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Police: Smollett Took Advantage Of Pain And Anger Of Facism, Soon: Stone Faces Judge Over Inflammatory Instagram Post, CNN: Mueller Report May Be Delivered As Early As Next Week. Aired 11-11:30 ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:16] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. It has been a head turning, head spinning turn of events that we have watched play out in the last just hour. Moments ago, here is how Chicago's police superintendent described the Jussie Smollett investigation that they have concluded. Here are some of the words he used describe it. Manipulation, publicity stunt, phony attack, egregious, untrue and shameful, absolutely tearing in to the Empire actor who is now in custody charged with filing a false report when he claimed he was a victim of a hate crime last month. It was an assault.

Investigators, they now say, was concocted and orchestrated by Smollett over his salary on the television show charges Smollett has denied, at least until today. Listen here to the superintendent, Eddie Johnson, and what he said at the very beginning of his press conference.


SUPERINTENDENT EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE: This announcement today recognizes that Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I'm left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? I'm offended by what's happened and I'm also angry.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Ryan Young has been following the story since it first broke. He is joining me now.

Ryan, I have to say, first and foremost, honestly, good on the Chicago Police Superintendent for calling everyone out for jumping to conclusions before their investigation had concluded. But can you lay out how they say this all went down?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is unreal. It's stunning. I mean, you can use a bunch of words to describe this. And I thought we were going to get a news conference where maybe we got some details. But that went out the door as soon as he started talking. They decided to lay it all out for us. They wanted to make sure people understood exactly what they were doing. They've been hearing everyone sort of talking in the vacuum about this case. And they sort were tired of people kind of pinning it back on them.

First of all, January 29th, you get the phone call from 911, 40 minutes after the alleged attack. And detectives started working back from that standpoint. And you had 12 detectives working around the clock. We think more than 1,000 hours of police work went into this. And then the idea they were able to track the two men down in Nigeria. When they arrived back here to Chicago O'Hare International Airport, we were told they were terrified when police were walking up to them to put them under arrest.

And then 47 hours into an interrogation with them, they finally decided to give up the information that they needed. We now know according to them, the detectives and police officers, that they believe Jussie Smollett paid them $3,500 to try to pull off this attack. We even have video from inside a beauty store where they went to buy items so they can be ready to go do this. But then they took an Uber and a cab back home, you really can't play this all out.

Add on top of that the letter that was sent to the Empire set a week before this attack that really looks like some kindergarten made it in a papier-mache class. It's unbelievable that we ended up in this situation. But I think the thing that stood out to all of us was Eddie Johnson here talking about, one, crime in Chicago and the fact it doesn't get covered all the time, and then two, sort of putting it on the actor himself really talking strong about how this has all twisted and turned. In fact, listen to the superintendent talking just a moment ago.


JOHNSON: Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language. When that didn't work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process. And why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked.

Now, our city has problems, we know that. We have problems that have affected people from all walks of life, and we know that. But to put the national spotlight on Chicago for something that is both egregious and untrue is simply shameful.

I'm also concerned about what this means moving forward for hate crimes.


YOUNG: Wow. And I was told this motive a few days ago by sources when you think about him standing there and talking like that, it's just such a strong presentation presentation. The rank and file and the detectives behind him were happy to hear their chief and superintendent be so strong today.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Ryan, thank you so much all throughout for bringing us the details that you have and confirmed. Thank you so much. But joining me right now is CNN Legal Analyst, Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson, CNN Political Commentator and co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition Keith Boykin and CNN's Van Jones, host of the Van Jones Show.


Thank you all for rushing in here to talk with me about this.

First and foremost, I mean, Joey, have you ever seen anything like this, what you heard from the superintendent?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know what, he had to come out forcefully like that. Think about what happened, first of all, the public narrative here. We are in a time of such rhetoric, such highly strong, whether it relates to attacking immigrants, black face issue in Virginia, et cetera, and then you inject this into the public discourse. It's not only obviously a mark upon the country in terms of what was occurring, but certainly a mark on Chicago. Think about what they went through. This is a superintendent who has dedicated his life to service and to think about this.

And also whenever you lay out and have detectives who are going and investigating, they are imperiled by that investigation. So that fact is just to dedicate this much time, resources and energy on something that was not legitimate, it's problematic. And so I was not surprised that he would be so forceful nor will I be surprised if this is false and he is convicted that there will be jail time.

BOLDUAN: Keith, you have known Jussie Smollett for years. When you heard just now what the superintendent laid out, what did you think?

KEITH BOYKIN, CO-FOUNDER, NATIONAL BLACK JUSTICE COALITION: Well, I've known Jussie for eight years. And as an African-American and as a black gay man, as someone who has just watched his career developed, I feel devastated by this. It's heartbreaking. I'm hoping still in spite of all the evidence has presented that it's not true and he is still innocent until proven guilty.

BOLDUAN: Because it's impossible to - hard to believe?

BOYKIN: Yes. And so - I mean, everything about this is hard to believe. The story from itself was hard to believe from the beginning. But then reason why he would do it is hard to believe. He had a successful career. Ha had no reason to do something like this. And the whole idea of doing it for salary dispute just didn't make any sense. Even now, it doesn't make sense to me.

And there are a lot of instances like this that many people have seen, like myself. We've seen people. I just mentioned last night, there was a guy, a black gay man who was shot and killed here in New York City. And when I was with the president of the National Black Justice Coalition committee, Mark Carson, there's a guy in Los Angeles at Buck [ph] who, in his house, two black gay men died in the past two years and he hasn't been arrested. And a lot of people in my community are thinking, this is not something we want and need. We want attention on the issues of black LGBTQ violence and hate crimes. We wanted to be focused rightly where it should be and we don't need a distraction like this right now.

BOLDUAN: What does Jussie do to that now if this is true?

BOYKIN: I don't know how this impacts this. I think there's a lot of argument that says this makes it harder for future cases, and I understand that. But at the same time, I think a lot of people are looking for excuses to make these things harder. And people haven't paid attention to these cases in the past. They haven't paid attention to a lot of, as I said, black LGBTQ people or black trans people regardless of whether they're celebrities. But the sad thing is they took a celebrity for us to focus even attention on this.

But like the police chief said, there are cases there happening every day and he hopes and I hope that people start focusing on the other cases, not just on this one.

BOLDUAN: And, Van, this strikes it, something you and I have been talking about, not on TV but with each other quite a bit, finding ways to bring people together. This is the opposite. I mean, the superintendent says that this is the opposite of that.

VAN JONES, CNN, THE VAN JONES SHOW: Look, I mean, this is the fall of an icon. And I don't think people understand how important he has been in the black community. Empire as a show, to have him as a beloved character, I think, did a great deal to knock back homophobia in the black community, the fact that Empire he has been celebrated, the fact he has been celebrated. And you see homophobia in the black community through his eyes on the show. This is a Jackie Robinson against homophobia in the black community, an icon, a beloved icon.

And now, you have the fall of an icon at a time when we need icons, when we need heroes, when we need people to stand up. So the level of betrayal, if this is true, is so deep, you can see it in your voice, you can see it in your face. It's almost hard to get the words out because of how beloved he has been and how hurt we were when we thought he had been hurt.

And so I want to just say that we still don't know everything. And i don't want to see us rush to judgment on this side, rush to judgment on that side, condemn this, condemn that, that is the part of the thing that we've been talking about is that we are now in the cycle where everybody is going to have an instant, complete opinion every 15 seconds. I don't want to do that.

What I do want to say is that whatever he is going through to do what he did has hurt the cause against racism and the cause against homophobia, if it's true.


If there is any way that this can be redeemed, I hope it can be, but owes those same young black gay men that he was addressing in that interview, he owes them not just an apology but a lifetime of atonement because this ain't nothing to play with. This ain't nothing to play with. And he was playing with it, shame on him.

BOLDUAN: And you get to this hits on - it's a setback on so many fronts, right? You're talking about this is race, this is homophobia, this is the toxic political climate with him in that fake letter, according to police, that said - that targeted Trump supporters on the outside. I mean, it is --

JONES: Yes, it's a lot. We haven't heard his voice. We haven't heard from him yet. We are in this world now where we can literally be - right, 24 hours from now, we can be back here saying, well, we shouldn't have rushed to judgment on this.

So all I want to say is that this looks like the fall of an icon. When you talk to people about this, it's a lot deeper than just a hoax. This is something we haven't had someone like him in our community embraced in this way. We haven't had a show like Empire. And for him, if, in fact, he has abused his position, it's a tragedy that's beyond words in our community.

BOYKIN: And I just want to say real quickly that I think that a lot of people say, well, how could you have believed this story from the beginning?

JONES: Because it happens.

BOYKIN: Exactly. Two reasons, one, personally having known Jussie, I have never known him to lie, so I had no reason to think he would lie. Now - I mean, secondly, these things do happen. I mean, we had Nazis marching in Charlottesville not long ago. We have people sending pipe bombs to CNN. We have - just today or yesterday, we have a Coast Guard, white nationalist, who is involved in plotting a terror attack on Americans.

So we live in difficult extreme times when a story like this comes up, however impossible it may seem on his face. Unfortunately, we live in a world now where these things are even possible. And that's really about [INAUDIBLE] country we live in right now.

JACKSON: It makes it worse. And that's the superintendent's point that you're capitalizing and preying upon something, and that's most unfortunate.

BOLDUAN: And if - I don't know how to say it any other way. And for - there is never a good reason to make a false report, but for the pettiest and smallest of reasons, money, salary, when he is clearly well paid. I mean --

JONES: That's what has been said. We still don't know.

BOLDUAN: Right, that's what the superintendent said.

JONES: But, look, that is petty as petty can be if it is true. We still haven't heard his explanation. JACKSON: I don't know that we will. And from a legal perspective, I don't know that we will and here is why. At the point where he was a victim, it's one thing to go in and to tell all in terms of what happened, how it happened, where it happened, what was - how you were the subject of this type of victimization. He is now a criminal defendant. The police asked to speak with him. He did not speak to them for good reason, because anything you say can and will be used against you. And the fact is even at Good Morning America interview will be used against him. And, absolutely, we need to pause, and, absolutely, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

I can tell you this. On the facts as we know them to be now, on the facts of the brothers coming forward and their corroboration, right, because we have the surveillance of them going to the store, they have the receipt regarding the noose, the story in and of itself people thought were problematic, thought was problematic in the first instance.

JONES: Plus the phone records.

JACKSON: Yes. There is so much here, Kate, that leaves you to wonder, there is a lot of evidence here. I'll leave it at that.

BOLDUAN: The superintendent also took a moment, and I would even say, I think I heard him a couple of times, calling people out for a rush to judgment, right? And the way he said it is he calls at celebrities, and this was on social media but other places, he calls those celebrities, he calls people talking on TV jumping to conclusions and he also called out democratic presidential candidates for jumping to conclusions as well. They did on Twitter, that's for sure.

What is the lesson - put both of your hats on, Keith. What is the lesson here to everyone? But how do democratic presidential candidates respond now?

BOYKIN: Well, when this history first broke, I, on Twitter, reported what was reported on TMZ. I didn't put a comment on it whether I believed it or disagreed with it or not. I think that that's pretty much all you can do in a situation like this to be responsive about it, just to put the facts out as they have been laid out and take an opinion about it. There is no reason why people can't believe survivors of crimes and victims. I understand the impetus for this.

But it is not just the democratic candidates. Donald Trump was also asked about this by April Ryan in the Oval Office. And he himself said, this is horrible, this is the worst it gets, he said. And so I don't like the idea that we are pointing the finger at why do democratic candidates attack on top of this and why did Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: And I believe he also has Tweeted about it since we've been on TV. All right, keep going [INAUDIBLE].

BOYKIN: And that President Trump would Tweet about it. But it's just - we live in a society, as Van pointed, where there is a tendency to sort of have an immediate response to everything. [11:15:02]

And my fear is, and also as Van pointed out, is that some people were willing to rush to judgment one way, hopefully we don't rush to judgment the other way because we know the police also has a history too in Chicago. And despite all the good work they had done, there's also the story Laquan MacDonald and other examples.

JONES: I just want to hold space for grace and redemption and forgiveness. At some point, this young man is going to have to come forward and say something to somebody. And I believe in atonement. And I believe in space for forgiveness. And, you know, I say that with Trump supporters with - it means I'm consistent.

BOLDUAN: You have the track record, yes?

JONES: But in this space in particular, the level of pain, if what is being alleged is true and there's a lot of facts now, the level of pain that you have to be in to do something like this is significant. I want to hear his full story too.

BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you so much for being here. Thank you, I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, there is a lot of - if you can believe it, there is a lot of other news happening today.

Coming up, Roger Stone is getting ready to appear back in court. Could a controversial Instagram post be about to put him behind bars?

And also dreaming of a way to kill every last person on earth, it was the chilling and disturbing words from a Coast Guard officer who now accused of planning a mass terror attack. Coming next, the huge arsenal that police found and his whole high profile hit list.

We'll be right back.



[11:20:44] BOLDUAN: This morning, we're following three big developments in the investigation surrounding President Trump. Soon, long time Trump ally, Roger Stone, he will be back in court this time over a social media post. The image that he put on Instagram last week, it showed the judge in his case and what appeared to be crosshairs behind her head. He called the trial in the text a show trial. Could that land him in jail today?

Well, also after multiple delays, long time Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, has set yet another date to publically testify before Congress next week. So what will Cohen have to say this time?

And CNN has learned that the Russia investigation is wrapping up. When will Special Counsel Robert Mueller finish his report? What will Congress and the public eventually get to see? CNN's Kara Scannell has the very latest from Washington. Kara, there is a lot going on. I do want to ask you about Roger Stone's court appearance. What is expected to happen?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Roger Stone is going to be in the hot seat, the judge calling this hearing after he posted that image of her with the crosshairs on Instagram. He also called her biased because she was an Obama appointee and because she also put Paul Manafort in jail before his trial.

So she is going to call him in and really try to determine whether he violated the terms of his bail. And some of those terms include that you can't intimidate witnesses or the judge. And so the issue will be does she decide to impose a stricter gag order on him. He currently has a very light gag where he just can't talk about the case in and around the courthouse. She could now say that e is not going to be able to talk about it at all.

But there also is a bigger question of is it possible that she decides that he should go to jail for this? I mean, she is the judge that put Paul Manafort in prison after he was accused by prosecutors of witness tampering. So there is a lot at stake for Roger Stone.

He did apologize for the post, but now, he's going to have to face the judge today in person and face questions by her, we're expecting Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Kara, thank you so much. Much more to come on that as he appears in a few hours.

Joining me now to discuss is Jennifer Rogers and Shan Wu, CNN Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor. It's great to see you guys.

Shan, you have been before this judge before. You have been under - have faced the gag order of this judge before.


BOLDUAN: What do you think she is considering today?

WU: I think she is probably going to give him a stern lecture and put him under the same gag order as the lawyers and witnesses. She went easy on him. She gave him enough rope to hang himself. And I was surprised that she didn't impose something stricter. I think she was actually trying to defer the fact he's a public figure. But she is not going to stand for this.

I don't think she is going to throw him in jail today. I think she's going to him him a lecture, make this stronger gag order and then continue to see him hang himself.

BOLDUAN: Because the offense didn't reach that level? Is that what you think?

WU: Well, I think, for her, it's a question of him being in contempt of what she told him not to talk about. I think she is going to decide if it was a threat. That decision is not up to her. And U.S. Marshall Service is doing a threat assessment. And the gag order may turn out to be the least of Stone's problems actually if he gets charged for this.

BOLDUAN: I mean, so it's always something with him. How do you think this - today, hw do you think this impacts the case going forward?

JENNIFER ROGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it will depend on what the judge does today. I agree with Shan that she is not likely to put him in prison. But the judge is the authority figure in the courtroom because she needs to control the proceedings if this goes to trial and she needs to make sure that the jury listens to her instructions on the law. That's what they're supposed to follow.

So this is also part of the her saying, listen, I'm in charge here. You have to respect me when you're in this courtroom because the jury has to respect me and listen to me. So she's kind of setting the stage for that.

I do think we will see him now more careful about the comments that he makes. He probably won't be able to make as many comments. So, hopefully, we'll see a tamping down of the rhetoric here going forward and we'll just focus on the actual case.

BOLDUAN: So then, Shan, the Mueller probe. The end is near. The Mueller probe is wrapping up. The focus very quickly turns to the incoming Attorney General and what he will do about the eventual report. What does your gut tell you right now? What do you think will happen?

WU: I think, on this, the end is the new beginning because now there's going to be a lot fights about access to report, what for it comes out.


And I think Mueller will hand in a report that just goes to his requirements. It's kind of like a prosecution memo, a declination memo, were there interferences with his investigation. Barr is going to bury it. He is going to sanitize it. He is going to do a summary. Whatever his motivations may be, it's very hard to attack him because he can stand behind the idea of not disparaging people, he doesn't want to pull a Comey [ph] and we're never going to see the raw material of that report.

But there will be tons of fights, where there should be, with Congress seeking subpoena documents, subpoena witnesses, because Congress really has a really different task here. Their fact-finding, let the sun light in.

For the criminal investigation, as Jennifer well knows, it's very narrow and it's not meant to be transparent. It's meant to be opaque. And those are two very different functions. But I think the ball is really in Congress's court now.

BOLDUAN: Right. And so what can - what Congress will try to do is one thing. What can Congress eventually do maybe is an entirely separate thing. I mean, what do you think - we know that members are going to fight to get this full report, I mean, republican and democratic.

I mean, I remember Chuck Grassley saying, the American taxpayer paid for this report, they should see the darn thing. I thought that was actually a pretty fascinating comment.

What do you think Congress can do?

ROGERS: Well, that's the big question. You know, these Special Counsel regs are new. They weren't in place the last time we had a big independent counsel. So we'll have to see how the courts interpret them. They are fairly vague and unclear. I think Congress will issue subpoenas. I think Congress will want to bring the fight to the courts and see how the courts interpret the regulations and what they're allowed to get.

I don't see justification for withholding the facts of the Mueller probe, the evidence he uncovered and the legal conclusions from Congress as long as it's not public. So, you know, I think in the end, they will likely win a lot of those battles if they actually go forward with them, and I think that they will because of the pressure from the public about wanting to see what's there.

BOLDUAN: And the complete wildcard is just how long those battles actually last. I mean, none of us know right now.

Thank you, guys. It's great to see you, great to have you here. Thank you very much.

Coming up for us, an arsenal of weapons and a hit list of politicians and journalists. A Coast Guard officer now being accused of planning a massive attack. We'll have the latest on this plan that he tried to carry out, next.