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Father and Son Charged with Murder; DOJ Drops Flynn Case; Misinformation about Coronavirus. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired May 8, 2020 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two speeds, stagnant and lightening. And the difference between the two has been the horrific video that was released on Tuesday that allegedly showed the death of Ahmaud Arbery. For the first time in ten weeks, his family says they are now seeing the first steps towards justice.
SAVIDGE (voice over): Nearly two months after the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, two men are now arrested, Gregory McMichael, a former police officer, and his son, Travis, now face murder and aggravated assault charges, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. "The Daily Mail" obtaining photos of the moment they were apprehended.
JASMINE ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S SISTER: We felt a sense of relief. This has been a long (INAUDIBLE). It's been a long time. It feels like it's been a long time. So this day was a tiny point in recovering my brother's case and getting justice for him.
SAVIDGE: Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23rd. Gregory McMichael told police he believed Arbery was responsible for recent break-ins in the area. Something people in the area may have believed as well.
DISPATCHER: And you said someone's breaking into it right now?
CALLER: No, it's all open, it's under construction. And he's running right now. Here he goes right now.
DISPATCHER: OK, what is he doing?
CALLER: He's running down the street.
S. LEE MERRITT, ARBERY FAMILY ATTORNEY: There's nothing that's going to connect Ahmaud, the victim, to any criminal behavior. Certainly nothing that is going to lead to his death. So, as you can imagine, if he entered the property that wasn't his, that was under construction, arguably it's a trespass but nothing that would have warranted a citizen's arrest and certainly not a death sentence.
SAVIDGE: Earlier this week a video posted to a local radio station's website that appears to show the final moments of Arbery's life. You can see Ahmaud Arbery jogging down the street and what appears to be the McMichaels waiting ahead of him. Gregory McMichael claims a struggle ensued over his son's shotgun and then three shots that left Ahmaud Arbery dead.
ARBERY: I believe it was a hate crime.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How so?
ARBERY: It was one black guy and three white guys.
CUOMO: How does that make you feel, that that might have been what took your brother's life?
ARBERY: That his life wasn't respected.
SAVIDGE: The video has sparked outcry nationwide and protests throughout the state of Georgia. Despite police having the video shortly after the shooting, no arrest was made. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is calling for the Department of Justice to investigate the incident and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp applauding investigators for their swift action, adding that justice will be served.
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Earlier this week, I watched the video depicting Mr. Arbery's last moments of life. I can tell you, it's absolutely horrific and Georgians deserve answers.
Thankfully, that district attorney has agreed to allow us to help and do an independent investigation. I have no doubt in my mind that it will be fair.
SAVIDGE: Today is Ahmaud Arbery's 26th birthday, or would have been. And organizers today are encouraging people as they show support to the family and his cause, they're encouraging athletes, runners to go out and run 2.23 miles. That is to denote the date on which he died, February 23rd. They're asking that people post it with pictures or video under the hash tag I run with Maud. Of course, that is the nickname of Ahmaud. And it's just one way that this community is going to show its support.
We should point out, the GBI has a press conference in a little over two hours from now. We should learn more.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I know you'll been covering that, Martin. You've been covering this story so well for us. Thank you so much for being on the ground there.
One of the major questions is, if the police had this video for months, why did it take until now to file these charges? That's one major legal case.
Also, charges dropped against Michael Flynn. Jeffrey Toobin here to break down both these stories, next.
BERMAN: More now on the breaking news overnight.
Gregory and Travis McMichael have been charged with murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was unarmed and allegedly jogging when he was gunned down.
Joining us now, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He's the author of the new book "True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump," which comes out August 4th. No doubt you are writing a new postscript based on the Michael Flynn news. We'll get to that in just a moment.
This news out of Georgia, Jeffrey. The question I have, apparently Martin Savidge reports that police had this videotape which allegedly shows Arbery jogging. We can all see it with our own eyes. They've had this tape for two months. It wasn't until it was publicly released that there was enough pressure for them to press these charges.
What does that tell you?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the question it raises is whether they cared enough about the murder of a black man, apparently by two white people, until there was public pressure, until there was this horrific video. I mean the -- the racial animus, the racial backdrop to this case is so strong and so disturbing. And, you know, yes, it is good that this case has been brought, but the fact that it wasn't brought until there was public pressure and outrage is a cause for concern. If it's a successful prosecution, perhaps all's well that ends well. But the delay is certainly very troubling in light of how completely outrageous the video appears to be.
BERMAN: And we have now seen this video. He appears to be unarmed. He appears to be just out jogging. And he's -- he's shot and killed.
Now, there was an early suggestion in some of the correspondence by law enforcement that maybe it was -- it was allowable within the citizen's arrest guidelines within Georgia.
What about that?
TOOBIN: I -- that -- that is just inconceivable -- inconceivable to me, unless this was some sort of life or death matter.
And the fact that Arbery was unarmed suggests that there was not anything life or death. The use of deadly force to effect a citizen's arrest by two non-police officers seems to me a completely inappropriate legal defense here.
You know, we'll see how the facts play out. But you are not allowed to kill people, unarmed people, in a citizen's arrest under any circumstances that I can think of. BERMAN: He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, too. Not much doubt about
where he might have been hiding a weapon. He seemed to be unarmed there.
Jeffrey, the other major news overnight, the Justice Department dropping its case against Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, saying that the interview with Flynn, where he lied to investigators about a conversation with a Russian ambassador, which he pleaded guilty to twice, they're now saying that that interview was untethered to and unjustified by the counterintelligence investigation into General Flynn.
TOOBIN: I have never heard of the Justice Department doing anything like this, taking a case where you have a sophisticated defendant, represented by highly competent lawyers, who pleads guilty to a crime, and then the Justice Department later on says, never mind, it wasn't a crime in the first place. Just never heard it before.
And, of course, the backdrop to this is that the president, you know, William Barr's boss, has been agitating against this prosecution for months. I don't see any basis for the Justice Department's behavior. I don't see any precedent for it.
And the idea that the president is steering the Justice Department to help his cronies is the unmistakable conclusion that comes out of this case.
BERMAN: And, again, remember, Michael Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to investigators about this. This is how the attorney general responded to that last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the fact remain that he lied?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, you know, people sometimes plead to things that turn out not to be crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What should Americans take way from your actions in the Flynn case today?
BARR: I want to make sure that we restore confidence in the system. There's only one standard of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOOBIN: I mean that -- that just strikes me as a surreal inversion of the facts. When the president agitates for your vindication and you get a deal that, as far as I'm aware, no one in the history of the American legal system has gotten before, that is not equal justice. That is special privileges for the powerful. BERMAN: Now, again, what is being argued is that inside the FBI, they
were getting ready to drop the investigation. They had decided, in fact, to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, the counterintelligence investigation. But when it came to light that he had this conversation with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, they decided to go interview him. William Barr and apparently the DOJ now feels that going in to have that interview was unjustified.
TOOBIN: Well, and the important point to remember here is that there were new facts available. The -- the deputy -- the deputy acting -- the acting attorney general at that point, Sally Yates, had just found out about the intercepts of the phone call between Kislyak and Flynn. So she said, we need to look into this. This is what investigators do when there are new facts and new developments, they go and investigate further.
The idea that that was somehow unjustified, when the attorney general of the United States said this is a very disturbing possibility, it's just -- it just makes no sense to me. I -- I -- I've just never heard anything like this.
BERMAN: And, again, what precedent does it set, Jeffrey?
TOOBIN: This -- the precedent that it sets and, believe me, there are the rest of the Robert Mueller cases out there, George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort. The president is agitating for the Justice Department to get rid of these cases. And they've gotten rid of one so far.
Now, the president always can pardon these people, and he certainly appears to be heading that way. But the idea that the president is out to get the remains of the Mueller investigation is the unmistakable message of what happened here.
BERMAN: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you for being with us. We can't wait to read the book.
TOOBIN: All right, man. Thanks.
BERMAN: All right, misinformation about coronavirus spreading like wildfire. Social media giants struggling to police them.
Details in a live report, next.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: There is new concern this morning over the spread of misinformation about coronavirus. A professionally produced conspiracy video has racked up millions of views this week. It is full of false claims and outright lies and people are falling for it.
CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now with more. A lot of people are falling for it.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Hi, Erica.
Yes, this morning, that video still circulating online. We're living not only through a pandemic but also what experts call an info-demic with false claims about Covid-19 going viral online.
O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Things like FaceBook and YouTube say they are fighting Covid-19 misinformation.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: If someone's spreading something that puts people at imminent risk of physical harm, then we take that down.
O'SULLIVAN: But the sites are struggling to keep up with a flood of conspiracy theories. This week you might have seen friend and family sharing this slickly produced video called "Plandemic." (ph). By the time FaceBook and YouTube took it down, it had millions of views.
ALAN DUKE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, LEAD STORIES: I have not seen a video of this type gain this kind of viral traction so quickly.
O'SULLIVAN: FaceBook said it pulled the video because it claimed wearing masks could make people sick. YouTube said it removed the video because it included medically unsubstantiated diagnostic advice for Covid-19.
But even after the company said Thursday they would remove the video, copies of it still circulated. Online fact checkers like Alan Duke, whose company works with FaceBook, says Covid-19 misinformation is spreading almost as fast as the virus.
O'SULLIVAN (on camera): So the expression, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can gets its boots on really applies here. Is it impossible for fact checkers to keep up with the level of Covid-19 misinformation?
DUKE: You're absolutely right about a lie traveling faster because people want to believe these things and it fits their beliefs, the bubble that they're in, and so they want to share it with their friends like they've got some inside knowledge.
O'SULLIVAN: Why are people pushing misinformation like this? Why do people -- why do people do this?
CLAIRE WARDLE, FIRST DRAFT, DIRECTOR AND DISINFORMATION EXPERT: So some people push misinformation to make money. So it's to sell a health supplement. Some people do this to push a specific political agenda. Some people do this because they just want to see if they can get away with it. But a lot of misinformation is around people's existing world views. So if you already don't trust vaccines, you want other people to take on your beliefs because it makes you feel better. O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Online Covid-19 conspiracy theories have
targeted not just Dr. Anthony Fauci, but philanthropist Bill Gates as well.
DUKE: Just this whole idea that there's this deep state that has brought this Covid-19 crisis to the world in order that they may promote their own interests.
O'SULLIVAN: And as social media companies struggle to keep up with the misinformation, it's more important than ever to think before you share.
WARDLE: If it makes you angry, if it makes you scared, if it makes you smug, if it makes you want to go out and buy something immediately, that emotional impulse means there's probably something about that information that makes it very difficult for you to be critical.
O'SULLIVAN: And new overnight, incredibly, Twitter is telling CNN the video is not in violation of its Covid-19 misinformation policy. Look, we're going to see more --
HILL: We may have just lost Donie's shot. But what he was just saying there, keep in mind, in his piece he told us that FaceBook and YouTube had taken it down, but Twitter is saying that it didn't meet the threshold apparently for -- for misinformation.
It is remarkable, John. It is a -- it's a long video. I had it sent to me by someone earlier this week who I never would suspect would fall for something like this and she sent it and said, hey, I trust you as a journalist, can you look at this and tell me. I think something's off, but I'm not sure.
BERMAN: Look, there's a dual responsibility here. Obviously these platforms need to figure out how to keep this misinformation off. And then we, as consumers, have a responsibility also. You just can't go around believing the schlock that's passed around on social media all the time. You just can't. You have a responsibility to pay attention.
And I will say, if you watch this video, it should be clear. If you've been paying attention to anything the last two months, it should be abundantly clear that it's nonsense.
HILL: It's true. And also, you know, you talk about the responsibility. There's also the responsibility in sharing that, right? And, like, we heard in Donie's piece the woman who was saying, if you get this visceral reaction, then there's a chance that you can't be objective in terms of what you're watching. That visceral reaction, that's why people want to share things. No matter what it is, it's so important to take a minute and step back and just think for a minute before you put that out there.
BERMAN: Yes, use your heads.
Also, these social media platforms, get it right and get it straight. HILL: I agree. I got nothing more to add to that one.
BERMAN: All right.
We're just about 90 minutes away from what will be the worst jobs report ever. The devastating impact of this pandemic on the U.S. economy. We have it covered from every angle, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to go back to normal for a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House is rejecting proposed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, offering recommendations on just how to reopen restaurants, schools or other public spaces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want to get into a situation where public health is set up as the enemy of restarting the economy.
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Earlier this week I watched a video depicting Mr. Arbery's last moments of life. I can tell you, it's absolutely horrific and Georgians deserve answers.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gregory McMichael and his son charged with murder and aggravated assault in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
JASMINE ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S SISTER: I believe it was a hate crime. His life wasn't just taken. This whole situation was senseless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.
Alisyn is off. Erica Hill with me this morning.
Great to have you here.
HILL: Nice to be back with you.
BERMAN: So this morning marks a low point in U.S. economic history. You will see something you have simply never seen before. We are awaiting the release of the April jobs report. It will be the single worst jobs report ever. Economists forecast the U.S. unemployment rate will soar to at least 16 percent and that ten years of job gains are gone, disappeared, in one month. Again, no one has ever seen anything close to this. And we will cover it from every angle. Also this morning, more than 75,000 Americans have now died from
coronavirus. More than 2,000 new deaths over the last 24 hours. Still, 47 states will be partially reopened by Sunday.
Overnight, in a CNN town hall, Dr. Deborah Birx addressed CNN's reporting that the Trump administration is rejecting CDC guidelines on reopening.
She now claims the guidelines will be released after some editing.