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Russian Court Says Griner Committee Crimes Deliberately; Taiwan's Defense Ministry: "Irrational" Actions Undermine Regional Peace; China Conducts Unprecedented Military Drills near Taiwan; Biden Calls on Russia to Release Griner "Immediately"; Russian Court Sentences Brittney Griner to 9 Years in Prison; Report: Jan 6 Committee Plans to Subpoena Alex Jones' Texts, Emails. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 04, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Dana Bash. Kate is off today. We are following breaking news out of Russia. We have a verdict in the
Brittney Griner trial, Griner has been found guilty of smuggling cannabis oil in her luggage back in February.
She pled guilty last month in the hopes of being granted leniency right now you see that the WNBA Star is in the courtroom. It's just outside of Moscow
and prosecutors, as we speak, are asking for a sentence of nine and a half years in prison.
I'm going to go straight to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, who is live outside the courtroom near Moscow. So Fred, what is the latest? What are we hearing
about how that sentencing will go?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it really is significant information that we're getting Dana. First of all,
you're absolutely right, so that the court has found Brittney Griner guilty.
And as we see on our screens right now, the judge is still sort of reading out the verdict and what exactly the specifics of this verdict are? But
they're always already something that's very important that the judge has read and saying that they have found Brittney Griner guilty with criminal
intent. That means that the court believes what the prosecution has said that they believe that Brittney Griner intentionally took narcotics to the
Russian Federation, obviously talking about those two vamping cartridges.
And you'll recall that one of the cases or one of the things that the defense team tried to establish and Brittney Griner tried to establish was
that she did not intend to take these vamping cartridges into Russia that she packed very quickly, very hastily, and by accident, they might have
ended up in her luggage. And that's how they were on her when she was stopped here at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport on February 17th.
Now, it seems as though the court had that case at least has not followed what the defense wanted is saying that this was something that was done
intentionally. We are not sure yet about the sentencing. They have not gotten to the sentencing yet, but Brittney Griner has been found guilty.
And another thing that I have for you as well Dana, I was actually able to speak to Brittany Griner's defense lawyers.
As they walked back into the courtroom a couple of minutes ago, and they said if there is a guilty verdict, depending on the sentence, they will go
into an appeals process. And right now we know there is a guilty verdict but again, we're still waiting for the sentencing. But presumably, it could
be quite a tough sentence, because the judge said that they believe that this was done intentionally Dana.
BASH: So interesting that criminal intent is exactly what her attorneys and she were trying to argue was not the case. They are saying that they didn't
buy it. I want to bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood at the State Department.
So Kylie, based on what Fred was just reporting, what is your sense from your sources where you are at the State Department about how hard it is
going to be or not to take the next step and the next step everybody expects will be an attempt at a prisoner swap?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN INTRNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, today will have an impact on that next step. And that's because when you talk to
U.S. officials, the expectation that was any potential prisoner swap wouldn't actually come to fruition until Brittney Griner confessed guilt.
So she pled guilty back in July, and she expressed that she was sorry that she committed this, though she didn't intend to today again in the
courtroom, and also that there would have to be sentencing in this trial. So that's why today will have an impact on the ongoing efforts to try and
secure prisoner swap to get Brittney Griner home.
Now, the backdrop to all of this, however, is that the Biden Administration hasn't just been sitting on its hands waiting for this day. They were
trying to get the wheels in motion back in June, when they did put an offer on the table with the Russians offering up Viktor Bout. He's a convicted
armed smuggler serving a 25 year prison sentence here in the U.S. for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, the Russians haven't exactly played ball.
They put another offer that counteroffer through some back channels on the table for a Russian who's actually serving time in Germany right now. So
basically, they haven't been able to have productive conversations to make an agreement about that prisoner swap. And that's why today is important,
because the expectation was that when there's a sentence, it may allow them to move forward in those discussions.
I do think it's important Dana, though, to point out that the judge is saying that she did this deliberately and that is exactly contradictory to
what Brittney Griner has said--
ATWOOD: --said is the story here. She said she was in her words rush packing when she was packing up to go over to Russia to play on this team.
ATWOOD: She had just been getting over COVID she was trying to get all four things together. And that's how this cannabis oil accidentally ended up
still in her bag. But of course, the judge is making the determination that he believes that it was actually a deliberate act. And that could impact
the sentence that we're expecting over the next, of course of the next few minutes or hours here.
BASH: Oh, absolutely good. And I'm glad that you underscored that point. I mentioned it earlier. But we have to say it over and over again, just
because this is the verdict. This just because this is what she has been found guilty of a criminal intent that's not what she claims. She claims
that it was her - she brought the cannabis the vaping material over to Russia by accident.
All right, Kylie, standby, as we wait for this verdict. I want to go now to CNN Contributor, Jill Dougherty. She is of course, Former CNN, Moscow
Bureau Chief. Jill, so many things to talk to you about first of all, I just want to mention, just the imagery of what we're seeing. And it's so
striking for people; we have covered so many trials here in the U.S.
And we are used to seeing a defendant in street clothes in a courtroom. And this is Russia. This is not the U.S. this is not a Western democracy. And
so what we see is somebody trying to defend herself while in prison behind bars?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And that is for Americans and probably for some Europeans that's pretty shocking because a person in a
cage, you know, looks really frightening. And don't forget, you know, she's extremely tall. So she has to lean over a lot of the time, there are a lot
of the images here - I hear some translation going on. Do we want to go to that?
BASH: I think you can continue they'll let us know when we have the sentencing.
BASH: Because you speak Russian, you can probably understand more than we can. So if you hear something, let us know.
DOUGHERTY: OK. I was - what I was trying to say, you know, the optics is really, really kind of frightening. And then you have the, let's call it
the official legal case moves forward. So essentially where we are, we just got the guilty verdict.
And with that troubling criminal intent, that is not good criminal intent. And then part two will be the sentence. And you don't have to think if it
goes according to kind of how Russian law usually goes, that could be harsh, because after all, if there was criminal intent, and that was found,
that is a bad sign.
And it could be that the sentence would be what the prosecutors were asking for, which is nine and a half years in a word colony. But then you get to
the political side of it when that's all over.
It's up to the leaders of both countries to decide what to do and whether or not to have a prisoner swap. I mean, there could be one, and then what
would it be? Or there could not be one, which would also be a very troubling sign that the United States obviously wants one very much.
This is a big deal in the United States, a lot of public pressure. In Russia and, it is not that much of a big deal. The story has been covered,
of course, but you know, there's not a lot of public pressure in Russia right now Dana. So Putin isn't in as much public pressure or under a lot of
time pressure either.
BASH: But what Putin Jill, if I may is obviously eager to do is to extract something from the U.S. These are not a wonderful times in U.S. Russian
relations. I don't need to tell you or anybody who's not been under a rock for the past year or so. What do you think ask is realistically going to be
from Putin in order to entertain a prisoner swap to get Brittney Griner back to the U.S?
DOUGHERTY: You know, originally with the Viktor Bout potential deal, one man, you know, in the arms dealer a very big deal, you know, for Russia,
but are it right in Russian eyes to trade one man for two Americans?
Because brushes are very big on you know, equal in parity tit for type of thing. So they might approach it as we're not going to give up one person
for two. That's entirely possible. It's that part of it is kind of hard because then you have the situation where Vladimir Putin right now, as you
pointed out, is able to make it very uncomfortable for the Biden Administration. And Putin right now because of this big in overhanging
everything, which is the war in Ukraine.
DOUGHERTY: He doesn't have a lot of ways of making things uncomfortable. Right now, Russia and he are being made uncomfortable with sanctions,
criticism, et cetera. So here's Vladimir Putin's chance to kind of, you know, play hard to get, make it difficult for the Biden Administration.
And he may want to play that out. You know, he may want to give it some time and think it over. And meanwhile, you know, Brittney Griner has to go
through this legal process, because they are going to appeal.
BASH: Yes. I want to bring in CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan. Christine, as you watch this, as you look at this image of Brittney Griner
behind bars they're waiting to hear not the verdict. We know again, she is has been found guilty, but the sentencing.
I wonder what your thoughts are and as you answer that, I just want to sort of inject one thing here, which is that the reason Brittney Griner and
other women are in Russia playing basketball is because they don't get paid anywhere near what the men get paid in the U.S. and that's just what they
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Exactly, Dana. Brittney Griner's salary, the top salary in the WNBA is about $230,000 to $240,000. With
bonuses you can get it up another couple 100,000. The top salary in the NBA is over $40 million so hundreds of thousands for the women and 40 million
is obviously the high range for the NBA for the men.
So yes, they go overseas, they play. It's not just Russia, its China. It's Spain, Italy, and Turkey.
And this is where they can supplement their salaries. And that's what Brittney Griner was doing. Obviously, she was flying into Russia at an
incredibly fraught time, a week before Putin unleashed his horrors on Ukraine.
Nonetheless, she did that. And here she is, and I think you're right to kind of set the scene again Dana to remind everyone, Brittney Griner is six
foot nine. There she sits, six foot nine in that cage. She's a two time Olympic Gold Medalist.
She has represented the nation beautifully, winning two gold medals with the U.S. Women's Basketball Team, the most dominant team in all of sports
internationally worldwide U.S. Women's Basketball. She's one of the stars, and she has won two gold medals for the United States as well as also
playing overseas for the U.S. representing the country in other ways.
Multiple times WNBA All-Star and NCAA Champion at Baylor on and on it go. One of our true sports heroes and it's really hard to look at this and see
that person in that cage.
BASH: So well said seven times all-star you can fact check me on that Christine but seven time all-star is what we have. It's pretty amazing. In
addition to as you said two time Olympic gold medalist.
Standby everybody again we are waiting for the sentencing in this trial and more breaking news into CNN though charges in the case of Breonna Taylor,
we're going to bring that to you next.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST: All right, welcome back! And we're keeping a close eye on Russia this hour where U.S. Basketball Star Brittney Griner has been
found guilty of drug smuggling with intent. The judge is currently reading the verdict out right now.
But we are waiting to hear what her sentence will be and that should be announced any moment now. It is imminent. Currently, we're hearing from the
courtroom and we'll bring you that when we have more information. We're watching very closely on the sentencing and verdict of Brittney Griner
right now happening in Moscow.
In the meantime an unprecedented show of force in the Taiwan Strait, China firing several missiles today into the waters around Taiwan, Chinese state
media showed rockets launching and map tracking them projecting an image of dominance to people in the mainland and on the self-governing Island.
Chinese warplanes and ships are also taking part in the huge live fire military exercises. Taiwan causes a threat to regional peace and other
Asian nations are urging restraints as tension so following a controversial visit to Taipei, by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
We have this cupboard from both sides of the Taiwan Strait we've got Will Ripley in Taipei for us and Selina Wang standing by in Beijing. Will, I
want to start with you, seeing this map seeing these images, so close to Taiwan and seeing the rhetoric behind it. Have we heard from Taiwanese
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-Wen just a short time ago gave his speech where she called these
ballistic missile launches by China and irresponsible act. Now that sentiment is also being echoed in Japan, where they are saying for the
first time, Chinese ballistic missiles have landed in their exclusive economic zone.
These are the waters near Japan, the waters that North Korean missiles have been dumping down into for years. And now though Chinese missiles launched
as well. And these missiles fly over the island where I am right now Taiwan, OK, over the island, not to the side, or, you know, these are -
these are missiles that are flying over people's homes.
And it is a dramatic escalation. It certainly is and Taiwan now is saying that they're going to defend themselves. The irony is not lost on some
people here that Nancy Pelosi gave a speech in Parliament. And she said, you know, we are, you know, our relationship is strong, we are never going
to abandon our friends or our commitment to the people of Taiwan.
Three hours later, she's on the plane, she's out. And the live fire exercises begin. And now Taiwan is left, you know, with these military
drills surrounding the island, basically facing a crisis with potential not only military and political consequences, but also economic consequences if
China continues to sanction Taiwanese exports.
So that's the situation here one day after Nancy Pelosi spent 20 hours on the ground in Taipei, got an award visited people had, you know, really had
a very warm welcome, they rolled out the red carpet for her. And now, missiles are flying from China, towards Taiwan.
GIOKOS: Will, I have to ask you this. Is there any sense? Is there a sense that Taiwan is perhaps collateral damage in this sort of show of force from
both sides? We always know that we've known what China thinks of Taiwan being you know, that they want the One China Policy, and we know the
context there. But is there a sense that perhaps Taiwan is collateral damage here?
RIPLEY: There is oh, sure. I mean, Taiwan has long felt that they're kind of stuck in the middle, and that when things are going great between the
U.S. and China, you know, when they're getting along Taiwan, interests are kind of rushed to the side.
But now that the U.S. and China have had this, you know increasingly adversarial relationship that really began during the years of the
administration of the Former U.S. President Donald Trump. Remember, it was Trump, who authorized the unprecedented sale of some $5 billion in weapons
to Taiwan a couple of years ago.
And so that those tensions have caused you know, the United States to kind of embrace Taiwan.
And it's an issue that really enjoys bipartisan support in one of the most divided times in the United States Capitol that we've ever seen; everybody
Republicans Democrats seems to agree that you know that America is behind Taiwan.
The question is how much is America willing to put into the game here if you know this American outreach provokes China? Now there might be some
that say China was going to do this anyway. It's not if you drop these plans overnight Eleni?
GIOKOS: Yes, absolutely. I want to bring in Selina here because you know, Selina as Will has said you know these missiles are flying over people's
GIOKOS: These are I mean, this is visible, and we saw those images from the shore as well. And it wasn't dissipated because China had what that they
would show their military mites and uses a lot more strong language. I guess the question is when will this end and you had mentioned this to me
earlier that the fear is there might be accidents that could escalate things further?
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to clarify those images we saw earlier, those were filmed by people on the Chinese side in the province
closest to Taiwan. So they were filming, what were those rockets that were being launched into the waters around Taiwan.
So just to clarify on that point, but we know these military drills are going to last for the next several days. But to Will's point, it's not
about the follow in the coming days or the coming weeks, but the coming years.
Because the concern here is that Beijing can use this trip by Pelosi as an excuse to then launch these military drills to do what they're calling a
simulation of a blockade to also continue to escalate their coercion of Taiwan, they've already been upping that coercion from a political economic
regard in the past few years. However, this is now an opportunity to continue that even further. But again, I've been stressing this before
China does not want a direct military conflict. It is not in the best interest of the country.
It's not in the best interest of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. It's about toeing this line where they show a strong message to the world and the
domestic audience while not pushing things over the edge.
WANG (voice over): Missiles firing into the sea around Taiwan. Fighter jets are scrambling to take off and plumes of smoke seen by residents in the
Chinese city closest to Taiwan. The video shows live rockets being fired towards the Taiwan Straits.
Moment later state media confirmed the launch. The woman filming says Wow, we're witnessing history. Beijing is unleashing a show of force on Taiwan
over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island. China's military claims it's starting the largest ever drills around the island.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My teammates and I flew our fighter and headed for the air spaces around the Taiwan Island. We are ready for combat and able to
fight at any time.
WANG (voice over): Define Beijing's threats Pelosi met with Taiwan's president and key lawmakers and business leaders. Crowds of supporters in
Taipei welcomed her.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Taiwan has been an island of resilience and now more than ever, America solidarity with Taiwan is crucial and that is the
message we are bringing here today.
WANG (voice over): China's foreign ministry says the trip is an "outright farce". Taiwan calls this the median line. More than 20 Chinese warplanes
crossed the line the day after Pelosi landed an unprecedented number.
DREW THOMPSON, SCHOLAR, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE: They're demonstrating that they don't recognize Taiwan's lives because they don't
recognize Taiwan. So this is an act of political warfare, psychological warfare and information warfare. It's also a very important signal to
China's own people to demonstrate its resolve.
WANG (voice over): These boxes encircling the island are where Beijing says their military drills are happening. It's a blockade say both Beijing and
Taipei and to major provocation in the eyes of Taiwan and the U.S., but to a lot of Chinese citizens, it's not enough, especially after officials had
hyped up expectations of an unprecedented military response.
Disappointed wrote one person on China's Twitter like platform Weibo, another mocks that its leaders should speak less do more. But far from
speaking fewer officials are issuing one fiery statement after another all condemning Pelosi's trip.
It also banned imports of thousands of food items from Taiwan and suspended exports of natural sand, a key component in semiconductor chips, all of
this rage just over a two day visit.
Pelosi's presence in Taiwan a slap in the face to Beijing, which insists the self-governed Island, is a rebel Chinese province. Pelosi is out of
Taiwan, but she left a crisis behind her. Beijing's retaliation is just getting started.
WANG: Look to most of the world it may seem like this insane overreaction that over just an overnight visit from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, you are
seeing this wide ranging response that spans military political and economic.
But you just cannot overstate how central this Taiwan issue to the very DNA of the Chinese Communist Party and its legitimacy. Kids are taught in grade
school the idea that Taiwan is part of the Motherland that there are foreign forces separatist powers that are keeping it from being reunified.
So this is the reaction that many people in China were looking for. In fact, many people thought it wasn't even enough, Eleni.
GIOKOS: Wow. Selina Wang, thank you so very much. Nancy Pelosi has since moved on from Taiwan and is now in Japan. And she is expected to attend a
breakfast meeting Friday hosted by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and meet with her counterparts in the Japanese parliament earlier in South Korea.
The U.S. House Speaker met with several Korean politicians, including the Speaker of the National Assembly, but she did not meet in person with
President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is currently on vacation. I'm going to break into this we're going to cross over to our U.S. colleagues, the sentencing
of Brittney Griner.
BASH: Fred Pleitgen, Fred, tell us what happened?
PLEITGEN: Hi, Dana. Yes, and it's a pretty harsh sentence. It's a very harsh sentence actually; that the judge has handed down the judge has said
that's obviously said that Brittney Griner is considered to be guilty for criminally trying to bring narcotics into the Russian Federation.
And she's been sentenced to nine years of jail time. And 1 million rubles that's around 16,400 U.S. dollars in a fine as well but of course, nine
years, an extremely long period of time those nine years in the penal colony.
They did say that there were some mitigating circumstances like the fact that she had pleaded guilty that she had admitted her guilt and other
things as well. Obviously, also that she was a high class individual and someone who was very important to the Russian Federation, nevertheless, an
extremely harsh sentence. And I want to read to you just a little bit because also the lawyers for Brittney Griner. They've already voiced their
disappointment; they put out a statement saying we are disappointed by the verdict.
As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone, regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the
evidence of the defense and most importantly, the guilty plea.
So therefore, the defense obviously saying they are extremely disappointed by this verdict. No doubt Brittney Griner will be as well again, nine years
in a penal colony.
One of the things however, that the judges told me Dana, as they walked back into the courtroom before this last session started is they said that
if a verdict like this came down, they were going to go into an appeals process.
And of course, at the same time, of course, we always tell our viewers that there are those efforts by the United States to try and get a prisoner
exchange for Brittney Griner as well, but this certainly an extremely tough verdict.
We had been talking about the fact before those Russian courts are known to be extremely tough, that the conviction rate is very high and certainly the
sentence is very high as well.
But here you have it nine years for Brittney Griner after being convicted of taking two vaping cartridges are trying to take them into the Russian
Federation with what the court established to be point seven of a gram in total between those two cartridges.
And even that was obviously called into question by the defense but nine years very tough sentence for Brittney Griner, Dana.
BASH: It certainly is and Fred standby. I want our viewers to see the moment when the judge actually read the sentence, the maximum sentence the
one the prosecutors asked for nine years in a penal colony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Final verdict is nine years of imprisonment of the 9 million rubles penalty in the penal colony. And she will serve her
term from the date of the announcement of this verdict. At the time when she was behind bars from the 18th of February 2022, will be included in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Jill Dougherty, Former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief is back with us just watching that is, you know its heart wrenching and thinking about all of
the factors in play here, not the least of which is she's 31 years old.
She is somebody who is quite literally at the top of her game and the WNBA. And now she is according to that translation immediately going to go to a
penal colony. I know we're going to talk in a moment about the potential for a prison swap.
But since she's going right now, can you explain to our viewers here around the world? What does that mean? What does a Russian penal colony look like
DOUGHERTY: You know it depends on which one there will be work to be done. Now, it could be harsh work, you know, kind of labor, or it could be making
things kind of like, you know, sewing uniforms and things like that.
We'll have to see exactly where she will be going. But this is really, really sobering. But this is kind of what was expected because of the way
that the Russian law is set up and the fact that very few people are ever exonerated.
And the fact that they said, you know, the guilty verdict was with criminal intent, so the judge is really pushing minor like six months off because of
a few extenuating circumstances. But this is really, really tough.
DOUGHERTY: And now, you know, there are two possibilities. Obviously, they're going to appeal this. But it's really now up to Vladimir Putin.
Because the United States has made it very clear that it wants Brittney Griner out.
And President Biden has made that very clear by the actions that he's taken and the State Department. So now, what's happening behind the scenes? Will
there be a deal? You know, I have Dana, as I'm looking at this, I'm struck by how really dramatic this is.
Because you know, usually, when things like this happen, and they're not that common, but if there's an exchange, it's usually all agreed to behind
the scenes. And sometimes, you know, the world doesn't even know that somebody's arrested, and especially in the spy world, and then there's an
exchange, and then it happens. And the dramatic moment might be, you know, two prisoners walking across a bridge, as happened you know, back in the
old Soviet days.
Here, we're watching Brittney Griner, in that cage, in a prison getting that sentence. So it's really, it's extraordinary. And it's disturbing,
because you'd have that human drama taking place.
And then we have the big picture of, you know, the relations between Russia and the United States, which right now are abysmal. And then overriding
that you have this war going on in Ukraine is quite extraordinary.
BASH: And of course, Jill, all of those things are extraordinarily connected, right? I mean, all those things have to do with the other and
I'm going to bring in Kylie Atwood.
Joe was talking about the fact that this is so visual, so public, and this may be the way they do things in Russia. But it certainly is beneficial
politically, in the mind of Vladimir Putin to show the world that they have an American sports figure who has won two gold medals, who is a seven time
All Star plays for the Phoenix Mercury behind bars in Russia.
ATWOOD: That's right, and not only behind bars, but being sent to this penal colony now, that is hugely significant here. Dana, we had been
discussing that her sentencing could be up to 10 years in prison.
This sentence of nine years in prison is quite remarkable. And I think we obviously will wait to hear from her family and her friends who have been
pushing the Biden Administration to do everything they can to secure her release.
And rest assured that that pushing in those calls are only going to intensify now that we have this sentence in hand. I do think it's important
to note that administration officials are saying that when it comes to a potential prisoner swap, to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and other
American who's wrongfully detained in the country to get them released at the ball is in Russia's court now. They are essentially acknowledging
quietly here that it is Russia, who is going to determine if they're going to accept a deal that the Biden Administration has put on the table; the
Secretary of State is publicly asked for the Russians to accept that deal.
But the Russian foreign minister came back essentially and said we want those negotiations to be quiet telling the Biden Administration to keep
those to the quiet channels.
But, Dana, I do want to note that President Biden has just put out a statement and I think you guys are probably getting that. But I do want to
read that to you because it's significant that the President of the United States has felt a need to put out a statement in the moments following this
nine year sentence for Brittney Griner. And I'll just read that to you to you.
President Biden saying today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence. That is one more reminder of what the world already knew.
Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner. It's unacceptable, and I'll call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife loved
ones, friends and teammates.
My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as
possible. And of course, we'll be waiting to watch how those negotiations to get her home. Ultimately follow after today's sentence.
BASH: Kylie, standby. I want to actually go to the White House CNN's Arlette Saenz is there right now. Kylie read the statement Arlette, what
does it tell you? What are you hearing from your sources in the building there behind you about why it was so important for the President of the
United States to release that statement in minutes after the sentencing was announced?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes Dana, it's very clear that President Biden is trying to stake out his position immediately to
show that the administration is trying to do whatever they can to try to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back to the United States.
You have seen the president released this statement detailing that they are working tirelessly to try to ensure that they are returned back to their
And this comes just almost a month after the president directly spoke with Brittney Griner's wife Cherelle, as well as the family of Paul Whelan
trying to offer them assurances that they are working to get their loved ones home to the United States. And remember, at the beginning of July, the
president actually received a letter directly from Brittney Griner, where she expressed fear over her detainment in Russia.
She had written in that letter directly to the president, "I'm terrified I might be here forever". So what you have seen from the Biden
Administration, over the course of the past few weeks, is trying to show that they are placing utmost priority and getting these Americans home.
That is why they had offered this proposal to Russia for a possible prisoner swap. But now the focus will be on what those negotiations might
Of course, they have said that that counter offer that Russia had previously proposed that that was simply not a serious counter offer. And
now the administration will be working to see what next steps they can try to take to try to get Brittney Griner, as well as Paul Whelan home after
they've been so wrongfully detained in Russia.
BASH: Arlette, we're going to go to Brittney Griner's lawyers right now speaking outside the courthouse.
ELIZABETH ROOD, U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES: --to nine for nothing more than oversight, this is a miscarriage of justice. The US Department of State has
determined that Griner is wrongfully detained nothing in today's decision changes that determination. Together with consular officers from the U.S.
Embassy here in Moscow, I attended every session of this Griner's --.
We remain in frequent contact with Ms. Griner and with her legal team. Secretary of State Blinken, President Biden's national security team, and
the entire American government remain committed to bring in Ms. Griner home safely to her family, friends and loved ones.
And I, as charged affair of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will also do my best to bring her home safely. I will continue to do everything to care for the
safety and well-being of Ms. Griner and of all U.S. citizens detained in the Russian Federation. We have no higher priority. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this still possible to change--
ROOD: I have no further comments. Thank you.
BASH: That was Elizabeth Rood as you heard her say herself the Charge d'Affaires for the U.S. in Moscow. Jill Dougherty, I want to bring you back
in. She said it was a miscarriage of justice, and said that President Biden and the Secretary of State Tony Blinken and the entire American government
remain focused on trying to get her back, get Brittney Griner out of the penal colony that she's apparently going to be headed to momentarily and
back to the U.S.
I want to pick up on something that you mentioned earlier, which is obviously a very complicating factor for the U.S. in these negotiations
that they're going to try to push in earnest now, which is Kiley mentioned, the ball is in Russia's court.
And there is a lot that Vladimir Putin wants right now, when it comes to things to extract from the U.S., how likely is it that he will move these
negotiations outside of the realm of just a prisoner swap and try to get the U.S. to back down on sanctions on, on giving money in arms to Ukraine
and on and on and on?
I mean, there are a lot of things to use a very unsophisticated term that Russia wants.
DOUGHERTY: I don't think that that is going to happen. They are connected. That is, you know, that's the context, but for the United States to stop
giving arms to Ukraine, or stop the sanctions, it's not going to happen.
BASH: It's going to happen. But do you think that totally, totally separate, but do you think Putin will push it anyway?
DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, he, he's kind of, let's say, domestically, perhaps or in the relationship with the United States, sending a message
and pushing famous and getting some of what he wants, which is to put the United States to get back at the United States for what the United States
is doing to Russia.
To show that the United States can't this is all enclosed, but can't push Russia around that they have their own legal system.
DOUGHERTY: And you know, you can't just because you have laws about drugs that aren't that serious, we don't because we are Russia. We have, you
know, our, our traditional values et cetera.
I mean, he's scoring; I would tend to think he thinks he's probably scoring his own points. Now, is that enough for him? And how long will he drag this
out? I think that's would be worrying to me because as this goes on, it's really, really painful.
It would be very painful to see Brittney Griner go off to a penal colony, and not know whether there's really a deal.
So the answer to that I think really is only in Putin's mind and heart of how far he wants to push this. But you know, I think he realizes some of
the reality of this, I don't think Ukraine is going to change.
But you know, he may be satisfied with just a period of really, you know, making it difficult for the Biden Administration. Draghi is out and playing
hard to get until the end.
BASH: Fred Pleitgen, I want to go back to you on the ground in Moscow. You've been covering this since February, when this happened? What are your
thoughts? And what are you hearing from sources there?
PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, first of all, I think the initial thought is that Brittney Griner's defense team is obviously extremely disappointed by the
outcome of this trial. And you could hear that in the original statement that they put out where they said that they believed that none of the
arguments that they put forward were really taken into account by the court.
And you know, as you're absolutely right, we have been covering what's been going on with Brittney Griner, basically, since it was announced that she
had been detained since it was announced by the U.S. that they believe that she is wrongfully detained.
And throughout that process, you could see the defense buildup a strategy where they were trying to get a more lenient verdict. And they throughout
that process kept telling me that they believe that they were managing to do that, as well as possible, she had pleaded guilty.
She had said that it was a mistake she'd shown respect for the Russian courts. They brought in character witnesses to say how important Brittney
Griner is not just internationally to basketball, but specifically to the town of Yekaterinburg, where she has been playing for more than six years.
They brought in the manager of the team in Yekaterinburg and players from Yekaterinburg, to testify to the fact that Brittney Griner is a high
character individual, someone who is very good for the team, and someone who wants to forward basketball in Russia and make it more popular.
So and then on top of that, they also tried to call into question some of the forensics that were done as well saying that some of the measurements
that were taken on those cartridges might not have been up to the scientific standards that would be necessary to convict someone in a court
So they had believed that they were on a good track, but they always caveat that by saying you have to keep in mind that in Russian court, sometimes
all of that gets cast aside and you get a really tough verdict.
And it's clearly what they believe has happened right now. And that's also why they are saying that they're going to go into revision you can see
behind me already, by the way, press lining up there.
We do expect that the lawyers are going to come out in just a couple of minutes, maybe a couple of seconds are probably still with Brittney Griner
there inside the courthouse right now, Dana.
BASH: And Fred, since you have been in touch with the defense for all these months, let's just get real. How much of this is because she is a six foot
nine, black, lesbian American?
PLEITGEN: Well, I think that the last part, especially being an American is obviously one of the big issues. And certainly something that may have led
to a tougher verdict here. Of course, we of course, always have to say that, you know, especially someone who is lesbian or gay here in Russia has
a really, really tough time whether or not that makes a big difference in a court of law.
It is something that's up for debate, but it's certainly something where if you look for instance, Russian media, that is something that is not looked
very positively upon here in a lot of public society, and certainly in Russian state run media, whether or not that played a role is really
difficult to say.
But, you know, that defense team definitely understood that this was an uphill battle, that this was very difficult for them, and that the odds
were definitely stacked against Brittney Griner, maybe for the reasons that you just mentioned, but baby for sorts, all sorts of other reasons as well,
it was definitely going to be difficult for them.
And I still do believe judging from the first statement that I saw from the legal defense team, and having had conversations with them beforehand, they
will be exceptionally disappointed in the verdict that we just heard, because if you look at the details of the verdict, you look at the nine
years that she got.
Essentially what the court did is they completely followed what the prosecution wanted. The prosecution asked for nine and a half years,
Brittney Griner has already been into tension since February 17 she's has been in detention for about five months.
PLEITGEN: And then they put nine years on top of that, that she's going to have to stay in a penal colony if there's not some other resolution on a
political scale or if they go into revision and have a success, which of course would be against all the odds as well. So the defense certainly
extremely disappointed, Dana.
BASH: So Fred, you've been talking about the defense we expect to hear from the defense any minute now. We're going to take a quick break, don't go
anywhere. We will be watching for that. Stay with us.
BASH: We are monitoring events in Moscow waiting to see if the defense attorneys for Brittney Griner come out while we do. We're monitoring some
big developments in the Alex Jones defamation trial.
His legal team is asking for a mistrial. A Texas jury is deliberating right now they are deciding if the Infowars host must pay $150 million to parents
of Sandy Hook School victim shooting, excuse me, school shooting victim.
Six year old Jesse Lewis for "reckless lies", Joe Jones told about that massacre. Now Jones admitted in court that the shooting was not a hoax.
CNN's Drew Griffin has been following the trial and joins us now.
So Drew, deliberations come after a shocking day in court on Wednesday. What can you tell us about that, but most recently, the fact that Jones is
requesting a mistrial?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it all seems out of this sub plot that just popped up yesterday. In closing
arguments are actually they're closing cross examination. When the plaintiff's attorneys those two parents attorneys Mark Bankston hit Jones
over the head with the fact that Jones's own attorney apparently inadvertently leaked Jones's text messages to the attorney.
That was something that Jones had been saying all through this process that he did not have. So Jones was caught in a lie. But then we learned today
Dana that the January 6 committee has asked for those text messages.
Now, it's because of the disclosure of those text messages that Jones's attorney asked for the mistrial, which, by the way, was denied. But we're
still trying to deal with this subplot, which is the January 6 Committee is suddenly very interested in this defamation trial that's happening in
And that's because the defendant in this case, which is Alex Jones, was intimately involved in January 6, as you know, he was involved with stop
the steel, he pushed the lie of the elections.
He got his viewers to the Capitol, he actually was at the Capitol, he led a march to the Capitol. And he is a very big supporter and friend might quite
frankly of Oathkeeper Stewart Rhodes.
So it's interesting to see and very logical to see what the January 6 committee would want those text messages. The question is now, will they
get them? The judge is trying to decide what to do because obviously, this just came out of the clear blue sky yesterday and was dropped on this
judge's lap right in Austin, Texas. BASH: It sure was in Drew. You mentioned the January 6 subplot; first of all, there are a lot of subplots
going on here. You've done some excellent reporting. You have a special that's going to be on tomorrow night.
What do you think the January 6 committee can get out of the newly revealed batch of text messages that could add to their investigation based on your
GRIFFIN: Well, Alex Jones based on our reporting, and based on Alex Jones, bragging quite frankly, said he was very much involved in financing or
getting the financing for Donald Trump's rally on the ellipse that day.
He was also very instrumental in promoting the idea of a January 6 gathering in Washington. He was also Dana, basically his show Infowars is
where Stewart Rhodes and Oathkeepers you could say got its start.
And we know that some 20 people connected involved are following Alex Jones were all arrested on that day as part of the January 6 insurrection. So I
think what the January 6 Committee would be interested in looking at is, what they're looking at with all of these people.
Where and if there was any kind of collusion, planning, plotting anything that would illustrate that there was some advanced planning for what took
place at the Capitol on January 6.
And if it has links to other groups, other people other insurrection groups that are now charged, like Stewart Rhodes, who's charged with some fairly
serious charges, so I think that's the kind of connections they'll be looking for.
The one caveat is, we don't really know the parameters of where the timeline of where these text messages were. Jones's attorney said they were
from late 2019 to early 2020, that could be somewhat limiting if it's true.
BASH: Drew Griffin, thank you for that reporting. Thank you for joining us on a very, very busy morning here at CNN. I mentioned that we are waiting
for Brittney Griner's attorneys to come speak outside the courthouse in Moscow. We will bring that to here at CNN when that happens. Don't go away,
"Inside Politics" with John King starts after a break.