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At This Hour
Man Who Shot Ahmaud Arbery Takes the Stand in Own Defense; Jury Deliberations Enter Third Day in Kyle Rittenhouse Trial; House Censures Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) Over Violent Video. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 18, 2021 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBERT RUBIN, TRAVIS MCMICHAEL'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Take a look at page one -- page seven, line one.
TRAVIS MCMICHAEL, FATALLY SHOT AHMAUD ARBERY AFTER CHASE: Seven, line one.
RUBIN: Can you recall what you said to Officer Nohilly there?
LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: Objection, inappropriate question. This is not a prior inconsistent statement at this time.
RUBIN: It's a rehabilitation of the witness after he's been cross- examined about his intent and why he made the decisions he did. This is a prior statement by him that is consistent with his testimony and to rehabilitate him after cross-examination. He's been questioned extensively, your honor, about what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're rehabilitating him? That's what you're claiming to be in his statement (ph)?
RUBIN: Yes, your honor. What do you say page seven, line one?
MCMICHAEL: One to -- just line one or --
RUBIN: Yes. I have a copy so we can make sure -- the full statement before the -- the first full sentence there.
RUBIN: Read it out loud. If you remember the statement, how are we doing this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Just read it, what he said to the officer.
DUNIKOSKI: Well, objection. Improper --
RUBIN: Do you recall what you said to the officer?
MCMICHAEL: I do.
RUBIN: Don't read it. What did you say to the officer? MCMICHAEL: I told -- it was (INAUDIBLE) --
RUBIN: Let me (INAUDIBLE). What date were you speaking about when you were talking to the officer?
MCMICHAEL: I was speaking of February 11th when I saw him the first time that I encountered him.
RUBIN: Okay. And did you tell the officer or give the officer an impression of what you thought about Mr. Arbery at that time?
MCMICHAEL: Yes. I said that when I stepped out, that he was not there, he wasn't clearly there and he reached into his pocket.
RUBIN: What did you mean by clearly -- he, Mr. Arbery, was clearly not there?
MCMICHAEL: The way he was interacting with me, the way he was reacting to just being caught creeping or lurking in the shadows, to reach into a pocket and then just stay, I would say, bold or having a brazen moment when you do that, and then just go into the house and continue to do what you were doing. It was not -- it was off. It just wasn't --
RUBIN: Did you share this with Officer Nohilly a couple hours after this incident?
MCMICHAEL: I did, yes, sir.
RUBIN: All right. If you'll go to page nine, line three. Before you do that, at any point in time, did you try to describe Mr. Arbery's behavior as you were interpreting it on Burford Road to Officer Nohilly?
MCMICHAEL: I did, yes.
RUBIN: Okay. And do you recall how you described his behavior?
RUBIN: Okay. How did you describe it?
MCMICHAEL: Funny, acting funny, clearly not there.
RUBIN: Okay. Let me stop you. What did you mean by acting funny?
MCMICHAEL: The way that he -- his facial expressions when I first pulled up, you know, the anger, and then not speaking, not talking at all, it wasn't like -- it wasn't ignoring or trying to ignore me. And he's just -- the way that he was expressing himself, he just wasn't talking, he was in an anger state. And --
RUBIN: And what was your interpretation of that?
MCMICHAEL: That he could be --
DUNIKOSKI: Objection, relevance.
RUBIN: Goes to his conduct.
DUNIKOSKI: Calls for speculation and not relevant. It's in his interpretation.
RUBIN: I think it is relevant. I'm not speculating. It's just his interpretation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sustained.
RUBIN: Did you tell -- did you speak to -- did you ever indicate to Officer Nohilly that you felt something was just not right with Mr. Arbery?
MCMICHAEL: I did.
RUBIN: Okay. Do you recall ever indicating to Officer Nohilly that you were just wanting to watch him and hope that he would continue to run past you?
MCMICHAEL: Yes, I did.
RUBIN: Okay. Your -- one second, your honor, your -- one second, your honor.
I have nothing further.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, thank you, sir. You may step down.
MCMICHAEL: Thank you, judge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you just go leave those there?
MCMICHAEL: All right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. I'm not sure whose transcripts those are. Why don't you go step down over and let their transcripts up there to grab them.
I figure out where we are and a little early to break for lunch.
RUBIN: We have a brief witness. Just give me a minute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defense calls Mindy Cofer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cofer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cofer, C-O-F-E-R.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remain standing.
MINDY COFER, : I take my mask off?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your right hand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear to tell truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
COFER: Yes, sir, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Have a seat.
RUBIN: Hi, Ms. Cofer.
RUBIN: Ms. Cofer, I just want to ask you a few brief questions, and if you just wouldn't mind telling us where you live.
COFER: Satilla Shores.
RUBIN: How long have you lived there?
COFER: Since 1976.
RUBIN: 1976. What road do you live off of?
COFER: Satilla Drive. I live on Satilla Drive.
RUBIN: Okay. Have you ever been involved with any of the Facebook pages associated with Satilla Shores?
COFER: Yes. I'm a member of the Satilla Shores Home Owners page.
RUBIN: Oh, I see. And any other types of pages that involve the Exit 29 area or the Satilla Shores?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: All right, everyone. You've been listening to Travis McMichael, the man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery, testifying in his own defense. He was cross-examined all throughout the morning by the prosecution for two hours.
McMichael insists he was acting in self-defense. He is one of the three men on trial for the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, the black jogger that you saw throughout that video, the man who is now dead.
Joining me right now for what we really saw, which was an important moment this morning, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Hoenig and CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan as well.
Elie, just your take on what we saw through cross-examination for two hours this morning.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Kate, that was a clinic. That was a meticulous takedown. Anyone out there who may be in law school, that's how you do it. The prosecutor went one question at a time, one fact per question, got such important concessions.
The two pillars of the defense here, I think, she knocked them down. The first is we were making this citizen's arrest, but she just got the witness to admit he never said anything to the police about making a citizen's arrest. The jury has to be thinking that's a huge problem. And then the second thing is this whole idea that Ahmaud Arbery grabbed the gun, right? Travis McMichael testified on direct he grabbed the gun. That's what he said. But the prosecutor just exposed that when McMichael made a statement to the police, he said, I want to say he did, I honestly cannot remember. That is devastating to the defense.
BOLDUAN: What sticks out to you, Paul, from what we saw at this point (ph)?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: She's a real pro in terms of cross- examination. You know what, we were talking about her off set a little bit. A good cross-examiner sort of baby steps the witness along and then hits the witness with a big, important point.
BOLDUAN: Yes. Every step of the way, she'd ask almost at one point asking the same series of questions.
BOLDUAN: And he had not threatened you, and he had not pulled a weapon.
CALLAN: And up to this point he had not threatened you. And up to this point he wasn't trying to get into the truck. And then she finally had him cornered. And you get to this final fatal encounter, which is at the front of the truck, and the scene, I think the jury is seeing in its mind, is the shotgun being held by one person, and it's not Arbery, obviously, and the gun being fired at him, you know, pointlessly, really, without self-defense, without any sort of a legitimate self-defense claim.
BOLDUAN: So, you think she was effective in what she did? Every smart attorney, I think both of you have said to me that it is important -- while rare, it is important when you're trying to argue self-defense, to hear that from the defendant themselves. So they put him -- they put Travis McMichael on the stand. Do you think it was a smart choice? How did he do?
HONIG: I think he did poorly, and I don't think it ended up being a smart choice. But I'm not sure they had any other choice.
HONIG: So, normally, it's very rare for a defendant to take the stand. They always say, oh, I'm going to take the stand but almost never. But in self-defense cases, the common wisdom is you have to. Now, you don't technically have to, but someone has to hear, right, because it's what we call an affirmative defense, meaning you're arguing, yes, I shot and killed this person but for a reason. And that's the way you get it in.
But I thought -- look, I thought, he, McMichael, did okay on direct exam. I thought he explained what happened. But then the prosecutor just took out his knees on cross-examination, showed that he was being untruthful and that the main reasons he offered in his own defense just did not stand up.
CALLAN: And, Kate, this business about defendants not taking the stand, there's truth to it, but usually the defendants who don't take the stand have long criminal records that will come out if they take the witness stand. And as Elie was just saying, in a self-defense case, you have a little bit of a different situation, and particularly where your client doesn't have a criminal record.
And here, they try to, you know, show his extensive training in the Coast Guard, that he was familiar with carrying a weapon and trying to de-escalate situations. And you know something? I think that's going to blow up on him completely, because they tried to show that he was cool, calm, well-trained in how he handles situations. This cross- examination demonstrated that he was in a panic state, really, in this case. He wasn't deliberately making decisions about how to use force or not.
And one of the big areas of questioning also was that Arbery was cornered. One of them used the word cornered like a rat in statements that were made previous to the testimony. His father was there with his .357 magnum. There were other ways that he wasn't really in danger because he had all of these other people around him. And if he was this cool, collected, trained Coast Guard person, he didn't act that way in this particular case.
BOLDUAN: So, you've got the three defendants here, right? You've got Travis McMichael, who's taken the stand, and we heard this morning that another one of the defendants, William Bryan, he at least, through his attorney, said right now he is not planning to testify. What do you think of that? I don't know if it ends up only being one of the defendants takes the stand. What's the impact of that?
HONIG: I think it's very unlikely we hear from either of the other two defendants. There's a really interesting dynamic that happens in a multi-defendant trial, three, four, five, where, remember, each of these defendants has his own lawyer. They could have actually -- the father's lawyer and Bryan's lawyer, could have cross-examined Travis McMichael if they wanted to, but they chose not to. I think the strategy here is let's put our best spoken person forward, the person most at the center of the action forward, and he will speak for us.
And I do think, you know, the jury, it's important, has to return separate verdicts on each of these people, right? So, it's possible that they find Travis guilty and the father not guilty, right. So, we're going to get different verdicts on down the line. But one of the things that happened is Bryan, the guy in the car, the separate car, he is a little bit fading into the background now of the jury's mind. He was barely mentioned just there. So, his lawyer may be happy with that. Sometimes you want your client in the background if you're a defense lawyer.
CALLAN: Yes, I agree. Bryan won't be put on the stand because the prosecutors really haven't made out a conspiracy between the three men to corner Arbery, very clearly, in front of the jury. And Bryan, I think, has a very strong possibility of walking. You notice that Travis was very defensive about his father too because his father made a number of outrageous statements. And so I don't think you put the father on stand. He'll make a lot more outrageous statements if he takes the stand.
BOLDUAN: In addition to this testimony today, we also -- this is -- also today, that same attorney who has been complaining about the presence of black pastors in the courtroom filed a third motion today to try to keep Reverend Al Sharpton as well as Jesse Jackson out of the courtroom. And every day -- this has become an everyday thing. Every day, he's stood up, he's made some motion, he's complained about the presence of allowing black pastors to sit in the courtroom. I'm wondering why, like, what is it?
HONIG: It's for show. It's for show. There's no legal basis to that. Courtrooms are public spaces. Any member of the public can go into this courtroom. Pastors are entitled to be there just the same as anyone else is entitled to be there.
BOLDUAN: Is this about later? Is this about a motion --
HONIG: No. Theoretically, but, no, yes.
CALLAN: Come on. These motions have no legal ground. It's a public courtroom, and if Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson wants to watch the trial, and as you see, they have a legal right to do so. This is a lawyer who I think doesn't know what he's doing, doing this sort of thing.
It's mind-boggling what he's doing. He's injecting clearly racism into the trial when, of course, the best defense here is that this has nothing to do with race, it has to do with us trying to apprehend somebody who's committing a crime.
BOLDUAN: And that gets to -- on the most basic level, Elie, you have three men versus one, one person, as we just learned today, you've got one person with a gun, the defendant with a gun, you have white men chasing a young black man down in two pickup trucks. Like how do you get beyond those facts? HONIG: Yes, I think that's a really powerful argument that the
prosecution is making. I mean, picture the scene. Try, if possible -- it's not possible for a lot of people, but put yourself -- imagine what it was like for Ahmaud Arbery. And it was a really effective portion of the cross-examination there at the end where the prosecutor asked a whole series of you could have questions. You could have let him run. You could have followed him in your car. You could have stayed in your car. And the answer to all of those from Travis McMichael, was yes, yes, yes.
And I think it drove home the point they did exactly what the father told the cops they were trying to do, which was -- and this is the father's line to the cop, trap him like a rat. And I think it's a really powerful point.
BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you for that. I really appreciate it.
We're going to keep a close eye on this trial. We're going to bring you more. But we also now want to turn to day three of jury deliberation in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The jurors have now deliberated for more than 17 hours. They have asked the judge to, again, watch video evidence that was presented in this case, including, we can show you, this drone video of the deadly -- one of the deadly shootings at the heart of the latest mistrial request from the defense. This drone video is now becoming a very big thing.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, he is live outside the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with the very latest. So, Shimon, what's happening right now? What are you hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jury is back. They're deliberating. There was a brief discussion with the lawyers and the security staff at the courthouse about something that they're trying to figure out. And we don't really have any reportable information on. But as far as the jury, they're back, they're deliberating, and we're just waiting. We haven't heard anything else from the judge or the court this morning, but we do know, as I said, that the jury is back.
I was talking to the defense attorney, Mark Richards, briefly in the hallway after they had this meeting with the judge. He actually said, interestingly enough, that this -- he's been lawyer for many, many years. He told me this that is the longest he has had to wait for a jury verdict. So, this is the longest he's had a jury out in any of the criminal cases he's tried. So, I thought that was kind of interesting. But, you know, they're just waiting.
The other thing that everyone obviously, and has been raised yesterday because of this drone video, the defense is very angry about it, they've asked for a mistrial, he said they're going to wait, the defense attorney told me they're waiting to file this motion. They haven't filed it yet, but they're waiting to file it. So, we're waiting on news on that. But, otherwise, everyone here is just pretty much waiting.
And the jury, really, it's kind of interesting, that they're just continuing to work and we haven't really heard much from them except for some of those notes yesterday.
BOLDUAN: Shimon, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it.
So, we are also following another high-profile trial, this one in Charlottesville, Virginia. Closing arguments are underway right now in the Unite the Right civil trial. It's federal lawsuit which accuses several leading white nationalists of engaging in a conspiracy to commit racially-motivated violence in the two-day rally in 2017 there that turned deadly.
CNN's Jason Carroll is live at the courthouse in Charlottesville with the latest here. What's happening there, Jason?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, all morning long, Kate, we've basically been listening to plaintiff attorneys, giving their closing arguments and really giving an overview, a comprehensive overview of the totality of evidence that they presented over the course of this three-week trial, which they say shows enough evidence to show that there was, quote, evidence is crystal clear that the plan went as intended, basically saying all the evidence is there for jurors to see that these defendants conspired to commit acts of violence. They showed -- they reviewed the text messages that they showed, reminded them of the social media posts that were out there.
One text message in particular, one that was sent from Christopher Cantwell, a well-known neo-Nazi, to Richard Spencer, the person who coined the phrase, alt-right, this text message read, I'm willing to risk a lot for our cause, including violence and incarceration. I want to coordinate and make sure it's worth it for our cause. Again, reminding jurors of these text messages, all of the totality of evidence that they presented throughout this trial, asking jurors, they say it is a reasonable foreseeability given all of the evidence that was presented to show that these men conspired to commit acts of violence. Of course, the defense will get their turn later this afternoon. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Jason, thank you so much for that.
Coming up for us still At This Hour, House Republicans are standing by and supporting Congressman Paul Gosar despite being censured for posting that violent video depicting him killing a colleague and attacking the president.
Political extremism reaching new lows in America, that's next.
BOLDUAN: New this morning, Republican Congressman Paul Gosar is defiant after being censured by the House of Representatives and stripped of his committee assignments for posting a violent animated video depicting him killing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden. About an hour after that rare rebuke, he re-tweeted the same cartoon video again.
CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more. Lauren, so that's what happened yesterday, but what does it all mean today?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are few things that we're going to be watching for. The Ethics Committee is going to be looking into this incident. They usually go ahead with their investigations behind closes doors and they are secretive about that, so we may not have results from that for a couple of weeks or even months.
There is also a question of whether or not this potentially could be criminal behavior. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told me yesterday that this is something that law enforcement should look into, not just because this was a threat against a fellow member but also a threat against the president of the United States. Now, yesterday, during this censure, there was a call from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arguing that this was really just a simple question of wrong or right, and here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): What is so hard? What is so hard about saying that this is wrong? This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar, but this is about what we are willing to accept.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOX: And, of course, Kate, one of the things that happened yesterday was just two Republicans were willing to vote with Democrats on this censure resolution and to remove Gosar from his two committees. Obviously, not very many Republicans thought this was worth admonishing. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you.
Joining me now for more is Huma Abedin. She is a top aide and longtime adviser with Hillary Clinton starting from the first lady's office to the Senate to the State Department and beyond. She's also the author of the new book, Both And, A Life in Many Worlds. It's good to see you, Huma. Thank you for coming in.
HUMA ABEDIN, LONGTIME AIDE TO HILLARY CLINTON: It's great to be with you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Just looking at the political discourse today, I mean, you as well as Secretary Clinton faced untold number of kind of political attacks and even threats of violence. And for years, I mean, who do you blame for what we see as the political discourse reaching these new lows?
ABEDIN: Well, you know, as I write in the book, I've been in politics for the last 25 years. I grew up in a time where, you know, you had a proactive positive message for the day. You didn't listen to the nonsense, and that was when we were living in the world of 24-hour news, and now we're in 24-second news, and there's constantly things being thrown out in the world.
It does feel like we're increasingly divided, but I believe the only way forward is to sit at the table with the other side and try to understand, try to respect, but some of the most recent stuff is shocking.
BOLDUAN: Only two -- as Lauren said, only two Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the censure. I mean what we heard from some Republicans is this was ridiculous and childish and stupid coming from Gosar but not a real threat of violence. Do you see that?
ABEDIN: I think to have civility and respect for the other side is the only way forward. And it seems -- and it's hard to be in that space and place today. It doesn't -- you know, I don't think if I have talked to somebody who I disagree with that I'll necessarily change their mind, but at least having the ability to have those civil conversations, it just seems these days to be extinct.
BOLDUAN: And think about just about like the environment today. You write a lot about -- in your book about Hillary Clinton's legacy and that you see the vice president. You see Vice President Kamala Harris as part of that. And I was reflecting how, like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris is serving in the service of a former primary rival. So, there are parallels and kind of the working together and what you have to do.
But this week, the White House is defending after -- defending the vice president after CNN has been reporting of tension in the west wing. Key aides saying that they are worn out by what they see as entrenched dysfunction and lack of focus from Harris and her staff. When you hear this, what do you make of it from just your experience?
ABEDIN: I walked into the white house in 1996, a 21-year-old intern, and I write as I progressed in my job with Hillary, 2000 Senate race, 2008 presidential campaign and 2016. It is hard for women in politics. I think it is hard for people to see women in executive leadership positions, whether it's in politics or outside, and senator -- Vice President Harris and then-Senator Harris, she made history before she was vice president, she's done a lot of tough, hard things. Her team, I publicly and privately support the efforts and the work that they are trying do. There's always going to be people talking but --
BOLDUAN: Do you see sexism in this?
ABEDIN: Absolutely, I see sexism in some of the ways we talk about women leaders, and I've seen it with Hillary in the book. I end the book with my belief that we really need to be supporting, especially our vice president. She is an extremely smart, talented, you know, history-making figure, and I -- I resent every time there's some sort of a negative accusation made. But I do see -- personally, I do see sexism in it.
BOLDUAN: Look, you talk about how long you have been in politics and how -- I mean, you have seen the -- some of the best and definitely some of the worst of politics, which is why I was so struck when I saw you say in interviews that you're leaving the door open yourself to running for office.
After you have experienced up close what the glare of politics and political office, what that spotlight can do, the toll that it can take on families, why would you want to expose yourself to that when you know the real costs of it?
ABEDIN: Well, you know, I -- that was my very first interview that I did when I was asked if I would run for office. This is my year of saying, yes. One of the things I'm thrilled about with this book is that I've put everything in there. A lot of people ask questions about some of the choices and decisions that I made in my own life. It's all in the book. I was hoping this would be my year of saying, yes, open to different ideas and ideals. I close the book by saying I think one of the greatest professions you can be involved in is public service, the reward. It's worth the risk. I loved every minute of it.
Do I see myself running for office? I don't. But I would like to be open to all kinds of options and possibilities.