tv CNN Newsroom CNN November 18, 2022 12:00pm-1:00pm PST
newsroom." i'm victor blackwell. >> i'm alisyn camerota. merrick garland appointed a special counsel to oversee two criminal investigations into former president trump. garland announcing that former federal prosecutor jack smith will take over that pivotal role. >> based on recent developments including the former president's announcement that he's a candidate for president in the next election and the sitting president's stated intention to be a candidate as well, i have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel. such an appointment underscores the department's commitment to both independents and accountability and particularly sensitive matter. >> jack smith, that newly named special counsel will oversee aspects of the probes into january 6th and the retention of national defense information at mar-a-lago. cnn's evan perez joins us now from the justice department. cnn's kaitlyn polantz in
washington. what led to this decision by the ag? >> victor, this was triggered certainly by the former president's decision a couple of days to announce that he is indeed a candidate for president and of course, it creates an immediate, at least appearance of a conflict of interest with the current attorney general being obviously appointed by joe biden who is possibly going to be his opponent. the former president's opponent in the 2024 election. of course, for the justice department, the importance here is that it tries to at least restore the idea that some insulation between these investigations, and really what it does, victor and alisyn, it really does make clear that donald trump is at least a focus of both of these investigations. the justice department has said very precious little. we know for instance obviously
there was a search of mar-a-lago. they were focusing on the mishandling of classified documents and national defense information and possible obstruction of justice, but on the january 6th investigation, they've said very little as to what the eventual goal of this, and the idea being now they've appointed a special counsel because of the former president announcing. what it makes clear is that at least, you know, part of that investigation is going to look at donald trump's role in the efforts to obstruct the transfer of power, you know, the whole scheme to get these fake electors to try to prevent joe biden from becoming president despite the fact that he had won the election. i'll read you just apart of what the attorney general -- the order. it says here, you know, what they're going to be doing, what he's going to be overseeing is any person or entity who violated the law in connection with the efforts to interfere
with unawful transfer of power following the 2020 election as well as any matters that might arise during the investigation. what's not you under this, vict and alisyn, is the existing more than 900 -- 950 investigations that are already ongoing for people who invaded the capitol, the riot there on january 6th. >> what do we know about this new special counsel, jack smith? >> well, jack smith isn't the type of name that you regularly hear around washington. he has worked for the justice department in multiple different positions in the past. he's been the leader of the public integrity section there. that looks at possible crimes related to elected officials, but he has had a sterling resume as a prosecutor in other parts of the country and the world. he worked in the u.s. attorney's office in tennessee. as a former u.s. attorney making prominent decisions there, we
know he also at one point was working at the brooklyn prosecutor's office. that's a high metabolism place for someone to cut their chops, and also in recent years, he was a war crimes prosecutor at the hague. i mean, that is the type of sterling bullet point on a resume that you often see those people becoming federal judges. so he really is a person with a lot of different types of experiences in prosecuting different types of crimes, but at the end of the day, alisyn and victor, this is someone who a lot of people are asking, who is this? we haven't heard of him and he hasn't had that history in washington to be painted either as a strong republican or a democrat or even really be a known political figure of some sort. >> as i noted in the last hour, someone who worked under both republican and democratic administrations.
mueller was a reliable republican. a difference here with jack smith. stay with us, but i want to add to this chief political analyst gloria borger, john avlon, alice stewart and cnn legal analyst and federal prosecutor, elliot williams. gl gloria, i'll start with you and we're getting the first reaction from donald trump's legal team to this announcement, in which the statement says this is a totally expected political stunt by a feckless, politicized department of justice. i hand that to you. >> well, i think that's totally expected. i mean, there's nothing that the department of justice has ever done or will do, that donald trump will respect or say that it was warranted, and i think in this particular case, the trump people had to expect this. as evan said and as the attorney general pointed out, he had no other choice because there was a clear conflict here. you had somebody who announced for the presidency, donald
trump, and somebody in eyed joe biden who said it's his intention to run. i think he felt he had no other choice. we know how donald trump feels about special counsels. he hated bob mueller as we all know. the difference here is that as president, he could threaten to fire bob mueller at any time. he had control over him. the difference here with mr. smith is that he's a citizen, and he cannot threaten to fire him so mr. smith can do his work without worrying that the president of the united states is going to chop his head off, and he said today that this will go forward expeditiously. i'm sure the trump people are worried that this is going to hang over their campaign like a -- like a soggy, wet tent, but on the other hand, they also know that donald trump is very good at playing the victim as he did after the search at
mar-a-lago, and he's very likely to do it again. >> and john, cue the opo research that team trump is no doubt doing right now? >> sure. >> they can't come up with anything, and i remember this from robert mueller the conspiracy theories from the trump team and right wing media. >> facts will have nothing to do with the full frontal assault on this guy. bob mueller was a republican who was absolutely attacked by republicans for being a partisan. so let's get real about that. donald trump got in this game this early, in part, because he wanted to act as a brush back pitch against any prosecution. i think this is a measured, important thing that garland has done because it does take it out of the realm of the political which is inherent when you're talking about a former president and a sitting president who might run again. this may be slow, the progress as evan perez told us earlier, an hour or two ago, but it also may indicate an attempt to
accelerate this, that maybe they're close tr to a prosecuti than previously understood. the bottom line is the political attacks coming around here. the law needs to be applied. that's the standard, and that's what i think a special prosecutor will help insulate it from. you have to apply the law freely and fairly even against former presidents. >> and elliot, we have to remember that this is an attorney general who came into this role saying that he wanted to return even the image and the work of the justice department to something that was apolitical after the former politicized the investigations going into the 2020 election. so after the announcement from trump, was this inevitable that there would be a special counsel? >> you know, i think that's a great question, victor. an account of the fact that even if the outcome were to be the same, right? even if at the end of this all the attorney general himself would have gone forward with charging the former president or if a special counsel did, there
would still have been from some a political pushback as to how partisan or how politicized it would have been. the attorney yengeneral had to this to take those questions off the table or at least buy like we said the last hour, by the textbook, put it in a special counsel. what they've done to their credit is pick someone who basically checks every single box in terms of a stellar legal resume. he has international experience, private sector experience and on down, and so if there is an individual who helps insulate some of those questions, then certainly this is the one, but, you know, but to john's point, cue the opposition research. people are going to try very quickly and very soon just to make this a political question. at the end of the day, this was probably the right legal call on
the part of the attorney general. >> evan, it's interesting that he's tasked with these two investigations, and i would imagine that the january 6th one is a more sprawling, more complicated one than the classified documents at mar-a-lago. and so they won't necessarily be on the same track. i don't know how it works, but maybe he'll do one first and -- maybe they'll do them simul simultaneously, but you can't expect them both to be resolved at the same time. >> right. we don't expect that they would be, but here's the deal. we know there are separate teams that are handling these separate investigations, and i do want to underscore something that i mentioned just a little while ago. look. on the matter of the classified documents that were found at mar-a-lago that the fbi seized back in august, it was clear that the former president is under investigation for mishandling national security information and for potential obstruction of justice. that much is clear because they served a subpoena.
they did a search of his home, and that much was clear. until today really and until the appointment, the justice department has said very, very little as to what the -- what the end target of the january 6th part of this investigation is, and what this makes clear the fact that they've felt that this has to fall under this special counsel, it makes clear that donald trump is one of the potential targets in that investigation. look. we've kind of known that, but we've never heard that really from the justice department, and so this kind of makes that very clear. crystal clear. this is the way to prevent the transfer of power, never before done in this history, this country's history, and not only trying to stop the certification, but in the end obviously what we saw that he inspired the insurrection that happened at the capitol on january 6th.
so those are the things that this special counsel is going to be inheriting, and to your point, alisyn, these two investigations are well under way. there are subpoenas. we know they've gone out to multiple witnesses. in fact, just in recent days, we know there's new subpoenas and they're getting subpoenas for production of documents and for testimony soon. so in a statement that we got from jack smith, he said that he wants to do this expeditiously. he says that he doesn't want this obviously to slow things down. we'll see if that's exhale hap -- actually happens, but this is well under way. victor and alisyn? >> in the summer months, the details that were coming out about the classified documents put a little bit of space between the former president and some elected republicans, and then that search of mar-a-lago rallied a lot of them right around him. he's been getting some pushback
since the midterm of how his endorsement of these election deniers are not the future of the party, and now this announcement of a special counsel. does this announcement have the potential to bring in those republicans who are not inside maga world back closer to the former president? >> quite possibly, victor and it's comforting to see the wheels of justice continue to roll regardless of a presidential campaign, and they are looking not just at january 6th and the fake electors, but the bottom line here and the ultimate issue that needs to be addressed is was donald trump and his top associates, were they involved in trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power which is one of the cornerstones of our elections in this country? i'm not surprised at all that the former president immediately came out and pushed becack on ts and claims to be a victim of a political and judicial witch hunt, but i don't see that
sticking. he has advocated and tried to relitigate 2020 ever since the polls were closed and joe biden was nominated and elected president and we're seeing more and more that people are tired of it. people are tired of relitigating the president and fighting the president's past grievances. his base will stay with him. make no mistake about that. his base will see him as a victim in all of this, but there are independents that are looking at issues that motivate the american people. it's not about election denialism. it's about our economy. i say we also need to keep a look at this. donald trump is going to go to his republicans in the house and push for more oversight of the doj and the fbi for this very reason. so i expect that to be the next shoe to drop by republicans when they take control of the house, but make no mistake. donald trump will use this as an opportunity to portray himself as the victim. his base will be on board with, that but a lot of rational republicans are ready to put him and this issue in the rear-view
mirror. >> gloria, there's very little donald trump can't use to his political or fund-raising advantage. >> sure. >> as we have seen, and now that nancy pelosi is stepping down, who has been, you know, a mortal enemy -- >> the boogeyman. >> yeah. of donald trump. now we have a new boogeyman. >> well, merrick garland. i think they've always thought that merrick garland was darth vader to them. if you saw merrick garland today, he hardly appears to be a darth vader. i think he'll become more of one. you'll see republicans wanting to do investigations. i'm not sure that's exactly what the public voted for. in fact, they did not vote for that, but donald trump has shown over and over again that he can play the victim card. look. this is -- this is somebody who was impeached twice and now had two special counsels working against him, he would say, you know? i would say that these are two special counsels investigating his behavior. one thing i want to point out
though is that it's clear that the issue of obstruction is front and center here. perhaps in both of these investigations, and i remember back covering mueller -- bob mueller and the russia investigation that obstruction was also front and center. in the end, mueller did not make any disposition clearly on obstruction because this was a sitting president and the question was, could you charge a sitting president? and then that attorney general barr came in and said, you know what? you can't. you can't charge him, and i'm throwing out the obstruction issues. that would not happen in this case should it be decided that the former president obstructed justice because he is the former president, not the current president. so it's a whole different ball game here. he's not in charge of this. he can't threaten to fire, you know, the special counsel as i said before.
so while he may play the victim here, he has no control over this process, and i think that probably scares him. >> hey, john, before you jump on that point, let me read for you what we're hearing from senator ted cruz who has now tweeted since this announcement. joe biden has completely weaponized the department of justice to attack his political opponents. three days ago, trump announced and now a special counsel. this is trump derangement syndrome, but this time with a gun and a badge. #justicecorrupted. >> totally irresponsible and out of touch, but not surprising because he's so thirsty for the maga base. look. donald trump's statement was just mad libs and ted cruz's statement is as well. this is not the weaponization of the justice department. this is equal justice under law. ted cruz should know the difference. donald trump is not a victim. it will not stop people like ted cruz from demonizing a special counsel. we've got to defend our democracy, right? that is the preeminent issue
here. people tried to overturn the peaceful transfer of power, and the question is, what will the accountability be? a lot of previous prosecutions for donald trump for actions he did, it's the lower ranking people who end up being the fall guy. this is one of many questions, and this is a very serious issue for our country. i'm not trying to make light of it, but taking these cheap, partisan shots, that kind of hackr h hackery that demonizes the justice at the prdepartment, tht help. it hurts. it's pathetic. >> thank you all. now we have to get to this. a dangerous winter storm is in new york state right now. half a foot of snow fell in just one hour in some areas. it is not stopping any too many soon. and the twitter trainwreck just keeps getting worse. cnn obtained a memo elon musk sent to remaining software
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a gigantic snowstorm is pummeling western new york right now. nearly a dozen counties are under a state of emergency. since just last night, the storm has dumped 4 feet of snow south of buffalo. that's at least 28 inches in the city. >> it's still coming down. a buffalo official warned conditions have deteriorated very quickly. there is zero visibility in some areas. cnn's gloria pazvino is there. she's there somewhere. there she is. what are you seeing? >> reporter: victor, i am going to try to get just a little bit closer to you so you can see
exactly what i'm dealing with here. it's slightly clear right now, but don't let those conditions fool you. the snow has let up for just a few minutes, but things here have been changing so quickly. i have been out here all day and conditions change hour to hour. the snow begins to fall. the wind picks up and all of a sudden it's pummeling you right in the face. we're standing right across the buffalo river which empties into lake erie and that's where that lake-effect snow is taking place. it is moving in bands all across western new york and dumping all of that snow right here in the area. as you said, some areas to the south of here have already seen 4 feet of snow. we are expecting things to get much worse here in the evening hours. it was really bad last night. we got to see some of that thunderstorm, lightning while the snow was falling. so right now, it's slightly
calm. there's a family that's playing in the snow, but we are expecting this to get a little bit worse in the evening hours and into tomorrow. there are several pieces of snowplows and heavy equipment out in force trying to keep the streets as clean as possible, and elected officials both governor and the mayor asking people to stay off the roads for now so that people can get around and clean and we can avoid accidents and traffic here in the area. victor and alisyn? >> for sure. it actually looks very peaceful and haplacid right now as oppos to thundersnow in her direction. >> stand by. >> stand by for that. gloria, be careful. thanks so much for the report. we are following breaking news out of the department of justice where attorney general merrick garland announced a special counsel to oversee the trump investigations. how lawmakers are reacting. that's next.
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general merrick garland named former federal prosecutor jack smith as the special counsel who will oversee criminal investigations into former president donald trump. eric swalwell is a california democratic congressman. he's a member of the how judiciary and intelligence committees. congressman, good to have you back on. let's start with just your reaction to this announcement from the attorney general. >> thank you, victor. it is a historic appointment for a president who has gone on what i believe is a historic crime spree, and it's important that we get it right. it's so urgent for our democracy which has endured so much over the last six years that they move, you know, expeditiously, but also in a way that reflects urireflects, you know, our values and independence in a rule of law. i'll accept the findings wherever the facts and the law take the prosecution team. >> the attorney general said the catalyst for this was the announcement of -- by the former president that he's going to run
in 2024. the inclination of the current president to run for re-election and to insulate the department from the appearance of politicizing this, but we're already seeing that this is happening. senator ted cruz tweeted that this is a trump derangement syndrome, that the president is politicizing the department of justice. the white house says they had no idea. your reaction to what we're already hearing? >> well, senator cruz's tweet, you know, reflects that donald trump should deserve some sort of special treatment was he was a former president and no president, republican or democratic, should be ever above the law, and also, you know, donald trump was cleared by the last special counsel and i also, you know, accepted those findings despite my own concerns about his conduct with russia and the 2016 campaign when special counsel mueller delivered his report to congress, you know, i did not throw mueller under the bus or, you know, say that we needed, you know, an additional
investigation, and that's what the rule of law is all about. so if donald trump did nothing wrong, he should accept the findings of the special counsel, but if he did something wrong, he should be very worried that, you know, this team will find out and under a true rule of law system, he'll be held to account. >> are you worried about the special timeline of this investigation? the special counsel says this will happen expeditiously, but he has to read in, ramp up, bring in the team. what do you think? >> i was a prosecutor before coming to congress, and, you know, these investigations take time, and especially an investigation of this magnitude, you only get one shot because you're going to have to prove this before a jury if you indict and it's going to have to withstand multiple appeals, probably all the way up to the supreme court. so you want to get it right, and victor, i get it. people are frustrated. donald trump has tested us time
after time since he came down that escalator at trump tower, but we don't have to move at the same pace of his corruption, you know? we have to make sure that we rebuild the rule of law in this country because i ultimately think he will be held to account, but if we just go tit for tat with him, it ultimately reduces our whole system and the confidence that people have in it. i would rather see us get it right, recognizing that democracy is at stake, but not to reduce ourselves, you know, to the same pace of corruption, but their own sense of justice, but rather to let the rule of law play out and i promise our country will be in a better place if that's the way this goes. >> let me ask you about a bit of politics instead of policy here. kevin mccarthy who is likely going to be the next speaker, named you as one of three democrats this week who will be removed from committees, removing you from the house select intel committee. what's your reaction to that?
>> he's doing that because i'm effective. i effectively, i think held donald trump to account when i was on the judiciary and intelligence committees while he was in the white house, and so did adam schiff who he's also targeted. any coach on a sunday morning, you know, on an nfl field would love to take the other team's best players off the pitch and that's what kevin mccarthy is trying to do here. it's not going to distract me and keep me from speaking up and advocating for the rule of law and the week that nancy pelosi is giving her farewell speech as a leader of our party, i'll use something she always told me. don't make someone insignificant more significant. >> do you expect he will be able to have the support to -- even though there are purple districts that he will be able to make good on that promise? >> again, if you are evaluating this, like, what is the case that he's making?
again, that he's doing it, and he said this when he removed marjorie taylor greene for threatening to kill speaker pelosi that he threatened to retaliate. this comes from a place of retaliation, not from any, you know, substance or merit and i believe my colleagues will judge it that way. whether he does it or not, it's not going to stop me, and the american people at the polls last week said they're done with the chaos and the violent rhetoric. they want a rule of law. they want competency. that won, you know, on election day. >> congressman eric swalwell, thank you. >> my pleasure, victor. we have a cnn exclusive. cnn's sara sidner sat down with former first lady michelle obama to discuss her mission to empower women and girls among other things. we have a preview for you, next. i was born here, i'm from here,
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well, the future of twitter appears in doubt today after a mass exodus of employees. elon musk summoned remaining software engineers to the san francisco headquarters this afternoon with an urgent email that's been obtained by cnn. quote, anyone who can actually write software, please report to the tenth floor at 2:00 p.m. today. >> scores of twitter employees headed for the exits after musk gave staff this ultimatum. you must be hard core or take three months' severance.
can twitter survive like this? >> well, inside victor, people are skeptical that it can, and part of the reason is the engineers who focus on the stuff that actually makes twitter work, you know, having your feed load, making sure two-factor authentication is on, and making sure if you are reporting malicious content, it gets addressed, a lot of those engineers and teams have been completely gutted and what it sounds like from that email is musk is grasping for straws trying to find anyone in the building that can help them move the company forward. >> sara, this had been such a shocking, epic fall to watch, and i was trying to rack my brain to figure out how we got here in just the past few weeks. what was it that started the cascade of this sort of downward spiral? was it the misinformation about paul pelosi? is that what kind of set off this cascade of people starting to doubt whether elon musk would be able to run twitter? >> i think that was part of it
because that's when advertisers and chief marketing officers i spoke to said that they started to think about pulling their ads from twitter, and once elon musk saw that the advertisers were fleeing, that's when he wanted to double down on subscription revenue because of course, twitter has real estate bills. it has to keep the lights on. he needs money to come in in the short-term while he figures out a long-term plan, and of course, rushing into subscriptions setting off twitter's blue verified $8 subscription offering, that unloaded a whole new level of chaos which made advertisers run even further. alisyn, i actually think you're right. that's probably a good point to point to when this whole thing started to collapse from underneath, but truly i think the latest nail in the coffin was his decision to bring everyone back to work full-time. twitter is one of the most progressive companies in silicon valley in terms of flexibility, and working from home. so his decision to do that and request that people sign on to working hard core, i think that ultimately was just the nail in the coffin.
>> sara fischer, we will see what happens tomorrow. it seems like things are changing by the hour. thank you very much for being here. the breaking news. merrick garland announces a special counsel to oversee the trump investigations. the former president is lashing out. he's saying, i am not going to partake in it. okay. more of trump's response next. i so we're hard at work, helping them achieve financial freedom. we're investing for our clients in t the projects that power our economy. from the plains to the coasts, we help americans invest for their future. and help communities thrive. vision insurance doesn't do you any good if you don't use it. just like this treadmill i bought, that i keep saying that i'll use... but never do. yeah. with hundreds of frames to choose from, you can put your vision insunce to good use at america's best. book an exam today.
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digital. he said that i've been proven innocent for six years on everything from fake impeachments to mueller who found no collusion and now i have to do it more. it is not acceptable. it is so unfair. it is so political. he continued, i'm not going to partake in it. i announce and then they appoint a
special prosecutor and he added this, he said that he hopes that the republicans have the courage to fight this. all right. in a new cnn special, former first lady michelle obama, melinda french gates and amal clooney discussed their mission to empower women and girls. here is a look. >> kids know when they are being subjected to discrimination, when they are facing racism and hatred. they know it. it is not a secret. but a lot of times kids need to feel validated and in the fact that it is not me, it is them. but when it comes to social media, one of the things that i
urge kids to do is not to spend that much time on it. >> that is hard. >> and that is hard to do in this culture. but what i have learned to do is not to listen to the haters. you cannot let that negative energy infiltrate your life. so what i have learned to do is to do the work, to show up, do what i think is right, to live by the values that i've been raised with to do my best to help others and then let the chips fall where they may. and now that is easier to do when you are 58 years old and you've seen a lot and been through a lot. i'm not a product of social media so i'm not hungry for it in the same way that this generation is. but we are seeing that social media is impacting the state of mental health of our young people. and so i would tell young people that that is true, too. that social media, that
subjecting yourself to negative criticism of people who don't know you is not a healthy way to live your life. that you have to live your life by your truth and your values. >> and sara sidner joins us now. this is a fun assignment. so tell us more about the conversation. >> it was fun. it was intimidating. i mean, these are -- you've got an attorney and a scientist and people who have been around the world and have been teaching les lessons and here they are telling you some very personal stories. we got into a lot of personal things. we talked about self-doubt, something all of us have experienced in our lives, me, every day. and i learned that michelle obama experiences that every day. and so there were things that really struck me about the honesty coming out of that room. but they are very concerned at the state of girls and young women and not just here but around the world. there are more than 100 million
girls that are school aged that should be in school and that cannot be in school for a variety of reasons. everything from, you know, child marriage to their parents not believing that is where they need to be, they need to work and so they're working toward that and that is what this group was all about. >> it looks like a fascinating conversation. sara sidner, thank you very much. join this sunday night at 8:00 p.m. for a conversation with the former first lady, amal clooney and melinda grates here on cnn. and no alcohol will be is sold at stadiums and more on this sobering buzz kill ahead. the intro offers were hard to pass up. then the interest payments started. the debt just keptpt getting worse. mmmm so we broke up with bad debt and got a low, fixed rate sofi personal loan for our big expenses. and the couch goes back tomorrow. break up with bad debt. fund weddings, home renovations,
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...and make-a-wish. get a new subaru during the share the love event and subaru and our retailers will donate three hundred dollars to charity. we are less than a plo away from learning who will be voted the cnn hero of the year by our viewers. among the top ten contenders, deborah bins. >> after her son was diagnosed with autism she dedicated to helping black families navigate
autism and now she advocates for them. >> being a parent of a child with autism in the 80s and the 90s was very, very challenging. the support groups that i found, i was the only black woman there. we have a color barrier and income and equity barrier, period. it was just all types of barriers. everything that we provide is a blueprint of what i was missing as a parent. so we have a support group. kid goes to their classes. we are a family and i'm very adamant about educating the community because people are afraid of what they don't understand. we want to make sure that first responders are trained in how to deal with our children. >> how long has your mom been doing this kind of stuff? >> because he's smiling it makes it a little bit easier. but what if you get ahold of someone not smiling and they are running around and biting themselves. a advocacy is a gift and i'm good
at it and it makes me feel so good. >> for more go to cnnheroes.com right now and vote on her or who you think should be the 2022 hero of the year. so the world cup kicks off in qatar this weekend and the government there made a surprise announcement today. all of the matches in the stadiums will be alcohol free. beer for the fans is banned. >> for the fans. the players could still drink. >> that is fine. >> all eight stadiums hosting world cup matches, alcohol sales and usage are tightly regulated in qatar. some, of course, the problem here is for the major world cup sponsor budweiser. the company initially put out this tweet that said well this is awkward. but its parent company issued a formal statement saying that changes are due to circumstances beyond their control. >> have a great weekend. "the lead" with jake tapper startsht