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Erin Burnett Outfront

Twenty-One-Year-Old Pentagon Leak Suspect Charged In Court; Supreme Court Extends Abortion Pill Access While It Considers The Case; Biden Asked About 2024 Decision: "My Plans Is To Run Again"; Docs: Suspected Killer Drove Cash App Founder To "Secluded Area"; U.S. Official Vows To "Find A Way" To Free Americans From Russia. Aired 7- 8p ET

Aired April 14, 2023 - 19:00   ET




The first court appearance for the suspect accused of leaking classified documents, as we're learning details tonight about how Jack Teixeira was able to access such crucial information.

Plus, the Supreme Court weighing in on the fight to essentially ban an abortion drug tonight, temporarily restoring full access to that widely used pill. But for how long?

Also tonight, a possible motive in the murder of a top tech executive. Prosecutors revealing the stabbing came after an argument over a personal relationship. San Francisco's district attorney is my guest.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erica Hill, in tonight for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight: Beware the quiet man. Those are believed to be the words of Jack Teixeira. He's the 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts air national guard who is now accused of leaking hundreds of highly classified Pentagon documents. That ominous passage, appearing on a gaming profile reportedly linked to Teixeira, who today made his first court appearance in Massachusetts.

Handcuffed, wearing a beige prison outfit, Teixeira was charged with two counts in connection to that leak, and tonight, we're learning more about how he was able to access that highly sensitive information. An official telling CNN, Teixeira underwent a, quote, very rigorous background check. Though President Biden today, saying more needs to be done in order to keep America's secrets out of the hands of potential leakers, writing in a statement: I've directed our military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information. That's the day after the president downplayed that leak.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said his agency takes intelligence breaches extremely seriously.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is not just about taking home documents. That is, of course, itself illegal, but this is about the transmission, both the unlawful retention and the transmission of the documents. There's very serious penalties associated with that.


HILL: Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT live at the Pentagon.

So, Oren, I know you've been doing some digging, looking more into Teixeira's background. What are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Erica, over the course of the past 24 hours. We've had a chance not only to look at Jack Teixeira's online profile on different social media sites and gaming platforms, but also we've had the chance to speak with some of his former classmates, who paint a picture of the main suspect behind these leaked documents that forced the Pentagon to look at how and to whom it disseminates top secret information and review of everything about how these sorts of documents are handled.

Take a look.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In a federal courtroom in Boston, 21-year- old Jack Teixeira faced his legal fate for the first time, charged through the Espionage Act with unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents and national security information.

The airman first class at the center of an investigation into a leak of top secret information. In court, his father yelled out, "Love you, Jack". The response, "Love you, too, Dad".

Outside the courthouse, Teixeira's family thrust into the spotlight with national security interests at stake, said nothing. Teixeira was an IT specialist with the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He enlisted before graduating high school. His senior year photo quote that now appears prophetic actions: Speak louder than words.

He's had a top secret clearance since 2021 and access to sensitive, compartmentalized information, in a job that requires a lifetime binding nondisclosure agreement.

GARLAND: People who sign agreements to be able to receive classified documents acknowledge the importance to the national security of not disclosing those documents, and we intend to send that message, how important it is to our national security.

LIEBERMANN: One day earlier and one hour south, Teixeira was spotted on his back porch, reading a book. Moments later, an FBI tactical team closed in on to Teixeira, taking him into custody outside his house. Those who knew him growing up, described him as a bit of a loner, and into guns. BROOKE CLEATHERO, FORMER CLASSMATE OF JACK TEIXEIRA: He doesn't have

a lot of friends. But like some of the friends he did have or also kind of in the same boat as him in a way, but people are just wary of them.

LIEBERMANN: But on Discord, an online platform frequently used by gamers, Teixeira built his own group of friends and followers. He's believed to be the head of a chat server named Thug Shaker Central.


Court documents allege that late last year, he began sharing classified information. A user in the chat group telling the FBI at first, it was just a paragraph of texts and then photographs of documents that contained what appeared to be classification markings.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The fact is, it's quite easy to do if you are a person who has decided to violate your oath, to violate the training and the rules that you operate under and to proactively make a decision to break the law.

LIEBERMANN: In the days before his arrest, court documents say Teixeira used his government computer to search classified intelligence reporting for the word "leak" on attempt to find out if investigators were on to him.


LIEBERMANN (on camera): After Teixeira's first court appearance today, he'll have a detention hearing on Wednesday. Erica, this whole process has moved rather quickly, basically a week from President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin being alerted to this, to the arrest and now the prosecution of Teixeira moving forward.

HILL: Yeah, quickly indeed. Oren Liebermann, appreciate the reporting tonight. Thank you.

OUTFRONT now, former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. He's also a retired Air Force lieutenant general director.

Director Clapper, always good to see you.

You know, as we mentioned at the top of the show, President Biden today saying he directed the military and intelligence community to further secure and limit the distribution of sensitive information. DOD has already said that it's working on that.

You said, though, access isn't necessarily the issue here. So what is the issue?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Erica, I think the real issue here is not tightening up of admin procedures but rather, you know, the reliance on the fact that the whole system is built on personal trust. And we've had egregious violations that personal trust in the past. We have one now and regrettably, we're going to have them in the future because the weak link or the strong link, depending on your point of view in all this are people. And, it's very difficult to build the perfect mousetrap to ensure that people don't change their minds about things or changing philosophy over time.

And so, I think, yeah, that's a -- that's a understandable directive to tighten up how -- how data is distributed. And, of course, this is in stark contrast to post-9/11, a little history here, where the intelligence community was severely criticized for not sharing and not disseminating fully information. So the pendulum will swing back and forth.

HILL: So as that swings, though, to your point about building the perfect mousetrap, even in lieu of a perfect mousetrap, it struck me that they're at least as far as we know today didn't seem to be any oversight, the fact that, again, as far as we know at this point, no one was watching what he was doing with this clearance.

Should there be some oversight there. Is their oversight we don't know about?

CLAPPER: Well, there is, although it is uneven across the entirety of the intelligence community, some components held a very effective and aggressive program for continuous amount of monitoring of their employees. Other parts of it do not.

This is a new concept where some effort is made to continually evaluate, continually monitor employees throughout the intelligence community. So, one of the things I think one of the things that need to be looked at is the extent to which his supervisors were watching what he was doing.

But there are limits to that. Even people work in the intelligence community or entitled to some privacy. And so, if you think that being more invasive about what the intelligence community employees whether military civilian are doing and then you want to investigate them more -- well, you need to think about the morale impacts on them -- 99.9 percent and more of the intelligence community members are loyal, patriotic citizens wouldn't dream of doing what's happened here.

But the problem is you have one aberration among the tens of thousands of people who work in intelligence. Then, you have an issue, and the and the danger is, in my view, overreacting.

HILL: Dangerous overreacting, of course. The other danger is it only takes one person, potentially, to cause a great deal of damage.

We have heard so much about the concerns in not only the information being out there, but the impact that that has on the intel community, on the military, on allies.

And then you have at least one member of Congress, and I'm not going to put that up, but at least one member of Congress praising his actions.

[19: 10:03]

When you hear that, when you hear that type of reaction, to know that an elected official would be cheering this leak, what's your reaction?

CLAPPER: Well, for somebody that's spent 50-plus years in the intelligence community, I find that despicable. I really do, you take an oath, when you enter into public service, whether military civilian, you sign agreements that you'll abide by the rules and protect classified information.

So, for some a member of Congress to encourage that sort of act -- action I think is terrible.

Director Clapper, always appreciate your insight, your expertise. Thank you.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: OUTFRONT now, retired Lieutenant Colonel David Coombs. He was the lead trial attorney for Chelsea Manning, who was a 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst when she stole and leaked more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks. It was WikiLeaks. It was done in protest.

Good to have you with us tonight.

So, Teixeira is facing two federal charges tonight, more could be added. Based on the evidence that's been laid out in that affidavit or the information I should say that was laid out in that affidavit. What are you expecting to see here?

LT. COL. DAVID COOMBS (RET.), LEAD TRIAL ATTORNEY FOR CHELSEA MANNING: Well, I do think the complaint here was just the first draft. The prosecutors clearly were trying to do this as quickly as possible, given the fact they had to do the arrest. I would not be surprised to see a lot more charges coming down the road when they do the subsequent indictment.

HILL: So, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her sentence later commuted by President Obama. If convicted, could Jack Teixeira be looking at, would you expect a similar sentence?

COOMBS: I don't think so. I -- again, the Manning case dealt with hundreds of thousands of documents. This by all accounts is somewhere in the neighborhood of hundreds, so I would not anticipate anything near 35 years, because quite frankly, that was an outrageous, um, sentence, which even President Obama thought was too harsh and commuted the sentence.

So I would think that it would be something much less than that.

HILL: The attorney general said he intends to send a message here. What do you think that message is? What do you what do you expect that will translate to?

COOMBS: I don't think there's a message that you really can send, and it's -- and it's kind of sad that this 21-year-old might be used to send a message because no one remembers the message. If they did, you wouldn't have these constant leaks. I think the problem here is just very young individuals getting access

to information that they really shouldn't have. And in this case, this guy is an IT person, somebody who's working on computers, making sure the system works. There has no reason to be reading anything and shouldn't have had any of this access.

So that the fix here is not to send a message with this young man. The fix is to kind of rein in how much we allow young soldiers to see.

HILL: So, you think it's essentially an age --

COOMBS: -- more security controls.

HILL: -- essentially an age issue because large numbers you know of the military, there are a large number of young members of the military who do have similar clearance or one step below?


HILL: Is it -- is it their age you think that's the biggest issue?

COOMBS: Well, you think about this -- 21-year-old person, we barely entrust them to be able to buy alcohol. At that point, that's the point that they can actually purchase a beer. So now we're giving them a top secret compartmentalized information access.

I do think that the military really should look at least certain rank restrictions. Somebody who's been in the military for a couple of years should not have access to this. It should be somebody who's been in the military for at least four or five years, somebody who's probably a noncommissioned officer, as opposed to a junior enlisted soldier.

HILL: Really quickly before I let you go. Manning was convicted by court martial but for now, Teixeira's case is in federal court. No comment from the AG about whether that may extend. How do you see that playing out?

COOMBS: I'm sorry. My earpiece fell. Can you say that question?

HILL: I was just going to say, Manning was convicted by court martial. Do you anticipate that to share his case will stay in federal court?

COOMBS: I think for Teixeira's hopes, it should stay there because that's going to be the place where he probably will fare the best chance at a decent sentence in the military. You just heard there, you know, previous individual, talk about the oath and how everyone takes it very seriously in the military, and that, I think is true. You're going to have military members who view this as a very big betrayal of trust. So his better hope is to stay in the federal system.

HILL: Lieutenant Colonel David Coombs, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

COOMBS: Thank you, Erica. HILL: OUTFRONT next, the Supreme Court extending access to one of the

most common abortion drugs without any restrictions, but temporarily. So what happens next?

Plus, some of the biggest names in the Republican Party coming together to tout their support for the Second Amendment just days after two more mass shootings? Is that a gamble?

And the Biden administration responding after Paul Whelan's sister demanded the White House take charge and get her brother out of Russia now. She's my guest.


HILL: Tonight, a widely used abortion pill remains accessible after the Supreme Court paused further action until next week. Both the DOJ and the company that makes mifepristone had asked the high court to intervene here rather than letting the appeals process play out.

Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.

So, Jessica, what happens now?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, right now, it is actually status quo for the abortion pill. So, all of those restrictions that the FDA feared will not be going into effect, at least for now. So that means that women up to 10 weeks pregnant they will still be able to obtain the drugs, as opposed to it being reduced to seven weeks. And women can now still also get the drug after a telehealth visit with their doctor, as opposed to in person, they can still obtain mifepristone by mail.

But what's interesting here, today's order by Justice Alito, it doesn't end the legal battle completely. Essentially, this is the Supreme Court, kicking the decision down the road to Wednesday night, to then determine on Wednesday night if the restrictions will take effect.


So we are yet again in another waiting game to see what next steps the Supreme Court takes. It's quite possible, Erica, the Supreme Court next week will once again pause the changes to the abortion pill and just let this case play out at the appeals court since the Fifth Circuit has really already said a very fast paced schedule.

So we'll see the waiting game is on yet again.

HILL: Yeah, the clock starts again, now keep ticking down to Wednesday. Separately, I also wanted to ask you about this focus on Justice Clarence Thomas. There's a watchdog group now calling on Chief Justice Roberts and the attorney general to investigate Thomas over his relationship with the Republican megadonor, Democratic lawmakers also pushing for an ethics investigation.

Is there any indication any of that is going to happen? SCHNEIDER: It's unclear. These calls are definitely growing. The latest one is from CREW, that Citizens for Ethics and Responsibilities.

So they're requesting that Justice Thomas be investigated for these alleged ethics violations. And this group -- they're just the latest calling for action against Justice Thomas because, of course, this latest report from "ProPublica" was that this Republican mega donor bought three properties from Thomas in 2014 for more than $100,000 and Thomas never disclosed this as in any forms, experts say he should have.

And this, of course, was the same Republican megadonor who took Justice Thomas and his wife on these lavish vacations. "ProPublica" saying nearly every year for a decade.

Interestingly, Erica, we did see Justice Thomas on the bench of the Supreme Court today when they issued opinions, but he has made no comment. No comment coming from him on this latest property sale report, nothing from the chief justice either, but the calls are growing. Even Democratic Senator Sheldon White House of the Judiciary Committee, calling on the Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate these alleged ethics violations unclear what happens next or if we'll get any comment from Justice Thomas about this latest report -- Erica.

HILL: I know you'll be on top of it. You will let us know. Jessica Schneider, appreciate it. Thank you.

OUTFRONT next, this just in: President Biden addressing questions about when he plans to announce whether he'll run for reelection.

Plus, Elon Musk, responding after San Francisco's D.A. slammed with the billionaire while announcing an arrest in the murder of a top tech executive. San Francisco's district attorney is my guest.



HILL: This just in: President Biden saying he has made his calculus already on whether or not he will run again in 2024. Take a Listen to these remarks just before departing Ireland.


REPORTER: Can you tell us whether the last few days, you have changed their calculus on when you make an announcement on your plans for 2024?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, no. I -- I've already made that calculus. We'll announce it relatively soon.

But the trip here just reinforced my sense of optimism about what can be done.

REPORTER: So you've made a decision, you just have to announce it?

BIDEN: I told you: my plan is to run again.


HILL: OUTFRONT now, David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama, and Scott Jennings, who was special assistant to former President George W. Bush.

Gentlemen, nice to see you both tonight.

Perhaps not surprisingly, David Axelrod, I'm throwing this first one to you, my friend. So we hear from the president here, he had said earlier this week: I plan on running. We're not prepared to announce it. Now he has done the calculus he intends to run. How much longer can President Biden draw this out?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he can draw it out as long as he wants until it becomes, you know, a matter of filing, and as long as he's sending signals that he's going to run -- I mean, the really difficult situation would be as if he drew it out and then decided not to run. But every signal he's sending to people in the Democratic Party is that he is running and he plans to run and he will announce it.

And in that case, there is a certain logic to wait. There are legal requirements of him once he becomes a candidate, and just politically, it's better to be president as long as you can be president as well. And as long as you can -- you have time to put your campaign together.

And he -- that's the calculus I think he's making. What is that sweet spot where I need to announce, but -- and still have time to put the campaign and the money together I need to run.

HILL: So, how long can you be president before you become president/candidate?

AXELROD: Exactly.

HILL: Scott, when you look at this, what's your over/under on an announcement, when that will happen?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I would say relatively soon. But, as David pointed out, he does have the luxury of not really being pushed. I think there was a period of time when you know, some folks thought maybe there would be progressives or younger candidates that would push him. That's not going to happen. He is going to be the Democratic Party nominee.

It's interesting, you know, the most unifying political opinion in the United States right now is that we don't want a rematch between Biden and Trump. But the two parties right now it appears are going to give the American people exactly what they don't want, a rematch between Biden and Trump.

Biden's going to run and he'll be the nominee and Trump's leading the Republicans. And so, if you're somebody out there who wanted fresh -- fresh blood in this campaign, right now, the political system is not meeting the market demand.

HILL: Right, if the -- if it were today, yes. It does in fact look like it's those two, and to that point, Donald Trump's inner circle -- I mean, we've seen the attacks on DeSantis, but they are really going all in at this point, most recently going after Governor DeSantis for being out of state when Fort Lauderdale was dealing with this historic rainfall and the flooding. DeSantis was in Ohio, then did make it back to Florida last night to sign into law six-week abortion ban before heading to Virginia and New Hampshire today.

David, this can be tough if he does decide to run for president, you're running a state but you're going to be out doing things. How much of a liability, David, could this be for Ron DeSantis?

AXELROD: Well, look, it's going to get harder once he becomes an active candidates, now in this book tour who's out of state for this. I think the -- you know, I don't think much of the attacks on him here because the state apparently responded the way it should.


He was in touch with the people he should have been in touch with, signed the declarations that needed to be signed.

But it's going to be hard to be a full time candidate and a full time governor. When you're in the Congress, you know, you're one of many. And so, yes, you missed votes, that becomes an issue. But when you're the chief executive of a state at some -- somewhat different. So that's that could be problematical down the line.

Right now, I don't think much of this attack against him in this particular instance.

HILL: Scott, late last night, staying on the topic of Ron DeSantis with actually very little fanfare, he signed into law this bill that would ban most abortions in Florida after six weeks. Now, there are some limited and I would stress the word limited here, exceptions for victims of rape, incest, human trafficking.

What stood out to me is that he didn't mention it during his speech at Liberty University today, one of the largest evangelical universities in the world. It was mentioned when he was introduced, but he didn't bring it up. There's a new poll from "Reuters" and Ipsos, which shows half of all Americans would oppose a national six week abortion ban, 44 percent of Republicans say they oppose it.

Could this bill, Scott, be a problem for Ron DeSantis if he does decide for to run for president?

JENNINGS: I don't think so, because I think all the Republicans are going to maybe with the exception of Trump are going to run as largely pro-life candidates. I do think in the general election --

(CROSSTALK) HILL: There's a difference between running as pro-life, though, and limiting abortion at six weeks when most women don't even know they're pregnant.

JENNINGS: Well, we have six week laws in several states, including Georgia, Ohio, Texas, I think where Republicans were overwhelmingly re-elected, last year. So it hasn't been an electoral problem for some Republican governors.

But my point is this: all these candidates are going to run as pro- life. They may have some differing opinions about what the contours of that should look like around the margins, and none of it's going to matter because whether you're a liberal, a moderate or a conservative on life issues, the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, and the Democrats are going to paint you as an extremist on the issue. You could come out as the most moderate Republican in history on abortion, and they're still going to say, you'll take us back to the 1850s.

And so, at some level, this is a moot issue because of the way the campaign is going to be conducted against the eventual Republican nominee next year, whether it's Trump to scientists or anyone else.

HILL: David, is this a moot issue? It seems to be a rallying cry for Democrats.

AXELROD: Look, the person who might have disagreed with Scott was Ron DeSantis himself, who touted the 15-week -- the 15-week ban in Florida and then was basically bullied into a six-week ban that he signed in the middle of the night without much fanfare, and as you point out, didn't even herald today in his speech.

So he obviously has some concerns that this is not going to be a help to him in the election, and I think overall, the issue of abortion rights is a -- is a burden for the Republican Party. You saw what happened in the Supreme Court race in Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago , where a progressive candidate was running against the conservative candidate, nonpartisan, but clearly, there were partisan implications to it.

And the progressive candidate who is pro-abortion rights won by 10 points in that race, in a state that Joe Biden only carried by 20,000 votes. This abortion rights issue is a huge problem for the Republican Party.

HILL: David Axelrod, Scott Jennings, always good to see you both. Thank you.


AXELROD: Good to see you.

HILL: OUTFRONT next, new and surprising details tonight about what may have led to the fatal stabbing of the top tech executive in San Francisco. The city's district attorney is with us next.

Plus, new concerns about the health of top critic Alexey Navalny as we're seeing an image of him for the first time since reports that he is being slowly poisoned.



HILL: Tonight, a planned and deliberate attack. That is how just released court documents described the murder of Cash App founder Bob Lee. Prosecutors say this man Nima Momeni drove Lee to a dark, secluded area before stabbing him multiple times with a kitchen knife. The fatal blow was a stab wound to the heart. Lee's murder sparked outrage, much of it directed at San Francisco City officials over crime in that city, including attacks from Elon Musk.

OUTFRONT now, San Francisco district attorney, Brooke Jenkins.

It's good to have you with us tonight. I'll ask you about those criticisms in just a moment, but first, I would love to touch on these new details if we could, that we have tonight from you, about the murder of Bob Lee.

So we've been told that Bob Lee and the suspect Nima Momeni knew one another. Why do you believe that Momeni killed Bob Lee? What was his motive?

BROOKE JENKINS, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: At this point, we're not going to specifics about what we believe the motive in -- a motive is and, of course, we still have an ongoing and active investigation. What we do know is that the two men appeared to have been connected through Mr. Momeni sister, and that she is somebody that that Mr. Lee knew for some time and that he was in her home prior to the murder, and that's where the two men were together before they left her apartment.

HILL: Is there any or more information about what transpired between the two men prior to the stabbing?

JENKINS: What we know is a text message that Mr. Momeni sister sent to Mr. Lee the following morning after his death. Of course, she was not aware that he was dead. It doesn't appear.

She indicates that there had been some type of issue in that Mr. Momeni was upset at Mr. Lee.

HILL: And is there any further information on what may have led to him being upset that you can tell us?

JENKINS: What we know is that earlier that evening, there had been a conversation, a telephone conversation between Mr. Lee and Mr. Momeni, in which Mr. Momeni was upset with Mr. Lee about something to do with his sister, asking about whether or not she had used drugs or anything that happened to her. And so, it appears that perhaps his frustrations were connected maybe to that conversation that it happened earlier that evening.

HILL: We're going to continue to stay on that story. A lot of those details in what was released earlier tonight. So thank you for walking through those with us.

I know you and your office have received some harsh criticism about the crime in San Francisco. Elon Musk calling the situation horrific in the wake of Bob Lee's murder.


You addressed him directly when you announce that murder charge yesterday. You called his initial statements reckless, irresponsible and misleading.

He doubled down on crime in the city today, especially around Twitter headquarters tweeting. It's, quote, outrageous that city officials with claim that it is not dangerous.

What's your message to Elon Musk?

JENKINS: My message is that since taking over, I've acknowledged that we have a public safety issue. Of course, our city voters decided that they wanted to recall the previous D.A. because they didn't feel that he was living up to the job of district attorney and keeping them safe. I came in as a former prosecutor, saying, I believe that we should have accountability. I believe that we need to address the ongoing problems that are on our streets.

And so, for him to tweet anything otherwise about me or my office, releasing violent and repeat offenders couldn't be further from the truth. I also like I said, cautioned anyone from making from entering into speculation or assumptions about what led to Mr. Lee's murder.

We cannot control targeted killings. Those are things that happen anywhere , but of course, I do acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do with respect to public safety in this city.

HILL: Just real quickly for folks at home, police department data shows homicides are up 36 percent since 2019, a 23 percent increase in property crimes in 2020 and 2022.

As you said today, this was a targeted killing. But it doesn't mean there isn't more work to do from a public safety standpoint. What is that focus tonight?

JENKINS: For me since taking over in July, it's been dealing with a really out of control, drug dealing problem that we have in our downtown area. We saw a period of time where Asian-Americans were under repeated violent attacks in our city. We had rampant retail theft. All of those remain issues that we still need to address.

And so, that's why I said, I've stepped in to say I'm going to work as a partner with our San Francisco police department and make sure that anyone who commits crime in this city faces actual consequences.

HILL: District Attorney Jenkins, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you.

JENKINS: Thank you. HILL: OUTFRONT next, the family of Paul Whelan, who's being

wrongfully detained in Russia, speaking out like you've never heard them before.

Paul's sister is my guest next.

And a startling new image tonight of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny.



HILL: Tonight, the Biden administration's top hostage negotiator is vowing to Americans wrongfully detained in Russia, Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, will be brought home.


ROGER CARSTENS, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: But we're not taking our foot off the gas. We're going to find a way to bring Paul and Evan home. But I want you to know that Evans and Paul -- and I'm going to say, Paul, because I've been working on this case for so long, they're front and center in our mind. We are going to find a way to get this done.


HILL: Well, that promise just a few hours ago, comes after Paul Whelan sister voice frustration that her brother has now spent more than four years in Russian custody.


ELIZABETH WHELAN, SISTER OF PAUL WHELAN: We need the White House to take charge and get the upper hand with the likes of the Kremlin. We need some street smarts applied here. Will the White House get played by the Russians again? Or will they bring to bear the full force of American ability and put a stop to this hostage diplomacy for once and for all? The job is to get Paul Whelan home.


HILL: OUTFRONT now, Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan.

And so, Elizabeth, you and I have spoken a number of times about getting Paul home about your efforts. I have to say that video that you posted today, that felt different to me. I felt a different level of frustration from you.

What changed?

WHELAN: Well, I think the shock of seeing Evan arrested for the same -- with the same charges of espionage. You know, we're only a couple of weeks out from the one year mark from Trevor Reed coming home, leaving Paul behind, over four months since Brittney Griner came home, leaving Paul behind.

We don't want to see it happen again. It -- I don't even know what we would do if that happened again. So I have to do everything in my power to get the U.S. government to use every tool to try to get Paul home.

HILL: Evan's been there for just a little over two weeks, I believe. Does that impact at all your efforts to get Paul home?

WHELAN: I don't know. We will -- I really don't know. I'm not sure the U.S. government knows that, and we're just trying to focus on Paul's situation. He has been there so long. He's trying to stay strong, but that's a daily struggle for him, every day to try to be positive and hope -- he knows about Evan's case -- hope that that isn't going to mean he has left behind for a third time.

HILL: After you met with President Biden in September, you said you had, quote, complete faith that the White House was fully engaged using the tools at their disposal to bring Paul home, but based on what we just heard from you, and that video earlier today, it doesn't sound like you feel that way tonight.

WHELAN: It's so difficult because there are so many very good and smart and passionate people working on this case, and I don't want to diminish that in any way whatsoever. But the fact is, Paul is still in a Russian prison, and if we have to do more, we have to do more. He cannot stay there. We have to bring him home.

HILL: Nearly four years, we talk about Evan's been there, maybe two weeks. "The Wall Street Journal" just published a short time ago a portion of a handwritten letter that he sent to his family dated April 5th.

He writes, quote: I want to say I'm not losing hope. I read. I exercise. I'm trying to maybe finally, I'm going to write something good. He makes some jokes in the letter.

You have received notes from Paul. You've spoken with him on the phone. What does it feel like in those moments when you get that correspondence, when you have a moment of his time?

WHELAN: Well, it's very -- it's very odd, because when Paul was at Lefortovo, we were not able to communicate with him by phone for 19 months, we didn't hear his voice and letters would come six months later. So even, now, my parents received some letters a couple of weeks ago. They were written in September.

Luckily, we have short phone calls and that sort of thing to help, but his frustrations were the only people who can talk to about this.


He has short phone calls. To be living in a prison camp like he is and wondering when someone is going to come and get him, we just feel compelled to speak out for him. HILL: Evans family is speaking out for the first time since his arrest. His parents, of course, fled the Soviet Union. One of the things his mother said today is that she -- one of the things she adopted in America, and I'm paraphrasing.

But she said, what are the qualities she absorbed was to be optimistic, basically saying, I'm not stupid. I know what's going on here. But I'm choosing to be optimistic.

Are you still optimistic?

WHELAN: Oh, yes. You have to keep your optimism, but you have to keep realism as well. I think that Evan's family can see where Paul is and what's going on and how long he's been there, and they understand the system.

It means that both of our families have to press the U.S. government to use every possible tool that there is to get these men home.

HILL: Elizabeth Whelan, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you.

WHELAN: Thank you.

HILL: Well, we are also tonight getting our first glimpse of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The first glimpse since fears emerged that he is being slowly poisoned. Navalny looking gaunt as he appeared in a Russian courtroom today. The hearing comes as his close friend and associate says his condition is critical right now.

Navalny's team said earlier this week the opposition leader has been experiencing severe stomach issues and they fear he is being slowly poisoned again.

Coming up on "AC360", a man convicted of fatally shooting a Black Lives Matter protester and Texas Governor Greg Abbott wants a pardon this as shocking new details have emerged about that convicted killer more on that tonight at 8:00.

Up next here, the dangerous and deadly trek to America like you have never seen before. Nick Paton Walsh spent five days walking and walking this treacherous trail. He's up next.



HILL: Tonight, God help me. Those are the words of a migrant, one of thousands on the treacherous journey through the Darien Gap. It's a trail connecting South and Central America tracked by migrants headed for the U.S. There are no roads, just jungle.

Our Nick Paton Walsh walked that entire trail with his team alongside some of the migrants for CNN's new weekly program, "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER". Here's some what he saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERRNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And literally meters from Colombia, the ground turns.

People as they walk, just discarding their shoes. Real sense of the atmosphere changing now across the border into Panama. People clumping together, perhaps fearing for their own safety, and this mud, it's just possibly go and get your feet out of it.

This man who didn't want to be named now with nothing on his feet, but his resolve pause and imagine where you've come from, if you're willing to do this barefoot with a woolen sweater and plastic bags.

Pierce your feet or break an ankle and this mud maybe your grave.


HILL: And, Nick, I think that gives us a small taste of what this journey is like you and your team made that journey alongside so many migrants. Just give us a sense. We see the mud. That's not the only part of this at this difficult, though.

WALSH: No, there are a whole host of hazards, and one that we could mitigate through the budget of CNN to buy all the equipment you might need, to have food, to have people to help us carry our stuff.

But all the people we saw otherwise we're carrying in their own small backpacks, the limited food they could, drinking straight from the streams, wearing often sneakers, and they're going through hazards that include snakes, dehydration, exhaustion and lack of food at times, criminals preying upon the migrants, murders that appeared to occurred, allegations of sexual assault as well.

And so those whole series of hazards make this exceptionally perilous for adults, let alone the significant number of children that we saw on this journey, Erica.

HILL: So many children, and I was really struck by them, and I know you talked with some of them.

What is it like for them? And just remind us, too, why so many people have chosen to make this incredibly dangerous journey.

WALSH: I mean, that's the thing, isn't it? Why would you take your kids on something that you as an adult apparent yourself might not necessarily survive? And that gives you a window really as to where these people have come from, the utter desperation that they are fleeing -- Haiti, Venezuela, Ecuador, China. You know, if you read the news, you know why people want to get out of those places, countries in collapse.

And it's that desperation that fuels this decision to perhaps try and change their life forever through this week worth of risk. But you see adults carrying their smaller children. One child separated from his parents, thankfully reunited, at times it's hard to keep track of where people are. You see this constant moments of desperation, of struggle, of peril,

of people really struggling against the odds, but these wonderful, edifying moments of human generosity to strangers, frankly, carrying people they've never met until hours earlier, to get them through this extraordinary ordeal, and it shows something of the human spirit, which, born of the cynicism of this voluntary organized human trafficking, cartel run operation gives you some sense of hope -- Erica.

HILL: There's that humanity, that generosity in some of the most difficult situations.

Nick Paton Walsh, really appreciate it.

And you can see Nick's really incredible reporting, it's one of many reports you'll see on "THE WHOLE STORY", a new weekly program hosted by Anderson Cooper premieres this Sunday 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts right now.