Return to Transcripts main page


John Bolton's Explosive Claims; Decision on Charges in Rayshard Brooks Death. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Let's go to that Wendy's to Dianne.

And, Dianne, what are folks telling you? What are the emotions they're sharing?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Brooke, I think it's kind of what Ryan was describing there.

There is this collective, like, breath-holding that's been happening in Atlanta over the past few days, since district attorney Paul Howard announced that he thought he would be coming to a decision by about midweek, saying that Wednesday would be the earliest that he would make a decision charges.

A lot of people here in Atlanta simply heard, I'm going to make a decision on Wednesday, and they have been waiting since this morning to hear from that district attorney. He talked about those three potential charges that he was considering, murder, felony murder, and voluntary manslaughter.

I have been speaking to people. And I will step out of the way and let you see what's going on. This particular protest was actually happening and scheduled before they heard that this was going to take place at 3:00 today.

So they were out here, as they have been every single day. I have been out here for days now. They have been gathering here in this parking lot, not just to demand justice, but also to reflect on what is currently happening across the country and here in Atlanta.

My producer, Pamela Kirkland, a man was sitting here, she said, who just sat there and sobbed for about 10 minutes as he looked at the memorial that had been put in place for Rayshard Brooks. And a lot of the people that we have spoken with say, this isn't just about Rayshard. We want justice for him and his family. But this is about being black in America, and this is so much bigger than that.

And so they have been listening to officials here in Atlanta. Now they're waiting to see whether or not they're essentially going to put their money where their mouth is. Now, I also have talked with the police union. And the police union has said that, if charges are announced today, Brooke, they feel that it is, at best, premature, at worst, political.

The union representative who will represent those officers if they are in fact charged today said that they don't believe that -- they don't believe that those two officers have received due process. They don't believe that a full investigation, which they deserve, has been done at this point.

And they kind of attacked district attorney Howard and even Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, saying that they were more concerned with politics than due process.

But people here at this Wendy's who have been coming out every day, people who have been marching in the streets, morning, noon and night for almost three weeks now in Atlanta, say that they feel like, unless they get justice, Atlanta is not going to get peace. They're going to keep marching in the streets.

And I want to be very clear that it has been overwhelmingly peaceful in Atlanta for those three weeks. There were a few nights, a few hours of those nights. And you can see behind me the result of that, where things got out of hand.

But, for the most part, people have been marching, they have been demonstrating, they have been posting up in front of the capitol, in front of the district attorney's office , in front of the federal buildings to make sure that they are heard. And that's going to continue no matter what the charges are.

They're still going to be in the streets. Every single demonstrator I have spoken with has said, we're not giving up. We're going to stay in the streets until we get justice, because justice isn't just for racial Rayshard. Justice, they want for all of the people who live in Atlanta, especially the black and brown men and women who live here.

BALDWIN: And, of course, one piece of this is the charges. The other is a conviction.

Dianne, thank you so much. And we will come back to you for reaction from folks in the community as soon as we get the news coming down from the DA, Paul Howard.

So let's go straight to CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates.

And, Laura, help us -- put this in perspective, before we watch the DA. I mean, isn't this ultimately about the threat, the immediate threat that Rayshard Brooks posed these officers and also the Taser?


And, of course, we know -- we have seen the video. We know the confrontation was far longer than the moment from the struggle ensued until he ran away and shots were fired. But from the DA's perspective, they're going to look at the moment in time that the struggle really began and whether or not the officer shooting was justified.

Now, to do that, they had to look at not only Georgia law, but also the officer's police manual. Georgia law obviously takes precedence. And what it normally -- what it actually says is, you can use lethal force if you believe, essentially, that lethal force may be used against you or somebody else, and you are in reasonable fear of harm.

Now, when we talk about reasonableness -- this is why this is a difficult case for the DA to come to a conclusion on -- it really is a subjective interpretation by the officer. And so that's where the police manual comes in and why the police unions, as Dianne and Ryan were speaking about, have had a lot to say about this issue, about what he should or should not have done.

But, ultimately, remember, totality of circumstances matters here. They were aware he did not have a weapon. They patted him down. They knew who he was, had his license. They also knew that he was in some form or fashion intoxicated.

All of these things should go to the officer's ability to make an assessment about the person's lethal threat. And, finally, they know full well that it was a Taser. It was bright yellow and shiny. It was not a gun that he was holding. And it had been discharged at some point and a distance away.


So all this comes into play. Did the officer react because he believed lethal force or because he thought he could not catch up to the person? Obviously, the latter is no reason to shoot.

BALDWIN: Laura, stay with me.

I want to bring in another voice, Joey Jackson, CNN legal analyst.

And, Joey, what will you be listening for here?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, a few things are going to go into the analysis, Brooke. (AUDIO GAP)

The first is, they're going to look and examine, was the officer in immediate fear of his life or serious physical injury? Very critical point.

Number two, they're going to assess whether the force the officer used, deadly force, was proportionate to the threat that the officer was posed at the time. Some would suggest there was no threat at all, inasmuch as the Taser was already discharged. You get one discharge, and then you saw Rayshard Brooks start to run.

What was the necessity of using force? The third issue is reasonableness. The reasonableness turns on the reasonableness of an officer in the position right then and there.

Understand this also, Brooke. The analysis that the prosecutor is going to use is really twofold, right, in addition to what I just mentioned, right? Number one is going to be, is there a reason to believe that a crime occurred here? Number two is going to be whether or not they believe they (AUDIO GAP) their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, a prosecutor may just (AUDIO GAP) the fact, the evidence, and the circumstances and saying, if it's a close question, let's bring it to a jury.

And we know there can be healthy debate on all three elements I mentioned, the immediate threat to the officer. Let's allow a jury to make that determination (AUDIO GAP) force, let's allow the jury to make that determination.

And the reasonableness or lack thereof, a jury can decide that too, keeping up with (AUDIO GAP) Laura said, her excellent points, with respect to them knowing, look, he wasn't armed, with the exception of the Taser, which is not a deadly weapon. They patted him. There was no gun. You know you have his license. You have the car.

He's going to come back at some point. Was it really necessary to take his life? And so that is the assessment they're making to determine, finally, what charge, if any, should apply, and whether or not both officers (AUDIO GAP) should have charges leveled against them at this point.

BALDWIN: OK. Joey, I appreciate it. Let's work on your Wi-Fi signal so I can hear a little bit more from you. Your analysis is really important. I was trying to hang on your every word.

I want to get just a police perspective.

So we have the former police chief DeKalb County, Georgia, Cedric Alexander. He also served on President Obama's Task Force on Policing.

And, Chief, I -- watching you this weekend, and you had initially said this shooting might be lawful, but awful, or something to that effect. Do you stand by that after several days now of analysis?


And here's the thing. At the end of this, we're going to get a determination here today from the DA, who's going to analyze everything. He's going to analyze the law. He's going to analyze the physical evidence that's put in front of him. He's going to analyze witness statements.

And there's going to be a variety of other information that's going to come into play here. This is one of those things where sometimes it may be written into law that things are lawful, but did we really have to go to the extreme in which we did and decisions that we make?

Now, another, this -- is some of this going to come off as being training issues? How do we begin to think about how we train, the type of calls we respond to? How do we respond to those goals? And I think this decision here today is really going to -- whatever this decision is made, training, as we know it today, in how we think about use of force today, very well may change in terms of how we train and how policies are written. BALDWIN: So I'm really very anxious here to see what the -- how the

DA will describe.

And then that's just the first part of this, and then we will see what comes afterwards. But this is just one of those situations where there are a lot of times decisions that we can make. And I have said this right from the beginning, Brooke, is that, could we just have allowed him to have someone pick him up?

Is it always necessary to make an arrest?


BALDWIN: Pick him up meaning -- forgive me for jumping in, but meaning they had his plates. They could have tracked him down, right?

ALEXANDER: They had them. They could have tracked him down.


BALDWIN: He was running off. They could have him tracked him down.

ALEXANDER: They could have done that. But even before it got to that point, he could have had his sister come and pick him up. And if he was close by, the officers could have dropped him off, so forth and so on.

But those are the things, hopefully, we will learn from this tragic situation. And -- but the officers who made the decision to shoot, he now may have to be the one to articulate to a court, to a system. And due process will take place as to why he took the action that he did.


BALDWIN: I want to come back to you, because we will chat after we hear from the DA on any of these charges that he may bring forward.

Cheryl Dorsey, retired L.A. police sergeant, what are you thinking here ahead of this?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, listen, murder is much, much worse than just being awful.

Let me tell you, from a police officer'S perspective, what was going on in this young man's mind, that Mr. Brooks was getting the best of him physically. The officer articulated, I'm going to Tase you. And Mr. Brooks was like, no, you're not.

He took his Taser and he ran. And those officers knew that they were going to be ribbed from now on. They will forever be known as the guys who let the suspect, a drunk, get your Taser and take off with it. And so he wasn't going to let that happen. This was punishment, Brooke.

This was what I say about contempt of cop. You piss an officer off, and there's a price to pay. The officer said in his own words, "He took my F-ing Taser." He said it twice. And then when he couldn't catch him, he shot him in the back twice.

And we saw him take a victory lap after he did that more than awful thing, because the officer said: "I got him. I got him."

This was punishment. They had so many other things that they could have done, so many other alternatives. As a patrol officer and a patrol supervisor for 20 years, they could have set up a perimeter. They could have requested an air unit. They could have directed units in the direction that he was traveling, provided his description and path of travel.

They had his car, they had his driver's license. They knew exactly who he was. There was no exigent circumstance. There was no immediate defense of life. A Taser is nonlethal when it's used by an officer, and it's nonlethal when it's taken from an officer.

BALDWIN: Yes. No, I'm listening to you so, so carefully.

I was reading part of -- Cheryl, thank you.

Laura Coates, this is for you. And I think you alluded to this a second ago. I was reading part of the Atlanta police policy manual, which was -- just happened to be updated as recently as last week. And this is this is worth listening to.

It says that an officer can use deadly force when -- quote -- "He or she reasonably believes that the suspect possesses a deadly weapon or any object, device or instrument which, when used defensively against a person is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury, and when he or she reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of serious bodily injury to the officer or others."

So, help explain this. And as it pertains to -- because I know the huge point here is, was the officer's response proportionate?

COATES: Well, this is exactly what the prosecutor is going to have to look at.

Let me tell you, from being a former prosecutor, when you're talking about the potential for a conviction, the last thing you want is to have the nuances involved that you're describing, Brooke, and the statute.

When you have to look and comb through and say, who -- was there some basis, some reasonable basis this officer to act the way you did? Guess what? If there are doubts in the mind of the prosecutor or a close examination, guess what might happen to your jury?

So this is a consideration for the DA. But, ultimately speaking, the fact that it was a Taser, it was not a gun, yes, that's correct. However, because the language of that particular police manual, which, again, does not override Georgia law, does not override Georgia law, is one of the reasons why you will have to look at the reasonableness of the officer. Could this person have used a deadly weapon or object? A Taser is an

object. Does it have the potential to cause harm to the people in the immediate area or the officers? Well, it was already discharged against the officer. So, the officer was not an immediate threat of harm.

And we were in a parking lot where there were cars in the drive- through. So we didn't see in the video surveillance people who were outside of their cars who were in the direct path of Mr. Brooks when he was running to assess whether or not somebody could immediately be Tased by a Taser that had already been discharged.

And so you have to go all this calculus. Now, of course, we're looking at it in hindsight. One of the things that officers have often used as a protection to get the benefit of the doubt is the phrase split- second decisions. They're forced to make split-second decisions all the time.

And so while we're considering the holistic calculus here, what the prosecutor will look to is whether or not he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt or even charge a crime, when you have a split-second decision to assess all of what I mentioned, compared to what a jury could in hindsight.

Having said that, though, the analysis of Cheryl is so on point about the fact that lethal force has always been intended to be used as a last resort, not a knee-jerk reaction, not as retaliation. And so, if retaliation or knee-jerk was the reason and motivation, you have a crime.

Otherwise, you have a debate that the prosecutor has to resolve.

BALDWIN: Laura, stand by. Everyone, stand by.

Again, if you're just joining us, we are waiting for news. That is an empty podium. We're about to see the district attorney of Fulton County -- that's Atlanta, Georgia -- making a decision charges involving those officers involved in Rayshard Brooks' death over this past weekend.


Do not move. Quick break.

You're watching CNN. We're back in just a moment.


BALDWIN: We're back with even more breaking news on this Wednesday afternoon.

Again, quick peek, live look inside the Fulton County courthouse there in Atlanta, waiting to hear from the DA on possible charges in the Rayshard Brooks' killing over the weekend.

But let me pivot to the White House, because we are just now getting breaking news. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton is making explosive claims about President Trump in his new book, "The Room Where It Happened."


This as excerpts from the book are released just days before its scheduled release and just one day after the administration filed a lawsuit to block its release.

So, "The New York Times" is reporting that, in this book, Bolton says House lawmakers missed opportunities in their impeachment inquiry, and that they should have investigated the president for trying multiple times to intervene in law enforcement matters for political reasons.

So, to our chief White House correspondent we go, Jim Acosta.

And Jim, you tell me, what are what are some of the biggest claims that Bolton's making of this book?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are some huge claims in this book, Brooke. And, obviously, the president is trying to stop it. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit to try to block its publication. That's not going to work out.

The book is coming out. Bolton's already releasing excerpts of it. And we're seeing excerpts being reported on "The New York Times" "Washington Post," but I want to call your attention, Brooke, to an op-ed that John Bolton, the former national security adviser, has in "The Wall Street Journal."

Yes, "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," they all detail some of the excerpts from the book that are quite shocking, really. But in "The Wall Street Journal" in this op-ed, Bolton delves into some of the concerns he's had about the president's China policy.

And he talks about some of the exchanges that the president has had with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, over the years that raised alarm bells for him. And I'm just going to tell you, there are a couple of things in here, according to the national security adviser, we have to say flatly these are his claims.

They have not been checked with the White House at this point, but this is what the former national security adviser is saying in this book, according to an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" written by John Bolton.

He says that in a conversation that the president had with Xi Jinping, at one point, Xi Jinping said to the president that the U.S. had too many elections, because he didn't want to switch away from President Trump. And then, at one point, the president said that he has heard from people that there are too many elections in the U.S. and that perhaps he should be allowed to serve beyond two terms in office.

And as this conversation was going back and forth, according to John Bolton, the former national security adviser, the president turned to Xi, and essentially asked the Chinese leader for help in the 2020 election.

Now, why is this significant? It is significant because the president of the United States was impeached by the House of Representatives earlier this year for seeking foreign help, in that case, from Ukraine in the 2020 election.

And, at that time, as you know, Brooke, John Bolton was hotly sought after as a witness during that impeachment inquiry. He did not go up and testify. There was a whole back and forth between the administration and Congress as to whether Bolton and other top aides could testify. He ultimately did not testify.

But this book is going to allege, when it comes out next week, on June 23, that the president sought help from China in the 2020 election. And we can talk about this all day long, Brooke. Obviously, there was that moment on the South Lawn of the White House when the president said out loud that he not only wanted Ukraine's help, he wanted China's help in the 2020 election.

That was parsed over so many times. We did this throughout the entire impeachment saga. But it seems one of the reasons why the White House is so very much concerned about this book coming out is because it details some very explosive allegations.

And, of course, there are many Bolton critics out there who are saying that all of the press coverage, and the White House even playing into this press coverage by trying to block the book, all of this is just going to serve to sell John Bolton's book, which is doing very well right now, if you look at the chart on Amazon.

But I think if you boil everything down, Brooke, the most stunning observation that I have been able to make, looking at these excerpts, is that the president at one point, according to this op-ed, stunningly turned the conversation to the upcoming U.S. presidential election, pleading with Xi to ensure he would win.

Now, Brooke, it does not get any more stunning than that when you talk about what the president has been accused of doing in the 2016 campaign. He will say, the Russia investigation, it all added up to nothing. Then there was the Ukraine investigation, in which he was caught in a transcript, the rough transcript of the phone conversation that he had with the president of Ukraine, President Zelensky, in which he asked for a favor.

And now here is yet another example cited by the former National Security Adviser John Bolton in his book, "The Room Where It Happened," where he alleges that the president sought Xi's helped in the 2020 election, stunning stuff, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let me just stay with you, Jim, because just to underscore, looking at this "Wall Street Journal" piece that John Bolton wrote, to me, the key line: "I, John Bolton, am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations," Jim.

[15:25:00] ACOSTA: That's right.

And that is one of the, I guess, most damning quotes in the Bolton book, no question about it. But one of the things that John Bolton says -- and this is laid out, I believe, in "The New York Times" treatment of the Bolton book that came out this afternoon, is that Bolton believes that the House impeachment managers -- and they're going to -- they're going to be upset when they hear this.

And, obviously, they're going to disagree with this. But Bolton's claim is that the House impeachment managers on the Democratic side committed malpractice, in that they narrowed their investigation to Ukraine and they should have been looking at other things that the president was up to.

Now, I will tell you, and we have reported on this, I have talked to Trump advisers who have said -- and they have said this jokingly -- that the president has done worse things than what happened with Ukraine. They write off what was said in that transcript as just the president sort of pining out loud, that sort of thing.

But we have a pattern here, Brooke. Remember,back in the 2016 campaign, he asked for the Russians to find Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Then, with Ukraine, he is seeking help from President Zelensky. That's captured in a summary, rough transcript of that phone conversation.

And here you have the national security adviser saying that he sought help from China in the 2020 election. So, there's obviously a pattern here. The White House is going to say it's all nonsense. And the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, was asked about the book during the briefing just a short while ago and said that this book contains classified information, it shouldn't come out.

But there are some very damning, explosive allegations coming out in this book, no question about it.

BALDWIN: Senate Republicans voted not to hear this information, A. B, one obvious question, though, is obviously John Bolton was in the job for a handful of months. Why didn't he speak out earlier?

Stand by, Jim.

ACOSTA: That is a big question.

BALDWIN: Let me bring in our CNN -- right -- CNN national security correspondent Vivian Salama.

Vivian, what more do you have to add to the conversation?

VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, Brooke, the relationship between President Trump and Ambassador Bolton was bumpy from the start.

Keep in mind that Bolton was actually a potential national security adviser from the very beginning. He had put his hand up and expressed interest in taking the role. But the president had actually turned him down early on.

And so, when the opportunity came, when H.R. McMaster left, Bolton was there. At that point, there had been a lot of bumps in the road for the administration. And so the number of people who had expressed interest in the job had begun to wane.

But John Bolton, having been someone who has a long career in public service, knows the government, knows how it works, knows the interagency process, which is very important for the NSC, he said that he would be willing to take on the challenges.

Now, from my conversations with him and even his public statements, he always had disagreements with President Trump, even before he went into the White House, as far as his views on warmer ties with Russia, any kind of trusting relationship with Beijing, and a number of other things. He was very skeptical about trying to forge any kind of peace deal with North Korea.

He's very, very much wanted to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord, which is something that...


BALDWIN: Hang on one second, Vivian.

We have got to go to Atlanta to the district attorney in Fulton County. Let's go.

PAUL HOWARD, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Before we started today, I wanted to acknowledge Mrs. Miller, who is the husband of Rayshard Brooks. She is here today with her attorney.

And after we make our presentation, she is going to make some remarks or Mr. Stewart.

We also have with us today three witnesses from West Memphis, Tennessee. And they are here with their lawyer, Sean Williams (ph). And we are also going to ask Mr. Williams to address you as well.

So, we have decided to issue warrants in this case today. I have with me copies of the warrants. And after my presentation, we will let you know how you can get copies of the warrants today.

So, the question is asked, why were we able to charge this case now? So, I want to explain