Return to Transcripts main page


Officer Fired in Garner Case; Three Mass Shootings Thwarted; GOP Memo to Downplay White Nationalism; Survey of Economists on Recession; Trump Upset with Fox. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:19] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

And we are begin with breaking news.

Daniel Pantaleo, the New York police officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner has been fired. This was a decision that was just announced by the New York Police Commissioner James O'Neal. This was moments ago. This comes, though, after five years, more than five years, after police tried to arrest the 43-year-old father of six for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.


JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: A man with a family lost his life. And that is an irreversible tragedy. And a hard-working 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 a 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 a New York City police officer.


KEILAR: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is following all of the developments, as is our Brynn Gingras, who is there at the -- there at what was just this press conference that we saw.

And, Shimon, I think one of the things is that we were expecting this, where he said that he agreed with this police judge basically who recommended that he be fired. But hearing the police commissioner describe his rational and also what he thought police officers would think about this, it was incredibly insightful and I think some people are going to take issue with what they heard.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Absolutely. People are going to take issue with what he heard. And you have to understand, the police commissioner here, James O'Neill, is someone who has been a police officer, was a police officer for 34 years. He wore a uniform. He patrolled in the streets of the Bronx. He knows this city well. He has a unique relationship with many of the police officers at the NYPD because he himself was a cop for so many years. And he just went through the ranks and became the police commissioner.

So what he is doing here is he's talking to really the members of the NYPD. As much as this is for us and for the community, but he is also very concerned about what the rank and file is going to think of this decision. And I know, as does Brynn, who's been talking to sources and police officers, no one on the NYPD, the rank and file certainly, they're not happy with this decision. And he is concerned about what effect that will have on their every day jobs. So that's what we're seeing here from the police commissioner.

He talked about his 34-years of service. He talked about that he does not take any pleasure -- right, he says, I know that many will disagree with this decision and that is their right. He's talking to the police officers, the people who serve this city and the people who work for him. And he says, you know, he goes on to say, there are absolutely no victors here. Not the Garner family, not the community at large and not the courageous men and women of this police department.

So that was, in essence, a big point for him. It was important for him to stand there and take as many questions as we saw. And it was. You know, Brianna, this was a very, very difficult decision for this police commissioner. I know some might disagree with that. This seems kind of clear cut and should have been an easy decision for him. But certainly as we saw there from him, he was emotional at times. This was not an easy decision for him.

KEILAR: Brynn, I wonder if one of the thing that got lost in all of this was that, yes, this was about Daniel Pantaleo's behavior in 2014 when he used a prohibited choke hold, but what are the things that we saw from this 46 page decision from this department investigation that recommended he be fired was that this was also about what the officer told investigators, that he actually told internal affairs that he did not use a chokehold. So she said that he was, quote, untruthful in how he went through this investigation internally.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. And that is something that the police commissioner said he took into account all 46 pages of that report. And really going even before his decision the tick tock of the event that happened on that day from the second -- from the, you know, time before this incident even happened in the area of Staten Island, to the time this this incident went down. Literally almost every, you know, minute that occurred. And then the fact that he said he watched the video over and over and over again and could specifically point out the fact where it went wrong, where Officer Pantaleo was not in the right, which was, of course, the judge's decision.

[13:05:12] But I want to echo for you, Brianna, because, you know, I've been here in the room, I want to echo what Shimon said. I mean this was such a difficult decision. I mean, I can just feel it. You feel it in this room. I mean he was emotional. I was sitting next to the executive staff here with the NYPD. Some of them had their heads down when he actually said those words, that he was going to be terminated. This was a decision the commissioner said that he didn't make within, you know, the last couple of weeks. He said he made it just within the last couple of days, taking into account all that he could but sticking to the facts like, of course, any cop has to do, right?

So, I mean, this was -- this was pretty emotional. Not only just for the commissioner, but you can just tell for the department as a whole.

KEILAR: All right, you guys, stand by for me if you will. I want to bring in Cheryl Dorsey to talk about all of this. She brings a vast perspective, 20 years in the Los Angeles Police Department before she retired as a sergeant, bringing that to this conversation.

What did you think of this decision today, Cheryl?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, you know, this seems to be the final chapter, but we don't know for sure because we don't know if Pantaleo will be given an opportunity to get hired by another job, like Betty Shelby did after she shot and killed Terence Crutcher and Timothy Loehmann after he shot and killed Tamir Rice. And so I understand the angst that the officers are feeling. You know, I'm a street cop and I know that we want our leaders, our chiefs and commissioners to back us. But Pantaleo made a decision. And but for his refusal to let go of that chokehold, we wouldn't be here. And now that he's been proven and demonstrated to be a liar, it's understandable that he can no longer do that job on NYPD or any other police department.

KEILAR: You know, I think, you know, family members of Eric Garner watching that press conference, they aren't going to walk away necessarily feeling good about this because, to them, they've lost their loved one and they don't really feel like even someone being fired is enough of a response to the fact that Eric Garner is dead.

What do you say to them?

DORSEY: Well, listen, I understand. I mean, thankfully, something was done, right, because there was a refusal to indict, so there's no criminal penalty for this. But there are really truly no winners.

And this is not going to give the family any closure because while Pantaleo will lose his job, he lives. He gets to go on about his day to day activities with his family and they get to enjoy him in their lives, something that the Garner family has forever lost.

KEILAR: All right, Cheryl, thank you so much. Cheryl Dorsey with us there.

I do want to talk now about three potential mass shooting plots that were stopped by law enforcement. Three young men, one in Ohio, one in Florida, one in Connecticut, and police say that some had the weaponry and all had the desire to try and kill as many people as possible. Let's go to Jessica Schneider. She has the details on all three of

these cases.

What can you tell us.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, in all three of these cases, officers were able to move in and make those arrests after tips from concerned citizens and people close to the defendants. And, in the next few minutes, we're expecting to see 20- year-old James Patrick Reardon's arraignment. That will be happening in Ohio. Now he's charged with threatening to carry out a shooting inside a Jewish community center in Youngstown, Ohio. And police say he made the threats on Instagram. It's in a post where he's allegedly shown firing his gun and labeling himself as the gunman in a potential upcoming shooting at that community center.

Now, it was actually when a police officer was on an unrelated call that a girl approached that officer, showed him the Instagram post, and then set in motion this arrest. And Reardon's Instagram account also allegedly contained anti-Semitic comments and also white nationalist content. He's a self-proclaimed white nationalist. He even attended those rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and he talked there to "National Geographic" in their documentary and he talked about his desire to help build a white homeland.

Then there's the arrest of 22-year-old Brandon Wagshol. He's of Norwalk, Connecticut. He allegedly made mass shooting threats on FaceBook. And it's actually the FBI tip line where he got -- where they got that tip that he was trying to purchase large capacity rifle magazines from out of state. That's when the FBI and local police in Connecticut then launched an investigation and they discovered that Wagshol was buying rifle parts online and then attempting, they say, to build his own rifle. And when they searched his residence, they found a large number of weapons there. They were registered to his father. And Wagshol is now charged with four possessions of illegal possession of large capacity magazines.

[13:10:01] And, finally, there's an arrest in Daytona Beach, Florida. This is 25-year-old Tristan Scott Wix. His ex-girlfriend actually alerted authorities that he had sent her a series of disturbing test messages where he allegedly threatened to commit a mass shooting. And in those messages he said he wanted to open fire on a large crowd of people and that he already had a location in mind. And once police searched his apartment, they found a hunting rifle and also 400 rounds of ammunition. Right now Wix is being held without bond.

But, Brianna, in all of these cases, it was tips that alerted police to the potential danger and the threats from these men. And that's what enabled authorities to move in and thwart any plot before it was launched.


KEILAR: All right, Jessica, thank you so much for walking us through that. And as Republicans feel the pressure from Americans who want Congress

to toughen gun laws in the midst of a spate of mass shootings across the country, House GOP lawmakers are trying to change the subject and falsely blame the left for mass shootings. "The Tampa Bay Times" obtained a memo of talking points put out by the House Republican conference. This instructs members to deflect questions about the role of white nationalism in mass shootings, even though the facts tell us something very different, and so does the director of the FBI, Chris Wray. This is what he told Congress last month.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: And I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we have investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it includes other things as well.


KEILAR: In fact, in the past 10 years, 73 percent of extremist murders have been carried out by right-wing extremists. Only 3 percent by left-leaning extremists. That's according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Let's bring in Steve Contorno. He's the political editor for "The Tampa Bay Times."

You reported on this memo. So, I wonder, Steve, why don't House Republican leaders want the rank and file conceding that white nationalism is at play when facts bear out that obviously it is?

STEVE CONTORNO, POLITICAL EDITOR, "THE TAMPA BAY TIMES": Yes, if you look at the memo, it's pretty clear that the talking points they've put forward is to shift the conversation from white nationalism and the rise in extremism to more of an argument of both sideism (ph). The question is, you know, are you concerned about white -- the rise in shootings by white nationalists? And they acknowledge, you know, that white national is a problem and something that the country needs to face. But then it also shifts to the conversation to, quote, violence from the left and goes on to falsely blame recent shootings like El Paso, as well as one in Colorado, and the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords on leftist extremism.

KEILAR: Let's put -- we actually have a graphic of that, that you just referenced, this quote from the talking points. So this is what it says here exactly what Steve just laid out.

So a spokeswoman for the House Republican Conference told you -- told "The Times" that the El Paso part's a typo, right? That it was supposed to say Dayton.

But, Steve, you point out in your report that, I mean, that aside, this isn't even correct when it comes to Dayton or when it comes to these other events that are referenced here in this defense, in this shift away from white nationalism. Tell us about what you found. CONTORNO: Yes. You know, I think there's an important distinction to

make that someone's personal politics does not necessarily motivate these shootings or these actions. And in the case of what happened in El Paso, there is clear evident that that individual committed that crime because of, you know, his beliefs about anti-immigration and the rhetoric that he was spewing was echoing a lot of, you know, white national sentiments.

But in a lot of these other cases, while there is evidence that someone may have, you know, voted for a Democrat or supported certain politicians, the motivations of the crime are much less clear. And that's certainly the case so far in Dayton, and has been the case as we have investigated incidents in Colorado, in Arizona, and these other ones that have been described to the left in this memo.

KEILAR: Any reaction from the House Republican Conference? You noted in your story that you hadn't gotten one at that point when it went to publish.

CONTORNO: I hadn't received one. And, you know, the story got a lot of traction over the weekend and I haven't heard anything since. You know, the spokesperson for the congressman, Gus Bilracus (ph), who sent out these talking points to his constituents, said, you know, these are -- we are concerned about violence on the left. You know, there are shootings that are going on that are motivated from the left as well and we just want to make sure that that issue has been raised and that's why we decided to share this with ours constituents.

KEILAR: All right, Steve, thank you. Great reporting. We really appreciate it.

Steve Contorno with "The Tampa Bay Times."

CONTORNO: Thank you.

[13:15:00] KEILAR: And as the president downplay fears of a recession, hear directly from economist on what they see happening.

Also, President Trump's former White House communications director says he's working to gather up ex-cabinet officials to speak out on the president's mental state.

And I'll speak live with the only person who showed up to the town hall hosted by Republican Congressman Steve King as calls grow for him to resign.


[13:20:12] KEILAR: President Trump is fresh off his vacation and facing growing concerns over the state of the economy. Appearing to be waging a full on assault on the idea that the U.S. could be headed for a recession.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't see a recession. I mean the world is in a recession right now.

I don't think we're having a recession. We're doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut. And they're loaded up with money. They're buying. I saw the Walmart numbers, they were through the roof just two days ago. That's better than any poll. That's better than any economist.


KEILAR: In addition to a global economic slowdown that's going on, there are other signs of uncertainty, including the bond market, which is blasting out a warning last week when investors became concerned showing a lack of confidence by ditching out a short term bonds for longer term ones.

And there you see the Dow Jones is up right now about 300 points. At this point, it has erased much of last week's big selloff. But there are concerns over the U.S. trade war with China that sent markets plunging on several days in the past few weeks.

With me here to make sense of it all is Ken Simonson. He's a survey analyst at the National Association for Business Economics.

And your new survey numbers show that economists are pretty split about it when you ask them, is a recession likely to hit. Thirty-eight percent say next year. Thirty-four percent say it won't happen until 2021.

So tell us about this lack of consensus, Ken.

KEN SIMONSON, SURVEY ANALYST, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR BUSINESS ECONOMICS: Right, this is a survey of the National Association for Business Economics. The professional group of people who use economics in the workplace every day. And that would probably include you. That -- we do this twice a year. And they have actually gotten more optimistic about the short term.

Back in February, 10 percent thought that there would be a recession this year. Now, only 2 percent. And for 2020, also have gotten a little more optimistic. But for 2021, as you say, there are more who now think we'll see a recession that year. It's 38 percent think it will happen in 2020, 34 percent think it will happen in 2021.

KEILAR: Why are they more optimistic about the near term?

SIMONSON: Well, I think the consumers are indeed in good shape. We've had job growth for a decade now. And that still seems to be quite strong. Inflation is negligible, so people are taking home more and they're able to spend that money. But at the same time, there are real reasons to be cautious or concerned about the outlook. This survey found that people's expectation of the global economic growth path is slowing down. I think generally they expect U.S. economic growth to be slower than it has been. And, in particular, housing is one thing that has really lagging behind.

KEILAR: All right, Ken, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Ken Simonson with us here.

The president's latest conspiracy theory involves his favorite network, Fox News.

Plus, Republican Congressman Steve King holds a town hall meeting in Iowa as he faces calls to resign and only one constituent shows up for it even though she's not a supporter. She's going to tell us about this surreal experience.


[13:28:11] KEILAR: In what appears to be a veiled threat, President Trump is reminding Fox News that he calls the shots after the network comes out with a new poll showing the president in an unfavorable light.

CNN's Chris Cillizza is joining us now.

And, Chris, the president seems to have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Fox. He loves them when they say good things about him, but he condemns them when they don't.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, it's important, I think, Brianna, to remember with Trump exactly what you said, he only has two lenses on the world, for Trump and against Trump. There's no gray area.

So why Fox and why now? Well, they released a poll last week. The number one thing it showed, his approval rating in the low 40s, which, by the way, consistent with all the other polling that's out there.

The second thing it showed is this graphic. Him trailing every major Democratic candidates by somewhere between six and 12 points. That's not something that's going to warm Donald Trump's heart. You know that because before he came back to Washington, he was in New Jersey. Let's go into the next slide that shows his quotes.

OK, quote, Fox is different. No questions about it. I think Fox is making a big mistake. Because, you know, I'm the one that calls the shots in the really big debates. End quote.

Just quick sidebar before we jump to the next one, Brianna. He actually doesn't. He's talking about the general election presidential commission debates, the three mandatory debates during the general election. Donald Trump doesn't call the shots on that.

But, regardless, OK.

KEILAR: Good fact check. All right.

CILLIZZA: Let's -- yes, let's just move on because there's -- he said more. I'm not happy with Fox. I'm certainly happy I think Sean Hannity, Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, Laura, Jesse Watters and Jeanine Pirro. Look, why is he happy with these people? Because all they do is say nice things about him, right? But there are elements still at Fox that offer what I would call neutral observations about Donald Trump, including a poll, and he doesn't like that.

Brianna, back to you.

KEILAR: I guess he thinks polls are like earned media or something. But that's not actually how it works, Chris Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: That is not how it works at all, Brianna.

[13:30:02] KEILAR: It is not. Thank you so much, sir.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: So this just in to CNN, in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein's suicide, Attorney General William Barr is removed --