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CNN This Morning

U.S. Diplomatic Staff, Families Evacuated, Embassy In Sudan Closed; WHO: At Least 427 People Killed Since Fighting Began In Sudan; Official: Evacuation Of U.S. Personnel In Sudan "Fast & Clean"; GOP Hopefuls Court Evangelical Voters, Weigh On Abortion; Russia's War On Ukraine; Grain Deal To Be Discussed Tomorrow By Russian FM And U.N. Chief; New Russian Attacks Across Ukraine; NYT: Airman Shared U.S. Intel More Widely Than Previously Known; A "Tsunami" Of Pilot Retirements Is About To Hit U.S. Airlines. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired April 23, 2023 - 07:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, good morning. Welcome to CNN This Morning. I'm Victor Blackwell.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Amara Walker. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. It is Sunday, it is our Friday, and we are excited.


WALKER: Here are some stories that we are following for you. As fighting intensifies in Sudan, American diplomats and their families are now safely out of the country after an overnight operation. We're going to have the latest from our team of reporters.

BLACKWELL: The race for President potential and current Republican presidential candidates are in Iowa. How will the latest Supreme Court ruling on abortion and the divide inside the party play with evangelical and anti-abortion voters?

WALKER: And overnight, there was a new round of missile strikes in Ukraine. It comes as a battle for Bakhmut intensifies. We're going to have the latest on that conflict.

BLACKWELL: A major warning from airline experts, a tsunami of upcoming retirements could lead to more pilot shortages. What could that mean for airline safety?

WALKER: American diplomats and their families are out of Sudan this morning after an evacuation from the war-torn country. A Defense Department official says fewer than 100 people were pulled out of Sudan in what he called a fast and clean operation.

BLACKWELL: It's been a week of heavy fighting between rival military factions. Now, that's despite what was meant to be a 72-hour ceasefire. The World Health Organization reported on Friday that 413 people had been killed, thousands injured since the fighting broke out, but information coming out of the country has been limited.

We have team coverage. We're going to start with Kylie Atwood at the State Department. Tell us what we know about the evacuation of U.S. personnel.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, that's right. Yesterday, all U.S. government personnel in Sudan were evacuated from the country. That includes all the U.S. diplomats that were there, their family members, and a small number of diplomats from other countries. So totaling, about 100 people that were evacuated.

Now, what you guys said in the introduction there, this was described as a clean and fast operation. It was conducted by about 100 Special Forces who were on the ground in Sudan for less than an hour to carry out this operation, getting those U.S. government personnel onto a Department of Defense aircraft and out of the country.

Now, of course, the Secretary of State ordered this departure of these U.S. diplomats, along with President Biden himself. And the Secretary of State said that the conditions on the ground simply posed an unacceptable risk to those U.S. government personnel at the time.

And now, as we look to see what happens to the State Department's embassy there, in Khartoum, the Secretary of State said operations have been temporarily suspended, and there are a few local staff who worked at the embassy there. Those are Sudanese folks who worked with U.S. government personnel to -- and they can watch over the embassy in sort of caretaker status. But for now, all U.S. government personnel out of the country and suspended operations at that embassy.

WALKER: And, Kylie, we know that there are some American citizens in Sudan. Has the government said anything about evacuating them or plans to evacuate them?

ATWOOD: Well, last night, a senior State Department official told reporters that U.S. citizens in the country shouldn't expect that there's going to be any sort of coordinated evacuation for those U.S. citizens who are in the country right now or anytime in the next few days.

So, they're really telling Americans that they shouldn't look to the U.S. government to organize any flights in and out of the country. One of the main reasons for that is that the main embassy -- main airport in the country is closed down right now.

But what the State Department has said is that they encourage those Americans to be in touch with the State Department if they want to leave the country because they could potentially help in clearing out some of those overland pathways out of the country, helping them identify some that are safer than others.

So, of course, U.S. citizens are encouraged to reach out to the State Department, but right now, they're telling them that they're not going to have any flights for them to get on.

WALKER: All right. Kylie Atwood, thank you. Let's turn now to the White House and CNN's Kevin Liptak. Kevin, we know President Biden made the decision to pull U.S. personnel and their families from the country. What else is the White House saying about the operation?


KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, certainly, President Biden watching this very closely from Camp David. That's where he is spending the weekend. And we do know over the last several days that the President ordered several steps in the lead up to this evacuation, including prepositioning military assets, equipment, resources in neighboring Djibouti.

The U.S. has a large military presence there and also working to consolidate American government personnel to the diplomatic compound in Khartoum that's been described as a fortress like structure. And that effort in itself was quite an undertaking. The roads, of course, very unsafe in the Sudanese capital at this moment.

But as soon as those diplomats were out of the country, the President did release a statement announcing this effort. He said he is grateful for the unmatched skill of our service members who successfully brought these diplomats to safety. And I think Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, which were critical to the success of our operation.

The President went on to say, "We are temporarily suspending operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan, but our commitment to the Sudanese people and the future they want for themselves is unending."

Now, the President also said that he would continue to receive reports on these efforts to potentially help other private American citizens leave the country. There won't be a broad scale military evacuation of those citizens, but he will be kept updated on the efforts that could be used to help them get out.

Of course, looming over all of this is that chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. The President, his aides, the White House, are really hoping to avoid a repeat of some of the chaotic scenes that you saw there. In fact, they said one of the lessons that they learned from that experience was to start beginning these evacuations sooner.

And if you saw some of these preparation efforts underway, really sort of taking those lessons to heart. But certainly the President and his team relieved that this appears to be a successful operation this morning. Guys?

BLACKWELL: Kevin Liptak at the White House for us. Thank you, Kevin.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is up next. He is in Djibouti. Sam, what's the latest there in Sudan and the people who are trying to get out of the country beyond the U.S. personnel? Are they able to get out? What do you know?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a major international effort either underway or in the planning involving French aircraft. I've seen those on the airfield here in Djibouti. Americans, of course, Canadians. The British have Special Forces.

(Technical difficulty) the U.S. run camp here, French and Spanish. So -- and Egyptians and Turks. Now the Turks have said that they are, for now, postponing their efforts. The Egyptians are saying that their citizens should try to gather at a series of locations.

But the most dramatic development and at the moment, we've got no comment coming from the French government, but allegations being made by both of the warring factions in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, that a French convoy by road attempting to evacuate its diplomats came under fire allegedly. This is an allegation being made by one of the warring factions on the ground and was forced to turn back.

Now, the RSF is blaming the Sudanese government forces for having conducted an airstrike near the road evacuation location. We don't have any confirmation of that. And there is, of course, in this very complex situation, a very, very great level, high level of mendacity really from -- potentially from (technical difficulty) prepared to comment on an ongoing military operation.

There are deep concerns that there may be some French citizens and others perhaps being trapped as this French Special Forces operation has gone on -- got underway in the wake of the American effort. And this is very much a multinational effort. CNN has tracked, for example, an 8130, that's the very powerful airborne Hercules framed gunship, flying fortress, really, that is capable of providing protection for people on the ground.

But a really complicating factor there is that the Sudanese Air Force is also flying combat missions over Khartoum. There's supposed to be a ceasefire agreed by both sides over this period of evacuations. That seems, at least in terms of the (technical difficulty) on the ground to have collapsed. There is a degree of fighting there.

And this complicates things very severely because really, the easiest place to get out of Khartoum is in Port Sudan, which is about 800 miles away by road. And the U.S. is saying, yes, that is a sensible evacuation point, but imploring as many hundreds of citizens that are still in the country not to try to take it.

Other people and no doubt some American (technical difficulty) not least the risk of running out of fuel, food and water.


WALKER: All right, Sam Kiley, I appreciate your reporting amid the spotty signals there. Thank you very much.

Joining me now is Aaron David Miller, he is a longtime State Department Middle East Negotiator and a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Aaron, good to see you this morning.

You know, let's take a step back about how this all started, right, because you have two warring generals right now who were once allies after, you know, having the successful coup two years ago. Well, they no longer want a power sharing agreement. They both want to run the country.

And there are also foreign actors that want to influence what happens there on the ground. How messy could this get, Aaron?

AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPT. MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: Well, I think it's already proved to be extraordinary messy. Extraordinarily messy. I mean, Khartoum has never seen this sort of unprecedented fighting between military factions. The humanitarian implications are dire, clearly, and not just for Americans, but clearly for millions of Sudanese.

This is easily going to spread. One of the generals, Hemedti, has a base in southern Sudan. So I think this is not going to be resolved anytime soon. And as you pointed out, you have external players, each of which want a piece of Sudan. It's rich in chromite, in zinc and gold. It's strategically located. It straddles the Nile, which involves Ethiopia and Egypt.

It's bordering neighboring Chad and other African states, which have histories of instabilities. The Russians are involved. We know Wagner is involved. It may actually be a setback for them because you're going to have increasing instability there, and they're not entirely sure which faction to back.

So this is -- I'm afraid. Hopefully, not an example of a failed state, but the third largest mass wise country in Africa is about to enter a period of prolonged instability. When, in fact, as recently as the last year or so, there were some hopes of a democratic transition. I think that's now clearly not in the cards.

WALKER: If the country is about to enter a stage of prolonged instability, you know, what about the other American citizens that are still in the country? I mean, we heard from our reporters there, Kylie Atwood at the State Department, that U.S. officials are saying, look, we don't have any plans right now to evacuate American citizens from Sudan.

Although, we know the State Department has been in contact with, I think they said, several hundred Americans, basically telling them, you can shelter in place. There may be some routes and ways to get out, but basically, you're kind of on your own at this point. I mean, what are your thoughts on that, considering the situation seems to be getting worse and will get worse?

MILLER: I think that's true. And the fact that the embassy is shuttered, which no State Department Foreign Service officer wishes to happen, makes it even more difficult. The administration has been clear, previous administrations as well, that American citizens, private American citizens in places of instability or danger should not expect mass evacuation.

I know the pictures don't look great. You evacuate American personnel, leaving some 16,000, mostly dual nationals, behind. I think you've described it well. I think there will be efforts. The State Department, I'm sure, will open up a -- it's running its task force in Washington, but it'll open up at another post, probably proximate to Sudan to try to do whatever they can to assist on the humanitarian side and to provide information and contact.

There was a Pentagon official who was quoting New York Times this morning as saying that they would monitor the situation in an effort to provide intelligence information if people wanted to run convoys to Port Sudan, which is 500 miles away, and provide assistance once they got there.

But what the United States has been able to do in this situation to help alleviate the suffering and the evacuation of thousands of American passport holders, dual nationals, I think, frankly, is very little. Without some additional stability and extended ceasefire when situation returns to something that you and I would describe as normal, I think, tragically, most of these Americans are going to have to think of themselves.

WALKER: Well, I'm sure that's not something they want to hear. Look, there's a lot of external interest, as you were saying, Aaron, in Sudan, including Russia, right, which has gotten access to Sudan's gold in exchange for military and political support a few years ago. And now we have CNN reporting that the Wagner group, which it denies that it is involved, providing surface to air missiles to the rapid support forces against the Sudanese army.


How do you bring the fighting to an end there? I mean, do you see no other option but to have some kind of coordinated intervention considering there are so many foreign actors that are interested?

MILLER: It's hard to imagine any significant international intervention, not in middle of a free fire zone when you have two dueling generals who, frankly, are probably involved in a death spiral. I see very little way to accommodate an internal reconciliation. I mean, this agreement foundered among many other issues on whether or not this rapid support forces, the RSF, would be incorporated into the Sudanese military.

And it's very difficult to imagine that the leader of the RSF, Hemedti, would be willing literally to give up power. Fundamentally mistrustful of General Burhan. So I don't think you're going to see any sort of extended period of quiet, let alone a democratic transition, which means that you're going to end up with military conflict.

And I suspect the African Union, the U.N., no one is going to want to put their forces in the middle of this what -- frankly, looking more and more like a full blown civil war. So I think you're going to end up with a number of mediators, self-interested parties, including the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya faction backing the RSF, all of whom may say they're interested in a period of stability, but will continue to pursue their own interests.

Again, I think the situation, frankly, in Sudan is going to get worse before it gets worse.

WALKER: Wow. Worse before it gets worst. And look, we can't forget this humanitarian crisis that is growing. I think, the World Food Programme in Chad said that they have seen up to 20,000 people spilling over the border already, as many don't have access to food, water or even electricity at this point.

Aaron David Miller, appreciate you. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, House Republicans are getting ready to vote on the debt limit and spending cuts. This is Kevin McCarthy's first major test to speaker.

Plus, we're learning the Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified documents, shared sensitive intel more widely and for longer than previously known.

WALKER: And the airline industry is about to be hit with a tsunami of pilot retirements, according to an industry group. We are going to discuss how this could impact all of us.



WALKER: A debt ceiling showdown plays out in Congress this week. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is pushing for passage of his plan to raise the debt limit, but it comes with a long list of spending cuts.

BLACKWELL: President Biden and Democrats are demanding a clean debt ceiling increase. Now, if the two sides cannot reach a deal, then the U.S. would default on its bills.

CNN's Reporter Alayna Treene joins us now with details. All right, so this is the big week, the big test of a vote. What should we expect?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, good morning, Victor and Amara -- Amara, excuse me. The House Republicans released their 320 page bill last week that would raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion. The debt ceiling is already at 31.4 trillion.

And this legislation is something that Republican leaders have been discussing internally now for the past several weeks and includes a series of cuts designed to appease conservatives. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is teeing up a vote for this bill this week, but it's unclear whether he has the 218 votes needed to win over and pass this -- win over conservatives and pass this through the House.

Now, the broader picture here is that this bill will never pass the Democratic led Senate. But the broader strategy from Kevin McCarthy is designed to try and force President Biden and Democrats back to the negotiating table and use this bill as leverage to show that any deal must include spending cuts across the board.

WALKER: So what are these spending cuts that McCarthy is pushing for? And, you know, walk us through whether he has a vote to get them passed.

TREENE: Right. Well, the bill includes a range of conservative policy proposals and cuts to domestic spending programs. That includes cuts like -- to rescinding new funding for the internal revenue service and a plan to block President Biden's student loan forgiveness program. It also includes a series of new work requirements to -- for safety -- social safety net programs like programs like Medicaid.

And even as this bill is designed to include a series of provisions, to win over conservative support, many conservatives tell us they're just not there yet. People like Andy Biggs, one of the 20 Republicans who opposed Kevin McCarthy's bid for speaker in January.

Now, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House says that they will simply reject this deal. But many Democrats say that they're concerned that if they do not start negotiating this immediately, the United States could be headed for a default.

BLACKWELL: All right, Alayna Treene, thank you so much.

Republican presidential declared, and potential candidates make their case to evangelical voters in Iowa. And it's no surprise that abortion was a major focus.

WALKER: Yes, the event was sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. It is one of the state's leading conservative political groups.

BLACKWELL: CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend is live this morning from Des Moines. Eva, the event comes as there is this fight over medication abortion. It's making its way through the courts now. How did these declared, and potentials handle the issue?


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, good morning to you both. I want to step back and give you a sense of who was in that room, the audience here. Within just a few minutes of us arriving at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, a man invited me to his church today. A few minutes later, a woman pulled my producer and I to the side to pray for us and to tell us we were covered in the blood of Jesus.

So this was a deeply Christian audience, largely filled with the white evangelical voters that these Republicans hopefuls will need come January during that critical Iowa caucus. They all raised abortion in some form or fashion. It wasn't the only issue. But in that crowd, taking a firmly antiabortion position, really popular.

But that position, not popular around the country. So I asked former Vice President Mike Pence about this, this inconsistency here that just because you hold an anti-abortion position in certain rooms, how may be across the country, that position is not broadly popular. Here's what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm pro- life. I don't apologize for it. I've been a champion of the Right to Life throughout my public career and will continue to be. But I recognize not every American shares that view at this time. And I think what the Supreme Court has done in overturning Roe versus Wade, is return the question of abortion to where it always should have been in the hands of the states and the American people.


MCKEND: So I also spoke with Vivek Ramaswamy. He's an entrepreneur and actually was really well received by that audience. And he told me he doesn't endorse a national abortion ban. This is something that he wants to see the States hash out. Victor, Amara?

WALKER: Eva McKend, great to see you. Thank you.

And still ahead, Ukrainian officials are calling for more aid as fierce fighting continues against Russia. We'll have the very latest, next.



BLACKWELL: Tomorrow, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, will meet with the United Nations' chief in New York. The focus of the meeting is the extension of the Black Sea grain deal. That deal was brokered by the U.N. and Turkey in July 22 -- 2022, I should say, to help ease a global food crisis created by the war, that was extended in November. Then last month, Russia agreed to renew it for only 60 days more. And so far, there has been no movement on another extension.

On the front lines in Ukraine, a Russian bombardment continued overnight. The strikes stretched from Kharkiv to the southern port of Odessa. At least one person was injured in Zaporizhzhia which was hit by 70 artillery strikes. In Kharkiv, missiles destroyed several homes. Ukrainian officials say that, their soldiers were able to fend off attacks overnight and hold their positions.

But in the battle for Bakhmut, it is a different story. New reports show Russian troops are making progress. CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us now live from Kyiv. Ukrainian officials, Ben, call the situation in Bakhmut, extremely difficult. What's it like this morning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been hearing for several weeks now the situation being described as extremely difficult by Ukrainian officials, but it does appear that it's -- perhaps this battle, which has gone on for eight months, has reached a critical phase. Yesterday, the Russians were claiming that they had advanced three city blocks.

All information indicates that they are using -- the Russians are using intensive airstrikes to make progress, essentially, destroying one building after another to drive back the Ukrainians, who only control a small part of the western area of Bakhmut. Now, there's only one, basically, land road into the city. And as a result of heavy rains in Eastern Ukraine in recent days, there had -- the access to the city itself is increasingly difficult.

Now, we did have one interesting development, not in the Bakhmut area, but down in the Kherson region. In the south, where, according to the Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian forces have established positions on the east bank of the Dnipro River near Kherson. Now, there is some speculation and there's a lot of speculation these days about the Ukrainian offensive that this is perhaps part of it. Perhaps a diversionary move to draw Russia troops away from other areas.

But certainly, their ability, the Ukrainian army's ability to cross the Dnipro River which down there is quite wide and actually established positions on the eastern bank is a significant development. Although, at this point, we don't know. As I said, is this a diversion or part of a main thrust? Not clear yet, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ben, let me ask you about what we heard from the deputy foreign minister there in Ukraine, who says his country needs more help to win this year, 10 times the help they're receiving. And the U.S. has already sent tens of billions of dollars-worth of military hardware. Is it that -- they say, they need more volume of what they're already receiving, or do they need different hardware in this call for more support?

WEDEMAN: Well, we're getting mixed messages from Ukrainian officials. Some say that they're receiving enough, that they need 10 times more than they've received is quite a leap there. But what is clear is that what they need is quality. They've received a lot of quantity. We heard Lloyd Austin, the U.S. Defense Secretary, saying that they've given -- that Ukraine has received more than 230 tanks, but many of those tanks are Soviet-era tanks given by countries in eastern Europe.


So, they need things like warplanes, modern warplanes. What the Ukrainians would like is U.S. made F-16s, but until now they have just received sort of Soviet-era warplanes from countries in eastern Europe, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Ben Wedeman for us there in Kyiv. Thank you so much.

WALKER: Still ahead, we are learning the Air National guardsman accused of leaking classified documents shared that sensitive intel more widely and for longer than previously known.



BLACKWELL: A few other top stories we're following now. Congressman Dan Kildee has been released from the hospital. He had a cancerous tumor removed from his tonsil. He says that doctors told him his prognosis is excellent. Kildee announced last month that he had been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. Kildee is a Democrat from Michigan. He says, he hopes to return to Congress soon.

WALKER: A judge in Ohio has temporarily banned the City of Akron from using nonlethal force on protesters following a grand jury decision in the killing of Jayland Walker. A grand jury decided not to indict the eight police officers who shot and killed Walker last summer. The decision led to renewed protests in Akron. It bans the use of tear gas, pepper spray and other types of nonlethal force against nonviolent protesters.

BLACKWELL: This week, Massachusetts Air National guardsman, accused of leaking highly classified military documents, is scheduled to appear in court. A federal judge will decide whether 21-year-old Jack Teixeira, who has not entered a plea, should stay in jail while he awaits trial. "The New York Times" has new reporting that Teixeira posted sensitive government information to a much larger chat group of 600 members, this was on the social media site Discord, months earlier than previously known.

Let's discuss now with CNN's National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem. Juliette, good to see you. 600 members --


BLACKWELL: -- multiples of the group of 50 we knew about a week ago, started in February instead of the end of 2022. How much more severe is this leak case now?

KAYYEM: It's severe and more disturbing because the larger the group of people who could see this information, the more likely it is, it is shared to even a larger group. But also, it suggests that it probably could have been detected earlier on. This is a large group of people. Just to explain how it works, Discord is the platform. Then there's different chat rooms.

The one we knew about from November -- from October 2022 is called Thug Shaker Central. Investigators thought, well, that was a small pool of people. They can figure out what that pool is who would have seen it. This larger group that appears in February 2022 had access or were, at least, reading by the disclosures real time information at the start of the war. About Russia's capabilities, Ukraine's capabilities, and then what the U.S intentions were. It did seem like some of the information was also foretelling actions by the United States because he had access to that kind of information.

BLACKWELL: In the damage assessment, will authorities be able to determine not only the 600 members who saw it, because I guess they can figure out if, you know, it's 600 members, who those 600 members are.


BLACKWELL: But if those members saved it and shared it themselves.

KAYYEM: Well, that's where the investigation will go in terms of who would have had access to it and then what did they do with it. 600 is a large number. It would have been relatively easy for someone to take a picture of a screen shot and then text it to 10 of their friends. And I think -- so, the focus is going to be on how did he get his security clearance in the first place? Was he reviewed between February and October, the period in which he's clearly doing this? And then the larger question is when someone has classified information or top-secret security clearance, what are the standards of need to know?

One of the things that's interesting in the story, and remember, this is "New York Times" reporters finding it. The United States has not has not verified this, but "The New York Times" has been way ahead on this story, is that it appears that he was posting this -- some of this information, early information from the military base itself, outside of the skiff of the secure room. And that he was -- as described, he was essentially, sort of, posting or searching for information that was more interesting that then he could post.

So, he's sort of looking around, that takes a lot of time. And there should be mechanisms in place, and for some reason they didn't work, that would tell people, wait. There's a guy from the Air National Guard, spending a lot of time looking at information that's not naturally crossing his screen. What is that about? So. there's a lot of questions to be answered.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and "The Times" reports that it appeared that he shared information privately, at least, offered it to someone who said, "DM me and I can tell you what I have", direct message for people who aren't on the social media sites.


BLACKWELL: We also know that the posting started in February, within 48 hours of the invasion of Ukraine.

KAYYEM: Right.

BLACKWELL: Does this reshape how you view potentially his motives? Because up to this point, it was maybe a guy showing off. But now that it's so close to the invasion and he starts leaking, what do you think?


KAYYEM: So, that's exactly -- that is the question right now. Is -- does this new disclosure about February 2022 change this narrative that seems to have taken hold? That he's just a -- sort of, a loser or, you know, he's a bust (ph), a lot of other things, that he's just trying to show off. He's just a young kid who's like saying, look at what I have access to.

If you look at the information he's disclosed, February 2022, he -- it is real time information. It is information that's foretelling what could happen. But more -- most importantly, as you said, he's DMing people to say, look what I got. Well, that raises questions about what in fact is his motive. He talks about foreign intelligence as well. There's no evidence that he's an asset of a foreign country. Maybe he did just want to show off these platforms, at least the one that -- the smaller one that he was on later on in the year also has, sort of -- not sort of, racist and anti-semitic remarks.

So, there's a bigger question about motive from the beginning I never bought the notion that this is just a guy who wants to show off. He is doing things that are consistent with ideological agendas. Maybe that's right. Maybe that's wrong. But we shouldn't dismiss it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Juliette Kayyem will look ahead to his appearance in court this weekend to see if we can learn anymore. Thanks so much.

WALKER: Still ahead, the airline industry is about to be hit with what some say will be a, "Tsunami of pilot retirements," according to an industry group. We're going to discuss that next.



WALKER: A stark warning for the U.S airline industry. It is about to be hit with a tsunami of pilot retirements. Before a Congress subcommittee, one industry group told senators that more than half of all pilots are such a reach retirement age in the next 15 years. That could, obviously, exacerbate a problem that is already hurting the industry, which is a pilot shortage.

Joining us now, former pilot Terry Tozer. He is the author of the book "Confessions of An Airline Pilot - Why Planes Crash". Terry, a pleasure to have you on this morning. Look this wave of retirements of pilots on the horizon, it clearly didn't happen overnight. So, is the airline industry prepared?

TERRY TOZER, FORMER AIRLINE PILOT AND AUTHOR, "CONFESSIONS OF AN AIRLINE PILOT - WHY PLANES CRASH": Well, this is rather a perennial problem actually ever since I've been in the industry. Employment has been a roller coaster. Part of that is due to the fact that pilots take a long while to train. And the industry tends to be rather reactive, you know, when there's an economic downturn, they lay them off. And then when there's an upturn, oh, dear, there aren't any.

WALKER: Dennis Tajer, who is an American Airlines pilot and a spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association, says that the pressure on pilots right now is at an all-time high in part because of the layoffs that we saw during the pandemic. But also, as a result, pilots are now working longer hours. What concerns you the most about this whole situation pilots are dealing with?

TOZER: Well, fatigue, it's a big issue. It also applies in the U.S air traffic control system at the moment, as you probably know. In fact, I wrote quite a bit in my book about this. You know, pilot fatigue has long been a problem. And when you get the shortages, unfortunately, people are leaned on to maybe go a little bit further with their duty times than they really should. And it is a safety issue. You know, the NTSB knows this, and they've been banging this drum, well, frankly for decades. But the FAA and the commercial operators, you know, don't really want to spend the extra money in hiring enough crews in time. WALKER: But when it comes to recruiting more pilots, I mean, should the way that they are trained or, you know, their qualification standards, should those change at all?

TOZER: No, certainly not. I mean, maybe they should be, you know, take even longer. I mean, one of the problems you get in this situation is that you get what they call a steep gradient across the cockpit. So, you have a captain with a lot of experience and a first officer with very little, and that's because nearly all the first officers are coming in as newbies. You know, there's quite a lot that can be discussed about this crewing issue and it's obviously having a peek at the moment.

WALKER: Yes, I'm definitely feeling it as a flyer myself, and I think a lot of us are. You know, I mean, knowing about these pilot shortages, but also hearing about these near-misses are quite unsettling. And I know you have spoken about U.S. aviation protocol. And you have said that you felt, "Very uncomfortable" because of the way air traffic controllers in the U.S clear aircraft to land which is very different from the way the U.K. and most of Europe handle that. What made you uncomfortable?

TOZER: Well, I mean, the general principle that I spent most of my time in aviation is that a runway will only be cleared for your use when there's nobody else on it. If you're working on the assumption that the aircraft that's either departing or taxiing clear will be clear by the time you land, you wait until then to give the clearance. You don't give it beforehand. That has become not uncommon.


And again, I refer back to what I've written. I mean, there's a whole chapter on air traffic control in the book. And it does cover the different practices in different countries.

WALKER: We only have a few seconds. The -- you wrote the book on "Why Planes Crash". Pilot shortages, pilot fatigue, air traffic control shortages. Is that why planes crash?

TOZER: The single word answer is culture. You know, if the safety culture in the airline is really good, it'll be safe. The machinery is good, the kit is good, if the training and the safety culture, i.e. you don't cut callers and push the limits, it's safe. Once those rules are broken, it starts to get risky.

WALKER: Terry Tozer, appreciate the conversation. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Before we head to the next hour, we want to make sure you watch a new episode of "Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico". Here's a look.


EVA LONGORIA, HOST, EVA LONGORIA: SEARCHING FOR MEXICO: I've done this work before, and it is hard. It is not easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).

LONGORIA: I don't -- how does he not have gloves?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Gloves aren't useful here. It has to be rustic.

LONGORIA: Let me see your hands.

Look at the calluses. Wow.

Do you like tequila?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The truth is yes.

LONGORIA: (Speaking in a foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Lots of us love it.

LONGORIA: Everyone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): from the planting to the drinking.

LONGORIA: That's commitment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Very good.


BLACKWELL: "Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico" airs tonight at 9:00 eastern right here on CNN. We'll be back.