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At This Hour

Trial Begins Against WNBA Star Brittney Griner In Russia Emmett Till's Family Finds Unserved Warrant, Demands Arrest; President Biden To Award 17 Medals Of Freedom On Thursday. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 01, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: White House National Climate advisor and former EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, thank you for being here. As I mentioned, you know, the president -- this is another Supreme Court decision that the president was facing this week. And he called this decision, regarding the EPA, devastating. Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner told me yesterday on the show that what is -- what this effectively does is tie EPA's hands behind its back. But I'll say I've been interested that you see more optimistic, may be less concerned about the impact and fallout of this decision. Why is that?

GINA MCCARTHY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISOR: Well, I -- don't get me wrong, this decision is devastating, and it is disappointing. But look, it's not surprising. You know, we've seen for decades that fossil fuel funds have gone to supporting special interest groups that have done everything they could to undermine the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect our air and water and our land, and now climate change. But it is limited. It takes away one tool of EPA.

But what gives me hope is that this president is undeterred by this. He knows we're going to take action, and he knows it's going to continue to be bold. Look, we have -- still have regulatory work that we can do to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions using other opportunities at EPA. But beyond that, the president's interested in every agency across this administration taking action on climate. So that means we're not going to just reduce pollution and do it in creative and robust ways but we're also going to be advancing the clean energy agenda.

Because what this Supreme Court really was doing was to try to shift the world back to where it used to be and this president knows where it needs to head, and frankly, so does the private sector. They're investing like crazy as the president is setting strong goals and actions moving forward. So we can still win this battle. We have to win this battle.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you. You mentioned goals, I want to ask you about that because I have heard many describe the decision as making it much harder for President Biden to achieve his goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade. Are you going to be able to achieve that goal in light of this? MCCARTHY: Well, Kate, we're making great progress. I mean, just in 2021, there were higher levels of solar and wind and battery technologies out there. We know we're winning that battle. We're already seeing great opportunities in offshore wind, we're seeing private sector investments of more than 2 billion, we're talking about solar that's moving forward with $6 billion of private sector investments, and the electric vehicle technology in the market itself is really generating incredible enthusiasm and money to actually invest in new manufacturing facilities to the tune of 160 billion. So the world knows where we're heading.

The president is not deterred. He's not weakening his goals. In fact, we're going to double down on our ability to actually achieve those. But we also need Congress to act. Make no mistake. The president is demanding that Congress continue to move forward with the kind of investments and regulatory and rulemaking strategies so that we have the opportunity to succeed.

BOLDUAN: How does this decision impact the global efforts and commitments specifically that the U.S. has made with other countries to combat climate change because it's not just the U.S. alone here, obviously?

MCCARTHY: Yes. No, obviously, climate change is a global issue, and it's going to take every country to get involved. But the President just left working with other countries on a -- on a ministerial where he made it clear where the U.S. is heading. We're going to continue to head, we're not weakening our goals. We're looking at every opportunity to be bold.

And frankly, when you have the private sector say that clean energy is the future because they're making money on it, then you can bet that we can continue to make these goals happen. But we need to make it clear we need to take decisive steps, and we've told the world that the U.S. is not backing off. We are going to continue to show the leadership that they want to see so that they can take the actions that are necessary for this global challenge.

BOLDUAN: Gina McCarthy, thank you so much for coming on. I appreciate your time.

Coming up for us. WNBA star Brittney Griner back in a Russian courtroom. Her wife speaking now exclusively with CNN, we're going to take you to Moscow next.



BOLDUAN: Developing this morning. WNBA star Brittney Griner appearing in a Russian courtroom for the start of her trial on drug charges. The Olympic gold medalist has been behind bars for now more than four months. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow with the very latest. Fred, what happened in court?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kate. Well, this was the first hearing in Britney Griner's trial. She was led to the courtroom in handcuffs, and I would say that this first hearing lasted about -- I'd say about two and a half hours. And essentially what happened was she was read the charges she said she understood the charges, but she did not want to comment on the charges. We found out a little bit more about what exactly this is about.


PLEITGEN: And the Russian authorities are saying that they found cartridges -- vaping cartridges on her as she tried to enter an airport near Moscow and that those cartridges together, these two had about point seven grams of cannabis oil in them. Now, obviously, in Russia, that can be a crime, that can be punishable with up to 10 years in prison. But the trial, for now, has been a jury. It's going to start again they say on July 7, nevertheless a dire situation. The U.S. Embassy, Kate, was also present today on this first day of the trial, and Charge d'Affaires said she had the chance to speak to Brittney Griner on the sidelines of the trial. Here's what she had to say.


ELIZABETH ROOD, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, U.S. EMBASSY MOSCOW: I did have the opportunity to speak with Miss Griner in the courtroom. She is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances. And she asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith.


PLEITGEN: So Brittney Griner still in good spirits. You heard it there. I was actually able to speak to Brittney Griner's lawyer after this first trial day and say -- he said that she was somewhat concerned that she is keeping fit and that she is very much in a fighting spirit. Now, he was unwilling to make a prediction -- projection of whether or not he could get an acquittal for her, certainly here in Russia, very difficult for that to happen, not many people are acquitted when they end up in court. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Fred, thank you so much for following it and being there. Joining me now for more on this is CNN contributor, and former CNN Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty and also joining us as Neda Sharghi. She's know -- she knows better than anyone with the Griner family is going through. Her brother, Emad Sharghi is an Iranian American businessman who has been wrongfully detained in Iran for four years now.

Jill, if I could start with you, as we're coming off of this court -- of this court hearing, Griner's wife believes that she's been -- she spoke to CNN that she's being used as a political pawn. What do you see going on here, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think you have to put this in the context of the abysmal relationship between the United States and Russia. There's no question that it is worse really, almost than it's ever been. And, you know, Brittney Griner is a well-known figure, she could be a valuable commodity if I can put it that way. If you wanted -- if Russia wanted to try to trade her for somebody that they want and there has been speculation in the Russian media that they might want, his name is Victor boot. He is a convicted arms trafficker. He's in the United States, in fact, serving 25 years in Illinois. So it could be that she could be part of, you know, an idea of exchanging, let's say, prisoners.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Jill, the Biden administration appears quite engaged in her case now, but her wife is skeptical that the maximum efforts being put forward. I'm going to play for you what Cherelle Griner told my colleague Ally Phillip -- Abby Phillip about this.


CHERELLE GRINER, WIFE OF BRITTNEY GRINER: Well, I do have to, you know, unfortunately, also push people to make sure that things that they're telling me are also matching their actions. And so it has been the hardest thing to balance because I can't let up because it's 100 -- it's over 130 days, and BG is still not back.


BOLDUAN: What's the challenge here for the Biden administration with this, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, these are always -- these are very difficult cases because part of it is very, very public. I mean this is being used in a sense for propaganda from the Russian side, and so behind the scenes is often how these things have worked out if they've worked out. And getting that there's almost no communication between the United States and Russia, this is very, very delicate, and very complicated.

And also, you have the other part that in the embassy, the United States Embassy in Moscow right now, they are depleted of staff. This is really very difficult to handle under any circumstances. And you have another American Paul Whelan, who is still there. He's been there since 2018. So this is -- this is really a tough challenge.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And it's not just in Russia, either. It's everywhere around the world as well. And, Neda, when I heard Cherelle speak of her frustration, I thought of your family, your fight to get your brother Emad freed from wrongful detained in Iran. What are you thinking as you see Britain Griner's wife thrust into this really same horror that your family is in and now speaking out?

NEDA SHARGHI, SISTER OF AMERICAN HELD IN IRAN: Well, thank you for having me on, and I just want Cherelle and the Griner family to know that they're very much in my family's thoughts and prayers. We understand better than anyone what they're going through and the whole community of families with wrongful detainees are standing right behind Griner, and we will work together to bring her home.

You know we -- the last time I was on your show, unfortunately, not much has changed since. We are continuing to urge the administration for quick action to bring my brother home and we are asking to meet with President Biden, we're still -- that's still a big ask because we know how important it is to sit face to face with our president.


SHARGHI: And even more importantly, we're trying to get the administration to see my brother's case and that of the other three American citizens in Iran as a humanitarian issue and to not link it to bigger, broader, more complicated geopolitical issues that frankly, who knows when they will resolve. And you know, until they do, my brother is losing days of his lives behind a bar -- behind bars.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. And, Neda, Cherelle Griner actually spoke to this and talking about how she's been told that the most beneficial thing that she can do is to get FaceTime with the president. And I know that is mission-critical to you and your family right now. Why is that so important do you think?

SHARGHI: It has become more and more clear to us that ultimately this decision lies with the president. He is the one that needs to ask his administration, to give the mandate to the administration to do whatever it needs to take to bring our loved ones home.

BOLDUAN: It's can't be lost on any of us as we're about to celebrate our freedom and independence, that there are so many Americans, your brother included, who are fighting for their freedom still behind bars and wrongfully detained around the world. Neda, thank you so much, we'll continue to follow your family's story and Emad's case. Thank you so much, Jill. It's great to see you. Thank you.

SHARGHI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Nearly 70 years after 14-year-old Emmett Till's murder, which helped spark the civil rights movement, of course, his family has found something incredible. Left to search through dusty old boxes in a basement of a courthouse, they found an old arrest warrant for his accuser who was still alive today. They say now they want authorities to find and arrest her. CNN's Sara Sider has more. And a warning, some of the images you'll see, you may find graphic.


DEBORAH WATTS, CO-FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EMMETT TILL LEGACY FOUNDATION: I believe we were led by our angels, led by the Spirit of Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till.

SARA SIDER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): For 67 years, the family of Emmett Till say they have been seeking justice, not just for the 1955 murder of the 14-year-old black boy whose tortured and disfigured body helped spark the civil rights movement, but for what led up to that murder, his kidnapping. The family believes one suspect is a woman who is still alive.

WATTS: I mean we thought of things like citizens' arrest, I'm just going to tell you. We thought of things like, well, can we find a warrant and presented to her? What if the authorities aren't going to do this, what can we do?

SIDER: Till's cousins, Deborah and Teri Watts decided to go searching for the warrant, one authority over the decades never found in their investigations.

TERI WATTS, EMMETT TILL'S COUSIN: There were cobwebs across all of the boxes, dead bugs, and dust, we had to get chairs to even search on different levels of the -- for the documents. We did have gloves and masks as well. But we were definitely determined to find it no matter what. We push through.

SIDER: Two men were acquitted of Till's murder by an all-white jury, though they later admitted to the killing in an interview with Look magazine. The case against Miss Roy Bryant, who now goes by Carolyn Bryant Donham was never tried. We reached out to Donham and have not heard back.

D. WATTS: We think this is evidence -- this is new evidence that was -- no one had ever searched for. And we were able to find it. It was unbelievable. It was overwhelming. We all cry. We were in also a state of shock, speechless in some instances.

T. WATTS: Wow. The moment was very, very, very overwhelming. I had to look at the warrant several times just to make sure that it was real and that it actually read Mrs. Roy Bryant on it.

SIDER: Though she was never arrested or tried, in 2007, after the Till case was reopened, Bryant's case was brought in front of a Mississippi grand jury. That grand jury did not indict her.

A majority-black grand jury did convene in Greenwood, Mississippi and they declined to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham. What do you make of that?

D. WATTS: We're not sure why they declined to indict her because there was enough evidence there to indict. The investigation had been done.

SIDER: The Watts say their whole lives they have lived with Mamie Till Mobley's haunting cries for justice and the images that horrified a nation of their cousin, Emmett Till's body lying disfigured in an open casket. It was a scene his mother insisted on showing the world to expose what racist hate truly looks like.

T. WATTS: We did take the torch from Mamie. We ensure to her that we will continue the fight before she passed away. And so for me, I definitely want to see it through but it has been a tremendous amount of trauma. I still feel like the weight is on our shoulders. We found the new evidence and so we just want justice served.

D. WATTS: We are doing this without hate, malice, or vengeance against Carolyn Bryant, we just want justice served. Justice has been denied for 67 years and it needs to be served.


BOLDUAN: An incredible discovery. Sara Sider, thank you so much for that. And before we go, the White House just announced that President Biden will be awarding the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom to 17 new recipients.


BOLDUAN: The list includes athletes Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe, as well as the first American to get a COVID vaccine shot, New York nurse Sandra Lindsay. The president will also posthumously honor the late Republican Senator John McCain, as well as Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs. In a statement, the White House says that the nominees "demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation, hard work, perseverance, and faith." The Medal of Freedom ceremony will take place on Thursday at the White House.

Thank you so much for being with us at this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this break.