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House Intel Demands to See Wiretapping Evidence Monday; Some in GOP Vow to Block ObamaCare Replacement Bill; Dems, GOP React To Controversial U.S. Attorney Firing; Germany's Merkel Will Meet With Trump Tuesday; Tillerson Makes First Asia Trip As Regional Tensions Escalate; Pope Open To Married Men Becoming Priests; Northeast Braces For a Blizzard; Fierce Battles Rage in Fight to Liberate Western Mosul; New Footage Emerges in Michael Brown Case. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 12, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:34] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right, with the deadline quickly approaching, a senior White House official tells CNN, quote, they don't know if the Trump Administration will be able to present to lawmakers proof tomorrow of President Trump's claims that President Obama wiretapped his phones before the election. The House Intel committee wants all relevant documents about alleged wiretaps turned over, Monday.
President Trump labeled the explosive accusation in a series of tweets a week ago. One tweet reading, "Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism." The president has yet to provide any evidence to back up his claims. A ranking member of the House Intel Committee says, he's concerned that if the president fabricated those accusations, it could damage the president and the U.S. credibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: There are one or two possibilities here. Either the president quite deliberately for some reason made up this charge or perhaps more disturbing, the president really believes this. If six months from now the president should say that Iran is cheating on the nuclear agreement, if he is making that up, it's a real problem.
If he is not making it up and it's true, it's an even bigger problem because the question is would people believe him? Would American people believe him? Would people around the world believe him? And that has real world consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Athena Jones is at the White House for us. So Athena, the clock is ticking. A lot of lawmakers want to see proof by tomorrow. Any update from the administration?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. No. No updates. No indication that any sort of evidence is going to be forthcoming. And Fred, as you know, this is a question the administration has been being asked ever since the president woke up early last Saturday morning and begin tweeting before dawn, launching these explosive and unsubstantiated allegations.
The White House has been asked frequently for -- to provide any sort of evidence. The president and the vice president have been dodging and ducking questions about this very matter. Just a couple of days ago, a reporter who was standing only a few feet away from the president asked repeatedly about any evidence he was going to be able to provide and the president ignored him.
Vice President Pence in an interview with Fox during the week last week was also asked directly about the matter and he dodged the question pointing to these congressional investigations. So the White House does not appear to be ready to offer any sort of evidence that many people on Capitol Hill, not just journalists, but of course as you mentioned, the people on Capitol Hill have been asking for. Listen to what Senator John McCain had to say about all of this on State of the Union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I have no reason to believe that the charge is true. So I think the president has one of two choices, either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve because if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we've got a serious issue here, to say the least.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And, of course as we stated, President Obama has vigorously denied any sort of wiretapping of then candidate Trump's communications in Trump Tower. One thing I do want to be clear about here is that the House Intelligence Committee that set that deadline, that deadline for tomorrow, they sent the letter requesting the relevant documents to the Department of Justice. So the request wasn't made directly of the White House, although if you talk to any member of Congress, they've been asking for the president to provide proof or even saying that they expect him to be able to provide proof.
But it's the Department of Justice that's been the subject of this request. And what's interesting there Fred, is that the FBI director which is of course under the purview of the Department of Justice last weekend asked the Department of Justice to publicly refute the president's claims because they were untrue. So it is interesting that it's the Department of Justice that is now being asked to provide proof of something that there maybe no evidence for according to many officials.
WHITFIELD: Right. And James Comey's requests too have not been met. All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much. Appreciate that. So let's talk more about that with former Representative Steve Israel. He is a CNN political commentator and chairman of the Long Island University Global Institute. Good to see you, Mr. Israel.
STEVE ISRAEL, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Good to see you too.
[15:05:04] WHITFIELD: All right. So what is your reaction to President Trump's wiretapping allegation and that the administration -- by way of the Department of Justice, White House, et cetera, they have to provide some evidence to the House Intel committee on Monday? What's your reaction to all of this and whether that deadline would or could be met?
ISRAEL: Well, Fredricka, my reaction to the tweet was that it was a short term reaction by Donald Trump to distract attention from the fact that his attorney general had to recuse himself from the Department of Justice investigation into Russian meddling. And that short-term distraction became a long term crisis for the president of the United States. I spoke with several of my former colleagues this morning on the House Intelligence Committee, they have set a deadline. They want to see the evidence tomorrow.
My suspicion is that there will be no evidence. The next step will be on March 20th when the House Intelligence Committee invites Director Comey in and Director Clapper and others. They're going to want to know, is there something here? Chances are, there will be nothing there. And that leads to a major credibility crisis that the president of the United States has and a crisis that will be a long term problem for him.
WHITFIELD: And so that's one consequence, the credibility problem. But do you believe there would -- there should be other repercussions, whether be before that March 20th hearing is to begin or not, if the president does not reveal evidence or at least address it at a minimum?
ISRAEL: Well, I think that we first have to allow the facts to take us to the truth. And we will arrive at that truth on or about March 20th when senior members of the administration and the prior administration will either say, there was nothing there and the president is making this up or we had a preponderance of evidence that led us to a judge to request a wiretap. By the way, if that's the case, Donald Trump has bigger problems than the fact that he lied in the tweet. And that is that some judge somewhere believed that there is probable cause that he or somebody close to him may have been engaged in criminal activities.
I think we have to wait to figure out what the consequences are until we really establish the facts. And I believe the facts will be established tomorrow, as early as tomorrow on whether the administration provides the evidence to back up the claim or on or around March 20th when we have these hearings.
WHITFIELD: All right. So Mr. Israel, while I have you, I'm about to shift gears a little bit to talk about this GOP health care after Republicans vowing to repeal and replace ObamaCare. But many remain deeply divided on key parts of that proposal. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: When you're a governing party getting consensus among your wide big 10 party, not -- everybody doesn't get what they want. But we're getting much better policy here on.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: If we get what we've got from Ryan, ObamaCare light, he will not have the votes. And we have to get to that point before true negotiations begin. Right now, I think there's a charm offensive going on, everybody is being nice to everybody because they want us to vote for this but we're not going to vote for it.
TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I firmly believe that nobody will be (inaudible) financially in this -- in the process that we're going through understanding that they'll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not that government forces them to buy.
SEN. TOM COTTON, (R) ARKANSAS: And I believe it would have adverse consequences for millions of Americans. And it wouldn't deliver on our promises to reduce the cost of health insurance for Americans. So, I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, so Mr. Israel, how does this look to you? Is the divide too great in order to have a repeal and replace plan?
ISREAL: No. I sat in Congress for 16 years and I saw that very frequently party discipline does prevail. I wouldn't be surprised if this passes, but I'll tell you, it's going to be a heavy lift. There are two factions of the Republican caucus that are conflicting right now.
On the far right you have the freedom caucus. They believe that this bill goes -- it doesn't go far enough. On the other side, you have about 23 House Republicans in districts that Hillary Clinton won. They believe that this bill goes too far too fast.
Here is the number you got to keep in mind. When this vote is held, the Republicans can't afford to lose more than 22 votes. And right now, you've got well over 22 Republicans who have serious reservations about voting for this bill. So I think it's going to be bumpy, it's going to be wobbly. And right now, if you ask me to put a bet down on this, I probably wouldn't put the bet down.
WHITFIELD: All right. Former Representative Steve Israel, thanks for your time. Appreciate --
ISRAEL: Thank you. WHITFIELD: And this week, CNN will host an exclusive health care town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. It airs Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Now, still ahead, after President Trump fired New York federal prosecutor Preet Bharara, Senator Chuck Schumer is now coming to Bharara's defense.
And U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is traveling to Asia without the press by his side. Isn't he supposed to be the president's global mouthpiece? That's all straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:14:07] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
So, today Democrats and Republicans are reacting to the controversial firing of a high profile U.S. attorney. Preet Bharara from the Southern District of New York was among dozens of U.S. attorneys the Trump administration asked to resign. But Bharara refused and instead was fired. The White House has drawn a lot of criticism because President-elect Trump reportedly assured Bharara in the fall that Bharara's job was secure. But Senator John McCain says this kind of housecleaning is nothing new or unusual.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:15:01] MCCAIN: Well, I don't know what his promise was to Mr. Bharara, but I do know that other administrations have done the same thing, perhaps not in as abrupt fashion. But that's what elections have consequences. And so for people to complain about it, they're ignoring the history of new presidencies. And I think the president had every right to ask for their resignations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. But Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer who is friends with Bharara and once had him on his staff as his chief counsel had a very different reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D), MINORITY LEADER: He will be sorely missed. Preet took on Wall Street and corruption among public officials better than anyone else. I believe the president's decision to change his mind and fire Preet says far more about the president than it does about Preet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about this with CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen who is also a former presidential adviser to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, and CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis who is an anchor with Spectrum News. Good to see both of you gentlemen. DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. So, Errol you first, was there a rush to let Preet Bharara go along with the other U.S. attorneys in part because of Bharara's relations with Democrat Chuck Schumer or possibly to impact or potentially slow down ongoing investigations involving Trump Tower, Trump associates and aides?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's a lot of speculation, Fredricka is that he was possibly going to get his hands on or get close to some very sensitive matters that the White House didn't want looked into. We don't know. There's been pretty much silence out of the White House, so it's really just speculation.
It is true in fact though that, you know, the Reagan administration replaced 89 out of 93 U.S. attorneys. We know that the Clinton administration fired all of his on the same day, and this is in fact not all that unusual. What's different here though is that, Preet went before the cameras in the lobby of Trump Tower and said, I just spoke with Jeff Sessions, I just spoke with the then-president-elect and they told me that I can stay. Something clearly has changed along the way.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So then David, knowing that, that was in the fall when Bharara came out in front of the cameras and said that he was given those reassurances. Could this end up being a real mistake for Donald Trump, a real hit on his reputation of giving his word and then changing the scenario?
GERGEN: I'm not sure it's going to have much impact unless something new comes to the core, Fredricka. Everyone -- as everyone has pointed out, John McCain I thought has rightly said, you know, presidents do this as their prerogative and all the presidents had done this similarly. What's different here is that in previous cases some of U.S. attorneys have been given latitude to stay longer to wrap up cases to make sure there's not much disruption in their offices. It hasn't been done against this -- with the sense of suspicion about what's going on and what's underneath all of this as it somehow inspired.
I frankly think we're now seeing him to hear too many conspiracy theories from the left. You know, we've been hearing them from the right for a while. But I think until we have further evidence, the best thing has been said, frankly, was by Errol in his column here in the "New York Daily News" saying, "whatever we know about Bharara's, whatever mistakes he made, he upheld a high ethics standard and that ought to be the standard for new U.S. attorneys who come in."
WHITFIELD: So then there's this, gentlemen, you know, a source telling CNN that the president tried to call Bharara on Thursday. It was a voice mail left for Bharara by an assistant to the president but that Bharara refused to answer because there are rules against sitting U.S. attorney talking to the sitting president. You know, no word on what the call, you know, from the White House may have been about, but this is what a source is telling us. So Errol, you know, you first to tackle this. If that were the case, you know, why would the White House, you know, break protocol to make that kind of phone call if indeed that is correct?
LOUIS: It's interesting. There are parts of this Trump administration that are reminiscent of what you read about -- at least I had to read about, I didn't live through it. In the Kennedy administration where formal lines of communication were kind of cast aside and the president would reach out to whoever in government he felt he needed to talk to. You know, with barely 50 days in this administration, we certainly know the style of Donald Trump is to do exactly that.
And so, it is possibly -- I agree with David, not necessarily a conspiracy theory but, you know, sort of a breach of protocol. I frankly had never heard the protocol that U.S. attorneys who are, after all presidential appointees are not suppose to communicates with the president. I was not aware of that.
WHITFIELD: David, are you?
GERGEN: I have not. And, look, I think one can be puzzled about the caller was made. It could be there was something nefarious about it. It's also possible he was calling him to say, hey, look, I've changed my mind, we're doing a real sweep and I have to include you among the people being swept out.
WHITFIELD: So, something else this week that will happen, Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, will be making her way to the White House. And this will be a very interesting dynamic because it is always when you have a head of state visiting the president in the White House, the two of them will be, you know, hit with -- peppered with a lot of questions.
[15:20:07] Most likely, David, questions will come from reporters to Donald Trump about this wiretapping. How do you supposed, he will or will not handle this? More of the same or something different?
GERGEN: All right. I'm sorry was this --
WHITFIELD: Go David. Yes.
GERGEN: -- blurred there.
WHITFIELD: Yes, to you. How this president -- yes. How this president might likely handle questions, he'll likely be peppered with questions while he's standing there with Chancellor Merkel about wiretapping. How do you suppose he's preparing for that moment?
GERGEN: He absolutely must be prepared because he's been basically ducking the press here for days now, a week is totally uncharacteristic. He clearly doesn't want to be in the spotlight to answer such questions.
I hope it makes -- I hope he helps us with what was the evidence behind his tweet and that tweet storm Saturday a week ago saying that Obama had wiretap him. Where did he get that? Is it only through, you know, a few press reports including, you know, conservative press or was there something more substantial? That's the single biggest question. But by tomorrow, you know, there are going to be questions too. The CBO is supposed to coming out with its estimates on health care numbers tomorrow. You've got his -- you've got the Trump's budget supposed to come out tomorrow. There are going to be big, big substantive controversies touched off by both of those documents.
WHITFIELD: And of course it will be very unusual if for some reasons had made that opportunity doesn't happen where people get to ask questions with the chancellor alongside. Errol Louis, and David Gergen, thanks so much. We shall see, stay tuned and we will be right back.
[15:26:13] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is making one of his first big trips overseas this week when he visits Asia. He's going to have to deal with North Korea's new threats against Japan and South Korea and growing friction between the U.S. and China. The trip is going to be fairly low key by a U.S. secretary of state standard. Tillerson is bringing a little in the way of staff and no media have been invited. Something that has ruffled a few feathers in Washington and beyond.
I want to bring in CNN's Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott in Washington. So, Elise how unusual is this that a new secretary of state particularly would have such a low profile, nearly invisible?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it is unusual. And that's, you know, this is an unusual presidency and certainly Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a different type of secretary of state as the former CEO of ExxonMobil. He kept a very notoriously low profile, didn't give many interviews, traveled very light.
And he seems to be bringing that to his work as secretary of state. As you said, not bringing much in the way of staff and also bringing no journalists with him on his plane. And, you know, this is a different style, yes, but I think it's -- you know, he's learning that there is a public diplomacy aspect to being one of the most powerful men in the world certainly as the U.S. secretary of state.
So, certainly the press corp is hoping he'll reconsider and starts bringing press along with him. Some of them will be traveling commercially but it's really hard to keep hop scotching with him as he goes from Japan, China and South Korea. And certainly as you said it, such an important trip at such an important time as tensions with North Korea are escalating.
WHITFIELD: So, compare this to what you have witnessed and experienced as a member of the traveling press with the previous secretaries of state and that compared to Tillerson's approach.
LABOTT: Well, I think he's really looking of this as a CEO. He doesn't want to be speaking publicly, we really haven't heard that much from him on his first two trips, he really didn't speak much at all. You know, maybe a couple words here and there, hasn't taken any questions from the press. And really kind of hunkering down, trying to look at forming, reorganizing the State Department. You remember that budget that was sent by -- the budget ideas that were sent by the White House certainly caused a lot of consternation at the State Department and he is trying to work with the White House on that.
So, I think he hasn't really been seen or heard, and that's causing a lot of anxiety. I think, in the State Department because they are used to very public figures such as John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice. So certainly it's a different style but I think, you know, there is this public aspect of trying to use the public, use the press to get the support of public interest groups, to get the support of Congress, to put your message around the world. I think there are a little bit of growing pains there.
WHITFIELD: All right, Elise Labott, thank you so much in Washington, appreciate it. And be sure to visit cnn.com for Elise Labott's latest write up on Tillerson.
Straight ahead, the Pope is considering a possible solution for the Catholic priest shortage, allowed married man to be ordained. So how is that sitting with the faithful around the world? We'll talk with a man known for speaking out on pivotal issues based in the church. That's next.
[15:33:49] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
So right now, the Catholic Church is struggling with a shortage of priests and the Pope might have a solution, accepting married men into the clergy. It is still just an idea but one that is generating a lot of debate.
Here to talk about this is Sister Simone Campbell who is executive director of NETWORK, a lobby group for Catholic Social Justice. She's also known as the leader of Nuns on the Bus, a group that has toured the U.S. advocating for immigration reform and other social issues. Good to see you.
SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, CATHOLIC NUN: Thank you --
WHITFIELD: So Sister, in an interview with a German newspaper, Pope Francis said that he hoped to open up an idea of allowing married men become a priest. You just returned from the Vatican where you said there's a need for more female voices in Rome. So what are your thoughts on the Pope turning to married men to address that clergy shortage?
[15:35:03] CAMPBELL: Well, I think it's a great step forward. One of the things that needs to be acknowledge is that women are the leaders in our church in many different settings. I remember when I was the head of my religious community and I was in a Rancho, Little Pueblo in Mexico and one of the men came up to me and said, "Oh, I love when Sister Alejandra (ph) mass. It's much better than the priest." She wasn't actually saying mass, but she was leading the community in Sunday worship because they didn't have enough priests to go around.
So I know the community is being ministered to by women, and this would be a step forward, I believe in acknowledging the reality that there are married clergy, not a lot, but a few within our church. And that this is a way forward but it doesn't replace women in leadership roles. It'd be a step in the right direction, but we need not just one foot in that direction, we need two feet.
WHITFIELD: So you're encouraged that it's a way forward, but there also some disappointment that before married men would be allowed instead it wouldn't be, you know, women priests ordained?
CAMPBELL: Oh, yes -- I mean, I have a friend that jokes, "of course it'll be men first." But I think the thing that we need to look at is that women are leaders in the church without ordination. And this is one of the big aspects that needs to be acknowledged within the Catholic Church. I was just at a meeting at the Vatican and women in many of those Vatican roles are quite possible without ordination.
And so, I think there are two pieces that the priest -- that the Pope needs to look at. One is the priest shortage and how do we get more priests into communities. And then the second is, how do we get women's voices into leadership. Those are two questions, and I think he needs to answer both. One is a step forward, we need to see more in that direction.
WHITFIELD: It sounds like you've got another trip on the horizon back to the Vatican to convey some of that. Sister Simone Campbell, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
CAMPBELL: Glad to be with you.
WHITFIELD: And speaking of that Christian faith, tonight tune in to CNN's series "Finding Jesus." The new episode focuses on Lazarus and it airs tonight 9:00 right here on CNN.
[15:41:19] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
People in the northeast bracing for a blizzard this week. The New York City area could see more than foot of snow beginning tomorrow so much for the thoughts of spring on the horizon. CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater is tracking the storm for us. So, when might this hit, Tom?
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the snow already Fredricka is in the upper Midwest, parts of the Dakota is already six inches. By just to remind everybody, we broke almost 6,000 high temperature records in the month of February. March came in like a lamb. On the first day of March, New York City 78 degrees, Boston 73, D.C. hit 80.
And now we're watching energy come across the intermountain west. It's sliding across the upper Midwest. And that storm system is going to slide its energy up to a newly developed northeaster. Two of the three greatest northeasters in U.S. history fell in March.
Here is the snow fall moving in to Indianapolis one to three inches. Chicago will have their first one inch plus since the 18th of December. That storm system and that energy is going to, as mentioned, transfer itself off to a big, big storm that could paralyze the entire I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Warnings and effect from Buffalo already to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia including New York and now we're watching blizzard watch in effect from Long Island up to Boston.
So as this storm gets moving, it's mainly a Monday night into a Tuesday morning event. Make your plans now on what you're going to do on Tuesday because easily we're seeing the models now come to an agreement where the European and the U.S. model easily want to drop eight to 10, maybe 12 inches in D.C. and the same thing for New York City to Boston. We're going to watch it hour by hour because just 20- mile difference on the coast, Fredricka, means everything as far as the snow accumulations, but they're agreeing pretty good right now. And over 100 hour-per-hour winds.
WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, the snow on the cherry blossom buds and all that. All right, winter still here. Thank you Tom Sater, appreciate it.
All right, now to the war in Iraq. Iraqi forces are fighting to liberate the western part of the city from ISIS fighters. The Iraqi government says at least 100,000 civilians have cleared out of the city since operations began three weeks ago.
CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman met some of those who remain including one family who scrambled to grab whatever they could as they escaped. A woman and her children who fled under sniper fire and a woman thanking a federal police officer who helped liberate her neighborhood. She told CNN that she hadn't been able to smoke cigarettes for two years under ISIS rule.
Well, not all of western Mosul has been liberated yet. Here is Wedeman's CNN exclusive which shows the resistance from ISIS has been fierce.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunfire roaring nearby, Mosul residents flee their neighborhood of Tehran. Then an ISIS suicide car bomb explodes nearby. Pieces of metal and concrete raining down. The blast sets an Iraqi federal police (inaudible) on fire, killing several policemen, wounding others.
This footage provided to CNN by freelance cameraman Ricardo Vilanova is a raw glimpse of the intensity of the battle for Western Mosul. Iraqi officials aren't putting out casualty figures, but it's clear government forces are paying a high price.
[15:45:03] ISIS fighters continue to put up stiff resistance. Car bombs, their weapon of choice. They've used dozens to attack Iraqi forces since the push in west Mosul began two and half weeks ago. More than 70,000 civilians have fled the western part of the city. Others, like this old woman and her granddaughter, had no choice but to stick it out. Hundreds of thousands remain inside hanging white flags on their doors in the hopes they'll be spared.
Fighting in western Mosul appears far heavier than in the east where it took Iraqi forces three months to gain control. The phrase "War is hell" here becomes reality.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Erbil, Northern Iraq.
WHITFIELD: And straight ahead, new video of Michael Brown on the day he died in Ferguson, Missouri. How this could change the narrative surrounding his death by police?
[15:50:34] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Newly released video is reigniting questions and emotions about one of the country's most controversial police-involved shootings in recent years. The 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the take may shed new light of what happened to the hours before his death.
This weekend at the South by Southwest festival, the documentary "Stranger Fruit" showcased this surveillance video of Brown. The St. Louis Police Department cannot verify the video's authenticity. We will speak to the director who obtained this footage and Michael Brown's father in just a moment. But first, CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher has the story.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's just after 1:00 in the morning on the day that Michael Brown would be killed. And this newly released surveillance video shows him inside the Ferguson market and liquor store, a place he'd be accused of robbing 11 hours later.
Now, CNN cannot confirm the video's authenticity. It's part of a new documentary called "Stranger Fruit" which debuted at the South by Southwest festival on Saturday. It challenges the police narrative that Brown stole from a convenience store moments before he was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson back in August 2014.
It argues Brown's altercation with the store employees later that day, shown on this video that was released by the Ferguson Police, stemmed from a misunderstanding tight when earlier apparent drug deal with the clerks. Which the filmmaker Jason Pollock suggests is happening in the previously unreleased video.
Now the 18-year-old appears to give the clerks a small bag. Pollock claims that's marijuana. They give Brown a bag with cigarillos which he takes but then turns around and gives back to the clerks before leaving. This film suggests that Brown did not return to rob the store later that day but to get his stuff back.
Protests and riots erupted across the country after Brown's death. And many protesters upset with the Ferguson Police Department's decision to release a surveillance video of the altercation of the store because they felt it demonized Brown and appeared to justify police use of force. The original Ferguson police report does not mention Brown's overnight visit or that there was any video beyond what was released. The visit was briefly mentioned in a St. Louis County police report.
CNN contacted St. Louis P.D. which said it could not confirm the video's authenticity. But that regardless, it would have been irrelevant to their investigation into the encounter between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. Wilson, who resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, claimed he was assaulted by Brown and that he feared for his life. A grand jury and a federal civil rights investigation declined to indict Wilson.
(on camera) Now, we reached out to the Ferguson Police Department and asked them about the video and why it wasn't released before. We were told to call back tomorrow when the public information officer would be on duty. We also tried to get in touch which the attorneys who represent the Ferguson market. They haven't gotten back to us just yet.
However, he did do an interview with "The New York Times." In that interview, he disputes the version of events that appear in the documentary.
Dianne Gallagher, CNN.
WHITFIELD: The filmmaker who obtained this new footage, Jason Pollock, joining me now. He is also with Michael Brown Sr. in Austin, Texas, the father of Michael Brown, where the documentary premiered this weekend.
Good to see both of you. I know this has been an incredible emotional journey. Your screening happened today. Mr. Brown, let me begin with you.
MICHAEL BROWN SR., MICHAEL BROWN'S FATHER: Yes.
WHITFIELD: How is this making you feel, seeing this video, seeing this documentary?
BROWN: It makes me feel happy because, you know, Mike had been demonized, you know. I needed some truth. The truth needed to be out for the public so that they could see it for themselves and be judgmental on the right thing instead of what was put out there to make him look like a bad person, you know.
So, I'm satisfied, you know, with that. Hopefully, this can move forward. It's for us to maybe try and open up the case. WHITFIELD: You -- as a family, you have pursued a federal case in this as well as civil action. How do you see that this video that Jason obtained and put in his documentary might assist in your legal challenges?
[15:55:02] BROWN: I think that all of this is working out perfectly, you know, because no one was expecting to see nothing like this. So if a lot of people probably walking around with their eyes booked, you know. And, wow, where did this come from, you know, so. I think some numbers probably have come on the table. You know, I had to get what the lawyers with there, you know, that there's something that they have to work out and help me here work for the best.
WHITFIELD: And Jason Pollock, where did this come from? Where did this video come from? How did you obtain it?
JASON POLLOCK, DOCUMENTARY FILM DIRECTOR, "STRANGER FRUIT": I obtained this video by deciding to move to Ferguson, work with the family and do real investigative journalism for the last two years. And that's how the truth comes out. When you do real work and you focus on one story and you dig into it.
We originally found the paperwork in the St. Louis County police report which shows that there -- that they saw a video at 1:13 a.m. of Michael Brown walking into the convenience store. And that tipped us off that this happened. They admit that it happened in their own report and the document which we found proves it. So then saying that they don't know what they're talking about is ridiculous because they either don't read their report or they're not telling us the truth.
Based on everything that's happened, it seems like they're probably not telling us the truth. So, we found the document and then we were able to acquire the video. And the video is at the same exact time as their own document.
So to prove that the video was real, they proved it for us. Their document says that Michael Brown walked into the store on August 9th at 1:13 a.m. The video that we've acquired, at the top of the video, you can see the time code and it clearly says the exact same time and date. So the video is pretty much collaborated by the St. Louis County police report. Thank you, St. Louis County.
I'm not exactly sure why they don't understand what's happening with it. But I think that they're pretty much is pointing fingers at each other right now because they've been outed. And what this video shows is that they lied to the world about what happened. They wanted to make Mike look bad, so they put out half a video to destroy his character in his death to make him look bad --
WHITFIELD: So then they said --
POLLOCK: -- to make Darren -- Yes?
WHITFIELD: And so, then you made a conscientious decision that you said, I am going to use this in a documentary. I'm going to tell the story. As opposed to calling the attention to this video in another means, meaning going directly to law enforcement et cetera. Talk to me about how you made this decision and why you felt like this was the best route in which to showcase it in this documentary.
POLLOCK: The video is a distraction. Everyone, please understand this. The video is a distraction, the convenience store is a distraction. And the reason to release -- we released it this way, because my film "Stranger Fruit" is about what really happened. It's about the physical evidence on Canfield, the evidence that they don't want us talking about.
So we decided to get this video out of the way today, let America and the world see that Mike didn't rob the store, that that was all a lie. And now, we get to talk about the real physical evidence at Canfield. The fact that Michael Brown was shot in the top of his head, and the bullet came out of his eye and that there's a bullet in the ground by his head. And that Darren Wilson claims that he didn't shoot Michael on the top of his head.
Well, that's not true. Because the physical evidence on Canfield which is what they don't want us talking about, proves that Darren Wilson murdered Michael and he should be in jail for that.
The video is a distraction. We're getting it over today, big New York Times done with the video, he didn't rob the store. Now, let's talk about the actual physical evidence which proves that Officer Wilson lied and which proves what happened at Canfield.
WHITFIELD: OK. So Mr. Brown, when you look at this video and the video depicting Michael Brown going into the store. It does appear to be, you know, there was an exchange taking place, Jason. And the documentary describing that it was you know, exchanging pot for a case of cigarillos, and then leaving and then coming back and claiming it later.
When you see this -- and again, the attorney for this market also put out a statement saying, "There was no transaction. There was no understanding. No agreement. Those folks didn't sell him cigarillos for pot. The reason he gave it back is he was walking out the door and unpaid merchandise and they wanted it back."
That's the statement coming from the attorney for the convenience store. What's your, what's your interpretation of what you see in that video? Mr. Brown?
BROWN: Well, the price (inaudible), you know. Yes, can you hear me?
WHITFIELD: Yes, I can.
WHITFIELD: I had.
BROWN: The taste is in the (inaudible), you know. You can see it for yourself, you know. All the information is right there for you, you know. I just feel like they should have come out a little earlier. Maybe the city of Ferguson wouldn't get tore up like this, you know. They'd be faced with what happened to different way, you know. So, it's almost like --