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CNN This Morning

Paul Whelan Speaks from Behind Bars; Parlatore Speaks Out; Private Mission to ISS Expected to Dock; Meta Fined by EU; Man in Subway Killing Speaks Out. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 06:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: An ex-Marine wrongfully detained in Russia for more than four years gets a rare chance to speak to the world in an exclusive interview with CNN. Paul Whelan has languished behind bars for years, accused of espionage in Russia. He called CNN from a remote prison camp about 200 miles outside Moscow.


PAUL WHELAN: I've been held hostage for more than 52 months. And the only crime I have committed in Russia is that of being an American citizen.


SIDNER: During that call, Whelan urged the United States to speed up efforts to get him released finally.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is here.

Thank you so much for coming in. This is remarkable to hear from him from one of those prison camps where life is absolutely horrific.

Can you tell us what else he had to say?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, he -- when you speak about it being horrific in the prison camp, he spoke about having to do forced labor. He spoke about the conditions being incredibly poor. And that is why, even though, of course, he's hopeful that the Biden administration is doing everything that they can to try and bring him home, the thrust of his message is that he wants them to move along more quickly.



ATWOOD: Paul Whelan, an American who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for more than four years, speaking to CNN from a Russian prison. PAUL WHELAN: I remain positive and confident on a daily basis that,

you know, the wheels are turning. I just wish they would turn a little bit more quickly.

ATWOOD: The last time he spoke with CNN's Jennifer Hansler by phone was in December. Shortly after, the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, the result of a second prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia that didn't include Whelan. Today he fears the possibility of being left behind again, but his tone is more optimistic.

P. WHELAN: I'm more confident now. You know, I feel that my life shouldn't be considered less valuable or important than others who have been previously traded. I have been told that although Evan's case is a priority, mine is also a priority.

ATWOOD: Evan Gershkovich is a "Wall Street Journal" reporter who was detained by Russian authorities almost two months ago. Just like Whelan, he has been charged with espionage.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Evan went to report in Russia, to shed light on the darkness.

ATWOOD: U.S. officials are scouring the globe for option that's could draw Russia to the negotiating table and secure the release of both men.

Paul's sister, Elizabeth Whelan, took a bold step when she appeared at the United Nations Security Council meeting attend bid Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov last month, calling on the country to release her brother.

ELIZABETH WHELAN, PAUL WHELAN'S SISTER: Paul was a corporate security director. He had a job he loved, a home, a life of hope and opportunity. All that has been taken away from him by Russia, a country that revels in its culture of lies, its tradition of hostage diplomacy.

ATWOOD: He watched her remarks from behind bars, alongside Russian prisoners who were stunned.

P. WHELAN: It was funny because we stood here, in the prison, watching the TV and watching my sister speak at the U.N. And everyone was mesmerized that this sort of thing could happen.

ATWOOD: And his message to President Biden is simple.


P. WHELAN: Freedom is not free and it comes at a price. But the loss of freedom is even more costly, and I pay that cost every day Russia holds me. Please follow through with your promises and commitments, truly make my life a priority and get me home.


ATWOOD: And those remarks that you saw there from President Biden were actually at the White House's Correspondents Dinner. Whelan was able to see those remarks, which is quite remarkable given that he's in Russian prison.


ATWOOD: And President Biden said that they are going to keep doing everything they can until Whelan is home. And he told our producer, Jennifer Hansler, that those comments were very encouraging to him.

SIDNER: Well, it's good to hear his voice. It's good to hear him sounding a bit upbeat, even though we all know where he is.

HARLOW: Yes, we're so glad. Remarkable.


HARLOW: His sister joined us on set, Kaitlan and I, a few weeks ago and I'm sure she's very happy to hear him feeling a little bit more upbeat about this.


HARLOW: She's been fighting for him so much.


HARLOW: Yes, thank you.

So, CNN speaks with former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore after he announced he was leaving the former president's legal team. The tense relationship driving his decision, the lawyers around him not getting along. That's next.




We have new revelations about the inner workings and conflicts among former President Donald Trump's legal team. CNN was the first to report, you'll remember Paula Reid and Kaitlan's reporting, that a top -- former now top Trump attorney, Tim Parlatore, who played a key role in the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation was leaving the defense team.

Well, our Paula Reid was the first to speak with him and found out why he left. She joins us now.

So, what's it about?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, I think we can best describe this as irreconcilable differences. Tim appointed --

HARLOW: A divorce. REID: Yes, a messy one. An increasingly messy one.

Tim pointed the finger squarely at another Trump adviser, Boris Epstein, saying that it was making -- he was making it impossible for Tim and other attorneys to properly represent the former president.

But I will let Tim explain in his own words what he saw as the problem here.

Let's take a listen.


TIMOTHY PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: He served as kind of a filter to prevent us from getting information to the client, getting information from the client. In my opinion, he was not very honest with us or with the client on certain things. There were certain things, like the searches that he had attempted to interfere with. And then, more recently, as we're coming down to the end of this investigation where Jack Smith and ultimately Merrick Garland is going to make a decision as to what to do, as we put together our defense strategy to help educate Merrick Garland as to how best to handle this matter, he was preventing us from engaging in that strategy.

REID: You said that Boris tried to prevent from you conducting searches? What searches are those?

PARLATORE: This is the searches at Bedminster initially. There was a lot of pushback from him where he didn't want us doing the search. And we had to eventually overcome him.


REID: So, there he's accusing Boris of trying to prevent the legal team from conducting additional searches for classified documents. That is a significant accusation.

Now spokesman for former President Trump has responded saying, quote, Mr. Parlatore is no longer a member of the legal team. His statements regarding current members of the legal team are unfounded and categorically false.

Now, look, infighting in Trump world is nothing new. But to see it spill out into public view while their client is facing multiple criminal investigations and a criminal prosecution in New York is certainly significant.

Now, Tim also denied that he had to step away from the legal team because he has previously testified before the grand jury.

SIDNER: Paula Reid, thank you so much for all of that and your great reporting because you were the first person to come forward to say, hey, this -- another person's leaving the Trump team.

HARLOW: That's right, her reporting with Kaitlan.

Paula, that was great. Thank you.

So, a group of tourists about to start a different kind of week-long vacation. This one is in space. What's on the itinerary for the three private astronauts.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the people around the world, well, the future is very bright. And I would like you to dream big, believe in yourselves and believe in humanity.




SIDNER: Wow, look at that camera work. In less than three hours, space tourists on the Axiom 2 mission are expected to dock with the International Space Station. This is the second group of these kinds of astronauts heading to the ISS. The crew includes three paying customers and a former NASA astronaut.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) and separation complete.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you can see, live on your screen, that dragon (INAUDIBLE) from the capsule.


SIDNER: Poppy is clapping. Literally clapping.

HARLOW: I am clapping.

SIDNER: The four-person crew will spend eight days aboard the ISS and conduct more than 20 experiments.

CNN's Carlos Suarez is live for us this morning at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

How's it going?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara and Poppy, good morning.

Things are going pretty well out here. It was a spectacular launch here at Kennedy Space Center yesterday afternoon. We're a little over 13 hours into this space mission. And right now that four member crew is trying to catch up with the International Space Station.

Taking a look at their schedule today, it looks like they're going to try to dock with ISS at around 9:20 in the morning and then around 11:00 in the morning they're going to go ahead and open the hatch. And then sometime after that, they're going to meet the other eight astronauts that are currently onboard the International Space Station. As you all mentioned, the four member crew includes two Americans, as well as two Saudis.

Peggy Whitson, she is the commander of this space mission. She is a former NASA astronaut. A former commander of the International Space Station. And she has got a great deal of experience in space, having spent 665 days. The other American onboard is John Shoffner. He is the mission pilot. And the two of them are joined by two Saudis, Ali AlQarni, he is a mission specialist, and then Ryyanah Barnawi, she is the first Saudi woman in space.

Yesterday we heard briefly from all four astronauts after they were a few hours into their space mission. Here's what Ali said about what it feels like to be in space right now.


ALI ALQARNI, MISSION SPECIALIST, AXIOM MISSION 2: As I look outside into space, and I can't help but think this is just the beginning of our great journey for all of us. So, I hope you guys enjoy it with us and dream big.



SUAREZ: And for some of the folks that came out to watch this launch yesterday, they were treated to another spectacular sight. That's because the rocket booster successfully landed here at Kennedy Space Center. It was a little difficult to see, but you couldn't miss it because there was a loud sonic boom as it successfully landed here at Kennedy Space Center.

Sara and Poppy.

SIDNER: That's so cool. Peggy could fly us to the moon any day.

HARLOW: Literally.

SIDNER: Literally.


SIDNER: Carlos, thank you so much for that.

HARLOW: Thank you.

All right, he is facing a manslaughter charge but says if he were in a similar situation he would do the same thing. What the man who put Jordan Neely in that deadly chokehold is saying as he speaks this morning.


[06:50:32] HARLOW: So, in "Money this Morning," Facebook's parent company, Meta, is being fined a record $1.3 billion for violating the European Union data protection rules. That is the highest amount any company has ever been fined for breaching those EU rules. They date back to the 2020 landmark data privacy law.

Melissa Bell joins us now.

So, is there - is this it, they have to pay it?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they will appeal. They said so already, Poppy. But I think what matters here is the amount that's being levied or that the European Union is trying to fine Meta with. And it really reflects their frustration. When you look at their statement, they talk of systematic repeated continuous breaches of their GDPR.

Of course, the problem here, Poppy, is that ever since the pact, the deal that allowed the United States and Europe to transfer and share the data, privacy shield, was struck down by European courts worried about the protection of European data, for instance, from things like NSA surveillance once it's on American servers, this opened the door for this particular case.

Now, despite all those warnings, what the European Union says, and this is coming to Ireland because that is where Meta's European headquarters is, they felt that they've had two impose this fine to send a strong signal, they say, that the GDPR, that data protection law that you mentioned, means that European data needs to be better protected than Meta has allowed for it to be.

Now, it isn't over yet. Meta says it will appeal. It has, if it fails, six months to come into line with European regulations.

But I just want to read you, Poppy, the response from Meta on this question of data protection. The ability for data to be transferred across borders is fundamental to how the global open internet networks. Without the ability to transfer data, the internet risks being carved out into national and regional silos restricting the global economy. So, a fairly strong response there for Meta in terms of the fundamentals of what this means for the market and for the internet generally.

As I say, there will be an appeal. So, we will find out more about what happens. But Meta have also said there will be no disruption to its service here in Europe, Poppy.

HARLOW: But one of the core tenants of GDPR is about telling people what you're doing with your data, right, not just about transferring it but telling users. Did they know?

BELL: That's right. And I think what comes out of these particular decisions is that in terms of those very strict GDPR rules, they have not been informed, people have not been made aware that their data is being transferred to those servers.


BELL: And when the European regulators look at it, that information is not seeing the sufficient safeguards that the European law requests.

HARLOW: Melissa Bell, thanks. That's really helpful reporting. Appreciate it.

SIDNER: The man accused of choking to death a homeless man known for his Michael Jackson impersonations on a New York City subway train says he would do it again if there was a threat and danger. Daniel Penny did his first interview since the incident with "The New York Post" on Saturday. The former Marine is facing second degree manslaughter charges and is currently out on a $100,000 bond. He's accused of killing Jordan Neely nearly three weeks ago. Witnesses describe Neely getting on the train, acting erratically and screaming he was ready to die. At one point, Penny came up behind him and put him in a chokehold.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is here with us this morning.

What more did we hear from Penny as he talked to "The New York Post"?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was basically trying to paint himself as a normal guy. He said he was not a white supremacist. That this had nothing to do with race. And as you mentioned, when asked if he would do the same thing again, he said he would if there was a threat and danger.

Now, from witness accounts we do know that Jordan Neely was acting erratically, but also from witness accounts he hadn't actually attacked anyone at that point. So, that's really the gray area in this particular case. And as part of this "Post" interview, Penny also said, I'm deeply saddened by the loss of life. It's tragic what happened to him. Hopefully we can change the system that so desperately failed us.

He's been charged with second degree manslaughter. Out on $100,000 bail.

But his attorney also told me, and I think this gives a glimpse into their defense in this case, that Danny was protecting himself and everyone on that train.


But what gets lost is that at the time he acted to defend those people, he put his own life and well-being on the line.