Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Accused Leaker Appears In Court For First Time To Face Charges; Court Docs: Teixeira Searched For The Word "Leak" In Classified Network One Week Before His Arrest; DOJ, Abortion Pill Manufacturer Ask Supreme Court To Step In; FL Gov DeSantis "Proud" To Sign 6-Week Abortion Ban; WH Slams Florida's "Extreme & Dangerous" 6-Week Abortion Ban; Tim Scott Says He Would Consider 15-Weeek Abortion Ban; Fmr Trump Intel Officials Testify In Special Counsel Probes. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 14, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your very, very busy news day with us. Today, a suspected leaker who shook up the world by posting top secret U.S. intelligence documents online, sees the inside of a federal courtroom.

Plus, new CNN reporting on an intriguing avenue of investigation for the special counsel. Jack Smith wants to know if Donald Trump is using an army of lawyers to intimidate potential witnesses into telling his version of events. And the Ron DeSantis just make himself unelectable.

The Florida governor signs one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws, barring the procedure after just six weeks of pregnancy. It's a priority for the Republican base but it is very much at odds with where most Americans stand.

Up first for us though, hiking boots and handcuffs. This morning, the 21-year-old allegedly behind a global intelligence disaster, appearing for the first time in front of a federal judge. Today, prosecutors leveling two charges against Jack Teixeira, unauthorized detention and transmission of national defense information, and unauthorized removal of classified information and defense materials.

The unsealed affidavit spells out how the low-level Air National Guardsman supposedly stole classified materials and then posted some of the country's most sensitive secrets in an online gaming chat. We learned of the accused leaker's identity yesterday Thursday. And then watched, you see it there as a heavily armed federal agents descended on his Massachusetts home.

The disclosure spilled the tea on Ukraine's depleting air defenses on Russian special forces losses in that war, the sour American outlook on the war and much more. So how this happened and stopping it from happening again, is a top line concern across the government.

Questions of access are critical. Teixeira quite literally a cog in the military machine, a cyber transport engineer tasked with keeping the Pentagon's networks up and running. But Teixeira high tech job was paired with an alleged, you might call lo-fi scheme. The guardsman apparently printed the top-secret material and just walked out the door with it.

We start in Boston, CNN's Jason Carroll who is outside the federal courthouse. Jason, tell us more?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're just outside federal court here just moments ago, John, when we saw Teixeira's family leaving the courthouse. They were surrounded by a mass of reporters, photographers, cameraman there and myself included asking repeatedly, if they had any sort of comment at all about what had just happened in court.

As they walked down the street, again repeatedly asking them the question. They remained silent. Inside the court, it was packed. Inside the courtroom, as the judge laid out the charges that Teixeira is facing. At one point he asked him, if he understood the charges that he was facing, and he very softly answered, yes.

Included in that unsealed affidavit new information, new allegations about Teixeira, including Teixeira held a top-secret security clearance that was granted back in 2021, apparently had access to classified programs since 2021. And began allegedly posting these classified documents back in December of 2022, including at one point using a government computer to search a database for the word leaked.

This was on April 6, of course, after reports publicly went out that someone was leaking classified information. While inside court there was a row set up for his family members at one point during the proceeding, a woman who was sitting there, she was crying. She was praying during the proceeding.

And once it was over, once the proceeding had concluded, a man there was sitting in the front row believed to be his father said, love you, Jack. And at that point, the defendant simply said, you too dad. The judge set another court proceeding. That will be next Wednesday. That is going to be when there is a detention hearing. So that's the next time we look for him to be in court, but a lot of drama inside and outside the courtroom today. John?

KING: Remarkable day. Jason Carroll, glad you're there at the courthouse in Boston for us. Thanks for that reporting. Let's bring into the conversation, the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Beth Sanner here to share some insight.

So, a lot of Americans are sitting around, a lot of people around the world sitting around, looking at this and say, here's a 21-year-old National Guardsman at a base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Why in the world, does he have access to this information? And why are there not safeguards if he needs to have this access, that somebody knows whether he transfers it to a thumb drive or prints it out or walks out the door?


BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Really good questions. I have the same questions. I think the reason he had access is because he was a cyber network professional, you know, a technician. His job was probably responsibility to keep the networks, the computer networks running. So, this is what we call administrative access.

So, as an administrator in a computer system, I can go on there and I can do pretty much anything. But there are ways that you can track what people are doing, what people are printing. Are they lingering? Are they spending too much time? Clearly those measures were not in place, or if they were in place, they failed.

KING: Forgive me for interrupting. But you say in your experience in the intelligence community, that those safeguards are not perfect. I'm not saying there aren't mistakes in the intelligence community--

SANNER: We have had problems.

KING: Yes, you've had problems as well. But you have those oversight there. If somebody lingers too long. Maybe certain people who don't have need to know. They might have need to be in the system, to keep it working, to keep it efficient, but they don't have need to know the information. If they linker or if they print, somebody gets an alert. If you have that as intelligence community, why does the military not have it?

SANNER: I just think it's a cultural difference. You know, I think back at what it happened with Chelsea Manning, with Private Manning. And when it came out that Private Manning had some psychological issues, what did they do? The military removed Private Manning's gun. They did not remove Private Manning's access to classified information.

And it shows to me that there's just this different understanding of the fact like, well, you know, WikiLeaks, perhaps people actually died from that. I don't know. But you know, it is just as serious, but I don't think that the way the military indoctrinates people, and I don't think they talk about it, they don't think about it, because it's not their job. The weapons are their job, the executing is their job, not protecting the information.

So, I don't want to go overboard and saying like, oh, it's the military's fault. But I just think that this is a wakeup call, let's take advantage of it and put in place some better standards.

KING: And so, if you look at just some of the headlines, and again, the government is urging news organizations who now have access to this information as opposed to online, please be careful about what you write. But leaked documents show sole, torn between U.S. demands and its own policy. So, complications for South Korea, a key ally.

Leak Pentagon documents suggests U.S.'s pessimistic, Ukraine can quickly end war against Russia. Ukrainians don't like that a key ally. Egypt secretly planned to supply rockets to Russia, authority and a relationship are always problematic relationship with the current government of Egypt. Israeli spy chiefs led secret revolt against Netanyahu, complicates that relationship. Leaked documents suggest Ukrainian Air Defense in parallel if not reinforced. What in your sense and there's a lot we still don't know, but what is the damage? What is the national security impact from this?

SANNER: I don't think we really know yet. And it depends very much on those details. And I think it's very hard for a journalist to look at these documents and say, well, you know, this is stuff that's already in this newspaper. So, we already know this. It is not -- it does not work that way. It is also about how the adversaries view it.

So, we have an issue of our adversaries are going to close down systems, we have an issue of our allies going to close out our access, does it affect our ability to share information? So those are two things. And I think, you know, it may not be the worst thing that ever happened, but it certainly is an issue.

KING: So, helped me and the audience, please work through some of this access issues. You do need people, IT people to keep your networks running.

SANNER: Right.

KING: The question is how well do you need to train them beforehand? And then how well do you need to monitor them? Because if you look at the classified secrets now, there are ways to alert security teams, when a device is like a thumb driver or something is inserted into government system.

You can track their browsing habits, which apparently, they did in this case, you know, after the fact and found out he was searching allegedly for the word leak to see if they were on to him there. Monitoring of searches made in classified databases, monitoring of printed or copy documents.

So, the technology exists. I mean, in our company, at this company, I'm holding up my iPhone right now, you cannot open an attachment from personal email in the company, transferred over to the company's email, because they're trying to be careful. The technology exists, we see it across our daily lives, every second of our lives. Why is the government with these most sensitive secrets behind the ball?

SANNER: We don't spend money on this, I think in certain parts of our government. And I do think it's about prioritization. It takes a lot to -- it costs money, you know, it costs millions of dollars to put in systems where you're going to be monitoring people. And they say, well, we have a trusted system. We have a trusted workforce that'll work.

And it takes things like this to tell people, no, you actually have to do something. They're all levels of things you can do. Some of them don't cost a lot. Just disable printers, for goodness' sake, right? But actually, we have to take this idea of the need to know, and we have to start implementing it. And that means, we have to change the way that we have people access what people can get.


KING: As you say, perhaps this is a wakeup call, but it's not the first time as you know this Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, now Jack Teixeira. This has happened enough. So maybe this is the third strike or third strike in the last decade. As a wakeup call, we will see. Beth, appreciate the important insights.

Up next for us, some new developments. The Justice Department and the manufacture of an abortion pill asked the Supreme Court to intervene now in an emergency dispute. And the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, makes a bet this won't come back to haunt him, signing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.


KING: Today two request that put the Supreme Court on the spot. Both the Biden Justice Department and the drug maker, which manufactures abortion pills asking the justices to step in and to step in by midnight tonight, and to stop a ruling that would impact women everywhere across this country.


Let's get straight to CNN's Jessica Schneider. Jess, tell us what we know and what this is about?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So, it's expected here that the Supreme Court could act very quickly because, you know, if they don't, the entire way that this abortion pill is administered, it would change overnight tonight. Now to be clear, it would still be available but there would really be drastic changes that the FDA is plainly saying, they're unsure about how to handle all this. And they're saying it's a process that really demands a lot more than just the flip of a switch.

So, the Justice Department and what they just filed with the Supreme Court, they're laying out all of these logistical hurdles. And they're saying that this abrupt shift in the regulatory landscape is just really proving impossible to comply with. So, here's what would happen if the Supreme Court does not step in.

At 1 a.m., Saturday morning Eastern Time, so just about 13 hours from now, a Fifth Circuit ruling would actually take effect, and there are many things that the Fifth Circuit laid out here. They're saying that women beyond seven weeks pregnant, they wouldn't be able to take mifepristone. Even though up to now, women up to 10 weeks pregnant are allowed to take it.

In addition, all telehealth and prescription by mail options would be eliminated. So up to this point, women have been able to get this prescribed online by their doctor and then get it in the mail. But that would all end overnight tonight if the Supreme Court does not step in here.

And to really hammer home the stakes of this case, John, the DOJ in their filing to the Supreme Court right off the bat here. They say look, this is a drug that has been approved for more than 20 years since 2000 through five different presidential administrations. And on top of that, the World Health Organization has mifepristone listed on its list of essential medicines.

So, John, there is a lot at stake here, a lot the DOJ is laying out about how consequential this would be if the Supreme Court doesn't step in. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. The Supreme Court has just about 13 hours from now to really act if they're going to. John?

KING: It's a fascinating legal case, obviously, a huge national issue. Jess, if that happens in the next 45 minutes, come back here. We know you've been busy throughout the day watching this. In this court fight over abortion access is just one piece of this debate. In Florida, a new law now bans abortions after only six weeks.

The Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signing that bill. You see the picture late last night in his office saying, "we are proud to support life and family in the state." This nearly a year to the day after he signed Florida's current 15 week ban on abortion. Then you see the pictures there, DeSantis holding last year signing ceremony in a church with an audience.

With us to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, NPR's Claudia Grisales, and Rhonda Colvin of The Washington Post. I want to start with you Jeremy, because it's interesting. You covered the Biden White House, and they were so quick, so quick to criticize a state governor Ron DeSantis in this case for this.

Florida's extreme and dangerous new abortion ban, flies in the face of fundamental freedoms and is out of step with the views of the vast majority of people of Florida and of all of the United States. Look, it's an important issue to a Democratic president. But Ron DeSantis happens to be one of the top two candidates at the moment for the Republican nomination.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this is an issue where the White House fundamentally believes that they have public opinion on their side. One of many, in fact, where they believe that Republicans are overreaching, overstepping. We've seen this play out in Congress as well, where the White House believes that Republicans are overstepping with some of their oversight efforts, overstepping in several other realms.

And so, you know, we have watched the politics of abortion really fundamentally swing since, not just the Dobbs decision, but shortly before the Dobbs decision, particularly when it leaked out. We saw the impact that it had in the 2022 midterms. And really, this is gone in terms of an enthusiasm factor. That is where we've seen the biggest swing, is that previously Republicans really used this as an issue to fire up their base.

And now we're seeing Democrats much more able to do so themselves, and that there are risks for Republicans who come out with these more extreme abortion positions. And perhaps that's why whereas last year, when he signed the 15-week abortion, he did it with an audience in a church with a lot of pomp and circumstance.

This year, he did it behind closed doors. He then released that picture hours after signing it but just a tweet in a picture. And today, in speaking at Liberty University, it seems like he made only passing reference to this abortion bill, which is notable.

KING: And so, in the politics of the moment, you have Republicans who are antiabortion, and you have the Republican base, which wants candidates for the most part who are antiabortion. And then you have as Jeremy knows, what we've seen in the last few years, the power this issue has in mobilizing women voters, mobilizing younger voters, affecting you in the suburbs.

So, when you get to swing states. The question is, does this help Ron DeSantis in the nomination battle, but then hurt him if he's the candidate in a general election. I just want to show the map of abortion access. Right now, you see 13 states in red, abortion is essentially banned in those states. There are a few of them. There are some limited ways to get an abortion with exceptions.

But here's Florida here. And one of the issues has been not just Florida is now going from 15 weeks to six weeks. But put the politics aside for a minute just for abortion access for women across the country. A lot of women especially from this region, when you see all this red would go to Florida.


About 10 percent of the abortions performed in Florida for people who come in out of state because it is banned in their state. So, the access whether you have this court case, can you get mifepristone either in a pharmacy or through the mail. And now, can you find a state nearby if your state bans abortion, it's a giant issue.

RHONDA COLVIN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's a giant issue and it's that access question, because I remember talking to a lot of voters across the country ahead of the midterm elections. And they felt that it was just a step too far. A lot of the state legislatures passing bans, of course, right now in front of the Supreme Court is the question about abortion through pill.

And if you look at the polling, it seems to be pretty stable that a lot of Americans do not want any more bands. They may feel if they have a conservative leaning that something should be done. But they aren't in agreement with a hard stance on abortion. You're seeing that over and over again, Pew, Gallup, all of polling places.

So, it appears, we're seeing a lot of these Republican candidates in real time, try to strategize around this because it appears abortion will be a minefield out if they're going to really have to face moving forward into the primary season.

KING: And so, one of the challenges there is to have an answer and a consistent answer. And again, whether you agree or disagree with the policy, Mike Pence says, I'm proudly prolife, right. Answers the question. You can agree or disagree with that, but he leaves no ambiguity about where he stands. Tim Scott has had a more interesting experience in his first two or three days as a presidential candidate. This is a conversation with Fox Digital yesterday, listen?


SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R-SC): Twenty weeks in my opinion is a no question. But the 15-week threshold is something that I believe that is a place where you find a national limit that says, no more. States can do less.


KING: He says, 20 weeks no question maybe 15 weeks. The day before, he said something a little bit different. One of the challenges for candidates, especially with this issue, so front and center is, say something and stick to it. Have a policy. Take your chances, maybe with voters if it's unpopular with the general electorate, but don't keep going back and forth.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Right. It also makes her very confusing picture for voters, trying to figure out which candidate is pushing for what type of ban at what stage of pregnancy. And so, this makes it really hard for Republicans to be on the same page on this. And it makes it hard for voters to follow and figure out who they want to support.

And we're hearing from some moderate Republicans, for example, such as Nancy Mace from South Carolina who's saying, this is a losing issue. When we go to these extremist positions in terms of these bands, and saying that this, you know, ruling in terms of banning access to the abortion drug could really jeopardize concerns there among voters and just to ignore it for now.

KING: You can see from the constant press releases from the Democratic National Committee that they believe the potency of this issue is going to last because they are -- they are reminding every time one of these Republican candidates says something right. We'll see a year from now, if it still has that potency.

Up next for us, some brand new CNN reporting on the Trump's special counsel. Investigators now zeroing in on whether witnesses are being steered to certain lawyers, and then coached in order to protect the former president.




KING: Some brand-new CNN reporting now on the special counsel investigation into Donald Trump. And we are learning this amid a flurry of developments, in the former president's very complicated web of legal worries. Trump, for example, spent seven hours being deposed under oath in a high stakes New York civil case that alleges years of Trump business organization fraud. Also yesterday, two of his former top intelligence aide were facing questions from a federal grand jury. One, the former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, testified before a grand jury investigating Trump's handling of classified documents. The former Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe was before the grand jury for another lane of the special counsel probe.

Whether laws were broken as Trump from election day to the Capitol insurrection, tried to find ways to overturn or block certification of Joe Biden's election win. Ratcliffe is the latest senior Trump aide forced to testify because of court victories by the special counsel.

And our new CNN reporting sheds new light on one area of Jack Smith's investigation. We are learning that Smith's investigators are pressing witnesses for details about their attorneys, including whether any of them, those attorneys have attempted to influence testimony to protect the former president.

Joining me now to share the new reporting is CNN's Katelyn Polantz, also here with insights the former federal prosecutor Shan Wu. So let me read from some of this reporting. It's really fascinating. We know several avenues of Jack Smith. This one is quite fascinating. Investigators working for special counsel Jack Smith are exploring multiple facets of a possible obstruction case. And that could include whether testimony has been improperly influenced and coordinated within Trump's legal network.

So, correct me if I'm wrong. A recommend go to attorney X. Attorney X is part of a conversation. They say, when you go before the grand jury, let us help you. Is that roughly what they're looking at?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It is. And that isn't necessarily unusual. Say there's a corporate investigation and people that work for that company have to be interrogated as part of it. Yes, a company might pay for their employees if they have legal fees. But one thing that is so clear in this investigation that makes it different is all of the people in Trump world are aides and people are still working for him.

People who stayed with him at Mar-a-Lago, they're becoming the witnesses, they are the witnesses, sometimes like Evan Corcoran and his defense attorney. They're lawyers for Trump. And Trump has this pack, save America pack that has spent $60 million, not just paying for lawyers for him, but also for his people. The people that are going before the grand jury every day.

And you know, this is the sort of thing that has been investigated around Donald Trump before his use of lawyers to keep people in his circle.