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Supervising Sergeant: Officers Could Have Ended Floyd's Restraint Earlier; Floyd's Girlfriend: We Both Struggled with Opioid Addiction; Sources: Rep. Matt Gaetz Showed Nude Photos Of Women He Said He Slept With To Lawmakers. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 01, 2021 - 21:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: To start, the diversity, as many women as men, and more non-White attendees than White, Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, all represented.

It was also very COVID-conscious. Unlike traditional Cabinet meetings, this one took place in the East Room, rather than the Cabinet Room, because it's bigger, due to social distancing constraints.

Well the news continues. So, let's hand it right over to my good pal, Chris, for a show called "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hey Jimmy, best to you and the family for Easter. I'm off tomorrow night.

SCIUTTO: You too.

CUOMO: I'll catch you this weekend. But always a pleasure to work with you, and I wish you the best. Be well, brother.

SCIUTTO: Right back at you.

CUOMO: I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Tonight, we are going to unpack the most uniquely bizarre scandal I have ever seen in politics, and the criminal consequences seem to grow by the hour.

At first, it was GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz is under federal inquiry for six months. Gaetz says there is nothing to even inquire about. He denies any and all allegations. OK.

Then we learned it's not just an inquiry. It's an investigation, and that investigation is into Gaetz's dealings with a potentially underage woman.

And it was then that the allegation was that he was involved in the trafficking of that underage woman. Now, it is that there may be multiple minors involved, cash and drugs involved as well in that behavior.

The latest, investigators may be trying to tie a sitting congressman to a fake ID scheme, in which someone he apparently knows well was indicted.

Here's what we know. A witness has reportedly provided evidence linking him to a man named Joel Greenberg, this former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, who was an odd sort. He was arrested, indicted, charged, in criminality, including sex trafficking of a minor, and fabricating fake IDs in furtherance of the same.

In a text message that was shared with a CNN source, Greenberg confirms he was in his office, quote, "Showing Congressman Gaetz what our operation looked like." They have video of this, meeting on a weekend evening.

We're also learning that the federal investigation of the Representative includes whether campaign funds were used to pay for travel and expenses for child sex trafficking.

And get this. Everything I just said is merely half of the equation. The other half is one of the most bizarre extortion schemes, if that's what it is, I've ever heard of. It is unlike anything a Member of Congress has been tied to in recent memory. And the other half that we'll talk about makes even less sense.

We have the former Deputy Director of the FBI here to dissect the case. And I'm betting he's never seen anything like this, either.

But we have to start tonight with the case that is all too real and true. And it is about George Floyd's murder. It was a damning day for Derek Chauvin, the former officer accused of murdering Floyd.

The biggest exposure was Chauvin's supervisor, saying he was not immediately made aware of the knee-choke Chauvin used on Floyd. "Why" is going to be the obvious question.

Also, two paramedics, who were on the scene, and said, they could see from afar that George Floyd wasn't breathing, and likely dead. If so, the question is why couldn't four officers, who were up close see the same? Why didn't they make efforts to reduce the pressure or to revive?

One of the EMTs literally had to ask Officer Chauvin to get off a Floyd, in order to treat him, and said he had no pulse, when he arrived. And he was the one, who had to remove handcuffs, on a man, with no pulse, so that he could treat him.

Very disturbing video shown in court of Floyd put in the ambulance after paramedics came. But, as I mentioned, in terms of the criminality, in the trial, what Chauvin's supervisor did not know could be the biggest clue of the day.

Listen to this recording played of Chauvin, taking a call from that Sergeant, in his squad car, asking him about what just happened. This was played at trial today.



Yes, I was just going to call you and have you come out to our scene here.

Not really, but we just had to - had to hold the guy down. He was going crazy, wouldn't go in - turn that off for the moment - wouldn't go in the back of the squad.



CUOMO: What will the jury make of the demeanor and tone of Chauvin and what you just heard? Said against everyone saying they knew Floyd was dead, does he sound like he was aware that the man that he was just holding on the ground, under his knee, is dead or maybe dead?

So, that is the accused murderer himself, leaving out very important details to his boss. He didn't tell him, "I had my knee on Floyd's neck for 9.5 minutes, and they think he's dead."

Listen to what the Sergeant, expounding on the rest of the call, had to say.


SGT. DAVID PLEOGER, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: I believe he told me that they had had tried to put Mr. Floyd, I didn't know his name at the time, Mr. Floyd in the car. He'd become combative.

I think he mentioned that he'd injured, it was either his nose, or his mouth, a bloody lip, I think. And eventually, after struggling him - with him, he'd suffered a medical emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that the extent of what you can remember the defendant telling you about this incident?

PLEOGER: I think that was basically it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he mention anything about putting his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck or back?



CUOMO: So nothing about the knee.

And for those out there saying, "Hey, you know, Chauvin shouldn't be smeared as a cop until this is over," he was already fired for being a bad cop. This isn't about that. That issue has been decided by the police force. It's about whether or not what Chauvin did was a substantial causal factor in why George Floyd died.

The Sergeant believes Chauvin and the other officers used excessive force. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have an opinion as to when the restraints of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?



PLEOGER: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.


CUOMO: Let's take the day to the better mind, former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams.

Good to see you, brother. Is that the biggest moment of the day?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That was pretty big, because look, a lot of people have weighed in, witnesses, people on the scene. You and me have weighed in on what should have happened.

What you now have is an insider, in the Minneapolis Police Department, a uniformed officer. And so, that was - that was very powerful. The question was should they have, if you notice, his answer was a little more conditional saying "They could have," but still, that was probably the biggest.

And moreover, Chris, this question of the reasonableness of the actions of the Officers is the first big factual dispute in this trial. Everything else has been pretty - everybody's in agreement. George Floyd was there, Derek Chauvin was there, and George Floyd died. And they're filling in the gaps around there.

But this question of what constitutes reasonable police force, force to be used by a police officer, and this is the first salvo, in that debate, and I think we're going to see some more from the defense on it as well.

CUOMO: The apparent indifference in Chauvin's tone, could that mean, as much to the jury, as I'm suggesting, it may, and you think it portends that they'll have to put him on the stand?

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know if anything portends that it should put him on the stand just because that's an incredibly risky decision, particularly in a case like this. So, it's an open question. So no, I don't - I just - you want to avoid the question of putting a defendant on the stand, in a controversial case, and I just, probably not.

CUOMO: Even though you will then expose the jury to only him, showing no real panic, no real worry about the fact that the guy is dead, no regret, no remorse?

WILLIAMS: So, put it this way, Chris. It's not slam-dunk evidence. But the prosecution will certainly use it to argue as evidence of intent, number one that he wasn't fully forthcoming.

It's not - he was not lying. He's not being - well, I'm not going to characterize his statement. But he was not certainly wasn't being fully forthcoming with his supervisor, when he talked on the phone.

What the prosecution will say is that he was in an attempt to conceal his actions. What he did not do was present full information to his supervisors, which goes to intent. It goes to the question of whether he knew he was doing something, if not wrong, unlawful. Now, it's just a question of whether the jury believes it.

Juries are all over the place. I've dealt with them. You just never know what's going to resonate with them. And so, what you see the prosecution doing is putting forth a number of arguments and hope a number of different factual bases for them to agree on, and seeing what sticks.

CUOMO: Having George Floyd's girlfriend, on the stand, to talk about their addiction, I want to play some of it.


CUOMO: For the audience.


OK. When they get it, we'll put it up?

But the prosecution did this.


CUOMO: And why would they have the girl - the former girlfriend gets on and say very emotional things about Floyd, but that "Yes, we both struggled with opioid addiction." Here's the sound.

WILLIAMS: I think--

CUOMO: They have it now.



COURTENEY ROSS, GEORGE FLOYD'S GIRLFRIEND: We both suffered from chronic pain.

Addiction, in my opinion, is a lifelong struggle. So, it's something that we - we dealt with every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going forward to May of 2020, was there a time, when you thought, he might be using again?

ROSS: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: George Floyd's not on trial. Why bring this up, as the prosecution?

WILLIAMS: I think - I think it's two different things.

Number one, it's going to come out anyway, because there's a significant question as to what the cause of death was, and were there substances in his system? It's far better to, for the prosecution, to do it.

It's almost, again, like saying, "Mom, I broke the vase," as opposed to having Mom come home and see the vase. It's called fronting it or just sort of letting out the sting from the testimony that you can control, putting it out there. So that's point one.

Point two is it's almost a more human thing, which is that there's a big shift in America, or even the world, about how we talk and think about addiction, right now, think - seeing it almost as a sickness, far more than something to be criminalized. And what the prosecution is doing is humanizing George Floyd.

There are jurors, I assure you, who are either struggling with addiction themselves, or at a minimum, have members of their family, loved ones, friends, family, who have struggled with either alcoholism, or opioid addiction, or whatever. And this makes George Floyd seem real and human to them.

And so, it's almost a two-prong strategy. And it very well may work.

CUOMO: Last interesting point.

The defense tried to play off the urgency of why you would put a knee on somebody's neck, raising the question with the paramedic, "Hey, you know, sometimes when you get a call, and somebody is coming out of a drug haze," or what they'll call an excited delirium phase is starting to begin, "you want a cop there to use a suppressive measure just like this, don't you?"

And the paramedic said "Yes, sometimes. Sometimes you could want that."

What's the play there and did it work for the defense?

WILLIAMS: Oh, it - I mean, it worked for a second. They sort of drew blood because they suggested that well, maybe he did have an overdose, and then emerge, and could have emerged thereafter, and become violent or so on.

Then, on redirect, the prosecution brought up another witness, to say, "Hey, you know, could this actually happen? Could someone emerge from an overdose and be violent?"

And she said, "Yes. However, the guy was dead at the time, pretty much." I mean, she didn't use those words. But she said, "Did he have a pulse?" And the question was, "No." So, the odds that he would have awakened, become violent, were incredibly slim. And so, for that split moment, in the trial, the defense did succeed

on making the point. But it got blown out of the water by the prosecution, on the redirect examination.

And that, Chris, is the very purpose of redirect examination. It's sort of you clean up the mess after the defense has dirtied up your witness a little bit. And they did. And the prosecutor did it beautifully right there.

CUOMO: "What did his condition appear to be to you overall?" "In lay terms," is the answer, "I thought he was dead."

Elliot Williams, thank you very much. I'm not going to see you tomorrow. Have a very blessed Easter, you and your family. Rebirth and renewal, in this context, I can't wait to have you back.

WILLIAMS: Same to you, Chris.

CUOMO: To renew our analysis of this ongoing trial. Be well.

WILLIAMS: Happy Easter.

CUOMO: Happy Easter.

All right, so look, you got to stay on this trial. It's going to mean so much to this country no matter what the verdict is.

But now, when it comes to politics, these Matt Gaetz allegations, I've never even heard anything like this.

And again, you have to - every politician saying, "Let the investigation play out," yes, you should say that every time. Of course, we have to have the investigation play out. We don't know anything for a fact that the accusations are of a character nature I've never heard before.

The newest, and this is a real problem for Gaetz politically, we're going to talk about why in a second, misconduct involving nude photos, OK? The problem is not just the photos. It's who made them known to the media and to other colleagues.

We may be seeing something right now, we haven't seen on the Right, in a long time. We'll discuss, next.









CUOMO: All right, we have to start unpacking this Congressman Gaetz situation, and it's not easy, OK? He is definitely under investigation by the Justice Department. And we do know it certainly involves sex trafficking allegations. Plural!

Sources tell CNN he showed nude photos of women he said he'd slept with to other lawmakers. He may have also shown the images on the House floor. Now, there's no sign that's part of the Federal probe.

I get why the media is all over it. It's incredibly salacious. You could argue maybe it's poor ethics. To me, it means something totally different, OK? To me, it is about where his Party may be on him, OK?

Let's bring in two absolutely better minds about what's going on here, OK, because the politics of this is getting very ugly, very fast. Let's bring in Dana Bash, and former Representative Charlie Dent, who understands the party politics very well.

Dana, first, have you ever heard of anything like this even on the suggestion level?


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends on which part of the "This" you're talking about is right, Chris, because as you said, there are different allegations now.

One is probably the most serious, definitely the most serious for him, and for his Party, which is the criminal investigation that appears to be going on, according to sources, first reported by "The New York Times."

And then tonight, our colleagues, on Capitol Hill, who cover Capitol Hill, reporting about the pictures of women, he allegedly slept with, showing them to colleagues, on the House floor, as you said.

And look, there's so many other layers, as you said, to unpack. But here's the thing to remember. This is not a person, who has a deep or wide reservoir of support, among his own Republican colleagues, Chris.

And so, I would not be surprised, if this moves rather quickly, even in the Trump world, or even post-Trump world, where lack of shame doesn't really matter anymore. In this particular case, Republicans, in the leadership, might think it's a different kettle of fish, because of what we're talking about, and who we're talking about.

CUOMO: Right. But they do - look, they have said the right thing this time, which is if there is a process going on, you got to respect the process. They have to respect the investigation.

Now, the photos is something different. But Charlie, this is my take on it. I'm not as impressed by the photos, as some. I don't - I don't believe in the purity of our politicians the way some do. But what I'm saying is, this is proof that his own, went bad, on him,

because he did not show those photos to people from the Left. Otherwise, we would have heard about this a long time ago. And that's unusual in your Party. What do you make of it?

CHARLIE DENT, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, PENNSYLVANIA: Well, when I make of this is, I agree with Dan, that this man has very serious problems, the most serious of which, of course, is the Department of Justice criminal investigation, on the sex trafficking.

But these pictures are a problem, and that this could force an ethics investigation, which would mean that Members of Congress are going to be subpoenaed, and deposed, called as witnesses to answer questions about these pictures.

You may remember, in the last Congress, a congressman named Katie Hill resigned over pictures that were, I believe, revealed by an embittered or ex-spouse that were far less serious, but she resigned over this.

And I do think the time comes where, yes, he's entitled to due process. But when a Member becomes an embarrassment, because of misconduct, or alleged misconduct, or a scandal, pressure will build on Kevin McCarthy to have a conversation with him to resign.

Nancy Pelosi had to force out people like Anthony Weiner, and Eric Massa. John Boehner forced out people. Paul Ryan forced out Trent Franks, I believe. So, the pressure is going to--

CUOMO: But it's much - it's much less common though, Charlie. I mean, you mentioned Katie Hill. That's the Left.

DENT: Yes.

CUOMO: The Left has a very different standard and a different level of aggression. You guys just were OK with the QAnon kook lady, you know? So, there's a pretty high bar in terms of what you guys will tolerate, when it comes to bad conduct or stupid conduct.

Dana, do you think that Gaetz may wind up paying for the QAnon lady, because that kind of used up all the energy the Republicans had to deal with something this outlandish?

BASH: They have probably a deeper well of energy for outlanders, than we realize. Maybe we do realize it given what we've seen over the past five years. But because we're talking about a couple of things, we're talking about allegations, which, yes, have to go through due process, of a minor, and dealing with all kinds of issues--

CUOMO: Maybe multiple minors.

BASH: --maybe multiple minors, I think that's exactly right that I think what the former congressman is getting at is that his leadership could be looking for an out. And by saying, "Oh, look, there could be ethics violations"--

CUOMO: Right. BASH: --"on the floor of the House of Representatives" that could be their out in trying to push him out. And Charlie Dent can tell you, he's had experiences in--

CUOMO: On the Ethics Committee, yes.

BASH: --Members.

DENT: I do.

BASH: Yes, right? I mean, watching leadership, say "You're out of here," and, yes, it doesn't seem to be the kind of thing that we have seen in recent years with Republicans.

But this does, again, feel different, especially since you alluded to this, Chris. This is a time where Republicans feel like, when they're looking at their number one goal, which is to take back the House, and the Senate, but obviously we're talking about the House right now, they feel that they are in good shape, on the basics, for conservatives.

Democrats are big spenders, too much money, too, you know, big government, and the culture wars.


This is a distraction. And so, the question is, how long do they want to let this distraction play out, in that ultimate goal, especially for somebody, who really angered, a lot of people, in his Caucus, by going out to Wyoming, and talking about the fact that Liz Cheney should resign, taunting her in a very open, very theatrical way?

CUOMO: Charlie, let me give you the last word quickly, about what you think it could look like, in an ethics probe in Congress, if the behavior is limited to "These photos, you were showing them on the floor of the House," could that be enough?

DENT: That could be enough to get him to resign, because, again, there will be subpoenas and depositions. Members of Congress will have to come in as witnesses. But the whole probe goes away, if Matt Gaetz resigns.

And if you're Kevin McCarthy, and you're trying to reclaim the Majority, the last thing you want to be talking about is one of your own Members, who's alleged to have engaged in misconduct, while you should be talking about the issues of the day.

So, I think John Boehner and Paul Ryan had many conversations with Members, who've left, resigned early, because of their alleged misconduct, for matters far less, that were, not even criminal in many cases.

So bottom line is, they're going to have to deal with this, and they're going to have to deal with this fast. This guy has no reservoir of goodwill, among his Republican colleagues. And frankly, they're experiencing shot in Florida moments right now. They're gleeful about his dilemma, and they want him out.

CUOMO: Well we'll see. And like Dana suggested, we may see soon.

Charlie Dent, Dana Bash, Happy Pesah, Happy Christmas, Happy Easter, Happy Everything.

BASH: Happy Easter!

CUOMO: Take care.

DENT: Happy Easter!

CUOMO: All right, I'm going to bring in a former number two with the FBI. Why? Because the politics part is the easy part, OK?

This federal investigation is getting deeper and deeper. And I only told you half the story. There's an entire other half that Gaetz is telling about an extortion scheme, which he says is the real crime here. Next.









CUOMO: So, in the break, which sadly is where most of the good TV is made, we were trading anecdotes, Charlie Dent, Dana Bash, now, about all the things that we've heard about in Congress. Nothing like this! Nothing - nothing of this magnitude, of these suggestions, against Congressman Gaetz.

And hey, I'm the first one to say, let the investigation proceed. He may have given him an out with these photos. His Party can now go bad on him, and maybe force a resignation with nothing to do with the other investigations. That's a favor.

But let's get some legal perspective on just what we're dealing with here, somebody who understands this kind of investigation very well, Andrew McCabe.

Good to see you, brother.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI: Good to see you, Chris. CUOMO: Now first, you ever heard of a Member of Congress being attached to anything like any of the suggestions that we have on the investigative side?

MCCABE: No, no, this is a - this is a new low. And it's an incredibly bizarre story with so many facets to it. I've never heard one quite like this.

CUOMO: So, it went from an inquiry, to an investigation, about someone who may be underage, because the federal age is 18, if that person is taken across state lines, for sexual purposes. Lot of states, at 16, for whatever it is, 18 federally, so she's 17, it triggers it.

Then this other guy, Greenberg, is put in the mix, the former tax solicitor from Florida. He was indicted, arrested, indicted, charged with a trafficking scheme that was using fake IDs. And now somebody says, from his office, "Yes, Gaetz was here, on a weekend night, looking at IDs with him, on video."

How deep can the waters get?

MCCABE: Well, not only does that witness say that Gaetz was seen on video, but then Greenberg allegedly texted the witness, and confirmed it in a contemporaneous text. So that seems pretty credible to me.

And interestingly enough, it's an allegation that was brought, apparently, to the authorities, back as early as January of 2020. So this is very, very serious.

Sex trafficking from a relationship with one minor is a serious offense in and of itself, one that could, if convicted, could expose you to significant prison time, and registration as a sexual offender.

But participating in some sort of conspiracy to manufacture licenses to facilitate that sort of activity, God, it just makes it a 100 times worse. So, this is a - this case is getting bigger and more complicated by the minute.

CUOMO: Now, if Matt Gaetz is right, and says "There is no 17-year-old, the person does not exist," if that is the case, wouldn't this investigation have ended at some point? I mean, it's been going on for a year.

That maybe Gaetz, is it? We'll patch him right in. No, I'm kidding.


CUOMO: I like your ringtone though. The--

MCCABE: Sorry dude.

CUOMO: No, it's all good. The idea of if I were to come to you, and you had a case on me into that I said "She doesn't exist, this person does not exist, never happened," does it take this long to clear that up? MCCABE: No, not at all. In fact, Chris, the allegation, wherever the information came to the FBI, maybe through the Greenberg prosecution, maybe Greenberg is providing information to the investigators, who knows, one way or another, they got the allegation about Gaetz, and this 17-year-old.

They don't open an investigation on that allegation until they've identified who that person is, and confirmed that they were in fact 17, at the time of the alleged relationship.

So, for Congressman Gaetz to come out and say that that person does not exist, he's really backed himself into a very uncomfortable corner that I think the authorities will probably be able to prove is false, pretty--

CUOMO: Now--

MCCABE: --pretty easily.

CUOMO: --the other half of this is Gaetz has created, what at a minimum is, a pretty decent distraction. It's worked well with a lot of people in the media.


"No, no, no, no, you're missing the ball. This is an extortion scheme. I'm working with the FBI, me and my father, because these guys are trying to extort us with something to do with Mr. Levinson," the guy who is missing in Iran, who the U.S. believes is now gone, is dead, "and the FBI is investigating it."

What I don't understand is how do you guys - how does the FBI, open up an investigation, into an extortion scheme, which even as described, by the Gaetz family, is an extortion?

If some former Feds, say, to you, "Hey, I heard about the investigation. Give me $25 million to get Levinson out of Iran. When we get him out, I get the reward. I'll pay you the money back. And it will really look good for you on the federal level with this other thing you have going on with the women," that's not extortion. Why investigate this?

MCCABE: No, it's - yes, so it's not extortion.

As you know, Chris, extortion requires both a demand and a threat. And in the facts that you just laid out, the ones that we understand may have taken place here, there doesn't seem to be any sort of credible threat there whatsoever. But let's put that aside for just a second.

If, if, the Congressman and/or his father came to the FBI and said, "We believe we're being extorted," and laid out these - the interactions with these folks, who are, I guess, advocating on behalf of Bob Levinson, and his family, the first thing the FBI would do is say, "Well, would you be willing to wear a recording device to go to a meeting," because they want to see if you can actually capture evidence of those conversations, where a demand and a threat would take place.

So, the fact that recordings were made is not - it's not strange here. It's the exact way that agents would try to get through to the bottom of this allegation.

CUOMO: And even if, and again, I don't get the extortion thing, I got to be honest, I don't even know why the Feds would be interested in it. It seems just so bizarre.

But even if that's all true, it doesn't mean that the other investigation doesn't have any merit. Because just because these federal - these former Feds knew about the investigation, doesn't mean that that investigation isn't real into the women, right? Both things could be true.

MCCABE: That's absolutely right. And it's really important for your viewers to understand that these two investigations, in a way, don't have anything to do with each other.

Whether or not the Gaetz family is being extorted has nothing to do with whether or not Matt Gaetz had an illegal sexual relationship with a minor, months and months ago.

That matter has been under investigation since at least the end of the summer, last year. It was briefed to the Department of Justice, including Attorney General Barr, was given the green light by DOJ. This extortion thing is something entirely different.

I, as you believe, I think that this is a matter of "Don't look at that. Look at this. Look at the shiny object over here." It's a great distraction technique.

But the FBI doesn't have any other recourse. They have to look into it, to determine whether or not anything's there. It sounds like that's what they're doing. But from the documents we've heard about, and seen so far, really hard to see this thing as a prosecutable extortion.

CUOMO: And, on the other hand, this inquiry was started under Bill Barr. So, you would think--

MCCABE: That's right.

CUOMO: --if anybody, if any office was going to give Gaetz the benefit of the doubt, in terms of starting something like this, especially with this kind of prurience attached to it, and a high felony value, it would have been them.

Andrew McCabe, thank you very much. I know we're going to learn more.


CUOMO: And when we do, I will ask you back brother. Until then, have a Happy Easter, the best for you and the family.

MCCABE: Thanks, Chris. You too. CUOMO: Be well.

All right, our other big story, the George Floyd murder trial, all right? This is a trial fundamentally about systemic inequality, and then a specific lens is policing.

The issue of Floyd's past drug use came up today, emotional, his girlfriend very forthcoming about her own life, and her own struggles, as well as her departed beloved. The prosecution wanted you to hear this. Why?

What does Van Jones think about this, and what it plays to, as a dynamic, in our society? Next.









CUOMO: Every day of this George Floyd trial has been very difficult to watch. And I can only imagine what it's like for people of color. Emotional, raw, the pain, witnesses reliving trauma, watching a man die and feeling powerless, helpless.

And then, today, Courteney Ross, tensely personal, her boyfriend was George Floyd. She opened up, at the prosecution's request, about their struggles with drug addiction.

However, I wanted to start it with her recounting how she met her boyfriend, George Floyd.


ROSS: Floyd has this great, deep Southern voice, raspy. And he's like, "Sis, you OK, Sis?" And I wasn't OK. I said, "No, I'm just waiting for my son's father." He - he said - I'm sorry. He said - he said "Well can I pray with you?"


CUOMO: Van Jones joins me now.

I learned something today from someone else I'm blessed with in my life. And I really want to make sure that this has got to be so hard for you

to watch. Because, sure, it's one man, it's one incident, it's one officer, primarily in this trial. But this speaks to so much for so many people of color, whether or not you're living in the hood, in Minnesota, or not.

And I know it's got to be so hard, Van. And I just want you to know, I see that and I feel for you in this.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Well look, I think your level of empathy, and your understanding that this is playing differently, for different types of people, is because come through a lot, and it means a lot.

And then I think that what I saw, that's so human. And we keep talking about "This is humanizing. It's humanizing." Why do we have to keep talking about humanizing?


Because so much of the narrative about Black men is dehumanizing, literally that you have this kind of idea, and they can show it in brain scans, you see in African American man, people have been so trained to expect the worst, that people will automatically see a weapon, just in the color of the skin.

And so, as painful as it has been, Chris, to watch this, there is - there's a blessing in how human, all of these people are on stand, talking about just meeting the guy they loved.

And that kind of stuff, I think, has been very, very difficult. But I hope that people are watching this and realizing all we're asking for is the right to be human.

We just want the right to be human. We don't want to have to be superhuman, perfect people, never made a mistake, in order for us to be - have the benefit of the protection of the rule of law. We just want the right to be human.

The guy had an injury. He got on opioids, like a million, gazillion other Americans. That's not a reason to say his life should be thrown away.

CUOMO: So, what do you think about the prosecution strategy here, of bringing on the girlfriend? The girlfriend says, "Yes, we struggled with opioids. And me too. And this is what it was like. And yes, I think he was using again."

The strategy is to front-run it, because they're going to--

JONES: True.

CUOMO: --make George Floyd's addiction, certainly a factor on the forensic side. What did you make of this tactic?

JONES: I'm glad they did it, because being addicted to something like opioids, again, millions and millions of Americans have found themselves in that situation. I had a friend who had a tooth pulled. And then they gave a jar of painkillers, and wound up with a major, major life problem.

This is happening to Americans all the time. So get it out there. Give it some context, let it land human. And then let's have that be a part of this story, but let's not that - let that be the whole story.

If you hold it back, if you don't talk about it, then suddenly it looks like you got something to hide. And when the other side springs it on the jury, they're like, "Oh, well, this is some big deal."

Listen, this is not, at the end of the day, something that you can't understand in your own family. And all we're asking is, if it were your relative, who got hooked on opioids, and maybe wasn't making good decisions, after 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes, would you want the cop's knee still on his neck?

That's all we're asking. And I think everybody would say, "If it was my family member, the answer is no."

CUOMO: Right. What do you say - every time I do one of these segments, I get hit with this barrage of "Why didn't you mention this about him? Why didn't you mention that about him? You know what he did to this person? You know what he was known for? And you know what he's really about? This is the real George Floyd. Why are you making him a saint?"

I've never heroized the man. I have said that who he was, is irrelevant, unless he was that person in that moment. If you're a bad guy, if you're a tough guy, if you want to hurt people, and you're trying to hurt the police officer, it's going to go one way, and it's going to be south.

But what do you say to people, who have in their minds that it matters, that this guy was no good guy, and that the media, just heroizes him, but he was no hero?

JONES: Well, the thing is, you don't have to be a hero to have the protection of the law. You don't have to be perfect to have the protection of the law. That's the great thing about our country is that we're all equal before the law. Saints and sinners alike are equal before the law.

And so, if he was the worst person ever born, and if he was fighting like a madman, once you got him down, and once you have him in handcuffs, guess what? Now, he is afforded the protection of the law.

And the police don't have - all we're asking, again, it's so humiliating to ask for such simple things, the right to be human, the right to be protected by the law, for the police to obey the law.

You just - you don't have the right, by the way, in our system, the police - if the police thinks that the person is that terrible, keep him alive, and get him in front of a jury.

The police officers' job is to get the person in front of a jury. It's not to do a summary execution. And it's certainly not to use force, so far, in excess, of what's necessary, for the arrest that someone dies.

And again, as you said, and I think very, very well, and clearly over and over again, it doesn't have to be the only factor. But if you have excessive force, as a causal factor, or a major factor, that's unlawful in our system. And thank goodness, thank goodness it is.


Why do you have people, who call themselves patriots, and say they love this country, and they swear by the Constitution, in this case, to say that someone is beneath the protection of the law?

We shouldn't have to be superhuman and saints. And we shouldn't be treated as subhuman. We just want the right to be human. And that's why, again, the humanity that is just pouring forward in this trial, as children, and elderly people, and mixed martial artists, and EMTs, all come forward and say "This was inhumane. This should not have happened."

And I think that if people could just get past the politics of it, and just deal with the humanity of it, we can be in a better place.

CUOMO: I agree with everything you said, except, in this case, there is no "Well, how was he during the altercation?" You cannot reasonably make the case. Not that you were, but the suggestion that "Well, Floyd during this altercation, he asked for it," no, he didn't. And the tape makes it clear.

JONES: Absolutely.

CUOMO: That is not a legitimate argument. The defense hasn't even argued it yet.


CUOMO: And I don't think they will, that "Well look what he did to the officers!" Remember that everybody. Just because somebody feels it, doesn't make it a fact.

Van, be well, have a Happy Easter. We'll be right back.

JONES: Same to you.







(END VIDEO CLIP) [21:55:00]

CUOMO: Republicans in state legislatures across the country are ramping up voter suppression efforts. Five restrictive bills have already been signed into law, 55 more, in 24 states, moving in legislatures.

2022 is obviously top of mind for Republicans looking to dash a repeat of 2020. Battlegrounds, Georgia, Arizona, they flipped, to deliver Biden his win, why? Huge turnout by Blacks and Latinos.

Dems have shown just how well they are driving up votes in Texas suburbs and urban centers. That's why Texas, Georgia, Arizona have introduced the highest number of voter suppression bills.

Fact, today, Texas State Senate advanced a new bill that would ban drive-through voting, and limit extended early voting hours, why?

It would also add restrictions to how officials handle absentee ballot applications, and how other assist disabled voters. Why? They also want to prohibit the offering of food or water to voters waiting in line.

At least three federal lawsuits have been filed by civil rights groups. The President and other voting advocates are calling this what it is, "Jim Crow 2.0." The argument is simple. Tell us how it's about safety and not suppression.

We'll be right back.


CUOMO: I want to thank you for watching. I won't be with you tomorrow night. A blessed Easter, Rebirth and Renewal, for those, who it applies. And you know what?