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CNN This Morning

Pence Testifies for 5 Hours Before Grand Jury on Trump; Accuser to Trump Attorney: Ex-President 'Raped Me Whether I Screamed or Not'; Alabama's Bryce Young is No. 1 NFL Draft Pick. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 28, 2023 - 06:00   ET









ROMANS: Toosi with "Favorite Song."

All right. Have a great weekend, everybody; a great rest of your day. Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's Friday, everyone. It's Friday!



HARLOW: You can tell, we're happy for the weekend. But thanks for being with us today and all week. We're so happy to have Audie Cornish.

CORNISH: It's good to be here.

HARLOW: Making our morning.

COLLINS: It will be a fun day.

HARLOW: Let's hear our "Five Things to Know" for this Friday, April 28, 2023.

Former Vice President Mike Pence testified in Jack Smith's January 6th investigation. We're told that Pence testified before that federal grand jury for more than five hours. CORNISH: New overnight, two Apache helicopters crashing in Alaska

during a training mission. Three Army helicopter pilots are dead. One was injured in the crash.

Also today, the Fed's preferred measure of inflation set to be released. The data could be critical in determining what the Fed does next with rate hikes.

COLLINS: Also, tributes and reflections are pouring in for Jerry Springer. The legendary talk show host lost his battle to cancer at the age of 79.

Also this morning, roll Tide! I'm so happy to say that. I was so happy to watch this last night as the Carolina Panthers selected Alabama quarterback Bryce Young as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Bama also producing the third and 12th picks in the first round. Much more to talk about with that.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: So I know one thing about the draft last night.

COLLINS: Which is?

HARLOW: Which is not even who the Vikings drafted. It's how Alabama, the teammates responded --

COLLINS: I know.

HARLOW: -- when he was the first draft pick. Has this never happened before there?

COLLINS: In Nick's -- in the modern era, Alabama has not had a first round draft pick. It's the first time Nick Saban has had it since he's a coach, which is kind of hard to believe, given so many NFL -- Alabama players have gone to the NFL.

But I'm telling you, obviously, Bryce Young is amazing. There's a reason he was the No. 1 pick. But as a human, he is -- also has this just amazing off-the-field reputation.

HARLOW: I love that.

COLLINS: And he's very humble, and it's just -- it's lovely to see him succeed and have that moment that he did last night.

CORNISH: I just love your energy around this. I mean, this is the most excited I've ever seen you, definitely, besides an election night.

COLLINS: I know. I was emailing the show last night. I was on a plane back, and I was like, Can we please put this high on the show.

CORNISH: I know.

HARLOW: And it's first. For you.


HARLOW: Also this. Obviously, huge news in -- on the political front. Historic testimony from Mike Pence, Donald Trump's own former vice president. Testifying before a federal grand jury about the former president's attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

This is the first time ever, in modern history at least, that is a vice president has been compelled to do this.

Pence is now the highest-ranking official from the Trump White House to be questioned by the special counsel, Jack Smith, in that probe. A source tells CNN Pence testified for more than five hours. He could be a crucial witness.

We already know he rejected Trump's demands to block the certification of Joe Biden's victory on January 6. We've heard testimony that Trump chewed him out in that heated phone call on the morning of January 6th. These are actual photos of Trump making that call in the Oval Office.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


HARLOW: And then we all watched as a horde of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol that day. Pence was forced to run for his life, hunkering down in a secure underground location.

So let's begin here this hour with our senior crime and justice reporter, Katelyn Polantz.

Katelyn, good morning to you. Again, historic. We say that a lot. But this really, really is. And what is also notable is that, after trying to resist a subpoena, after court attempts by Pence and Trump, he had to talk. And this is a firsthand account. It's not second-hand from his aides. It's a firsthand account.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. So Poppy, this was not something that was necessarily a surprise, because Mike Pence had been saying he was willing to testify. It went through the court system. He got the order on Wednesday night that said that the appeals court was not going to let Donald Trump block his testimony anymore.

But there was still so much anticipation around this, because this is a moment to mark for a lot of reasons for the investigation. And then also when you look back at criminal investigations around the presidency, there never has been a vice president forced to testify against or about the president that they served next to. And so this was really an unusual day. There was a lot of anticipation

around the courthouse specifically yesterday. We do understand now that Pence came in pretty early in the morning, before 9, he was there, essentially, the entire day. But we never saw him. We never saw his lawyers. He was with that secret grand jury testifying for more than five hours.

So they got to ask him a lot of questions. Prosecutors got to probe a lot about direct conversations he would have had with Donald Trump five hours. They got to ask him a lot of questions. Prosecutors got to probe a lot about direct conversations. He would have had with Donald Trump. And other things he would have witnessed leading up to January 6.

And so that is really a significant moment for the investigation itself. They've been seeking this testimony for a long time.

HARLOW: I know that he said, after the court ruled in his argument that, you know, I was head of the Senate that day. And, so I can't answer questions because of the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution.

He -- he said that that was sort of a win from the court for him, meaning he couldn't answer some questions. Do we know the extent? I know it's a secret grand jury, so probably not. But to the questions he could or couldn't be asked or answered yesterday?

POLANTZ: We do a little bit because of reporting we've done about how the court rulings play out here. We don't know exactly what was asked or what he said in the grand jury. As you noted, it is a secret proceeding.

His team isn't even acknowledging right now that he has gone in and testified. One of his chief of staff did a -- did an interview yesterday and just said he was willing to comply with the law.

But what we have seen from the court rulings previously is that he is protected when he was president of the Senate. So what we believe would be when he was on Capitol Hill, presiding over that Senate proceeding.

But he can talk about any time Donald Trump may have been acting corruptly. So that's very likely the conversations where they were pressuring him -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Kaitlan, great reporting. Thanks very much.

CORNISH: And breaking overnight, three American soldiers are dead and one is injured after two military helicopters collided over Alaska.

It happened as they were returning from a training flight near Healy, which is about 100 miles South of Fort Wainwright. And that's where the Apache helicopters are based as part of the 1st Attack Battalion 25th Aviation Regiment.

It's the second deadly military helicopter collision in two months. In late March, two Blackhawk helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division crashed during a training mission near the Kentucky-Tennessee border. At that point, nine soldiers were killed.

COLLINS: Yes. Definitely thinking of them and their families.

Also new overnight, the legislatures in two very red states failed to advance restrictive abortion bills within hours of one another. It was conservative dissenters, actually, in South Carolina and Nebraska who helped block these bills.

Look at this. Both state bodies dominated by Republicans by a 2-1 ratio. Both of these areas went for Trump by about ten points in the last election.

But let's take a closer look at Nebraska specifically. A state senator there posted this video after that six-week abortion ban failed by a single vote after one of her Republican colleagues abstained from voting. He had raised concerns about the ban being too early for women to know that they're pregnant. And he warned his fellow Republicans about political backlash over abortion bans.

Then in South Carolina, the state's five female senators filibustered on Wednesday against a bill that would have banned nearly all abortions there. Here's State Senator Sandy Senn, who once again, I should note, is a Republican.


SEN. SANDY SENN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: Abortion laws have always been, each and every one of them, about control. It's always about control. Plain and simple. And in the Senate, the males all have control. We, the women, have not asked for, as the senator from Orangeburg pointed out yesterday, nor do we want your protection. We don't need it. We don't need it.


COLLINS: Quite blunt words there. I should note, South Carolina legislation there failed on a 22-21 vote.

CORNISH: Next, we want to talk about another case for President Trump. Lawyers grilled the woman accusing him of rape, asking her why she didn't scream or report the assault to police.

Columnist E. Jean Carroll took the stand for a second emotional day in court yesterday, this time for cross-examination. Carroll told Trump's attorneys she was too panicked to scream in the moment, adding, "I'm telling you, he raped me whether I screamed or not. I don't need an excuse for not screaming."

Carroll is suing the former president for battery and defamation. She says he raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid- 1990s. Trump denies the claim, calling it, quote, "a scam and a hoax."

CNN's Kara Scannell is here. Kara, you've been watching this closely.

What else did the attorneys try to focus on during this cross- examination?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The screaming is the most intense part of this cross-examination. Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, asked her repeatedly why she didn't scream, why she didn't scream.

She said you can't beat me up for not screaming. You know, some women scream, some women don't scream. It was a real intense moment during this four hours.

CORNISH: That is an old-school approach in terms of cross-examination of a rape victim.


SCANNELL: Right. I mean, that's the thing that stood out here. It was clear he was going for it. He was going to challenge these details. He wasn't going to wear kid gloves. Although he was respectful. It wasn't, you know, beating her up type of thing.

But he was challenging these points.

He also was trying to dissect what happened step-by-step during this alleged rape, asking, you know, how -- how did you push off the man who weighed twice as much as you wearing four-inch heels while holding a band bag and not ripping your tights? So really trying to just question the entire validity of this.

Because Trump's defense is this never happened.

You know, he also is going after her motives, you know, saying -- asking her and she agreed. She only went public with the story -- she said this happened in 1996, roughly. He's saying why can't you give us an exact date? You're not allowing him to have an alibi.

But asking about these motives, saying you only went public when you decided to write a book about this.

CORNISH: Before we let you go, can you tell us what she was like on the stand, her demeanor, how she was able to counter this?

SCANNELL: Yes. I mean, she is somewhat of a, you know, has a theatrical way of speaking. So she is very fulsome in her descriptions.

You know, she's remained composed throughout the whole time. The only times that we have seen her become emotional was, you know, when she was pushing back on, you know, why she -- you know, this feeling of being attacked because why she didn't scream.

And she -- but she does dig in at times. And when asked, you know, why now are you coming forward? He's the most powerful man in the world in 2019 as the president. And you wouldn't do it in the mid-90s when he was just a businessman.

She said she was inspired by the women who came forward in the #MeToo movement and all the women -- right at the time, you remember, it was when the Harvey Weinstein victims had come forward. And she said that inspired her, because she realized that silence was not the option.

CORNISH: Kara Scannell, thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thanks, Kara.

This morning, some home owners in the Florida Panhandle are waking up to see the damage left behind from a tornado. This one striking just East of Tallahassee on Thursday with large hail, powerful winds, drone footage.

Look at this. It shows extensive damage in Hosford. That's where about 12 homes were just wiped out, flattened. Another 20 were damaged.

Witnesses say that one person was also struck by lightning in the middle of this on the pier in Panama City Beach.


ETHAN BRYAN, WITNESS: There was two men walking down the pier, and lightning struck the first time a little bit behind them and missed. And they kind of hunkered down. And then within about five or ten seconds, the second one hit, and it actually struck one of the men.


HARLOW: Officials say that the man remains in critical condition at the hospital this morning.

Also this morning, you've got 40 million people across the country under the threat of severe storms.

CORNISH: At least 14 people killed including a toddler after Russia unleashed a barrage of missiles across Ukraine. We are tracking the latest developments.

COLLINS: Plus, the University of Alabama has set a new NFL draft record with Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young.


MELISSA STARK, SIDELINE REPORTER, NBC'S "SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL": You are the highest player drafted out of Alabama in the common draft era and the No. 1 overall pick. How does it sound?

BRYCE YOUNG, NO. 1 NFL DRAFT PICK: It's still crazy.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Carolina Panthers select Bryce Young, quarterback, Alabama.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: No surprise. But still, an amazing moment as Bryce Young was taken first in this year's NFL draft.

It's just the beginning of a very big night for the Crimson Tide recruits, if you're watching, and for the head coach, Nick Saban, who was in his dazzling pink suit.

Young is the first of three Alabama players who were selected in the top 12 of the first round, further cementing Alabama's dominance as a destination for future pros.

And yes, I can say this with no bias.

Joining us now is investigative reporter and cultural critic Bradford Williams Davis, who is also a former sports columnist at the "New York Daily News."

Thank you for being here. I promise this whole segment will not be about Alabama.

CORNISH: She will not be able to stick with that promise, so prepare yourself.

COLLINS: But, I was like going on a spree last night watching this. I was so excited just to see Bryce Young. No surprise. But it's still amazing to watch this.

Isn't it crazy? It's the first time Nick Saban has had a first-round draft pick since he's been at Alabama.


CORNISH: I know. Thanks for coming on. It's been great.

COLLINS: I so want to talk about this, actually.

CORNISH: But talk about this spectacle, right? I mean, NFL still has huge TV ratings. Football is the mono culture moment still, and what was this one like?

DAVIS: You know, the draft -- NFL draft, like all drafts, are kind of weird. Because it's a party where not everyone is having fun. I mean, poor Will Levis, right? I mean, he was the fourth best quarterback prospect and he is, yes, still waiting. You know, that is not fun for him.

But we're laughing. We're making memes about it.

But you know, jokes aside, I'm always kind of mixed about drafts. Because of course, I'm so happy to see these men who worked, you know, since boyhood to get to where they are.

CORNISH: And that's the story line of the night, usually. They do these little mini biographies. DAVIS: And many people, you know, who -- especially in the NFL, right,

they've come from really, really hard lives where they've, you know, had economic disadvantages that -- that forced them into football and saw football as a way out.

But it's unfortunate that football has to be the way out for so many men, especially so many young black men, especially when we consider the cost of the labor that -- that the NFL extracts from you. That's what always makes me feel a little bit tense, even as I'm happy for these people in their individual situations.

CORNISH: Now this is going to be a moment, obviously, where people are going on to fame and wealth and fortune ideally.

I want to actually talk about Brittney Griner. Because one of the reasons why she was playing overseas in the first place is because of the pay gap, right, for women athletes.

Can you talk about what kind of affect her imprisonment by Russia will have going forward? Will other athletes be reluctant to go abroad?

DAVIS: Yes. I mean, not that I would ever be in the shoes of an incredible athlete like Brittney Griner or any other women who are, you know, entering into the WNBA, but I can't imagine the value of going abroad, particularly in countries that may be politically risky. You know, I can't -- you know, that would be terrifying to me, honestly.

And so I think that there is going to be a much more -- much stronger fight domestically to make sure that there is, you know, a true pay equity between women and men. Or at the very least, I should say the women's league and men's league. Or the very least, something that doesn't force people to have to go out abroad to make the most of the talents.


HARLOW: That's what the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, has been pushing so hard for. Right? And calling on the media partners, et cetera, saying, Look, we need -- we need more equity here.

Their ratings are going up. So they're getting there.

Could we just listen to what Brittney said in this? It's like the first time we've heard from her in this press conference yesterday. Here she is.


BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA PLAYER: I can say for me, I'm never going overseas to play again unless I'm representing my country at the Olympics. You know, if I make that team, that will be the only time I would leave the U.S. soil.


HARLOW: You -- you point out how meaningful it was to hear from her, talk about her love of the game.

DAVIS: Yes. Of course. I mean, that was the part that affected me the most emotionally, in that she started talking about how she missed, like, the exercise and training. She missed doing planks. If you've ever done a plank, no one misses doing planks. But that shows how much was robbed from her in, you know, being incarcerated in Russia.

I can't -- that gets me. Right? I'm so glad that she's speaking out and speaking so forcefully about, you know, what it means to be detained. You know, what prison, what jails do to you. Because there are so many people, not just those wrongfully detained in Russia who are also struggling to maintain that kind of hope that they can, you know, that she -- that she was miraculously able to cling on to that they can see families again, that they can go back to things they love. Whether it is, you know, sports for her or whatever, you know, job or passion you have. I'm glad that her testimony is allowing us to see what prisons everywhere do to people.


COLLINS: Yes. And she said it was her family, pictures of loved ones that helped get her through that -- that time.

HARLOW: Thanks. Good to have you.

DAVIS: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Appreciate it. Especially early on a Friday.

We are getting new CNN reporting on the 21-year-old who leaked that trove of classified documents. What we're learning about the red flags that were missed ahead of this. Also, watch this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He stood up, and he assessed the situation and eventually saw that the driver had passed out.


COLLINS: The kid you see there is only in the seventh grade in Michigan. He took charge, though, when his bus driver passed out while driving. The bus was filled with kids yesterday afternoon. Thirteen- year-old Dylan Reeves quickly hit the brakes, steered the bus to a complete stop in the middle of the road. We'll show you more in a moment.



COLLINS: News out of Ukraine this morning, where at least 14 people have been killed, including children, after a deadly barrage of Russian missile strikes across the country. This is happening just South of Kyiv in the city of Uman. A wave of

missiles took out an entire residential block of apartments. Officials say that at least ten high-rise buildings have been hit. Many people are still missing as they are working through this and uncovering this.

The number of dead is expected to climb as rescue teams are searching through the rubble that you can see here. Seventeen people have been rescued so far. In Dnipro, a 31-year-old woman and her 2-year-old were killed.

In another series of strikes, according to officials there, despite that damage, Ukraine's military also says that it has intercepted at least 21 of the 23 missiles that were fired.

CORNISH: For the first time in modern history, a vice president was compelled to testify about the president he served beside. Former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a grand jury for more than five hours in the criminal probe investigating Trump's actions after the 2020 presidential election.

Pence's testimony marks the end of a long, drawn-out legal battle by Trump to block his testimony, citing executive privilege.

Joining us now is CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis.



CORNISH: So Trump had tried to bar the testimony, citing executive privilege. You can't talk about what happened in the White House. And then Pence tried to cite, like, congressional privilege. Who won out and how did he end up here?

LOUIS: Neither of them prevailed. Neither of those arguments prevailed, nor should they have, by the way.

CORNISH: Pence was kind of claiming a little bit of victory there.

LOUIS: Well, they were kind of playing for time is really what they were doing. And in the end, he did have to come in and testify under oath about a very important, grave matter before the entire nation.

And, so, he had to speak to a grand jury and sort of tell them truthfully, we presume, about what happened.

The strangest thing about it is that this was -- He was being asked to explain a day in which his life was threatened, in which people were shouting "hang Mike Pence," and a gallows was set up. And people were rampaging through the Capitol, and he was running for his life with his family. And yet, he didn't want to tell the truth about what happened.

That's a real politician. That's somebody who is so dedicated to his political objectives that even simple human ideas like, let's protect my family, let's talk about the person who tried to have me killed, was somehow something that he had to sort of be dragged into court, literally, to talk about.

COLLINS: He has downplayed it some. And he's downplayed the fact, whether or not Trump committed a crime that day. Like he said the comment -- I don't know if it's criminal to take advice, bad advice from attorneys.

I do think it's interesting to hear what Trump people say about this. Because I was talking to some of them yesterday. At the beginning when this fight was happening, they were very worried about this. Because Pence can reveal something that, basically, no one else can, which is the one-on-one conversations he had, including that call with Trump that day.

But they've seemed to become less concerned about it. I don't know if that's just what they're saying, you know, publicly about it. The question is --


COLLINS: They've got a lot of -- they've got a lot of legal issues on their plate. How damaging do you think it could be?

LOUIS: I think -- I think -- well, look, I think it is mostly defensive. Because you don't want, in the middle of a subsequent proceeding, for Mike Pence to pop up and say, I was there. I was critical. I was in the middle of all of this. And you never even bothered to ask me what happened.

So they really needed his testimony. And I think that's really mostly what it was. I don't know that he revealed anything that wasn't in his book or already revealed by the January 6th Committee or by any --

CORNISH: They have so much access to other witness testimony. They have things they want to ask him that they've heard from other people.

LOUIS: Including his aides, as a matter of fact. And then that, but by the way, is one reason you do it, is to make sure that everybody who was in the room.