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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

All Three Men Convicted Of Murder In Killing Of Ahmaud Arbery; C.D.C. Forecasts Rise In COVID Deaths And Hospitalization; WHO: Global Cases Have Been Increasing For More Than A Month; Former President's Influence Looms Over McCarthy's Race To Be Next House Speaker; Wave Of "Smash-And-Grab" Robberies Across America; NASA Launches First Mission To Crash Into Asteroid; Could One Day Save Our Planet. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight thousands of people traveling to New York City's Upper West Side to see the parade's giant helium balloons being blown up. It got scrapped last year because of COVID.

If you may remember, the entire parade was strictly made for TV and you know, it was all smoke and mirrors, but tomorrow, it's back to normal. Again, crowds lining the streets. Children under 12 can only be spectators, not on the floats, but there will be a Baby Yoda.

Thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening. Answered prayer: That's how the mother of Ahmaud Arbery described today's verdict for the three men found guilty of murdering her son. Arbery was gunned down last year while jogging through a suburban Georgia neighborhood. The verdict was huge, she said, a vindication for her and her family that was anything, but inevitable.

I'm John Berman, in for Anderson.

Obstacles included the original prosecutors, one of whom is now under indictment for her alleged actions, and another who once told police that the actions of the father and son convicted today of murder were quote, "perfectly legal." No one was charged for the murder for more than two months down until video of that deadly shooting surfaced. Two days after that, the first arrests.

And now a year and a half later, his murderers were led out of a Georgia courtroom in handcuffs after the verdicts were read. Arbery's mother tells CNN, quote: "We finally got the justice for Ahmaud that he deserved back in 2020. Justice delayed, but no longer denied."

Martin Savidge who has been covering this story since the very beginning joins us now with the details from this emotional day in court -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was absolutely, John. You know, I was standing outside of the courthouse after it had been announced that there was a verdict, a crowded had rushed up. Many had been outside of that courthouse since this trial began. They

were listening to the live stream from coming inside the building, and when they heard the first word, "guilty" with Travis McMichael. It was like an emotional dam broke. People shouted cheers, others broke down into tears, and they fell into each other's arms.

"Guilty" was a word that many feared they might not ever hear in this case.


JUDGE TIMOTHY R. WALMSLEY, CHATHAM COUNTY COURT: Count one, malice murder. We the jury, find the defendant, Travis McMichael guilty.

I am going to ask that whoever just made an outburst be removed from the court, please.

SAVIDGE (voice over): Loved ones for Ahmaud Arbery overcome with emotion this afternoon as all three defendants were found guilty of murder by a jury of nine women, two white men and one black man.

Judge Timothy Walmsley read through all nine counts for each defendant --


SAVIDGE (voice over): Travis McMichael, the man who shot and killed Arbery claiming of a self-defense was found guilty on all nine counts. His father, Gregory McMichael was found not guilty on one charge, but guilty on the other eight.


SAVIDGE (voice over): William "Roddie" Bryan, Jr., the man who took the video of the shooting was found guilty on six counts.


SAVIDGE (voice over): People outside the courthouse rejoiced.

LINDA GAMBLE, ARBERY FAMILY FRIEND: Today, justice was served.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Did you ever doubt this day might come?

GAMBLE: I did not. It felt good.

LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: The jury system works in this country, and when you present the truth to people and they can see it, they will do the right thing, and that's what this jury did today in getting justice from Ahmaud Arbery.

SAVIDGE (voice over): The jury deliberated for over 11 hours after 13 days of testimony from more than 30 witnesses. The three defendants claimed they were trying to make citizen's arrested of Arbery saying that they suspected he had burglarized a nearby home construction site, referring to the video of Arbery wandering inside that home months before being killed.

After the verdicts were read, Arbery's family spoke outside the courthouse.

WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: It's been a long fight. It's been a hard fight. But God is good.

MARCUS ARBERY, SR., FATHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I wouldn't want to see no daddy watch their kid get lynched and shot down like that. So, it's all our problems. It's all our problem. So hey, let's keep fighting.


BERMAN: So, Martin, what kind of sentences are these three men facing now?

SAVIDGE: Yes, although the death penalty have been talked about, the prosecutors have never actively pursued it. Instead, the maximum that all three men could now face his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A sentencing date though, has not been set as yet. And remember, there is still another potential trial to come, the Federal trial on Federal hate crimes charges. If found guilty there, all three men could face the same fate, another life in prison without the possibility of parole, and that trial is slated to begin in February right here in Brunswick -- John.

BERMAN: Martin Savidge, again, thank you for your work on this. You were reporting on this story before many people, if not most people in the country ever even heard of it, so thank you.

SAVIDGE: Thank you.

BERMAN: So as we said, an emotional day for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, more than a year and a half since his murder, months spent trying to get an investigation into what happened. Many have been in the courtroom throughout the trial and the verdict.


Our next guest has been filling notebooks with key moments from this trial, and then relaying those events to followers on Facebook, just trying to get the word out, something that was very difficult to do with the outset of this case.

Joining us now is Ahmaud Arbery's aunt, Theawanza Brooks.

Ms. Brooks, thank you so much for joining us. I know you were in the courtroom today. What was it like? I mean, what did you feel at the moment that first guilty verdict was read?

THEAWANZA BROOKS, AHMAUD ARBERY'S AUNT: I felt the spirit of release. I felt that this is a moment that we've been waiting for. I was overjoyed that I was overcome by tears, because we fought so hard to get here. BERMAN: You fought for a very long time as well. So, just hours after

your nephew was murdered, you drove to the area where he had been shot to see it for yourself. That was almost two years ago. Did you have faith that anyone would ever be held accountable for his death?

BROOKS: In the beginning, the pace was very, very small, because the initial story about the burglary just didn't sit well with me. And then once May 5th happened, I knew all along after doing my own investigation, that I was right that the story that was given what's very wrong.

BERMAN: May 5th, the day the video came out?

BROOKS: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: What do you want to see in terms of sentencing now? Because as you know, these three men are facing life sentences. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty. Do you agree with that decision?

BROOKS: Well, I know that in the State of Georgia, we don't have the death penalty. Those will be handled and those charges can actually come if they are convicted in the federal hate crimes. There is the death penalty that can be held there.

As far as life without parole, I'm pleased with that because they'll get the same treatment that we have, knowing that Ahmaud will never come home again, so, they shouldn't be able to go home either.

BERMAN: What kind of impact do you hope that this verdict will have on the country as a whole?

BROOKS: I hope that everyone has learned that Glynn County has been a model for this situation. We have done everything and peace -- with peace and prayer and motivation and getting up every day, mobilizing and getting out here and just working the streets to make sure that we got justice for Ahmaud.

So, I want everyone to take from this that you don't have to tear up your cities. You don't have to burn things down. Pray. Do things in peace and decency and in order, and justice will come.

BERMAN: Lastly, I know you and the rest of the family are relieved to finally have justice, but it doesn't bring your nephew back. He's still gone. So what do you want people to know about him? And how do you remember him?

BROOKS: Ahmaud was an amazing young man. He had a heart of gold, a smile that lit up a room. He was a giver. He was a little hard worker, especially when he worked with his dad. He was just all around, a great kid.

And so the world should know that Ahmaud's death was not in vain, and that we will continue to spring his name until we leave this earth.

BERMAN: Theawanza Brooks, I appreciate your time. Thank you for being with us tonight. Best to you and the family. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

BROOKS: Thank you, sir. You, too.

BERMAN: Perspective now from Bakari Sellers, an attorney, and CNN political commentator and author of the memoir, "My Vanishing Country." And from criminal defense attorney, Sara Azari.

Bakari, I was watching CNN's coverage of the verdict and immediately after, you said something that stuck with me. You said, this isn't justice, this is accountability. I want you to explain again, what you meant by that.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, thanks, John. First, justice is having Ahmaud Arbery at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. His family is going to have an empty chair.

Ahmaud Arbery was killed because he was running and he was black, because of the color of his skin in 2020. There was 74 days after he was murdered, from the time that people actually brought charges and they didn't bring charges because there was a video, they brought charges because we -- we, being the media and the world actually saw the video. So, this is by no means justice.

I hate when people -- I understand why people want to use the term "justice." But this isn't what justice looks like. Justice is being able to play with a toy gun and not be gunned down in a park. Justice is being able to sell loosie cigarettes and not be able to be murdered by police or sell loose CDs or just simply have a taillight that is out and not have to be murdered.

I mean, that's what justice looks like -- not being killed because of the color of your skin.


What we saw today, though, was equally as fleeting for black folk in this country. What we saw today was accountability, and so you have to stand up and praise that level of accountability and that's what I'm here to do is say, look, it took all of the stars to align, but we got it and it feels good.

And it feels good to have that level of accountability. And those individuals who murdered Ahmaud Arbery be taken away in handcuffs and never be able to see the light of day again.

BERMAN: Sara, in the end, were you surprised by the verdict? And what message do you think it sends?

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: John, I wasn't surprised. I mean, this was the just verdict. But I was a little concerned based on the dog whistles and the racist tropes of the defense attorneys that this jury might surprise me.

You know, so I was very relieved John, but also deeply saddened, because, you know, no verdict brings Ahmaud Arbery back, no verdict patches the hole in his mother's heart. And, you know, I heard Lee Merritt say on your network earlier today that this verdict is an anomaly.

It cannot be an anomaly. I mean, I can't tell you the countless Ahmaud Arbery's that I've represented, have come across in the course of my career who have been utterly screwed by the system because of the color of their skin, because they don't have a video, and because they're dealing with a prosecutor who won't do his damn job.

And so we can't sit down, especially those of us who work in the criminal justice system. This one verdict and one trial is definitely not systemic change by any means.

BERMAN: But it is accountability, Bakari, and I want you to talk a little bit more about the significance of accountability here.

SELLERS: I mean, what it shows is that -- and this is the bright spot, and I'm -- you know, I've been weighing this in my head and hesitant about how to talk about it. But look, the fact is, 11 white jurors in South Georgia saw the facts as presented by an outstanding prosecutor, a very fair and able Judge.

I mean, I've been on this network and criticized the Judge in Kenosha, so, you know, I've got a few people at the same spoon. I mean, look, the Judge in this case in the Ahmaud Arbery case was just, he was fabulous. He was stern. You know, he wasn't there for the circus. He wasn't trying to get a cable news deal. He was there to do his job.

And this jury saw that, and they saw the humanity of Ahmaud Arbery, but my problem is that, you know, we finally get to the point where a jury sees the humanity of a black person, but these three men did not.

And if people want to know exactly what I'm talking about, I think that they should reach out to their black friends today. Because all of us were sitting with a level of anxiety in our chest. We were all -- I don't even want to say cautiously optimistic, we were just -- I mean, it was just a knot because we were unsure what this verdict would be.

Everybody else sees it and says, oh, this was a slam dunk. This is the way it should be. But there are a lot of people in this country who did not want this to go the wrong way because we know our democracy is fragile, and if this would have gone the wrong way, like we felt like it could, this country was going to be in a bad predicament.

BERMAN: Bakari and Sara, stick around if you would because I have a lot more to discuss including more on the video that was critical in the arrest of these three men.

And also tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us to discuss how to have a safe Thanksgiving as the C.D.C. reports that hospitalizations and deaths may rise here in the United States.

And later, even if Republicans win the House next year with the party and the former President still support Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker. Why that's not an automatic yes -- when 360 continues.


BERMAN: Months ago, I spoke with Ahmaud Arbery's aunt who says that the turning point of the investigation into the death of her nephew was when the video showing his last moments of his life was released.

It was made by one of the men convicted today, and as crazy as it sounds, the only reason we even know about this video is because another one of the men convicted today, Greg McMichael released it. An attorney who helped him do it, Alan Tucker, said that McMichael's believe the video would clear them in the minds of the public from any wrongdoing.

Back with us, Bakari Sellers and Sara Azari. Sara, let me just start with you. This video, without the video, do you think the verdict would have ever been reached?

AZARI: No, John. This video -- I mean, first of all, video evidence is the best evidence, right? And just imagine if, without this, this jury believed Travis McMichael's testa-lying about the struggle with the gun, about the citizen's arrest. I mean, this verdict would be completely different.

And I think that's why it gave me some comfort earlier in the day when the jurors came out and asked to watch the video because that just told the whole story. And to your point, the level of privilege of these three murderers who believe they were exonerated by this video. I mean, this video was anything but exculpatory. Right?

And they walked around for months exercising their freedom and their liberty. It's unbelievable to me that, you know, I think it's just karma that they thought this was exculpatory, where it is really incriminating, and the whole case turned on this video. There would have been no trial and no justice.

BERMAN: Well, that's exactly the question. It's not even a question of whether the verdict would have been reached. There would have never been any arrests, Bakari.


BERMAN: Bakari?

SELLERS: No, no, I'm sorry. Yes, no, I agree with you. You know, I think that when we go back, and we look at both this case, that's one of the very clear similarities with George Floyd's murder. And that's why I said earlier in the segment before this, the stars have to align.

In many of these cases, John, when you're dealing with these types of Civil Rights cases, when you're dealing with these race-based cases, the best witness for in this case, the prosecution, but for some of us who represent families when they are killed by law enforcement, the individual -- the plaintiff in those cases -- the best witness is oftentimes dead.


In this case the best witness for the prosecution was Ahmaud Arbery, who of course, was dead, but the only way he was able to speak up, the only way his voice was able to be heard was actually through this video.

And it was also ironic, and it was said earlier by my colleague, it's so ironic that this video was shot by individuals who murdered him. This wasn't a bystander video. This wasn't a surveillance video. They literally shot this video and then released it themselves under the audacity and the privilege that it would get them off.

But again, I mean, John, ask yourself the question, does this case actually go to a jury? Do we have this semblance of accountability if in fact, there's no video? And the answer to that case, resoundingly is no, because the word of these white men.

BERMAN: Yes, I don't we have to wonder -- we don't have to wonder there.

SELLERS: Because the word the word of these white men -- yes, the word of these white men would have been taken as what they thought they were, which was superior.

BERMAN: Sara, the defense has said they are going to appeal this verdict. Any scenario you see that working?

AZARI: None whatsoever, John. You know, during the course of this trial, we saw this ridiculous racist mistrial motions of, you know, to exclude black pastors. I mean, of course, I know they were trying to be zealous and preserve the record for appeal and in the bodies of the motion also, with respect to the prosecutor's interpretation of citizen's arrest and argument. None of those provide grounds to overturn this conviction on appeal. It really -- it really doesn't. I don't see any grounds for an appeal to be successful.

Can they pursue it? Yes. Will they win? No.

BERMAN: Bakari, on the subject of accountability you were talking about before. This was a jury, the defense sort of prevailed to the jury on racial terms or racist terms, overtly racist terms in the cases of the long, dirty toenails, and the jury didn't buy it. Right? The jury didn't buy it here. So what kind of hope does that give you going forward?

SELLERS: I mean, I don't know. I mean, that's a tough question, John, you stumped me on that. You have to text me later on while you ask me stuff such a stumping question in front of millions of people.

I am -- I want to be hopeful because I have children, and I want to be hopeful because of the fact that I don't believe anything about this country is irredeemable. I think we just have to reimagine what she looks like.

But the fact of the matter is that, but for the fact we had this video, this case, doesn't get to this point. And they were even individuals in authority positions who saw the video, and who decided that this wasn't murder. But I believe in the system, I believe we have to dismantle this system and rebuild and reimagine it, but I believe it works.

And I think today when you have 11 white folk from South Georgia who came to this conclusion that these individuals murdered this boy, they lynched this boy, I think that you have to have and hold on to that hope. And hopefully, this is just, you know, it's a -- it may be a small ripple, but hopefully, it's a ripple of justice that can go throughout the country. I think that's the hope that we glean from today's verdict, but that's a damn hard question, John.

BERMAN: Sara, there are Federal charges now also. What do you see happening with that?

AZARI: I am glad it is not a stumping question. The Federal charges are important -- the Federal charges are important here, John, because, you know, that's what we really need. We need that conviction and the Federal indictment to close the loop on this lynching.

You know, when Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by these three guys, Georgia did not have a hate crime statute. They then, you know, later passed into law, they got rid of the citizen's arrest, and now they have a hate crime statute. But under the Federal indictment, which I believe was brought in April of this year, these men are charged with kidnapping as an underlying offense that is based on bias, that's based on race, right?

And so we know obviously, this lynching was racially motivated, and so, we need that conviction to sort of close the loop on this scenario. These are two different jurisdiction, double jeopardy does not apply. And so you know, I don't think the Feds are going to back off. If they wanted to wait and see, they would have never indicted, they would have just investigated and waited. So, I see that going forward.

BERMAN: Sara Azari, Bakari Sellers, both of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Bakari hug those twins for me.

AZARI: Happy Thanksgiving to you, John and Bakari.

SELLERS: I will. Thank you, brother. All right, love you both.

BERMAN: Just ahead, Dr. Anthony Fauci, my discussion with the President's Chief Medical Adviser on COVID one day ahead of a Thanksgiving Holiday where friends and family gather in close quarters and just as the C.D.C. says COVID deaths and hospitalizations are likely to rise in the coming weeks.



BERMAN: The C.D.C. today out with an unsettling forecast just as people are about to sit down together with family and friends. Officials there predict that the number of new COVID deaths and hospitalizations are likely to increase over the next four weeks.

Previously, the forecasts have been for a stable or possibly uncertain trend, no longer. But so far as tomorrow goes, what does that mean for people at your Thanksgiving table? What does it mean for masking and with boosters now recommended for all adults, what does it mean to be fully vaccinated? Important questions with a country determined to stay open.

Earlier I spoke with President Biden's Chief Medical Adviser on COVID, Dr. Anthony Fauci about safe practices and what lies ahead.


BERMAN: Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for joining us. What do you want people to keep in mind going into Thanksgiving?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I want them to be able to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving Holiday with their family, in the home setting, which is what we all traditionally like and love, and have really gotten used to over many years of our lives.

The best way to do that is obviously, what we've been speaking about for a long time is if you are vaccinated and your family members of vaccinated, and if you have children who are too young to be vaccinated, just gather in the home. You don't need to wear a mask and enjoy the Holiday Season.


If in fact you have to travel and we know that that increases the risk of infection. When you travel, if you go to an airport, for example, which is a congregate indoor setting, make sure you keep your masks on. Once you get on the plane, it's a requirement for having a mask on. But what people sometimes don't do, they get into the indoor setting of a crowded airport, particularly around food courts, where people are taking their masks off.

Just be very careful, you can have an enjoyable, restful Thanksgiving in a traditional way, in a vaccinated setting. Do that. Don't just deprive yourself of that. But be careful, particularly when you travel.

BERMAN: Just be smart. Look, we've seen a rise in infections in Europe and some cases a big rise in some countries. And cases here in the U.S. have been ticking up now for about a month, nearing 100,000 per day. So is this the start of a new wave now, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: You know, it is conceivable, John, that that is going to be the case, but we can do something about it. You know, we've been speaking about this for some time, we still have about 16 million people, adults in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not gotten vaccinated. That's one factor that has a level of viral dynamics in the community, like you just said, we're up to 94,000 cases on a daily average right now that's unacceptably high. And what that does, it has the effect not only of making the unvaccinated vulnerable, but even the vaccinated particularly when we know now that people who've been vaccinated several months ago, although the vaccine is highly, highly effective, that effectiveness wanes over several months, which is the reason why we are strongly encouraging anyone 18 and older who has been vaccinated with the original regimen, that they get a booster shot, because the data that we're getting is extremely encouraging, that the protection that you begin to lose, as the months go by, is dramatically enhanced by boosters.

So there are many things that we can do, John, we can get the unvaccinated vaccinated, we can get those who've been vaccinated boosters, and we can be prudent and careful when we go to indoor congregate settings to make sure we follow the CDC recommendations of wearing a mask. If we do that, it's within our power to prevent a big surge. We're seeing an uptick of cases. That's for the reasons that I mentioned, cold weather people, going in doors, vaccination potency waning. If we counter all of those, we can stop this.

BERMAN: Now that you're encouraging all adults to get boosters, what's your definition of fully vaccinated?

FAUCI: You know, right now officially, John, the definition of fully vaccinated is still two doses of the Moderna of Pfizer and one dose of J&J. That's the requirement when people talk about what is required for this or for that. But that does not actually contradict the fact that was saying, as vaccine efficacy wanes, you need to get that booster to bring you right up, we will evaluate as we get more data, we don't know now how long the booster effect is going to last. If it lasts for a considerably longer period of time, namely, the durability of the booster, allows you to go for a considerable period of time without getting another boost, then that very well might be determined to be the full vaccination that we talked about.

If it turns out that it wanes again, and you may need an intermittent shot, the way we do with influenza, then fully vaccinated will still be the original vaccination, but you may need to update it and upgraded over the years.

I hope it's the former John, I hope that what we get is a maturation of the immune response that goes well beyond the six months where we're starting to see the waning now. That's my hope that we see that. But we'll just have to go with the data, not what we hope for. We'll look at the data. And we'll make a determination based on the data.

BERMAN: Kids 12 to 15 years old, I have two of them. They got their vaccine. It's almost been six months now. Wondering if you think they will need boosters when they're eligible.

FAUCI: Well, the answer is they might John, but it is less likely that they will because your healthy strapping teenagers have a much better and stronger immune response than I do as an elderly person. I gulped when I say elderly but that is the truth. They do. So that may be that they will go a much longer period of time before they start to wane. There's no doubt that the healthy immune system. When you're the age of your children, they have a very robust immune system. So I would not be surprised that they will have a protection that will go way out beyond that six months. [20:35:06]

BERMAN: And finally Dr Fauci it is Thanksgiving Eve I'm wondering if I can ask you what you are thankful for tonight?

FAUCI: Well, you know, I'm thankful for the fact that we have so many people who are actually doing the right thing, getting vaccinated, getting boosters. And I'm also thankful that we have a situation in this country where we can have the opportunity, which some countries do not have, of being able to protect ourselves, by getting vaccinated, by doing the things that are necessary to protect our own health, the health of our family, and fulfill our communal responsibility to protect each other. That's what I'm thankful for.

BERMAN: Dr. Anthony Fauci, I wish you a wonderful, healthy, safe Thanksgiving. Thank you for being with us.

FAUCI: Thank you very much, John, and all the best to you and your family.

BERMAN: Coming up, what allies of the former president are saying now about House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy's quest to be the next speaker. Could the former president make it play for the gavel? We have new reporting, next.


BERMAN: Fellow Republicans are putting House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on notice and letting him know that the former president could make or break his mission to become the next House Speaker if Republicans regain control the chamber in next year's midterm elections.


The new reporting is from CNN's Melanie Zanona who joins us now along with former Republican Congressman Scott Rigell, former colleague of McCarthy who didn't seek reelection in 2016 and became an independent after the January 6 insurrection.

Melanie, we'll start with your reporting. And what some of the former president's allies on the Hill are saying?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, we are over a year away from a potential Republican race to speaker and some of Trumps allies in Congress are already starting to flex their muscles. They are making clear that their votes won't necessarily come easily. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for example, has already said she's disappointed with the Republican leadership and that she is going to be laying out a list of demands in exchange for her vote for speaker.

Of course, looming over all of this is former President Donald Trump. I mean, he really does John have the power to make or break Kevin McCarthy's quest for the speakership. Mike Rogers of Alabama, for example, he told me that it could get ugly If Trump were to come out against McCarthy. Lauren Boebert another Trump ally, has said Trump matters in everything they do around there. So of course, it would matter in a speaker's race. And Jim Jordan again, another ally, he said, obviously, it matters what Trump says in a speaker's race.

I mean, look at the end of the day, Republicans believe that Trump will be behind McCarthy for a speaker's ways. He has been a reliable ally of the former president. But Trump and his allies are certainly going to dangle the threat of the speakership over McCarthy's head for the next year or so.

BERMAN: So, Congressman, look, McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss Donald Trump's ring basically, after the January 6 insurrection, he also spoke to the former president the morning after the Paul Gosar censure vote. Are there any circumstances you can see McCarthy doing anything to buck Trump or stand up to him in any way?

SCOTT RIGELL (R-VA) FMR U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, there's controversy and some infighting, pretty much with any decision to elevate a speaker. I think Kevin has been working for this probably since he came into Congress. He's a hard working guy, most of the members, I think, respect them and like them. I don't see any legislation coming up that Kevin would take a position that would really put him sideways with the Republican conference.

So, I'm confident that he'll be the next speaker assuming that Republicans have a strong majority, and the next election cycle and everything tends to be looking to that they will. So in all likelihood, Kevin will make it through.

BERMAN: And there's nothing that would come up that would force him to take a stand against Trump along the way is what you're saying there?

RIGELL: Well, you really -- Donald Trump and the dynamics of Washington, you really can't just say with absolute certainty that Kevin will become the next speaker, because I think the flame of uncertainty, Donald Trump likes that to burn because it keeps him in the mix. And it creates a bit of uncertainty. And it continues to make him a somewhat of a power broker, even within the House conference.

BERMAN: Melanie, which brings us to the next question. And in some ways, if you're a political observer, the juiciest here, which is the possibility of Trump himself becoming speaker, the Constitution, it's in the Constitution, you don't have to be a House member to be voted speaker there. And there are those who -- what like the idea of this possibility, at least hanging over McCarthy's head?

ZANONA: Yes, I mean, so technically, you're right, you do not have to be an elected representative to become the next speaker. It's never happened before. It's a really wild idea. And I think it's a really highly unlikely scenario. But the fact that you have some in Trump's orbit, like former chief of staff, Mark Meadows or Congressman Matt Gaetz even floating and teasing this idea.

I think it's designed to really put McCarthy on notice and the message to McCarthy is Trump has the leverage. Trump has all the cards, and McCarthy shouldn't assume that his path to the speakership will be a cakewalk, even if it is the most likely scenario is not going to necessarily be easy. And there will be challenges ahead from McCarthy assuming that they, of course, win the majority.

BERMAN: So Congressman, how is it that Mitch McConnell manages to vote for the infrastructure bill and do his own thing and still control the Republican Party in the Senate, but Kevin McCarthy doesn't seem to feel he has that much flexibility in the House?

RIGELL: I think there's a lot more diversity in the house. And when I say diversity, I mean, on the political continuum, you really, truly do have some center right conservatives in the House that, you know, in swing districts that voted for the infrastructure bill, for example. But you have this large group, principally driven by hyper gerrymandered districts that their only mission really is to go up there and vote hard red, oppose everything the Democrats are doing.

But in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, I think it's a little more -- they're a little more tame over there. There's less members to control there really is something about the sheer number of representatives .My class that came in was around 260 when we took the House and just trying to get everybody to go in the right direction is an extraordinary challenge.


BERMAN: Congressman, Melanie Zanona, terrific reporting. Thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving to you both.

ZANONA: You too.

RIGELL: Thanks.

BERMAN: Up next, a wave of brazen smash and grab robberies across the country. What's behind it all, when we continue.


BERMAN: Just as the holiday shopping season gets underway, smashing grab robbers are targeting some retailers across the country.

More now from CNN's Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oak Brook, Illinois a coordinated smash and grab swarm overwhelmed security at a Louis Vuitton store. More than a dozen people stole more than 100 grand in handbags and more.

In downtown San Francisco this past weekend, another Vuitton store and more hit by a mob.

CHESA BOUDIN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN FRANCSICO: This is not a problem limited to San Francisco.

WATT (voice-over): Just outside the city, burglars, their arms filled with merchandise made their getaway from a Nordstrom, Saturday night. An employee was pepper sprayed during the brazen raid. [20:50:09]

BRETT BARRETTE, MANAFER, PF CHANG'S WALNUT CREEK: Probably 50 to 80 people and like ski mask, crowbars, and that like a bunch of weapons.

WATT (voice-over): They fled in 10 cars. Three arrests were made, two guns recovered. Sunday night, another raid at another Bay Area Mall.

LERONNE ARMSTRONG, CHIEF, OAKLAND POLICE: The thing that we are not used to is these groups willingness to actually use firearms and shoot at people.

WATT (voice-over): At the grove down in L.A. and Nordstrom was hit Monday night $5,000 worth of goods stolen, $15,000 worth of damage. This mall had beefed up security after the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd.

RICK CARUSO, OWNER,THE GROVE: You saw these bad guys with 20 pound sledge hammers having a very difficult time to break a window because all of our windows have ballistic film on it.

WATT (voice-over): Many more moles now beefing up security and California and authorities promising action.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): These people need to be held to account. We need to investigate these crimes, we need to break up these crime rinks. And we need to make an example out of this folks.

WATT (voice-over): In Oakland this weekend --

ARMSTRONG: We will have tactical teams deployed throughout the city.

WATT (voice-over): But as we saw what that San Francisco rate even when cops are quick to the scene.


WATT (voice-over): With a mob, many will still get away.


BERMAN: And Nick Watt joins us now from Los Angeles. Nick, anyone have an idea why this is happening?

WATT: Well, John, it's Christmas time, it's the holidays of the stores are stocked. There's also a market this time of year for stolen goods as gifts. And a lot of people say that the penalties just aren't strong enough. So here in California, if you steal goods worth up to 950 bucks, that's not a felony. That's just a misdemeanor. John.

BERMAN: Nick Watt, thank you very much.

Up next, NASA's mission is smash into an asteroid and push it off course. That's right. Smash into an asteroid. Sounds like Armageddon, the film, but no, there's no Ben Affleck here. Next.



BERMAN: So why not smashed into an asteroid on purpose. NASA has launched his first ever planetary defense mission. It's called the DART Mission short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. This spacecraft will deliberately crash into the asteroid to try to jolt it from its regular orbit, and it has nothing to do with Ben Affleck or drilling.

Joining us now is Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson of the American Museum of Natural History, and author of A Brief Welcome To The Universe A Pocket Size Tour.

Neil, a pleasure to see you as always. Can you explain what this mission is trying to do and why?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIS: Well, you have to sort of know the structure of the solar system, we have Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and then there's this gap, before you get to Jupiter. And in that gap are countless asteroids. That's where most of them are. But a subset of them have weight wayward for us a wayward orbit that brings them close to the orbit of the Earth. And in some cases, they crossed the orbit of the Earth. One hundred percent of these can be considered potentially hazardous. So, this target asteroid is actually a binary asteroid. There's like a main asteroid, and it has a moon. And we know precisely the orbit of that moon around the main asteroid. So when you slam into the moon, and you slightly change its orbit, we know the orbits, so well now we'll be able to detect what kind of change happened to it afterwards.

BERMAN: So the amazing thing is this thing was launched overnight, and it's going to smash into this asteroid in October of next year, you have to be pretty good at math, right, to make that worth.

TYSON: Yes, it's, it's a badass move. You know, here we are on earth itself a moving platform, and you're aiming this space probe to a point in space 10 months from now, where the binary asteroid will be, and you're going to hit the moon that's going around it. And so, this yes, there's not enough praise given to the orbital dynamicists who figure this out. But consider what's going to happen, this craft weighs about, pounds, much less than, than the mass of the moon itself, but just enough to push it and change its orbital speed by one half a millimeter per second.

And you say, well, that's nothing well, it adds up and think to yourself, if we find an asteroid headed our way, you don't want to deflect it when it's late, because then you got to push it really far. You want to get it when it's early, you push it a little bit, and that little bit accumulates. And so, you can knock it out of harm's way if you have early enough warning that such a asteroid poses a risk.

BERMAN: We got about a minute left. I mean, how worried do I have to be about an asteroid hitting planet Earth? And how much faith should I be putting in NASA that they can stop it from happening? TYSON: Yes, the word isn't faith in this particular context. It's, I mean, it's science. And if we live in a world where people stand in denial of science, that is a world where we will all go extinct by something that science could have been -- could have prevented, because, you know, that if the dinosaurs had a space program, they would have deflected that asteroid, and they'd still be here.

BERMAN: But they have like Armageddon or Deep Impact more as a film the dinosaurs.

TYSON: Deep Impact had way better science. It wasn't as funny or entertaining as Armageddon was. Armageddon violated more laws of physics per minute than any other movie ever made. Just got to tell you that.

BERMAN: And that was just the (INAUDIBLE) cracker scene. Neil deGrasse Tyson, thank you for being with us. I appreciate your time. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving.

TYSON: You got and to you too and your whole staff. Thanks


BERMAN: The news continues. So let's hand it over to Michael Smerconish in for Chris tonight on "CUOMO PRIME TIME."