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CNN NEWSROOM

Missouri Governor Issues Stay Hours Before Scheduled Execution; Former Death Row Inmate Shares His Thoughts; Interview with Erik Prince; NFL's First White Player Kneels During National Anthem; Chelsea Clinton Defense Barron Trump Against Critic. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: New evidence is brought to light by his defense team. You were waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in. Then the state weighs in and issues a stay in the final hours as the clock is ticking.

Tell us about this evidence. What did you find? What did it tell you and why do you believe it is so telling in terms of his innocence?

GREG HAMPIKIAN, HIRED BY DEFENSE TEAM TO TEST MURDER WEAPON FOR DNA: Sure, we got a stay in early 2015, January 22nd of 2015. The court ordered -- the Missouri Supreme Court ordered DNA testing on several items, including a kitchen knife from the victim's kitchen that was left in her body. She was stabbed many times, I think 27 times, seven of those were lethal wounds. And so the idea was that if you're -- if a knife has been handled like that and it was clear that she fought valiantly for her life.

There are defensive wounds on her hands, that that weapon would have some DNA from the friction of gripping it and the struggle. And in fact, when it was tested, male DNA was detected. There was enough male DNA that Nora Rudin, who wrote the original report, the DNA report, was able to exclude Marcellus Williams.

I also did a report. I had originally been on the case to get the motion for testing, then they brought me back on to look at the evidence, and I also excluded him and prepared a report and we thought that it would just go to a hearing as they normally do in these cases. And it was very good evidence. It excludes Marcellus Williams. It's a male's DNA. There is enough DNA there to compare to others, to compare to a similar crime, a woman about the same age.

This victim was 42, the other one 40, white female, long brown hair, both of them stabbed with their own kitchen knives, both of them -- the knife is left in the body. It's obviously potentially related. The medical examiner thought so in 1998. That second crime is unsolved. We certainly want the DNA compared from both knife handles and from all the other evidence. But all the forensic evidence from the scene, including hairs, including footprint, all of it excludes Marcellus Williams.

BROWN: OK. Greg, thank you very much. And as we reported, the governor in Missouri has issued a stay in his execution for tonight.

Thanks again, Greg.

I want to turn now to a former death row inmate. He joins me now with a personal side of this story.

Joe D'Ambrosio sat on Ohio's death row for more than 20 years. His murder conviction eventually tossed out after federal courts found the state of Ohio had withheld key evidence from the defense that D'Ambrosio says pointed to his innocence. The U.S. Supreme Court would later deny Ohio's attempts to keep prosecuting him.

Joe, welcome to the show.

Thank you very much for having me.

BROWN: First, just tell us, what is Marcellus Williams going through right now? Just hours before he is set to die, the governor issues a stay.

D'AMBROSIO: Well, in my case, you go through so many appeals over and over, and you just get used to getting turned down that you can't actually allow yourself to ride that roller coaster because it will drive you absolutely mad. So he's very elated right now that he got the stay, but you know, how long is this stay? Is there going to be a hearing that's going to be held?

There's so many more questions now that are open, but at least now he has the stay in place, and that's the main thing.

BROWN: Right. Because the governor issued the stay in lieu of a gubernatorial board that will look at this case. So as you point out, this is far from over.

You have been a free man now for over five years. What has life been like for you after being behind bars for 20 years for a crime you say you did not commit?

D'AMBROSIO: It was very difficult. When I went in, the worldwide Web didn't exist. Cell phones were the size of car batteries. There's so much -- everything changed so much. Prices doubled in the amount of time I was gone. It was hard to acclimate myself back into society because when you get exonerated all they do is open the door and kick you out.

There's nothing in place -- if you do a crime and then get out, there's all kinds of programs in place for people like that. But when you're exonerated, we're the dirty little secret that nobody wants to know about. So all they do is open the door and kick you out, and if you don't have anything to fall back on, you're in trouble.

And that's -- a lot of the exonerees are in that same position. I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to have a parish, the priest that helped free me, his parish opened their hearts and minds to me, and I felt more unconditional love from them, but if it wasn't for them, I would have absolutely nothing.

[15:35:08] And luckily for me, to have a support system like that is amazing, and a lot of the exonerees don't have that.

BROWN: All right, Joe D'Ambrosio, thank you for coming on, sharing your perspective, your story.

D'AMBROSIO: Thank you very much for having me.

BROWN: And coming up, the strategy for America's longest war. I'll speak live with the man who presented President Trump a plan to pull out all troops out of Afghanistan and replace them with private contractors. Hear what he says about the president's course of action up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: President Trump reversing his stance on Afghanistan and recommitting to the war there. Last night, the president spoke in very broad strokes, saying he didn't want to give specifics to the enemy.

Well, here's what we do know is that Trump plans to increase troop numbers. He did not give specific numbers, though, but we did hear from congressional sources that it will be about 4,000 more. And he also spoke of targeting terror networks, going after ISIS and reducing the influence to the Taliban. Trump also called on Pakistan to step up, calling Pakistan a safe haven for terror.

And we just heard from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who says there will be an announcement coming soon on the exact troop numbers and he also sent a clear signal that the U.S. does, in fact, want peace talks with the Taliban.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The effort is, again, a regional effort. Put pressure on the parties to understand that this fighting is going to take everyone nowhere and it's time to begin a process, it may very well be a lengthy process, of reconciliation and a peace accord.

And Afghanistan, as the president said, can choose its form of government that best suits the needs of its people, as long as it rejects terrorism, never provides territory in Afghanistan -- provide safe haven for terrorists and accommodates all of the groups represented inside of Afghanistan, ethnic groups and others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:40:13] BROWN: And joining me now, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL. Prince now runs a company called Frontier Services Group and was recruited by Steve Bannon to weigh in on the president's Afghanistan war plan.

Erik, thank you for coming on.

Thanks for having me. BROWN: So you say pulling out of Afghanistan is a bad idea, but

sticking with the same formula is, quote, "insanity." So what do you make of what you heard from the president last night?

ERIK PRINCE, FORMER CEO AND FOUNDER, BLACKWATER: Well, the definition of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity. I think Einstein said that.

Look, sadly, the president was backed into a bad decision last night. The Pentagon never gave him any other realistic options other than more troops and more money, and after 16 years, close to $1 trillion, and next year alone we're spending more than $50 billion, more than the entire UK Defense budget, just in Afghanistan. And as Secretary Mattis said, we're not winning.

I wrote an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" back in June. The president read it. It sparked some conversation and some questions, they're looking for a different path. The sad thing is the president's -- you know, the presidency itself is in a bubble. And there's a lot of generals that can -- very conventional generals in that bubble and they really prevented any other serious consideration of anything other than a Pentagon approach of more troops and more money. So --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Go ahead.

PRINCE: Go ahead.

BROWN: Well, I was just going to say, I mean, so clearly, you were brought in to weigh in on this. Were any of your ideas accepted by the president, mentioned last night, did any of them make the cut?

PRINCE: Well, look, I know in the presentations I made, I made a big deal about the problems of the ROE, about needing the decision making to be in Afghanistan not back in Washington. I mean, sadly, there's been a number of open-air Taliban victory parades just in May, June, and in July in Afghanistan, of hundreds of Taliban fighters in dozens of captured vehicles in a brazen, open air victory parade, thumbing their nose at the United States and the Afghan government.

That's an enemy that's not afraid because the targeting cycle and the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, they were unable to strike them. Hopefully with that clear direction, very clear direction from the president last night, that can at least be prevented.

BROWN: And part of what you have proposed, if I'm not mistaken, was a private military force proposing to send private contractors to Afghanistan instead of U.S. troops. Why would that be a good idea?

PRINCE: Well, look, already, before this troop announcement, there is already almost 9,000 U.S. troops in 26,000 contractors. I'm not advocating any more contractors at all but rather a real rationalization. Embedding contractors at the battalion level, which is the kind of the smallest unit of maneuver there in Afghanistan, providing them long-term training and support that live with, train with, and patrol with, attaching to the Afghan Army, and some air support and some governance support. It takes away the irritant that the Afghans see of the foreign force, an invading force, in their country.

Contractors that can go back to the same unit long term, attach to the Afghan Army, does not even meet the definition of mercenary. They can be held accountable, back through the UCMJ, through the Uniform Code of Military Justice, back through the U.S. justice system, and this all can be done for, really, 8 percent of what the spending is there now. So we tried to give the president an option of a cheaper, smaller, long term and sustainable option.

Look, right now, with the Navy having real problems navigating, four serious collisions in the last year, with loss of life, you have Air Force with 1500 pilots short, with severe readiness issues of their aircraft and sadly an Army that can't seem to end an insurgency, there is a better place to be spending $50 billion than Afghanistan.

So far that hasn't been accepted, but I think in six months, even three months, the president's going to see the conventional approach that's already been tried and failed for 16 years. There's got to be some other things considered.

BROWN: And critics of your plan, Erik, actually cite costs, generals in the administration cite costs as one reason why it wouldn't be a good idea. Also, there was concern expressed that allies would ditch once U.S. troops pulled out. What do you have to say to those critics?

PRINCE: You know what? Critics on the cost, I challenge them, come out and debate me. I know what these things cost. I know exactly how to do this. I used to have 26 of our own aircraft in country doing this exactly for the U.S. military so people that want to shoot holes at costs, let them come and debate. Glad to have that.

As for allies, look, the ground mentors, the professionals that will be doing this would come from the United States or they could come from the NATO countries so there's still ways for those countries to participate, but really, the NATO contribution, their effectiveness has been very limited because each of those countries send troops with maximum amount of restrictions and it prevents them from being effective.

If they come as individual augmenties supporting the Afghan Army, they're there to do a very focused mission and they come back to that same battalion, that same valley, with the same battalion for years and they learn the continuity.

[15:45:13] The way the U.S. troops deploy there now, they go for six or nine months and they leave and all that local area knowledge leaves with them.

BROWN: Let me just close by talking about Blackwater, your former security firm. As you well know, several employees of Blackwater were convicted in 2007 for the killing of innocent civilians in Baghdad. One of those convictions was overturned just last week. But if your plan was put into place, how would you ensure that something like that would not happen again?

PRINCE: Let me be clear. The conviction was thrown out and the sentences were also thrown out for being cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment.

Look, that's why I said, any accountability method is covered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice that any contractor that was there that did an evil act can be held accountable right there on the edge of the battlefield just like a U.S. military person is now as well.

BROWN: All right. Erik Prince, thank you very much.

PRINCE: Thank you.

BROWN: And coming up, a Cleveland Browns player says he just wanted to do his part when he became the first white NFL player to kneel during the national anthem. Will he face the same criticism we've seen of other players and is this a growing problem for the NFL?

Plus, Chelsea Clinton is stepping in to defend fellow first kid Barron Trump after he's criticized over his clothing choice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, more NFL players are taking a page from Colin Kaepernick's playbook. Last night a dozen Cleveland Brown players kneeled during the national anthem.

[15:50:05] The team shared a moment of prayer before their home pre- season game against the New York Giants. Other teammates huddled nearby to show support. But one player in particular is grabbing headlines today and he is the lone white player kneeling. Tight end Seth DeValve is believed to be the first white NFL player to take a knee during the anthem, adding to a debate that appeared to be divided along political and racial lines.

This gesture comes after Kaepernick drew strong criticism by refusing to stand last season in protest of police brutality and he remains without an NFL contract.

I want to bring in CNN political commentators Ben Ferguson and Keith Boykin, as well as Dave Zirin, sports editor for "The Nation" magazine. Important to note here, Dave is working on a book along with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett about this very topic. It is due out in April.

Dave, I want to start with you. You've spoken with some of these players. What are they telling you?

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Well, the reasons that they are giving for why they are kneeling are really twofold. The first is a response to Charlottesville and what they saw as well as Donald Trump's response saying that good people were marching with Nazis. And the second reason is Colin Kaepernick. It's this idea that these players really do believe that the reason why Colin Kaepernick is not employed right now is really a shot across the bow at them to keep them in line, and they want to be able to show NFL owners that, no, they're not going to be compliant when they feel like the nation is in crisis.

So what they're saying is, how do we use our hyper exalted, brought to you by Cialis platform to say something about the world and they see anthem protest as the way to get that message out.

BROWN: Ben, your reaction to this growing protest?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one, let's be clear. How many games did Colin Kaepernick win in this last season in the NFL? How many?

ZIRIN: Are you asking me?

FERGUSON: Yes. Seriously. Like, I mean, one, two?

(CROSSTALK)

ZIRIN: I'm happy to have that discussion.

FERGUSON: No, I'm just -- I mean, the reason why --

ZIRIN: Colin Kaepernick threw for 16 touchdowns, had four picks.

FERGUSON: Right.

ZIRIN: Left the NFL in yards per carry playing for probably the worst team in the National Football League.

FERGUSON: But let's be clear.

ZIRIN: I mean, he's got a very good season.

FERGUSON: Colin Kaepernick is not playing in the NFL right now because Colin Kaepernick lost a whole lot more at the end of his career than he won. I do not believe that it's because of his protest. If Colin Kaepernick would have won more games, he would be on an NFL team right now.

Now the second point about the protest, this is my whole thing. How many of the guys that were kneeling last night were involved in the off-season in any type of protest at the local or state level? How many of the guys kneeling went out there and mentored young African- American men in their community in the off-season? How many of them got involved in politics at all in the off-season? In fact, how many of them are even registered to vote or voted in the last election? I mean, all the guys last night that were there that were kneeling.

BROWN: Dave, can you answer that?

ZIRIN: Sure, I can answer that. Players there included people like Kenny Britt who in 2014 was one of the original NFL protesters around Ferguson and he wrote "My Children's Lives Matter" on his arm. And these players are very socially conscious. They're involved in foundations. They do stuff on the community level --

FERGUSON: Right. But I'm just saying in the off-season --

ZIRIN: -- that honestly doesn't get reported upon.

FERGUSON: Right. But here's what I'm saying.

ZIRIN: But in the off-season, this is what they do.

FERGUSON: In the off-season, this is my point, though. This is my point.

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: I'm not saying that some of these guys --

BROWN: Come on. Let him finish. Ben, let him finish.

FERGUSON: Sure.

BROWN: And I also want to get to Keith because we have Keith as part of this panel discussion, too.

ZIRIN: Yes, please.

BROWN: But, Dave, finish what you're going to say and I want to go to Keith to get his thoughts.

ZIRIN: Sure. Just chapter and verse. The players who are kneeling are extremely active in their communities and foundations, and they should get credit for that. They don't -- because it's not the sexiest story in the world, but to create this kind of straw man that, oh, they don't do anything except kneel during the anthem is frankly just, you know, bombast. It's not true.

FERGUSON: How many are registered to vote, out of curiosity?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ben, Ben, Ben.

BROWN: OK. Keith, go ahead.

BOYKIN: You're engaged in typical diversionary tactics. The issue is --

FERGUSON: No, it's a direct question.

BOYKIN: The issue here, Ben, is that these are athletes who are standing up, using and exercising their First Amendment right in the great tradition of Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ash and many other athletes who's spoken out for social justice causes. Regardless of why Colin Kaepernick is playing or is not playing, the players obviously feel that he has been blackballed. There are players who are comparable to him who do -- who are playing, who haven't led a team to a Super Bowl and been as successful as he, and despite having a bad year or so or hasn't had the chance to continue on.

But the reality is that, Ben, and I think everybody who's watching this knows, America has a challenging problem with race. And our president isn't making this better. These are athletes standing up in Cleveland where the United States Justice Department found that the Cleveland Police Department was engaged in a pattern of abusive behavior, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police officers the moment after they exit their vehicle in a park.

This is a city that has gone through a great deal of racial strife, and it's exactly within their right. I expect them to stand up for something like this.

FERGUSON: I'm not -- I want to be clear.

[15:55:02] BOYKIN: And I applaud them for that. The only thing I'm upset about is they beat the Giants last night.

FERGUSON: Let me say --

BROWN: All right.

FERGUSON: I have no problem with them -- it is absolutely their right. I'm not saying it's not their right. But this is my point. I think that if you actually do things in the off-season and you actually are registered to vote and you actually get involved --

ZIRIN: But the assumption -- the assumption is so biased, though.

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: Let him finish.

BROWN: Let Ben -- let him finish.

FERGUSON: Then I think you're legit and I can respect the idea that you're kneeling during this national anthem. I may not agree with it, but I can respect you. But what I don't like is hypocrisy. What I don't like is when I see players that say, oh, this is the new cool thing to do, and I'm going to walk over there and kneel, too, so I get some free press out there because somehow I'm over -- you know, I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: OK. Let me bring in -- hold on. Let me bring in Dave, because Dave --

ZIRIN: Yes, first of all -- yes, Ben.

BROWN: You say some of the blame falls on the owners here as well?

ZIRIN: Sure, it does, but because one of the things the players are responding to as well is this idea that you've got Donald Trump as part of his stump speech speaks out and he brags about Colin Kaepernick not having work. Players know that the owners gave millions of dollars to Donald Trump's campaign, and it bothers them that owners think they're going to be compliant just because of Colin Kaepernick.

But I do have to go back to this point. The utter -- it's kind of the gall of just assuming that these players aren't socially active in the off-season when, Ben, you just don't know. And I know these players and they are active. You're painting a picture that isn't true, and honestly, it feels very prejudicial.

FERGUSON: No, no. Before we started this segment, I went on social media -- no, no, before the segment started I went on social media of almost every player that I could see that was in the picture last night. And I looked back as far as I could go over the off-season, and I didn't see --

ZIRIN: What are their names?

FERGUSON: One, I didn't see many political posts.

BOYKIN: Ben, Ben --

FERGUSON: I certainly didn't see anything talking out there in the community as you're describing it for most people.

(CROSSTALK)

ZIRIN: I know these people.

BROWN: Hold on, let Keith speak. Let Keith speak.

BOYKIN: Time out. This is a red herring, Ben. You do not get to decide how and when people decide to protest. That is not your job.

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: That's not what I'm trying to do.

BOYKIN: They are exercising their protest regardless of whether they do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They're doing it now.

FERGUSON: Do me a favor.

BOYKIN: No, no, you do me a favor, Ben. Just respect the fact that they're protesting and don't try to set limits to when they must do it.

FERGUSON: Let's do a story.

BROWN: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Gentlemen, that is a lively debate.

FERGUSON: How many of these guys voted in the last election? BROWN: We're going to have to take this debate off line.

ZIRIN: Ben, if you could name --

BROWN: Dave, I've got to cut you off. Sorry.

ZIRIN: It's OK.

BROWN: But you guys -- the good news is you can talk off line and you can continue this conversation. Sound good? Thanks so much to the three of you.

BOYKIN: Thank you.

ZIRIN: Thank you.

BROWN: We have another story we want to cover. Chelsea Clinton is coming to the defense of President Trump's youngest child. This after a conservative Web site questioned Barron Trump's choice of clothing. Clinton sent out this tweet. Quote, "It's high time the media and everyone leave Barron Trump alone and let him have the private childhood he deserves."

The "Daily Caller," a conservative news and opinion site, criticized 11-year-old Barron Trump. It posted an article saying, "It's high time Trump's youngest son starts dressing like he's in the White House." He was talking about this picture right here.

And with me now to discuss this is CNN contributor Kate Anderson Brower. She is the author of "First Woman."

Kate, thanks for coming on. What did you make of Chelsea Clinton's response?

KATE ANDERSON BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I thought it was, you know, very poignant because she, when she came into the White House, her father was elected, she was only 12 years old herself. She had been made fun of. Michael Meyers on "SNL" spoofed her and had to actually write an apology letter to the White House afterwards. So clearly this is something she feels very genuinely about protecting 11-year-old Barron Trump.

And I think most people respect that in the privacy of these children, but their lives are difficult. You know, when he goes to a soccer game, the motorcade arrives early so that he doesn't draw attention to himself. I mean, there are little things like that that make everyday life challenging.

BROWN: Right, and what happened to the kids are off limits rule?

BROWER: I think that, you know, this is a sign that that is the case. I mean, this reporter has gotten into a lot of hot water over this story. So I think --

BROWN: Does it seem like it's happened repeatedly? I mean, and this isn't the first time Barron Trump has been the target of someone in the media. So --

BROWER: I mean, yes. I mean, I do think that now that everything is, you know, the Internet has really taken over, it's a different world now. People can tweet things that are harmful and I think people have to remember that this is just an 11-year-old boy who actually -- I think one issue is that he looks a lot older than he is. I mean he's very, very young and it's always unfair to him, absolutely.

BROWN: All right. Kate Anderson Brower, thank you very much. We do appreciate it.

BROWER: Thank you.

BROWN: And I'm Pamela Brown filling in for my colleague, Brooke Baldwin. Great to have you join us on Tuesday. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Pamela.

President Trump reportedly feeling aggrieved? About to hold a campaign-style rally near the southern border. No teleprompter, adoring crowds. What could go wrong?

THE LEAD starts right now.