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INSIDE POLITICS

Kurdish Forces Strike Deal With Assad After U.S. Troop Departure; Defense Secretary: We Didn't Sign Up To Fight Turkey; Family Of Texas Woman, Atatiana Jefferson, Killed By Police Calls For Officer's Arrest. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 14, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'll just quickly note that ahead of tomorrow's debate, of course this is a big moment, not just for Joe Biden, but for the two that are flanking him, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And for everybody else, who may not be able to qualify for the November debate, so big moment of course tomorrow night, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Good point MJ, thank you so much. And a programming notice reminder, you can watch tomorrow's big - tomorrow's Democratic Presidential debate right here on CNN 8 p.m. Eastern. Thanks so much for joining me guys.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. A lot of news to cover today, developments in northern Syria, developments in the impeachment inquiry, but we are standing by momentarily for a news conference in Fort Worth Texas.

You see the room right there, the attorney Lee Merritt and the family of a woman who was shot inside her own home early Saturday morning in Fort Worth by police officers who responded to that home, when a neighbor saw a door open and called a non-emergency police number, asked the police to come to that house to see if anything was going on.

A single bullet fired by a police officer, the woman died, and the family is going to speak momentarily with their attorney. CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan is standing by to help us through this, as we wait for this to begin.

Paul, it is a horrific case. Police have released an edited version of the body camera video. The family got a press conference now I assume to demand answers in this case. From what you know so far, what are your thoughts?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: John, I think it's a tough case for the police officer, because in terms of looking at that tape, a police officer has the right to use deadly force when he reasonably believes that serious force or deadly force is going to be used against him.

And in this case, all he knew was there was sort of a vague complaint about an open door at a residence and he walks around it, looks like he's going past a gate of some kind, which might give the person inside the house the thought that somebody was trying to break into the house.

He does not identify himself as a police officer before he opens fire on the occupant of the house. And so, I think the police officer is going to have a real tough time defending himself. And one other thing that really struck me was, just in watching the tape, now we've only seen an edited version of the tape, but - and maybe you know John, I don't know if that window was open, or if she was behind a closed window.

And if she was behind a closed window, I have never seen a case where a police officer fired through a glass window at somebody else in this manner. So it would be highly unusual police behavior.

KING: And to your point about that, never identified as police, did shout show me your hands, show me your hands, and then with two seconds of speaking those words firing a single round. In terms of police procedure, it would seem right there some obvious questions about whether the proper procedure was followed.

CALLAN: Absolutely. The proper procedure would have been to back off, call for backup and be more systematic in entering a premises where somebody was armed. And they really did no exploration as to whether it was actually an owner of the property. And by the way, this is Texas, even if she had a gun in her hand, you have the right to have a gun in your home in Texas and pretty much every other place in the United States.

So that wouldn't automatically give the police the right to shoot you. So there was a lot more investigation required before you could have deadly physical force used. Now listen, we haven't heard all the facts yet, John. There's always the second side to the story, so I'll keep an open mind about it. But from what I've seen so far, this police officer looks like he's got a real problem I think and it's a tragic, tragic case.

KING: This is a tragic case. As we wait for the details, we're going to hear from the attorney and the family momentarily. Paul Callan is going to stand by for us as we wait for that to develop.

In the meantime, we're going to turn to some other news, importantly the chaos in northern Syria. Kurdish forces there striking new deals with the Syrian regime and with Russia. That is a stunning turnabout for the Kurds, but one they say they had no choice but to make after President Trump pulled US forces out of northern Syria, and Turkey then launched a military offensive against the Kurds.

Now there's broad bipartisan outrage here in Washington at the President's decision to abandon a key US ally, but there's also a clear effort by many Republicans to get back on the same page as the President. Senator Lindsey Graham outspoken today on Fox News, listen here, saying there's no doubt in his mind the President will now act to punish Turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The good news is President Trump is going to intervene with the Congress in a way to punish Erdogan unlike any time in Turkey's life. Erdogan misjudged President Trump and sure as hell misjudged me.

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator - yes, go ahead.

GRAHAM: What he's going to see is - he's going to see a United Front that I haven't seen in a long time for Republicans and Democrats working with administration, are kind of come down on him like a ton of bricks, Iranian type sanctions and he deserves it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The Treasury Secretary today though promising slightly less than that. He says that they're watching and waiting, sanctions on Turkey are ready to go, the Treasury Secretary says, whenever the President is ready.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I think you know this is an evolving situation.

[12:05:00]

We are monitoring the situation carefully. As I said, the sanctions are ready to go, we'll be updating the President this morning, and when he makes the decision, will act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Trump defending his decision on Twitter today, criticizing some of those criticizing him, ramping up threats of sanctions as well. But there's still no concrete indication of if and when the President will actually impose them.

Let's get straight to the scene. First more importantly, CNN's Arwa Damon joins us live from the Turkish-Syrian border. Arwa, these new alliances are striking, what's the situation on the ground today?

ARWA DAMON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Pretty chaotic, John, to say the least. There are numerous reports that the Syrian regime's forces are beginning to move north and take over key towns and border areas, as the Turks themselves are saying that no matter what they are going to continue to press forward.

They have approached a number of strategic locations as well, although I have to say the town behind us, that is a key border town inside Syria, has been relatively speaking quieter today than it was in the past.

There are a couple of key things that are going on right now that relate to what unfolded in the last 24 hours. The fact that the Kurds turned to the regime has come as a surprise to some, but it's not entirely unexpected because they never completely severed their ties with the regime and they maintained ties that were growing stronger to Moscow. Turkey also has ties to the Russians, John.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Arwa Damon for us on the border there, it's a striking situation. With me here in studio to share the reporting and their insights, Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal, Paul Cain of The Washington Post and Rear Admiral John Kirby, our CNN military and diplomatic analyst.

I want to apologize to everybody, if we have to go to Fort Worth for this news conference in the middle of the conversation. Admiral, I want to start with you and I want to start with something. The President says he wants to end all endless wars.

You've seen the bipartisan criticism, the outrage that he turned his back on an ally that a few days ago was fighting with us against ISIS and other operations inside northern Syria. I want you to listen to the Defense Secretary right here and I have a question on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The United States first of all doesn't have the forces on hand to stop an invasion of Turkey that is 15,000 strong, if you will, preceded by airstrikes and artillery and mechanized forces.

Got to keep in mind too that, look, we didn't sign up to fight Turkey, a long-standing NATO ally, on behalf of the SDF. Again, this is a terrible situation, we've done everything we can to dissuade them from doing this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A number of questions there, but I want to start with the idea that, yes the size of the US force there is by no means capable of stopping - I need to go straight to Fort Worth Texas, I'm sorry.

S. LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY, ATATIANA JEFFERSON'S FAMILY: The Fort Worth Police Department is basically one of the deadliest police departments in the United States. They're in need of serious systematic reform. We are asking that the federal government comes in, the Department of Justice comes in and takes a heavy a conscious look at the policies and procedures that allow something like this tragedy to happen.

This was a wellness call, it's beyond me to begin to understand what kind of police force response to a wellness call with the equivalent of SWAT. This department and their officers violated not only the rights of Tay Jefferson and her family, but they just made common- sense mistakes.

They passed an open door, they failed to announce themselves, they passed a second open door, they failed to announce themselves. They creeped around the back of the apartment and entered a closed gate. They didn't have probable cause at this point, from what the neighbor told them, to even enter that property.

They began creeping around and it created a deadly situation. The idea that they have blasted images of a firearm across the Internet is obscene. Of course, a family owns a firearm. Of course, firearms are used to protect individuals from predators prowling about their property. That's only common sense.

They created a deadly situation and they responded in the way that is not unique to the city of Fort Worth. In the last six months, they've had ten police officer-involved shootings, seven officer-involved deaths, that's more than most nations for a single city in Texas.

It represents a serious problem that must be addressed. So of course this family is calling for the firing of this officer, that's benign, that's the least we should expect. They're calling for this officer to be vigorously prosecuted, to be appropriately sentenced.

[12:10:00]

That prosecution, the investigation should be handled by someone other than the Fort Worth Police Department, specifically the Department of Justice, the FBI, or worst case scenario, the local sheriff's department, anyone other than the city of Fort Worth was clearly incompetent to investigate itself should be called in.

We expect this to happen immediately. This happened Saturday, why this man is not in handcuffs right now is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community, and it must be addressed.

In a moment you'll hear from Cory Hughes, who is an activist and a member of the Fort Worth community, and then you'll hear directly from the family of Tay Jefferson.

CORY HUGHES, ACTIVIST: Just for the correct spelling of my name, it is CORY, last name Hughes, HUGHES. The reality is I've had the unfortunate responsibility of sitting in front of these cameras and sitting next to families that have lost loved ones by the hand of police officers all too often.

As a member of the community of Fort Worth, as someone who has taken the responsibility to be a voice for my community, I want to set the record straight that we're not looking for a 30-day suspension, we're not looking for a slap on the wrist, we're not looking for what it seems to be status quo is that the people that we hire to serve and protect us, when one of their own violates the community, it seems like they do more of trying to serve and protect their own.

So what we're looking for is for this officer not only to be fired, but we're demanding that this officer be charged as well like the criminal that he is. It's a sad commentary in this day and age that someone could be sitting in their home playing a video game with a family member and not be safe. That when someone calls the police for wellness check, then instead of them checking on how well she is, days later we're here talking about the fact that an officer took her life.

It's unacceptable, we're demanding justice, we're demanding that the mayor and the city officials don't sweep this under the rug, we're not going to allow you to. This life mattered, this life mattered, this family matters and we're demanding justice and we're not going to wait, we demand justice now. Thank you.

MERRITT: All right, the next person we'll hear from is going to be the brother of Atatiana Jefferson, and I'll allow him to introduce himself.

ADARIUS CARR, ATATIANA JEFFERSON'S BROTHER: My name is Adarius Carr, I am currently stationed in San Diego, I served my country for the last 12 years. In that time, I've been trained and taught there are preplanned responses to everything you do. Everything you're trained about, there's a way to do things.

And when you don't do it the way you've been trained or even taught, you have to ask for that. You have been trained, you know better, so you have to answer for that. Not in your command, not in your department, someone comes in, and investigates the whole incident.

Fort Worth PD cannot investigate themselves, US Navy is allowed to do it, they should not do well (ph). This man murdered someone, he should be arrested.

MERRITT: And we want to continue to echo the calls and be clear to this family standing in solidarity that Fort Worth needs to recuse itself from this investigation and they need to bring in an outside agency, they need to make sure this officer is treated like any other criminal suspect in our criminal justice system.

The next person that you're going to hear from is the sister of Amber - I'm sorry, the sister of Tay and her name is Amber.

AMBER CARR, ATATIANA JEFFERSON'S SISTER: I'm Amber Carr.

MERRITT: I actually screwed up this a little bit, I'm sorry.

[12:15:00]

AMBER CARR: OK. Amber Carr, I'm her - one of her older sisters. We're 11 months apart, and we grew up together. The last time I spoke to my sister was last Saturday. She came to the hospital in Plano (ph) recovering from a major heart surgery.

She came - brought me food, she brought me a new cell phone, she talked about how this weekend actually was the weekend that she and my older sister were planning to take the boys to the fair, and asked me whether I wanted that, considering she knew I wasn't going to be able to walk the fair park.

My sister, the relationship she has with my sons is undescribable. Sometimes people think that they are her kids and not mine. She helped Sian (ph) to get ready for school, because my mother wasn't capable of doing it.

She wrote out of schedule so that he could be organized. She helped him understand that he had to be responsible for putting on his clothes, picking out his clothes and getting ready on time to leave for the day. Those were things that my mom did for him, so she helped him become more independent and self-sufficient.

My son, who was there to witness the event, you would think that he would show some type of sadness or emotions. But the first time I actually got to see him and pick him up from a facility for children, the first thing he told me was he was saved. And I asked him, why was he saved, and he told me because the police had killed his - has shot his aunt, and at that time I knew nothing about that.

So he was the one who actually told me what happened. But at this time, he's my motivation and he's my biggest encouragement in the middle of night when I'm crying. He wakes up and tell me to breathe in my nose and out my mouth. He holds me, he hugs me and these are the things I should be doing for him, but he's not reacting in that manner, he's helping me to be strong. And I believe that's because my sister had a big part in it.

MERRITT: The next person that you're going to hear from, she's prepared a statement and I'm going to allow her to come around. Her name is Ashley Carr and she's the older sister.

ASHLEY CARR, ATATIANA JEFFERSON'S SISTER: Good morning everyone. My name is Ashley Carr. I was Atatiana Jefferson's older sister. I'm here to read a statement from the family, so that we can all be on one accord.

An arc of the moral universe is a long one, but it bends towards justice; Martin Luther King. Our family first would like to thank the thousands who called, who sent messages, who reached out via social media, offering words of encouragement and condolences. We appreciate your powerful solitude with us, as we go through this unbelievable time of shock and sorrow.

Secondly, our family would like you to know more about this beautiful soul, Atatiana Jefferson. She was a smart, ambitious, kind person with a nurturing spirit. She was a graduate of Xavier University with a Bachelors of Science degree in mathematics - and I mean that's me - in biology, and was committed to furthering her education.

She was a hard worker, where her co-workers saw her as a person of being of - a person of full integrity. She was loved, she loved her family so much that at the age of 28, she decided to move into our mother's home to help her, as her health was declining. Honor, integrity, commitment and service, these are the attributes of Atatiana Jefferson.

[12:20:00]

Any parent will be proud to call her a daughter, any sibling will be proud to call her a sister, any employer would be proud to call her an employee, any neighborhood would be proud to have her as a neighbor, and any city would be proud to have her as a citizen.

And yet, in the early mornings of October 11, 2019, she was simply going on along with her life, living a law-abiding citizen's peaceful life, and she was killed by reckless act of a Fort Worth police officer.

There's simply no justification for his actions. She was enjoying a life in her home where no one would have expect it to be - her whole life to be in harm's way, especially not at the hands of a civil servant who has taken the oath to serve and protect.

Our family now is asking the city of Fort Worth to exhibit the same characteristics of Atatiana Jefferson, to be honorable when it comes to narrating the memory of this beautiful soul, to have integrity and bring the federal government in to investigate, to be committed to a swift and appropriate prosecution, serve the entire community of Fort Worth by training your officers to execute responses to appropriate situations.

In closing, we demand justice for Atatiana through an independent, fair and transparent process. The family of Atatiana Jefferson and the world eagerly awaits your response to this tragedy. It is imperative that your response bends towards justice. Thank you.

MERRITT: You are next going to hear from--

KING: You've been listening to Ashley Carr, the older sister of Atatiana Jefferson. Atatiana Jefferson gunned down in her own home by a single gunshot fired by a Fort Worth police officer very early Saturday morning; that officer there because a neighbor saw her door open and called a non-emergency number, asking the police to respond just to check on his neighbor.

The family there along with their attorney demanding justice and demanding that the Fort Worth Police Department step aside and allow an independent agency, they would prefer the federal government, if you've been listening with us here, to investigate this.

I want to bring in our CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan. Paul, the first thing that strikes you there, two sisters and a brother speaking, is the pain of the family and the awe in which they held their sister, who was helping care for their mother, also care for one of her sister's children, when this happened, but then to the specifics of their demands of the Fort Worth Police Department.

How does this play out in most circumstances, now you have a police department, they say that not only this tragic incident but they're alleging it has a systemic problem, there have been many of these questions. They want the Fort Worth Police Department, the mayor of Fort Worth to step aside and hand this over preferably to the Justice Department to get the answers.

CALLAN: Well, of course this is not the first time we've seen this sort of thing, John. Sadly there have been so many of these police shootings across the country through the years. I think, with all the crazy politics that's been going on, people have forgotten that this still goes on sadly and tragically.

Now this case is an extraordinarily tragic case. I mean the victim, she was a graduate of Xavier University, she had a great job, she was helping out an elderly person in the family and babysitting for her nephew in essentially her own home, when she's shot by a police officer.

So I mean, the facts of this case are among the worst that I can remember having seen, and I understand why the family wants an independent investigation. And I think in a case like this, it would certainly be warranted to have the Sheriff's Department assume responsibility for the investigation or even the Department of Justice.

If there is a feeling in Washington that this is a civil rights case, they can of course supersede and come in at any time, as they have by the way in other parts of the country, when the circumstances warranted. So we'll have to see how the system responds to the situation.

KING: Paul Callan, I appreciate your insights and raising the right questions. We'll wait now to see what the city of Fort Worth Police Department does. The family I should also note calling they want this officer arrested. The officer obviously is waiting for the procedures of the Department to play out. They want him arrested and prosecuted. We'll continue to follow the case. Paul, appreciate it.

CALLAN: Thank you, John.

KING: We'll be back after a quick break.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. A very rare moment of bipartisanship here in Washington, because of the outrage over the President's decision to pull US troops out of northern Syria, essentially clearing the way for a Turkish military operation against the Kurds, who just days ago were key US allies in northern Syria.

This morning, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, tweeting this after a meeting with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, pleased to have a conversation with Senator Lindsey Graham this morning. Our first order of business was to agree we must have a bipartisan, bicameral joint resolution to overturn the President's dangerous decision in Syria immediately.

Let's bring the conversation in the studio.