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Recommends in Garner Case; Majority of House Dems Support Impeachment; New York City Mayor de Blasio Press Conference; Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is Interviewed about the INF Treaty Withdrawal. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired August 2, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown, in for Brianna Keilar.

Underway right now, the president may be gambling with the economy at a precarious time as ominous new signs emerge.

Fears of a new arms race grow as the U.S. pulls out of a nuclear treaty with Russia.

Kim Jong-un keeps launching missiles, but President Trump says everything's fine, that his friend won't let him down.

Plus, the only black Republican in the House becomes the eighth Republican to head for the exits.

And another tragedy for the Kennedy's. RFK's granddaughter found dead at the family's compound.

And we begin with breaking news about the police officer at the center of the Eric Garner case. He has now been suspended from duty. This move follows the recommendation of a New York Police Department administrative judge who called for the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his controversial involvement in Garner's death. Now, Pantaleo is accused of putting Garner in an alleged chokehold in 2014.

For more let's turn to CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz.

So tell me more about what's unfolding right now, Shimon.

SIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the first step in this process of Daniel Pantaleo possibly never wearing a police uniform ever again, him being fired, terminated from the job, we are in the first step of this process. The NYPD police commissioner has been awaiting the recommendations from this NYPD judge, internal proceedings that went on for about six days and evidence was presented and the judge today recommending -- these recommendations are for the police commissioner ultimately -- that he fire Daniel Pantaleo.

Now, it's widely expected that the police commissioner will follow this recommendation. However, there's always a chance that Daniel Pantaleo's attorneys could make an argument -- they will have an opportunity to make this argument to follow up to appeal to the police commissioner that he should not fire Daniel Pantaleo. We think that decision will come within the next two weeks. That's still unclear. But there is some time before we get final word from the police commissioner on whether or not Daniel Pantaleo will be fired. That decision solely, solely rests with the police commissioner.

It is interesting, I want to point out, that we've been talking to sources who are familiar with the judge's -- the internal judge's thinking. And one of the things that she found was that this chokehold, that it was improper in what Pantaleo did here to Eric Garner, that it was -- that there was misconduct, that it was reckless, and that is the reason why she has determined and recommended that Pantaleo be fired.

BROWN: So the judge made this recommendation, huge development, but it's not the end of the road. We'll have to find out what's next.

Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for breaking it all down for us.

Elliott Williams joins us. He has worked as a federal prosecutor, deputy assistant attorney general and former assistant director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

OK, so let's just break this down. Explain the process. Why is the judge's verdict nonbinding? The judge recommends termination, but for now he's only suspended.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Because ultimately it is the commissioner of the NYPD who makes the determination as to whether to fire somebody or not. Now, the judge weighed the facts of the case, looked at the background and decided that she would recommend termination. But, again, that decision rests with the commissioner.

BROWN: This is a case that has drawn so much attention and controversy. It was just talked about a couple of days ago during the debates because, you know, in the wake of the DOJ's decision to not bring charges, a grand jury declining to indict this officer, that just created more of a strong reaction for those who want to see him be held accountable for the death of Eric Garner.

What do you think this ruling will do moving forward?

WILLIAMS: Well, again, the good -- well, the big question is why it took five years, right?

BROWN: Exactly.

WILLIAMS: And so with all of those steps playing out it didn't -- if they were going to make a decision to terminate him, that could have been done a long time ago. They didn't need the federal process to play out. So that's the big question overall that, what does it mean? Well, the police -- if this does stand, the police union will not be happy. They have issued a number of statements saying that we're under duress and so on and that, you know, you're criminalizing police work. But at the end of the day, what you had was a video with an individual saying 11 times that he couldn't breathe and findings that the police officer's conduct was, quote/unquote, reckless. And so what it will mean is accountability.

BROWN: I mean but you're right, five years later this has happened. You know, it --

WILLIAMS: So the Justice --

BROWN: Why five years?


BROWN: I mean --

WILLIAMS: Well, to be -- cynically speaking, the Justice Department took five years to make the decision and made the decision not to move forward on the eve of the --

[13:05:01] BROWN: But that's not typical, right? I mean --

WILLIAMS: Yes, I mean, it could have -- the decision could have been made quicker.


WILLIAMS: This was a Justice Department that I served at too, so I don't want to pin this all on Trump's --

BROWN: Because I remember, just looking back, I mean, you know, you look at like Ferguson, for example.


BROWN: The Justice Department acted clearly more swiftly than in this case, right?


BROWN: I mean with the officer there. I mean why so --

WILLIAMS: Again, we -- I think we take -- we should take -- we, my Justice Department that I served under Obama, should take some responsibility for the fact that this took as long as it did.


WILLIAMS: And it was on the eve of the statute of limitations expiring --

BROWN: Right.

WILLIAMS: That the attorney general decided not to move.

Now, the state and the city held off any of their decisions while the federal cases were pending, but the problem is that meant that five years would pass before you'd have any accountability. And so everybody failed here and this should not have taken as long as it did. BROWN: Right. I mean so now you're at a place, five years later, where

the officer who continued to serve --


BROWN: The recommendation by a judge has been, he should be terminated. So we'll have to wait and see what the police commissioner says.

Elliot Williams, thank you so much for coming on.

WILLIAMS: Of course. Thanks.

BROWN: Appreciate it.

And we have more breaking news. It is official, exactly half of House Democrats are now calling for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. We have learned that Congressman Salud Carbajal of California is the 118th Democrat to make the call.

CNN politics congressional reporter Lauren Fox is here.

So, Lauren, can House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignore this number?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's the biggest question. We tried to ask her yesterday as this number was approaching the more than halfway point for more Democrats being in support of moving forward with an impeachment inquiry than were not. And yesterday she said she would have a statement. We still have not seen that statement.

But I will say, just a couple of months ago, my colleague, Manu Raju, during one of her press briefings, asked her, what are you going to do when this hits the halfway point. She said, look, we're not even close. Well, it's only been a matter of weeks and here we are. We are at the more than halfway point.

And this comes as Democrats are back in their districts having to answer questions from constituents, so you can expect that for moderate Democrats, this is going to be a tough question. And you can expect that for liberal Democrats, they're getting a lot of pressure back home from their constituents who are like, let's do impeachment now. So that's sort of where we're at.

But we will keep you posted on specifically where Nancy Pelosi falls in upcoming hours. Obviously, all eyes on the speaker at this point.

BROWN: Right. I mean it was just a couple of days ago she said we're not even close to that number. And you just broke it down, half of the Democrats now support it.

I also want to look at the other side of the aisle, the Republican side. And this Republican exodus that appears to be happening in the House. Texas Congressman Will Hurd has just become the eighth Republican lawmaker to announce their retirement. He is the sixth to do so just in the last two weeks alone. What impact does this have on the diversity of the Republican Party, Lauren?

FOX: Well, he was the only black --

BROWN: OK, actually, we're going to interrupt and go to Bill de Blasio in the wake of this news.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: And the beginning of some peace. But full justice means that there can never be another tragedy like the one that befell Eric Garner. Full justice is when we never have another death. That is all of our responsibility and it requires us to change everything.

For the last five years, our mission has been to fundamentally change the nature of policing in New York City. After the death of Eric Garner, everything was re-evaluated. The entire police force was retrained -- 36,000 officers retrained to de-escalate conflict, to understand the implicit bias that we all carry with us, to ensure it would not interfere with their duty.

The approach to the community is entirely different today. And we had to weed out the distance and the separation that was the norm of the past and through neighborhood policing actually create a dynamic where our officers and community members got to know each other as human beings, where people felt they were on the same side working toward a common goal.

And we had to change the approach on the ground. Last year there were 150,000 fewer arrests than five years earlier because there were too many times when people were being arrested unnecessarily and too many conflicts that came from it. And this NYPD proved that fewer and fewer people could be arrested and the city could become safer.

Safety and fairness must walk hand in hand. And I hoped that today begins the process of restoring some faith and helping people believe that there actually is accountability and fairness.

[13:10:11] We have a lot more work to do. We'll be at this a long time, but we all have a sense of a common mission, there can never be another tragedy like this. This city, this nation should never be put through this agony. We should never lose another innocent man or woman. We should never have people's faith undermined. It's in our power to do something better and to do something different. That is the course we set five years ago and that's the course we will stay on.

A few words in Spanish.


BROWN: OK, we just heard from Mayor Bill de Blasio there in New York in the wake of this NYPD judge's decision that Officer Pantaleo should be terminated. For now he is suspended.

But I want to bring in Elliot Williams for some analysis on this, Elliot, because Bill de Blasio, just this week, he was interrupted on the stage during the Democratic debate over this. You know, the protester yelling "fire Pantaleo." And now we're hearing from him directly.

What stood out to you?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's hard to say that there isn't some political element to this for Mayor de Blasio. But, you know, today's not really the day to think about that. Ultimately, this was the final opportunity for any accountability in the case because, you know, the federal government passed on it, the state did as well.

BROWN: We're going to just listen back in because he's taking questions now.

QUESTION: Personally read Judge (INAUDIBLE) recommendation and do you agree that, you know, he should be fired?

DE BLASIO: Again, what I am talking about today is a fair and impartial process has occurred. And that's all I have to say.

QUESTION: Have you read it? Have you read it?

DE BLASIO: No, I have not.

QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, how (INAUDIBLE) do you also want to go a step further to call for (INAUDIBLE) Congress and congressional hearings? Do you support that and what kind of law changes are you (INAUDIBLE)?

DE BLASIO: Look, I haven't heard what he said today. I know members of Congress want to look at this issue. I certainly think it's fair to say, here was a tragedy, it cannot happen again. And what I would ask the members of Congress to look at is the role of the Justice Department going forward.

Remember, and I said it earlier on the radio, we had three horrifying cases that we all remember too well. The (INAUDIBLE) case, the Bell (ph) case, and the Dialo (ph) case. In every one of them, there was prosecution either by the Justice Department or the district attorney.

What's happened these last five years is unfathomable. There was no decision even from the Justice Department. That's a central question to me, Marsha. That can't happen again in the future. There has to be a decision on a meaningful timeline.

QUESTION: What do you want Congress to do when they look at the Justice Department?

DE BLASIO: They have to -- I think they have to beg this very important question. The Justice Department has to ensure speedy justice. It's right there in the Constitution. It can't be a process that goes on five years ever again.


QUESTION: Have you spoken to the Garner family and what has been their response?

DE BLASIO: I'm not going to go into private conversations. As I said, it's a legal matter.

QUESTION: Mayor, you said that today this has finally been a step towards justice and accountability. Does that mean that you believe that the ruling that was made today as just?

DE BLASIO: Again, I believe the process was fair and impartial. And it's the first time we've seen a decision. I want to remind everyone, over five years district attorney did not bring an indictment, therefore there was no trial. The Justice Department did not bring an indictment, therefore there was no trial. For the first time there was a trial, a fair and impartial trial, and a result. Remember that point about justice delayed is justice denied. At least there was a trial and a result. And I have faith that it was a fair and impartial process.

QUESTION: You said on the radio this morning that, you know, a policy put in place so you never wait on the Justice Department again. Do you regret waiting on the Justice Department and not going ahead with the departmental trial in 2015?

DE BLASIO: Absolutely. I cannot understand how this happened. Everything I had seen my entire life suggested the Justice Department believed it was its responsibility to act when other levels of government had not, or at least to make a decision quickly for the benefit of justice. It's literally beyond any compare -- I cannot find any parallel to what happened here, and it's an unacceptable reality. I did not think it possible, honestly. I didn't think it was possible under either administration federally. But now that we've experienced it, we will never allow that to happen again.


QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, (INAUDIBLE) but have you spoken to him about the judge's recommendation, and why aren't you saying what your first -- what your personal opinion is now that we have this recommendation from the judge, what you personally believe should happen to this officer?

[13:15:07] DE BLASIO: I have not spoken to him and that is because I respect this process. And I want everyone to understand this. If you believe that there's a fair and impartial process, and I do, then letting it reach its conclusion beyond reproach, beyond question, is necessary. And I am talking as the steward of this city. We need closure in the city. The Garner family deserves it, first and foremost. But we, as a city, need to end this chapter and move forward.

I believe my role is to respect this process and respect the state law, and that's the best way to get to that closure.


QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, did you --

BROWN: OK, so we just were listening to Mayor Bill de Blasio in the wake of this verdict by a judge that Officer Pantaleo should be terminated from the department. Right now he is suspended.

And he took some questions there, Elliot Williams. What stood out to me is, on one hand he seemed to be putting the onus on the Justice Department, saying DOJ failed to act. It took five years for DOJ to finally say it's not going to recommend charges.

But at the same time, I think I heard him also admit that he has regret for not acting sooner. So basically admitted that DOJ didn't preclude him from acting.

WILLIAMS: Yes, both things can be true. DOJ took a long time, but that's on a totally separate track than the mayor's ability to terminate an employee that every measure had indicated gad behaved in a reckless manner. So he's pinning it on process and the state prosecutors and the federal prosecutors when the buck stops with you, Mayor de Blasio, and he could have ultimately made the recommendation -- or, you know, terminated the individual or sought the termination of the individual.

So, again, I think he's trying to have it both ways a little bit, hiding behind process, but also failing to recognize that it's ultimately the city's decision and they could have made this a long time ago.

BROWN: And you can't ignore the fact that he is running for president as well.


BROWN: And there's -- you know, unfortunately, there is the politics side of this and the police union and so forth and so on. So just interesting to hear how Mayor de Blasio is handling it up there on stage in the wake of this verdict.

Elliot Williams, thank you so much. Much appreciated.

WILLIAMS: Of course.

BROWN: Well, after the Democrats attacked the legacy of Barack Obama in the debate, President Trump just weaponized it.

Plus, Nikki Haley blasts the president for making light of the break- in at Congressman Elijah Cummings' home.

And another Kennedy tragedy. RFK's granddaughter found dead at the family's compound. We'll take you there.


[13:22:26] BROWN: Well, new fears of an arms race after the U.S. officially pulled out of a landmark nuclear arms treaty, marking the end of a decades-long agreement. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty for short, bans the U.S. and Russia from using land-based missiles with the range between 310 and 3,400 miles. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, on February 2, 2019, the U.S. gave Russia six months to return to compliance with the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia refused, so the treaty ends today. The U.S. will not remain party to a treaty when others violate it. Russia bears sole responsibility.

Now, Moscow denies the claim. So let's bring in Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island to discuss all of this. He serves on both the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.

Thank you so much for coming on.

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Thanks, Pam.

BROWN: So how concerning is this? I mean, you know, the big question when something like this happens is, will this lead to a new arms race?

REED: Well, that's a very serious question. First, there is evidence that the Russians did violate the treaty by deploying a system that was branded illegal by the treaty. And our European allies, our NATO allies, have confirmed this.

But the real problem, I think, is not just the INF treaty. The major treaty, the New START Treaty will expire in January 2021. If we don't have ongoing negotiations, if we don't engage and extend that treaty, then for the first time in many, many decades there will be no really arms control regime in a world at all to speak of. And that's not only a problem between Russia and the United States and China and the United States, it could give the sense of a license, if you will, for other powers that have been talking about developing nuclear weapons in the Middle East particularly.

So this is a very consequential event. I would have liked to have seen much more diplomacy applied to try to get the Russians to come back into compliance, to try to extend the treaty even further. But, more importantly, we have to start focusing on the New START Treaty and I've seen no real diplomatic activity. I think -- I'm afraid it just might evaporate because no one paid attention to it.

BROWN: And what's interesting is, in light of this, President Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, and the president said that he didn't discuss exiting the treaty with Putin, he didn't discuss Russian election meddling, but he did discuss the wildfires in Siberia.

[13:25:01] What's going on here? What do you make of that?

REED: It seems to be totally incoherent in terms of the dialogue. Russian engagement in our election has been verified by the intelligence community with high confidence. The president should have been very clear that he cannot tolerate on behalf of the American people any interference into our elections. Also this INF Treaty and, again, the New START Treaty, it would have been a -- very, very helpful at that high level had the president engaged President Putin in a discussion about negotiations for the New START, if we can continue. And essentially what New START does, it put a -- limits on nuclear weapons for the Russia and the United States. Without those limits, there could be an arms race. But as I said, more -- maybe even more importantly, there could be sort of a signal to other countries, there's no limits on nuclear weapons, you can get them. That would be tragic.

BROWN: And speaking of, you have North Korea carrying out its third missile test just in eight days. And the president put out a series of tweets and they read in part, these missile tests are not a violation of our signed Singapore agreement, nor was there discussion of short- range missiles when we took hands.

He goes on to say, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump.

So the president clearly downplaying this. Do you think the president is strengthening Kim's position? And also, what kind of a message does this send to our allies, U.S. allies, in the area?

REED: It sends a terrible message to our allies in the area because these missiles are solid fueled, which means they're very -- they can be sort of set up for launch in minutes. They're mobile, so they can't be easily detected. They can reach our bases in South Korea within minutes. And they can reach Japan and other places equally quickly, or at least as quickly.

So this is sending a message to our allies in the region is that we're not as interested in their security as we once were. That's one interpretation, which I think they'll draw. And this represents continued technical improvements by the North Koreans in their whole rocket fleet, their missile fleet and their technology. And, again, going back to --

BROWN: So you're making the point, look, even though it may not be able to make it to the U.S., this is not something to be ignored because they're clearly making progress.

REED: They're clearly making progress, and that progress can also translate into technical aspects of intercontinental missiles, which would affect us.

But I think the other factor is, this Singapore agreement was this nebulous notion that we're going to work for denuclearization. We have not yet reached a suitable understanding with the North Koreans that, what does denuclearization mean?

BROWN: What is that? How do you define that? That is still an open question, even to this day.

REED: They -- they claim it means they can keep nuclear weapons, they just don't have as many as they had before. We say they have to give up absolutely all their weapons. We haven't even reached that conclusion.

BROWN: Right, which seems to be part of the issue with the summit previously where they walked out --

REED: Of course. BROWN: And no deal was reached.

Very quickly, John Ratcliffe --

REED: Yes.

BROWN: Obviously, is the president's nominee to take over for Dan Coats at DNI. Do you think he's going to face some trouble in the nomination?

REED: I think he's going to face appropriate concerns.

BROWN: To getting confirmed, yes.

REED: The danger here is the president is attempting to politicize this office. Previous directors of intelligence were career professionals or people like Dan Coats, they had been ambassadors. He was an ambassador to Germany, long-term senators, knowledgeable, had no political agenda. He wanted to serve and he did serve the nation with integrity and commitment.

Now you have someone who has very little intelligence experience, who has bought into the Trump line that all this was a witch hunt with respect to Mueller, which contradicts the intelligence community. And, again, just in terms of qualifications, as well as politicizing the office, this is a serious, serious concern for many of us.

BROWN: All right, Senator Jack Reed, thank you very much.

REED: Thank you very much, Pam.

BROWN: Do appreciate it.

And we have some more on our breaking news. The majority of House Democrats now supporting an impeachment inquiry. We're going to discuss the significance of all of this.

Plus, the Bernie Sanders campaign responding to his rivals attacking the legacy of Barack Obama during the debate. Stand by.