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Closing Arguments Begin Monday in Arbery Murder Trial; Ten State Attorneys General Launch Investigation Into Instagram; U.N. Calls For Proof of Missing Chinese Tennis Star's Well-Being. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 19, 2021 - 11:30   ET


ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Is the guy in the follow car, the neighbor.


So, it's interesting that he of the three defendants, if true, was interested in pleading.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: I actually was with my -- you know, no legal basis to have this thought, Bernarda. I was actually surprised that if this request came from William Bryan. What do you think it says about what they think of their case?

BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. I'm not surprised that this request came from William Bryan. I am surprised at the timing of this request, because I would have thought that he would have made this request prior to the trial actually starting. But the writing is on the wall for him. He saw all the evidence has been presented and the evidence has shown that his client is guilty, so he has a high likelihood of being convicted. So now he wants to limit his exposure.

So, I'm not surprised at the ask. The question will be what was the exact ask, what number was he looking at.

BOLDUAN: Good point. Elie, can we move over to Wisconsin now? Because I do want to ask you, as the Rittenhouse trial is now -- the jury is deliberating. Late yesterday, as Shimon Prokupecz was laying out, the judge agreed to one juror's request to take the jury instructions home. What's your reaction to that?

HONIG: So, first of all, that never happens. Like Shimon said, I've been part of many, many trials, I canvassed my friends here, nobody has ever heard of even this request being made.

Now, on the one hand, it suggests to us that the jury is really looking very carefully at their legal instructions, which is a good thing. That's what they're supposed to do. I think it was a risky decision by the judge to allow them to take the jury instructions home because the whole point of a jury deliberation, the judge tells them over and over, is you are to only consider the evidence in this courtroom. You are to only deliberate back there in that room. You are not to consider anything from the outside world, anything you may have seen or done or heard. And now, he's essentially letting them take home homework, which in my experience is completely unprecedented.

So, it's an interesting move. I think it gives us a little bit of insight into where the jury is focused. They're focused on the right thing. But I would not have let them take it home if I was the judge here.

BOLDUAN: And the way it kind of played out, according to reporters that were in the room, Bernarda, was that once the jury had left the room, the defense team, after this had kind of been established and the judge seemed to give the go-ahead, the defense team said that they were concerned that it could lead to the jurors looking up definitions or doing research on their own. That's how it was described. Why is that a concern for the defense?

VILLALONA: So, it's a concern for the defense, and if there is a conviction in this case, it also will be grounds for appeal. This is unprecedented that a juror is allowed to take the jury instructions home. The jury deliberations only to take place when all 12 jurors are gathered together. If one steps out to use the bathroom, deliberations must cease.

Also, taking a step further, jurors aren't allowed to take their notes home or outside of the courthouse, so for a juror to be allowed to take the law, the law that they have to apply to the facts, the crucial piece of deliberations, home, I think disrupts the sanctity of jury deliberations. So, you don't know what they're doing, talking to other people, researching, looking at the news, you just don't know. And I think sanctity of jury deliberation has now been interrupted.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, I mean, closing arguments, Elie, as you and I discussed, were so important in the Rittenhouse case. Closing arguments are set to begin on Monday in the case against the men who were accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. What do you think closings are going to look like next week over in Georgia?

HONIG: Yes. So, I think the prosecutor is going to focus on two key points. Number one, this whole defense of citizen's arrest is nonsense. The reason they were pursuing Ahmaud Arbery was not to place him under citizen's arrest. It was because they saw a young black man jogging through their neighborhood and they aimed to do him harm, and there's evidence to support that. There's plenty of evidence to support that.

The second piece is that Travis McMichael's testimony happened during the struggle immediately before the shooting is false, because Travis McMichael tried to tell this jury that Ahmaud Arbery had his hand on the gun. However, McMichael told the cops back when this happened that he did not know if Arbery had his hand on the gun. That's a huge problem for the defense, and I look for the prosecution to try to really slam home those two themes.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It's great to see you both. Thank you very much.

HONIG: Thanks, Kate. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a group of state A.G.s are looking into the potential harm of Instagram on kids. We're going to talk to the attorney general of California on the bipartisan investigation he is now helping to lead into the social media giant.



BOLDUAN: New this morning, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general has launched an investigation into Meta, the social media company formerly known as Facebook. Their focus, on the potential harm of Instagram on children and teens. It comes after, of course, the whistleblower that leaked company documents from Facebook that shows the company's own researchers found that the platform can damage the mental health and body image of young users.

Joining me now is California's attorney general, Rob Bonta, one of the ten A.G.s leading this new investigation.


Attorney General, thanks for being here.

Can you lay out for me what you are going to investigate and how you're going to go about it? Because what do you think you can compel Facebook to give you?

ROB BONTA, ONE OF TEN STATE A.G.s INVESTIGATING INSTAGRAM: Well, good morning, Kate. Thanks for having me. We are working here in California with multiple states throughout the nation on a national bipartisan investigation of Meta, of course, formerly known as Facebook, to learn more about their efforts to provide and promote their social media platform, Instagram, to children and young adults, knowing that it caused physical and mental health harms, including things like suicide, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, body image challenges.

And we have a lot of authority to seek documents and information and disclosure and transparency as part of our investigation, especially multiple states throughout the nation working together in tandem. And we're going to get to the bottom of this. Questions need to be answered. Meta needs to answer those questions and we're going to get those answers.

BOLDUAN: What's your key question for Meta?

BONTA: What did you know about the damage Instagram caused to children and young adults? And having known that, what did you do, if anything, to protect our children? This is about holding companies, no matter what their size is, whether large or small, or the biggest in the world, accountable for taking steps and actions that are safe for your children.

Nothing is more valuable than our kids. As a father, as an attorney general, with the responsibility and duty to protect the most vulnerable and voiceless among us, especially and including our children, we will defend our children. We will not back down. And we want to ensure that Meta was taking steps to protect our children.

BOLDUAN: Will you go to courts to compel Mark Zuckerberg to give testimony in connection with your investigation?

BONTA: Well, we are taking it one step at a time. We are at the very beginning of the investigation. We hope that in the weeks and the months ahead through our engagement with Meta, that we will receive the information, the documents, the disclosure that we seek. If we don't, and we're not prejudging that, we hope that we will, then we will take the next steps to make sure that we get the documents, the information, the disclosure that we are due and that we are owed under the law.

BOLDUAN: Meta, Facebook, is headquartered in your state, of course. So, it really matters what you say at the end of this, Attorney General. What do you see as the possible outcomes of this investigation?

BONTA: Practices and policies and procedures that promote the health, safety and welfare of our children, and accountability for any actions that were taken in the past that did not meet that standard.

We have incredible companies here in California. We're proud of them. They dream and innovate and they do and they create. But they must also do right by everyday people, by consumers, and certainly by children.

So, we're going to find out what they're doing, when they did it, what they're doing now, and we're going to make sure that our children are being safe and protected and that there is accountability and consequence for any past actions that fell below the legal standard.

BOLDUAN: People who have been pushing for more tech regulation, especially when it comes to Facebook, have often compared these efforts as similar to cracking down on big tobacco in years past. And that is also a time and an issue where states played a very key role in putting in place more regulations. Do you see this fight as similar? Do you see this fight as something as big as taking on big tobacco?

BONTA: I've heard that parallel drawn, and I think what's important here is that as attorneys general, bipartisan throughout this nation, we're working to hold our tech companies accountable to standards that are safe, that are responsible. And as we learn information, including what we've seen in the news, what we've seen in congressional hearings, we have big concerns. And so we do what we do. We team up to protect the people.

BONTA: Attorney General Rob Bonta, thank you.

BONTA: Thanks for having me, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, growing international outcry over a missing Chinese tennis star. Why won't China tell the world where Peng Shuai is? Details, next. But, first, the top ten CNN Heroes of 2021 have been announced an one will be the CNN Hero of the Year. And you get to vote. And as you do, we'll be introduce the heroes to you, heroes like a woman in Colombia who started an organization to disrupt the cycle of poverty in isolated communities.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The families that we are working with are living in extreme poverty. These areas are so remote that there is no even roads to get there.


The communities use candles, gasoline, lamps. They were spending a lot of money and the smoke of the lamps were negatively affecting their health.

Our mission is to provide access to basic services.

My biggest dream for the people that I'm working with is that they wake up not just to survive but they can take small steps to fulfill their dreams.


BOLDUAN: Go to to vote for your choice for CNN Hero of the Year.

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: This morning, the United Nations is demanding proof of the whereabouts and well-being of Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai. She has not been seen publicly in two and a half weeks, and that's after accusing the former Chinese vice premier of sexual assault.

The head of the Women's Tennis Association is now threatening to stop doing business with China because of this.


STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: There's too many times in our world today when we get into issues like this that we let business, politics, money dictate what's right and what's wrong. We're definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it because this is certainly -- this is bigger than the business.


BOLDUAN: Meantime, Chinese state media aired these images of Peng today, but CNN is unable to verify from when they are from. Joining me now Christine Brennan, CNN Sports Analyst, Columnist for USA Today.

Christine, I personally give Steve Simon a huge amount of credit for standing up and saying that they he did, positioned the heads of much bigger and wealthier professional sports leagues have not taken that position when it comes to China. I mean, what do you think of what Simon is saying?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Oh, Kate, I think it's terrific. When do we see someone stand up in sports anymore and do the right thing and they double down on it, because he's had several statements now, two of them, huge statements. This is a bellwether moment that we are seeing the WTA stand up obviously to try to find Peng Shuai, wants answers, demanding answers, continues to demand. It is remarkable. It is wonderful. It is a breath of fresh air, frankly, and that someone is saying, hey, China, let's see if you blink.

China's human rights violations, obviously this story, are so troubling, and they have been going on for years, as we know, Kate. And to think finally someone is standing up and saying, enough is enough, we're calling you on this, we want answers, as I said, I think it's remarkable and a very refreshing moment in sports and really throughout our culture.

BOLDUAN: You know, and he even went the step of questioning, maybe threatening of pulling business from China, if Women's Tennis will continue their relationship in China depending on how this goes out. I mean, if Women's Tennis breaks with China, how big of a deal is that?

BRENNAN: It's a very big deal. There are ten tournaments that the WTA has in China. To have that foothold in China, any business wants it. That's why there's not one Olympics in China but two, 2008 Beijing Summer Games and now the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. Everyone wants to do business in China, all the corporate sponsors, all the sports leagues, everyone. You want to give that 1.4 billion person market. That makes sense.

But I also think there's something that is overlooked in this conversation and that is China desperately wants to also be given that sense that it belongs and it wants to be a major player in the sports world. So, this matters to them too, and I think that's where what we're seeing here.

And it's not just a one-way street. There is leverage for the International Olympic Committee. There is leverage for the WTA. They are using it, obviously, for a very good humanitarian cause. They are trying to lead and find out where Peng Shuai is. Is she safe, okay in our Me Too world? But I do think China desperately wants to be a major player so there is leverage on the WTA side as well.

BOLDUAN: And as you mentioned, what's important, the Beijing Olympics is just a few months away. We've got -- President Biden is considering a diplomatic boycott of the games in order to send a signal there, and that's about human rights abuses much more broadly in China that we've been tracking for years. [11:55:07]

But also when it comes to Peng Shuai, CNN reached out to the Olympic Committee to ask for a reaction to the situation. I want to read for you what they said in response. Experience shows that quiet diplomacy offers the best opportunity to find a solution for questions of such nature. This explains where the IOC will not comment any further on this stage.

Compare that to what we've heard from Steve Simon.

BRENNAN: Right. And I actually was emailing with Mark Adams, their spokesperson, and same thing. And I came back at him, like and said you're kidding me, Mark, just nothing, really? They're assurances -- they're happy to have assurances that she's safe, which we don't even have those assurances anymore. That was a few days ago. This is what the IOC does. This is what they have done. They have failed to hold that leverage that they have over Beijing in 2008.

Imagine, Kate, if in '02, '03, or '04, they had said, stop the human rights completely or we're pulling the Olympics from China. That would have been real and they had that leverage and they failed to use it. The IOC fails time and time again. This is one athlete. In two and a half months the International Olympic Committee will be in charge of several thousand athletes. Many of them, I'm sure, will want to speak out and let's see what happens then. It could be very troubling.

BOLDUAN: Christine, thank you for being here. I appreciate it.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: A quick programming, everyone. Fareed Zakaria takes an in- depth look at China's leader, China's Iron Fist, Xi Jinping and the Stakes for America. That airs Sunday night at 9:00 P.M.

Thanks for being here. Inside Politics with John King begins after this break.