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Chris Wallace is Interviewed about his New Show; North Korea May Have Underground Nuke Test; Parents of Trevor Reed Speak with Biden. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 08:30   ET



CHRIS WALLACE, CNN PLUS ANCHOR, "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?": People ought to be able to do without some creature comforts in Russia.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It really is interesting. And it's sort of Zelenskyy-ish in their efforts to shame some of these American companies in a way.

You know "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?," this guy right here now.

And, Chris, you know, you're one of the few people who's looked Vladimir Putin in the eye. You had a chance to interview Putin, what was it, 2018. I'm just curious, what was that like? What is he like? And what insight did that give you into this really remarkable decision he's made to invade another country?

WALLACE: Well, you know, John, there were a couple of things that from our interview in 2018, and it was the day of the summit with Donald Trump in Helsinki, where Trump seemed to fold and say I believe Putin rather than our own intelligence agencies about interference in the 2016 election, he begins this kind of -- this default position just to sit back, sort of slouch, the disinterested kid in the back of the classroom. But at one point I asked him, this was in the Russian embassy with Russian security, Kremlin security all around, I said, why is it that so many people who oppose Vladimir Putin end up dead? And from that moment on I had his undivided attention. He sat up. Those piercing ice blue eyes sort of boring into you.

I'd say two things that I -- that I took away from that. One was what a tough guy he was, because when I asked him that question, he didn't blink. He said, well, all of us have our domestic problems, which I thought was an interesting answer to jailing or killing your domestic opponents. The second thing was what you saw as the motivation for going into Ukraine, this sense of grievance about what the west has done, NATO moving east and taking a lot of the former eastern bloc. The one thing that I didn't get, and which I think we all feel now, is that I, you know, thought he was a rational actor. And now you wonder about that given his decision to go into Ukraine with the obvious impact it's had, not only on the Russian military, but also on the Russian economy and the world.

BERMAN: Yes, or if something maybe has changed in that time. Really interesting perspective. What a unique perspective.

Chris, stick around. We have much more to ask you.

A new report this morning that the Justice Department is expanding its probe into the January 6th insurrection. Why some Trump allies might be worried.



BERMAN: New reporting this morning from "The New York Times" that the Justice Department is actively expanding its probe into the January 6th insurrection. "The Times" writes the prosecutors are looking into the organizers and prominent participants in the rally on the Ellipse and potential criminality in the promotion of pro-Trump slates of electors to replace slates named by states won by Mr. Biden. That's a direct quote from "The Times."

We're back with Chris Wallace, host of the new CNN Plus show "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?"

And, Chris, you know, it's been this question among Democrats for a while, why isn't the Justice Department looking more closely at the inner Trump circle in regards to the insurrection. And now you have this article in "The Times" and also "The Post" this morning that maybe in some ways they are. I wonder how big of a deal you think this might be.

WALLACE: Well, obviously, if they move against them, and bring charges, it's a very big deal, John. The question is, I'm a little bit skeptical too as to whether they're going to jump. I mean remember that the January 6th committee investigating in the House referred -- and the whole House referred contempt of Congress charges to the Justice Department back in December for Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff to President Trump, and the Justice Department, what is that, three months since then and they've done nothing with it. And I know a lot of members of the January 6th committee are frustrated with that.

So, how aggressively are -- you know it's one thing when it's the organizers and the people that were actually on the ground in the insurrection, but when you're talking about people inside the White House and what their role is and they were officials, you haven't seen much movement yet by the Justice Department. I think the only person that they brought charges against on contempt of Congress was Steve Bannon, who, of course, was not, at that point, a White House official.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A really interesting moment on your new show where you were talking to Bob Iger, the former Walt Disney CEO, about the role of corporate leaders in weighing in on certain topics, including this so-called "don't say gay bill" in Florida.

Let's listen to this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB IGER, FORMER WALT DISNEY CEO: A lot of these issues are not necessarily political. It's about right and wrong. So, I happen to feel, and I tweeted an opinion about this "don't say gay bill" in Florida. To me it wasn't politics, it was, what is right and what is wrong. And that just seemed wrong. It seemed potentially harmful to kids.

When you're dealing with right and wrong or when you're dealing with something that does have a profound impact on your business, then I just think you have -- you'd have to do what is right and not worry about the potential backlash to it.


KEILAR: It is such an interesting moment because even if it is about right or wrong, it is still political.

WALLACE: Well, and it's also still business, which is even more important if you're the CEO of a huge company like Disney. It's interesting, we did this -- and most of the interviews on "WHO'S TALKING" on CNN Plus are going to be live. But we did go to L.A. and tape a few interviews.

This was a couple of weeks ago when there was a big furor about the "don't say gay bill," and you saw the reaction from Bob Chapek, who has succeeded Iger as CEO, who at that point was saying, I'm not getting in the middle of this. You know, we're a company and our message of unity is what we want. And although he didn't directly contradict or criticize Chapek, it was pretty obvious that when he said sometimes it's just a matter of right and wrong, that Iger was kind of distinguishing himself from his successor and saying sometimes you don't worry about the business and you don't worry about how it's going to affect you, you just have to take a stand.


So -- so, that's interesting. And there's been so much pressure from inside the company on Chapek that he's now ended up, probably a little bit too late, coming out and condemning the bill.

BERMAN: You know, Chris, we both worked for Bob Iger at one point back when we were at ABC News.

WALLACE: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: You, of course, were this big-time anchoring correspondent and I was a lowly desk assistant and writer for a while. And I remember how excited I was -- I used to have to write news brief, which is what anchors would read that would get dropped into the soap operas in the afternoon. And I remember how excited I was that I actually got to write a news brief for you once. And I just -- it's just such a happy memory. And now I get to -- I get to meet you here and you're at CNN. So it's thrilling for me. I just wanted to say welcome.

WALLACE: Well, that -- that --

BERMAN: And I know you must remember that news brief very well.

WALLACE: I do. It was one of the worst written I've ever -- I've ever seen. And I -- in fact, I probably hurt your career because I said, who wrote this thing? They said, Berman. I said, no, no, we're not -- we're not going to do that again.

I will say, one thing I learned about Bob Iger, he woke up incredibly early. In fact, when I interviewed him, and he's retired now, I said, what time did you wake up this morning? He said, 4:15. And I found this out and I found -- you know, he was the head of ABC at that time and I was working with Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer on a show called "Primetime," that if you e-mailed him at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, you'd get directly through because none of his assistants were there and you could send an email directly to him and he'd answer you back. So, you should have done that, John. If you had just emailed, you know, things would have been very different in your career.

BERMAN: That's right.

KEILAR: I think we also can't let you go --

BERMAN: I could have gotten off new brief quickly.

KEILAR: We can't let you go without noting that you are an accomplished celebrity "Jeopardy" contestant, right?

WALLACE: Well --

BERMAN: Compared to -- well, look, but John Berman has more money on his placard.

WALLACE: That's early in my thing. That -- you've got me in single "Jeopardy" not double "Jeopardy." I ended up --

KEILAR: Berman picked -- Berman picked the photos.

WALLACE: Here's the real question. I ended up winning. John, did you win?

BERMAN: I did. I did.

WALLACE: Oh, good. Well, then you and I are going to have to have a celebrity "Jeopardy" face-off sometime.

KEILAR: Oh, my gosh, I want to have dinner with the two of you.

BERMAN: That's too scary for me.

WALLACE: You're in it too. We've got to have three contestants.

KEILAR: Oh, I am not a winner. I was on a CNN quiz show and didn't even win that. So, what does that tell you? I need to be schooled. That's what it tells you.

Chris, it is such a pleasure having you at CNN and having you here this morning. Thank you so much for spending time with us today. WALLACE: And can I just say -- oh, you're about to promote it, so I'm

not going to -- I'm going to --

KEILAR: Here, you promote it. You promote it.

WALLACE: Well, I would tell you. You know what, I will now read the teleprompter.

"WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?" streams daily at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. But, let me just say, it lives forever after that because it's streaming. So, you can get it video on demand.

KEILAR: Yes. Just check it out at CNN Plus.

Thank you, again. Really appreciate it.

WALLACE: Thank you.

Thank you, John. Don't write any more news briefs for me.

BERMAN: Great to see you.

KEILAR: He's graduated from that, thank goodness.

So, just in, there's some heightened concerns about North Korea's plans for an underground nuclear test. We have some new CNN reporting on that.

And the parents of former Marine Trevor Reed, who is being detained in Russia, they finally meet face to face with President Biden. Are they satisfied with the conversation they had? We'll be with them next.



BERMAN: All right, this just in to CNN, the U.S. and its allies are concerned that North Korea is preparing for a possible underground nuclear test for the first time since 2017.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now with the details in this.

Barbara, what have you learned?


Several U.S. officials are telling CNN they are seeing growing intelligence indicators that North Korea is making preparations at its underground nuclear test site in the northern part of that country. Intelligence indicators are showing construction activity, tunneling, all the things that would be necessary for North Korea to resume underground nuclear testing, essentially detonating a nuclear device underground as part of its program. The first time since 2017. They blew up the site in 2018 as part of President Trump's failed denuclearization initiative, but they are back now. That is the U.S. assessment and a test could be coming down the road.

At the same time, concern growing about the ballistic missile test program. They just tested a missile that would have the theoretical capability of reaching the United States. The U.S. believes another test of a missile is in the works. And if North Korea is able to ever marry up a nuclear warhead with an intercontinental ballistic missile, that's the nightmare scenario for the Biden administration. Simply no indication at this point the North Koreans are the least bit interested in sitting down any kind of diplomatic negotiations. They clearly are moving ahead.


BERMAN: Important developments. Barbara, I know you're watching them so closely. Thank you very much.

STARR: Sure.

BERMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, the parents of -- the parents of Trevor Reed, who is a U.S. citizen and former Marine who is being detained in Russia met with President Biden last night in the Oval Office after holding a protest outside the White House to bring awareness to their son's case. He's now on a hunger strike protesting his conditions in a Russian prison.

Joining us now here in studio, Joey and Paula Reed, the parents of Trevor Reed.

It's really amazing that you were able to get a meeting with President Biden. What can you tell us about it?

PAULA REED, MOTHER OF TREVOR REED WHO'S BEEN DETAINED IN RUSSIA SINCE 2019: Well, obviously, we were surprised, very excited. We weren't expecting a meeting. We were just expecting someone to call us from the scheduling office. So, we have some stuff we need to keep quiet about the meeting, but it was longer than we thought. The president was very compassionate, very caring.


He listened to us. And we felt good.

KEILAR: It's probably a good sign, honestly, that there are things that you can't talk about coming out of the meeting. But I do wonder, Joey, what you can -- what do you think it is that will get Trevor released?

JOEY REED, FATHER OF TREVOR REED WHO'S BEEN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: Well, we've said for months, well maybe even a year, that coercion of a superpower like Russia or China or someone like North Korea doesn't work. We don't have -- we can't take away anything that -- that won't make them -- that obvious our sanctions against the Ukraine war have been ineffective so far. And so when it comes to releasing prisoners, you're going to have to give them something that they want. And they've -- President Putin said on CBS personally, I -- we'd like to trade. So, I mean, we think that's what it will eventually take.

We don't care how they do it, we just need them home and we need them home as soon as possible before they die or before they place more false charges on them and keep them there forever.

KEILAR: He's in bad shape. I know, as a mother, you must be so incredibly concerned about your son right now. Tell us what he's going through.

P. REED: He's coughing up blood daily. He has a fever off and on. He possibly has a broken rib or cartilage misplaced, but he says he can see it sticking out the side of his chest. And when he went to the hospital, they x-rayed the wrong side. They just gave him Tylenol. He was there for ten days and that was all they did. They didn't give him anything else. They didn't test him for TB, which is what we're mostly concerned about because if active cases of TB go mistreated, you could have as high as a 70 percent mortality rate or continuing problems for the rest of your life. So, that's our biggest concern.

J. REED: We're surprised that they -- the Russian media and government are acknowledging his hunger strike. The last time they lied and said he wasn't on a hunger strike. This time they say he's on a hunger strike but that he's been tested for TB multiple times.

P. REED: And given treatment.

J. REED: If he was -- if he was, he doesn't know about it.

KEILAR: He's -- his understanding is, no, indeed, he has not been tested for TB and he has all of the symptoms of TB, right?

P. REED: Correct.

KEILAR: What is your message -- what would your message be to Vladimir Putin right now?

J. REED: It's the same message that I said to Vladimir Putin on the day my son was convicted to the media there in Moscow is, you know, do the right thing, which, you know, we'll see about that, but release him. It would be a sign of good faith. Maybe, you know, something needs to happen so that we can start talking again between the countries. Not just because of our son, but because of, obviously, the world issues that we're facing with each other.

KEILAR: What's your message to the Russian people? They're -- you know, a lot of media, obviously, is very controlled in Russia. But some things do get through. And I wonder what you would say to them.

P. REED: Well, first of all, we love the Russian people. They're not -- they're not the problem. It's the government. They're very kind and caring people. While Joey was living there, and nothing but nice people there. So, we feel sorry for them. And --

J. REED: Yes, they're going through a lot now because of the sanctions. And -- and it's -- it's difficult on our friends, you know, the people that we talked to, our attorneys and our translators that are our friends now. And so we feel for them, what they're going through because of their government.

KEILAR: Do you think that the invasion of Ukraine has made it more promising to get Trevor out or more difficult?

P. REED: We think more difficult.

J. REED: Yes, the lines of communication have closed off greatly, if not totally. So, the stakes are much higher now.

KEILAR: There -- I feel like there might be some more attention on Trevor right now, even as it's more difficult. Do you feel that way?

P. REED: Yes, we do. Absolutely.

KEILAR: Well, listen, thank you so much. We are always thinking of you. You know that we -- it is always an open door here to have you on as you are trying to get Trevor out of imprisonment in Russia. And we thank you both.

P. REED: Thank you very much.

J. REED: We appreciate it. Thank you.

P. REED: Thank you for having us.

KEILAR: Some new U.S. intelligence that Vladimir Putin has not been fully informed of how badly Russian forces are doing in Ukraine. We'll have the latest from the ground there.

Plus, an American looking for a way to help opens his doors to a Ukrainian family in need. "The Good Stuff" is next.



KEILAR: Time now for "The Good Stuff."

Arina Temishenko (ph) knew that she and her three children had to flee Ukraine when Russia's bombs started falling. But her husband stayed behind, as most me were banned from leaving the country. When Florida resident Philip Bradford (ph) heard about the war, he asked the local Ukrainian church if there was a way that he could help. And when the church told him of Arina's (ph) family who had made it to Miami and needed a place to stay, Philip opened his doors.

CNN's Randi Kaye spoke with them.


PHILIP BRADFORD (ph): I'm almost 80. So it's like having grandkids running around again.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How do you feel about a stranger opening up his home to your family?

ARINA TEMISHENKO (ph): You know, I was shocked. And now we are like one family, all together.

KAYE: You sent them to Disney.

BRADFORD: Oh, she told you about that?


KEILAR: Earlier this week Arina's husband, Oleksandr (ph), was able to leave Ukraine and reunite with his family.

Philip has welcomed Oleksandr into his home as well. Just a beautiful story there.

CNN's coverage continues right now.