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NYPD Fires Cop Involved in Eric Garner Death; Fallout From ICE Raid Continues; Trump Downplays Recession Fears. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

More on our breaking news this afternoon, emotional reaction from all sides to the NYPD firing the officer involved in Eric Garner's choke hold death from five years and a month ago.

The New York City police commissioner today calling this a day of reckoning and acknowledging his decision was painful and unpopular.


JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: It was unlikely that Mr. Garner thought he was in such poor health that a brief struggle with police would cause his death.

He should have decided against resisting arrest. But a man with a family lost his life. And that is an irreversible tragedy. And a hardworking police officer with a family, a man who took this job to do good, to make a difference in his home community, has now lost his chosen career.

And that is different kind of tragedy. In this case, the unintended consequence of Mr. Garner's death must have a consequence of its own.

Therefore, I agree with the deputy commissioner of trials' legal findings and recommendations. It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as in New York City police officer.

In carrying out the court's verdict in this case, I take no pleasure. I know that many will disagree with this decision. And that is their right.

There are absolutely no victories here today.


BALDWIN: Commissioner O'Neill agreed with the NYPD administrative judge's recommendation that officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired five years after he was seen on that video placing Garner in a choke hold, as Garner said over and over, "I can't breathe."

Last hour, New York Mayor and presidential candidate Bill de Blasio responded to the firing, saying the Department of Justice failed in making a decision. And he added this:


BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we have finally seen justice done. Today, we saw the NYPD's own disciplinary process act fairly and impartially.

For the Garner family that has gone through so much agony for so long and has waited this long just to have one trial finally conclude with a decision, I hope today brings some small measure of closure. Today will not bring Eric Garner back, but I hope it brings some small measure of closure and peace to the Garner family.


BALDWIN: And the attorney for the Garner family, Jonathan Moore, is with me now.

Thank you so much for rushing over from those news conferences. I mean, you this is something that -- and you were talking with the family. And this is something that you all have been fighting for, for five years now.


BALDWIN: And so to finally have this man fired, not receive his pension, what does that feel like?

Well, it's a sad day. Nobody likes to see anybody lose their job. But, then again, let's not forget that Eric Garner lost his life five years ago for something that nobody really knows if he even violated the law.

And so, although it's a bittersweet day, although we appreciate the fact that the police department has done the right thing with respect to the continued employment of Pantaleo, there's still some unanswered questions with respect to the other officers involved and changing the policy on the state level and the federal level with respect to the use of choke holds.

BALDWIN: Let's address both of those separately.

So, number one, I know that you and I have been in touch and you have said this is more than just officer Pantaleo; there are other officers who were involved in this death who should be punished.

Can you be specific?

MOORE: Well, there are the other officers -- if you look at the video, there was clearly more than just officer Pantaleo who was there. And there's four or five other officers who were engaged with Eric Garner.

The medical examiner opined that the cause of death was a combination of neck and chest compression. That means these officers were on top of him. Just as they're instructed not to use a choke hold, they're also instructed that you don't get on somebody's back. You turn them over if they have trouble breathing.

And he was having trouble breathing. And they did none of that. So we think the police department should investigate these other officers for potential false statements in terms of what they said, both to the Staten Island grand jury and during the trial.


And I think Judge Maldonado, in a very courageous decision, knowing what the impact would be, made reference to the fact that there are accounts where -- that -- she didn't call them false, but she did say that they were very sketchy, at a minimum.

So we think there's still some work to be done looking at these officers.

BALDWIN: And what about the policy itself on the choke hold?

MOORE: Well, the policy -- the policy should be -- it's been the policy for many, many years in the police department you can't use a choke hold.

He denied -- Pantaleo denied it was a choke hold. And the other officers denied it was a choke hold. His lawyer denied it was a choke hold. They brought an expert to deny it was the choke hold. But the clear evidence was that it was a choke hold.

So that policy in the police department existed then. It still exists, and it should be followed, and they should be trained not to use it. But, more importantly, it should be enshrined into state law.

And the family's calling on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to pass the Eric Garner Act, which would outlaw choke holds by police officers.

BALDWIN: What's the status of that? Where are they on that?

MOORE: It's just in the beginning stages. Obviously, the attention of the family has really been focused on trying to go through this administrative process.

They had to -- the family had to sit there day in and day out and listen to all this evidence, listen to how they characterized their father and their son, their husband. And it was very painful for them.

So they have been focused on that. And I think what we should be -- we should remember that Eric Garner has never been shown to have done anything wrong. Even Commissioner O'Neill in his statement refers to, he was just -- he had resisted arrest.

Well, he didn't really resist arrest.

BALDWIN: I know it's been -- I have spoken with the family, as you have, for years. But it's also painful for the New York Police Department. I just want to read this statement from the union. This is Police

Benevolent Association of the City of New York put this out -- quote -- "The damage is already done. The NYPD will remain rudderless and frozen and Commissioner O'Neill will never be able to bring it back. Now it is time for every police officer in this city to make their own choice."

MOORE: I think that's an outrageous statement by Patrick Lynch and the PBA. I think what Commissioner O'Neill did.

And it was -- you could tell was a very painful decision for him. But he followed the law. And at the end of the day, what you want are public officials who live up to the oath they take. They take an oath to follow the laws of the state of New York and the Constitution of the United States.

And that's what Commissioner O'Neill, that's what Commissioner Maldonado, that's what First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker have said, that they believe, looking at the evidence, that there was a violation of the regulations, a person died, and the punishment is what happened.

And so I think it's a wholly appropriate that he be terminated. He would be a risk out there on the streets. And in any event, you could never trust him to do effective policing again.

And for the union to say it's a terrible day in the city of New York, it's just the opposite. It's a day when we celebrate the fact that public officials still have some integrity to do the right thing.

BALDWIN: Jonathan Moore, thank you very much.

MOORE: All right.


BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.

Now to this. In less than 24 hours, the city of El Paso and Dayton were shattered after two gunmen opened fire and killed 32 people. And in the days after, as frustration and angry Americans demanded change, President Trump signaled he was open to various reforms, including expanding background checks.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important. I don't want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people.

I don't want -- I'm all in favor of it.


BALDWIN: Now, at one point, the president even said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was, in Trump's words, totally on board.

But, yesterday, there appeared to be a change in tone.


TRUMP: Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas, and they will come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I will look at it very strongly, but just remember we already have a lot of background checks. OK?


BALDWIN: Trump who said recently he would uphold the Second Amendment, once again pointed to mental health as a factor in gun violence.

And experts say that stigmatizes mental illness, and all of that as local police in three states, along with the FBI, announced that another round of shootings may have been prevented. They say these three men allegedly expressed interest in or threatened to carry out mass shootings, two of the men making their threats on Facebook and Instagram, while the third sent his in a series of text messages to his ex-girlfriend.


And moments ago, attorneys for the Ohio suspect, shown here on video conference, entered a not guilty plea after he was accused of threatening a Jewish community center.

And for many Americans, racial and ethnic and religious minorities, this toxic mix of hatred and violence that targets their communities in 2019 is really just a reminder of the white supremacist rage that, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, fueled more than 4,000 lynchings of African-Americans between 1877 and 1950.

And John Blake is a senior writer for CNN Digital, and his latest piece is titled "Why El Paso and Other Recent Attacks in the U.S. Are Modern-Day Lynchings."

So, thank you so much, John, for being with me.

And I just -- this was an extraordinary piece that you -- that you wrote. And I can imagine some people are hearing the word lynching and they're immediately dismissing it, right, as something from America's past, and not right now.

But you talked to several experts who say that really at the core of this is this idea that African-Americans and Latinos and Muslims and Jews and others, they all feel that they are not safe anywhere.

JOHN BLAKE, CNN DIGITAL SENIOR WRITER: Yes, that was a defining feature of the lynching era, that if you weren't considered white enough, no matter where you went, no matter where you were in public, even if you were surrounded by law enforcement officials, you could be killed at any minute. And I have relatives who grew up in the lynching era. And it struck

me that a lot of the fears that people now express, like Spanish, Latino people saying, I don't feel comfortable speaking Spanish.

BALDWIN: Speaking Spanish in public.

BLAKE: That's exactly how a lot of people felt in the lynching era.

You felt like, wherever you went, you could get killed by random violent terror.

BALDWIN: You go on in your piece, and you draw these three parallels between the racist violence we see today and that from decades ago.

So you begin with the first. Both are driven by the same fear. How do you mean?

BLAKE: Well, you had in the lynching, like in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, you had all these tremendous demographic and political changes in the United States.

And a lot of white supremacists were very alarmed by that. They were -- for example, you had Reconstruction in late 19th century, where you saw blacks gaining all this political power. So some white supremacists felt that the only way that you could gain back that power was through violence and through terror.

And the sad fact is that they were right. That's how they did regain power through groups like the KKK. So you have those fears of demographic changes, political changes then and now. You have political leaders at the top who either ignored it or used dehumanizing rhetoric to kind of render people as subhuman, that made lynchings even more possible.

You even had a president in the White House during the lynching era who was considered very races who said things that some people thought encouraged the violence.


BALDWIN: That was Woodrow Wilson.

BLAKE: Correct.

BALDWIN: And as you go through these parallels of the then and the now, it was how you ended your whole piece.


BALDWIN: I mean, listen, I'm a Nina Simone fan.

BLAKE: Right.

BALDWIN: And, of course, we all know about those four little black girls in Birmingham, right?

So you close your column with the lyrics from "Mississippi Goddam."

And I just want to play part of that now.



BALDWIN: Why did you include that, John?

BLAKE: Well, when I saw that on Twitter, I thought that was so tragic, that so many Americans, nonwhite Americans, Muslims, Jews, all sorts of people, still feel the same way that Nina Simone felt in 1964.

BALDWIN: John Blake, thank you for your piece. You know, we were tweeting earlier this morning. And I just really appreciate you. Thank you very much.

BLAKE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: The White House doubles down on its claims that China is bearing the full cost of tariffs. But that is not what CNN is hearing from farmers in the Midwest.

Plus, a mother of three detained in those ICE raids in Mississippi is still in custody, despite the fact that she is breast-feeding a 4- month-old baby. So we will talk to her attorney live.

And a rare apology from a politician today. Hear what Senator Elizabeth Warren told a Native American forum earlier this morning.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

This just in on the money front. The president's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, will hold a series of calls this week with business leaders and local government officials to discuss the economy.

And it's happening is President Trump tries to downplay fears of a coming recession. For one prominent group of economists, the question is not if, but when.

The National Association of Business Economics just released its survey of more than 200 economists and found 86 percent say a recession is going to hit, just not in 2019; 38 percent say it'll happen next year; 34 percent say it'll happen in 2021. So that's post-election. And 14 percent say it'll hit after that.

And the worry here about a recession isn't the only economic issue the White House is really in denial about. The president and his allies insists the brunt of the president's trade war tariffs land on China, despite farmers, so many farmers in this country saying otherwise.


I want you to watch this clip. This is Trump's trade adviser, Peter Navarro, hearing a sound bite from a farmer, and then it's his response.


GARY WERTISH, PRESIDENT, MINNESOTA FARMERS UNION: Words and Twitters and tweets, that doesn't -- that doesn't pay the farmers' bills. That doesn't solve the problem we're dealing with.

And this one -- like I said earlier, this one's self-inflicted by our president. And we definitely agreed with him at the beginning. But we -- it doesn't appear that there's a plan B.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: These are people on the front lines, and they're saying the trade war is directly hurting them, and China is not bearing all the burden of this; they are bearing the burden of this.


First of all, this president has the backs of farmers. And all the money we're taking in our tariffs, a lot of that is going right to the farmers to keep us whole.

Let's make no mistake about it. China is targeting those farmers to buckle our knees.


BALDWIN: CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is the one who interviewed the farmer you just saw.

You just spent your last week really in the Midwest talking to these farmers, not just Gary, but several others. And so what was the sense you got from them? Would they say they feel like Trump and this administration has their backs?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: The farmers I spoke to in Minnesota would say, no, they do not feel like this administration, the secretary of agriculture have their backs.

They feel like this administration is really out of touch with what's going on with these farmers on the ground. They feel like they don't really have a sense of the pain that they're really dealing with, financial pain.

I have spoken to other farmers around the country who do still support the president, who do still want to wait out this trade war. But the farmers I spoke to in Minnesota have lost their patience completely.

And one of the things that really bothers them is words vs. actions. They don't like it when the president and the secretary of agriculture calls them patriots, that says that they are going to be winning, because, in their minds, these farmers say they're really losing.

And so when they hear things like that, and they see tweets like that, it really upsets them, because, at the end of the day, they're the ones on the ground looking at their bank accounts and saying, hey, we're not making ends meet. And, in their minds, that is why there's this big disconnect between what the president is saying and how they're really feeling.

BALDWIN: So, on the disconnect, I would be curious what your thoughts would be on what the farmer would say back to the White House trade adviser about China bearing the brunt of these tariffs.


So Gary there would probably say, you're wrong, that's not correct. We're bearing the brunt of these tariffs, because when China retaliates with tariffs, it's their signal that they're either going to not buy as much pork, as much wheat, as much corn, as much soy, or they're going to stop buying completely, which is what China has said they're going to do.

And take a look at those numbers right there. In the past five years, there's a loss of about $15 billion in U.S. exports of ag products. And then you see that, last year, 2017 to 2018, when the trade war started, there was a clean drop-off.

BALDWIN: Look at that.

YURKEVICH: And then when you have China threatening not to buy anything, that number is going to go down to zero.

And the thing that's really important for farmers I spoke with is, they're saying, we're not going to get that market back. It's gone. That disparity is way too big at this point to get it back. And that is leaving the United States ultimately without a major trading partner.

And they at this point are thinking, where do we turn? They don't know.

BALDWIN: I am so glad you were in Minnesota hearing from these farmers.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much for all the work you're doing.

YURKEVICH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We are still following the fallout from those mass immigration raids in Mississippi. And even though many of the people detained has since been released for monitoring, there is one woman we need to talk about, a mother who is still breast-feeding her 4-month-old baby.

She is still in custody. Her lawyer joins me live next.



BALDWIN: ICE is defending the detention of a mother who's breast- feeding.

Maria Domingo-Garcia is a Guatemalan mother of three young children, including a 4-month-old baby, who she hasn't been able to nurse in almost two weeks ever since agents arrested her as part of that massive sting operation in Mississippi.

She was among some 680 undocumented immigrants detained in those raids at food processing plants across the state. And this entire ordeal has just devastated her family, especially her husband, who is now the main caretaker for their kids as he waits for his wife to come.

And he talked to a local media outlet through a priest about what life is like for them right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So his life has changed completely because he has to work some hours in the morning.

Ah, OK. And there is a lady who's taking care of the children while he's working at least six hours.


BALDWIN: And that there is the little baby.

Ray Ybarra Maldonado is the attorney representing Ms. Domingo-Garcia.

So, Ray, thank you so much for joining me today.

RAY YBARRA MALDONADO, ATTORNEY: No, Brooke, thanks so much for having me on.

Hearing that the screaming of that baby just puts it all back in into my mind.

BALDWIN: It does.

MALDONADO: It's horrible tragedy, what they're going through.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about it.

I mean, I know that you have met with her, this mom, where she's being detained. Can you just tell us how she is and how her family is getting through all of this?


She's being detained in Jena, Louisiana, which is about a four-hour drive from where they were living at in Mississippi. And the first time I met her, you know, about a week ago