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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Joe Biden Legal Team Discovers Second Batch Of Secret Documents. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 12, 2023 - 05:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Right now, on Early Start more questions as the second set of secret documents from Joe Biden's vice presidency are found by his legal team.

A single corrupt computer file brought all of America's air traffic to a complete halt. How did it get there? And more Republicans called for resume faker George Santos quit Congress, but not the Republican with.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans. Good morning. We begin with a second batch of classified documents found by President Biden's legal team. Sources tell CNN finding that first batch from Mr. Biden's time as Vice President set off the search that led to this new discovery. It's unclear so far, how many documents were in this second batch, where they were found, or what they're even about. CNN's, Phil Mattingly has more this morning from the White House.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As President Biden and the White House Counsel's Office described the initial discovery of 10 classified documents, documents that were turned over to the National Archives and the Justice Department - Justice Department Review ongoing, they never actually weighed in on whether or not there could be additional documents out there. As that was happening, there was actually a very quiet but very intensive review ongoing by the president's legal team to see if there were any.

In fact, there are. A second set has been discovered, according to people briefed on the matter. Some of those government records, they are indeed classified. Now, the president and his team, again, never said that there weren't any other documents out there. They spoke only about that initial set of 10 classified documents. In fact, to some degree, they have been very careful not to say anything about what else may be out there. Let's take a listen to the White House press briefing.


MATTINGLY: There are no assurances you can provide at this point that there are no other classified documents out there any other office? KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, this is an ongoing process. So, I'm going to let the process continue. It is being reviewed by the Department of Justice, and I'm just going to leave it there.


MATTINGLY: Now that answer was one that White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeated over and over to just about every question, underscoring the limitations the White House says they feel like they're under as the Justice Department continues this review. Now what actually happens next, or if there even any more documents out there is still an open question. So too is what the actual documents, the second set of documents actually included. There are sparse details about where they were found, what is inside of them, but it certainly exacerbates a situation that has been politically perilous for the president over the course of the last several days.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, both Senate and House Republicans say they believe they should investigate the matter. They have called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to look into the matter, obviously drawing clear parallels even though these situations are quite different to former President Donald Trump and his classified records, issues right now, his legal problems. How this actually ends going forward has very much remained an open question.

The White House says they are fully cooperating, that isn't going to change according to White House officials. But certainly, finding a second set of classified records only complicates a problem that had only been growing in the hours before it was eventually revealed. Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.

ROMANS: Alright, Phil, thanks for that. House Republicans passing a bill that requires doctors to try to preserve the life of a baby born alive during an attempted abortion.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bill is passed.


ROMANS: Health care providers who failed to provide care in the rare, very rare case of a born alive abortion could face fines and up to five years in prison. Opponents argue that threats like this to prosecute doctors restrict the availability of abortion. The Democratic controlled Senate is not expected to take up that bill.

House Republicans making good on promises to turn their investigative spotlight on President Biden and his family. The Oversight Committee is demanding information from the Treasury Department about the Biden family's financial transactions. The panel's Chairman calling the probe a top priority for House Republicans. More now from CNN, Sara Murray.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: House Oversight Chair James Comer wasting no time launching his long-promised probe into the Biden family.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): I want to be clear; this is an investigation of Joe Biden. And that's where the committee will focus on.

MURRAY: Comer demanding financial records from the U.S. Treasury Department and public testimony from former Twitter executives after the social media company temporarily suppressed a story that Hunter Biden and his laptop in 2020. The letters call for bank activity reports for President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, the President's brother James Biden, and a handful of associates and related companies as well as any communications between the White House and Treasury. The Kentucky Republican trying to make the case that foreign business deals by Biden family members could compromise the president.

COMER: What is the Biden family business?


I would argue it's influence peddling. And Joe Biden was not truthful with the American people during the presidential campaign when he said he had no idea what his family was involved in.

MURRAY: But that is merely an allegation, one the newly minted chairman has yet to prove and Joe Biden has denied playing any role in his son's overseas deals.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've never spoken to my son about business.

MURRAY: The bank reports known as suspicious activity reports Comer is clamoring for don't necessarily indicate wrongdoing. Financial institutions file millions annually and few to law enforcement inquiries. A White House spokesman dismissed the GOP moves as political stunts driven by the most extreme MAGA members of their caucus in an effort to get attention on Fox News.

As Republicans flexed their new investigative powers. They've also established a new select subcommittee focused on the weaponization of the federal government, and particularly DOJ and the FBI.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There's going to be a select subcommittee that's going to focus on that. We've had 14 whistleblowers come talk to us about how political that place has become.

MURRAY: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, pointing to the panel as a vehicle to delve into the classified records recently found in President Joe Biden's former private office.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Why does his Department of Justice treat people differently? Every time we find something that comes out before the election, dealing with Biden's family. It's pushed under the rug. It's called a lie.


MURRAY: We're also here today from Jamie Raskin. He's the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. He is slamming James Comer for pursuing debunked and hyper-partisan conspiracy theories related to the president and his family. Sara Murray, CNN on Capitol Hill.

ROMANS: Alright, a top Republican in - top Republicans in George Santos home district calling on the GOP congressmen to resign immediately. The Chairman of the Nassau County Republican Party says Santos's campaign was built on deceit, lies and fabrication. He was joined in calling for Santos to step down by four Republican House members.

In Washington, Santos himself is refusing and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy not only resisted calls to push Santos out, but said he plans to put Santos on House committees.


MCCARTHY: I will not. You know in America today you're innocent till proven guilty. So, just because somebody doesn't like the press you have. It's not me that can have - can over say what the voters say. The voters are the power. The voters made the decision and he has a right to serve.


ROMANS: Santos lied about his education, career, religious background and family history among other things. Right at least 18 people have died in a series of historic storms pounding California and they are not over yet. Heavy rain has turned neighborhoods into lakes unleashing sewage into floodwater and leaving mudslides in its wake. Southern California gets a respite today but about 5 million people remain under flood threats in the northern part of the state. CNN's Veronica Miracle has more.


VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The cleanup from a series of deadly unprecedented storms continues across California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like an earthquake, the dog came running in, we could hear glass shattering and water pouring.

MIRACLE: Heavy rainfall trigger flash flooding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, it was shocking. It was really - it was unreal. Seeing that water just come surging up.

MIRACLE: In San Francisco, lightning. Hail storms, trees falling, powerlines down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw sparks everywhere around me.

MIRACLE: Even a tornado briefly touched down near Sacramento. On Tuesday, California had one of its busiest days ever for air rescues. And at least 18 people have died in the storms.

ELENI KOUNALAKIS, LT. GOVERNOR, CALIFORNIA: That's more than we've lost in the last two years of wildfires. As so this is a very significant emergency.

MIRACLE: And in San Francisco and other parts of Northern California, the rain continues to fall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we flood more and more. It's not manageable.

MIRACLE: Some 5 million people are under flood watches in Northern California. While parts of Central and Southern California getting a much-needed break from downpours flooding and mudslides.

DREW LANDERS, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC WORKS: The ground is so wet and waters pooling up. I would say this is like the worst winter I've seen in this short amount of time.

MIRACLE: In the Sierra, one to three feet of snow has blanketed several ski resorts in the last several days. The snow closed a major thoroughfare in the state overnight delaying shipments as trucks waited to pass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to get this stuff where it's supposed to go.

MIRACLE: The snowpack which contributes roughly 30 percent of California's freshwater offer some relief amid lingering drought conditions in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a double-edged sword because we're seeing these slides and stuff, but this state needs water so badly.

MIRACLE: The unrelenting downpour is also filling some of the state's largest reservoirs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've never really seen anything like this. The state has been experiencing drought for the last four years and now we have storm upon storm.

MIRACLE: The benefit of so much rain falling so fast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wanted rain we got it.

MIRACLE: Six storms in the last two weeks and there's more to come after almost 20 inches of rain. Rain in the last three days even Southern California's brief respite from the deluge will soon end. Another round of heavy rainfall is due this weekend with two more major storms to follow.



MIRACLE: This is a prime example of what's happening all across the state. This used to be a dry hillside. Now it looks like a waterfall is rushing down here and its spilled debris and mud all across this roadway. It's dangerous situations just like this that has officials asking people to stay at home during the storms if at all possible. Veronica Miracle, CNN, San Francisco.

ROMANS: Alright, investigators tracing the FAA system failure that led to that mass ground staff of all domestic departures Wednesday, tracing it to a single corrupt file. The major disruption came after an attempted reboot of the key system took longer than expected that system alerts pilots to crucial safety information before taking off. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is ordering an after-action review.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Now we have to understand how this could have happened in the first place. Why the usual redundancies that would stop it from being that disruptive, did not stop it from being disrupted this time, and what the original source of the errors or the corrupted files would have been?


ROMANS: Here's a live look at air traffic right now from FlightAware. Just over 60 flights canceled, almost 500 delayed. The FAA says there is no evidence of a cyber-attack yesterday.

All right. So, what's worse being stuck at the airport or being stuck on a train for 37 hours, you make the call next. Plus, disturbing new discoveries about the husband of a missing Massachusetts mother. And an idea fueling controversy, is the government going to take away your gas stove? The White House response next?




REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Classified documents belong in classified settings. And if we're having consistent problems across parties with exiting government officials, not putting those classified documents where they belong, then I think that's something that we should take up. Oversight isn't about partisanship. It's about making sure that protocols, procedures, rules, laws that keep us all safe are being followed.


ROMANS: President Biden's legal team has found another batch of classified documents; this follows of course the discovery of that initial batch of classified records in early November at the - his former think-tank office. It's unclear how many documents were found in this second batch or, or what they were what they're about. Let's bring in Dave Aronberg. He is the State Attorney in Palm Beach County, Florida. Nice to see you this morning, Dave. Thanks for getting up for us. You know this second discovery of documents certainly plays into Trump loyalists double-standard narrative. But step back for me, compare for me these two situations. Trump documents, Biden documents.

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes. Good morning, Christine. Yes, from a prosecutor's perspective, this is exactly like the Trump situation at Mar-a-Lago, except for just about everything. There's no allegation here that Biden personally handled the documents or claim them for himself or refused to give them back or obstructed attempts by the Feds to retrieve them. And to the contrary, Biden's attorneys notified the Archives, which is how the Archives found out about all this and gave everything back.

Also, there's a difference in that volume of documents. The Trump documents are so much greater number than the Biden documents. And so, comparing the two situations to me is a false equivalency. If Trump had just returned the documents, there would be no criminal investigation and potential indictment of him. And in this case, Trump refused to cooperate. Biden is cooperating fully. So that's what led in the Trump case of the subpoena that was largely ignored, and forced the Department of Justice to obtain the search warrant and here we are today.

ROMANS: Yes, months of back and forth trying to resolve that between the Trump team and those documents. And we know that the Biden team is now scouring, looking for documents, turning them in right away. Does this change how Trump or whether Trump is charged or not charged in his case?

ARONBERG: I don't think it should. I think that this definitely will help Trump in the MAGA court of public opinion. When Trump gets indicted, I think it's more of a win than an if and Biden doesn't. He'll claim disparate treatment and this will become Trump's number one grievance, and this will help him rally his loyal base, but it should not impact the Department of Justice's decision on charging Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents and actually proceeding, there's one way to look at it, that it could actually if it does impact, it could actually make it a bit more likely then that the Department of Justice charges Trump for obstruction because that charge was the most serious charges being considered gets you up to 20 years in prison.

That charge would show the public why the Trump situation is unique, and perhaps justifies the unprecedented move of being the first prosecutor in the history of our country to indict a former president. So, ironically, this whole situation could come back to bite Trump.

ROMANS: Interesting. Alright, David Aronberg, Palm Beach County prosecutor. Nice to see you. Thank you so much.

ARONBERG: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: Alright, police are increasingly focused on the husband of the missing Massachusetts mother. Brian Walshe is already charged with misleading investigators about her disappearance. We're now learning about - learning more about his troubled past. Here CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In court documents just obtained by CNN, relatives and acquaintances of Brian Walshe, the husband of missing Massachusetts woman Ana Walshe referred to Brian as a sociopath and not a trustworthy person. The documents are part of a dispute over the estate of Brian Walshe's father who died in 2018. One of his adversaries in court also wrote that Brian Walshe was a very angry and physically violent person.

CNN reached out to current and former attorneys for Walshe, but has not gotten a response.

ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Evidence of any prior bad acts or violent outbursts is certainly something that will be of interest to prosecutors and investigators.


TODD: This comes as investigators process a significant amount of circumstantial evidence regarding Ana Walshe's disappearance with one consuming mystery hanging over the case.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENT ANALYST: What they're trying to prove here is a murder case and doing that without a body offers certain challenges.

TODD: Neither a body nor any body parts have yet been discovered, but other grisly evidence has been found. Law enforcement sources tell CNN the latest evidence investigators are analyzing includes a hacksaw, torn up cloth and what appear to be bloodstains recovered from a garbage transfer station north of Boston.

Earlier, prosecutors said a bloodied broken knife and bloodstains were found in a sort of the family's basement.

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION: Tracking this guy's like tracking a bleeding elephant in the snow. I mean, he's leaving tools, clues and signs everywhere.

TODD: Including law enforcement sources say Internet searches in the days following his wife's disappearance of how to dispose of a 115- pound woman's body and how to dismember a body.

BRYANNA FOX, FORMER FBI AGENT: When your wife is missing, when you know that's what you're searching for. It's just too much to explain away in my opinion.

TODD: Law enforcement sources tell CNN that investigators now hoped to collect blood samples from the Walshe's sons, so they can compare that DNA to the blood found in the trash piles and in the basement.

MILLER: By getting DNA from the children, they could establish a scientific direct bloodline DNA link, saying that the contributor of the blood on one or both ends of that scenario is the mother of those children. That would get them too much closer to a place of probable cause to bring an indictment.

TODD: Then there are Brian Walshe's inconsistent accounts. He has been charged with misleading investigators about his and his wife's whereabouts on January 1st, the last day he claims to have seen her and he didn't report his wife missing until January 4th.

LYNN BELAND, ASSISTANT DA, NORFOLK, MASSACHUSETTS: During the timeframe when he didn't court his wife and gave various statements that allowed him time to either clean up evidence, dispose of evidence.


TODD: Court documents say Brian Walsh, who was under home confinement related to a separate case made unapproved trips during the first week of his wife's disappearance, including to a Home Depot where he was seen on surveillance footage wearing a surgical mask and gloves. Prosecutors say he spent about $450 there on cleaning supplies, including mops. a bucket and tarps. Walshe has pleaded not guilty to misleading investigators, but his attorneys have otherwise not commented on the case to CNN. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: Alright, Brian, thanks for that. Quick hits across America now, a 17-hour trip turned into a 37-hour nightmare for some Amtrak passengers trying to get from Virginia to Florida. Here's what a conductor told passengers at one point.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again, for those of you that are calling the police. We're not holding you hostage. We are giving you all the information which we have.


ROMANS: A freight train derailment forced the extra-long detour. The White House says President Biden does not support a ban on gas stoves. The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission has called them a hidden hazard and said products that can't be safe, can be banned.

Police in New Mexico stumbled upon a Bengal tiger cub at the scene of a shooting. The 20-pound cub said to be in good health and now in the care of the state game and fish department.

Next, 55 tons of cocaine just delivered to the United States legally. Plus, CNN on the ground in China where COVID deaths are becoming harder to hide.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am now standing in that new parking lot of this Beijing funeral home. This entire parking lot area did not exist a month ago.




ROMANS: Welcome back. Russian President Vladimir Putin just replaced his military commander in Ukraine again. His fourth general in less than a year. His Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov is now in- charge of the invasion, replacing Sergey Surovikin who's been leading forces for the past three months. CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me live from London looking at the chessboard here. What do you make of this? What does it say about how the invasion of Ukraine is progressing?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, this is pretty interesting. On the one hand, you could argue that Sergey Surovikin who is known as sort of general Armageddon seen as a very strong hand needing this conflict that perhaps there was reason to demote him, he will now be Gerasimov's deputy, you know, the loss of Kherson, the only regional capital, the Russia has captured in November.

The very brutal but not particularly decisive attacks on Russia's energy grid, the Kyiv attack on New Year's Day that killed 89 Russian troops, all of that perhaps adding up to reason enough in Moscow to bring about this shake up. But it doesn't add up necessarily to installing essentially, what is the head of the Joint Chiefs, the head of the Armed Forces as the head of your operation in Ukraine. The question of why Gerasimov is raising a lot of eyebrows. Some are speculating experts, Russian military bloggers, that it might have something to do with the rise of Vagner, the mercenary group headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin which is really making a lot of waves in the battle for Soledar in Eastern Ukraine.

At the moment that perhaps the Ministry of Defense in the Kremlin might be wanting to reassert central authority over this conflict at the moment. But the other thing to note here is there are a lot of concerns in Ukraine, that Russia is preparing for a renewed offensive in the spring. This seems to point again to that that they might want this fresh pair of hands to spearhead that offense. We know for example, that they've held back about half of the new recruits that are still in training that might be more evidence of that as well, Christine.

ROMANS: Alright, Clare, we know you'll keep following it for us. Thank you so much.