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Prosecutors File Two Felony Counts In Shooting Of Missouri Teen; Congress Returns Amid Showdown Over Looming Debt Limit Crisis; FBI Arrests Two Accused Of Running New York City Police Station For China; Fox Defamation Trial To Start Tomorrow After One-Day Delay; Source: Justice Thomas To Amend Financial Disclosure Forms To Reflect Property Sale To GOP Megadonor. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 17, 2023 - 18:00 ET
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ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, nearly ten months after an Ohio man was shot and killed by police, a grand jury decides not to indict the eight officers involved in the death of Jayland Walker. We are standing by for reaction from Walker's family in this case, which sparked angry protests.
Also tonight, the FBI, arresting two alleged Chinese agents, accusing them of running a secret police station in New York's Chinatown. The feds are describing it as an unprecedented operation aimed at intimidating Chinese dissidents.
And a potential roadblock for Democrats' plans to temporarily replace Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee. Some key Republicans now signaling they hope to block the move and keep Biden's judicial nominations log jammed.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Alex Marquardt, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We are following fast-moving developments in multiple stories tonight. Right now, we're awaiting a news conference from the prosecuting attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, where a black teenager was shot after mistakenly going to the wrong house where an elderly white man apparently lived.
CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is with us. Josh, walk us through what we know about the shooting, which took place several days ago.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex. We've been waiting to hear what authorities would say and when they would say it. As you mentioned, we are now standing by. The Clay County prosecuting attorney's office say that they are about to address the press. They're about to provide some type of information. We don't yet know what that will be, if that will be an announcement of some type of charge or whether they will simply describe how their investigation is proceeding, but, again, that should be happening here in just a few moments time. Of course, this comes after 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was grievously wounded last Thursday.
And just to walk you through what occurred there, this happen -- appears to be a case of going to the wrong address. If we have the graphic, I'll throw it up there just to show you how close these two residents were. Essentially what we're learning is that his parents asked him to go to an address of 115th Terrace, he instead accidentally goes, it's just about a street away, to 115th Street. And that is where an elderly white man opens fire on Yarl, seriously injured again. Yarl's family says that he was shot in the head as well as the arm.
Now, of course, there is this question about whether that homeowner will be held criminally liable. This question seems to come down to how it's interpreted about how one is able to defend their home. I want to show you here under a Missouri law, the so-called stand your ground laws, that allow someone to use deadly force either at home or out and about.
What it says is that a person may use physical force upon another person when into the extent he or she reasonably believes that such force to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use of imminent use of deadly force by such other person. In layman's terms, what that says, is that if you're going to open fire on someone, under Missouri law, you have to be able to articulate that there was some type of imminent threat that you yourself or another party would have been subjected to dangerous or deadly force.
Of course, the question here is that we're hearing from Yarl's attorney that he went and rang the doorbell at this location. So, again, the serious question there about why this elderly man would open fire and what type of reasonable force that that he, you know, can articulate to authorities. We know that he was taken into custody or at least questioned by police for a couple hours and then released. Authorities can only hold someone for about 24 hours until they have to make some type of charging decision. But we're waiting now to see what new announcement may be coming there.
MARQUARDT: All right. Josh Campbell, stay with us, as we do wait that press conference by Zachary Thompson, the prosecutor there in Clay County, Missouri.
Now, we are expecting to hear soon also from the family of Jayland Walker after an Ohio grand jury decided not to indict the eight police officers who were involved in his shooting death.
Now, as we wait for that, let's bring in our Athena Jones. She has been following this story for us. Athena, what is the reasoning that the Ohio attorney general is giving for this decision? ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alex. We know that no state charges will be filed in this case because the nine-person grand jury in Summit County found that the eight police officers who shot Jayland Walker back in June of 2022 were legally justified in firing on him.
Now, I want you to watch a video clip of the shooting. It's very, very disturbing, difficult to watch and to listen to, but go ahead and take a listen.
You're going to see him now getting out of the car running away, and then you listen to this hail of bullets that these police officers fired.
So, you hear those bullets being fired. It's really hard to listen to. Jayland Walker was shot 46 times. He had no criminal history. But the Ohio attorney general, Dave Yost, said that this was justified because police believed that he still had a gun on him. He said that Jayland Walker had fired at least one shot as part of this pursuit, and that is why once the police reached him there, they believe he was still armed.
Listen to the attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE YOST, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Walker took at least one shot from his vehicle at the police, led them on a chase and exited from his vehicle in a ski mask, ignoring multiple commands by officers to show his hands and to stop.
Mr. Walker then reached for his waistband in what several officers described as a cross-draw motion, planted his foot and turned toward the officers while raising his hand. Only then did the officers fire leaving Mr. Walker was firing again at them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And so we they later found his recently purchased handgun in the seat of his car. So, he wasn't actually running with a weapon. But because he had fired earlier, that is what police thought. And this grand jury found that they're just their conclusions were justified.
MARQUARDT: All right. Athena I want to ask you also to stay with us as we await that press conference from the Walker family and their attorney.
For now, I want to bring in Civil Rights Attorney Areva Martin, CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson and retired Los Angeles Police Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. Thank you all for joining me this evening.
Sergeant Dorsey, I want to start with you and where Athena left off there. Jayland Walker, according to the attorney, the Ohio attorney general, shot -- you know what, we're going to go to the press conference of the Clay County --
ZACHARY THOMPSON, CLAY COUNTY, MISSOURI, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: This afternoon, my office received a criminal referral from the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. After a thorough review of the case file, the appropriate laws and information gained during the investigation phase of the case, I filed two felony counts.
In count one, the defendant, Andrew D. Lester, is charged with a Class A felony of assault in the first degree, and that on or about April 13th, 2023 in Clay County, Missouri, he knowingly caused physical injury to P.Y. (ph) by shooting him. This is a felony. It carries with it a range of punishment of up to life.
In count two, the defendant is charged with armed criminal action. This is an unclassified felony and carries with it a range of punishment between 3 to 15 years. The state is alleging the defendant committed the family of assault in the first-degree, as charged in count one, by, with and through the knowing use, assistance and aid of a deadly weapon.
As a result of these charges, a warrant was issued for Mr. Lester's arrest and bond was set at $200,000. Our office worked closely with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department during this case and we would not be here today but for their hard work.
We understand how frustrating this has been. But I can assure you that the criminal justice system is working and will continue to work. As with any serious case, we approached this one in an objective and impartial manner. We look forward to obtaining a just result.
With that being said and understanding this is a pending criminal matter, I will do my best to answer a few questions.
REPORTER: Mr. Thompson, (INAUDIBLE) from Fox 4. How did you arrive at this so quickly? Just yesterday, we were doing a news conference, and so little was known. Now, the case files (INAUDIBLE) KCBP today and we're here just a couple of hours later.
THOMPSON: Charging decision was not made until a thorough review of the file occurred. We work closely with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department during the course of the investigation and use information from that investigation and making our decision.
REPORTER: Is Mr. Lester in custody?
THOMPSON: My understanding is Mr. Lester is not in custody. The arrest warrant was recently issued. It's my understanding that the appropriate law enforcement agencies have this information and are taking appropriate action.
REPORTER: Why no murder charge for attempted murder?
THOMPSON: Sure. The defendant is charged with an A felony. It's the highest level of offense in the state of Missouri. It carries with it a range of punishment of 10 to 30 years or life imprisonment. Other charges may not carry that same level of range of punishment.
REPORTER: Can you share anything about what happened with what (INAUDIBLE)?
THOMPSON: I don't want to litigate this case in the press. It's been my goal from the very beginning to get justice for the child involved in the case. And I don't want to jeopardize that by talking about the facts to the media.
REPORTER: Are possible hate crime charges potential here?
THOMPSON: So, in the state of Missouri, hate crimes can be E or D felonies, which carry with it a lower range of punishment than what the defendant is currently charged with.
REPORTER: But they can still be brought, right?
THOMPSON: I'm not sure I understand.
REPORTER: You can still add additional charges.
THOMPSON: At that point, you would be talking about double jeopardy issues.
REPORTER: The question some people have been asking is why it would take seven days for the police (INAUDIBLE)?
THOMPSON: I know that the men and women of the Kansas City Police Department worked very hard on this case. There were things that had to be done in order to build it on a solid foundation. That means attempting to get a formal statement from the witness in the case, that means waiting for forensic laboratory results to be processed.
THOMPSON: I don't have that information.
REPORTER: Was there a racial component to this case?
THOMPSON: As the prosecutor of Clay County, I can tell you there was a racial component to the case.
REPORTER: Could you elaborate?
THOMPSON: I'm not sure. I mean, what do you mean?
REPORTER: Was anything said that made you believe that this was a racially (INAUDIBLE)?
THOMPSON: Sure. Everyone here, we made copies of the probable cause statement to hand out to members of the press. There is no indication of anything like that within the probable cause statement.
REPORTER: What city is that with the standard ground (INAUDIBLE) that people were asking whether that would be effective and what can you say about that? THOMPSON: Sure. Self-defense in the state of Missouri is controlled by Section 565031 and states, subject to the provisions contained in the statute that a person may use physical force upon another person to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use of imminent use of unlawful force. Beyond that, I don't want to comment specifics on the case in order to protect the integrity of the process.
REPORTER: Do you know why Mr. Lester was only held for about an hour at the police department before he was let go?
THOMPSON: So, in Missouri, charges have to be filed within 24 hours of an arrest or the defendant or suspect is released. In this case, it was clear that additional investigation needed to be done so that the case could be built upon a solid foundation.
REPORTER: Do you believe he's still in the area?
THOMPSON: I don't have any information regarding his specific whereabouts but it's my understanding law enforcement is aware of the situation and is taking all appropriate action.
REPORTER: Does he had any kind of (INAUDIBLE)?
THOMPSON: And this is -- I hate to sound -- repeat myself, but I would not think it's appropriate to comment on anyone's criminal history into the media. And the reason I'm doing that is because I want to achieve justice for the victim in the case and I don't want to jeopardize that by litigating the case in the media.
THOMPSON: The defendant?
REPORTER: I'm sorry, yes.
THOMPSON: He's 85 years old.
REPORTER: 85. And is he a white male, black male?
THOMPSON: He's a white male.
REPORTER: And how many times did Mr. Lester shoot the (INAUDIBLE)?
THOMPSON: The probable cause statement indicates that he shot twice.
REPORTER: And in which areas of the body?
THOMPSON: The head and arm.
THOMPSON: It does contain information about the whereabouts of Mr. Lester when he discharged his firearm.
REPORTER: Did he shoot through a glass door or window?
THOMPSON: The probable cause statement indicates that rounds were fired through a glass door.
REPORTER: And the young man never entered the home in any way, they're on the front door step, presumably?
THOMPSON: The probable cause statement indicates that the victim of the case did not cross the threshold.
REPORTER: Did he knocked on the door or rang the bell?
THOMPSON: So, those facts may be in dispute, so I'm not going to comment on that.
REPORTER: And it's still your opinion or belief that they were there picking up -- simply (INAUDIBLE), they were there by mistake?
THOMPSON: That's the evidence we have in the probable cause statement.
REPORTER: So, do these charges mean in your judgment, Mr. Lester did not act reasonably?
THOMPSON: After a thorough review of the case, the facts of the case, I believe that A felony assault charges were appropriate and also armed criminal action charges.
REPORTER: Those two spoke when they interacted?
THOMPSON: The problem cause statement does not indicate any words were exchanged.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) some of those facts are disputed as far as home surveillance or police action (INAUDIBLE)?
THOMPSON: It was part of the investigation. Law enforcement investigated that possibility that the incident would have been caught on camera, on video. That is not part of the case file.
REPORTER: Did anyone else witness this?
THOMPSON: It's my understanding, no. The problem cause statement does not indicate that.
REPORTER: And there was no doorbell video -- I'm sorry you've already answered that, but is there any other video of any type.
THOMPSON: Sure, the probable cost him indicates that there was no video of the incident.
REPORTER: You know what kind of gun it was?
THOMPSON: It was a 32 revolver. REPORTER: You know, Mr. Lester had a (INAUDIBLE) any sort of credential, things like that (INAUDIBLE)?
THOMPSON: I don't have any information in regard to that.
REPORTER: He does -- what level -- I don't think you'll be seeking on the Class A felony charge versus an assault?
THOMPSON: So, the range of punishment on the A felony is between 10 and 30 years or life imprisonment. Range of punishment on that armed criminal action is 3 to 15 years. And that being said, that's the range of punishment available, um, in the case.
As far as trial strategy and talking about the case and litigating in the case in the media, I'm not going to do that, because it's important to me to protect the integrity of the process and get justice for the victim.
REPORTER: What were the conversations been like with the family?
THOMPSON: We are continuing to make efforts to speak with the family. I visited the house today and I look forward to communicating with them further.
REPORTER: I just want to clarify, you have not made -- there's no you contact with Lester since?
THOMPSON: I'm sorry?
REPORTER: You've not made contact with Lester?
THOMPSON: I have not made contact with the defendant, no.
REPORTER: What would be your message to the community?
THOMPSON: My message to the community is that, in Clay County, we enforce the laws and we follow the laws and that does not matter where you come from or what you look like, or how much money you have, everyone is held to the same standard.
REPORTER: And nothing about this process was different than any other investigation in your mind?
THOMPSON: I think the Kansas City Police Department worked extremely hard, lab results were obtained on an extremely short timeline. That's not something you see every day.
All right, if there are no more further questions, I thank you for your time.
MARQUARDT: We've been listening to Zachary Thompson there, the prosecutor for Clay County in Missouri. We just heard from Mr. Thompson that there were two counts that were announced against Andrew D. Lester in the shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl. The first is a count one Class A felony, assault in the first-degree, which carries a potential sentence of up to life in prison, and then the second charge, count two, is armed criminal action, that carries 3 to 15 years in prison.
I want to bring back in our Correspondent Josh Campbell as well as our legal experts. Josh, to you first, two very serious felony charges. What was interesting is also that the there is an arrest warrant now issued for Andrew D. Lester, but he is not in custody.
CAMPBELL: That's right. And we expect that that would happen in short order. I mean, obviously, the police know where he lives. We've seen cases before where between the investigation and an actual charge that oftentimes police will have eyes on a location.
So, we're just waiting to see how long will pass before he is actually in custody, but we did learn a lot of key details there in that press conference, Alex. You mentioned the two very serious charges. But also we were told by the Clay County prosecutor that two shots were fired, but this is key, through a glass door. And so, presumably, this man, 85-year-old Andrew D. Lester, could see Ralph Yarl on the other side of that glass door before opening fire.
And, again, it gets to what you and I were talking about just before that press conference. Under Missouri law, this all comes down to reasonableness. Now, in order to use deadly force, you have to have two things. You have to have a reasonable belief that the subject of your force poses an imminent threat and you have to reasonably believe that your deadly force is necessary to stop that threat.
And, of course, the question here is it is not illegal to walk up to someone's door, to ring a doorbell or to knock on a door. The prosecutor just said that there was no indication that Mr. Yarl had crossed what's called the threshold. That is actually going into the property. And, so you know, this appears to be a what has been described by Mr. Yarl's family attorney, Ben Crump, that someone who was at this location who was in the subject of unreasonable force, that, at least according to prosecutors.
It is worth pointing out, I want to know one thing, and our colleagues, the legal experts, can speak more to this. But also under Missouri law, say Mr. Lester says that I felt that this young man was trespassing or trying to come into my house to commit some violent act, it's up to -- the burden on the state to prove that this wasn't reasonable. But a lot of overwhelming evidence here, particularly if you have a glass door, someone who could prove presumably see the young man coming up, not posing a threat, according, you know, at least to prosecutors, very evidence and very serious charges.
MARQUARDT: Yes. The prosecutor making clear there, Josh, as you said, that Yarl did not across the threshold before he was shot with what the prosecutor said was a 32 revolver.
Joey, I want to go to you. What do you make of these two charges?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I make of it that the prosecutor evaluated it and made an assessment that although it is a stand your ground state, that the evidence established here that the stand your ground would not be applicable. To be clear, I feel and do believe that the defendant will certainly avail himself or attempt to of the stand the ground, but there's a couple of important points to be made. Number one of the prosecutors, moving forward, he, in essence, is saying, that is the prosecutor, that the person who shot was not an immediate fear of death or serious bodily injury. That is the conclusion the prosecutor had drawn.
Number two, he's concluded that the actions that he took and someone ringing the doorbell and firing shots were not reasonable, were not predicated upon enough evidence which would suggest that he was protecting himself and preserving his life.
Quick pivot, when you look at the issue of stand your ground, stand your ground is not a license to kill. Stand your ground says that you don't have a duty to retreat. You don't have to run away. But you cannot just shoot and kill in the event that you don't have enough factual evidence to substantiate you being under attack, that there's a threat, is that threat reasonable. And so, clearly, the prosecutor believed that on the facts, as he knew them to be, based on an investigation, that that was not applicable, justification was not applicable and these would be the charges.
MARQUARDT: And, Areva Martin, what stands out to you and everything we just learned from the prosecutor?
AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY AND LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: I think one of the things that stands out to me is that there is a racial component to this case. We've been hearing that from Ralph's family. We've been hearing that from the attorneys representing that family, that they believe that this was racially motivated, that this 85-year-old white man purposely shot at Ralph Yarl without any justification simply because he was a young African-American boy who was knocking on his door.
And I think that's what's so tragic about this case. We've seen these little amazing pictures of Ralph, just looks like an innocent kid whose only mistake was knocking on the wrong door. And because of the color of his skin, he's now in a hospital bed fighting for his life. And I think that's the most appalling part of the story for me.
MARQUARDT: Knocking on the wrong door, trying to pick up his siblings, just happened to be at the wrong house.
Sergeant Dorsey, when you hear the prosecutor there talking about that racial component, how much do you think that was a factor?
CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, certainly, it was a factor, but, I mean, I would imagine they didn't think that they could prove that. And so they only want to bring those charges that they believe that they can prove. We undoubtedly believed that, you know, this old white man looked out his window, saw a young black kid and decided that black skin somehow was an imminent threat. He certainly, while he didn't have a duty to retreat, if he was really fearful, he could have. I mean he's inside. The so-called imminent threat is outside. And so it's not reasonable to believe that deadly use of force was necessary. And so I'm happy that they brought the charges. I don't have a problem with the police department, taking the time that was necessary to fortify those charges. We want to get it right. And sometimes you only get one bite at the apple. And so I hope that they put this man in custody real soon before another black person happens by his house and scares him.
MARQUARDT: That's right. Andrew D. Lester warrant out for his arrest, but he's still not in custody. Areva Martin, Cheryl Dorsey, Joey Jackson and Josh Campbell, we have to leave it there. Thank you very much for breaking that down for us.
We have much more news ahead. We'll be right back.
MARQUARDT: Congress is back in session tonight with an urgent to-do list, including an unfolding showdown over raising the debt limit. Our Melanie Zanona is up on Capitol Hill.
Melanie, the White House and Congress are at a serious impasse over the debt ceiling. How is it expected to play out?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, House Republicans are really trying to get the ball rolling. Now, independently, Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the New York Stock Exchange earlier today, he promised that House Republicans over the next few weeks are going to pass a bill that would raise the debt ceiling for one year and also be paired with federal spending cuts.
Now, he did not go into very specific detail about what those cuts would be, but we do know that Republicans are looking at clawing back unspent COVID funds, returning to fiscal 2022 levels for non-defense discretionary spending and also imposing work requirements on Medicaid and other government assistant programs.
Now, McCarthy told my colleagues earlier today that he is confident that they're going to have the 218 votes needed to pass that through the House, but the reality, Alex, is that it's going to be much more challenging for Republicans. They have very little room for error.
Of course, they can only lose four votes on any given partisan bill. And moderates in the GOP might be particularly uncomfortable with some of those provisions, like work requirements.
So, this is going to be a fight. It's going to be a challenge. And even if they are able to get it through the House, it is dead on arrival in the Senate.
For McCarthy, though, that is not exactly the point. What he's trying to do here is he is trying to show that his party is united and trying to force Biden back to the negotiating table. And we've also heard the blame game heating up on both sides of the aisle. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Without exaggeration, American debt is a ticking time bomb that will detonate unless we take serious, responsible action. Yet, how has President Biden reacted to this issue? He has done nothing.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER ()D-NY): He went all the way to Wall Street and gave us no more details, no more facts, no new information at all. I'll be blunt. If Speaker McCarthy continues in this direction, we are headed to default.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: The White House is also slamming McCarthy, calling him irresponsible and dangerous for trying to take the debt limit hostage. Their official position is that Republicans should raise the debt ceiling without any conditions. That's something Republicans did multiple times under former President Donald Trump. So, we'll see if this new Kevin McCarthy strategy of passing a House GOP-only bill works and if it changes the minds of the White House. Alex?
MARQUARDT: All right. Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Now, we saw House Republicans flexing their muscles in another way today, holding a hearing on crime, but not here in Washington, in New York City.
Let's get the latest on that from our Kara Scannell. Kara, what are Republicans trying to accomplish here?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex. At this field hearing today in Lower Manhattan, the House Republicans led by the House Judiciary chairman, Jim Jordan, were pushing the narrative that the district attorney for Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, was more focused on prosecuting Donald Trump that he is on combating violent crime in the city.
Now, in this hearing, a number of house Democrats, including New York's Jerry Nadler, appeared, they also brought a number of witnesses, and they testified that the crime rate, according to statistics, is actually declining. They also criticized the GOP for not passing gun legislation if their concerns were focused on violent crime. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): But here in Manhattan, the scales of justice are weighed down by politics. For the district attorney, justice isn't blind. It's about looking for opportunities to advance a political agenda, a radical political agenda. Rather than enforcing the law, the D.A. is using his office to do the bidding of left wing campaign funders. REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Jim Jordan engages in a lot of political theater in Washington, but he should know better than to take his tired act to Broadway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: Now, Bragg has said that Jordan should look in his own backyard at some of the major cities in Ohio, where the crime rates there is higher than it is in Manhattan. His office issued a new statement today in which they said, for outside politicians to now appear in New York City on the taxpayer's dime for political stunt is a slap in the face to the dedicated NYPD officers, prosecutors and other public servants who work tirelessly every day with facts and data to keep our home safe.
Now, Jordan, through attorneys today, also responded to Bragg's lawsuit trying and to block a subpoena for testimony from a former prosecutor in that office, Jim Jordan is saying that he should be immune from this lawsuit, because under the Constitution, if congressmen are involved in legislative acts, they should be protected. There's a hearing in this matter on Wednesday. Alex?
MARQUARDT: Yes. Jordan represents a district near Columbus, Ohio, where the crime rate is higher than there in New York. Kara Scannell, thank you very much for that report.
And just ahead, we will be telling you what we're learning about the arrest of alleged Chinese agents and the secret police station that federal authorities say they were running in New York City.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MARQUARDT: Tonight, the Justice Department is revealing an alleged plot by the Chinese government to spy on and intimidate Chinese dissidents here in the United States, the FBI arresting two accused Chinese agents for running a secret illegal police station in the heart of New York City.
Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is joining me now, along with our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Evan, I want to start with you. Just extraordinary, the FBI, the Justice Department using this phrase police station. This is the first known overseas police station, they say, that the Chinese have set up here in the United States. So, how did this work?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, what this station that originally or what ostensibly it was set up for was for the municipality of Fuzhou, which is a city in Eastern China, for them to provide services to their citizens overseas. And, for example, if you wanted to renew your driver's license, those were the services allegedly that they were supposed to be helping to provide from that station.
Instead, what the FBI says, though, were that they were Chinese agents operating out of that station, and they were being used essentially to intimidate dissidents around the United States. They were being -- they were showing up at protests by the Falun Gong religious group, for instance. They visited dissidents and tried to persuade them, threatened and harassed them to return to China, where they would be dealt with by the Chinese security services.
The FBI says that they conducted a search warrant at this location there in Chinatown.
You saw a picture there of the illegal for police station, and it was shut down as a result of that. And we have been told that there were a number of other such stations that were or operating around the country, and the FBI has managed to get those shut down. But it's a big concern about exactly what these guys were doing out of these offices.
MARQUARDT: And, Andy, when we talk about Chinese spying here in the United States, we often talk about academia or stealing trade secrets, or even recently, of course, the Chinese sending a spy balloon all across the country. But operating on the ground in the way that Evan was just describing, intimidating people, how much does that show that these Chinese intelligence activities are running much deeper?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Alex, I think that's a great setup, because what it shows you is that the Chinese government is engaged in a multipronged effort to conduct intelligence operations here in the United States, to collect classified material, to steal technology from private industry, and now we know to engage in propaganda and the harassment of dissidents who they feel are speaking out in a negative way about the Chinese regime.
I think referring to these stations as police stations or police precincts is really misleading in a way. I mean, what these are are intelligence operations with intelligence operatives who have been trained by the government of China and sent over here to conduct business on behalf of the government of China underneath the radar of U.S. diplomatic requirements.
MARQUARDT: Yes, and essentially posing as a consular office of sorts.
Evan, there were dozens of people charged today, and some were also charged after they spied on dissidents on Zoom?
PEREZ: Right. At least eight of these people charged today, again, and more than 40 people that were charged as part of this operation by the Justice Department. Eight of them were part of this operation that targeted dissidents on Zoom. They had, according to the FBI, an employee of Zoom in China, whose job was essentially to help identify dissidents, shut down their discussions, anything critical of the Chinese government, and shut down their accounts. That's what they did, according to the FBI. MARQUARDT: All right. Evan Perez and Andrew McCabe on this incredible campaign of spying by the Chinese Communist Party here in the United States, thanks to you both.
Now, just ahead, the abrupt delay of the defamation lawsuit against Fox News and whether it might signal a settlement in the works, that's coming up.
MARQUARDT: The trial and the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for its election lies is now set to begin tomorrow after an abrupt delay.
Danny Freeman is outside the courthouse for us.
So, Danny, why this delay?
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, we all got the news last night that there was going to be this one day delay in this trial. We were hoping for some clarity this morning in this courthouse behind me here in Wilmington where I was in the courtroom at 9:00 a.m. where the judge came out, and the judge said that he was the one that made the decision to delay the case by a day and said this is not unusual for trials of this size.
But, of course, we were all wondering. What does this mean for potential settlement, where both Fox and Dominion, they have not said anything publicly today about any potential settlement, but last night in "The Wall Street Journal", which is, of course, owned by Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation. Last night, they reported that Fox has made a late push to settle that dispute out of court. So all day today we were waiting for any news of a potential settlement, but that didn't come.
So as of now, we're expecting to be right back here tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. for jury selection and opening statements in this case, Alex,
MARQUARDT: This is going to be a blockbuster trial to watch. Danny Freeman there in Wilmington, Delaware, thank you very much.
Now, top Republican senators are signaling that they're not interested in helping Democrats vote on a temporary fill in for California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was out recovering from shingles.
Let's get more on this with our political commentators, former Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones, and former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin.
Thank you both for joining me.
Mondaire, I want to ask you first. How does Majority Leader Chuck Schumer move of vote forward to have a temporary filling for Senator Feinstein without Republican interest?
MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you asked about how does he move forward with a fill in, and I think that's really difficult to do under these circumstances without meeting their 60- vote threshold, which means that you need 10 Republican senators to do it. They have expressed that they've got no interest in making it easier for Democrats to confirm their priority judges and it just puts the spotlight again back on the same the senior senator from the state of California who has a very distinguished career, but who I think has been called on by a number of Democrats in Congress already, and I expect that number to grow in the coming days to, you know, step aside and allow the governor of California to replace her if she's unable to do her job.
MARQUARDT: With Feinstein, the Judiciary Committee is 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats. So, as you said that they Democrats have a much harder time getting judges through.
Alyssa, Minority Leader M McConnell, he was away himself. He's just gotten back after suffering a concussion. Do you think that he and other Republicans might consider cooperating with Democrats, given health sensitivities, considerations that are at play here?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the Senator Feinstein situation is a bit unique. She's been out since nearly February. So you're talking about months of significant votes offer lower court judicial appointments, especially at a time frankly, where Democrats are putting abortion policy front and center as one of their top focuses, and you've got judicial appointments that are kind of waiting.
Mitch McConnell was out briefly and got back to work. I've been open. I think it was right that John Fetterman takes some time.
But there's something to be said for when you're out of the job for months. It may be time to just step aside and allow the next person to step in.
MARQUARDT: Now, Alyssa, I do want to get your thoughts on our earlier reporting about Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio and the hearing that he held today in New York. We've talked about this before. Many Republicans arguing the party really has to move on from former President Donald Trump.
But when you see this kind of field hearing when top Republicans are holding this, going after the Manhattan d a for indicting Trump, it seems that you have two very different competing visions of where the Republican Party is going.
GRIFFIN: Listen, to me, it shows that my party didn't learn much from the midterms. Crime is a winning issue for Republicans. But in Ohio congressman coming to Manhattan to complain about Manhattan's crime rate is doing nothing for the voters of the rest of the country. This is clearly political theater. It is clearly a show to run
interference for the former president, and it just shows how out of out of touch much of the House Republican conferences with the very people that they represent who want them to focus on inflation, actually dealing with crime at a national level, dealing with common sense gun reforms. It's just not what they're interested in doing at this point.
MARQUARDT: And, Mondaire, can Democrats benefit from this?
JONES: Look I think to the extent the Republican Party continues to give Democrats the gift of showing that they're not serious about governing and about passing legislation this Congress then that would benefit Democrats.
But I've got to tell you, the American people writ large are really at a disadvantage here as people try to obstruct a investigation and potential prosecution by the Manhattan D.A. of the former president, especially as the issue of gun violence continues to feature prominently in the minds of the American people. And you've got these folks here who don't support common sense gun reforms that would make America safer on our streets, yet want to talk about the city of New York, which has actually seen crime go down over the course of this year.
And coming from a place like Ohio, which were Columbus has a murder rate, that's three times the rate of Manhattan, I think is really hypocritical and doesn't serve the American people well.
MARQUARDT: All right. Alyssa Farah Griffin and Mondaire Jones, thank you so much for your time and insight tonight.
GRIFFIN: Thank you.
MARQUARDT: And this note to our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", right after THE SITUATION ROOM, Erin will be speaking with an attorney for a top critic of President Vladimir Putin, who was just sentenced to 25 years in prison for speaking out against the war in Ukraine. That's coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
All right, and we'll have much more news ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN has new reporting on how Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas is responding to the fallout over a report on his ties to Republican mega donor.
Stay with us.
MARQUARDT: There are new developments tonight in the controversy surrounding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his ties to a Republican megadonor.
CNN's Brian Todd has this story. Brian, bring us up to speed.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alex, we have new information tonight on Justice Thomas's efforts to minimize the damage from all the recent reporting on his financial dealings, efforts that don't really seem to be tamping down the pressure on Thomas.
TODD (voice-over): A beleaguered Supreme Court justice faces more scrutiny tonight over his financial dealings. A source close to Justice Clarence Thomas tells CNN's Ariane de Vogue. Thomas now plans to amend his financial disclosure forms to reflect a 2014 real estate deal he made with GOP megadonor Harlan Crow.
NOAH BOOKBINDER, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: It's good in and of itself, but it doesn't do the job when he should have reported this years ago.
TODD: Indeed, Justice Thomas's intent to disclose that deal only comes after a report from the investigative news outlet "ProPublica" that Thomas had never disclosed the sale of three of his family's properties in Savannah, Georgia, to Harlan Crow in 2014. The source close to Thomas says Thomas has always filled out his forms with the help of aides, and that not reporting the real estate deal was simply an oversight.
BOOKBINDER: Blaming it on aids is kind of pathetic, and this is somebody who is in one of the most important positions in the country who had clear ethical obligations.
TODD: But the source close to Thomas also tells CNN Thomas believed he didn't have to disclose the transaction because he lost money on the deal.
BOOKBINDER: It's pretty clear that the obligation is to report sales of real estate. He has to report sales, real estate of anything other than his actual house that he lives in.
TODD: This comes on the heels of another "ProPublica" report that Thomas didn't report luxury travel that he and his wife, Ginni, took with Harlan Crow, including trips on Crow's yacht and private jet.
Thomas issued a statement saying he was advised he didn't have to report those trips. But CNN is now reporting that Thomas also failed to report income or reimbursements at least twice before.
STEPHEN VLADECK, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF LAW: It seems like there ought to come a point where having done this multiple times, having made similar mistakes, multiple times, the notion that he didn't understand the disclosure requirements starts to sound ever more and more hollow.
TODD: And "The Washington Post" now reports another oddity in justice Thomas's bookkeeping that Thomas has reported hundreds of thousands of dollars of rental income over the last two decades from a Nebraska real estate company, launched in the 1980s by his wife and her relatives. But "The Post" says that firm hasn't existed since 2006.
One analyst says all of this reflects symptoms of what he calls a broader disease.
VLADECK: This court does not think it's accountable whether it's to voters to Congress to the executive branch that to a degree we really haven't seen in our lifetimes.
TODD (on camera): Justice Thomas and his wife have not responded to the Washington Post report on the income they reported from that defunct company. The Supreme Court has not responded to our request for comment on CNN's latest reporting and did not respond when we asked if Chief Justice John Roberts will launch an investigation of justice Thomas as top Democrats are calling for -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much for that report.
That will do it for me tonight. I'm Alex Marquardt here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.