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Kamala Harris Meets with Jacob Blake's Family; Authorities Reopen Probe Into Death of Black Women at Party; Disney Under Fire for Its New Film "Mulan"; Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Out of Coma; Prince Harry Repays Cost of Renovating U.K. Residence; Money Raised for Evicted Houston Family. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. It's 30 minutes past the hour. I'm Robyn Curnow here live from the CNN studios in Atlanta.

Social unrest, protests and demands for racial justice remain key talking points just weeks before the U.S. election. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris traveled to Wisconsin on Monday to speak to Jacob Blake and his family about the Kenosha police shooting and its impact on America. Shimon Prokupecz has the story.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Senator Harris visiting Wisconsin on the campaign trail, for the first time met with the Jacob Blake family in Wisconsin and spent about an hour talking to them. And she spoke to Jacob Blake Jr. over the phone. He told her how proud he was of her and she, in turn, told him how proud she was of him for suffering through the pain. And for the first time we hear from Jacob Blake Jr. after he was shot several times by police talking about the pain that he has been enduring.

JACOB BLAKE, SHOT BY POLICE IN WISCONSIN: Every 24 hours his pain, this numbing pain, it hurts to breathe. It hurts to sleep. It hurts to move from side to side. It hurts to eat. Please, I'm telling you, change our lives out there. We can stick together, make some money, make everything easier for our people out there, man. Because it's so much time that has been wasted.

PROKUPECZ: That's Jacob Blake talking from his hospital bed for the first time. His message of unity. Something that the Senator today, Senator Harris, echoed in her meeting with the family telling the family to use their pain to help America progress to end systemic racism.

Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Kenosha Wisconsin.


CURNOW: So, amid the nationwide protests over racial injustice, a case here in Georgia is certainly getting new attention. Authorities have reopened the investigation into a death of a 40-year-old mother of five at a party where she was the only African-American. Lynda Kinkade spoke with the woman's family in this interview.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): With a bathing smile and a sparkling in her eye, Tamla Horsford was a ray of light according to her family. A mother of five boys who put everyone else first.

SUMMER ST. JOUR JONES, TAMLA HORSFORD'S SISTER: Super mom, super mom. She made sure she can provide for them. She was always a type of person that would stand up for the little guy, you know.

KINKADE: Now a tragic death has seen renewed cries for justice in the midst of a nationwide movement.

JONES: It's unfortunate that it has to take other people's heartbreak and other people's loss for the proper attention to be given to this case involving my sister.

KINKADE: In November 2018, Horsford woman went to a friend's sleep over birthday party in a home in North Georgia. The next morning the 40 year old was found in her pajamas unresponsive in the backyard. Until now her family has not spoken out publicly. Their grief still raw as the night Horsford died.

ELIZABETH POTTS, TAMLA HORSFORD'S MOTHER: It's sad for me to talk about her.

KINKADE: The Forsyth County sheriff's office ruled her death an accident, concluding she fell from his second story balcony. An autopsy uncovered a blood alcohol level of .23, nearly 3 times the legal driving limit in Georgia. Traces of Xanax and marijuana were also found.

JONES: Never, never, ever, have I seen my sister become sloppy drunk and incoherent. And so, I doubt that she would pick, you know, a sleep over with people that she was just getting to know to start behaving that way.

KINKADE: The attorney for Horsford's family says despite repeated requests, police never provided any autopsy photos.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says he did not follow procedure. Ralph Fernandez said that's not true.

(on camera): How unusual is it to request autopsy photos and not be given them?

RALPH FERNANDEZ, HORSFORD FAMILY ATTORNEY: It is never happened, but it defies logic.

KINKADE (voice-over): And he claims that's not the issue that defies logic.

FERNANDEZ: The placement of the body, multitude of injuries, what I would consider to be defense although injuries, the inexplicable postmortem bleedings.

KINKADE: The sheriff's office says it conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation. But Fernandez believes that there is a strong possibility Tamla Horsford's death was a homicide.

FERNANDEZ: There were numerous inconsistencies in a series of statements. The disposal of evidence, the relationship between the parties.


KINKADE: Fernandez says the fact that Horsford was the only black person to attend the party, may have played a role in how her death was investigated.

FERNANDEZ: She became a casualty. She is a casualty consistent with what I would say 80 percent of the people that are found of color in places that nobody cares to pursue was before the easiest assessment is reached.

KINKADE: The sheriff's office responded saying detectives investigate each case without bias, no matter who the victim, witnesses or suspects are. Across the U.S. the case sparked a huge petition. With celebrities like Kim Kardashian and 50 Cent also calling attention to the cause.

JONES: I think people are just tired of seeing, you know, loved ones being taken so senselessly.

KINKADE: After the public outcry, Georgia authorities reopen the investigation at the request of the sheriff's office, but the family is not satisfied.

POTTS: We just want justice for the boys. I just want justice.

JONES: We need answers that makes sense. None of this makes sense. Nothing.

KINKADE: Linda Kinkade, CNN.


CURNOW: Still ahead, we'll get the latest on the condition of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny and a look at how Russian media are trying to explain what happened to him.


CURNOW: Well, Disney is under growing pressure to explain why it thanked several of China's Xinjiang government or department in the credits of its new "Mulan" film. The U.S. has accused authorities in Xinjiang of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minority groups. Well, Selina Wang is following the story from Hong Kong for us. Tell us more about this.

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, that's right. Disney is under fire with fresh calls to boycott "Mulan." This is right after this movie becomes available on streaming on Disney+.


Now the controversy is focused on the final credits of "Mulan" that thank several government department bureaus in China's western region of Xinjiang. This is where the United States has accused of detaining up to two million Uyghurs as well as other ethic minorities.

Now China has repeatedly denied those claims. Saying that they are locational centers and part of its counter terrorism efforts. Now parts of the movie were reportedly filmed in Xinjiang. In fact, the production team gave several media interviews where they said they spent months in the region researching potential filming locations.

Now I spoke I spoke to Isaac Stone Fish. He's a senior fellow at the Asia Society. And he told me the following. He said it is, quote, deeply disturbing that Disney thought it was OK to partner with and also thank government departments from a region in China that is complicit with genocide.

The credits also thank the Public Security Bureau of Turpan, this is where researcher Adrian Zenz told us re-education camps have been in place since 2013. Robyn, as you know, China is an incredibly important market for Hollywood. According to PWC in a report released before the COVID pandemic, China was on track this year to overtake America as the world's largest film market. It's incredibly lucrative for Hollywood, but it means these American studios have to make compromises. They have to pass censorship guidelines and compete for a place in a quota system.

I spoke to an expert who told me we are getting dangerously close to a point where American film studios may need to choose to make movies that appeal either to the Chinese market or to the American one as it becomes increasingly difficult to please both.

CURNOW: And just talk us through what this means than for the release of "Mulan." Obviously, it's on Disney with an extra price tag if you want to watch it. Is there going to be repercussions here for that movie in particular and going forward?

WANG: We have reached out to Disney for comment as well as to the ministry of foreign affairs. We haven't heard anything yet. But Disney certainly has a lot of explaining to do. And, Robyn, this isn't the first time this movie has come under pressure. It's been mired in controversy for more than a year.

In fact, last year the lead actress, Liu Yifei, made comments on China's Twitter like service, Weibo, where she was supporting the Hong Kong police during the protests. That led to widespread sharing on social media of #boycottMulan. And we are continuing to see Disney under this type of pressure. It isn't clear at this point what the relationship actually is between Disney and the Xinjiang region. But this certainly doesn't look good and it looks like the beginning of a PR crisis.

CURNOW: Selina Wang, good to speak to you. Thanks so much. So Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is out of his medically

induced coma. Now that's according to the Berlin hospital where he's being treated for suspected poisoning. Doctors say it's just too early to gauge any potential long-term effects. Well, Matthew Chance joins us now live from Moscow with more on all of that -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, thanks very much. In fact, there's some good news over the past 24 hours or so from the clinic in Berlin where Alexey Navalny is being treated for that poisoning situation, he's in.

As you mentioned, he's out of his medically induced coma. He's being weaned off of a mechanical ventilator which has been on for several weeks to make sure he can breathe properly. We're also told that he is responding to voices, which is also a good sign. But doctors at the clinic say that they can't tell yet what potential damage has been done by what they describe as this very serious poisoning.

Well, here in Russia there's been virtually no acknowledgment from the authorities or in the media that Russia had any responsibility for Alexey Navalny's condition.


CHANCE (voice-over): They're calling it the mysterious poisoning of Alexey Navalny. Russians state television trying to sow doubt among its viewers that the Kremlin's loudest critic was silence on purpose at home.

We sent Navalny to Germany with no poisons in his body, the anchor says, the suggestion, if he was poisoned, it was by another's hand.

DMITRY KISELYOV, RUSSIA 1 ANCHOR (through translator): Everything looks like a special service's operation, in which a poisoned Navalny is needed more than a non-poisoned one. The poisoned Navalny is an excellent playing card in the hands of the Americans.

CHANCE: You think the poisoning in Russian theory would be hard to deny given these disturbing images of Navalny writhing in agony as he was stretcher off of a plane in Siberia last month. Even the testimony of German officials who say the nerve agent Novichok is the cause hasn't convinced everyone. Apparently, not even the U.S. president.


TRUMP: I don't know exactly what happened. I think it's a -- it's tragic. It's terrible. It shouldn't happen. We haven't had any proof yet. But I will take a look.

CHANCE: But doubts in the U.S. add credence to conspiracy theories over here. These were the scenes this weekend in Belarus where popular anti-government protests stoked fears that Russian forces could intervene. According to the embattled Belarussian president who wants Moscow support, the Navalny poisoning was a distraction fabricated by foreigners to keep the Kremlin out.

He even released what he said was an intercepted phone call between unidentified figures in Germany and Poland discussing the plot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I agree, we need to discourage Putin from poking his nose in the affairs of Belarus, the most effective way is to drown him in Russia's problems.

CHANCE: Russia has formed when it comes to making stuff up to explain what looks like overwhelming evidence against it. Back in 2018 after another Novichok poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, the two suspects of Russian military intelligence according to Britain authorities appeared on state television with an extraordinary tale of two men with a shared love of architecture on a short break together.

Unfairly accusing the couple of close friends, or silencing a Kremlin critic at home, for Russian TV there are no lengths its enemies won't go to make Russia look bad.


CHANCE: Robyn, there's been a chorus of international condemnation about the poisoning of Alexey Navalny. UN human rights chief calling for a transparent investigation. And yesterday, the Russian ambassador to Britain was summoned. Where he was told by the British foreign ministry that it's unacceptable for a banned chemical weapon to be used.

CURNOW: Matthew, good to see you. Thank you so much. Matthew Chance there live in Moscow.

You're watching CNN. I'll be right back with much more news after this.



CURNOW: Hong Kong police are defending their actions during pro- democracy protests after several officers were seen tackling a 12- year-old girl. We'll show you this video. It shows a girl walking on the sidewalk when she was suddenly stopped by a riot police. She then started running away but the officers chased her down and then pushed her to the ground.

The girl's mother said she was heartbroken to watch the footage and questioned the officer's tactics. Now the city's chief executive says people should look at the circumstances when evaluating the clip.

And two Australian journalists have arrived back in Sydney after being questioned by authorities in China. Bill Birtles works for the Australian broadcasting corporation in Beijing, and Mike Smith is a correspondent for the Australian financial review in Shanghai. Police showed up there at their homes last week and told them they could not leave the country. But China then relented after both agreed to interviews. An Australian anchor for Chinese state TV was detained last month for reasons that still aren't unclear.

And Prince Harry and Princess Meagan have repaid the cost of renovating their U.K. residents. The renovation of Frogmore House cost $3 million and came out of taxpayer money used to support the monarchy. The home had become the subject of controversy after the couple distance themselves from public life and moved to the U.S.

Well, Anna Stewart is live in Windsor, outside of London. Windsor of course is where this house is. What more can you tell us? Why is this important, Anna?

ANNA STEWART, CNN PRODUCER: Well, it was certainly one of the biggest criticisms really leveled against the Sussexes when at the beginning of the year they made the sharp decision to step back as senior royals and move to North America.

This cottage, Frogmore cottage is actually part of Windsor Castle's lands. You can't see it from here, is away from the public eye. The cottage itself is owned by the crown estate, by the Queen. So, she can decide whoever lives in it. However, the renovations to make this house ready for them cost $3 million. And that was paid for by the taxpayers through the so-called sovereign grant.

So that was money that people wanted to see the Sussexes pay back if they were going to go ahead and sort of earn money privately in their new lives in North America. And the understanding was they would but in installments. So really quite surprising news that they paid it in full all $3 million. And it means of course that they will continue to use this as their U.K. base when they come over to the U.K.

Of course, the couple are wealthy in their own right. Prince Harry has a fortune from his mother, Princess Diana. Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex she was a very successful tv actress. However, the timing of all of this is so interesting because they have, we've learned, just signed a multi-year deal with Netflix. And we don't know how much that was for. But best estimates are in the tens of millions of dollars. So, this news so soon afterwards suggests that perhaps the two are of course linked.

What's really interesting I think when we look issue of Frogmore house and all of the debates around the Sussexes in their new roles, is what does this mean going forward? I mean, firstly, that sort of that new transition to private life was going to have a review after 12 months. So, there was the possibility that they come back to the royal fold. I think signing a multi-year deal with Netflix, I think repaying in full the renovation costs to the taxpayer of their home in the U.K. suggests that they're not coming back any time soon if at all -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Anna Stewart there in Windsor.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic could pay more than a quarter million for striking a line judge with a ball on Sunday. Djokovic loses at least $250,000 that he won in prize money at the open. Now the world number one has apologized on Instagram. But he's also come to the defense of the line judge who is being attacked on social media. Djokovic told fans she did nothing wrong and needs the support of the tennis community. Well, Tennis fans in Paris can now attend the French Open when it

happens later this month. The famous Roland-Garros stadium will allow 50 to 60 percent of seats to be filled with empty seeds between parties. The Tennis Association says players will be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival and every five days after that.

And we wanted to update you quickly on a story brought to you recently.


About a young father and his family in the U.S. city of Houston. Israel Rodriguez and his wife and two children, age 4 and 20 months, were evicted from their apartment. The 24 you all told CNN said he was behind thousands of dollars in rent after losing his job to the pandemic.


ISRAEL RODRIGUEZ, EVICTED FROM HIS OWN: It's mainly the kids' clothes because me and her just wear the same clothes almost every day. Make sure we got, you know, toilet paper and a little bit of snacks for the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do with all of your stuff?

RODRIGUEZ: That's trash. They could throw it in the trash because we don't have car. We don't have help. We don't have nobody that could come, you know, and help us out right now, nobody. We got ourselves. Me and the kids and her, that's it.


CURNOW: Well, after our story aired a GoFundMe page was set up by a local teacher. It raised more than $65,000 for the family. And then a second GoFundMe page was started by the local police foundation to help evicted families in Houston. Rodriguez was near tears when he thanked everyone for their donations.


RODRIGUEZ: All the help that I have got, this is the best thing that could ever happen to me and I wish other people could help out other people to help all the more. I've got a better future coming up. It's time to change. Because this is a major, major, major change for me. Like, I wasn't expecting all the help. No, I wasn't expecting it.


CURNOW: Well, that second GoFundMe page has received more than $220,000 in donations.

So, thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. See you same time, same place tomorrow. "EARLY START" is next.