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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Highly Classified Pentagon Document About the War in Ukraine Posted on Social Media; A Federal Judge Blocks the FDA's Approval of a Key Abortion Medication; China Simulating Strikes Against Taiwan After the Nation's President Visited the U.S. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 10, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Right now on EARLY START, highly classified Pentagon document is about the war in Ukraine posted on social media, the latest as U.S. officials scramble to identify the source of that leak.

Plus, a federal judge blocks the FDA's approval of a key abortion medication. How the Biden administration is planning to respond. And China simulating strikes against Taiwan after the nation's president visited the U.S., we're live in Beijing as tensions escalate.

All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Christine Romans, this is EARLY START. This morning, Justice Department officials are racing to find out how top secret U.S. military documents were leaked online. The information is intended only for those with the highest levels of U.S. security clearance.

Documents cover a wide range of topics from assessments of Ukraine's military strength and casualty figures, to intelligence on American allies like Israel and South Korea. The documents were reportedly first posted on obscure internet gaming sites. But have now turned up on Twitter and YouTube in recent weeks.

Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego, raising concerns that this leak could jeopardize sources and relationships the U.S. has with its allies.


REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): We actually have to figure out the extent of how much is actual verifiable information that we've collected and how much is it? Something has been repurposed by our foreign enemies, specifically Russia, for their end goal. And let's be clear. The reason this is coming out right now is because its goal is to, you know, weaken our resolve, weaken our alliance, and help their end goal, which is to take all of Ukraine.


ROMANS: And new overnight, South Korea plans to hold discussions with the U.S. over the highly classified documents. Those documents describe in detail a conversation between two senior South Korean national security officials over a U.S. request for South Korea to supply ammunition to Ukraine.

Let's bring in Jamil Jaffer; Founder and Executive Director of the National Security Institute at George Washington University Law School. Thank you so much for joining us bright and early this morning. So the DOJ and others are obviously investigating. This is damaging. Some of these documents show the extent the U.S. spies on its allies, and there's human intelligence here, sources and methods. How much damage in your view has been done here?

JAMIL JAFFER, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY INSTITUTE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Well, you know, Christine, it's hard to know the exact amount of damage, but what we can tell certainly is their adversaries are learning a lot about what we know about them and what they're doing about what we think of the war in Ukraine, about our supplies of weapons to the war in Ukraine, to the Ukrainian military, and to know what we -- or we're assessing in terms of other nations' relationships.

So they're learning a lot about our capabilities, and about what we know in our analysis of that information.

ROMANS: Obviously, the scrambles on to figure out where these came from. Some of these documents are photographs of documents. You can see that they're creased and folded, in some cases, they're almost crumpled, and you can see around the margins of some of these photographs.

Other items like Gorilla Glue -- you know, who has access to these kinds of documents. How could this happen?

JAFFER: Well, you know, a lot of folks do have access to these kind of materials that are available to anybody who has a security clearance at the correct level, and you know, access to the relevant, you know, source, where there was a back-briefing book or the like. And so, we're not sure exactly where these documents came from, I'm sure the hunt is on right now, both in the Intelligence community and the Justice Department to figure that out.

But what we do know is some of these materials, Christine, were created as part of the analysis conducted by the joint staff at the Pentagon. That's the team that supports the joint chiefs. The heads of every military department in the country and advises them on the Intelligence information they have to make decisions about war- fighting going forward.

ROMANS: I mean, game out for me what this means in terms of problems for the Intelligence community at this point, and I guess, the U.S., the reputation of the United States. I mean, this isn't supposed to happen in the -- in the years since Edward Snowden and the big release of classified material that he did.

JAFFER: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, look, it can obviously be damaging to our relationship with allies because they understand what we're collecting on them. It will certainly be damaging to our situation with our adversaries because they're going to know a lot more about what we know, and about our analysis of what we know about them.

That's a challenge, and of course, it will undermine our ability to supply Ukrainians with military equipment because it demonstrates in one particular instance, how we're thinking about 155 millimeter howitzer ammunition that keep heart of the weaponry that were granted to the Ukrainian military by our capabilities to supply it, and how much they're getting from where?


ROMANS: Just wild that this was on, you know, a discord group, you know, people, then Minecraft, gamers and Minecraft -- this has been circulating for months. Clearly, it -- what does that mean about America's ability to -- I mean, keep its secret safe?

JAFFER: Well, look, you know, whenever you have folks that have access to classified information, you run the risk of those people, will take advantage of that access, will take documents -- given facility photographed and put them on the internet. It's a rare instance when that happens because obviously, the penalties are stiff, and these people all trust with U.S. government information that you know, by definition, we've gone through a whole process to vet them.

It's not always going to be perfect. But obviously, this kind of revelation can be damaging to our national security and our foreign policy.

ROMANS: All right, yes, the investigations just now underway, Jamil Jaffer, thank you so much, nice to see you this morning.

JAFFER: Thanks --

ROMANS: Well, let's go now to London, where CNN's Nada Bashir has been following reaction from Ukraine and Russia. What are we hearing this morning, Nada?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, with the revelations that the United States may have been spying on President Zelenskyy has been described by a source close to the Ukrainian president as unsurprising. But Ukrainian officials are said to have become frustrated by the revelations revealed in these leaked documents, particularly when it comes to the U.S. government's assessment of the situation on the ground in Ukraine and as well as the Ukrainian armed forces progress and its counteroffensive against Russia.

One document from late February describing the battle for the eastern Donbas region as likely heading towards a stalemate throughout 2023. So it's not the kind of assessment that Ukraine or its allies would like to see in the public domain. And of course, we have learned from these Ukrainian sources that Ukraine is already altering some of its military plans and activities on the ground in response to these leaked documents. However, it has to be said that one senior adviser to the presidential office in Ukraine has described these -- he says he believes that they are inauthentic, and that's -- they do have no relation to the situation on the ground or Ukraine's plans. And of course, when it comes to Moscow, we are learning more details around the United States, its penetration of the Russian Ministry of Defense, as well as the notorious private mercenary group, the Wagner Organization.

We are learning that United States has been able to with quite a degree of accuracy, pinpoint Russian targeting locations. Of course, that is a huge amount of information there to hold. And of course, the Russian armed forces may now be looking to change and alter their communications in order to better conceal their plans from the likes of the U.S.

ROMANS: Our Nada Bashir for us in London, thank you so much for that. All right, the U.K. has raised the terror threat level in Northern Ireland just ahead of president Biden's visit to the region, tomorrow. Hundreds of British officers are also taking posts in Northern Ireland this week. It's designed to combat potential disruptions of the events, marking 25 years since the historic signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement between Ireland and Northern Ireland, 25 years.

CNN's Nic Robertson live in Belfast for us. What's the mood on the ground as President Biden, Nic and others take note of this anniversary?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think there's a sort of an aura of expectation, but perhaps diminished expectation because President Biden's trip is going to be quite short. The police say that they've got strong intelligence that small dissident Republican groups want to create public disorder that could take the shape of bomb, even gun attacks on the police.

They certainly got to -- those groups have got a track record of that. But as most people hear about what they think about the Good Friday Peace Agreement, it did just what it said, it bought peace and stability.




MCARDLE: Like this one, and this one --

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Erin McArdle is a peace baby --


MCARDLE: By even the term middle S in this --

ROBERTSON: The first Catholic born minutes after Northern Ireland's 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement was signed -- MCARDLE: Because that is really special, it's something that I'm very proud of.

ROBERTSON: Putting an end to decades of bloodshed, her mother hoping Erin wouldn't face the dangers known as the troubles as she did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were still very skeptical. Will this work?

MCARDLE: They always stayed about home just because of the bombings and the shootings and that. So I think, yes, for me personally, the Good Friday Agreement has me and my life very happy and very safe.

ROBERTSON: This is where the deal was signed. I was outside that night, the ground was freezing underfoot, but inside here, the mood thawed. Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell sent over by President Bill Clinton, did what had been impossible for 30 years with more than 3,000 lives lost, and he negotiated a peaceful end to the sectarian bloodletting. So what does it mean to you that your father used to paint murals like these here?


JOEL KEYS, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: I think it's great, kind of in a way lets him live forever.

ROBERTSON: Joel Keys is another peace baby, a protestant. Has the Good Friday Belfast Agreement delivered for you?

KEYS: I don't think so. All the Good Friday Agreement did was took away the bombs and bullets, but it did nothing to address people's mindsets.

ROBERTSON: Despite helping the economy, the Good Friday Peace Agreement has so far struggled to shift historic divisions. Protestant tending to be pro British and some Catholics aspirations for a united Ireland.

KEYS: What peace kind of looks like nowadays is oh, I'm protestant, I've got Catholic friends, but we just don't talk about that stuff and that space, but I think that's pseudo peace, that's false peace. We should be able to have strong conversations with each other.

ROBERTSON: But so many barriers to conversation remain. Most schools are still segregated and remarkably, these peaceful, but not only still here, they're taller and longer than they were before the peace deal. Real tensions exist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One kicked her head, she could have been -- no, it could have been different situation. You know, we could have lost our daughter, like you know what I mean?

ROBERTSON: In Derry, 12-year-old Ella McClay; a protestant school girl tells us how a group of Catholic children beat her up.

ELLA MCCLAY, TARGETED IN SECTARIAN ATTACK: And they were like you're prot, no? ROBERTSON (on camera): You're protestant, that's what they were saying.

(voice-over): The video, her parents share with us is brutal. Police say they were investigating the incident as a sectarian attack, a shocking reminder of life before the peace deal. There are other reminders too. These marches coming out to support a group that police believe tried to kill one of their officers in February, parading through Belfast just days ahead of President Joe Biden's visit, hard- line groups that rejected the Good Friday Agreement haven't gone away.

(on camera): It's because of groups like this one, that the British government has recently raised its terror threat level here in Northern Ireland from substantial to severe, from a threat likely to a threat highly likely.

(voice-over): For Erin and most people here, despite imperfections, Northern Ireland's cup is more than half full.

MCARDLE: I'm happy here, so I'd like to stay, you know, there are no place.


ROBERTSON: And I think the real concern for security services here, not all those people coming out to welcome President Biden, but that tiny minority that want to create a diversion, an explosion, something to sort of mark their ability to launch attacks, and that's the concern here.

ROMANS: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you for that. Amazing. All right, China sending warplanes and ships to encircle Taiwan after the island nation's president met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. How Taiwan is responding, next. Plus, crews racing to pull survivors from the rubble after a building explosion in France. The latest on the search and rescue mission ahead.



ROMANS: All right, welcome back. China is backing up its repeated threats to Taiwan with action, after Taiwan's president met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Beijing has sent dozens of warplanes over the island nation, which it considers its own territory. At one point, the planes formed an all-round encirclement with 45 of them entering Taiwan's air defense zone.

China claims it is simply responding to Taiwan colluding with external forces as China puts it. CNN's Steven Jiang live in Beijing with the latest. You know, Steven, how is Taiwan and Taiwan's allies responding?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Christine, Taiwan says its military is on standby, and they are tracking the movement of all the Chinese warplanes and warships and issuing warnings as necessary. But coincidentally also on Monday, a U.S. Naval warship actually conducted a freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and prompting a very angry Chinese response.

Now, here's the thing. In terms of scale and intensity of China's latest war games around Taiwan, now reaching the level of what we saw last year after the then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Remember after that trip, the Chinese launched their biggest military drills in decades, firing missiles directly across Taiwan, we have not seen that yet this time.

But with the Chinese continuing to normalize these war games, refining them and improving their tactical complexity, according to military experts we talked to. They were really injecting a new element of instability or even potential danger, especially with the Chinese assets continuing to cross the so-called media line in the Taiwan Strait, that's something both sides had observed for decades until recently.

That's where potential misjudgment, miscalculation could come in and leading to conflict between the U.S. and China. remember, it's not just the Taiwanese, but also Americans and allies -- and their allies, sending warships and warplanes to the region to assert their navigational and over-flight rights and freedoms. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Steven Jiang, clearly tensions escalating there, thank you. Right, this morning, the Dalai Lama is apologizing after a viral video of what some critics are calling child abuse. We want to warn you, some viewers may find this disturbing. It shows his holiness kissing a young boy on the lips and asking the child to quote, "suck my tongue".

His office says the Dalai Lama often teases people in an innocent and playful way, but he apologizes to the boy and quote, "regrets the incident". CNN's Vedika Sud live in New Delhi with more for us. This interaction, Vedika, can you detail the interaction between the boy and the Dalai Lama?


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Highly controversial, isn't it, Christine? So, here's what happened on the 28th of February, that's when this incident took place. This was a public event in northern India, that's where the Dalai Lama, the 14th Dalai Lama has been in permanent exile since 1959.

So there's this boy who went up to him and asked him for a hug, the Dalai Lama called him on stage and said, along with that hug, give me a kiss on the cheek. So he obliged, that young boy. Straight after that, the Dalai Lama then asked for a kiss on the mouth, he pulled the boy's chin in and gave him a kiss on the mouth.

Now, moments later, then the Dalai Lama said, and I'm going to quote him here, "and suck my tongue". Now, this clip has gone viral across social media, sections of people on social media have called this outrageous. they've condemned the actions and the exchange between the Dalai Lama and this young boy. What's interesting is, it's taken weeks since the incident for the

Dalai Lama's office to come out with the statement with the Dalai Lama, has regretted the incident and apologizing. I'm very quickly going to take our viewers through what Dalai Lama said through that statement. The statement reads, "a video clip has been circulating that shows a recent meeting when a young boy asked his holiness, the Dalai Lama if he could give him a hug.

His holiness wishes to apologize to the boy and his family as well as his many friends across the world for the hurt his words may have caused." What's interesting here is, Christine, they're not talking about his actions, but the words, then goes on to say, "his holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras, he regrets the incident", unquote.

So, you have them coming out with a statement apologizing, but for a lot of people across India and perhaps abroad, this went a bit too far.

ROMANS: Yes --

SUD: Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Vedika Sud, thank you so much for laying that out for us. All right, rescue teams have found two bodies in the rubble of a collapsed building in southern France after a violent explosion and fire in Marseille on Sunday, officials say at least, nine people, nine people still missing, rescue efforts complicated by the fire.

The mayor said hundreds of police and firefighters responded, evacuating 30 surrounding buildings as they searched for survivors. An investigation now underway into exactly what caused that blast. All right, coming up on EARLY START --







ROMANS: Green Jacket goes to John Rahm. Details of his stellar performance at the Masters, plus two Minnesota Timberwolves at odds. What happened after Rudy Gobert threw a punch at Kyle Anderson. The "BLEACHER REPORT" is next.



ROMANS: All right, Spain's Jon Rahm battled the elements and his fellow golfers to win the Masters. Tiger Woods weekend ended early in Augusta. Carolyn Manno has this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT". Good morning.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning. It was a wild weekend at --


MANNO: At Augusta. I mean, it's just crazy from the start to finish, but a very special moment at the end for the 28-year-old Spaniard Jon Rahm on what would have been the 66th birthday of Rahm's biggest idol, the late Seve Ballesteros, it kind of felt meant to be. Storms delayed play on Saturday, Sunday eventually became a beautiful, but grueling stretch for the field at Augusta.

Rahm began the day four shots behind Brooks Koepka there, with 30 holes to try and make something happen, and when Koepka faltered, Rahm was ready, four birdies against just one bogey on the afternoon, and by the 14th hole, his place in history was all but set. Jon Rahm winning his second career major in golf's greatest prize, the illustrious Green Jacket.


RAHM: I've wanted to win it ever since I thought about golf, and what being a champion would be. Just the wave of emotion of so many things just overtook me. Now, I thought I was going to cry if I win in a golf tournament, but I got very close on that 18th hole. And a lot of it because of what he means to me and to Spanish gulf.


MANNO: Tiger Woods was unable to finish the weekend, withdrawing yesterday morning, tweeting that he had aggravated plantar fasciitis in his foot, but as you can see, gave it a valiant effort, but it was just too tough. He was 6 over through 7 holes before play was halted on Saturday. He was, however, able to make the cut in that end of itself as historical, a record tying 23rd time at the Masters that Tiger has managed to play into the weekend.

But just a brutal weekend all around. The final day of the NBA's regular season wasn't short on drama, but for all the wrong reasons. Timberwolves fighting for the play and positioning, and then started fighting with themselves. Rudy Gobert punching Kyle Anderson square in the chest, Gobert sent to the locker room for the rest of the game, was eventually sent home, and then to make matters worse, Jaden McDaniels reportedly fractured his hand, punched a concrete wall earlier in the game.

So even a win in Minnesota loses, because now they very well may be with other two best defensive players against LeBron and the Lakers. Lots of infighting there, real shame. That game is a nightcap of a playing double-header tomorrow night, the Hawks are visiting the Heat, both games are on "TNT". The Boston Bruins making hockey history, breaking the NHL's all-time record with their 63rd win of the season. David Pastrnak scoring three goals, including his 60th in the 5-3 win

over the Flyers. The 63 wins surpassing the mark that was set by the 96 Red Wings and tied by the Lightning back in 2019. So Boston wins one of its final two games. They're also going to break the record for most points in a season, 132 held by the 1977 Canadians, they have been on fire.

And free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. heading to Baltimore. Big news this weekend, signing a one-year deal with the Ravens, the three-time pro Bowler missing all of last season because of injury. Christine, the question here that's dominated the off-season, who is quarterback? Is going to be in Baltimore because Lamar Jackson requested a trade at the beginning of March.

A lot of people saying that he wants out.