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Police Officer Acquitted in Freddie Gray Death; Trump/Clinton Tied in National Polls; U.S. Forces In Iraq's Effort to Retake Fallujah; White House Confirms U.S. Kills Taliban Leader; GOP Donors Staying on Sidelines. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 23, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel this family's heart. I'm telling y'all, no justice. This is why they say no justice, no peace. You can't have peace when you put my son in the grave. Come on, y'all. If it was your child, come on, be honest with yourself, this is not right. He has a right to hurt. He has a right to have pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That could have been my son. I have an 8-year-old son that lives in this community. What happens to him?


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is a reminder, of course -- this is a case -- this was a tragedy that ignited simmering tensions in the city of Baltimore. You remember the nights of marches and protests and the violence that we did see in the aftermath of it all. And now, of course, everyone is waiting to see what kind of reaction happens in light of this verdict.

With us now, Danny Cevallos is back with us. Paul Callan is here as well, CNN legal analyst.

We were talking to Danny to get his gut reaction. Your reaction to the verdict?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not surprised by the verdict. I think anybody who followed the case closely saw what an uphill battle prosecutors had. Bear in mind, this officer was charged essentially with having caused or contributed to a catastrophic spinal injury that was eventually sustained by Freddie Gray, and, of course, he died subsequently. At the time of his arrest, however, which is the only thing that this officer was involved with, the officer pursued Freddie Gray when he ran, on orders of a superior, and then essentially brought him into police custody, put him into a police van. Now, he didn't put a seat belt on him. That's an allegation. But to say that not putting a seat belt on somebody is a crime, how many mothers don't put seat belts on their kids when they get into a car? I mean, are we going to charge them with crimes when they do that? That's essentially the argument that was made by the defense.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The defense. Well, there was a directive. There had been a directive days before -- (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: An e-mail.

BERMAN: An e-mail that anyone who is put in police van, like that was supposed to have been put in a seat belt. The defense argued that he hadn't read the e-mail and the judge deemed that, in and of itself, did not constitute a crime.

I want to bring in Laura Coates, another CNN legal analyst, to join in the discussion.

We heard from Billy Murphy, Laura, representing the family of Freddie Gray, again, who died while in police custody. You're seeing video, a reminder of that arrest that happened now more than a year ago today.

Laura, Billy Murphy was very careful not to criticize the judge, Barry Williams, who made this decision from the bench. In fact, he praised the judge at length for how he approached this decision. But he did note that this doesn't give an indication of what happens in the trials that will come later. Five more. The next one being for Caesar Goodson, who is the driver of the van, and by some accounts many people think perhaps in jeopardy here.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's true. And what this case does foreshadow may not be all charges, but we have a theme. And the theme is the driver was the ultimate person responsible for Freddie Gray to be seat belted and placed in the van in an appropriate fashion. The reason why everybody body is in praise of the judge is because the prosecution was going on a very novel theory that could have led to very absurd results. For example, their theory was that by touching Freddie Gray, even just to give him an inhaler, which Officer Nero did, and arresting him, and not ultimately having him charged would actually lead to an assault charge on an officer. And as a prosecutor, I can tell you, it's the prosecutor who is the one who is in charge of deciding whether or not to criminally charge somebody in the long run. So if an officer was now going to be held accountable for every arrest that did not lead a chargeable offense, we would have thousands of assaults every day by police officers that would go potentially unpunished.

BOLDUAN: Officer Nero acquitted on all the charges he was facing. This is the first verdict in all of the six officers that were charged, one mistrial. He will be tried again. More trials to come and the officers involved in the rest and then -- then the subsequent death of Freddie Gray.

Breaking news out of Baltimore. We're going to continue to watch as reaction is coming in, in the city, and reaction about this case, and what it means going forward.

Laura, thank you very much.

Danny, Paul, thank you as well.

BERMAN: Some other news to focus on. A new poll shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, they are tied. There's also some other bad news in there for the two front-runners.


[11:38:55] BERMAN: It's tied, folks. The presidential race all tied up in four polls essentially that have come out in the last week. They all say essentially the same thing. This one from ABC News and "The Washington Post," shows Donald Trump at 46 percent, Hillary Clinton at 44 percent. The other ones say essentially the same thing within two or three points. Some have Hillary on top, but it is very, very close.

Let's discuss. We're going to bring in Doug Heye, CNN political commentator, former RNC communications director; Susan del Percio, Republican strategist, former official in the Rudy Giuliani administration. Jeff Dewitt is the Arizona state treasurer and a Donald Trump supporter; and Steve Elmendorf, the former campaign manager for John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid and a Hillary Clinton supporter.

Doug, Kate Bolduan say polls are a snapshot in time.

BOLDUAN: I'm the first to ever say that.

BERMAN: Polls are a snapshot in time.


BERMAN: If this is a snapshot, now, what is the caption?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The caption is it's is a dead heat. It's still early but it's a dead heat. And then as you talked about earlier, when you peel away at the polling, when you were talking to David Chalian, these are the two most unpopular candidates, which means it's going to be a long slog. It's not going to be a very inspirational candidate. We of the moveable object versus the resistible force is going to be world war none and there will be no winners in this.


[11:40:12] BOLDUAN: That was good, Doug.

HEYE: I'm out of them now.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Exactly. You're done for the rest of the segment.

Steve, remember, I do recall earlier in the primary when the word was that Team Clinton wanted to take on Donald Trump over the other 25,000 Republicans that were in the Republican primary at one point because they thought he was the guy that was going to be easier to beat. I imagine they might not be saying that right now. Thoughts?

STEVE ELMENDORF, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, JOHN KERRY'S 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: I think Team Clinton has always believed this was going to be a very close election, a closely contested primary, and a closely contested general. The country is deeply divided, but I am confident, contrary to what Doug just said, we are going to have a winner. Somebody is going to win in November and be the next president of the United States. There's a lot more information voters will get between now and then. When they get that information, I'm confident Hillary Clinton is going to win.

BERMAN: Steve, with a bold prediction that someone will win --

BOLDUAN: Someone will win the election.

BERMAN: -- the presidential election.

Susan del Percio, how do the Republicans do that? Look at the numbers we saw, the internal numbers we saw.

BOLDUAN: The breakdowns. They're right here.

BERMAN: But essentially, it's Donald Trump doing well with traditional Republican coalition voters, whites, seniors, men, also doing well with independents. Hillary Clinton, leading by a lot among African-Americans, Latinos, women, and young voters. If you are the Trump campaign, how do you maximize these breakdowns to your effect?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & FORMER OFFICIAL, RUDY GIULIANI ADMINISTRATION: The breakdowns you just mentioned really just show that he's exactly where Mitt Romney ended his campaign in 2012. So where can he grow? I think the most interesting thing in those polls that we've seen is his growth with Independents and the fact that he is not hurting other candidates as much as we thought we would see in down-ballot races. So those Independents that are swinging to 13 points since the last poll for "The Washington Post" poll is really significant. So he can grow actually with white men. He can grow with seniors. It's not going to take a lot right now for him to just tweak it a bit. The question is, if that's only if he stays on his current path. Donald Trump, we never know what's going to happen next and how that can affect turnout.

BOLDUAN: Also, if he stays on his current path, Jeff, that also means you could be looking at a candidate who could, do you think, could actually win with a 60 percent unfavorable rating? Do you think he can win with like a 60 percent unfavorable rating? Do you think he can win the White House?

JEFF DEWITT, ARIZONA STATE TREASURER & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I think that's going to turn around. You know, the primary was very bruising and very, very tough. But remember when we talk about demographics, that Donald Trump beat both the Cuban heritage primary opponents with Latinos, and so he does very well with the other demographic groups, and I think he'll do great. I know, I think America has finally figured out this is not a popularity contest. We are choosing a leader. And with Donald Trump, we have one of the most decisive and best leaders that our country has produced. And, of course, not every decision is going to be popular but we need to make tough choices, and he's the person to make that.

I'll disagree with Doug on one comment when he says he doesn't think the next leader will be inspirational. Donald Trump is very inspiring. When you look at the crowds he's bringing out and the people that are coming and voting that have never voted before, that is inspiration. And so I think we have a very inspirational leader, and I think those polls are going to keep swinging in Donald Trump's favor as we move closer to the election.

BERMAN: Doug Heye, are we only talking about two candidates right now? Other thing these polls show is that there are folks out there asking for a third party or at least open to the idea. 47 percent say they consider an Independent or third-party candidate. That is way higher than we saw in 2008 or 2012 at this time. And you have this Libertarian ticket possibly of Gary Johnson, former Republican governor of New Mexico, along with Bill Weld, former Republican governor of Massachusetts. Viable?

HEYE: Well, it's certainly viable to create a distinction in the campaign as we saw with Ralph Nader going back to 2000 where he certainly helped George W. Bush win the campaign, which was not his goal when he got in. But it ultimately, again, speaks to the reality of America doesn't like the two choices that it has right now. They're looking for something else. Ultimately, the overwhelming majority of voters -- I will not be voting for Donald Trump, I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton. But the overwhelming number of voters will vote for the two of them. Question, does a third-party candidate pull enough and in particular states, and that's where you win these things in individual states to make a difference.

BOLDUAN: Before we talk about a third-party candidate, Steve, do you remember that Hillary Clinton is still fighting in a primary, a primary that Bernie Sanders just took up to like ludicrous speed, to make a "Space Balls" analogy. He on the Sunday shows saying -- do you like that?


BOLDUAN: On the Sunday shows, says Hillary Clinton would be the lesser of two evils, yes, George Stephanopoulos asked if that's what he thinks of her, and he said, well the voters are saying that. Call it backtracking, whatever you want. He didn't say no. What do you want to see Team Clinton do with that?

[11:45:06] ELMENDORF: Well, we've had a closely contested primary, and we've got to remember in 2008 Hillary Clinton fought to the end until California against Barack Obama and then unified the party. And I think the party will get unified very quickly. And the most important number in a lot of these polls is the popularity of Barack Obama, and I think Barack Obama is going to do more work than anyone to bring the party together, get us on the right track, and win this election.

BERMAN: All right. Doug, Steve, Susan, Jeff, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate the discussion, guys.


BERMAN: Coming up for us, resistant and downright hostile. Some Republican donors claim they will sit this election out. One investor calls Donald Trump ignorant, amoral, dishonest and manipulative. You get the sense he doesn't like him.

BOLDUAN: He doesn't like him.

BERMAN: So can Donald Trump win without their money?

BOLDUAN: Also, we're following breaking news in the fight against ISIS. The U.S. now involved in the efforts to recapture the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Hear what American forces are doing in that fight.


[11:00:00] BERMAN: We have breaking news out of Iraq this morning. U.S. forces now involved with the fight to take back the ISIS stronghold of Fallujah.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk more right now with CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto; and counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd.

Jim, first to you.

What are you hearing about U.S. involvement here? What's the role?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Kate, and John, to be clear this is involvement from the air. 21 U.S. air strikes on Fallujah in the last six days. These from both fighters and drones, in support of this Iraqi ground offensive. It is a major offensive against what is a major prize in this ongoing fight with ISIS, Fallujah, just to the West of Baghdad. Important in its own right as an effective capitol of Anbar Province to the West of Baghdad but a base for staging operations inside Baghdad. Having that kind of base there has certainly helped ISIS carry out this wave of terror we've seen in the last couple of weeks, killing hundreds of people in the capitol of Baghdad. This battle goes on. Question is, is it successful? You've got a lot of Iraqi forces but ISIS certainly dug in to Fallujah.

BERMAN: And then, Phil, there's the question of what constitutes success there because Fallujah has been a Sunni stronghold for 16 years in that nation. They had liberated from Iraqi insurgents in 2004 and 2005 and, once again, from ISIS, and I understand, there may be Shia militias involved in that.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You could take a city reduced to rubble and the locals are told to leave. The government will have questions about whether they have the ability to govern this territory and things like education, water, food. So I think, John, in the short-term, they can take the territory. There would be a lot of loss of this will take a while. Throughout Anbar Province, as you suggested, a Sunni area, into northern Iraq, over the course of years, there will be questions about whether they can hold it and whether they can govern it. I'm not sure they can.

BOLDUAN: Jim, what's your assessment of the Iraqi stability in general? SCIUTTO: Not great. You've seen the pictures twice in the last month

you've had regular Iraqi citizens storm the palace, the Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government. You'll remember the pictures of them inside where the Iraqi parliament meets. That's frustration, not just with the security situation in Iraq, but with the perception there that not everyone is represented by this government. Certainly, corruption is a concern, but it's a Shiite dominated government. Does it represent all Iraqis, particularly Sunnis? The impression to many Iraqis is the answer to the question is no. You've got al Abadi, the prime minister of Iraq fighting to battles at the same time, a political battle at home to maintain political stability but also this ongoing battle for the very survival of this country. And you have some of the toughest battleground fights to come, certainly, in Fallujah. but. Of course, the big prize, Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and that's an assault that keeps getting pushed back.

Phil, I want to shift gears and talk about Afghanistan. A lot going on there. President Obama today confirming that a U.S. air strike has taken out the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Mansour. You've done work in Afghanistan, in Iraq. Your experience battling groups like this is, can you lop off the head, does this make a difference, Phil?

MUDD: I'm not sure it will over the long haul. Taking out leadership, as we saw with Al Qaeda, is nothing like what it was 15 years ago. It can bear fruit but if the local population supports the insurgent group, as they do with the Taliban in Afghanistan, taking out the leadership alone doesn't work for a simple reason, John. That is, the Afghan government, the Afghan military does not have the capability to project power into provinces. The Taliban in some cases presents a better alternative for the local population. Until you persuade the local population in Afghanistan that the government in Kabul is a better alternative, you can't win this one.

BOLDUAN: President Obama, I mean, he called it an important milestone, excuse me, in announcing it today.

Jim, what does it change from the U.S. Perspective, do you believe?

SCIUTTO: We're talking about the Taliban strike?

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's an important strike to take out the leader of this group, which the U.S. blames for literally tens of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan. That's Afghan civilians, Afghan soldiers, but also coalition and American soldiers. But as Phil has said, and others, those leaders do get replaced, but the question, what kind of disruptions. It's not the end of the Taliban by any means. We did see an internal battle after it was finally confirmed that Mullah Omar had died, only last year, although he died some three years before, you saw a battle then. You're likely to see another one now. That probably disrupts things for a bit, but the Taliban is strong on the ground. They've taken a lot of territory. They've proven their ability to carry out acts of terror in the capitol of Kabul. So short-term disruption, no clarity that this is a medium or long-term defeat.

[11:55:26] BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, Phil Mudd, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Important programming note. Tonight, Fareed Zakaria is hosting an hour-long special on terror called "Why They Hate Us." It premieres at 9:00 eastern, only on CNN.

BERMAN: Shifting gears now. Deep pockets, deep misgivings. Some in the Republican Party are refusing to give money to the GOP presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. That's what "The New York Times" is reporting after contacting dozens of wealthy Republican backers.

BOLDUAN: Apparently, there is serious bad blood. Here's a little taste of how one prominent donor described Donald Trump on the record, mind you. This is a quote, "He's an ignorant, amoral, dishonest, manipulative, misogynistic, philandering, hyper-litigious, isolationist, protectionist blowhard."

Let's discuss this with Jim Geraghty.

I don't describe Jim that way.

BERMAN: That's hard to --


BOLDUAN: It's hard to say in one breath. Apologies.

Contributing editor for "The National Review Online."

Jim, how big of a deal is this, if he's running in a general election campaign and all of this big money donors are saying, no thanks.

JIM GERAGHTY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: It's a minor headache for Donald Trump. It's a major headache for Reince Priebus in the RNC.

Look, if you're Donald Trump, you demonstrated one thing very well during the primary season. You're really good at getting your message out between the commercial breaks. He gets networks like this to cover his rallies live. He creates a lot of controversy. A plane disappears and he manages to attach himself to the news story by speculating early it's terrorism. That's the good news for Trump.

But the infrastructure, the get-out-the-vote operation, do you have offices in all of these places and turn out in places like Ohio, which apparently they have no Trump worker people working in Ohio right now. Kind of important. You might want to have that.

Right now, Hillary Clinton has got staff offices all across the state. How much of a head start can you give her? I know the polls are looking not so bad but this is kind of the blocking and tackling of presidential campaigns.

BERMAN: I talked to some donors and fundraisers who worked decades raising money for presidential campaigns. I heard they will give because they give every two years, four years. That's what they do. But they're not going to raise. They're not going to go out there and work. I'm wondering what you're hearing.

GERAGHTY: Very similar. Look, obviously, the Republicans are not a unified block. Although, the large majority of the rank-and-file is lining up behind Hillary Clinton. The attitude of the NRA convention this past weekend. They weren't really totally in love with Donald Trump. He'll give you a different kind of White House, notice, not better, different, but it's not Hillary Clinton. And that, for a lot of Republicans, is the worst possible scenario. So they'll take the unreliable ally over the certain foe.


GERAGHTY: Having said that, how fired up can you get over that?

BOLDUAN: But when it comes to just the dollars and cents, it seems everyone thinks Hillary Clinton will easily pass the billion-dollar mark. President Obama, Mitt Romney, they both surpass the billion- dollar mark, the water mark for running a presidential campaign. Can Donald Trump, do you think, get to the billion dollar mark without these folks?

GERAGHTY: This weekend, he said, I could always sell one of my buildings because we know how quickly and easily you could take a skyscraper and turn it into cash. When he says things like that, I believe one of the other donors said, if he's got $10 billion, why do I need to write a check for him? That's kind of tough logic to argue with.

BERMAN: We have about one minute left. We can't go over. Let's talk about Trump's meeting Bob Corker today, Senator from Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. A possible V.P. pick perhaps.


BERMAN: What do you make of this meeting, the significance of it?

GERAGHTY: Donald Trump could do much worse than Bob Corker as his running mate, and probably will. Corker is reasonably well respected on Capitol Hill. He's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's the guys who organized how they would vote on the Iran deal, and quite a bit of bad blood among conservatives, who said, wait a minute, you gave the Democrats the advantages. We'd have to get a super majority in order to prevent the Iran deal from going through.

But on the other hand, I do believe Corker made some money in real estate. They have something to talk about there.

BOLDUAN: Do you --


BERMAN: They can talk about how to sell a building for $10 million. BOLDUAN: How to sell a sky scraper in two days.

GERAGHTY: There you go.

BOLDUAN: Jim Geraghty, great to see you. Jim, thank you very, very much.

GERAGHTY: That you for having me.

BOLDUAN: A lot going on today. Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: Much more on the verdict in the trial of the death of Freddie Gray. A not guilty verdict in Baltimore.

"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[12:00:14] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone.