Return to Transcripts main page


House Debates Resolution to Condemn Trump on Racist Attack; Arrest Made in Murder of Louisiana Civil Rights Activist; No Federal Charges Against Cop Accused in Eric Garner's Death; 50 years Since Apollo 11 Launched to the Moon. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] JOEL PAYNE, FORMER SENIOR AIDE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: I think it's total appropriate to say you want to hold Donald Trump accountable and disassociate that from who he is as a person.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: We have heard after all this from long-time conservative commentator, George Will, who famously left the Republican Party. Let's take a quick listen to that.


GEORGE WILL, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW PODCAST: I believe that what this President has done to our culture to our civic discourse, you cannot unring these bells and you cannot unsay what he has said. And you cannot change that he is now in a very short time made it seem normal for schoolboy taunts and obvious lies to be spun out in a constant stream. I think this will do more lasting damage than Richard Nixon's surreptitious burglaries did.


MARQUARDT: Joe Walsh to you. Do you think he's right? Do you think George Will, what he said -- in saying, that you cannot undo what Trump has done to political rhetoric cannot be undone and what is done to civility?

JOE WALSH, (R) FORMER ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN: I actually do agree. I think it's going to take a long time. Because even if Trump loses in 2020, he's not going anywhere. Look, I was a Republican member of Congress. My Republican Party, my party, welcomes anybody into this country legally, if they want freedom and opportunity regardless of color, race or creed or where they come from. That is not the Republican Party that this President represents. That's a shame, and that's going to take a long time to undo.

MARQUARDT: All right, gentlemen, we have to leave it there, thank you for a great discussion this afternoon. Joe Walsh in Chicago, Joel Payne with me here in Washington. Thanks very much.

All right, we do have breaking news into CNN. An arrest has just been made in the murder of a Louisiana civil rights activist. She was 75- year-old Sadie Roberts Joseph. She was found dead in the trunk of her own car. I'll be speaking with one of her family members. That's just ahead.


MARQUARDT: We're following breaking news. Baton Rouge police have made an arrest in the death of a beloved community activist. Police found Sadie Roberts Joseph's body in the trunk of her car. That was last week. An autopsy showed the 75-year-old civil rights icon died of suffocation and her death has been ruled a homicide. Just moments ago Baton Rouge police announced they now have a suspect in custody.


CHIEF MURPHY PAUL, JR., BATON ROUGE POLICE: Today the Baton Rouge police department arrested Ron Germane Bell and charged him with first degree murder for the homicide of Sadie Roberts-Joseph. We believe based on our investigation at this time that Ron Bell was a tenant in one of her rent houses. We believe that he was behind several months on his rent. We believe around $1,200 was owed for rent. We still don't have a complete solid motive at the time. And the motive is still under investigation.


MARQUARDT: C. Denise Marcelle is a Louisiana state lawmaker from the Baton Rouge area and has known Roberts-Joseph for years. And Pat McAllister-LeDuff is a niece of Sadie. Pat, let me first say that we are so sorry for your loss. And I would like to ask what your reaction is from the police there, that an arrest has been made in this homicide.

PAT MCALLISTER-LEDUFF, NIECE OF SLAIN ACTIVIST SADIE ROBERTS-JOSEPH: It's a great relief, just to know that that part of the journey is over. That was the most important thing at that particular time, was just who did it, why, and where were you -- where are you? So that part we can sigh a little bit in terms of what actually happened and who did it.

MARQUARDT: Well it certainly doesn't ease any pain. But I imagine it does helps to start answering some of the questions that you may have. Do you know, Pat, the suspect or why he may have harmed your aunt, that we heard the police talking about rent and money?

MCALLISTER-LEDUFF: Well, money is the root of all evil, so I would think that -- I would hate to think that I would be necessary to kill your landlord because you can't pay her. But it seems that that could very well have been the case.

MARQUARDT: And Denise, I want to know more about what Sadie meant to the Baton Rouge community. We know that she founded an African- American museum as well as a nonprofit organization against drugs and violence. But what did she mean to that community -- to her community?

C. DENISE MARCELLE, (D) LOUISIANA STATE HOUSE: Well first of all, she was an icon. She meant so much to this community, to so many different people. Young people, older people, just people. It's very hard to describe Sadie's reaction with the community because she was on every level. She was an activist. She was a historian. She was an amazing woman, and I'm certainly glad that someone's in custody for this crime. And the city is relieved at least that we have someone behind bars. And I certainly I want to thank the Baton Rouge community for coming together on this. It's very important to the family. I've been with the family for several days and it's a relief, but it's tough.

[15:40:04] It's going to be tough on them. We're continuing our prayers and certainly for our community.

MARQUARDT: Pat, we have heard that word icon used quite a bit. Not just by Denise but by a lot of people in that community. But you had a much more personal relationship of course with aunt. What do you want us all -- what do you want the world to know about her?

MCALLISTER-LEDUFF: That she was all about peace. She was as an icon in the community and she was also an icon in our family. So she's always been the strength. She's always been the person that keeps you corrected. She's always been that person that will always want you to shoot for excellence. And so peace is what it's all about, coming together. Learning about each other. Having awareness of each contribution that's made to the nation by people, by the community and to embrace that. That's what she always said, embrace what each of us bring to the table. So that we all can get along, and there will be peace.

MARCELLE: And we certainly want to highlight the museum and keep her legacy alive. So they're establishing a fund to do just that. And we're asking people from around the world to certainly support that effort as she has carried this museum on her back for many, many years. We're saddened by her death but we're glad that it is brought Baton Rouge together. And we certainly hoping that -- we're going to commit to keeping the museum alive and open. And so we're certainly looking for contributions to do that.

MARQUARDT: Well, peace and --

MCALLISTER-LEDUFF: She would want that. That's exactly what she would want.

MARQUARDT: Thank you for joining me this afternoon. Once again, Denise and Pat, I'm so sorry for your loss. Sadie sounded like an absolutely remarkable woman, thank you for coming on to tell us about her today.

MARCELLE: And she was.


MARCELLE: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right, we'll be back in a moment.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARQUARDT: The New York police officer, who was accused of fatally choking Eric Garner, will not be facing federal charges. CNN has learned that Attorney General William Barr made the decision himself not to bring federal civil rights charges against the officer. The announcement comes one day before the five-year anniversary of Garner's death. You'll recall the cell phone video of the police encounter that went viral. We do have to warn you the footage is disturbing as officers took Garner down for selling loose cigarettes. You can hear Garner saying, I can't breathe. He said that several times those words. Sparking a rallying cry, a nationwide protest. Garner's family expressing outrage at today's decision.


EMERALD GARNER, ERIC GARDNER'S DAUGHTER: Where's the justice -- don't apologize to me. Apologize to the officer, don't give me your condolences, I heard that five years ago.

GWEN CARR, ERIC GARDNER'S MOTHER: Five years ago, my son said, I can't breathe 11 times. And today we can't breathe. Because they have let us down.


MARQUARDT: Joining me now are Elie Honig. He is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York and the executive director of the Rutgers Institute for Secure Communities. As well as Joey Jackson who is a criminal defense attorney. Both of them are CNN legal analyst. Gentlemen, let's get right to it. Elie, first to you. How unusual is it? This is something that happened on the streets of New York, for the Attorney General to make a decision in a case like this. In New York, and in the process, overruling the civil rights division here in D.C., which wanted to prosecute the officer?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Alex, I[MT1] don't think it's particularly surprising that the Attorney General was making this decision. Given how important a case this is, how high profile a case this is, I don't think it's particularly surprising that William Barr came out against a criminal charge here. He is ideologically conservative. And he's shown himself throughout the Mueller investigation, for example, to be sort of good at coming up with reasons, why things should not be charged.

But I do think it is unusual to see the Attorney General overrule the opinion of those people, those prosecutors and investigators who know this case best here. And I do think it's a really problematic decision by the Attorney General not to charge, given all the facts we know.

MARQUARDT: Yes, one person we just saw infuriating family. Joey, to you, the family is pushing for the officer involved in Garner's death to be fired. The NYPD brought department charges against the officer. Tomorrow -- as we noted -- will be five years since Garner's death. Why has it taken so long to investigate this incident? And how does today's decision impact this case in the longer term? JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well let's just say this. I think today's decision was a disgrace. Let's call it for what it is. You know, look, the federal government there really tough at what they do. Well we can tell you that, serving in the southern district, had trials there, you're talking about motivated attorneys, the cream of the crop, and they will go 15 rounds with you on a 12-round decision. So let's start there.

The fact is that I think this decision was miss guided, factually, legally and practically. And I do believe that actually speaking here based on the facts you can establish a case. Now there's a distinction, Alex, between proving a case, right, and that case being a difficult case, and certainly making a case. And I think that the -- they had the ability to make the case. They did not have the will to do so. And it shouldn't turn on the ideology of the person who sits in the seat. It should turn on the facts and the application to the facts with the law.

And yes, proving something will full is difficult. I've seen the federal government do other things like this before and do it successfully. And so, the fact is, that while it may be a hard case, it's a case you pursue. In terms of why it took so long, that's anyone's guess. We had the Mueller report, right? The Mueller investigation, less than two years, this is five years. Right? How do you equate that? Right? How do you even think and fathom. So it's a stall. It's a stall. It's a stall. And now you get to the point where at the day of the anniversary, the next day. Right? The 17th of July. And now you have this command decision.

And so, there was a departmental hearing, that departmental decision is pending, that is that he was tried pursuant to departmental policy. Whether he's fired or not is an open question. But the firing of the officer pales in comparison to the law which will provide for his jailing and his punishment. And I think that's what the community was expecting and that's what justice would demand in this case.

MARQUARDT: All right, guys, we have to leave it there. Thank you for breaking that all down. Elie Honig, Joey Jackson, thanks very much.

HONIG: Thank you, Alex.

JACKSON: Thanks.

MARQUARDT: All right, more on our breaking news. The House right now debating whether to condemn the President's racist attack on four Democratic Congresswomen. Stand by.


MARQUARDT: Today is a big day for space geeks.

[15:55:00] It marks the 50th anniversary of when Apollo 11 launched into space. Carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to their history-making moment in the summer of 1969. Mankind's first steps on the moon.


NEAL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT, APOLLO 11: One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.


MARQUARDT: People all around the world were glued to their television sets watching in awe. And today 50 years to the day after the launch, a special treat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one --


MARQUARDT: That is the space suit that Neil Armstrong wore during his Apollo 11 mission unveiled for the first time in 13 years at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum here in Washington.

And we have a programming note for you. The CNN film "Apollo 11" takes you inside this historic journey with newly-discovered incredible footage. That is Saturday night at 9:00 on CNN.


MARQUARDT: A programming note. Now you can find out which Democratic candidates will be facing off against each other each night of the next debates in a special live event. Watch the draw for the CNN Democratic debates which will be on July 30th and 31st. That draw Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. That will do it for me. I'm Alex Marquardt. Thanks so much for joining me today. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Was it LBJ who said if I've lost Scaramucci, I've lost middle America?