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Police Say, Failed GOP Candidate Arrested on Suspicion of Orchestrating Shootings at Homes of New Mexico Democrats; Top Biden Aide Says President Has Confidence in His Team's Handling of Discovery of Classified Documents; White House in Damage Control Mode as Document Issue Intensifies; Brian Walshe Charged with Murder of Missing Wife; Violation of Human Rights Act of Virginia High Schools; President Biden Hosts the Golden State Warriors. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 17, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates, and this is CNN Tonight.
And, look, we saw it on January 6th when election lies exploded into violence at the United States Capitol. Well now, the latest outbreak of allegedly politically motivated violence is in New Mexico. A Republican who lost his race for the New Mexico house who tweeted after his defeat that the election was rigged and he vowed to fight it until the day he dies.
Now, that person has been arrested on suspicion of orchestrating shootings at the homes of four Democratic-elected leaders. Now, no one was hurt thankfully but homes were damaged.
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ADRIANN BARBOA (D) BERNALILLO COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Shots came through my home right where I had just hours before had been playing with my granddaughter.
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COATES: More on all of that in just a moment.
Plus, we have sources telling CNN about a member of President Biden's inner circle who has now been interviewed by federal investigators. We'll tell you who it is and what happened, as the Biden administration is now saying that, tonight, it will continue to cooperate fully with the DOJ probe of presidential records.
We also have some major developments tonight, a Massachusetts missing mom, Anna Walshe. Her husband is in custody tonight facing now a charge now of murder, murdering his wife, though her body has not been found. And there's no word yet on what the motive could have possibly been. The D.A. says more evidence could be disclosed tomorrow. So, what might we learn?
For more on the developing story in New Mexico, though, I want to bring in CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah, who's live from Albuquerque, and CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. I'm glad to have you both.
This story is so disturbing thinking about what could have been. And we've seen obviously, Kyung, the idea of political grievance more broadly sparking a whole lot of incidents. Now, what's happening there, tell me the very latest, what are we learning about this suspect who is now in custody?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the heart of all of this, according to the investigators here in Albuquerque, is election denialism. The police chief here says that the mastermind behind a plot attacking for Democratic officials here in this city is a person who was on the ballot himself, Solomon Pena. He is a -- well, he was a Republican candidate for the state house. And he lost. He didn't lose by a little. He lost by a lot. You could more than double the number of people who voted for him and he still would have lost.
But that did not stop his thinking that somehow he magically won his election and he was posting on a social media account that he would not concede, that he supported Trump in 2024, and the people he blamed, according to investigators, and who he targeted with accomplices are four Democratic officials.
I want you to take a look at this list. These are four locations. You can see the dates of when these shootings happened. They're spread out over the month. According to law enforcement, this man, Solomon Pena, went and hired people, he sent them text messages, he went and essentially cased these victim's homes. And then he paid accomplices in order to target these people.
And as you pointed out, Laura, thankfully, no one was hurt. But investigators say they believe that this all again circles down to election denialism and this person who was on the ballot, Laura.
COATES: I mean, the trauma of what has happened. And you mentioned the idea of casing these houses. He actually went to some of these houses beforehand, right? He wasn't outside sort of in an innocuous way. He actually went and visited them.
LAH: Yes, and I think that's really what's changed. If you talk to election officials nationwide, and I talked to a lot of them, especially at the local level, the sort of rage that we normally saw directed at federal officials is now being directed to the people who you can actually touch, who you can find. And that is what investigators believe that Pena did.
What investigators say is that they've been able to collect some ring video of him showing up at various homes.
There is one county commissioner, he went and rang the doorbell, and specifically called out the county commissioner's name. It was actually her daughter's house. But then he went around the corner and he went to the county commissioner, that particular county commissioner, and he spoke to her face-to-face. And then he went and found another county commissioner who he was angry at, who he believed had rigged the election. I want you to listen to what she says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBOA: He came to my house after the election. And he's an election denier. He weaponized those dangerous thoughts to threaten me and others, causing serious trauma. Yes, he was saying that the elections were fake, really speaking erratically. I didn't feel threatened at the, time but I did feel like he was erratic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: And when I spoke with her in person, you know, a little earlier this evening, Laura, she was distraught. She's really --
COATES: Of course.
LAH: She's really upset by the fact that her sense of safety has changed.
And something else I should mention is that this overall problem may not be ending nationally, but at least even Albuquerque, police say they are zeroing in on Pena. He has a court hearing tomorrow.
COATES: John, just hearing this and thinking about what could have happened. I mean, the idea of the anger he expressed, as Kyung was speaking about, face-to-face with some of the people whose homes were then targeted later on, I'm interested about the arrest and how they were able of the pieces together, especially when you saw that screenshot of the different dates that were attributed each of different people's homes.
And I wonder if there is an attempt to try and make disappear random. I mean the 4th, the 8th, the 11th, then in January, hoping to possibly not have connective tissue be apparent. I wonder what you make of this, John, and the idea of what happened in this arrest and the motivation here and the climate we are in right now.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, Laura, I think the motivation was purely intimidation, which is he couldn't reach these people by convincing them, so he wanted to send a message by literally saying you can't hide anywhere, not even at home. There is information in the case that at one point, the people that he had doing these shootings, he said you're shooting too high, you need to shoot lower so that, you know, they know the bullets could have hit them. One of the bullets went into the home of a child who was sleeping. And you know parts of the ceiling fell down on her bed. And you know, it's, it's extraordinarily frightening.
But one question is where does a Navy veteran who is running for the state house, you know, put together a crew of shooters to carry this out? And the answer is, well, his Navy career was pretty unremarkable, his criminal career was pretty impressive. He was part of a smash-and- grab gang. They used trucks to drive into big box stores and steal high-end electronics. So, as we go forward in this investigation, it kind of makes a whole lot more sense where he could put together a crew to steal cars, do shootings and help him wage this war of intimidation.
COATES: I mean, not to mention, John, that point, I mean, the idea of intimidation, the idea of making someone feel as though there was no safe recourse, no safe haven they could actually go to, we're talking about the basis of somebody believing that they had a right to be elected to office. I mean, years ago, I would say, even four or five years ago perhaps, someone may even say three, there would be no thought this could continue -- this would actually happen here. And yet now we're seeing more and more instances from the DHS bulletins about political grievance, what motivates people, to now.
Why do you think this keeps happening? I mean, is it the idea that people are emboldened, they won't get caught, or is there a blind spot when it comes to law enforcement's focus, or is it politics at play?
MILLER: Well, I think what you are watching is a threat that is continuing forward, where you see, you know, thousands of people stormed the Capitol, but lots of them dressed in tactical gear, military gear, carrying weapons. And then you see an individual storms the home of Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco with a plan to break her legs and hold her hostage and assaults her husband and then fights with police to, you know, a thing where in the midterm elections, you see people in tactical gear sitting around with rifles at voting locations exercising their Second Amendment rights.
So, if you weren't expecting this to happen now, I guess you're expecting it to happen next week. This is the direction, the vitriol is headed, where in the chat rooms I was looking at last week, they were saying, we haven't come this far just to come this far.
COATES: John, Kyung, thank you so much.
I want to bring in Olivia Troye, former homeland security and COVID task force adviser to Vice President Pence and also FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok.
I mean, it's very chilling to hear those words, I haven't come this far just to come this far, a phrase that normally is supposed to motivate someone in a direction doing the right thing, now being used to talk about how to air out one's grievances in a way that could lead to extraordinary violence. And this is very personal to those who are often targeted in this realm, people who are going about their everyday lives and in their positions and find themselves at the receiving end of vitriol.
You've had personal experiences, Olivia, in this area. And I wonder what you make of what's happening in places like New Mexico.
OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY AND COVID TASK FORCE ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I feel like it's certainly a worrisome trend. I've certainly lived it. We make life decisions based on how it impacts my family. I make career decisions based on that as well. And I think about this every single day. And I think about people like those people in Albuquerque. Some of those people were election officials. They were officiating and certifying election results, rightly so, just carrying out their duties, and now their lives are being threatened. You know, that woman's daughter was at the house. I think what people like that.
But this is a longstanding trend that we're seeing here, a rise that's directly related to the lies and the propaganda that is being pushed out there. I mean, people are believing these election deniers. I mean, look at what happened. I mean, let's go back to Cesar Sayoc. Remember him? He was sending out the pipe bombs to people, he was sending out -- where did that start? Well, it started with the fake news narrative from someone sitting in the Oval Office. It was attacking the media, right? And next thing you know, pipe bombs are being sent to CNN or I guess the demonization of political opponents, they were sent to political figures. I mean, this is an endless trend that we're seeing continue. Where does it end? It ends in violence.
COATES: I mean, Peter, that's such a fine point you raised, Olivia, on that idea of following that thread and where it goes. And if you were to be very reductive, obviously, from fake news narratives to the idea of election denialism, it's about this idea that the government is trying to take away something from you. You know, they think you are dumb. They're trying to lie to you. People are having a visceral reaction to that, you know, false narrative that's been created. But that also brings people out of the woodwork who are already having grievance-based lives, who are already finding their allies in chat rooms. Is that contributing to the idea of the anonymity, the social media, the idea of finding ones companions', essentially, is that contributing to the emboldening of these criminals?
PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I think absolutely, it is. I mean, look, when you look at social media, it is a self-selecting environment. Whatever you choose to believe, whatever you want to see, you can find it. And you can find other people who are feeling the same way. And, unfortunately, in the past, it was typically something in our society where you would see leaders, whether they're political leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, saying this sort of violence is unacceptable. But, unfortunately, we've seen over the past several years and continuing to this day elements within the political elites, particularly on the right, who are encouraging violence.
COATES: Well, it's advantageous at some point.
STRZOK: Absolutely. I mean, Marjorie Taylor Greene, just last month in New York, was recorded in conversation saying, if I had led the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, we would have won and we would have been armed. And then what happens today? She is given a spot on the Homeland Security Committee and then on the House Oversight Committee, which is going to be looking at government investigations, investigating the investigators who are looking at January 6th, and rather than calling the sort of sentiment of violence, doing things to stoke that sort of outrage.
And, again, most people are not going to act on that but the worry is you do get this very small percentage. But even if it's a tenth of 1 percent, that still a big number of violent people.
COATES: So, how do you -- I mean, you're I guess intimating the idea of the seeds that can be planted by the information you'd have access to or others, and the idea of every little kernel -- when we talk how about comedy, it's been funny, a kernel of truth is contained in it and it's exaggerated. Well, the idea of false narratives, a kernel of some semblance of truth and then it's exaggerated, or it's exploited in some way that heightens people's awareness about things and capitalizes on either naivete and ignorance.
Olivia, when this happens, I mean, you are shaking your head at the idea of these committee assignments, but more broadly, I mean, the truth is, is there a way to actually quell this and stop it, if it's online chatter, if it's beyond, if you can access it and tangibly hold it?
TROYE: Well, you quell it with facts. But the problem is you have a bunch of elected leaders who aren't interested in talking about the truth. When they're doing, like he said, when you're doing a committee that's going to talk about weaponizing the government, people are taking that in and they're thinking, oh, the government is coming after me potentially. They're seeing that, right? They're going to investigate possibly COVID, right? They're attacking doctors.
I mean, it's a whole revenge thing, right, where doctors are actually getting threats. I've talked to doctors in Texas. I mean, this is an ongoing thing for them that started during the COVID pandemic with a whole bunch of COVID disinformation, right?
So, it pivots. It's like -- and I've told people it's not a matter of when disinformation is coming for you -- it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.
COATES: Well, let me ask you, Peter, how do you investigate this? I mean, how do you do it without being accused of being the thought police?
STRZOK: Well, I think you go out and you follow the law. I mean, we have decades and decades upon generations of establishing a criminal justice system, certainly at the federal level, that has clear laws and mechanisms in place to do those investigations in a way that's consistent with the law. And it's important to have accountability.
And that's what's so frustrating, is that you have DOJ right now. You have prosecutors, you have investigators, you even have judges who are doing their best job that they can to look at what happened on January 6th and elsewhere, and where people broke the law, to find them accountable and hold them accountable. Just like they did for the people who did break the law in the summer of 2020 with the riots around the U.S. Doing that job should not create a congressional committee or other pundits who are out there targeting the people who are trying to maintain the law and order of the United States. And I really worry some of, again, the extremes of what we're seeing in politics today are specifically trying to do just that. They're trying to increase the emotion. They're trying to increase the outrage. They're trying to make it personal. And I'm really worried where it's going to go.
COATES: Finding those trigger points and leading to violence, it's really important. Thank you both, I appreciate it.
STRZOK: Thank you.
COATES: Well, with the White House in turmoil over the documents investigation, we do tonight have some new CNN reporting about who has been interviewed by federal investigators. We're going to tell you all about it, next.
COATES: Well, tonight, the Biden White House is grappling with the discovery of classified documents as President Biden's -- at his former private office, of course, also his Wilmington home. And his press secretary saying the president has confidence in his team, has confidence in what they're doing and handling of the response, of course. And a top official in the administration is cooperating fully with the DOJ's investigation.
Joining me now, CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, I'm eager to talk to you about this because there are signs the White House is shifting strategy as this crisis is continuing to intensify. What's going on? Is there truly a shift, a recognition that they didn't handle it right the first time?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think there is an understanding that they've been unsteady for the last eight to nine days. And that's maybe putting it charitably. And to some degree, what they have realize, or at least what they have start to coalesce around, is the idea that there are things they can and should do as the special counsel investigation really starts to kick into high gear to try and address at least the public perception of this issue.
Now, that does not mean they are going to engage on the myriad of questions that are still out there regarding how these documents ended up in the Biden think tank in the first place, in the president's personal home in the first place, or any of the questions surrounding the two months while this review was ongoing before it became public knowledge. But it does mean they will make very clear that while they will not answer questions and they will fully cooperate, they believe have a pretty attractive foil in House Republicans, who have launched two of their own investigations into that manner.
Over the course of the last two days, you've seen White House officials really ramp up, kind of go on offense when it comes to attacking House Republicans for investigating this matter, particularly those House Republicans that were not willing to investigate former President Donald Trump's own classified documents investigation that's been underway, trying to kind of coalesce around the idea that this is a political fight to have as well as long as the investigation and the legal battle are underway.
While they will not deal with the legal battle, while they will not address the legal battle and they will maintain that they are going to fully cooperate with that ongoing legal matter, when it comes to the politics of this issue, they are saying two things. One, they're very willing to attack Republicans head on when Republicans go after the president, but also they're going to try and maintain some semblance of business as usual. You have not seen the president diverge from his schedule. You've not seen the president move away from any of the issues that he was planning to talk about before all of these issues came to light.
Of course, the wildcard here is they don't know necessarily if anything new is going to come out at anytime in the future. That was certainly a problem they faced in that first week here. And officials acknowledge, they don't know if more investigation or more searches will come to part. They also don't know if more documents will come to light. But at this point in time, they feel like they have at least steady things at least compared to where they were last week.
COATES: I mean, it's quite a change. And you're right, it's only been really a week of having even had this story emerge, although this happened back in November, the first realization of. Phil, thank you so much for this.
You know, I want to bring in now CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez, who has new reporting tonight on the story, and Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director.
Well, Evan, let me start with, because you heard the reporting from Phil, and the idea that the words he used were unsteady at first, they weren't engaging, they were having a political response at the House Republicans who were going after it and what they were doing. But you have some new reporting here tonight. Because in an initial review of the handling of the classified documents, they've now interviewed a personal attorney of President Biden, is that right?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is a longtime attorney for President Biden, political campaign attorney. His name is Pat Moore and he's based out of Boston. And he was, among the people who was at the Penn Biden Center private office that President Biden was using during the Trump years. And this is where the first set of documents were found back in November.
And, you know, as part of that initial review that was done by the U.S. attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, the FBI was doing an assessment, they interviewed Pat Moore as well as a number of other people who were involved in the moving of the documents. And in the case of Pat Moore, he was there when they found these initial documents. Now, among the things that we've learned is that, you know, they immediately obviously returned those documents that they found, the classified documents, to the National Archives. And our Jamie Gangel also reports that, you know, they basically, out of an abundance of caution, took a bunch of boxes, even if they didn't have classified information, decided to return it, give it to the National Archives, saying here, take a look at these.
And then as a last measure, Pat Moore had had some documents, including personal speeches and some reference materials, taken to his office back in Boston. He had the National Archives come and retrieve those documents.
You know, what you're getting a picture of there is, you know, a Biden team that is, you know, I think trying to draw a contrast with the way Trump has handled his own documents issues, right? And they're trying to draw a picture of cooperation.
Now, as you know, they have a new special counsel who's going to be doing an investigation. They may need to come back an interview some of these same people. We know that the initial interview with Pat Moore, for instance, was not done with a 302, as you know, which is the way these interviews are usually memorialized.
COATES: That's an important point, the idea of not necessarily reinventing the wheel, Andrew, but with the special counsel now assigned to oversee all of this. There might be a shift in the way that the interviews are even approached, maybe going back to fill in some gaps, maybe even for the first time having questions.
I wonder what sort of questions do you anticipate the investigators now asking? Because everyone keeps saying, well, you know there's a stark contrast and Biden is cooperative, and he's saying he's cooperative, investigators, obviously part of their nature and job is to be skeptical, even with a statement like that. What are the questions they might be asking at this time?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: Sure. So, you can imagine that the agents who were working under Mr. Lausch were really trying to get their hands around the big picture and the basics of what happened. What the folks who are now working for Rob Hur, what the special counsel will do, is likely re-approach any those witnesses that have already spoken and really give them a very in-depth interview, to try to get the entirety of the scope of their knowledge of an involvement with these documents, whether it's from the office of the House.
It's going to first be -- you think of it as chain of custody type questions. They're going to say to somebody who was present when the documents were discovered in the Penn Biden office, they're going to say, okay, where were you in relation to the closet where the documents were found, what did they look like, what were they stored in, was that storage container sealed with tape or with other materials, you know, who lifted out of the closet, what did you do next, you know, where did you then keep the documents until the National Archives folks came to retrieve them, all down to the details of every movement involving those things.
And then broader scope, people who were in that office who can talk to you about the scope of people who had access to the office overtime, people who can talk about President Biden's habits in terms of how often was he at the office. And when he was there, where did he sit? And did you ever -- did he ever ask you to get things out of the closet for him or things of that nature. So, it's going to be very broad and specific and probably very wide in scope.
COATES: You know, speaking of the scope of this, Evan, you know, the questions, of course, are going to be about who had access, but who also accessed it. There is a distinction between who had access and who actually accessed it. And there's a lot of talk about Hunter Biden, who is already a topic of conversation, you know, even before President Biden won the election, let alone now.
We know that there is a Republican-led Congress that's looking into Hunter Biden and investigations but they're still the DOJ investigation. We can't forget about that. So, where does that DOJ probe into the Hunter Biden laptop and beyond, where does that actually stand right now?
PEREZ: Yes. It's a bit of a mystery. The one thing we know is that the U.S. attorney in Delaware, who is a Trump appointee who is held over to handle this, is now essentially the decision-maker. He is going to be the one who makes a decision as to whether to go forward with charges that would include tax issues, the Hunter Biden tax violations, that Hunter Biden is alleged to have had, as well as a charge related to a gun.
Hunter Biden describes that he was obviously using drugs during a period in which he went and bought a gun. And when you buy a gun and when you fill out the form, the background check forms, you have to a test that you are not addicted to drugs. He has since in his memoir and his interviews has said that he was. So, that is clearly, you know, it would seem some kind of violations. So again, those are the two things that we know investigators have honed in on.
Now, there could be other things. But the Republicans are asking a much broader set of questions including about business ventures that never got off the ground and whether his father, whether his father, certainly President Biden, had any business interest in some of the things that Hunter was involved in and other members of the family.
COATES: Important to think about that scope of it.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: -- where his father, and certainly President Biden had any business interest in some of the things that Hunter was involved in and other members of the family.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Important to think about that scope of it. Andrew, what's your reaction to the DOJ investigation and probe? I mean, we're hearing bits and pieces. There's obviously been complaints about have people covered the story enough or is Hunter Biden or the Biden family getting a pass in a variety of ways? It's become a politically-charged issue, even if there is not a lot of meat on the bone to go and work with, what do you say?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you know, I'm -- I can't say much about the politics. I mean, that's likely to kind of continue fanning the flames, creating issues maybe we're none really exist for the purpose of political advantage, that's how these things seem to work out on that side. But on the legal side, I can tell you that if the Department of Justice and the FBI have taken a hard look at this, and what they're walking away with or considering towards the end of the investigation, if that's where we are, is what seems like a fairly minor false -- potential false statement charge and some tax issues.
That is a far, far distance from where the primary concern from several of the legislators on the Hill is still focused. That is, you know, night and day from a case based on political corruption issues or illegal, you know, business ventures, and influence peddling and things of that nature.
And let's keep in mind also, Laura, that so many of the things that people think of in that lane of, let's say, influence peddling, those practices are unsavory, possibly unethical. Not things that we want associated with our political leadership, but oftentimes, not specifically illegal. It takes you back to those political corruption statutes, which we all know are very tied to the idea of being able to prove in court a specific quid pro quo.
You know, the acceptance of benefit in return for doing some official act is generally the way that's framed. And those are tough cases to make. So, it sounds like the government could be pretty far from what people initially thought they would find in this case.
COATES: I mean, when you mention quid pro quo, I think everyone remembers the first impeachment and the idea of the difficulties even the impeachment managers and being able to try to make a case, obviously, outside of the court of law. But we'll continue to follow what's happening here. It's important to know how all of this will resolve and in what capacity. We'll follow the story. Thank you so much, both of you.
Speaking of the criminal system and some really sad news happening, we've all been following the story of the missing Massachusetts mother of three. And after several pieces of what can only be described as grim evidence, now, Brian Walshe is facing a murder charge. Remember, he was facing a potentially misleading investigators charge before. Now, it's a murder charge for the death of his wife, Ana Walshe. The very latest on that investigation is next.
COATES: Well, there's been a major development tonight in the case of missing Massachusetts mom, Ana Walshe. Her husband, Brian, has now been charged with her murder. He will be arraigned on the murder charge tomorrow. And the police investigation has turned up possible evidence, including a bloody knife in the couple's home, as well as a hacksaw and apparent bloodstains at a trash collection site.
Sources also say that Walshe searched the internet for information on how to dismember and dispose of the body of a 115-pound woman. CNN's John Miller is back with me now. Truly disturbing to think about all that's happening right now and the developments at play. You know, what is the probable cause that authorities seem to have today that would go from the misleading investigators charged to murder?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, Laura I think it's what happened in between, which is with the misleading. They told us that there, you know, in their court documents that there was blood found in the basement, that there was a bloody knife found in the basement, that he deceived them about where he was and what he was doing and then they found out where he really was, and what he was doing, buying cleaning supplies and so on.
If you combine that with what has happened since, which is another location, a trash transfer station, additional physical evidence, the scientific piece of putting those two things together and making DNA matches and things like a bone fragments, and whatever other evidence they might have collected, is what brings these things together from misleading to a warrant for his arrest for murder.
COATES: And as we sit here tonight, we're not aware that a body has been found of this woman, Ana Walshe. And, yet they are proceeding with a murder charge nonetheless.
MILLER: So, Laura, they're relying on two important things, maybe three. Number one, the circumstantial evidence. If this is not the story, take a look at the story he gave. Which one holds up? Two, the scientific evidence. What is the Massachusetts state police lab able to bring together in front of a jury to say this would be statistically impossible to be otherwise?
And three, precedent. You know, this D.A.'s office is the one that had the other case, the first one in Massachusetts history, where they convicted someone back in 2003 for a 1998 murder where they never recovered a body. Another husband who killed another wife.
COATES: You know, thinking about all of that in context, I do wonder at tomorrow's hearing, are we going to get some idea of a motive here? I mean, not that there is a justification, which is always an interesting notion, but the motive that might be described in any of the documents, do we have a sense that's coming?
MILLER: So, we're going to see a charging document that is probably going to lead us into the science portion. I doubt we're going to see a motive. I think if we see a motive, and as a former prosecutor, you know they don't need one to prove it.
But a jury is going to want one. If we see a motive, I think we're going to see that unfold at trial.
COATES: Well, then we'll have to follow along, and it's happening tomorrow as well. Again, a mother of three, and we're learning tonight her husband has been charged with murder. Been missing since the New Year. John, thank you so much for the update. I appreciate it.
Well, we also know that multiple schools in Virginia, did you (inaudible) that they've allegedly been failing to give some students their National Merit scholarship recognition that before they actually have to apply for college and they submit them.
Well, now, the state's attorney general is launching an investigation over what he says is a practice of targeting Asian-Americans. We'll explain more, next.
COATES: A Virginia school district is under fire this week. The Fairfax County Public School System is accused of allegedly failing to notify students of their National Merit scholarship recognition in a timely manner. Now, that district is under investigation by the Attorney General's Office in Virginia for unlawful discrimination and violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act. The governor, Glenn Youngkin, weighing in on the incident over the weekend, accusing the district of choosing equity over merit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN YOUNGKIM, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: They have a maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs. This overarching effort for equal outcomes is hurting Virginia's children. And it's hurting even worse, the children that they aspire to help.
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COATES: We have reached out to the district for comment. I want to bring in Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to the conversation. Welcome, attorney general. I'm glad that you're here. This might not be an obvious connection for some people to think about the idea of failing to tell the commended students about their recognition and National Merit status. And then having a connection for a violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act. What is the correlation here?
JASON MIYARES, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, this is what we know. We know that Fairfax County Public Schools hired an equity consultant, pay them about $455,000 for about nine months of work. And one of their recommendations to the school district was equal outcomes for every student without exception. That's their words, not mine.
And that included a directive that said, to get to these equal outcomes, it may mean treating students purposely unequally. And so, what we've seen is about over 70 percent of these National Merit accommodations have gone to Asian-American students.
And I want to be clear, there are two branches of one investigation. The start of this investigation actually was the admission policy at Thomas Jefferson High School, it's a magnet school. You have to apply. We saw (inaudible) to a new equity base admission standard, which led to close to 20-point drop of enrollment in Asian-American students.
And I heard so many complaints from parents that their children, they felt, were being discriminated against. I had one parent say my daughters done everything right since the first grade, but she's being denied her dream of attending Thomas Jefferson High School, not because of anything she's done, but simply who she is. Because she's Korean-American.
And I think that goes against all of our belief in our society. We believe in the equality of opportunity. I think that's so important. And for so many of these students, English is not even the primary language spoken at home. And I know as a child of an immigrant, my mother fled Cuba penniless and homeless, education is a doorway to the American dream.
It breaks my heart that some of these students haven't gotten this proper recognition. And all of the scholarship of opportunities that possibly comes with it, the National Merit award.
COATES: Certainly, the National Merit award, one in which many students would love to have a feather in their cap and express, and I understand the concerns you've raise about notions of equity and there being a tension between what the friction is.
But I do wonder, in terms of the human rights element of it. What is the act that has happened in relation to the commendation status in particular, that has led you to have an investigation into that's being related to the admission process more broadly? What is that connection?
MIYARES: Well, you are not allowed to deny anyone a benefit under the Virginia Human Rights Act simply because that they are -- they're race or their ethnic background. And for the real-world consequences of this, I'll give -- I'll give you --
COATES: So -- so, okay, I don't want to cut you off for second, but, hold on. I don't want -- I want to make sure I'm clear for the audience's sake as well. So, the connection that the -- the statement is, essentially, there is some notion that this was an intentional act to fail to alert these students, that they had the commendation?
MIYARES: Yeah. Well, we know from the public reporting that one of the parents of a child that notified the school, why didn't you notify? They said we didn't want other students to have their feelings hurt. And the real-world consequences of this as we know of at least one Virginia college that says you get to go to attend our school tuition free, it's a private school, if you are a National Merit commendation recipient. All we require is a certificate.
The principal who is in charge of providing that notification to the students, and that's a value close to $100,000, and I could tell you, as somebody have worked all four years of college, how are you going to pay for college is much more scary in many ways than which college you get into.
So, the idea that we have by one estimate, close to 800 different scholarships available to those, that are these National Merit award recipients, and they weren't even notified. They didn't even have the chance to apply. I have to tell you, the time with skyrocketing student debt, I think it's pretty noteworthy that these schools, they didn't notify the students. And that's what we're trying to determine.
COATES: I do have a statement from a superintendent of the district as well, and they say that the current understanding around the delay in notifying students, and I'll read it for you.
"Our current understanding of the delay at, obviously, Thomas Jefferson High School this fall was a unique situation due to human error, but we will leave it to our investigative review to draw any final conclusions." What do you make of the idea of this being initially spoken about as human error? How does that play into your investigation and do you have some skepticism to that point?
MIYARES: Well, we're going to find out. That's why we're doing the investigation. We know that the initial report was this was limited to one high school and it was human error at this one high school. Now we find out that in Fairfax alone, it's over seven high schools have been subject to this.
We know it's also happening in Loudoun County. And apparently, this is happened for several years. And so that's why we're investigating.
COATES: You know, I am very interested in the outcome of the investigation, the idea that if this was an intentional act to try to deny a student of that opportunity, that's very telling, as is the greater conversation just talking about overall admissions and enrolments. An issue the Supreme Court is trying to grapple with, as we speak as well. Really important conversation, we'll follow this story. Thank you so much.
And the Golden State Warriors, well, they were at the White House. And it was the first time since clashing with the former president, Donald Trump. And the team, well, they didn't hold back in weighing in on several key political issues.
COATES: Today, President Joe Biden welcomed the Golden State Warriors to the White House, celebrating their 2022 NBA championship. Now, this was the first White House visit since the high-profile clash, you may remember, with former President Donald Trump. He disinvited them after Steph Curry criticize him over his attacks on black athletes during the National Anthem.
And while the visit was about celebration, some came not only to play, but with something to say. Superstar Steph Curry said this about Biden and the return of Brittney Griner.
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STEPHEN CURRY, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: A great opportunity for us from the basketball community to thank President Biden and his staff for all of their hard work and diligence on getting Brittney Griner home. It was a big part of our basketball family and it means a lot to know that she is here and home, safe with her family.
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COATES: And head coach Steve Kerr spoke out at taking part in a roundtable on gun violence and gun safety with senior White House staffers.
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STEVE KERR, HEAD COACH, GOLDEN STATE WARRIOR: I think we have a huge issue in this country, obviously, with gun violence on many, many fronts. And it needs to be addressed globally. It's not one group of people or, you know, one sector of society. This is an issue that affects everybody.
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COATES: Indeed, it does. Also ahead, George Santos, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, what's the connective tissue? Probably not names you expected to see get committee assignments in Congress, perhaps. Except they all now have them. So, what does this say about how this Congress will function?