLOW: The House has passed a Republican-led bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in female school sports at federally funded schools. Every Republican in the House voted yes and every Democrat voted no. This bill does not stand a chance of being taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate but it still opens a bigger conversation here.

Alyssa Farrah Griffin, CNN political commentator and former White House communications director under President Trump is with us. It's great to have you here. Good morning.


LEMON: Good morning.

HARLOW: We were really intrigued by this sort of tweet thread you posted yesterday referring to polling about LGBTQ support. There is a distinction, as you want to point out, between support for transgender women and girls playing in male sports. But my question to you is what is the bigger picture you're trying to point to here?

GRIFFIN: Big picture -- I think the GOP is going way too far pushing anti-LGBTQ policies. The so-called Don't Say Gay bill in Florida will lose you a generation of voters.

Of course, it was first presented as only affecting education up to third grade, but now it's going up to 12th grade. So you're talking about high school students raising questions about how can you talk about your gay parents in the classroom or if you happen to be gay how is that even discussed?

That's something my generation rejects. The polling shows eight in 10 Americans believe there should be more protections for the LGBTQ community to avoid discrimination. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans. I don't have the breakdown. I would assume a lot of those are younger voters.

So I think that there's a -- there's this really big overreach on the right to try to appeal to primary voters -- many of them, frankly, older voters who have more traditional old-school views on these issues. But I think it's a total loser in a general election.

I think Ron DeSantis' numbers dropping is partially because of this. This is alienating an entire community.


The transwomen in sports issue is a very nuanced issue and Congress is where nuance goes to die. I mean, the breakdown of that vote just shows that there was absolutely no effort to try to meet in the middle and find something that works for both sides.

I have talked to a lot of parents, mostly who have female daughters, who have concerns over this issue. But there is certainly something that I think is a step below a federal bar on trans athletes competing in women's sports that could be reached.

So the U.S. Census says we have about 1.5 million transgender Americans. That's a minority within a minority. The number of those who then go on to be elite athletes competing at this level -- this is not an issue that is affecting a ton of people. And I would think that there is something -- frankly, I would say the NCAA should come up with a standard that would make sure that biological women feel comfortable but you're also not alienating transwomen from being able to compete altogether.

The White House has come down very strongly on one side and Republicans on the other. Neither are even trying to be in the middle on it.

LEMON: And Alyssa, I think you're exactly right. It is -- it's an important issue. But when you see the number of people who are affected by -- really, really, really small, as you said.

The question is that these sort of social wedge issues -- why -- then why are Republicans still -- because it's a losing issue for them.

GRIFFIN: They're very -- it's -- they're very animating issues in a primary and with a certain wing of the donor class. But then I would argue on the flip side some prominent donors came out against Gov. DeSantis and said you're going too far on some of these social issues and pulled back support.

But I do think it's a -- you know, there are donors who would like to see the GOP be a part of the 1990s where we're against gay marriage, we're against marriage equality. That's not where the country is moving. No one wants to go backward on these issues.

LEMON: If the answer -- if you said to me -- because it works, Don, I would go OK, because it works. But I'm asking the question because it appears not to be working.

GRIFFIN: It doesn't. And I hate to make this analogy because there's so much I disagree with Donald Trump on, and he certainly did have some stances that I think affected the LGBTQ community, but he also never made it front and center in his campaign and I actually think it helped with some young supporters. They're like finally, we don't have to get into these highly toxic cultural wedge issues. They just are not reflective on where we are generationally.

Other candidates are leaning very hard into it and I think it's going to make it extremely hard to win a general election.

HARLOW: What's going on with Gov. DeSantis because so many people sort of crowned him even before -- he hasn't even officially gotten in the race and yet, all the headlines this week are about how he's struggling. He just lost -- he didn't get the endorsement of the congressman for his own former district in Florida -- the Republican congressman. What's going on?

LEMON: And a big donor.


HARLOW: Oh, yeah, that big donor.

LEMON: Yes, a big donor.

GRIFFIN: He -- I think he's still working to establish a professional team around him. I actually have a number of friends who are on his PAC that are very experienced operatives but they are still on this firewall until he's an announced candidate. He's gotten some very advice.

I mean, the single thing that hurt him the most was calling Ukraine a territorial dispute. You have the most prominent Republicans saying whoa, whoa, whoa -- that is not where we are. But I also think this -- these cultural wedge issues are hurting him and the continued war against Disney.

It's too soon to -- certainly too soon to write his obituary politically but I said from the outset let's see him tested on a national stage. For someone like Ron DeSantis, if you take a position that is perhaps controversial, like the so-called Don't Say Gay bill, then he needs to come and sit down with mainstream media and explain this is why we think this is best for Florida, or a six-week abortion ban. You have to be able to defend it to unfriendly audiences and I can't think of a single time I've seen him do that yet.

To Trump's credit, in 2016, he'd go on "MORNING JOE," he'd go CNN and he'd argue, and it wasn't always good and it wasn't always healthy or ripe for debate but he had at least the conversation. DeSantis isn't doing that and it makes people wonder if he's capable.

LEMON: In every single interview -- I mean, he would call and say can you -- Mr. Trump, will you come on? Sure, I'll come on. Do I have to come on the set? Will I call? I think I did eight interviews with him --


LEMON: -- then.

And it's interesting. Ron DeSantis seems to be doing the victory lap before he's even run the race. So which --

GRIFFIN: We can't forget how early it is in the primary. A lot can play --

LEMON: And who fights with Disney? Who fights with Mickey Mouse? Come on, come on.

GRIFFIN: Weirdly, I think he got married at Disney. DeSantis is --

HARLOW: Did he, really?

LEMON: Are you serious?

GRIFFIN: Yes, yes. I'm like what are you doing?

LEMON: He did? Oh.

GRIFFIN: And by the way, this is going to get even more complicated.

LEMON: At the magic castle or whatever?

HARLOW: Kingdom, kingdom.

LEMON: Kingdom -- Magic Kingdom.

GRIFFIN: June is Pride Month. Every major corporation in America is going to be flying the flag -- HARLOW: That is so true.

GRIFFIN: -- and you can't pick a fight with all of them because that is where the mood of the country is.


HARLOW: Fascinating.

LEMON: So Biden's going to run again. Tuesday -- you think that's the day?

GRIFFIN: I have no idea.


GRIFFIN: We'll watch. We shall see.

HARLOW: Alyssa, thanks.


LEMON: Thank you. And we'll be watching you a little bit later --


LEMON: -- on some other show. We call it "THE VIEW." Thank you.

CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I never once said -- never -- that the gun went off in my hand automatically.

Well, the trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: So you never pulled the trigger?

BALDWIN: No, no, no, no, no. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them -- never.


HARLOW: Good morning, everyone.