Return to Transcripts main page


Three Big Hearings Today: Stone; Smollett, Coast Guard Suspect; Suspect in Massacre Plot Detained Pending Trial; Police Say Smollett Dragged Chicago's Reputation Through the Mud. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: This just in to CNN. Former Monkee Peter Tork has died. He was the bassist for the band. Though they were brought together as a less than serious band, the foursome had a lot of top charts like "Day Dream Believer," and "The Last Train to Clarksville." The cause of death is not known but Tork had battled cancer in the past. He was 77. That is it for me. "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. Brianna, we'll take it. Thank you so much. I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. A huge hour ahead. Three big cases. Three big court appearances. One, Roger Stone delivers a mea culpa to a judge over why he appeared to threaten her. Two, a TV star who says he was a victim of a hate crime faces a judge. And an angry public after he is accused of staging it. What police say was his motive. And third here, a coast guard officer in court charged with plotting to kill journalists and Democrats in a massacre.

But first, Roger Stone, the President's longtime friend. Moments ago, we saw him enter the federal courthouse. Now that he has arrived for his hearing minutes from now, there is a chance he may not leave, instead going to jail. It is for reasons that have little to do with his federal indictment accusing him of obstruction and witness tampering and false statements in the whole Russia investigation. Oh, no, Stone's legal troubles today stem from Instagram, this Instagram post of the judge overseeing his case, including today's hearing. She is Amy Berman Jackson. She appeared to have crosshairs of a gun drawn beside her head and Stone said that she was presiding over, quote, unquote, a show trial. Now, he later has apologized, saying that this Instagram message has been, quote, unquote, misinterpreted and not meant to threaten the judge whatsoever. So, let's go straight to Washington, D.C. to the U.S. district court there. Kara, two issues I guess this judge is weighing today. Did this Instagram post violate his gag order or the conditions of his release? Let's start there.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Brooke. So that's really the issue before the judge today and that's why she called Roger Stone in here to address her one on one. She imposed as part of his terms of release he could not intimidate any witnesses or the judge. So, a key thing here is was this post meant to intimidate the judge? Was it meant to send a message to others who might be on his side and not like the judge? He has been very open about how he doesn't like the judge. He thinks she's biased because she's an Obama appointee and oversaw Paul Manafort's case and sent him to jail because prosecutors said he had attempted to intimidate witnesses and tamper with witnesses. The other issue is the gag order. She put a very light gag order on him, saying that he just couldn't talk about the case in and around the courthouse, but she was allowing him to continue because that's part of what he argued is, to go on Infowars to make public statements. That's how he makes his money. That gag order could be something that she decides to tighten. She has a lot of range of options she could do here. She could, you know, just give him a warning today and say he doesn't have another chance. She could impose a much tighter gag order or there is the real risk that she sends him to prison saying what he did was a serious crime. There is probably now going to be enhanced security around the judge. This gets under way about a half an hour from now where Roger Stone will have to face the very judge whose face he mocked up on that Instagram post, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will see you once we know his fate. Kara, thank you so much for now there in D.C. meantime, prosecutors say he was a self- described white supremacist with dreams of how to, quote, kill every last person on earth. And now a former marine and active Coast Guard lieutenant is facing multiple drug and weapons charges. This may only be the beginning. His name is Christopher Paul Hasson. He allegedly wanted to conduct a mass killing on members of Congress and members in the media, including some of my colleagues here at CNN. He just made his first court appearance in Maryland U.S. District Court. Jessica Schneider is our CNN justice correspondent following his case today. Jessica, we understand this lieutenant will stay in jail until his trial?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Brooke. So, this Coast Guard lieutenant, he will be detained until trial. The judge siding with the government in this case, saying that his actions and his words were potentially quite a danger to the community and that's why he needs to be locked up behind bars.

[14:05:00] You know, this Coast Guard lieutenant, he sat in this courtroom very calmly, very quietly, as his defense attorney actually made quite a persuasive and tough argument to the judge here. The judge said that he did agree with some of the arguments from the defense attorney. He said he agreed that this defendant, this coast guard lieutenant has in fact served his community, has volunteered, has served his country, he's been in the coast guard for 28 years. But in the end that just wasn't enough to combat the mountain of evidence from the government here. The government, of course, listing out in this detention memo everything they found when they went into the defendant's apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, just miles outside Washington, D.C. it included 15 firearms, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and they said that he has supposedly been plotting this attack for more than two years.

He's been making up this hit list of prominent politicians as well as media figures. The government went point by point in court. The judge eventually siding with the government that this defendant will be locked up until trial. However, there is one caveat here, Brooke. The judge saying that the government here has only charged this defendant with gun possession charges as well as drug possession charges. No domestic terrorism charges. The judge said because of that within 14 days if the government still has not charged Lieutenant Hasson with any additional crimes, any violent crimes, that the defense can come back and argue to get him released. So, the government has that burden now to really move forward with this case and potentially press additional charges here. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Jessica, thank you. Let's listen in to the press conference.

ROBERT HUR, U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF MARYLAND: -- the safety of our community, particularly given the position of trust that Mr. Hasson held with the United States government. I am very thankful for the diligent and skilled investigation of the FBI and the Coast Guard investigative service who worked with prosecutors in my office to conduct a thorough investigation and thankfully we were able to avoid and prevent any loss of life in this case. I should also comment that at this point none of the charges that Mr. Hasson is facing have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In our system of justice, of course, that means that Mr. Hasson is innocent right now of the charges that he is facing. Right now, I'll turn it over to Mr. Johnson.

BALDWIN: All right. So, there you have it. That's what Jessica was just reporting on there. I want to move on because in just a couple of minutes, "Empire" star Jussie Smollett will appear in court for the first time since making what police are now saying were completely fabricated allegations and staging a bogus hate crime. He is now under arrest. He is facing a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report, and today Chicago's Superintendent of Police held this impassioned news conference where he said Smollett took advantage of the pain and the anger of racism to promote his career.


EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO'S SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE: I'm left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African- American man, use this symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? First, 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? This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So of course, it was staged. The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack where they punched him a little bit, but as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self- inflicted. One of the brothers worked on "empire," so they had a relationship, an association. So, he probably knew that he needed somebody with some bulk and he knew them. They had a previous relationship. That's probably the only reason he chose them. We have the check that he used to pay them, so the $3,500 was for the two of them in total, and then $500 upon return.


BALDWIN: CNN's Ryan Young has been following this since this broke on our show some weeks ago. You're waiting for his court appearance. This case has consumed the Chicago Police Department. I tell you, listening to that Chicago Police Superintendent, he's angry, he's angry and he has every right to be angry. Let me ask you first just on Smollett in the next, you know, couple of minutes. What will we see of this bond hearing?

[14:10:07] RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, first of all, we're about 30 minutes away from that. The media started to gather all in here. The pen is full of people here in Chicago. You can't actually video the first court appearance. They actually have to use sketch artists. You won't see video of the actor inside the court talking to the judge, but I think to pivot somewhere else here, talking about Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the fact that he was so direct during that news conference, I think people were kind of shocked. I thought we would go to that news conference, Brooke, and hear some details. I didn't know they were going to lay it out the way they laid it out. I was told some people inside the police department were obviously angry about the idea of the noose, not only the noose, but the motive of quite some time, he laid that motive out. The actor apparently was upset about his pay and that's what he was talking about in that sound bite there. Then they went on to give more parts of this conversation. Think about all the man hours that were used here, over 1,000 policeman hour police man hours put into this investigation. They were upset that the police department was taking arrows from the public how fast the investigation was going. Remember, they started this out with a grainy image of two men and from that they built the entire case. The two brothers went to Nigeria. When they arrived back here, police were waiting on them. They were scared. It took 47 hours of talking back and forth before they got all of these details. Let's also talk about the superintendent and show this bite where he talks about how angry he was, just about what he thinks the actor should do next.



JOHNSON: Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared. Admitting what he did. And then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this.


YOUNG: So, you understand that from his perspective and what he would like to see next. Obviously, there's been a lot of thought process put into this. People want to see what happens next. Why would he do this? Could we hear from the actor? He never met with prosecutors or the detectives who were working this case. You can see why people are sort of wanting to ask that next question. We do have video of the brothers as they start to buy materials to try to pull this off. You should see everyone who is lined up. One thing that we have been told, he will not get any special treatment when he's leaving here. So, it could be interesting as this all plays out, Brooke, with him leaving. I don't know two weeks ago when we started talking about this case and heard the actor going to Subway to get something to eat and then he was jumped we would end up in this place right now. With so many people asking the obvious question, the question of why, why would this happen? We really would look to hear his side.

You saw the defiant side of him when he was on "GMA" talking to Robin Roberts. His timeline has never been challenged, especially with those brothers talking about why and how they did this and the fact they even went there with gloves on to sort of rough him up. How did it get to this point? Then we know about the letter that was sent to the "empire" set a week before this that had white powder in it. A lot of people don't talk about this, they actually called a hazmat team, the fire department went out there before they figured out it was aspirin. There were so many alarms going off at a certain point here. You can understand why detectives are upset and they want to see how this moves forward. Of course, we do have -- it looks like Jussie Smollett's family going by right now, I'm going to duck my head right now as they walk that way. That is the actor's family going back towards the courthouse as we speak. As you can see, Brooke, things are happening right now. As we speak, I'm ducking my head down. We'll see what happens in the next 30 minutes.

BALDWIN: Yep. We'll be waiting right along with you. You know, you point out the white substance in that envelope. We should also point out the imagery on that envelope of a man hanging from a tree, in addition to the noose that the superintendent pointed out and just couldn't believe, you know, to use a symbol of a noose, especially as a black man in this country, is reprehensible. So, we'll stand by for that court appearance. Ryan young, we appreciate you being all over this. You know, we're going to talk about everything. How could he do this? Why would he do this? The social impact. The fact that so many political candidates responded. Should they respond again? Lot to talk about. Ana Navarro standing by. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.


JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR THAT FAKED AN ATTACK ON HIMSELF: Who the [bleep] would make something like this up or add something to it or whatever it may be? I can't -- I can't even -- I'm an advocate. I want them to see that I fought back. And I want a little gay boy who might watch this to see that I fought [bleep] back, and it does not take anything away from people that are not able to do that, but I fought back. They ran off. I didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to a young gay man, a young gay person?

SMOLLETT: To learn to fight. I don't just mean like learn to fight.


[14:20:01] BALDWIN: More now on the case of Jussie Smollett as we wait for him to appear in court. With me now, CNN political commenter Ana Navarro and LZ Granderson. Columnist for "The Los Angeles Times" and CNN. I mean, LZ, by the way, I want to see your shirt. Let's show everyone your shirt. Based on real events. Drop the banner. Based on real events. Throwing a little shade his way? How are you feeling?

LZ GRANDERSON, COLUMNIST FOR "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Definitely feeling like I'm throwing some shade his way. Now, I'm trying to be cautious because just because someone has been arrested or accused of a crime doesn't automatically mean the person is, you know, guilty of said crime. We've seen time and time again

Definitely feeling like I'm throwing some shade his way. Now, I'm trying to be cautious because just because someone has been arrested or accused of a crime doesn't automatically mean the person is, you know, guilty of said crime. We've seen time and time again people who have been arrested not, you know, have actually committed the crime. With that being said, the evidence does not look good, timeline never looked good, and I for one as an openly gay black man in the media am incredibly frustrated, angry, upset that someone would use their platform in this way to promote only themselves. You know, when this first started to be -- people started to talk about why and the skepticism, it was a thinking, well, maybe he did it to draw attention to the issue of gay rights and racism. Maybe he did this for political reasons. Not excusing it, but it made a little bit more sense because it felt like it was bigger than himself, what he was trying to do. Now you found out it was about him and money?

BALDWIN: Dissatisfied with his salary, is what the police superintendent said.

GRANDERSON: That, to me, is just absolutely frustrating. It makes me angry. We've seen people use racism and homophobia in this society for their personal gain in the past, but for some reason this just feels worse because he positioned himself as a leader of a cause while also doing this sort of thing. I don't know, Ana, I don't know how you feel about this, but I just -- he has absolutely no space, none whatsoever to reassert himself in any of these conversation conversations if this indeed has been a hoax.

BALDWIN: What are you thinking?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think LZ is completely right. I was speaking today to a friend of mine who is pretty big in the TV and Hollywood industry. He said, look, this guy is now untouchable in this industry. It's a hard thing to be. What else he said is completely right. I was mentioning to you I literally saw him seven, eight days before this event took place in Miami at a Tv industry event called "Living The Dream" put on by Tyler Perry, celebrating Martin Luther King Day, talking about diversity and inclusion and the experiences of being a black man and a gay man on TV and in Hollywood and why we need more representation and equal rights and, you know, he did play himself off as an advocate. Which is for me when this happened, because I had just seen him do that role. It was moderated by Nischelle Turner, who we all know. I still can't understand how the guy that I saw talking passionately and emotionally about his experiences as a gay black man in the TV industry could possibly do something like this. And I think, you know, the anger and frustration you hear in LZ's voice, friends of mine who are gay or black or gay and black, so many of them are feeling exactly the same way because they, you know, because they -- it is -- because there is a spike in hate crimes. Because these things do happen.


NAVARRO: So, for this man to cheapen it in order to make himself more important and more valuable is unforgiveable. It is absolutely unforgiveable.

BALDWIN: I think that's the point that we all -- I want to turn the discussion toward, you know, the real victims, and that is one of the things that this Chicago Police Superintendent really highlighted today, right? How to -- how these real victims will feel. Listen to what he said.

NAVARRO: I'm also concerned about what this means moving forward for hate crimes. Now, of course, the Chicago police department will continue to investigate all reports of these types of incidents with the same amount of vigor that we did with this one. But my concern is that hate crimes will now publicly be met with a level of skepticism that previously didn't happen.

[14:25:10] BALDWIN: I mean, LZ, as I was watching him, I kept thinking, gosh, if you're a young gay person, maybe not entirely fully comfortable in your own skin or a young black gay person and you see this story and you have been targeted or could be targeted, what are you thinking, what are you feeling, what are the consequences of this?

GRANDERSON: You know, let's pull it back a little bit and think about the number one reason why women who have been victimize of sexual assault tend --

BALDWIN: Don't speak up.

GRANDERSON: -- not to want to be public about it. Because of the scrutiny. Because of being second guessed. Because of not being believed. I believe absolutely that same principle applies here. When you have one of the bigger stars who is a racial minority as well as a sexual orientation minority doing something like this, if you are a victim of a true crime, you might be hesitant because you don't want to be second guessed. It's already hard enough to be a victim once. You don't want to be victimized twice in the public eye or in front of a police officer. Chicago has a long history of working very closely with the LGBT community. I used to live in Chicago. I've known the officers who were liaisons in the city for a number of years. They work very hard to make sure that the community in general feels safe when we're out and about because hate crimes do happen. What Jussie has done is make their jobs more difficult because now they have to convince victims to come forward and press charges when they may face this level of scrutiny that the police chief was talking about. It's very, very disheartening, and trust me, I mean, I don't speak for all gay people, I don't speak for all black people, that brother has no space in any capacity in my life, as far as I'm concerned. Television or otherwise.

NAVARRO: You know, one of the things the superintendent of police said was that he had smeared Chicago.


NAVARRO: I want to tell you, this superintendent of police, the Chicago Police Department have made Chicago proud. Because the way that they have handled this case from the beginning, the seriousness with which they took it and the seriousness with which they are now taking these developments, and not letting anybody get away with it, it really is I think spikes s speaks so highly of that police force and their integrity and character. You could tell that for that chief, Eddie Johnson, who is African-American, this cut very deep, very personally. It is his city but it is also his community, his racial group. I mean, it just, you know, this is -- this is something that I think he does not -- I think LZ is right. He does not recover from.

BALDWIN: He was asked what would justice look like? He talked about if Jussie Smollett apologized, apologized to the city of Chicago. I want to ask you all if that's enough or if he just needs to go away? What people need to know and hear. And also, the piece that superintendent Johnson mentioned about how this has become part of the 2020 Presidential race. How political candidates have weighed in. What you two think should happen as a result of this being a hoax. Please stand by for that. I want to continue that conversation.

Also just looking ahead, Roger Stone may be learning his fate any moment. Facing the judge that he appeared to threaten. So, stand by. You're watching CNN.