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Interview with Matthew Rosenberg; Alabama Police Under Review Following Violent Arrest Footage; "United Shades of America" Preview and Interview with Host. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This breaking news just in to CNN. The governor of Maryland is calling for the resignation of Baltimore's mayor. This comes after agents for the FBI and IRS executed search warrants at multiple locations this morning, including two residences of the mayor, Catherine Pugh, as well as Baltimore City Hall and a nonprofit organization that the mayor has worked with in the past.

Pugh has been on a leave of absence in the wake of a scandal over how much she was paid for a children's book series that she wrote. We're going to stay on top of that story.

Right now, police are ramping up searches in Sri Lanka in the wake of Sunday's just devastating terror attacks there. We have learned that the man responsible for one of those bombings had actually been in police custody and released just before the attacks, Sri Lanka's prime minister telling CNN that intelligence had been monitoring some of the bombers prior to the tragedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANIL WICKREMESINGHE, PRIME MINISTER OF SRI LANKA: -- middle-class, upper middle-class, well-educated, educated abroad. That is surprising because they have been looking at other places for possible ISIS connections.

But these people are so normal (ph) and they were being monitored by the intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were being monitored, somewhat (ph)?

WICKREMESINGHE: They were being monitored by the intelligence, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the suicide bombers?

WICKREMESINGHE: Some of them. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And yet they were still able to carry out these deadly attacks?

WICKREMESINGHE: Yes. They said they didn't have sufficient evidence to take them in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, this just in. Sri Lanka is now asking Muslims not to gather tomorrow for Friday prayers. They're concerned about reprisal attacks now. I'm joined by "The New York Times'" national security correspondent, Matthew Rosenberg.

So, first, let's get to this issue of possible failure here, right? Some of the attackers clearly on the radar screen of the authorities, and even questions as to whether because of their connections, right? Powerful father, whether that got them out of custody. How bad a failure does it look like, at least at this point?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: I mean, it looks massive, you know? They had a warning from their own police. Was it 10 days before, 11 days before? That didn't even get to the prime minister and his cabinet.

SCIUTTO: Wow.

ROSENBERG: India, one of their biggest allies, kind of the dominant player in the region, had warned them prior to that as well.

TEXT: Sri Lanka Terror Attacks: At least 359 people killed; Five raids, more than 70 arrests made since Sunday; Several foreign agencies, including FBI, assisting in investigation; PM: Sri Lanka intel had been monitoring some of the bombers

ROSENBERG: And as we know now, they had people in custody and they appear to have gotten out through their own connections. That's a pretty big failure.

SCIUTTO: Now, I remember from covering the Paris attacks, that a couple of the attackers involved there had been on police radar and taken off. And the point that the authorities made there is, "Yes, but we have thousands of people. It's impossible to make a judgment as to who" or -- not impossible, but difficult, often, to make a judgment as to who among them's going to become an actual attacker here. I mean, is the level of threat in Sri Lanka such that a mistake like this could happen?

[10:35:01] ROSENBERG: I mean, it wasn't until now. And, you know, whatever Islamist movement they have, it's clearly not insignificant, you know? We've got more than 70 people arrested. But it's not thousands of people.

You know, you knew that there was something growing here. You've had sectarian violence there a lot, recent years, targeting Muslims. And you know there's groups looking to get back at it. And they seem to have completely dropped the ball at keeping an eye on them.

SCIUTTO: Now, the other thing about these -- and we heard that from the prime minister there, talking about these attackers, many of them were well-educated. They were upper middle-class. Two of them, apparently, were sons of a prominent and wealthy businessman there. That's not entirely unusual, right? I mean, if you look at the 9/11

attack, Mohamed Atta, right --

ROSENBERG: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- was a middle-class Egyptian. But, still, it is alarming, is it not? Because it shows the breadth of the appeal of these groups.

ROSENBERG: Exactly. And, you know, Sri Lanka has a history of really deep sectarian divides. You've got a 30-year civil war there, between the majority of the Sinhalese and the Tamils, who are a minority. Muslims were kind of a smaller kind of third minority. And now, you know, they've been brought into this fray and with really deadly consequences.

SCIUTTO: ISIS, of course, has claimed responsibility. We don't know if that's substantiated because oftentimes, they claim things that they didn't actually take part in. That said, there is -- there are signs that they had international help here.

It had been a relatively quiet period with ISIS attacks. National security officials have been telling me, you know, "Forget about that. They're still active. They're still trying." What does this say about their capability and their intent to carry out attacks in the West like this?

ROSENBERG: You know, I think -- I think we have to figure out, first, what the connection was here. We also know that, you know, you and I, if we want to carry out (ph) attacks (ph), say we're with ISIS, we're with ISIS.

SCIUTTO: Right.

ROSENBERG: You know, that's kind of the success of their model, is that they don't even need to be directly involved. They've inspired people --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ROSENBERG: -- in pretty far-flung corners where we didn't expect to see them inspire anyone.

SCIUTTO: And just make that statement, they'll often say --

ROSENBERG: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- and that'll be a question, did they make a statement pledging allegiance prior?

ROSENBERG: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Matthew Rosenberg, thanks very much.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Always good to have you on.

Two Alabama police officers put on desk duty after one of their bodycams this arrest. The police chief saying he's disgusted by what he saw on the video. We'll have details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:42:40] SCIUTTO: Stunning new video released by Alabama police, raising questions about a controversial arrest. Bodycam footage shows 22-year-old Jhasmynn Sheppard, who is black, in an apparent struggle with a white police officer.

Sheppard was stopped by police for leaving the scene of an accident. And this is what happened after she was pulled over. A warning that you may find this video disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands behind you (ph).

JHASMYNN SHEPPARD, ARRESTED WOMAN: Please (inaudible) -- please don't do me like this.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Put your hands -- put your hands. Put your hands behind you --

SHEPPARD: Sir, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious?

SHEPPARD: -- (inaudible) me, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you lost your frigging mind?

SHEPPARD: Sir, please. Please. Please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Yes. The question is, was that necessary? CNN correspondent Nick Valencia has more details.

So, Nick, what is the police chief saying about it? Because the police chief is saying he's disgusted by what he saw.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, he said at first glance watching this bodycam footage, he thought the officer's actions were well within the department's use of force training. It's when he went back and looked at it again, though, that he took exceptions with these officers' verbal threats after 22-year-old Jhasmynn Sheppard was already in custody.

Now, those two officers are on desk duty and facing disciplinary action, the police chief calling these actions disgusting and embarrassing for the Tuscaloosa police department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE ANDERSON, CHIEF, TUSCALOOSA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Even after the event is over and Ms. Sheppard is seated on the ground, I had a serious problem with the comments that they were making and the threats that they were making. Because we don't teach our officers that. We don't train our officers to do those things.

And so for me, that caused a lot of anger, a lot of frustration. I was disappointed in the officers. I was disgusted by what I saw, what I heard. And I was embarrassed by it because it does not reflect our core values here at the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: So you see how serious the local police chief there in Tuscaloosa is taking this. The officers say that Sheppard tried to grab one of their collapsible batons. One of the officers was in fact grabbed by the genitals, according to the officer, during this arrest.

Those two officers, though, have been put on desk duty and are waiting disciplinary action -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Now, CNN has also spoken to the woman involved here. What has she told us?

VALENCIA: We did. Our national desk spoke to her yesterday by phone. She says she is beyond upset. She says she wasn't even treated like a human, but more like an animal. She does admit that she did try to grab at the officers while she was being taken into custody, but only because she couldn't breathe.

[10:45:06] It was yesterday, though, however, that she says that she doesn't believe the department was within their rights to handle her the way they did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEPPARD: I was beaten by two police officers. I was unarmed. And I -- like, I did everything they asked me to do.

They know what they did was completely uncalled-for. And this ain't (ph) the (ph) end (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: -- (INAUDIBLE) here, Jim, Sheppard was arrested here for harming a police officer, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. No word yet on whether or not she's planning to sue the department or the city. She does, however, say that neither has reached out to them since the Friday encounter -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Nick Valencia, thanks very much.

VALENCIA: You bet.

SCIUTTO: Joe Biden says 2020 is a, quote, "battle for the soul of this nation." So how will the 20th Democratic candidate shake up the race for the White House? Is he the frontrunner? Stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:50:21] SCIUTTO: Business, politics and the church. CNN's original series "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" showcases Texas, the birthplace of megachurches and the changing face of Christianity. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": There are some pastors who say, "I stay out of politics."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BELL: But there are certainly people who stand in the pulpit and say everything but, you know? "I think you should vote for somebody who's making America again" -- you know, you know. That kind of thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's kind of blatant.

BELL: What do you think about that thing about, you should not be political?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, honestly, I think it's kind of fake to say you're not political because you can't even go to the bathroom without it being political. So then why not have some kind of influence that is, you know, righteous?

For me, it's like, I can't help but be involved in politics because I'm pushing for justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The show's host, W. Kamau Bell, is here with me in New York.

It's a great series. I mean, you really touch on these issues that are so central to the debate and to the personality of the country.

You know, I feel like the power of evangelicals has been pronounced dead for years.

(LAUGHTER)

And yet, you know, I mean, you're finding gaining momentum, right?

BELL: Yes. I mean, you know, the number of people who go to church every years gets smaller, but these megachurches are sort of sucking up all the people who want to go to church. And they're doing it by creating this model of church where it doesn't feel as much like church. It feels like, as one preacher described it, as like a rock concert with a motivational speech in the middle.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BELL: And so it's more of a fun time and more of you feel good about yourself. But they're -- a lot of these churches then, when they get those people in there, they start to tell people how they should vote and -- which is, like I say, I come from the MLK school. So I believe in politics in church.

But when the -- when you're encouraging people to participate in political acts that aren't actually aligned with Jesus, who you're talking about, that doesn't seem right.

SCIUTTO: Is there any softening of the hard-right turn of evangelical -- I mean, is there a progressive wing in the evangelical vote?

BELL: The interesting thing about this episode is that I thought there was just sort of the hard-right evangelicals. But no. In Dallas, there's a church called the Cathedral of Hope, which is an LGBTQ-plus megachurch. It's the biggest LGBT-plus church in the world.

And so -- but that's not the face of Christianity.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BELL: So, I mean, I was happy to be there with them. And, you know, you can be all sorts of -- they can be -- anybody can go there. But that's not the face of Christianity.

SCIUTTO: Do they tell them to vote a different way in that church? Do they say, "Hey," you know, "take a look at the Democratic Party because..."

BELL: I mean, I don't think -- I mean, churches aren't really allowed to do that. But if you preach the message, it becomes clear what you're saying.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BELL: So I think that's the thing that's happening. I'm not against churches sort of encouraging people to participate in the world. But I think the problem is, is, like, if you're talking about Jesus and the Bible, I think it becomes pretty clear who Jesus would have voted for on occasion.

SCIUTTO: I hear you, I hear you.

BELL: Or who he wouldn't have voted for.

SCIUTTO: Or what kind of behavior he wouldn't approve of, right?

BELL: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: You know, as simple as that. Separation of church and state, obviously a founding principle of our --

BELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- country. How is that viewed --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCIUTTO: -- where you've been?

BELL: I mean, I think they believe if they don't say a candidate's name, then they're separating church and state. But we all know that the money says, "In God We Trust." You know. We all know that you can't -- no atheist can run for a national office in this country, you know what I mean?

SCIUTTO: Right.

BELL: So we're not -- that's in name only, I believe. And that's -- you know, you see that down there.

SCIUTTO: Another -- this, off the topic of your series, but I think important in the news, the execution of one of the three men who killed James Byrd in 1999. I just remember that as an iconic point in race relations. It just reminded people that there's still this anger, this hate, this violence.

Where are we today, then? Because that was also supposed to be a turning point for the positive --

BELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- and a lot of legislation followed it.

BELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Have we -- have, you know, is the arc of history bending towards justice?

BELL: I mean, to talk about that MLK line, I think it does bend towards justice but it bends back occasionally. And right now it feels like we're being back.

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

BELL: And it becomes a call to arms to be like -- because you know, as you know, hate crimes are on the rise.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BELL: And unless we have people in our leadership who address those things and are very clear about those things, you don't know how far -- how far the arc's going to bend back (ph).

SCIUTTO: So you mentioned the numbers. We called these up. Have a look at the graph there. Because after the James Byrd killing in 1999, I mean, there was an uptick and then it went down a bit. But look at those last couple of years there. And we have a tight focus on those two (ph) because the rise -- I mean, that's a dramatic jump there in the last few years. What do you attribute that to?

BELL: I mean, you know, currently we have a leader in the White House who uses incendiary rhetoric and, you know, and uses violent imagery sometimes to gin up the base of his party.

So to me, that makes sense that you would -- if the leader in the White House is going to be someone who regularly gins up hate and talks about violent rhetoric, then that's the result.

SCIUTTO: Right.

BELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Did you -- give us something hopeful you saw out there.

(LAUGHTER)

[10:55:00] SCIUTTO: Please? Help us get through the day.

BELL: The theme of this season is, "It's on us." So we can't look to the big leaders in politics to do this. It's on us to strengthen our own communities --

SCIUTTO: Right.

BELL: -- and then that's how you create leaders out of your community who can then lead the country.

SCIUTTO: Right. And I sense, talking to folks, people are aware of that and they're --

BELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- looking to get more engaged on a lot of levels.

BELL: I mean, AOC is a great example of somebody who's like, "I'm going to get from behind this bar and do it myself."

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BELL: And so that's the hopeful part. If we realize it's on us, then we can fix this.

SCIUTTO: Kamau Bell.

Be sure to watch "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA." It's a great series. It's really worth your time. Premieres this Sunday, 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, only here on CNN.

Thanks very much to you for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right after a quick break.

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