Return to Transcripts main page


Movie Theater Attack in Germany, Attacker Killed; Officer Found Not Guilty in Freddie Gray Case; Divided Supreme Court Deals Blow to Obama's Immigration Policy Supreme Court Upholds University of Texas Affirmative Action Program; Obama Speech on Supreme Court Decisions. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired June 23, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have reports he had some sort of a weapon and everybody ran outside. Now, there was some confusion as to whether or not he had taken hostages or if everyone had managed to get out. Police then circled the cinema. They sealed off the area. And what's known as the special task force here then went inside to deal with the shooter.

What we understand now from those U.S. officials is that the shooter is dead. They are still, however, sealed off that area, still trying to figure out exactly what kind of weapons were used, what happened, if anybody else was involved.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Atika Shubert, stand by, in Berlin.

We're going to keep an eye on what's going on in Germany right now. We will update you as soon as we get more information on that.

We also have an eye on the White House briefing room. President Obama set to speak to reporters in just a few minutes about two major verdicts or two major decisions by the Supreme Court -- not a decision. They were deadlocked on a case on immigration. An affirmative action the White House supports and immigration, President Obama's executive actions, essentially stalled now. The Supreme Court deadlocked, 4-4, meaning the lower court ruling stands, that the president's executive actions, which would have made residence for some four million people in the United States, shielded them from deportation, that is no longer in effect.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: These were executive action that almost immediately, when put into place, Texas and 25 other states challenged them, and this has been working its way through the courts.

Another major story that we are watching at this hour is a not guilty verdict in the trial of Caesar Goodson. He was the van driver that was driving Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Freddie Gray suffering fatal injuries in that van drive. And now we have a not guilty verdict in that case. Very major decision there.

Let's get on the ground where Miguel Marquez is. He has been in the courtroom.

Miguel, what do you have for us?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a huge decision by this court, and what it means for the rest of these cases as the officers go forward. Caesar Goodson is the guy who was the van driver. He faced the most serious of charges, seven different charges. He was facing up to 70 years in prison when he walked into court today. He was acquitted of all charges. Second-degree murder, the judge said the state just did not make its case that Caesar Goodson knew that Freddie Gray was medically in trouble, basically, and needed help. And also that the seat belting issue, it just didn't rise to a criminal case. Involuntary manslaughter, not guilty. Second-degree assault, not guilty. Manslaughter by a vehicle, which was gross negligence, not guilty. Manslaughter by a vehicle criminal negligence, also the judge saying just didn't meet that standard, not guilty. On the misconduct charged, he said while the medical side didn't meet it at all, possibly on the seat belt side, it was a problem for the police force to work out with their own rules. He said that did not rise to a criminal situation, so not guilty on that. And not guilty on reckless endangerment. Because officer Goodson faced the most serious charges, it is think assumed here in Baltimore, that the other officers, it will be very difficult for the state's attorney here in Baltimore city to get guilty verdicts against any of those other officers.

We spoke to Tessa Hill-Aston, the head of the NAACP locally, a short time ago. Here is what she had to say in response to the verdict.


MARQUEZ: What did you make of the ruling?

TESSA HILL-ASTON, DIRECTOR, NAACP, BALTIMORE: I'm disappointed. And I think that the rules and the law needs to be changed. Use of force, the police a bill of rights, everything is difficult because what the police did was -- (INAUDIBLE).

MARQUEZ: But the judge was very clear that the state did not make its case. Did they overcharge?

HILL-ASTON: I don't think they overcharged. I think any lawyer tries to overcharge to get something, thinking you will get some hits on something and they didn't get hits on any of it.


MARQUEZ: Now Officer Caesar Goodson just sat, stock still, as the judge said not guilty, not guilty, not guilty to all those different charges. His daughter and his family in the room were crying as those not guilties were read out. And when that final not guilty was read out, Officer Edward Nero, who was earlier acquitted of all charges, stood up and basically said "yes." The rest of the courtroom, it is fair to say, was in great shock. There were about two dozen protesters in front of the courthouse and people across Baltimore now taking in this new reality.

Back to you. BERMAN: Miguel, stand by.

Jean Casarez is here with us right now.

Jean, you just heard what Miguel had to say. We've now had three trials. One declared a mistrial and two other officers acquitted on all charges right now. Caesar Goodson, the charges against him were considered to be the most severe. And he was considered the most likely to be convicted of something. Now that this has not happened, as Miguel points out, the very real possibility that no officer will be found guilty for anything in this case.

[11:35:20] JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think we're going to have to see what the prosecution does in regard to all of this. This was a bench trial. This wasn't a jury trial. This has been Judge Barry Williams, who has been on the case as the presiding judge from the very beginning. I think to look at his state of mind, the judge, because the prosecutor said this is all about a rough ride. The judge just said there was no evidence that there was a rough ride. And when you assert that, that's a very serious allegation.

Furthermore, the closed-caption video that showed the van, the judge said he never saw any excessive speed at all. And when that closed- caption video showed Caesar Goodson walking around to the back and opening up the back, it was for 11 seconds. The judge said you wouldn't have the knowledge there that there was anything wrong because the injuries for Freddie Gray were internal. It wasn't like a gunshot or a stabbing wound. And the judge said it wasn't until stop six, which was right at the end, when there was an outward sign that something was wrong with him and he was taken to the hospital after that.

So the reasoning of the judge is very interesting. It's the knowledge of the officer. A reasonable officer --

BERMAN: High bar.

CASAREZ: -- would have acted in the same way.

BOLDUAN: Jean, stick around with us.

We'll keep our eye on what's happening in Baltimore. Reaction to this not guilty verdict.

But we want to get back to the story in Germany. An attacker entering a movie complex, a mall complex, and 25 people injured are the reports. What those injuries are is unclear. What the motivation is of the attack, that is unclear. We do know though that the attacker has been killed.

Jim Sciutto is in Washington. He's been watching this and talking to his sources about the very latest, what he's hearing from the U.S. side.


latest we're hearing from both U.S. and German officials. One, the headline that the attacker has been killed. The attacker is dead.

We're also learning more details about the circumstances of what happened inside the movie theater. German authorities are saying that the attacker walked in, he was masked, he had a rifle, and he fired four shots. That's the number they're sticking with. We had from the U.S. embassy that it is also believed that tear gas may have been used in the theater. So what you come to here is the possibility of something less than a planned terror attack. In fact, the motivations very unclear. In fact, German authorities are saying when he entered that movie theater the attacker acted erratically. And just based on our own experience, covering these kinds of things, let's look at what we know. If this was a planned jihadi attack, the possibility that someone would fire shots in the air and then use tear gas does not match with the modus operandi, the M.O., of a planned terrorist attack. It does bring up the possibility of other motivations, including just an erratic individual here. If you had a terrorist, those shots likely would have been directed at the patrons in the movie theater as opposed to fired into the roof. And the idea of using tear gas just doesn't mix with what we know.

Again, it is early. We don't know the motivations but from U.S. officials I have been speaking with, the possibilities, the motivations other than terror certainly are here. And when you look at the M.O. of the attacker, it does not gel with our past experience with planned jihadi attacks. That's what we know at this moment.

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto for us on the attack in Germany.

We've been saying 25 people injured. We don't know the nature of these injuries. It may very well be these are 25 people affected by whatever gas was used inside that complex. We have not heard reports of anyone dead, besides the attacker. And as Jim Sciutto rightly points out, with he have no idea what the motivation of this attacker was. A very fluid situation. We are still getting information on it. We're giving you all the information we're getting from our best sources, and we'll continue to do so.

Meanwhile, major news today on several fronts. Just one of them was the Supreme Court handing down rulings on two cases that were very carefully watched.

Let's go to Pamela Brown outside the Supreme Court right now.

Pamela, what can you tell us?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are two major cases that really is a big blow, the first one, to the Obama administration because the court, the high court was deadlocked when it comes to the president's executive action on immigration, which means that this program will not be able to go forward, at least while the president is in office. It goes down to the lower court. But this was a program that would have allowed more than four million undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S., apply for work benefits, and apply for work. The administration said it would bring these people out of the shadows. These were people who were brought to the U.S. as children, parents of U.S. citizens, low priority targets, as the administration said. But opponents of the program said this was a job for Congress, not the president, and that this was an overreach of the president's power. As you see, the high court was divided, 4-4. Thus, the program will not go into effect. A big blow for the administration. We do expect the president to speak about this shortly.

[11:40:12] Also, a big ruling on the affirmative action case. Today, the high court ruled that the University of Texas' affirmative action program can go forward, that it is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. This is a program where 10 percent of the top students in Texas are automatically admitted to public universities in Texas, and then on top of that, race is taken into consideration as one factor for students. And a Texas woman by the name of Abigail Fisher, who is a white woman, was not admitted to the University of Texas, and she claims it was because she was white, that her race put her at a disadvantage. She sued the University of Texas for discrimination, but today the high court held that this program that the University of Texas used, this affirmative action program, is lawful. And so, therefore, it will continue to move forward.

So two huge rulings today at the high court.

Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Two huge rulings that everyone was watching very closely as the court's term came to a close. And now all eyes are turning to that briefing room.

Pamela, thank you so much.

As we're waiting to hear from President Obama, he will be coming to the briefing room to speak in minutes, any minute now really.

Let's go to Michelle Kosinski, White House correspondent, who is there standing by for the president.

Michelle, what are you hearing? What could we be hearing from President Obama?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We expect him to express his disappointment at this ruling, at this division in the court that, you know, we all know what this does, sends it back down. Over the past year, we've been hearing a lot of confidence from the White House on this issue. And each time this case would move up to the next court, the White House would say, well, we feel confident that this appeals court will rule in our favor. We feel confident that it will stand on the basis of the case, that their arguments were sound. But, you know, we've seen this repeatedly not go their way. Now the president finally has to come out and acknowledge that and say it. We also expect this to be a time for them to slam Republicans again for not taking up the president's nominee to the Supreme Court.

But this -- the outcome of this is really -- it fits right into the Republicans' argument for not taking up that nominee. The result of this case in particular that was so controversial, that inspired so much anger among conservatives, this is almost, you know, clinching their argument for not doing exactly what the White House has been urging them to do.

So we expect the president to speak about the Supreme Court itself, as well as finally the disappointment in this ruling.

As for that comes next, we think he will also touch on that, and we'll see if he'll take any questions. But a bad day for the president just as he's about to head out and do some traveling on the West coast -- Kate?

BERMAN: Michelle, to be clear, this makes the argument that each side has been making, not just on the court, but also on immigration. The president issued those executive actions because Congress would not pass --


BOLDUAN: A bit of a Rorschach test, isn't it?

KOSINSKI: Of course.

BERMAN: -- the executive action, Republicans said, hey, this is executive overreach, which essentially that is what the court decided today, or deadlocked on, 4-4, which means his executive actions will not go into effect.

Now, it should be noted, had Justice Scalia been alive, he almost certainly would have ruled against these executive actions, which means there would have been a definitive, affirmative ruling against it. That did not happen here. But as you say, this only points to the importance or the real significance of this vacancy at the court.

KOSINSKI: When you listen to the White House's argument as to how they were enacting these, I mean, they called it merely prosecutorial discretion, that they were going to focus on felons, not families, not deport anyone who wasn't here causing any problems. So that was their strong argument. Essentially saying, well, authorities aren't really going to be doing anything that much differently than they have been doing. Clearly, though that didn't sit with this divided court with only eight justices. And now we see the outcome of that. So the White House is going to have to acknowledge that the way things have played out is not in their favor here. But, again, it's an opportunity to slam the way Congress has worked for the last couple of years.

BOLDUAN: Michelle, stand by. We're keeping an eye on you as we're waiting for the president to walk into the briefing room.

While we wait, let's bring in CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, on this.

Jeffrey, this case, one of the big questions -- one of the things that the president, the administration was pushing was the standing issue, to say that the states that were challenging this, they didn't have standing to even bring this up. It looks like the court obviously deadlocked on that question.


BOLDUAN: Exactly.

[11:44:57] TOOBIN: This non-decision is a -- is certainly a loss for the administration and, more importantly, a loss for the four million people who would have been affected by the administration's policy. But it does leave not only the individuals involved in limbo but the law in limbo because there is not a definitive ruling on whether these states have standing. There is not a definitive ruling on whether the president has this power. This decision came only out of the Fifth Circuit, which is the most conservative in the country. A very conservative district judge, Andrew Hannen (ph), who was the originator of this decision. Will other circuits weigh in now? It's a very ambiguous legal situation.

And I think most important is what the president says about what he's going to do about the four million people who were affected by it. Will he move to deport them? I think it's unlikely. But under what authority? It's a confusing political and legal situation.

BERMAN: There are a lot of open questions here about what happens next.

Jeffrey, you're bringing up the legal side of it.

"CNN Politics" executive editor, Mark Preston, is here.

There are major political implications going forward, not just for the president, but the presidential candidates.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Right. We're talking about how this is a big loss for President Obama and perhaps his legacy in the remaining months of his term, but politically, as we head into November, this could be a big win for Democrats in that this is going to be another issue they will seize upon and try to rally their base. It was just a few hours ago where we had House Democrats take over the House floor -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Mark, hold on one second.

I think we have House Speaker Paul Ryan speaking and reacting to this on camera. Let's go there right now.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's a win for Congress and it's a win in our fight to restore the separation of powers. Presidents don't write laws. Congress writes laws. This is a case that the House weighed in on because it's fundamental to our system of checks and balances. Congress, not the president, writes our laws. And today, the Supreme Court validated that core, essential, fundamental principle.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Ryan, two-part question -- BERMAN: There's Paul Ryan there, awfully pleased with the decision or

the deadlock today, which --

BOLDUAN: It leads to what you said. This fits into the argument for both Democrats and Republicans. This is an issue that was already the issue of the Supreme Court, and the vacancy of the Supreme Court, this was already an issue in this election. This reinforces this right now.

PRESTON: No question. And I wonder what we saw happen last night with House Democrats who are unable to get anything through the House because of the way that is structured and how they took over the floor. Will this now become another issue that they try to do the same thing, where you have, you know, this kind of behavior on their part to show frustration that they're not able to push through their agenda? But at the same time, what they did last night when it came to gun safety regulations has rallied their base. This is another issue that they could do that, and this could be the new normal on Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: It's rallied their base but also created a situation of chaos, right? It was in defiance of House rules. It's not something that happens on the House floor. I mean, it's happened once or twice in half measure --


BOLDUAN: Not in this way.

BERMAN: Not in this way.

PRESTON: Not in this way.

BERMAN: If you have the minority party essentially blocking business on the House floor going forward, you know, that doesn't help progress in D.C. either.

PRESTON: No. Well, look, nothing is going to help progress right now in D.C. unless both parties are able to come together. And if you look at their approval/disapproval ratings, their approval rating, Congress as a whole is somewhere in the high teens, and I'm probably being generous at that. But the bottom line is this has become a political issue. Everything in Washington has become a political issue. And we really only have literally maybe a month, maybe six weeks left before Congress basically entirely shuts down for the campaign season.

BERMAN: Some might say it's already shut down.

PRESTON: Right. Yeah.

BERMAN: Even though they're in session, but that's a different story.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

Jeffrey Toobin is still with us. Jeffrey, when you look at this immigration case, why was this such a

tough case?

TOOBIN: Because the issue in this case is how should two groups of people be handled? Basically, one group is the parents who were in the country unlawfully of American citizens. That is, people who came here unlawfully and had children born here who are American citizens. The other group of people are the people who were brought here as children, through no choice of their own, and have grown up in the United States. Those are two very large groups, a total of four million people. And the question is how should those be handled? Now, it could be that Congress could pass a law describing how those people should be treated. Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate passed it. The House didn't act. And the president said I'm going to do it on my own.

[11:49:41] And the question in the case, the legal question in the case was does the president have the legal authority on his own to say I am going to use my discretion as the keeper of the borders not to move to remove these people. And that is a complicated legal question. Because as Speaker Ryan just said, it is Congress that makes the laws. It is not the president who can make the laws unilaterally.

However, the president's lawyers have argued and the president had argued that the president is allowed to establish priorities. We can't deport everyone, all 11 million people in the country unlawfully, so we will pick and choose among those who are eligible for deportation. That is the legal issue at the heart of the case.

And, of course, the court never separates law from politics. It's impossible to do so. So presumably, you had the four Democratic appointees voting to uphold the president's authority. You had the four Republican appointees voting that he didn't have the authority. Thus -- and they didn't announce the split. They just said the court was equally divided. They never say who voted which way. But you don't have to be a great scholar of the Supreme Court to guess how the votes were allocated.

BERMAN: Luckily, you are a great scholar of the Supreme Court.

TOOBIN: What a coincidence.


BERMAN: But, Jeffery, you point out, we are in legal limbo. We are waiting for President Obama to speak from the White House briefing room. He will talk to reporters any minute. One thing we want to hear from him is what is he going to do? What action is he going to take? What is he going to tell?

BOLDUAN: We see the two fingers. That means the president is a few minutes away.

BERMAN: Two minutes. We can talk for two minutes here.

But, Jeffrey, what happens to the law enforcement agencies that are supposed to deport these people who will be here illegally?

TOOBIN: Berman, that's the question. I mean, that's really what has to be resolved here. I think, as a practical matter, most of these people, of these four million, are not going to be deported. First of all, there are not the resources to go after them. Most of them are, of course, also -- and this was at the core of the president's claim -- law-abiding people who have families here, who live here, who have jobs, usually off the books. And we, as a country, do not want to see them thrown out of the country. But now, it is unquestionably true that their status is at least somewhat in limbo. And the president has to decide how he is going to announce his policy when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the decision that was affirmed, said that the policy he wants to implement is unconstitutional. So what is he going to do now? What is his message to those four million people?


Jeffrey, I'm going to interrupt you, for only this reason, President Obama is taking to the microphone right now.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody. I wanted to say a few words on two of the cases the Supreme Court spoke on today.

First in the affirmative action case, I'm pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society and that this country should provide a high quality education to all our young people regardless of their background. We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes, but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody and that's what was upheld today.

Second, one of the reasons why America is such a diverse and inclusive nation is because we are a nation of immigrants. Our founders conceived this country as refuge for the world and for more than two centuries, welcoming wave after wave of immigrants has kept us youthful and dynamic and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character and it has made us stronger.

But for more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn't able to issue a decision today doesn't just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.

Just to layout some basic facts that sometimes get lost in what can be an emotional debate. Since I took office, we have deployed more border agents and technology to our southern border than ever before. That has helped cut illegal border crossings to their lowest levels since the 1970s. It should have paved the way for comprehensive immigration reform and, in fact, as many of you know, it almost did.

Nearly 70 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a smart common-sense bill that would have doubled the border patrol and offered undocumented immigrants a pathway to earn citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes and played by the rules.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to allow a simple yes-or-no vote on that bill. So I was left with little choice but to take steps within my existing authority to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and more just.

Four years ago we announced that those who are our lowest priorities for enforcement; diligent, patriotic, young DREAMers who grew up pledging allegiance to our flag should be able to apply to work here and study here and pay their taxes here.

More than 730,000 lives have been changed as a result. These are students, they're teachers, they're doctors, they're lawyers; they're Americans in every way but on paper. And fortunately, today's decision does not affect this policy. It does not affect the existing DREAMers.

Two years ago we announced a similar expanded approach for others who are also low priority for enforcement. We said that if you've been in America for more than five years with children who are American citizens or legal residence, than you too can come forward, get right with the law, and work in this country temporarily without fear of deportation.

Both were the kinds of actions taken by Republican and Democratic presidents over the past half-century; neither granted anybody a free pass. All they did was focus our enforcement resources, which are necessarily limited, on the highest priorities; convicted criminals, recent border crossers, and threats to our national security.

Now, as disappointing as it was to be challenged for taking the kind of actions that other administrations have taken, the Country was looking to the Supreme Court to resolve the important legal questions raised in this case.

Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision. This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court. That means that the expanded set of common sense deferred action policies, the ones that I announced two years ago, can't go forward at this stage until there is a ninth Justice on the court to break the tie.

I know a lot of people are going to be disappointed today, but it is important to understand what today means. The deferred action policy that has been in place for the last four years is not affected by this rule. Enforcement priorities developed my administration are not affected by this ruling. This means that the people who might've benefited from the expanded deferred actions polices, long-term residence raising children who are Americans or legal residence, they will remain low priorities for enforcement as long as you have not committed a crime are limited immigration enforcement resources are not focused on you.

But today's decision is frustration to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them.

I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who made their lives here, who've raised families here, who hope for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and fully contribute to this country we all love in an open way.

So, where do we go from here? Most Americans, including business leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans and Independence, still agree that the single best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass common sense bipartisan immigration reform. That is obviously not going to happen during the remainder of this Congress; we don't have a Congress that agrees with us on this, nor do we have a Congress that's willing to do even its most basic jobs under the Constitution, which is to consider nominations.

Republicans in Congress currently are willfully preventing the Supreme Court from being fully staffed and functioning as our founders intended. And today's situation underscores the degree to which the Court is not able to function the way it's supposed to. The Court's inability to reach a decision in this case is a very clear reminder of why it's so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench.

For more than 40 years there have been an average of just over two months between a nomination and a hearing; I nominated Judge Merrick Garland to Supreme Court more than three months ago, but most Republicans so far have refused to even meet with him.

[12:00:09] They are allowing partisan politics to jeopardize something as fundamental as the impartiality and integrity of our justice system. And America should not let it stand.