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Mississippi Senate Considers Crime Bill Critics Call Modern Jim Crow; Justice Department Sues To Block JetBlue's Purchase Of Spirit Airlines; Tucker Carlson Tries To Downplay Jan. 6 Attack With New Footage. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 07, 2023 - 11:30   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With a legislature that is majority white. And what this would do would, take away some of the governing power from the city of Jackson and give more to the state. Even an initial version of this bill that was introduced on the House side singled out a section of Jackson that was majority white that would have state-appointed judges rather than elected ones. And then also would be under the jurisdiction of the state-run Capitol Police Force as opposed to the Jackson police force.

The Senate version expands that jurisdiction citywide. So, what you would have is you would have judges presiding over cases over populations who did not elect those judges? These would be judges that would be appointed by the state. And that jurisdiction of the Capitol police force would expand city-wide and theory to work hand in hand with the Jackson police force. Though there is language in the bill that says if there's a dispute, things would go to the state's point of view.

And obviously, proponents of this bill, including its Republican sponsors say that this is needed to bolster the public safety ecosystem in a place where violence has spiked over the past few years while those opposed to it say, well, these seem like short-term fixes. You can invest more in judges -- actually, hire election -- create positions for more elected judges to solve this issue in the long term. But as of now, the problem persists. And many people feel like what I've seen on many shirts around here that say it's Jackson versus everybody.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's see what happens in this session today. In the meantime, Omar, thank you so much.

Joining me right now is the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Antar Lumumba. Mayor, thank you for your time. This Senate -- this state Senate version is different from the original House version, Omar laid it -- laid it out really well. It pairs down some of the most controversial aspects of the proposal. You still call this a Trojan horse. Why?

CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA, MAYOR OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: Well, it still is an attack on black leadership. It still proposes to appoint judges by white leader -- state leadership, as opposed to giving the people the right to appoint their own leadership.

It's not only an attack on Jackson in terms of the city. It's an attack on black judges, which are appointed through the county. It's an attack on the black prosecutor who is a county-wide appointed individual. It's an attack that recognizes or at least by the statement of the legislator who proposed the bill, he said that he wanted to get the best and the brightest and that's why they needed to be appointed, rather than elected.

That feeds into the notion of the inferiority of black communities that we're not intelligent enough, that we're not aware enough of our own needs in order to elect those who best represent us. Furthermore, it expands the capacity of the Capitol Complex police who in the last -- a little over the last six months have recorded seven officer- involved incidents, which is more than the Jackson Police Department and many surrounding agencies over the last two years. And so, there's a lot of concern within the community over the implications of these bills.

BOLDUAN: Look, one thing that everyone does seem to agree on is that Jackson has a crime problem right now that you're facing and trying to deal with. Jackson has reached a record number of homicides in 2021 with one of the highest murder rates in the United States, although the number did fall last year. That is when -- it comes to -- crime is what the sponsor of this measure says that this really is all about. Let me play something from him, Mayor.


TREY LAMAR, REPUBLICAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE, MISSISSIPPI: I don't know what you've heard. I'll say that. But this bill is designed to help make our capital city of Mississippi a safer city. There is a serious crime problem in the capital city of Mississippi. And there is a backlog and need for assistance in the Hinds County judiciary.


BOLDUAN: If his proposal isn't the fix and isn't helpful, what is? Because you still have the problem you need to tackle.

LUMUMBA: Well, first and foremost, let me say that Trey Lamar is no more concerned about crime than the people who live here and contend with the challenge of safety each and every day. Furthermore, as we've done an analysis across the state, the state of Mississippi has a crime problem. And so, what the fix is, are the things that we've asked for that the -- that the state has turned a blind eye to, that there's been a deliberate indifference towards.

Stuff like the support of our police department for ballistic technology where the state crime lab has a backlog of closing out files which does not allow cases to go forward for prosecution. It would be a support of our 21st-century real-time crime center, which gives our officers a real-time ability to address crimes that are in progress and support that which the state promised funds for which we never received and we had to outline ourselves. It would be in support of our Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery that we have gone through extraordinary means to partner with the National League of Cities and Wells Fargo bank so that they would give us the seed money so that we can contend with the challenges we're really seeing in our community so that we can hire in addition to officers, other professionals that can do interventions, social workers and mental health professionals that support us.


If they really care about Jackson's crime problem or the challenges of violence, specifically in Jackson --


LUMUMBA: -- then they would want to evidence-based solution which sees that most of our violence is through interpersonal relationships, which is very difficult to simply police.

BOLDUAN: Well, let me ask you about the police element. You note -- you noticed -- you noted issues of -- with the Capitol Police that every sentiment in the past. But if that is -- if they work in addition, if they -- if you find some way they can work hand in hand, if it's a way to get more cops on the street quickly, do you think they could be part of the solution?

LUMUMBA: We think that any measure of policing has to have community trust at its -- at its foundation and where you have a bill that proposes that there has to be an MOU between the city of Jackson. However, if we can agree, then the state Capitol Police prevail and whatever they want to do becomes the order of the day.

That doesn't set the stage for any objective discussions to take place. It doesn't set the stage that the work that we've been doing over the last several years working with the community in order to identify solutions that you know, bridge the gap between community and police officers. And so those are serious concerns. When we have a circumstance where Jaylen Lewis a young man was killed by the Capitol Police more than six months ago, and we've heard nothing with respect to the investigation of this matter, that doesn't -- (INAUDIBLE) --

BOLDUAN: Mayor, I'm so sorry. I have to -- I -- thank you so much for your time. I have to jump. We have some breaking news coming out of the Justice Department I need to jump over to. Mayor, thank you for your time. Justice Department -- that's the attorney general is announcing they're suing -- they've tried -- to try to stop the merger between JetBlue and Spirit Airlines. But I believe he's now talking about Mexico right now in the kidnappings. Let's listen.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Massachusetts, the state of New York, and the District of Columbia. I'm here with Associate Attorney General Vinita Gupta and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki. Our complaint alleges that JetBlue's proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit violates section seven of the Clayton Act. We allege that if allowed to proceed, this merger will limit choices and drive-up ticket prices for passengers across the country. And we further alleged that the impact of this merger will be particularly harmful for travelers who rely on what are known as ultra-low-cost carriers in order to fly, those include, working and middle-class Americans who traveled for personal as opposed to business reasons and who must pay their own way. By acquiring Spirit, JetBlue will eliminate the largest ultra-low-cost carrier in the United States.

Today, JetBlue and Spirit compete on hundreds of routes that serve tens of millions of air travelers every year. Direct competition between the two airlines has intensified in the last five years as Spirit has expanded into markets where JetBlue already offered service. On dozens of routes, serving tens of millions of passengers, JetBlue and Spirit have large combined market shares.

For example, on the Boston-Miami Fort Lauderdale route, which serves about 1.5 million passengers annually. JetBlue and Spirit together currently account for nearly 50 percent of the market. For service between Boston and San Juan, the two airlines account for nearly 90 percent of the passengers flying the route today. And on some routes, JetBlue and Spirit are the only two carriers providing nonstop services such as between Miami-Fort Lauderdale, and Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Eliminating the competition between JetBlue and Spirit on these and other routes would eliminate Spirit's unique and disruptive role in the industry and significantly harm consumers.

As noted in the complaint, Spirit's own internal documents estimate that when it starts flying a route, average fares fall by 17 percent. And an internal JetBlue document estimates that when Spirit stops flying a route, average fares go up by 30 percent. As outlined in the complaint, if the acquisition is approved, JetBlue plans to abandon Spirit's business model, remove seats from Spirit's planes and charge spirits customers higher prices. Spirit executives have recognized the harmful effect the proposed merger would have on consumers.


After JetBlue offered to acquire Spirit, Spirit's Board of Directors warned its shareholders that JetBlue's plans to reconfigure Spirit's planes would "significantly diminished capacity and result in higher prices for consumers." Accordingly, the Board of Directors further warned. "A court will be very concerned that a JetBlue-Spirit combination will result in a higher cost, higher fare airline that would eliminate a lower cost lower fare airline and remove about half of the ultra-low-cost capacity in the United States. We agree.

This proposed merger occurs against the backdrop of an already concentrated airline industry. Four airlines, American Delta, United, and Southwest control close to 80 percent of the market. We allege that JetBlue's proposed takeover of Spirit will only exacerbate concentration and further stifle competition in the airline industry. JetBlue's elimination of Spirit as an independent company increases the risk that the remaining airlines, including JetBlue, would coordinate to raise prices or reduce capacity on particular routes where Spirit currently operates. In short, if not blocked, the merger of JetBlue and Spirit would result in higher fares and fewer choices for tens of millions of travelers across the country. The Justice Department is suing to prevent that from happening. I want to thank the attorneys and staff at the antitrust division for their excellent work on this case. And I want to reiterate that the department continues to closely examine practices and review proposed mergers to ensure that there are consistent --


BOLDUAN: All right, we've been listening in to the Attorney General, Merrick Garland. The Justice Department now moving to sue to block JetBlue's merger with Spirit Airlines. A perfect opportunity to right now bring in the Secretary of Transportation, Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Secretary, thank you so much for being here. First and foremost, do you think that this merger should be blocked as the Department of Justice is now moving to do?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We support the Department of Justice in their action, and we're taking action of our own using the authorities that we have. Our department, the Department of Transportation, has generally not gotten involved in these merger cases. But that's changing today.

It is so important to make sure that passengers have choices, that they have access to low fares, that they have access to competition, and yet we've seen less and less and less of that competition over the years. Back when Airline Deregulation played out over the 70s and 80s. At the time, there were predictions that by the time you got to the 21st century, there would be at least a hundred competitive airlines operating in our skies.

Obviously, what we see right now is something very different. Each passing year, it feels like there are fewer choices. And passenger choice is a vital part of what sustains good price competition and better customer service. So, we are taking a step that again, is unusual in terms of recent years, but we think is the right thing to do, supporting the DOJ's lawsuit and independently using our own authorities, which are a little bit different from the DOJ, starting our own investigation and taking other actions.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about this because this is an important -- this is an important moment than this is big news because, from the DOJ's part, this is from our reporting the first time in more than 20 years that the government has sought to block a U.S. airline merger. Because as you -- as you noted, it is unusual. What action is the Department of Transportation going to be taking that you're announcing today?

BUTTIGIEG: So, we have our own authorities in terms of seeing if these kinds of actions meet the public interest. We are required to certify or approve certain processes that have been filed with us. Now, of course, there is now this active lawsuit that the DOJ is pursuing, and that needs to be adjudicated from a competition perspective. But we're not waiting on that verdict to do groundwork of our own investigating some of these concerns that have arisen about the effect that a proposed merger would have on passengers.

So, we're doing two things at once. We are supporting DOJ's action to sue to block this on competition grounds and initiating our own actions on public interest grounds. Look, we all know that passengers have been through a lot that the airline passenger experience has been a frustrating one for millions. I've been pushing Airlines on everything from family seating fees, which we are announcing a dashboard on this week.


And we've got at least three airlines signed up for free -- fee-free seating but we're trying to get all of them to do it and moving to require that. That's just one example of some of the frustrations people have had. This is the time to make sure there was more competition, not less competition when it comes to airlines so that we can have lower fares, better service, and a functioning market.

Because the private sector only works when you have robust competition. Yet, as we've seen over the years, merger after merger, we have fewer and fewer airlines to choose from. And on certain routes, sometimes only one major airline or two, sometimes even the two airlines that are proposing to merge right now.

BOLDUAN: And this is a very big deal because I -- you know, I don't have my history book on airline mergers directly in front of me, Secretary. But this does sound like an action that you're moving the department -- you're moving your department to do something that you really have not done before.

BUTTIGIEG: This is a shift for our department. We've had a lot of authority when it comes to competition. But frankly, over recent years, the Department of Transportation hasn't used those authorities very much. I think that needs to change.

This is a season when we need to be doing everything that we can to support competition, create choice, and be there for passengers. And that plus the administration and the president's focus on competition are part of why we are going in a new direction, using authorities that have always been there. Tools that have always been in the toolkit, but frankly, have not always been picked up and used here at the DOT.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you. You mentioned the family -- the dashboard to help families that has been rolled out by the department that's -- to help families see at a glance, which airlines will help families sit together at no extra cost. I was looking at the dashboard. The dashboard says the word guaranteed, but it also says that the guarantee is subject to several conditions.

And when you go through it, there are a lot of conditions and I'm going to call them caveats. They feel like, Secretary, like only if seats are available. What if there's a small -- if they downsize the air -- the airplane, which happens often, then if seats aren't available, they can't do it. So, isn't that guarantee confusing? BUTTIGIEG: Well, there are always some of these cases on the margins and there's always going to be fine print. But we're trying to make things less confusing because up until now, there was no guarantee at all. No way that we could enforce an agreement with the airlines that at least in most cases when you have a 13 or under child with you, you wouldn't have to either pay extra or have to plead and bargain with the gate agent or even have to haggle and work something out with fellow passengers.

I think it's common sense that airlines ought to make it easy and free to fly with your kids. It's something that parents expect when they travel. So, I'm encouraged that these three airlines have agreed to these enforceable commitments.

And by the way, one of the reasons why it's carefully documented is they are enforceable. If an airline violates that agreement, they could be fined by our department for up to tens of thousands of dollars per violation. But let me also say we're not just waiting for what the airlines will do voluntarily, they're simultaneously working on regulations to require this.

BOLDUAN: But there are a lot of loopholes in this. There are a lot of loopholes when you (INAUDIBLE)

BUTTIGIEG: Look. We want to make sure -- we want to make sure it's reasonable in some fringe cases where for example, the air -- the airplane has to physically change to a smaller case. But even then, there are provisions for how to make sure a family has choices and is taken care of. The bottom line is that this is a dramatic shift from what was guaranteed in the past. And we will be watching and we will be enforcing to make sure airlines meet those conditions even while we're simultaneously taking steps to use regulations to require it.

One of the things that we found, especially as we got all of those guarantees that did not exist before last summer, on things like passenger care and in delay situations, rental cars, meals, vouchers for hotels, is that those had not been guaranteed before in writing. We got that secured. But what we found is that was something we could get done very, very quickly compared to all of the machinery and the legalities of doing a regulation.

So, this time, we're doing both at the same time. We're taking the steps to create the regulation. But we don't have to wait on that to get as much consumer benefit as we can today. And we're calling on all the other airlines to join these three that have already stepped forward.

BOLDUAN: Secretary Buttigieg, thank you so much for jumping on quite a few -- we already had the interview booked but quite a fortunate moment as we then heard from the Attorney General announcing this action. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. Tucker Carlson trying to rewrite history of the January 6 insurrection. How the Fox News host is using security footage from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to downplay the violence of that day?



BOLDUAN: A dereliction of duty. That is what Benny Thompson is calling Kevin McCarthy's decision to release the January 6 security tapes to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who is now using this footage to try to rewrite history. On his show, Carlson released the first portion of 40,000 hours of footage repeatedly downplaying video showing rioters assaulting officers.

Sara Murray is live in Washington. She joins me now. And, Sara, you have some new reporting. CNN just obtained an internal email from the chief of the Capitol Police regarding this footage. What does it say?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Capitol Police Chief is really just ripping into Fox News for their attempt to rewrite history. This is an internal memo that was obtained by my colleague Whitney Wild. It slams what they refer to as an opinion program for offensive and misleading conclusions. It goes on to say one false allegation is that our officers help the rioters and acted as "tour" guides. This is outrageous and false, the police chief says.


He goes on to lay out how they were outnumbered that day, how they tried to employ de-escalation tactics to try to talk to the rioters who were there to try to convince them to leave. He also goes on to say the program conveniently cherry-picks from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video. The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments.

And it goes on you know to defend Brian Sicknick, who is someone that was targeted during Tucker Carlson's programming last night as Carlson tried to make the argument that this way it wasn't as deadly as the press has portrayed it to be. You know, he showed some video that he said was Brian Sicknick in the Capitol after he was, you know, supposedly attacked by the rioters. What we do know from the footage that federal prosecutors have provided is you can sort of see officers being chemicals sprayed, you can see Brian Sicknick trying to recover.

And we know you know that he died the following day from a series of strokes. And the medical examiner said, while this was natural causes that would happen on, January 6 contributed to it. So, what we're really seeing I think today is the Capitol Police trying to stand up for their own and for their actions on that decade.

BOLDUAN: And now the question still remains what is Kevin McCarthy going to do about releasing it to other media outlets and releasing it publicly?


BOLDUAN: As we stand by for that. Thanks for the great reporting as always, Sara. I really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for being with us AT THIS HOUR. Thanks for watching. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts after this break.