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American Detained In Russia, Accused Of Being A Spy; President Donald Trump Invited Congressional Leaders To A Meeting Tomorrow; Man Randomly Killed A Seven-Year-Old Little Girl In Texas. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 1, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:13] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Happy New Year. I'm Pamela Brown in for Brooke Baldwin.
A Michigan family begins the year in both shock and relief. Their missing son, a 48-year-old security executive is found alive but in Russia, detained under charges he was caught in the act of spying for the United States. However, the family of Paul Whelan says quote "the innocence is undoubted." In his first on-camera interview, his twin brother cold CNN the allegations by Russia are not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF AMERICAN DETAINED BY RUSSIA: Paul is a very capable person. He is physically a large person. So and he -- he has a background in law enforcement. He was a marine. He does corporate security and he travels regularly. So he is not the sort of person who would stumble into a strange environment or make poor choices that could cause him risks but particularly he wouldn't have made choices that have gotten him sideways of the Russian government and its espionage act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And the brother also revealed that Whelan is a retired marine. He was traveled to Russia multiple times including when he was a staff sergeant back in 2006. And he is now a global security director for a private firm which he joined in 2017.
Well, the family did not know about the spy accusations until yesterday morning when Russia's counterintelligence agency announced Whelan was in custody. Paul Whelan is from Michigan.
And that is where CNN's Martin Savidge is standing by for us.
Martin, has any of the family been able to speak with him since he was detained in Russia?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Pamela, they have not. And of course, that is a grave concern for them right new. You so talk about how you have got this kind weird dichotomy where they find out that he is alive, thank goodness. But then find out he is in custody and was charged with spying. So it was a real whiplash for them. What they are hoping for and what they are waiting for is for U.S.
officials in Russia from the American embassy to have a meeting with Whelan while he is in custody.
BROWN: Oh, we just lost Martin there in Michigan. We hope to go back to him soon. He's standing by hoping to speak with some of the family members of Paul Whelan who was detained in Russia.
And now, I want to go over to Russia, to Moscow, where law enforcement officials say he could be up to 20 years in prison. He was arrested there on Friday.
And joining me now, CNN Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance.
So Matthew, where is Paul Whelan right now?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- security service which is the lead counterespionage agency in Russia. We know that he was arrested on December the 28th in the Russia capital Moscow. And we know that the FSB says that he was caught spying. But beyond that we know very little from the Russian authorities' point of view as to what's going on, as to the circumstances of his detention, as to what they were believe he was doing specifically. And so, it's been very mysterious the way this has been broken to the world in the way that it was.
BROWN: All right, we are having issues there in Moscow with our Matthew Chance.
So let's turn this to some expert analysis on what has been unfolding in Russia. I have with us now CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst Bob Baer who spent several decades as a CIA operative receiving the career intelligence medal for his efforts.
So Bob, right of the bat, I just want to ask you, do you think Paul Whelan's detainment to Russia has anything to do with Maria Butina's pleading guilty in the U.S.? She pleaded guilty to being an illegal foreign agent in the U.S. just recently.
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I think it has everything to do with her detainment. First of all, Paul Whelan is not a spy. He has been framed in some fashion. We don't sends spies in commercial covered to Moscow. So the Russians were very mad about something. And the last thing to happen is Butina.
And they think it's an unjustified arrest and plea agreement because in fact she wasn't technically a spy. She was not working for the FSB or SVR, its external service. And she was just here promoting Russia. And in Putin's eyes, this is some sort of retaliation from the FBI and the Justice Department. So what we are seeing is Putin no doubt is hitting back at the United States and may hold this guy for very long time until we respond in the fashion he wants. BROWN: The family, as we should note, denies that Whelan is a spy.
He is a former marine and in corporate security. Is that sort of a typical background for someone working for the CIA?
[14:05:08] BAER: Absolutely not. You know, we don't use corporations like that one, to send as cover. Additionally, again we do not send people to Moscow who do not have diplomatic immunity. It's too risky. No agency in the United States would be so stupid to do that. So again, this guy is innocent. So he just - he is, you know, he is a pawn in this game between Moscow and Washington.
BROWN: Right. And I want to get your thoughts on that note on what you think Russia means when they come out and they say Whelan was detained while carrying out an act of espionage without providing any more details of what that means.
BAER: You know, he could have been out in front of FSB headquarters taking a tourist picture. Perfectly innocent. The Metropol Hotel where he was staying is right behind there. Maybe he was taking a picture out the window. Maybe he asked a Russian some political remark just accidentally, you know, about the regime or whatever. So in their mind, they can take the slight piece of evidence like that and arrest somebody and possibly get a conviction.
But I think really the thing is this is going to be a huge diplomatic problem for Donald Trump coming into this year because things are not going well with Russia. And the Russians did not expect the Butina arrest to something like just to occur under the Trump administration.
BROWN: Right. So then on that note, how do you think the U.S., the White House, should respond to this?
BAER: Well we need a back channel to the Russians. Look at it this way. You know, if you are a Russian oligarch, going in and out of the Kremlin and you come to New York, presumably the FBI could arrest you for being an agent of a foreign government if they wanted to. So it's a very delicate time. And we have to clear the decks here and come to some sort of understanding with Moscow. It is the last thing we need now in 2019 is a really - a crisis with Russia, especially with Syria. We do not want this to deteriorate.
BROWN: So Donald Trump, as you know, has received criticism for being soft when it comes to Vladimir Putin. Critics have said his rhetoric has been too friendly toward Putin. In light of what has happened, do you think that should change?
BAER: It's not a question of rhetoric. It's a question of getting this stuff of cable news and off twitter and the rest of it and get down to real diplomacy and a real ambassador in Moscow and a Russian ambassador here to work these problems that we have to take these out of public forums and settle our problems. But, you know, with the crisis in the United States, with the legitimacy of the White House and Trump's connections with Russia and the rest of, this is just a brew that if we don't take care of it is going to turn out very badly.
BROWN: OK. And last question, how can the family expect their loved one, Paul Whelan, to be treated while arrested in Russia.
BAER: Well, you don't want to end up in a Russia jail. But generally, the Russians treat Americans very well because they know they are going to get out. He is not going to be tortured. He is going to be fed well and the rest of it. He will eventually get to see a consulate official from our embassy in Moscow. They will treat him very well. And it won't be anything like in North Korea when an American is arrested. The Russians know what they are doing.
BROWN: OK. Bob Baer, thank you for coming on and bringing your expert analysis to this unfolding situation in Moscow with the detainment of a U.S. citizen.
BAER: Thank you.
BROWN: And still ahead, new today, President Trump inviting congressional leaders to the White House in an effort to end the government should shutdown but both sides don't appear ready to budge.
Plus North Korea recommits to denuclearization but it also has demands and haven't we heard this story before? We will discussion.
And just a heart broken mother pleading for help in finding the man who shot and killed her seven-year-old daughter. The mother was also shot in this attack. I'm going to talk to her live.
[14:13:36] BROWN: Well, after 11 days of finger pointing and casting blame, the pressure of shutdown still may be getting to President Trump into Congress. Sources telling CNN that the President has invited congressional leaders from both parties to the White House tomorrow. And the meeting comes just a day before Democrats retake control of the House and hold a vote to reopen the government.
Now at the heart of their plan, a bill that would reopen the |Department of Homeland Security at current funding levels until February 8th, but it does not include any money for the President's wall.
I'm going to bring in Jessica Dean at the White House.
So Jessica, what more can you tell us about this proposed meeting?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you, Pam.
That's right. We are just learning a little bit about this meeting right now. Details are still being put together. But as you mentioned, it's expected to take place tomorrow afternoon. It is -- people in the leadership from both parties will be invited here to the White House, the first time we have seen that in many days.
We have not seen the President in several days. Of course, he has been tweeting a lot. We are also hearing that there will be a briefing by the department of homeland security, which of course the border wall at the crux of this whole stalemate of the government shutdown. So everybody looking to tomorrow to see if any progress will be made.
The President also tweeting just in the last several minutes the shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure at speaker, let's make a deal? So he is certainly trying to use her coming in as speaker on Thursday as perhaps a bargaining chip in all of this. Whether or not that will actually work remains to be seen.
But what we do know, Pam, as we have been saying over and over again is that the two sides are still very part apart on this. The President saying I wanted $5 billion with a wall and I'm not signing anything without that in it. And the Democrats saying we are giving you $1.3 billion for security. We are not paying for wall and we are not giving you funding for it.
So clearly, very far-far right now.
[14:15:29] BROWN: Right. The impasse continues on day 11 of the shutdown.
Jessica Dean from the White House, thank you so much.
And now on this 11th day, the shutdown has the distinction of being the third of the Trump presidency, as well as the third of just last year alone.
And joining me now, Patrick Healy, "New York Times" political editor and a CNN political analyst and Karoun Demirjian, "Washington Post" congressional reporter.
Thank you both for coming on this New Year's Days. It is much appreciated.
Patrick, I first want to go to you. You have seen a lot of these tweets from the President in an appearance on FOX News, but he has not endorsed any plans publicly nor have we heard much about his actions to end the shutdown. Now he is inviting congressional leaders to a meeting tomorrow. What, if anything, should we read into this?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, tomorrow is going to be very interesting, Pam. I mean, he is basically inviting Democrats and Republicans on to his turf again. He has not met with Nancy Pelosi since that sit down in mid-December where basically he said that he would own the shutdown, that it would be a Trump shutdown not a democratic shutdown and where Nancy Pelosi sort of schooled him on some things in terms of her leadership of the Democratic caucus.
What is going to be interesting tomorrow, Pam, is that it sounds like the White House is setting up some possible theatrics here, where the Trump homeland security department is going to give some kind of a briefing regarding the wall and it sounds like, frankly, more of a political message than a policy message, probably about why the wall is needed, all the things that a wall would do, as if to sort of education Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and the Democrats who have been invited to this meeting.
The question is, you know, it will be interesting to see if the cameras will be there again, Pam. You know, how much back and forth, they get into. But you can imagine the Democrats are going to be prepared to go into this not just thinking that they are sitting back and getting some sort of a briefing about what the wall would do but knowing that they have got to come up what sort of a counterstrategy to try to get a bill that would open the government. But from their point of view not fund a wall that they see as basically a, you know, political message by Trump that would be ineffective and, frankly, offensive to a lot of Democrats.
BROWN: And the Democrats under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi are expected to pass a bill to keep the government open temporarily come Thursday. But Mark Meadows, the House Republican close to the President tweeted that the Democrats' plan is a nonstarter. Mitch McConnell says he won't move ahead in the Senate until President Trump signs off on the plan. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer says Senate Republicans will be, in their words, complicit with Trump on the shutdown if they don't pass it. They think the pressure will mount on Republicans.
But do you think that this could perhaps backfire at all?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN ANALYST: Well, look. Everybody is going to be entering new territory when we start the congressional session on the 3rd of January. Democrats are trying to basically make a play that saying, look, we are trying to be reasonable here. Let's buy time for the negotiation. And by that's the splitting plan they took out there, to take the parts of the government that are shutdown, that are not the department of homeland security, get those back up and running again for the duration of the fiscal year. And also then give themselves about a month to actually take on these negotiations about a wall for what, how much money, et cetera.
If they do that and the President says, no, I don't want to buy time and I'm going to say, we are going to have to negotiate for everything that is shutdown at this point, then it's up to the Senate Republicans to decide who they side with. It seems pretty clear that they are not going to take a step that is President Trump doesn't first say is OK and say that publicly.
Look. If the President is not in a mood of trying to calm this down, then he is going to be betting hard that by holding a quarter of the budget hostage, by keeping that shutdown going for a broader swap (ph) than what has the Democrats want to do, that he will win. And he is betting that he can spin this to be the Democrats' fault at that point.
And the Democrats are going to be betting hard the opposite. I mean, we are now probably going to be entering a territory where it's enough weeks, enough time has passed since Trump said he should own that shutdown, it's a new Congress, where if you are inclined to support the President, you may believe him. If you are inclined to support the Democrats that it's the President's fault, you will believe them. And you can they convince in the middle, if this keeps going.
If they can't kind of agree to, you know, win some time to keep this argument going for another day because it is going to -- probably being far more complicated to reach a compromise than to just say, OK, what's the number in between both of our standing points? It is not just about dollar. It is about negotiations getting something for something else. And it is going to set the tone for at least the next two years of how business is going to have to be done in Washington.
[14:20:21] BROWN: Right. I mean, you know, as this blame game continues, you just think about this nearly one million federal employees who aren't getting paid through all of this.
And, Patrick, your colleague Maggie Haberman recently wrote this. She said, Mr. Trump has indicated to people that he believes the shutdown will slow down the Democrats in other pursuits such as oversight investigations into his administration.
An interesting strategy. Your thoughts?
HEALY: Yes. It's interesting. And Maggie knows Trump better than just about anybody in terms of her reporting. I mean, it is just to say, the way he sees these things, it's sort of a chess game Trump style. You know he is got several objectives. One is certainly to figure out a way to slow down all of these potential house investigations that may start, that may get under way, and to, frankly, move the attention off of what looks like a protracted Robert Mueller investigation, protracted from his point of view. You know, Michael Cohen news, other news that is bad for the President.
What he ultimately needs and what the Democrats need in their own way is for the mood of the public, the mood of voters to change and we haven't seen that really yet, Pam, in terms of the polling. We haven't seen sort of voters starting to get very angry with President Trump and Republicans about the shutdown or starting to see Nancy Pelosi as deeply unreasonable for not funding a wall.
So, you know, right now they are going into this week and these meetings looking for some kind of advantage. You know, Trump certainly likes the idea of tying up House Democrats on the investigations, you know. But ultimately they need to try to win over the public.
Now to your point, Pam, you know, whether these one million workers who aren't getting paid lead to stories about people dipping into their savings, cashing in whatever retirements they do, getting deep into debt, you know, that could play to the Democrats' hand. It's still unclear how that is going to play out.
All right. Patrick, Karoun, thank you so much and Happy New Year again.
HEALY: Thanks, Pam.
DEMIRJIAN: You, too.
BROWN: Well up next, a massive manhunt as a family begs for help. Where is the man who killed this little girl right here? We are going to talk live with her mother, who also survived the attack.
[14:27:15] BROWN: Right now a heartbreaking start to the new year for a Texas family. After police say a man randomly killed a seven-year- old little girl pictured right here. Today, new includes of helping track down little Jasmine Barnes' killer. When the shooting happened, he was just in the car with her mother who we are going to hear from live in just for a moment.
But first, I want to go to CNN's Nick Valencia with all the details on this manhunt - Nick.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just a heartbreaking way to start the New Year as you noted, Pamela. This family grieving the loss of seven-year-old Jasmine Barnes in what the sheriff is calling an unprovoked shooting.
And here is what we can tell you about who they are looking for. The suspected gunman is said to be a while male in his 40s who out of beard and was driving a red pickup truck. And that is according to witnesses.
We don't have any other details beyond that. The sheriff is asking the public to check their own surveillance footage. And they are asking also to take a look at the image here on your screen to see if you recognize this red pickup truck.
What we could tell you the shooting happened on Sunday as the family was leaving a Walmart in the Houston area. Jasmine Barnes, seven years old, was with her three siblings as well as her 30-year-old mother. Two of her siblings were uninjured in the shooting. One of them did suffer some cuts from some shattered glass that was hit by that. And the mother also suffered some injury. She was shot in the arm. And the sheriff emphasizing that this family did nothing wrong in any way. And they are trying to figure out any details they can to catch this suspected shooter, Pamela.
BROWN: I mean, it is so senseless.
BROWN: Nick Valencia, thank you so much.
VALENCIA: You bet.
BROWN: All right. And up next right here in the NEWSROOM, Kim Jong- un uses his New Year's address to warn the United States on sanctions. What does mean for North Korea's nuclear program? That's next.