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McCarthy Directs GOP To Launch Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Five Former Memphis Police Officers Indicted On Federal Charges In Beating Death Of Tyre Nichols; Police: "Desperate" Escaped Killer Stole Rifle With Scope; DOJ's Historic Monopoly Trial Against Google Gets Underway. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 15:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy calling for a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. He's accusing the White House of a culture of corruption. But even McCarthy's own party seems divided over the decision. We also just got new reaction from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: We are following breaking news this hour. Five police officers involved in the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols have now been indicted on federal charges. The indictment alleges they willfully deprived him of his constitutional rights. We are set to hear from the Justice Department in just a few moments.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And armed and extremely dangerous. This is how police are now describing the convicted killer who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison nearly two weeks ago. He has now stolen a rifle from a homeowner's garage.

We are following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SANCHEZ: With his speaker's gavel possibly on the line, Kevin McCarthy just threw down the gauntlet. This morning, the House Speaker officially gave key Republican committee chairs the go-ahead to start an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. It's all based on allegations of corruption tied to Hunter Biden's business dealings.

House Republicans, to McCarthy's right, have been threatening to oust him as speaker if he didn't take this step. But the response from their counterparts in the Senate has been muted. Here was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just moments ago.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We've got our hands full here trying to get through the appropriations process and not have an omnibus. And I don't have any advice to give to the House. They've got a totally different set of challenges than we do.

And so I think the best advice for the Senate is to do our job and we'll see how this plays out later.


SANCHEZ: Let's take you now live to Capitol Hill with CNN's Lauren Fox.

So Lauren, in a moment like this, you would normally ask if President Biden can survive this politically. But you have to ask the same of Speaker McCarthy.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, there's a huge political question right now surrounding House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's speakership. And specifically, he has a series of challenges, one of which is funding the government at the end of the month.

You saw there Mitch McConnell alluding to the fact that the Senate was focused on that. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the big news today, of course, is this announcement from McCarthy that he is formally launching an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Now, he talked to reporters just a few minutes ago and he did make clear that he acknowledges that there is still more information that has to be found. And he said that that's the difference between an impeachment inquiry and moving forward with impeachment formally.

So that is the very delicate tightrope that the House Speaker is trying to walk right now. But just mere moments after he made his announcement around 11 AM this morning, you saw Matt Gaetz go down to the House floor and give his own speech. He was threatening to try and oust the Speaker if he doesn't give in to a series of demands, including demands on spending. Here's what Matt Gaetz said.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Moments ago, Speaker McCarthy endorsed an impeachment inquiry. This is a baby step following weeks of pressure from House conservatives to do more. We must move faster.


FOX: And if House leadership thought that opening the impeachment inquiry was going to try and get some of those House conservatives to get together and back some kind of short-term funding bill, I think it's clear from that speech on the floor today from Matt Gaetz that that is not happening.

And if it feels like there's a lot of moving parts to this, Boris, it's because there are right now. The House Speaker is really trying to deal with a series of crises. And obviously, this news today that he's opening an impeachment inquiry will certainly take up a lot of time in the House and there's only about two and a half weeks to fund the government, so a lot of work left to do.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that deadline is looming on the horizon. So, Lauren, what about these Republican committee chairs? Do we know

if they've taken any investigative steps since the announcement this morning?


FOX: Yes. They have launched and announced that they are moving forward with their own steps. In some ways, these are the same committees that have been investigating these - investigating Hunter Biden and President Joe Biden over the course of the last several months: The House Ways and Means Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, they're going to continue their work.

But now it is obviously under this umbrella that is much more formal of impeachment or an impeachment inquiry, which they are arguing is going to help them get documents more quickly, get answers more quickly. We, of course, will have to wait and see if that bears out.

SANCHEZ: We know you'll keep an eye on it.

Lauren Fox live from Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Let's discuss this with former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

So, Renato, when we're looking at this, an impeachment inquiry to find more evidence, not that they have evidence that is leading them to start an impeachment proceeding here. What kind of precedent does this set?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have to say it's extremely aggressive. It's really - I think it's set even apart from the impeachment inquiry into Bill Clinton, which, of course, had some disastrous political consequences for that party, because there, of course, they were doing that after there had already been a completed investigation by an independent counsel.

Here what we have, of course, is a multiyear investigation of Hunter Biden by a federal prosecutor, a United States attorney appointed by Donald Trump, ultimately found very little in terms of criminality. And this really, I think, it's a sad day because it is definitely a use of the impeachment power for a purpose that really is more like - or it looks a lot like ordinary politics.

KEILAR: Nancy Mace, who is a House Republican, who's actually raised concerns about what some of the political blowback might be, even as she is supporting this, says that she understands that this will enable the committees to seek Joe Biden's banking records. Do you think that they will actually get access to that?

MARIOTTI: I think that's possible. Frankly, ironically, it was a multiyear stonewalling by the Trump administration that established some good evidence on the ability of Congress to get records. So, yes, look, the authority of a House impeachment inquiry to get evidence is significant. They'll have to make some showing, but courts are generally

deferential to the House, so I do think that they could use this as a way of getting more records. Obviously, critics are going to argue that that's an abuse of that power because that's not typically the purpose for which impeachment inquiry is launched. Usually it's because there's evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors that have already been uncovered, but that debate will continue.

KEILAR: So does impeachment lose its seriousness if there's nothing there or if the process is used to just create the illusion that there is something?

MARIOTTI: Yes. Look, there's a disinformation element to it, right? In other words, the mere fact of impeachment has been such a serious thing in our nation's history. It's not been used very often. If this starts becoming a routine method for the other political party that's in the opposite party, the president, to essentially get evidence to try to find embarrassing things about the current president in power, really this ends up becoming something that happens in both administrations, you know, in all administrations by both parties all the time.

So it's not where we want to end up as a country. It's something I think it's fair to say that the individuals who framed and drafted our Constitution did not anticipate. And unfortunately, it's something that the House has the power to do without really a check or balance until or unless there's a vote.

All right. Renato, thank you so much for talking with us about this, we do appreciate it. Jim?

SCIUTTO: We are following breaking news minutes from now, the Justice Department will hold a news conference on the Tyre Nichols case. This comes after we learned a short time ago that five former Memphis police officers involved in his fatal beating this past January have now been indicted on federal charges. CNN's Nick Valencia, he has been following the story. Tell us what the reaction is from one of the defendant's attorneys.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We've reached out to all the five defendant's attorneys, but so far haven't been able to get in touch with anyone except for one, Blake Ballin, who represents Desmond Mills. And just in our brief conversation, he says that these federal charges are really going to complicate the defense strategy that they had laid out for his defendant, Mills.

He said, in part, that this is different from what the state is alleging. "This is going to cause us to change gears a little bit," according to Blake Ballin. Going on to say, "This adds another layer of things that we'll have to look into and investigate. This is new from what the state is alleging."


So let's get into what the federal indictment alleges. It's two charges, one witness tampering, the other the deprivation of civil rights. Each charge has two counts. And essentially what the feds are saying is it's not just the incident, but what happened after the incident and what the officers said or didn't say to investigators.

The DOJ saying that there was a deliberate attempt by these defendants to mislead the investigators to try to withhold the truth. And this is the crux of what they're saying about the deprivation of civil rights of Tyre Nichols, that incident back in January, saying, "Specifically defendants Martin, Bean, Haley, Mills and Smith unlawfully assaulted Nichols and willfully failed to intervene in the unlawful assault. This offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of Tyre Nichols."

So all of this is going on as the state is moving forward in its case. In fact, these defendants are expected in court later this month. And a reminder to our viewers, remember, DOJ involvement in Memphis might sound familiar because it was back in July that they announced a plan for a patterns and practices investigation into the Memphis Police Department, saying that information available to the public indicated to the DOJ that there was a disproportionate targeting of black motorists in the city.

Meanwhile, we have this case going on and we're expecting an official announcement from the DOJ to these charges here in just under an hour. Jim?

SCIUTTO: An expansion of that case, no question.

Nick Valencia, thanks so much. Boris?

SANCHEZ: The manhunt for an escaped murderer has taken a very dangerous turn. Pennsylvania State Police say Danelo Cavalcante is now armed with a rifle that's equipped with a scope that he stole from an open garage. And CNN has just obtained court records that shed some new light on how Cavalcante thinks, the transcripts of his sister's testimony at his murder trial.

Investigators say the victim, Cavalcante's ex-girlfriend, was stabbed 38 times. Now, the sister testified that Cavalcante told her he didn't know if the woman was dead or alive. The prosecutor asked, "Was he calm? Was he angry? Was he sad? How would you describe his demeanor?" The sister responds, "I couldn't really identify because he always had a calm demeanor. He seemed okay to me."

The prosecutor then goes on, "So his demeanor was the same during this phone call that it has always been with you?" Cavalcante's sister replies, "Yes."

Let's take you now to Chester County, Pennsylvania with CNN's Danny Freeman, who's been following the story from the very beginning.

And Danny, police seem confident that Cavalcante is within this new search area they've established.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Boris. That's one thing that police have continued to be confident about throughout this manhunt, that when they establish a perimeter, they believe that Cavalcante is inside of it.

Of course, the most recent time they set up a perimeter before this time, he was able to slip out. But after those two sightings last night, police are displaying confidence that they are closing in on him.

And as you can see right here, we're at the intersection of State Route 23 and 100 on the northeastern most side of this perimeter. A lot of police activity right in this intersection. We've been seeing armored vehicles coming in as late as into this afternoon and a lot of troopers standing out here making sure to check every car before it tries to go into this perimeter.

Now, Boris, I want to go over some of the things that we did learn in this press conference earlier today about these two sightings. The first one happening around 8 PM when police say a woman who was driving in the area where Cavalcante ditched that dairy van that he stole over the weekend, she said she believed she saw him crouching down on the road, police came.

They didn't find Cavalcante, but they did find footprints in the mud and ultimately his prison issued sneakers. Then a couple of hour - or rather, I should say, less than two hours later at around 10 in the evening, police responded to an incident at an open garage and that's what you described earlier where Cavalcante was said to have stolen that rifle that had a scope on it, also a flashlight on it.

And that resident who owned the House inside the garage returned fire - I should say - shot at Cavalcante. But Cavalcante was still able to get away with that gun. Take a listen to what Lt. Col. George Bivens said about his own mindset now that Cavalcante has this weapon.


LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: We considered him desperate, we considered him dangerous. All this does is confirm for us that he has a weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he desperate enough to use that weapon and target law enforcement?

BIVENS: He's killed two people previously. I would suspect that he's desperate enough to use that weapon.


FREEMAN: Now, a few of the things, Boris, that I'd like to add, first, police have no reason to believe Cavalcante was injured during that brief period of gunfire last night. They said they got there to the scene within minutes. But, of course, they still were not able to capture him.

And the one last thing I'll add, Boris, is that police said Cavalcante actually is familiar with this area that he is now on the loose and that he has been here before, no doubt making the challenge of capturing him more challenging on day 13 of this manhunt, Boris? [15:15:01]

SANCHEZ: Yes, a terrain that officials have said is very complex with a tunnel system and a very wooded area, all sorts of places for someone like that to hide.

Danny Freeman, thank you so much for the update. Brianna?

KEILAR: Still to come, it could be the biggest antitrust case in decades. Google and the Justice Department facing off in court today. We will tell you why the case could reshape one of the Internet's most dominant platforms.

Plus, the slow but heavily armored train carrying Kim Jong-un is now inside Russia. The North Korean dictator is expected to meet Vladimir Putin and an arms deal could be on the table.

We're going to talk about that and much more coming up on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.


SCIUTTO: U.S. prosecutors opened a landmark trial today against the tech giant, Google. This historic trial, considered to be the biggest antitrust case in decades, could have major implications. The case focuses on Google's search engine.


According to the Justice Department, 90 percent of all searches begin with Google. The DOJ alleges the company has stifled competition and harmed consumers by paying billions of dollars to device makers to make it the default search engine. Google maintains that people don't use Google because they have to, but because they want to.

Sara Fischer, a CNN Contributor and Senior Media Reporter at Axios joins us now. And Sara, this reminds me somewhat of the DOJ case years ago against Microsoft, accusing many of the same things, that Microsoft being the same sort of default operating system here. What exactly is at stake and could Google conceivably be broken up if they lose this case?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: I don't think Google is at risk of being broken up with this case, Jim. But you have to remember the DOJ is also simultaneously suing Google for its dominance in advertising technology. I think there's a more high likelihood that it could get broken up there.

But what's at stake for Google is that this could be a major distraction. Oftentimes when tech companies are sued by the government or taken to court, they become more cautious around things like innovation and it's happening at a time when Google is already fighting to compete for search dominance with AI.

Microsoft, of course, being its big competitor there, of course, there's the irony because the Google's - the Microsoft case in 1998 sort of hampered their innovation, which is what gave rise to Google.

SCIUTTO: No question. And this, of course, is just one of two major antitrust lawsuits the DOJ has filed against Google. It seems to be part of a broader administration shift here where they're going after monopolies or near monopolies in a whole host of areas, whereas in the past, both Republican and Democratic administrations tended to sort of keep their hands off. Is this part of a broader push here?

FISCHER: Much broader push and also a broader push by the EU. Remember, Google has been fined billions of dollars by the European Commission. But really, this Biden administration has said, even though it's not legal to be a monopoly, we want to go much more aggressively after companies that are abusing its monopoly.

Now, with a company like Google, one of the things that's really challenging, Jim, is that the services are free. And so it's really hard to argue that consumers are being hard by the dominance that Google has in search, essentially, what the DOJ is arguing is that the consumer doesn't have enough choice when they go onto their phone, whether it's an Apple phone or another, the default browser is Google because of agreements that Google makes with those companies and so the consumer doesn't even know that they're lacking competition.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I wonder, given what you said, that the new focus is on emerging AI technology and search. Could you argue the case is a bit late to the game?

FISCHER: Oh, absolutely late to the game and that's the case with all of these lawsuits. In the ad tech lawsuit is going back to mergers from well over a decade ago. And that's the challenge, by the way, with people who are looking at regulators trying to bring in technology broadly. So much is happening so quickly that by the time this trial is over, Jim, which we're expecting it to last a few months, for all we know, a whole new version of generative AI could be out and Google's entire search product could be different.

SCIUTTO: Sara Fischer, thanks so much, as always. Appreciate having you on. Boris?

FISCHER: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Another group has filed a lawsuit to block former President Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot, this time in Minnesota. It's the second major lawsuit in the last week invoking the 14th Amendment. We're going to discuss ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is now in Russia ahead of his expected meeting with Vladimir Putin, you can actually see him stopping at a Russian train station near the border with China, getting off his heavily armored train. Kim met with a senior Russian government official there, reportedly got back on the train that's now headed for a currently unknown location to soon meet with Vladimir Putin.

Let's discuss this and more with retired Army General Wesley Clark. He was also NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

Gen. Clark, thanks so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us. So what are you going to be watching for out of this meeting?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, there's going to be a lot of atmospherics, I think, about this meeting. Obviously, they're playing coy about where the location is. My guess is this is a real reward for Kim for munitions and other things he's probably already provided. He certainly already committed to providing them or he wouldn't be having a meeting.

But for Putin, it's also an opportunity because this meeting puts pressure on China to do more and it also is designed - going to be designed to intimidate Ukraine and its allies. What we should take from it is it's - this is a form of horizontal escalation. And the longer the fight goes on and the more it drags out, the greater the risk of escalation elsewhere.

SANCHEZ: I want to dig deeper with you on the question of Ukraine. But first, you mentioned the reward for Kim Jong-un. Reportedly, part of it has to do with his quest to obtain an upgrade to his satellite and his submarine capabilities. What happens if he gets that kind of technology, if it enhances his capabilities?


CLARK: Well, it increases his sense of security, it increases his ability to intimidate.