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CNN Tonight

Fox News Settles With Dominion At The Last Second; DeSantis Threatens To Build A Prison Near Disney World; Oklahoma Governor Wants Officials To Resign Over Record Conversation With Racist Remarks; U.S. Reporter Arrested By Russia Is Seen For The First Time In Weeks; "CNN TONIGHT" Presents "On the Lookout." Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 18, 2023 - 23:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to this hour where we bring you "Tomorrow's News Tonight." We have our great lineup of reporters to share their scoops. Here with me tonight, we have Sara Fischer, Jessica Dean, Athena Jones, and Kylie Atwood.

Okay, so let's dive right into the huge box settlement. Fox has to pay more than $787 million in damages to Dominion. The dramatic announcement came just moments before the trial was set to begin.

Sara Fischer was in the courtroom all day at that moment that this happened. So, Sara, I want to hear everything that happened in the courtroom. But first, let's just talk about what's going to happen because this is not the end. It feels like it's the end for Dominion, certainly, but it's not the end. There are other legal challenges on the horizon for Fox. So, what should we all be watching for?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yeah, it's a big thing. So, they're settling now for $787 million. But this is just one lawsuit that they're settling with Dominion. They're facing several other lawsuits from Smartmatic, another voting machines company. That lawsuit is even bigger than the Dominion one. That's $2.7 billion. They're also facing a lawsuit from one of their former producers, Abby Grossberg, who said that the Fox News lawyers had manipulated her testimony leading up to the trial.

So, Fox is going to be facing a whole bunch of legal challenges and how it acted today in making the settlement can and probably will impact those other lawsuits.

The other one I'll mention, Alisyn, is that Reuters reported yesterday that some members of Fox's shareholder group are also looking to do a potential investigation into Fox's board, basically to see if they were responsible for overseeing this coverage, should they potentially be held liable for picking up the check for some of the settlement damages as opposed to passing that off to the company in which shareholders would essentially be contributing to paying that out.

So, this is not over for Fox. In fact, this is probably just the beginning for Fox. But it's a historic day. This trial was supposed to last for six weeks. And at the very last minute, right before opening statements started, we got a settlement.

CAMEROTA: So, tell us what it was like in the courtroom, like who did you see in there?


CAMEROTA: What was it like to be a reporter in there? What was the mood?

FISCHER: So, the mood in the beginning was actually pretty light because everything was going according to plan. Now, we know that the -- that the whole court case was delayed by a day. But once we got in there, day two, which was this morning -- oh, my gosh, it's crazy to think that that was this morning.


CAMEROTA: This is still the same day.

FISCHER: Yes. Once we got in there, things felt like they were going according to plan. So first, we started with the finalizing of the jury selection. That went pretty smoothly.

There was a little hiccup where one of the Fox News PR people got called out by the judge for taking a picture, and she was actually removed from the court and had to go sit in the overflow room. She then apparently told the judge, who told us, that she called us out for tweeting. It was a very bizarre situation.

CAMEROTA: Were people tweeting from the courtroom?

FISCHER: I don't think so. You're allowed to tweet from the overflow room, which is where the press is, because we have internet access. You're not allowed to tweet from the courtroom. But that was the only bit of spice.

After that, it was just a lot of delay. Now, at first, it was fine and they would tell us, oh, five more minutes, oh, we're just taking a bathroom break, but then when the hours went on and on, we realized something is weird.

And then what we would notice is that Dominion's lawyer, Justin Nelson, would be walking over to Dan Webb, Fox's lawyer, and it didn't seem contentious. They seemed pretty relaxed, they were talking to each other, then they go to their respective sides.

So, after hours of delay and seeing these two lawyers speak to each other in what seemed like a pretty jovial manner, that's what I think a bunch of reporters start to get their hands in the keyboards and start prewriting a settlement. We knew it was coming.

And then at 3:58, the judge comes back, and he said the parties have been -- have resolved their dispute. He told the judges -- I'm sorry, the jurors, thanks them for their service. One of the things he said that was really interesting is, you know, you being here helped get to this settlement. You being here, you did your job, so thank you.

And then the mad dash. We sprint out of the courtroom. I put my sneakers on, and I'm sprinting after the Fox lawyers and the spokespeople. They had no comment for us. And then I sprint back to the courthouse because Dominion has this huge press conference, and that's where they announced the whopping $787 million figure. And then I got on the train and came here.



JESSICA DEAN: You've been on a whirlwind. She went back home after the show last night --

FISCHER: It's crazy.

DEAN: -- to get up at 5:00 a.m.

FISCHER: But it has been great because, you know, this is one of the first times -- you know, I've covered other cases in the media industry, but this is the first time I've covered a major defamation trial as it pertains to immediate industry company.

We had it with Alex Jones. That was a person. But this is historic. I mean, the last time we had a defamation lawsuit that settled this big wasn't nearly this big. It was the ABC "pink slime" case in 2017.

CAMEROTA: Food line, right?

FISCHER: Exactly. And that was like Beef Products Inc, whatever the company was, but that was $177 million. So, if you think about it, this is such an extraordinary, huge, huge, huge settlement, and I think it's going to have enormous implications for how we see Fox manage lawsuits moving forward now.

The question, Alisyn, we've been talking about this all night, does it actually change Fox? Does it change the way that they handle their coverage? It's hard to say. I mean, Fox is not required to apologize to its viewers nor is it required, according to the settlement, to issue any retractions or corrections.

CAMEROTA: That's huge.


CAMEROTA: I mean, that's huge. That's the whole point. So, Dominion -- you know, what my two cents is Dominion won. I mean, Dominion got what they wanted, $787. It is a huge historic settlement. But I'm not sure that journalism or democracy or the country won --


CAMEROTA: -- because they're not admitting to what they did wrong.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And we lose out as the media because we now no longer get to see, you know, Tucker Carlson under oath discussing why he was saying certain things in private and saying just the opposite on air. I mean, it's unfortunate as reporters who like to cover these things and cover them accurately.

DEAN: Well, and Alisyn, you made the point last night, and I think this is so true. If -- if someone's news diet is just Fox News, they don't even know this is happening. And now, Sara, you're saying that they are not going to have to apologize. They may -- it may never quite break into that group of people.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely, that echo chamber.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But also, they were able to avoid having these big names testify, Tucker Carlson, Rupert Murdoch himself. But are they going to be able to keep avoiding having to give testimony with all of these subsequent lawsuits coming along? Are they going to have to keep settling in order to keep dodging that bullet?

FISCHER: The Smartmatic CEO put out a great statement today after this settlement arrived because it was great, they say, because it was very illuminating. He essentially said that this Dominion lawsuit opened up so much discovery, and we're going to pick up the baton and use that discovery to drill down even further. So, in terms of whether or not Fox is going to have to unveil more, the answer is potentially yes.

Now, the other thing to make note of is that this isn't all totally over either. You know, they had assigned a sort of special prosecutor to look into Fox's -- the way that Fox had presented the role of Rupert Murdoch. You know, I think that's still going to proceed.

And so, there's still little implications that are going to fall out here in terms of what's -- we're not totally done. So, things could still come out. But in terms of these other lawsuits, I doubt they're going to go to court. I will say that.

CAMEROTA: Oh, you don't think Smartmatic is going to go to court?

FISCHER: Well, if Fox is going to settle this, why wouldn't they settle the others?


CAMEROTA: This is more money.

FISCHER: It is more money. I think we see now how much they care about the risk of putting their executives out there.

By the way, they erected this huge tent. We were talking about this yesterday. It's not even that they -- we can't broadcast what's happening in that court. We also can't show you the audio. We can only report on it. Even with that situation in mind, Fox still didn't even want pictures of their key hosts and executives walking into the building. That should tell you everything you need to know about what lengths they were going to go to protect their people. ATWOOD: I also wonder like what happens to Dominion now. I mean, obviously, as you were saying, like they won, they got more than $700 million, that is a huge sum of money, but in the grand scheme of things, are these conservative counties that we have seen dropping these Dominion Voting Systems now going to stick with Dominion? I mean, maybe, but maybe not.

We saw, I think it was earlier this year, a Northern California county got rid of Dominion Voting Systems. And instead, they replaced it with hand counting ballots.

UNKNOWN: Uh-hmm.

ATWOOD: So, the longevity of these voting systems, I think, remains a question as well.

FISCHER: Well, I'd say this, what's next on the docket for Dominion, what they're focused on, is actually winning more lawsuits. So, it is not just Fox. They also have lawsuits out against OAN, One American News, Newsmax, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell, the My Pillow Guy. So, the immediate concern, they just want to win more lawsuits and get more money.

CAMEROTA: Put your sneakers back on.


UNKNOWN: Oh, my God.

CAMEROTA: Running around various courtrooms and then running back here to tell us about it.


CAMEROTA: So, thank you.

FISCHER: Yes. In the long term, a lot of these contracts are many years long. So, I don't think that this is a huge, huge risk of their business, but you never know.


CAMEROTA: Thank you for all of that. Okay, next, Ron DeSantis is threatening to build a prison right next to Disney World.


Jessica is digging in to this, the most recent escalation in his battle against Disney.


CAMEROTA: Florida Governor Roger Stone was in Washington tonight looking to shore up support for his potential 2024 run, and Jessica Dean has been working her sources and is here to fill us in. Okay, what's DeSantis is up to? DEAN: Well, we know that he is no fan of Washington, D.C. and the Washington, D.C. establishment. He has made no secret of that. He writes about it in his book, how much he detests the social circuit and all that.

CAMEROTA: So, what is he doing --

DEAN: And yet, there he is in Washington, uh, inviting various GOP members to come to an event, which we're told, uh, he was, you know, just talking about his accomplishments, didn't really talk explicitly about a presidential run, which is very much in line with what he has been doing as he has been going across the country to a lot of early states, a lot of primary states, swing states, as he meets people.


And one source that I talked to kind of describes that as like selling the Florida blueprint, that that's what he really wants to be doing right now, kind of taking a victory lap on what they see is a real success story out of Florida.

It was no accident, though, that also on Capitol Hill today, we heard from several members of the Florida delegation who came out in support of Trump.


DEAN: You can kind of see that contrast happening. But I think as we look ahead, what people should expect is we're going to see more of Ron DeSantis on the road in these key states as he kind of inches potentially closer to this 2024 run.

CAMEROTA: I don't know if his Florida -- if his Florida colleagues don't support him. I don't know. That doesn't sound like a good sign.

DEAN: Right. Well, I mean, again, like it's a handful. It's not -- it's not everybody. But, you know, again, these key Trump allies, it is no surprise that we're seeing them endorse former President Trump. But again, you know, you see kind of the coordinated effort that it was very much on purpose.

ATWOOD: And he got one member who supported him this week, right?

DEAN: Right, right.

ATWOOD: But then you have Trump who has six House members from Florida who are already behind him.

DEAN: Totally.

ATWOOD: So, the numbers aren't in his favor there, if you will.

DEAN: And remember, they're both technically from Florida, right? Donald Trump is now a Florida resident. And so, they're both Florida men as it were. And, um -- and so, it is interesting to kind of see him back in D.C. trying to kind of rekindle those relationships. And as those members were coming out of the event tonight, you know, nobody was really -- they were all kind of keeping their powder dry in terms of an endorsement. Nobody was willing to endorse. It is hard to endorse someone who is not announced a candidacy, though.


CAMEROTA: Great point.


CAMEROTA: What's happening with his battle with Disney?

DEAN: It's ongoing.


And we saw kind of this feud continued to escalate. So now, I'm going to start at the beginning and I'll take us back. But the newest thing is that he is now threatening. So, Disney has this special taxing district. That's kind of where their theme parks are. And he's now -- they've been threatening a state takeover of that, and he is now threatening to put -- he said, maybe we need a state prison in this land. Maybe we need another theme park on this land is kind of he escalates this battle with -- with Disney. And it all goes back to his legislation that he and the GOP legislature there in Florida pushed through that limited or doesn't allow, uh, you know, teachers to talk about gender identity, sexual identity. Disney pushed back on that. And that's what kind of started all of this. Disney wanted to overturn that. And so then, it just started to escalate. That's when Ron DeSantis kind of turned his attention to this special district that they have Disney than struck this deal to kind of take over -- you know, that the board wouldn't have as much say if he was going to take over the board. That was a secret, and then it leaked out like a month later. He promised retribution. So, this is an ongoing thing. And obviously, Disney plays a huge role in the state of Florida.

JONES: It's a huge employer in the state, right?

DEAN: Totally. Yeah.

JONES: So, how does the pro-business part of the Republican Party, how are they responding to these -- these attacks? I mean, it's sort of like corporate speech as donations is okay, but corporate speech as speech that it disagrees with the governor is not okay. What are the sorts of chamber of commerce types saying about this? Are they receiving it well?

DEAN: It's such a good question because I think -- Athena and I were talking a little bit before we came on. I think such -- you know, Republican Party for so long was so closely associated with the chamber of commerce, with business, with corporations. And there is still that part of it.

But we are seeing more, as you get this more like populism through the Republican Party, that big businesses and corporations are not necessarily as great to them as they used to be.

And it's kind of a schism between, you know, within the party. Whereas before, I think, you know, it took -- to borrow a phrase from Joe Biden, your grandpa's Republican Party or your dad's Republican Party, whatever he calls it, um, you know, that was always really associated with like business and country club and, you know, kind of establishment business. And there is really a split there now.

CAMEROTA: I mean, people love Disney. Is this a wise battle?


Americans love going to Disney.

JONES: And people over the world.

DEAN: Here is what I will tell you. So, yes, that's right. That's absolutely right. But also, I was with him in New Hampshire on Friday night, and he was doing his whole kind of -- essentially a stump speech at this point. But he's talking -- he's ticking through all of his achievements in Florida and what he has done.

It was a dinner for the New Hampshire Republican Party. It was -- I'm not great with crowd sizes, but let's say hundreds of people. It was a big, big room that he's speaking to, kind of a big kind of ballroom- type situation. And he did say -- he started talking about, you know, I don't think -- and these were his words, that he doesn't think it is right that anyone should tell a seventh grader that they were born in the wrong body.

Again, these are his words. And he got thunderous applause. And he said, and I don't care what Disney thinks about it, and I don't care if Disney likes it or not. I mean, people were standing up. They were whistling.


So, there's clearly an appetite for it within the Republican Party.

ATWOOD: But you do see some republicans already choosing this as a point to differentiate themselves from him because you had today Chris Christie who said essentially that DeSantis isn't conservative because he is taking on Disney.

And his argument wasn't actually the economic one, which is obviously an interesting one, but he made the argument that it's not a long -- you know, it doesn't fall conservative principles to take on Disney just because Disney espouses, you know, things that DeSantis doesn't like. He said that is like what the liberals do, the liberals try to make people be quiet who they don't like.

So, you are seeing, you know, these potential candidates try and stake out their positions against one another, their attack line, and that's when they were starting --

DEAN: No, it is three-point, and we actually have a clip of Chris Christie. Let's just go ahead and play that for everybody.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't think Ron DeSantis is a conservative, based on this access towards Disney. I think he's wrong. I think it makes -- rightfully makes a lot of people question his judgment and his maturity.


DEAN: So, again, that's former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is himself kind of will or won't he jump in in 2024? And I think what we can glean, to Kylie's point, from hearing his comments today is you're starting to see the contours of this primary take shape. And it's still early but like you're starting to kind of see the outline of what we're going to see in the months to come within the Republican Party as they just try to decide who their nominee is going to be.

CAMEROTA: And what's it like to be with DeSantis on the south? What's he like?

DEAN: Right. So, this is my first time actually being in the room with him because I had not covered him previously. And, um, you know, he -- what I thought was very interesting is he has this reputation in the D.C. circles as being somewhat robotic and not maybe as personable as people would think. And I did watch him work that room for probably about an hour. And remember, in New Hampshire, those voters demand that you have to --

CAMEROTA: Retail politics.

DEAN: That's right. It's retail politics 101. And they're used to this from years and years. But he worked the room for an hour and people were just flocking to him. And he seemed to do just fine in that environment.

You know, each person has their own personality. Um, but he really -- he interacted with people for longer than I kind of thought he would, and then did his speech.

And like I said, he was very well received. I actually talked to a couple of people, you know, just to get their take on it. And what they really kept going back to was that they liked that he had deliverables. That he said he would do these things and here is how he did it. And I thought that was -- that was interesting.

CAMEROTA: Have you reported on him, Sara?

FISCHER: A little bit, especially as it comes to the Disney stuff. But the thing that I'm watching a lot is how he and Donald Trump are sort of tiptoeing around each other at one point, and then they are at each other's throats at another, starting to launch ads, calling each other out. What's the state of that relationship?

DEAN: You know, it's so interesting because I think you hit the nail on the head, like they kind of tiptoe around each other. Trump is far more aggressive in going after and naming Ron DeSantis. My sense is Governor DeSantis and his team don't want to go there yet.

I don't think they want -- I don't think they want to play it out and get down in the mud with him. I think they would like to try to -- they don't want to do it through tweets or whatever, social media. Um, maybe it's on debate stage. You know, we're going to have to see.

JONES: They're still figuring out maybe how to engage with him. I mean, he has not announced yet, Government DeSantis.

DEAN: Right.

JONES: We believe he will. But has he given any indication of when he might make that decision? And do you think that his lack of that decision is to kind of avoid taking on that fight until he figures out how to do it?

DEAN: Yeah. I mean -- right. I mean, I think that's a good point. And I think right now what we're seeing is he's obviously making all of these stops in very key places right there. It's Iowa, it's New Hampshire, it's Michigan. Um, and that's obviously no accident.

I will say that the sources have told me these are all invitations that he has been grant -- like he's going by invitation. He's not seeking this out, asking them to come. They have invited him to come is what I've been told. But he's certainly shopping. You know, it's a chance for him to test enthusiasm before he jumps in.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for all that. Really interesting. Okay, up next, the governor of Oklahoma calling on four county officials in his state to resign after this secret recording of them saying these violent racist remarks, and it goes public. So, Athena is here to explain all of that after the break.




CAMEROTA: Officials in one Oklahoma county under fire tonight after they allegedly participated in this secretly recorded conversation that included racist remarks about lynching Black people and killing journalists.

The local paper, the "McCurtain Gazette News," published this audio and said it was recorded following a board of commissioners' meeting on March 6th. Athena Jones is on this story. So, what happened here? What were they saying?

JONES: I want to say at the outset that we have not seen and has not been able to confirm this recording or properly identified necessarily each person saying the words apart from the woman. There's only one woman here.

We're talking about four county officials in McCurtain County who have now -- who have been caught on tape saying these terrible things, talking about wishing that you could -- or harkening back to back in the day you could lynch people, you could lynch Black people.


One of those officials complaining that now Black people have more rights than we do. And they also talk about killing journalists that they disagree with. They even discussed two holes that have already been dug. Three dug holes. The person others have identified as the sheriff, the local papers identified a sheriff, said, I have an excavator. And the other person says, well, these holes are already dug.

CAMEROTA: Are they saying this in jest? I know it's odious. But are they -- in terms of the way they sound, are they joshing around with each other or they're like I have an excavator?

JONES: I mean, it sounds pretty standard. They're not laughing as they say it. Let us play the recording. You can take a listen. You know what we're talking about here.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): If this were back in the day (INAUDIBLE) you take a damn Black guy and whoop their ass and throw them in the cell, I'd run for (bleep) sheriff.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah, well it's not like that no more.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I know. Take them downhill to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope. You can't do that anymore. They got more rights than we got.


CAMEROTA: Yeah, that's not joking.

JONES: No. It sounds serious. They're harkening back to a day, you know, 100 years ago. They're acting like they wanted to be 100 years ago. And let's not forget this is about two hours south of Tulsa where in 1921, there was that horrible massacre of so many Black people.

And so, it's incredibly disturbing to hear now the governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, has called on them to immediately resign. That doesn't happen yet. He has also called on the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation to look into this whole situation.

I can tell you that one action has been taken. The Oklahoma Sheriff's Association has suspended three of these county officials because three of them were in the sheriff's office. That's important not to leave out. There was a sheriff, there was the jail administrator, and there was an investigator in the sheriff's office.

So, of course, this raises the question of, you know, this is how they feel. If this is their honest talk about members of their community and this is how they feel about Black people, then Black people in that community have to wonder if they're going to get equal protection under the law, if they're going to get -- ATWOOD: They're also talking about one specific reporter.

JONES: They were talking about a reporter --

ATWOOD: They weren't talking about it generally, right? It was about one guy that they --

JONES: A reporter has to go after that paper.

ATWOOD: He filed a lawsuit, talking about how their civil rights have been violated. And so, they were angry at this -- at this reporting team and those are the folks who they wanted to potentially kill.

FISCHER: What's the response in the community? Do you get outrage if people say anything?

JONES: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, you have a local mayor who's Black, who made the comment about how they wish it was 1920 -- 1921. There have been protests. You know, people saying racism has no place here.

But I think the thing is a lot of people don't want to believe that people still think this way and think this -- are willing to share it with other people. They didn't know they were being recorded, of course. They say this was -- this recording was obtained illegally. And so, they are going to look into that.

The bottom line is they shed a lot of light on their wheel -- real thoughts. And, you know, there's talk about -- we don't have to talk about whether this is systemic or whether everyone in the sheriff's department or in the county shares this belief. It's enough that a leader in law enforcement like the sheriff, like the jail administrator and investigator, feel this way --


JONES: -- and willing to say it.

DEAN: It's people with power, right? I mean, that's the thing. They have power and they think this way and say it out loud. It's interesting to me that this -- this defense, I guess it is, that they think this is, you know, this was illegally recorded, was tampered with, but like we just listen to that.

JONES: Well, they claim that it's altered, but they haven't claimed that they didn't say any of these things. And I believe we also have a clip of them talking about killing the journalist. So, let's play that if we have it.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): I've known two three hit men, that were very quiet guys.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): And would cut no (INAUDIBLE) mercy.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): In Louisiana, because this is all mafia around here.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.


JONES: So, it should go without saying these are members of law enforcement talking about committing a murder.

UNKNOWN: Uh-hmm.

FISCHER: That's the type of stuff that -- I cover press freedoms around the world. You don't hear that in the U.S. a lot. You hear that in places that are teetering on the edge of democracy, that are super corrupt. Those are the types of places where you hear people talking about killing journalists. It's not something that's typical here.

Do you get the sense that the journalism community is outraged by this? Because I know we're going to talk a little bit about what is happening with "The Wall Street Journal" reporter leader later like there is outrage when in certain incidents but not all.

JONES: Absolutely. I mean, this is about freedom of the press. This is about the one of the most important civil rights. And so, there's, of course, a lot of concern that they would feel free to talk in this way about the press doing our job, holding them accountable. These reporters doing their job and trying to hold these folks accountable.

These two reporters, the ones who are running this newspaper that they were talking about, have been reporting for ages, for months, about corruption in the county. And so, that is what made them angry. But again, they're doing their jobs. But we're seeing this more and more.

And the question really is, you know, we got a recording of this. It's a secret recording. We don't know what kind of other conversations have been going on in this county and counties around the state in general.


One hopes that it's not a lot of this sort of thing. But it's extremely revealing and concerning.

CAMEROTA: And just, you know, on a personal note, I think our viewers would be really interested to know, how do you -- I mean, obviously, as a reporter, you are tasked with being fair, fair-minded, objective. How do you keep your fairness when you are reporting on a story with an odious audio like this?

JONES: This may be controversial, but I don't think I have to be objective about racism. You know, I don't think I have to be objective about people very, very obviously talking about, uh, you know, denying people their civil rights, their right to life and their right to report.

Um, my -- what's so interesting to me is that we get examples over and over again, several examples this week, that this kind of hateful rhetoric and thinking is still alive and well in some quarters. I'm not suggesting that it's everywhere. That's what's so disappointing.

I think there's a -- there are a lot of people who don't want to believe it. They resist hearing about it, talking about it. You know, this sort of filters in to, you know, how we're educating children, the debates over that. Um, but the fact is that people need to listen and understand that this is real, this is happening, and it needs to be confronted.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and exposed, which is what your job -- I assume you feel the purpose in doing that.

JONES: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Um, what has the sheriff said?

JONES: The sheriff has said that they're going to investigate this, that this has been something that -- that this recording itself was altered.

So, um, he also has a statement that I want to read. There is and has been an ongoing investigation into multiple significant violation of the Oklahoma Security Communications Act, which states it is illegal to secretly record a conversation in which you are not involved and do not have the consent of at least one of the involved parties.

Many of these recordings like the one published by media outlets on Friday have yet to be duly authenticated or validated. Our preliminary information indicates that the media released audio recording has, in fact, been altered. But again, he did not say, we didn't say any of these words.

CAMEROTA: Uh-hmm. And I assume they haven't explained how it has been altered.


DEAN: And when you're having to argue that, you know, you've been illegally recorded, it has been altered, I feel like you are kind of losing already, because if someone illegally records you and it's that awful, right?

CAMEROTA: Yeah, that's not. I mean, we want to hear a different explanation for why they were saying those things.

JONES: Right. But it's important. They're raising the question, so they're trying to plan a question in folks' minds that maybe this isn't as bad as it first appears.


CAMEROTA: All right, Athena, thank you very much for all of that. Okay, meanwhile, "The Wall Street Journal" Evan Gershkovich is appearing in a Moscow courtroom today, the first time that we have seen him since his arrest last month on espionage charges. What is the government -- the U.S. government doing to try to bring him home? Kylie is going to fill us in.




CAMEROTA: We got a glimpse today of "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich in a Russian court. He was arrested in Russia last month and accused of espionage. The State Department has declared him wrongfully detained. Evan Gershkovich appeared in court in a glass cage and asked to be released from jail and confined to house arrest. That request was denied.

Kylie has been covering this story. So, Kylie, his request was denied. Now, what?

ATWOOD: Well, there's another hearing that will happen in May. So, we'll look ahead to see, you know, what they do in terms of where he's going to go and where the next jail he's going to be in. You know, a lot of questions remain. Also, you know, we still don't have a formal sentencing for him.

But for right now, what we're really trying to dig into with U.S. officials that I've been speaking to is how they're thinking about how they're going to get them out of there, because now that they have deemed him wrongfully detained, which essentially means that the U.S. government thinks that there was no reason, no legitimate reason for the Russian authorities to arrest him and to press these charges, they're trying to, according to a senior administration official I spoke with today, think of creative solutions and sometimes challenging solutions to get him out.

And they wouldn't be descriptive as to what those actual options that they're drawing up look like. But the official also was very clear minded. And this is a sad reality. But in saying that it's probably going to take a while. And that's because in these cases, these things don't happen overnight. These negotiations take a long time. And on the Russian side, they like to get through the legal process.

Even though U.S. officials obviously say this is an illegitimate legal process that is, you know, undergone -- undertaken right now, they like to get through that legal process before they fully engaged with the U.S. side in terms of an offer that would be put on the table that they might actually entertain.

CAMEROTA: In terms of reporting on this, I've always wondered, do you have to be more cautious in what you say? Anytime you're reporting with Russians and particularly with an American who is detained, I think with the Brittney Griner case, in terms of what you learn, in terms of what the family says, how circumspect does everybody need to be in what they say out loud about this stuff? ATWOOD: You have to be incredibly careful. But, you know, from a personal perspective, I'm protected because I'm in the United States of America. If you are a reporter who is in Russia, clearly, you have a different set of circumstances and you have to be much more careful about what you can say, how you can characterize Russian actions and the like.

When it comes to the families and what they are able to say publicly, we have seen a shift in recent years where these families are incredibly vocal and incredibly aggressive towards the U.S. government. That is because they've seen that that has worked for other families of Americans who had been wrongfully detained.


ATWOOD: And perhaps, they were told by U.S. officials, you know, keep it quiet, don't say too much. And that didn't work. And then the ones who are really vocal and asked for the meeting with President Biden and urged for there to be prisoner swaps, those are the one who have had success stories.

And so, you do see these families. Even though, of course, they have quiet conversations with U.S. officials that they keep private, you do see them publicly really pushing more aggressively than I think we have seen in previous years.

FISCHER: Why Evan? Like, you know, they've detained Brittney Griner, an athlete before. Obviously, other officials. Why a journalist? Is there significance in that?

ATWOOD: Well, I think there's a huge significance just generally because this is the first American reporter that Russia has detained since the Cold War. So just think about that, right? There have been other Americans who had been wrongfully detained, but this is the first reporter. And clearly, that was orchestrated by Russian authorities.

So, when you think about the reporting he was doing, I think that's something that you really need to consider as well. Evan Gershkovich was doing incredible reporting in Russia. He was really getting underneath the hood of what's happening in the Kremlin. He was reporting on people who are pushing back on President Putin.

You know, some of his stories were just remarkable to read because they were so well done. So, of course, that is not something that would go unnoticed by the Kremlin.

And then I also think he is someone who has family ties to Russia. And a lot of times, you know, Russian officials in the Kremlin view families who had Russian ties who have left the country as deserting Russia and being inherently opposed to Russia. So, those ties could actually have hurt him in terms of maybe, you know, motivating them to take him in.

DEAN: How do you -- I mean, it's so fascinating to see him because it is the first time we were seeing him since he has been arrested and detained. Do we have, like, how does he -- do we have any idea how he's doing?

ATWOOD: Well, you listen to his friends, and they say that Evan is someone who had a really good sense of humor. And you see a little bit of that today even because at times, he was smiling when he is in this, you know, extremely bizarre glass box in this Russian jail -- in this Russian courtroom, excuse me. And so, he was still able to, you know, bring a sense of humor and, um, it seemed like he was doing okay.

The senior administration official that I spoke with today said that, you know, as far as the U.S. knows, he's being treated humanely. There's no specific reason to believe otherwise at this point. He was able to be visited by the U.S. ambassador to Russia yesterday for the first time. And so, they've actually gotten eyes on him, which is huge.

JONES: Do you expect -- it sounds like you think that his Russian heritage, it could be a problem, it could add to the challenge of resolving this. Is that what experts are -- other officials are saying as well?

ATWOOD: Definitely. I mean, you know, you talk to people who have Russian heritage, um, and they say that it's much more challenging for them to report on the stories coming out of Russia, the Ukraine war and the like. And I think, you know, that is probably the case for him as well.

CAMEROTA: I thank you very much for the update on all of that. Really important. Okay, so, up next, we're going to do "On the Lookout." Our reporters are going to tell us what they're looking out for on the horizon. We'll be right back.




CAMEROTA: Our fabulous panel of reporters are going to tell us what stories they are keeping an eye on. We call it "On the Lookout." Okay, Kylie, what are you looking at?

ATWOOD: Okay, this is kind of a funny one, but there was a toddler who broke into the White House grounds today.


A toddler who crawled through the fence in front of the White House and Secret Service had to pick up this little kiddo and bring him back to his parents. They asked a few questions of the parents. Finally, let the kid go, realizing that he probably like, you know, wasn't trying to break into the White House.

But I am looking for someone to interview this family. Like what were these parents thinking as their small child is wandering not close to the White House but through the fence? CAMEROTA: Right because that could have ended badly.


ATWOOD: Very badly.

CAMEROTA: And I like that the Secret Service had to ask the parents questions like -- because that could have been a really well-trained toddler who was actually seeking in to spy on the White House.

ATWOOD: Two Secret Service guys picked up this toddler to like as if one couldn't take it on their own.

CAMEROTA: You're so right, somebody is going to get on that. I hope it's us. So, we're going to find that family. Okay, Sara, what are you keeping an eye on?

FISCHER: So, yesterday, we were talking about the Netflix "Love is Blind" fiasco. Today was a little bit of a fiasco for them. They reported earnings. They were mixed results. But the big news is that Netflix is ending its 25-year DVD rental business.

UNKNOWN: Oh, it is?

FISCHER: The red envelopes. Yes, it's going away.

CAMEROTA: I thought it was gone.

FISCHER: No, they had alluded to it because, you know, we're so used to paying for it just through subscriptions. But there are some people who still pay for the DVDs.

But for folks like you who aren't necessarily doing the mail-in DVD, you're just subscribing, the big news is that the Netflix crackdown on password sharing that was supposed to roll out broadly this quarter is rolling out next quarter. So, if you are a password sharer out there, you have a few more weeks until the crack is coming down.

UNKNOWN: Until it is over.

CAMEROTA: And what if I have one of those DVDs? I guess I'd better return it soon.


FISCHER: Return that back or just keep it.

CAMEROTA: Jessica, what is on the horizon?

DEAN: Well, I'm the Debbie Downer here of this group because I keep going back to the debt ceiling because, just to remind everybody, the government has to raise the debt ceiling to pay its already previously spent bill.

[23:55:02] So, this is -- the credit card bill is coming due. We've already spent the money. They just need to raise the limit. This is usually not that big of a deal. It is turning into a really big deal.

And so now, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy today told Manu Raju, my colleague, he does have the votes to pass, um, to pass something in the House. The problem is it's not going anywhere in the Senate and it just kind of continues this circle.

And so, what we need to keep an eye on is the clock is ticking. We have -- we have several months but it's already mid-April and they could have done a lot, and they've done nothing.

CAMEROTA: Keep us posted on that. That one sounds important. Okay, what's happening tomorrow, Athena?

JONES: Another serious one. I'm going to have my eyes on this and so a lot of people. The Supreme Court, there's a deadline tomorrow. About a minute before midnight is when the stay of the ruling that this federal judge made in Texas in the last couple of weeks -- that federal judge in Texas ruled that mifepristone, the abortion pill, wasn't properly approved by the FDA and that access to it should be blocked.

Well, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to weigh in here. And so, we'll have to wait and see if -- what they do after this deadline. Will they block the blocking of access to mifepristone while the legal battles play out which are going to take months and months? That's going to be really, really important.

And I should mention, even the World Health Organization has weighed in. They did not name the U.S. by name, but they did say that their concerns about women's rights to sort of control their bodies and to access to health care is -- could be restricted here.

CAMEROTA: Okay, we'll definitely be covering that. Also, tomorrow on "CNN This Morning," is the truth out there? A former Navy fighter pilot who says he has witnessed UFOs is going to join the program live ahead of this historic Senate hearing on these mysterious flying objects. So, be sure to tune in tomorrow starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

Thanks so much for watching tonight. Our coverage continues now.