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Justice Dept. Reviewing How Classified Docs Ended Up In Pence's Home; U.S. Attorney Vows Justice Will Be Done In Tyre Nichols Investigation; Virginia Teacher Shot By Student To Sue School District: Says She And Others Repeatedly Warned Of Armed Student. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Justice Department has now launched a review of the classified documents found at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence. Yes, it is all starting to sound familiar. Sources telling CNN that a lawyer for Pence discovered about a dozen documents with classified markings last week and turn them over to the FBI. Let's get over to Paula Reid once again, live in Washington with more on this one. Give us the details on this -- on this go-round.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Like you said, Kate, once again, and according to our colleague, Jamie Gangel, these documents originated at the vice president's residence. And we've learned that there was a much different process for packing things up there after the administration than there was at the White House. And we've learned that four boxes made their way from the residence to a temporary home in Virginia, and then to the home in Indiana, but they were not kept in a secure storage area.

And, Kate, of course, we have heard the former vice president repeatedly say that he did not have any such materials. And he's even talked about his careful process for handling these kinds of documents. Let's take a listen.


DAVID MUIR, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?


(voiceover) When the current president of the United States is found to have had classified documents in his possession after leaving office, I think it's just -- I have no words right now. It's just incredibly frustrating to me.

(on camera) Our staff reviewed all of the materials in our office and in our residence to ensure that there were no classified materials.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: His attorney says the former vice president was unaware that he had these documents in his home, and they vowed to cooperate with any of the proceedings going forward. Now, at this point, we don't know what these documents were, we don't know the level of classification, but we knew -- do know the Justice Department is conducting a review to determine whether there needs to be any other steps. That's exactly what they did with the documents found at the home and office of President Biden which of course prompted the appointment of a special counsel. Unclear if that'll happen here, though.

BOLDUAN: Yes. All right, standby to standby, Paula. And I literally mean it to you. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN political director David Chalian and CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, with this news on Pence, the question once again quickly goes to what does Merrick Garland do. Do you think he may appoint a special counsel on this one as well, why?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's identical to the Biden investigation, right? I mean they both have the same problem, and that there really isn't a reason to believe that a criminal investigation is warranted. But Garland got over that very quickly in the Biden situation and then he did appoint a special counsel because, of course, it's Biden's DOJ. How can they investigate him? That's not the same with this Pence situation, but because they already have a special counsel in place, Rob Hur, I suspect Garland will just do the ultra-cautious thing as he tends to do and give this matter to him as well.


BOLDUAN: It's so interesting. And, David, you have -- you also have some new polling on how people kind of view the situations at least with regard to Donald Trump and President Biden and the introduction of special counsels to investigate their handling of classified documents. What do you see in there?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Kate, even before the Trump comparison, I should just note broadly, and this is true with Trump as well, American support the appointment of the special counsel in both cases to look into this. I mean, we're talking north of 80 percent of Republicans, Democrats, Independents --


CHALIAN: Approved the decision of appointing a special counsel to look into the Biden matter. You don't usually see that kind of agreement. And two-thirds of Americans think it's serious.

But look at the comparison with Donald Trump. And this is where you see the difference in these cases. We asked folks, do you think there's been illegal behavior here? 52 percent of Americans think with Donald Trump, there was something illegal that has gone on here only 37 percent of Americans believe that with Joe Biden. And look when you break it down by party, you could see even roughly at the bottom of the screen there, a quarter, 25 percent of Republicans think Trump did something illegal.

BOLDUAN: So interesting. And, David, the legal question is one thing, of course, the political question is another. With the inclusion now of Mike Pence in this -- I'm going to have to call it a group at this point, a group of officials who may or may not be running for president again mishandling classified documents. Does that politically take the heat off of everyone?

CHALIAN: To some degree, it does. Listen, obviously, there is still a legal review process going on here.


CHALIAN: And Donald Trump probably faces more legal peril, it seems at this moment than does Joe Biden or Mike Pence. But politically, Kate, I think you're right to note. I mean, look at Donald Trump's statement supporting Mike Pence when this news was revealed, is there --


CHALIAN: This just somebody he's been hammering against for the last year, why does he -- why does he praise him? Because he will welcome this to what you call a group. It now muddies the waters. You hear bipartisan support on Capitol Hill now to actually do something about this, that this is a systemic problem. You don't hear quite the partisan rancor that we did over the Mar-a-Lago search or when the Biden revelations were made.

BOLDUAN: Yes. You hear a lot of people just like smacking their heads against the table with -- in how -- just like again, more. What -- I mean Greg Pence's reaction was classic. I will say.

Jennifer, there's also news from the long investigation out of Fulton County, Georgia I wanted to get your take on. The district attorney there told the judge that charging decisions with regard to the investigation into Donald Trump trying to overturn election results, and people around him overturn election results in Georgia. The DA says charging decisions are imminent. This is at the same time the judge is deciding whether or not to release a special grand jury's report publicly. When you hear the DA tell the judge decisions are imminent, what do you hear?

RODGERS: Well, first of all, imminent in legal speak is a little different than you might say imminent in normal life. I think to lawyers imminent means a few weeks probably. But listen, she needs to make the case to the judge that these decisions are coming soon because she wants him to hold the report until she makes her decision.

So, that's really what's happening here. She wants him to hold the report so she says OK, don't worry, it's coming soon. And it really would be unfair to the people who are ultimately charged if any are charged for this information to come out into the public realm before charges are brought.

BOLDUAN: Very interesting. All right. Thank you for that. I really appreciate it. It's great to see you, Jennifer. David, thank you. CHALIAN: Take care.

BOLDUAN: So, an independent autopsy reveals a Memphis man who died after an encounter with police suffered what is being described as extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating. And the top federal prosecutor investigating the case just spoke to reporters. Details on that next.



BOLDUAN: The Federal Prosecutor leading the civil rights investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols vows a thorough probe but says today it will take time. Nichols died three days after being pulled over by Memphis police and allegedly assaulted by police officers. An independent autopsy a court file -- an independent autopsy according to Nichols's family found that he died from "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."

Shimon Prokupecz is in Memphis for us. He's joining us right now. I know, Shimon, you were there at this press conference. Well, this press statement from the U.S. Attorney, they spoke just a short time ago.


BOLDUAN: One of the big questions has been about the police body cam video of the encounter, what did they say?

PROKUPECZ: Right. So, that is really a decision that's being made and controlled by the local district attorney who said that he needed more time as he was talking to witnesses about this, about what happened that day that he didn't want video coming out that could in any way affect what they saw or their judgment. So, it's really in the hands of the local District Attorney.

The federal prosecutors running their own investigation with the FBI has to do with civil rights and the civil rights violations of the victim here. So, that is a completely separate investigation and that could take much more time. But the local investigation by the DA may actually take a lot less time and so, we're waiting to hear ultimately from the district attorney on that video, and if these officers are going to face any charges.

But the one thing that I think it's important to stress in all of this is how you're seeing these officials come out and talk because they are concerned over how the community is going to react to this video once it's released. And they're urging people to protest if they need to but do it peacefully. Take a listen to what the U.S. Attorney here have to say -- had to say.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEVIN RITZ, U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE: What I will say on behalf of the federal authorities is we want people to express their right to be heard but we want them to do so in a peaceful and nonviolent way. I'll close by saying that I grew up in this city and I care deeply about the city. I want this city to be a place where justice is done.


PROKUPECZ: And the one thing that's clear also is in talking to the attorney for the -- for the family, it's very clear that they certainly expect justice here, that they expect charges. And now really all eyes, Kate, are really on the DA here who in the next few days could potentially decide on whether he will file charges.

BOLDUAN: All right. Shimon, thanks for being there. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on this is civil rights attorney Areva Martin. Areva, thank you for coming in. What's your reaction to -- the U.S. Attorney confirming really on camera that he's -- that they've opened a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY & LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Kate, I'm not surprised that the federal prosecutor issued a statement that a federal civil rights investigation is been opened and that they're going to do a thorough investigation. I'm not surprised that he came forward because I know from talking to people on the ground in Memphis, that the city is on edge, that lots of people are very upset that the body cam video has not been released even though the district attorney says that the investigation of what happened to Mr. Nichols is ongoing.

Lots of people in Memphis feel like there's been enough time that that video should be out. And I know based on what the family's attorney has said the family also wants that video revealed. And what we've been told is that it is horrific.


MARTIN: That it shows a brutal beating of Mr. Nichols for at least three minutes by five officers.

BOLDUAN: Areva, let me -- let me play that because they're -- the family attorney, they -- says the family has viewed the video. They viewed it earlier this week. And I want to play what you're getting at, what the attorney said, and how they describe what they saw.


ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, TYRE NICHOLS FAMILY ATTORNEY: He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human pinata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes.


BOLDUAN: You can hear his mother just breaking down once again beside him as he's describing it. The DA, as you were alluding to, told CNN last night that the video could be released soon. Shimon was saying that that could be coming soon. But he also said that he wants to make sure that they've interviewed everyone involved first so the release of the video doesn't impact their statements to the DA's office. Does that make sense to you, Areva?

MARTIN: Well, it makes sense that everyone involved has to be interviewed. And we know there are five officers who were apparently involved in the beating of Mr. Nichols. But the timing of it, Kate, I think is what's at issue.

We've watched so many of these cases over the last several years and we know how attorneys handle these cases, it has a lot to do with how the community responds. And when they come forward, and when they're transparent and they provide information to the community, we typically see a very peaceful response. So, I think the district attorney, yes, be thorough, take the time that's needed, but also recognize that this community deserves to know what happened to this young man. And the family is not going to rest and I don't think that city is going to rest until that video is actually revealed to the public.

BOLDUAN: It does seem to be coming together in a moment. That is for sure. Areva, thank you for coming on. I really appreciate it.

MARTIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So, the Virginia teacher who was shot by her six-year-old student, she is now suing the school district. Up next, there are new details coming in on the repeated warnings she and others gave administrators at the school that day about a young student, and that that student was young -- was armed. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Also, this just coming in to us. A first-grade teacher in Virginia, she is now planning to sue her school district. She says she and other staff members repeatedly warned administrators at the school that a six-year-old student was armed with a gun. Abby Zwerner, you'll remember was shot in the chest after the bullet passed through her hand.

Brian Todd is in Newport News, Virginia with the very latest on this. Brian, tell us more about what her attorney is saying.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, a very dramatic sequence of events just laid out moments ago by the attorney for that teacher, Abby Zwerner. Her attorney, Diane Toscano, telling us about warnings that were issued to the administrators that very day in the hours before the shooting. Here's what Diane Toscano had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE TOSCANO, LAWYER FOR ABBY ZWERNER, TEACHER: Three times school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. Had the school administrators acted in the interest of their teachers and their students, Abby would not have sustained a gunshot wound to the chest, a bullet that remains dangerously inside her body.


TODD: And that attorney, Diane Toscano, actually laid out a timeline with even more detail of these warnings that were issued.


Very quickly, I'll go through it. She said at 11:15, Abby Zwerner herself told the administration that -- the school administrators that that boy had threatened to beat up another child. That -- 12:30 p.m. that day, another teacher told the administrators that see she searched the boy's bookbag, that she believed that the boy took the gun in his pocket and went to recess. Each time she said the school -- the school administrators could not be bothered with that information. One of them, "she said a school administrator said well he has little pockets."

Then at 1:00 p.m., according to Diane Toscano, a third teacher told the administrators that another child had cried and told her that he was fearful that the boy had shown him a gun at recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anybody. At that point, a fourth teacher came up and asked to search the boy again, according to this attorney, that teacher was denied permission to do that saying they should wait it out, that the school day was almost over. We have reached out to the school administration -- the school district for a response to all of this, they have not gotten back to us, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Wow. Brian, thank you for that. I appreciate it.

We have much more on that ahead, but also this. President Biden's about to speak live from the White House, expected to announce the U.S. is sending tanks to Ukraine. That's up next, "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King after a quick break.