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Pete Buttigieg's Firing of First South Bend Black Police Chief; Sri Lankan Bombing Investigation Updates; Bill Bar Statements on 1998 Special Counsel Uncovered. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 24, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Mayor Pete Buttigieg is seeing a surge in popularity since announcing his bid for the presidency. But along with that surge in attention comes newfound scrutiny over his decision to fire his city's first black police chief. Our Drew Griffin explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shortly after Pete Buttigieg became mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he became embroiled in a controversy he's still trying to explain seven years later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are on the secret tapes regarding the demotion of South Bend's black police chief, Darryl Boykins?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So the answer is I don't know.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The secret tapes are phone conversations between four white officers including a top detective, recorded by an internal police department system.

The officers made derogatory racial slurs, including comments about the city's first black police chief. That's according to a lawsuit by one of the only people who's heard those recordings.

Once Chief Darryl Boykins heard about the conversations in 2011, he asked the recordings continue. Buttigieg forced him to resign because of the way the chief handled the situation, causing an uproar in a time of racial tension in South Bend and across the country.

MICHAEL PATTON, PRESIDENT, NAACP SOUTH BEND BRANCH: The Trayvon Martin situation had just happened in February. Chief Boykins' situation happens in, I believe, March of that same year, 2012. And our nation is infuriated. Our city, the people in our city, especially African-Americans, are infuriated.

It just raised a lot of raised a lot of questions and I think as well, created some mistrust behind a lot of different things happening at the same time. GRIFFIN (voice-over): Buttigieg later re-hired, then demoted the

chief. The controversy led to an extremely complicated chain of lawsuits that have gone on for years now, with litigants and their lawyers prevented from speaking about what's on those tapes.

The former police chief's attorney has seen a summary of the recordings and says what's alleged could raise questions about white cops interacting with black suspects.

TOM DIXON, ATTORNEY FOR DARRYL BOYKINS: If we've got the head of our Metro Homicide unit is dropping racial epithets, you know, how long is it going to be before the Innocence Project comes in here and starts looking up -- looking at all these prior convictions?

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The lawyer for the officers who were recorded say there's nothing racist on the tapes, but continues to fight their release.

Regina Williams-Preston is on the city council and is taking her own city to court, demanding once and for all the tapes be played.

REGINA WILLIAMS-PRESTON, MEMBER, SOUTH BEND CITY COUNCIL: This mystery around these tapes has been looming over the community for so many years. It's like a cloud because every time there's some kind of incident, you know, it just kind of rips that Band-Aid off and brings us back to this question. Is there clear evidence of some sort of racism and bias within our police department?

GRIFFIN (voice-over): As for the mayor, he says he has not heard the tapes and will not release them without a court's decision because he doesn't want to violate wiretap laws, which leaves him trying to explain his actions as he campaigns for president.

BUTTIGIEG: I was, frankly, a little bit slow to understand just how much anguish underlay the community's response to this. Because for people in the community, it wasn't just about whether we were right or wrong to be concerned about the federal Wiretap Act. It was about whether communities of color could trust that police departments had their best interests at heart.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): An Indiana Superior Court judge has just ruled, South Bend City Council can continue its lawsuit seeking to make the tapes public. Drew Griffin, CNN, South Bend, Indiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Let's speak now to Andy Smith. He's director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Knows a thing or two about politics in New Hampshire.

Thanks very much for taking the time, Andy.

ANDY SMITH, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE SURVEY CENTER: Good morning, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So first question here -- listen, this is natural -- presidential candidates, things from their past that raise questions, they're going to get raised during a presidential campaign. Are you seeing this particular issue having an effect in New Hampshire? And is it the kind of issue you think might have an impact?

SMITH: Well, it's certainly not having an impact yet. I think this is just coming onto the radar screen of voters and residents of the state. But it's -- you know, it's intended to try to really hit the activists right now. Voters aren't engaged, even in a state like New Hampshire, yet. And they really won't get fully engaged in this race until much later in the fall.

But the activists are what the candidates are courting, are who the candidates are courting right now. And this might cause some activists to be a little bit hesitant about getting behind his campaign.

SCIUTTO: We've been watching the national polls on Buttigieg as he's risen from a 1 percent candidate in a very crowded field to 7 -- you know, close to double digits. But arguably more important is where he stands in those early states. Because as you know better than me, you could build momentum, find a little wind here, a little wind there. Before you know it, you're -- you know, you're at the front of the pack.

You see him now. Sanders at the top, Biden at 18 percent, Buttigieg at 15 percent right behind the former vice president of the United States. Is he a serious candidate?

[10:35:08] SMITH: I think he is. I had the opportunity to see him a couple weeks ago, and he was incredibly impressive. One of the most impressive political candidates I've seen, ever, here in New Hampshire.

And as a young guy who's not really gone through the kind of scrutiny of a national campaign or even a statewide campaign, he did have a level of poise that was very -- very surprising for somebody.

That said, now that he's risen up there, you're going to see kind of the game of whack-a-mole going on, and other candidates are going to be releasing opposition research on him, like other candidates have received on their own behalf. And this is going to continue.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We've seen this show before.

So let's ask about Joe Biden. We're expecting -- he's all but announced, and we're expecting him to make that official tomorrow morning. How does that upend, change the race? Does he immediately shoot to the top? Does he stay at the top? What's your view?

SMITH: I don't know if he'll immediately shoot to the stop in a state like New Hampshire. Bernie Sanders, obviously, was very popular here back in 2016, and he's leading the pack and has been throughout the 2020 campaign.

That said, Biden is certainly a well-known commodity and he will get a lot of attention over the next few days, when he announces and then comes to the state.

Now, one of the things that we have seen over the years in the New Hampshire primary, is that the candidates who are getting favorable press -- or a lot of press -- at any given time, are going to bounce up in the polls.

And then when another candidate starts getting attention --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SMITH: -- from the press, the candidate might start to drift down again. I think that's a problem that Buttigieg might be facing, is that --

SCIUTTO: Sure.

SMITH: -- he may be peaking a bit too early.

SCIUTTO: I mean, we saw Kamala Harris after her announcement, big jump and then kind of fade a little bit. Listen, it's a crowded field. Andy Smith, I think we're going to be talking to you a little bit in the coming months. Look forward to it. Thanks very much.

SMITH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Overseas now, Sri Lankan officials are revealing this morning, a potential second wave of attacks had been planned there. And that (ph) several warnings before the Easter bombings were apparently ignored. Just amazing. We're going to go live to Sri Lanka.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:41:42] SCIUTTO: This morning, the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority says, quote, "that all possible measures have been taken to ensure the safety and security of tourists."

HARLOW: Of course this is after officials told CNN the terror group responsible for those deadly Easter bombings was planning a second wave of attacks. Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is back with us from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

Ivan, what is the update this morning? I mean, news of a second planned wave of attacks is terrifying.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SERNIOS INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And the fact that the funerals for these hundreds of innocent people who were slaughtered at churches and hotels across this country, people are trying to mourn their dead who were so violently ripped from them.

And having to conduct these funerals behind serious security cordons of soldiers and police who were even searching the hearses that were bringing in the coffins for the funeral services at a Catholic church that I was in. And the priests who are conducting the funerals and the prayers, then

having to ask mourners the moment that somebody was buried, to please go back to their homes for fear that they could be targeted.

We heard the distant boom of controlled detonations conducted by the security forces, of suspicious objects as the funerals were taking place.

So, yes. The police, the military were taking the potential threats seriously. The prime minister has said that he believes that it's possible that there still could be terrorists out there with explosives.

The security forces say they detained at least 60 people. We have profiles of the suicide bombers from the Easter Sunday. They have been described as Sri Lankans, well-educated, upper middle class, financially independent. That is a very worrying factor. There is even a married couple, the wife and the husband both carried out suicide attacks -- Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: It is stunning the more we learn, Ivan. Thank you for being there and reporting all of it for us. We appreciate it -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And you know, Poppy, that's a common theme, right?

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Folks imagine there's only a certain kind of person who goes down -- down this path. Desperate, poor, uneducated. It's just not the case --

HARLOW: It's not the case.

SCIUTTO: -- even look at the 9/11 bombers. Yes.

HARLOW: Great point.

SCIUTTO: Well, we're starting to hear from some of the survivors of those attacks. They have harrowing stories to tell.

HARLOW: They do. Our Nick Paton Walsh sat down with an American man who lost two of his children in the blast. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT LINSEY, LOST CHILDREN FROM SRI LANKA ATTACKS: My children were so nice. They had actually went down to the buffet before me and got the food for me, and filled up my plate. And then I wanted a little bit more to drink. I was going to get it. My daughter said, "No, I'll get it." And then the bomb went off and they both were running toward me.

And I'm not sure whether that's what, you know, killed them or not. But we started -- and I knew there'd be another bomb because there always is (ph) with (ph) these things, another bomb went off. And that's -- NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So your instinct was to get out as fast as you can?

LINSEY: Yes. As soon as possible.

PATON WALSH: To move them with you?

LINSEY: Yes. But I mean, maybe I should have just stayed and covered them with my body.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Jesus. I cannot imagine. I just cannot imagine. I feel for those parents so much. The death toll in those attacks stands at a staggering 359. I mean, it puts it on a scale --

HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: -- with few other terror attacks we've ever seen, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes.

[10:45:03] SCIUTTO: I mean, it's just -- it's just shocking.

HARLOW: It does. It does.

SCIUTTO: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right. Some newly uncovered comments Attorney General William Barr made back in 1998 in an interview, then, are showing a much different tone than what we've seen from him in the past few weeks. This comes in the wake of scrutiny over how he handled the release of the Mueller report, holding that press conference the way he did, before Congress even got their hands on it -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Sounded a little different back in 1998 in the interview. A completely different tone from Barr then. Barr says that he was, quote, "disturbed that then-Attorney General Janet Reno did not defend the independent counsel, Ken Starr, from" what he called 'hatchet jobs' during the Whitewater investigation. CNN KFile senior editor Andrew Kaczynski joins us now with more details.

[10:50:11] So, Andrew, of course, different from his position and approach to Mueller's investigation.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Yes. It's quite a different tone that we've seen in sort of this tepid defense that we have of Mueller.

Now, this came in a 1998 interview with "Investor's Business Daily," where he said the White House was attacking Starr basically with spin control, hatchet job and ad hominem attacks.

TEXT: "We were also disturbed that the incumbent Attorney General wasn't coming to (Starr's) defense. There has been only silence... Starr should be given the chance to get the facts out. We live in a world of spin." Investor's Business Daily, September 15, 1998

KACZYNSKI: Now, he was very disturbed that Janet Reno was not defending Starr. And what's so interesting about the way in which these comments paint Barr is that in March of that year, earlier, he had sent this letter where he said that he thought public comments from the Clinton White House were meant to have "the improper purpose of influencing and impeding an ongoing criminal investigation," and possibly intimidating possible jurors.

HARLOW: Yes. Different.

KACZYNSKI: Very different.

HARLOW: Very different.

KACZYNSKI: Very different tone.

HARLOW: I'd love to talk about how you get so good at digging into all of this stuff. But I digress. We don't have time for that. But you do.

And the president -- switching gears here -- his pick for Federal Reserve Board, Stephen Moore, is now lashing out, saying that critics are pulling a Kavanaugh against him since he got nominated for this.

He's referencing personal attacks against, of course, sitting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. Let's just take a moment to listen to what Stephen Moore is saying.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STEPHEN MOORE, NOMINEE, FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD: I was so honored when I got the call from Donald Trump. And, you know, it's been -- but, you know, all it's been since then has been one personal assault after another. And a kind of character assassination having nothing to do with economics but you know, my divorce 10 years ago or something I wrote 25 years ago.

They have six full-time investigative reporters looking into me at "The Washington Post," "The New York Times" and CNN. And, you know, Scott, I think it's -- I kind of wear it as a badge of honor, that they're so afraid of me --

You know, they're pulling a Kavanaugh against me."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARLOW: This follows some of your own reporting. Give us some background here.

KACZYNSKI: Yes. Look, I don't even know what "pulling a Kavanaugh" means. Look, when you're a nominee or a pick for a public administration, your record is going to get scrutinized. Things that you say, things that you did, those are going to be reported on. I know this morning, he was referring to this as a smear campaign, you

know, covering comments that he made about women, covering things that he said, you know, in columns. That is not a smear campaign. That's -- that is reporting on his record.

So it's a little odd that he finds just commenting (ph) on things that he's done and said to be such a problem for him.

HARLOW: It's reporting. You're doing your job.

KACZYNSKI: Yes. It's reporting.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you, Andrew.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You can't say, "I don't recall" when you've got the tape as well. Andrew Kaczynski --

HARLOW: Yes. There you go.

SCIUTTO: -- good work, as always.

A self-proclaimed white supremacist is set to be executed, this more than 20 years after he and two others chained a black man to a truck, dragged him to his death for miles. Why the victim's family says that they don't want that man to receive the death penalty. This is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:43] SCIUTTO: A man who helped orchestrate one of the most horrific hate crimes in recent American history is scheduled to be put to death today. John William King and two other men kidnapped James Byrd in Texas in 1998.

TEXT: The Killing of James Byrd Jr.: Killed in 1998; Chained to a truck and dragged for almost three miles; Three men convicted of murder; Two sentenced to death; Killing spurred Texas and Congress to pass hate crime legislation

HARLOW: Byrd was then chained to the back of a truck and dragged down a country road for nearly three miles. One of King's accomplices was executed in 2011, while the other is serving a life sentence. Let's go to our colleague Ed Lavandera. He's in Texas this morning on this story.

So, you know, Ed, what's really interesting in all of this, some of Byrd's family has spoken out against capital punishment for King.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. They've spoken of forgiveness for the three men who were convicted of his murder.

Jim and Poppy, it is impossible to overstate how shocking and how gruesome this crime was, in the summer of 1998.

James Byrd Jr.'s body was dragged, as you mentioned, for nearly three miles after he had been beaten by these three men. And parts of his body were found stretched over the last mile and a half of that drive down a small East Texas road.

It was a stunning crime. His family has -- his sisters have come out, offering forgiveness to the men who are responsible. And, as you mentioned, speaking out against capital punishment. But this is a crime that was just simply stunning in its time.

SCIUTTO: I remember at the time. And it was supposed to be a turning point. It led to major hate crime legislation --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- public conversation about this kind of hate crime. What have the statistics shown since then? Has it come down? Where do we stand today?

LAVANDERA: Well, if you look back over the course of the last 21 years, hate crimes started to come down after the death of James Byrd Jr. It spiked a little bit in 2001 after 9/11, and has since -- had dropped down until the last two or three years, where we've seen an uptick in the number of hate crimes being reported. These are according to the FBI.

And you see there, as it dropped down over the course of the last 20 years or so. In the last couple of years, we've seen an uptick there.

TEXT: Hate Crimes on the Rise, Incidents from 2014 to 2017: 5,479 in 2014; 5,850 in 2015; 6,121 in 2016; 7,175 in 2017

Hate in America: 7,175 reported hate crimes in 2017, up 17 percent from 2016.

HARLOW: Ed Lavandera, stay on this, obviously. It's really important today, given what is set to occur. We appreciate your reporting.

Thank you all for joining us today. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

[10:59:57] SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.