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CNN This Morning

Wagner Chief Says His Fighters Will Leave Bakhmut on May 10; DOJ Secures Cooperation from Mar-a-Lago Insider in Docs Case; Manhattan D.A. Probes Subway Death as Governor Calls for Justice; White House Open to Short-Term Debt Limit Fix; Trump Says He Will Probably Attend the Batter and Defamation Trial. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 05, 2023 - 06:00   ET





CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: "Kill Bill" by SZA. One of those will be stuck in your head for the rest of the morning.


Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. Have a great weekend, everybody. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Poppy is off. Erica Hill is here with us this morning. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Friday, May 5, 2023.

Federal prosecutors in the Mar-a-Lago investigation are now getting cooperation from an insider who worked for Donald Trump at his resort. That's according to new reporting from "The New York Times."

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Police have arrested a former UC Davis student in connection with three recent stabbings near campus. He's being held on two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

New overnight, a second mass shooting in Serbia in as many days. Eight people are dead, at least 13 others wounded. Police say they've arrested the gunman after an all-night manhunt.

COLLINS: Also happening today, the April jobs report is going to be released. The number could help, or maybe hurt, jittery markets that are already on edge about the security of regional banks.

And the U.K. preparing to officially crown its new king this weekend. The coronation dinner for King Charles is set for tonight at Buckingham Palace.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

So you have to be the most excited for the coronation. You did this whole amazing report on it on Sunday. It was so good.

HILL: Thank you for watching. It will be really interesting to see. I think so many people are watching, too, to see how different it is.


HILL: And how sort of modern they can make it.

COLLINS: Yes. And what it looks like with him taking over, of course. Because his mom's so popular.

HILL: People got really used to the queen after 70 years. It's a big change.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes, we'll be watching that. We have a full team on the ground in London for all of that.

But breaking this morning, the leader of Russia's Wagner Group, the mercenary group, says he is pulling his troops out of Bakhmut. That is that key Ukrainian city that we've been talking about. They've been trying to capture it for months, and now has heavy casualties.

The leader of this group is publicly blasting Russian military leaders, accusing them of not supplying his men with ammunition. He posted an angry video on social media, standing next to a pile of what he says were dead mercenaries. We have a warning now: we have blurred this video, but it is still very graphic.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, HEAD OF WAGNER GROUP (through translator): These men here who died today are Wagner PMC. Their blood is still fresh.

You think you are the masters of this life? You think you can dispose of their lives? You think, because you have warehouses full of ammunition, that you have that right?


COLLINS: The man you see there is Yevgeny Prigozhin. He is also a powerful oligarch, known as Putin's chef, because he operates a catering business and is very loyal to the Kremlin. Or was once seen as son.

He has been openly recruiting mercenaries from prisons, including convicted murderers, throwing them into the bloody fight in Bakhmut with little to no military training.

Ukrainian forces say it has essentially been a meat grinder for these Wagner fighters.

CNN's senior international security correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is live in Zaporizhzhia in Eastern Ukraine. I wonder how significant you see this video and this announcement from Prigozhin, as given you've been covering this for so long? NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT:

Yes, it is remarkable to hear this kind of open statement, and it's staggering to imagine that, by the middle of next week, a group which has so publicly talked about the vital nature of the fight for Bakhmut, thrown thousands of lives of convicts, often with very little training or tactical awareness, into what, as you said, is the meat grinder, is now publicly telling the Russian minister of defense and, essentially, Vladimir Putin that they're out by the middle of next week, just after the very important date in the Russian calendar, of Victory Day on May the 9th. They're saying they're sort of sticking around to be sure that isn't, quote, "spoiled."

That is an extraordinary challenge to the Kremlin on the surface and certainly suggests that the rifts inside the Russian military's different branches that seem to have potentially have been healed in recent weeks, well, they're way out in the open.

That video, that is a man, essentially, who's brought people to the front line and thrown them towards Ukrainian guns very callously, suddenly claiming to have great emotion for the bodies behind him.

But it is an absolutely stark suggestion as to the poor condition of Russian forces and the bickering internally.

I have to hold out the possibility that this might be some bid to get the Ukrainians to rush towards Bakhmut seeing an opportunity. But I have to say this is now two days, three days of very embarrassing things for Vladimir Putin.

We have the drones over the Kremlin, whatever happened there in reality. It's certainly not a good look to have to admit to two drones flying over the heart of your government and damaging the roof there with an explosion.


And now we have a man who's probably one of the most public figures of the Russian military saying that they're going to give up this deeply symbolic city that they've thrown thousands -- remember a recent U.S. assessment suggested 10,000 people may have died for Russia, fighting for this city since December alone.

And now here they are, saying all of that will come to nothing unless they get military shells that they believe Russia is somehow holding onto in its warehouses. It may also be they're running out of them -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. And it's such a good point you make about how Prigozhin is now acting like he cares about their lives, about their wellbeing, when we've seen how they've been treated.

And we should note, of course, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, not commenting, not confirming this so far. We'll see what they say this morning.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for that report in Ukraine. HILL: This morning a significant development in the Trump classified

documents investigation.

"The New York Times" reporting federal prosecutors have secured the confidential cooperation of an insider witness who has worked at Mar- a-Lago.

This unnamed witness has reportedly provided investigators with a picture of the storage room where the material had been held. We don't know much else at this point, though, about what prosecutors may have learned from this insider.

All of this, of course, part of the broader Justice Department investigation, looking into whether Trump ordered boxes of sensitive materials out of a storage room.

That, coupled with reporting you saw first here on CNN about prosecutors showing interest in Mar-a-Lago surveillance tapes, raising questions about where the investigation stands this morning.

Let's bring in CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid.

So Paula, what do -- what should we take from all of this, particularly this new insider witness "The New York Times" is reporting about?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I'd be cautious about "The New York Times" story. It's a big splashy headline from a group of very strong, award-winning reporters, but they don't provide any information about who this person is or what they have provided to investigators beyond a picture of a storage space.

And even the story itself says this could be significant, but little is known about what this person has provided.

Now, as CNN has reported, pretty much everyone who's ever -- works at Mar-a-Lago right now has been subpoenaed. Everyone from waiters to people in operations, to the director of security.

And it's unclear if this person's cooperation is providing some sort of significant evidence or if they're just providing something like pictures of the premises that they may have been asked for by investigators.

But as CNN first reported on Wednesday, investigators right now, they are really focused on whether they have all of the security footage from Mar-a-Lago that they need to determine what exactly happened to classified materials once they went down to Florida.

We also broke the news that they had -- reportedly had subpoenaed two top security officials, Matthew Calamari and his son, Matthew Calamari Jr., to ask them what exactly happened to this footage after it was subpoenaed.

Now, on that footage, the footage they have received, they see something significant in this investigation, something they really narrowed in on, and that is a junior Trump aide, Walt Nauta, and another employee moving boxes out of a storage facility.

We subsequently learned that some of those boxes did contain classified materials. And investigators understandably have had a lot of questions about why Walt was moving those boxes out of that storage space, who directed him to do that, where did they go?

It's our understanding that Walt has talked to investigators multiple times but has at times given inconsistent statements. People familiar with this investigation on the Trump side say, Look, Walt Nauta, is not cooperating and without his cooperation. It will be very difficult for the Justice Department to bring any case against the former president.

But all of this reporting, both from "The New York Times," from CNN, it's clear this is still a very active and ongoing investigation. Even yesterday, we saw new witnesses going before the grand jury.

COLLINS: Yes, it is notable to see they're still bringing people in on this. Paula Reid, as we know more about this, keep us updated. Thank you for that.

HILL: A former UC Davis student arrested in connection with three stabbings near campus. Two of those victims died.

Authorities released this photo of the suspect, 21-year-old Carlos Dominguez, who they believe is responsible for all three stabbings over the last week.


CHIEF DARREN PYTEL, DAVIS, CALIFORNIA, POLICE: These crimes were horrific. They're hard to imagine. They struck fear in the community, and we know that. We've also experienced loss. We hope that the announcement today provides some level of relief.


HILL: Now, police say they received about 15 calls on Wednesday from people saying they had seen someone who matched the suspect's description in a park. When he was brought in for an interview, they found a large hunting knife in his backpack.

He's facing two counts of homicide and one count of attempted murder.

According to UC Davis, Dominguez was a student there until last week when he was, quote, "separated for academic reasons."

COLLINS: Yes. A lot of questions about that story.

Also, this one, as we are still tracking the Manhattan district attorney's office is looking into that disturbing video that shows a subway rider putting a homeless man in a chokehold.


Jordan Neely, we now know, died after that incident on Monday. His death has been ruled a homicide, though there are still a lot of questions about what happened here.

The Marine veteran who put Neely in that chokehold for several minutes has not been arrested or charged with a crime, but protesters and even the governor here in New York, Kathy Hochul, are both demanding justice.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live outside the subway station where it happened here in New York. A lot of questions here. Because we do know that they questioned this former Marine about what happened here. They're talking to witnesses. What more do you know this morning?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This investigation well underway, and in terms of witnesses, the D.A.'s office says they're going to try to interview as many people as possible to try to put together a fuller picture of what happened here.

The D.A.'s office says he has his most experienced prosecutors on the case.

Meanwhile, the governor has weighed in on this, calling this an extreme response in terms of what happened here and says there has to be consequences for what happened to Neely.










CARROLL (voice-over): Calls for justice ringing out throughout New York City for Jordan Neely, a man who was killed on a New York City subway by another passenger who placed him in a chokehold.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): The person posed no threat. He was screaming for food and drink. He had no weapon. He didn't assault anyone. How did he end up dead?

CARROLL (voice-over): The Manhattan district attorney is investigating the incident. The former Marine who placed Neely in the chokehold was interviewed by police after the incident and released, according to a law enforcement source.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): I do want to acknowledge how horrific it was to view a video of Jordan Neely being killed for being a passenger on our subway trains. His family deserves justice.

CARROLL (voice-over): The passenger who recorded this disturbing video says Neely had been acting erratically before the incident, shouting, "I don't care if I die. I don't care if I go to jail. I don't have any food."

But he says Neely did not try to attack anyone on the train.

JUAN ALBERTO VAZQUEZ, SUBWAY PASSENGER WHO SHOT VIDEO: We arrive at the station. The door's open. All the people run Away, and the guys stay in this position about eight or- - seven, eight minutes.

CARROLL (voice-over): CNN has not been able to independently confirm what happened leading up to the incident, nor how long Neely was restrained or whether he was armed.

Neely was a dancer and a Michael Jackson impersonator in Times Square and on New York subways. He had struggled with mental illness and had a history of prior arrests.

Family and friends say Neely was deeply impacted by his mother's murder in 2007, according to "The Jersey Journal."

In 2012 a man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murdering Neely's mother in their home and, quote, "dumping her body in a suitcase in the Bronx."

MOSES HARPER, FRIEND OF JORDAN NEELY: I know that him losing his mother, he never got over that. I know that he -- from what he said, he didn't have a strong father figure in his life. I know that the only joy that he really found was in interacting with other members of the community and performing.


CARROLL (on camera): This is an issue that has touched on a whole number of pressing issues here in the city, including crime and mental illness. New York's mayor has said wait for the outcome of the investigation.

Meanwhile, a protest is planned for later today in front of the Manhattan D.A.'s office in support of Neely -- Kaitlan, Erica.

COLLINS: Yes. The whole thing is incredibly complicated and just sad all around.

HILL: Yes, yes. It really is.

COLLINS: Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

Well, the White House is now floating a short-term fix on the debt limit as the nation faces a potential economic disaster just weeks from now.

Also, the Justice Department just secured a major victory as the former leader of the Proud Boys and three other members have all been found guilty of seditious conspiracy. We're going to break down all of this with a legal expert, next.



MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: By my best calculation, June 8 will be the day when the treasury can't pay its bills. There is a possibility, worst-case scenario that it will be June the 1st. It will be very close. Best-case scenario will be August 8.


COLLINS: Safe to say neither of those scenarios are very good, certainly not in Washington. That was the chief economist for Moody's, Mark Zandi, who predicted the U.S. will default on its debt roughly a month from now. Could default on its debt roughly a month from now, I should say.

Zandi urged lawmakers to set aside their political debates to suspend the debt ceiling as soon as possible or risk a recession.

Congressional leaders and President Biden are set to meet at the White House on Tuesday. The White House now appears open to maybe a short- term fix of raising the debt limit for a shorter period of time.


SHALANDA YOUNG, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: At least that part of the conversation about length, I would love to be in that part of the conversation, because we're at least in the positive. Default's off the table.

So I'm happy when we get to that part of the conversation. We're not there yet. And the idea is to put brinksmanship to bed and get to talking on making sure we avoid default. And once we're talking about time frame, that means we're at least on the right side of this debate.


COLLINS: CNN's Chief White House Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, joins us now here on set this morning. Shalanda Young seems to be saying, you know, we'll take what we can get as long as we can get to some kind of agreement.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: To be fair, that's always been the case to some degree. I think, look, this stuff is actually not complicated.

I think the value of Shalanda, who by the way, is the person you should watch in this debate, in this negotiation going forward. She's a long-time Hill veteran who's been at the center of all of the agreements that have happened and all of the wars and budgets in the course of the last couple of years. This issue is not that complicated. What gets complicated is negotiating positions, politics, messaging all of those types of issues.

The White House needs the debt limit raised, period, end of story. By the way, so does everyone else in the entire country. The entire economy is at stake here and not a lot of time to do it.

The issue right now is the White House thought they had a negotiating position that, one, would help them in the near term. They thought they had precedent. The adults in the room would all say, why are you negotiating over the idea of default?

This should not even be on the table. This shouldn't be a point of leverage. We should move away from this.

The problem right now is Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the House Republicans, passed a bill. Kevin McCarthy has leverage, because he has a bill that's actually passed.


Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has not joined with Kevin McCarthy, has not joined with the White House and stayed with Kevin McCarthy.

And so we're at this stalemate right now, where no one's really sure how to get out of it. And the two negotiating positions, the two positions of the two sides are completely diametrically opposed with no real middle ground or pragmatic area to find a resolution. Other than that, though, everything's wonderful. Everything is great.

HILL: So we're going to be fine. We have nothing to worry about, no politics getting in the way here. The brinksmanship will be fine.

MATTINGLY: Here's the actual concern. We've been in these moments before. 2011 was probably the most acute and dangerous for the economy. We see this with government shutdowns constantly.

And there's always a way out, right? At the last minute they figure out, people like Shalanda Young, when she was on the Hill or when she's in the administration, find some way to thread the needle, some kind of legislative solution here.

The difference right now is when you talk to people who really know what's going on, they don't know what that solution is, and that's scary, to be frank.

COLLINS: The other complicating factor here for the White House is that Biden is running for re-election, so he's considering that in how he's responded to all of this. Or not just simply going for this end goal. He's thinking about it as a play politically.

One thing that's been talked about with his re-election effort is his age. Of course, this is something that he has said is a legitimate question. Jeff Zeleny was in Michigan talking to voters, what they think about this. This is what they told him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we need a new generation of leaders. I think we need people with fresh ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I personally only voted for him as a way to debunk Trump. I really thought our democracy was in jeopardy and wanted someone else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hear people say age is just a number. Until God takes him home, he has the strength right now to do what he needs to be doing for the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks much better than I expected him to. But what can I say? I'm 80 years old myself. So he's one of my people.


COLLINS: The White House is like, OK, how did they respond to that?

MATTINGLY: Well, this shows that the polls are right, right? This is obviously a significant concern. It is one the White House officials -- you know this very well. They've been keenly aware of this for a long time.

The second sound that you heard from Jeff's great interviews was the critical one. Donald Trump is running again. Donald Trump is winning in the polls by a significant margin and right now seems to be on the path to be the Republican nominee.

That voter who voted just to get Donald Trump out of the White House, who voted because they're concerned about democracy or voted because they were concerned about the prior four years, they're going to have that same concern this time around, and that should drive people together.

I think you will see the party unify, and the feeling inside the White House is Democrats will come home. The base will be there, and then others will join, as well, when they're concerned about the broader issues here.

Contrast is key with them. They know age is an issue. They feel like on a contrast level, that's where they win.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll see.

HILL: Phil, appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: Thanks, Phil.

HILL: "The Washington Post" uncovering reported payments between a prominent conservative judicial activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Those details ahead.

COLLINS: Also, the jury in E. Jean Carroll's battery and defamation lawsuit against Trump heard from the former president himself, not in person, but what he said in a video-recorded deposition and why he told an attorney -- yes, an attorney -- she wasn't his type.



HILL: Former President Donald Trump slamming the woman accused of him -- accusing him as rape as fake, saying he'll probably attend the trial.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I have to go back for a woman that made a false accusation about me, and I have a judge who's extremely hostile. And I'm going to go back, and I'm going to confront this -- this woman is a disgrace, and it shouldn't be allowed to happen in our country.


HILL: So closing arguments in E. Jean Carroll's case against Trump are set to start on Monday. The former president has not appeared in court during the span of this seven-day trial.

His attorney says he still doesn't plan to testify. The judge, however, is giving the former president until Sunday at 5 p.m. to change his mind.

Carroll is suing Trump for battery and defamation. She says he raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the '90s and lied about it, destroying her reputation. Trump says it never happened.

CNN's Kara Scannell joining us now.

So Kara, both sides have rested their case, but now, we have, I guess, this little window until Sunday at 5, so now we just wait?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What an unexpected twist that happened yesterday.

So Carroll's attorneys rested their case after calling 11 witnesses. You know, Carroll herself testified. Trump's attorneys said they were not putting on a defense. They thought about calling an expert witness, then didn't.

And Trump's attorney had said that the former president was not coming. Then of course, these comments overnight were hanging in the air all day yesterday until the end of the day.

The judge asked Trump's attorney, Are you resting your case? This was outside the presence of the jury.

He said, yes, I am.

He said, does Trump waive his right to testify? He said, Yes.

And then the judge said, Well, I'm going to give you until 5 p.m. anyway, kind of acknowledging that Trump's attorney can't control his client. So he's saying, you know, Just to protect the integrity of this trial, I'm going to give you until 5 p.m. to say for sure whether you want to do this. And the judge said, It doesn't mean I'm going to grant it, but I'm going to allow this space.

And -- but they then went straight into conversations about the schedule, how closing arguments will take place Monday, and the jury will get it as soon as Tuesday.

COLLINS: I think one thing is Trump's lawyers don't always speak for him. Obviously we saw that many times in the White House. He wasn't there in person, but they did hear from him, in a deposition that I think was done in October. What is he saying in this deposition?

SCANNELL: Yes, they heard about 30 minutes yesterday, and they heard about 25 minutes the day before.

And, you know, in this deposition, Trump is kind of sitting hunched over, pretty still, you know, answering the questions. But it's the first and only time the jury will hear from Trump as of now, you know, address these specific allegations in the case.

You know, so you know, the -- it was your regular Q&A, but then they were confronting him with some of his own comments, including the "Access Hollywood" tape, where Trump is there, and he's talking about how, you know, he's a celebrity. You know, he just kisses women; he can't help himself.

So a little bit of the deposition here is on videotape. We've asked for it from the court and the parties, and we're working through this process to get it. So hopefully, we can bring it to everyone.

But here's what he says. He says, "Well, historically, that's true with stars."

And Carroll's attorney says, "True with stars that they can grab women by the -- ?"

And Trump says, "Well, that's what -- if you look over the last million" --