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Schumer Sets Up First Border Deal And Foreign Aid Package Vote By Next Wednesday; Michigan School Shooter's Mom Testifies In Her Own Defense; DA Fani Willis Will Not Step Down From GA Trump Election Case. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 15:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We are keeping a close eye on a courtroom in Pontiac, Michigan, where we are expecting to hear more testimony from the mother of the Oxford High School shooter. The trial is currently in a break. We're going to bring it to you once it gets underway again.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And this just in, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is taking steps to hold the first vote on the border deal and foreign aid package by next Wednesday, with text of the measure coming as soon as Friday, we have learned, but no later than Sunday.

So, this is a very big development in these negotiations and this potential step forward to a deal here. Let's get to Manu Raju, our chief congressional correspondent. Tell us what you're hearing, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this sets up a major showdown between the Senate and former President Donald Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill over an issue central to the 2024 campaign, immigration, and the crisis at the southern border. And with it, what about aid for Ukraine and Israel? Now, Republicans have demanded for months that the border must be dealt with first before they would green light more aid to Ukraine and Israel. Meantime, a handful of senators have reached a deal on the issue of securing the border.

That is now going to all come together with this emergency aid package with Israel, with Ukraine and with Taiwan, with text to be released as soon as tomorrow, as late as Sunday, with the first procedural vote by Wednesday. That means there needs to be 60 senators to advance it. There are 51 Democrats, 49 Republicans.

Can they get 60 votes? That is a big question. Donald Trump has tried to scuttle this plan, saying it is a bad deal, it's a betrayal, even though the text has yet to be released, because in large part, both sides believe Trump is trying to kill this in order to campaign on this issue and deny Joe Biden a victory on this major issue. Now, that is the big question right now.

Can this get out of the Senate and can this get out of the Republican- led House, where a lot of Republicans, including Trump allies, say that they are in no mood to cut a deal with Joe Biden on this issue? Some bluntly saying, let's not give Joe Biden a victory.



REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): Why would we do anything right now to help him with that 33 percent? Do you believe if Joe Biden's approval rate was at 53 percent, we would even be talking about the border? We wouldn't be talking about the southern border.

But he has to do something, because he's hemorrhaging, he's bleeding.

So, what he's going to try to do is try to come up with some border security plan, bipartisan through the Senate, that is nothing but hogwash.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): We'd be a big mistake to surrender, abandon our allies and surrender to Putin in Ukraine like we did in Afghanistan.

RAJU: What are you worried about? The fact that they're throwing cold water, rejecting it out of hand without even looking at it?

MCCAUL: I think we ought to give them a chance to come up with a bill and look at it and then decide.


RAJU (on camera): So, you're seeing the divisions within the GOP ranks, but how this ultimately gets resolved, and can they overcome Trump's opposition on the GOP side is going to remain a huge question as we get into this first key procedural vote by Wednesday.

I just caught up with the number two Senate Republican, John Thune. He counts the votes on the GOP side. He said it is uncertain whether there will be enough Republicans to break an expected filibuster attempt on Wednesday. He said they have to see the text; they have to review it.

And I said, can you overcome Donald Trump's opposition? He said, I don't know the answer to that yet. And he said this decision about whether to go ahead will be made by the Republican conference as the GOP leadership is noncommittal about this so far. Even as a top Republican, Mitch McConnell has pushed for this deal, has praised some of the elements of this deal, has been involved with it and is demanding action on Ukraine in particular at this moment.

But can they get there given the divisions within the ranks and opposition that could come from Democrats to the border provisions as well? All huge questions ahead of these key votes next week.

KEILAR: Yes, but this is a huge step that we'll be watching here. Manu Raju, Live Force from the Hill, thank you.

And we are awaiting more testimony. We're actually waiting for it to resume in Michigan in the trial of Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford High School shooter. The trial is in a break right now, set to resume any moment. We're going to bring it to you when it does get started back up.



KEILAR: We are awaiting court proceedings to begin in Pontiac, Michigan, which is where Jennifer Crumbley is facing -- is on trial, facing charges, four of them, for involuntary manslaughter for her alleged role in her son's shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan in 2021, where four students were killed and others, including school officials, were wounded as well.

I want to bring back in Jean Casarez and Areva Martin. They have been following this entire trial along with us.

Jean, what are we expecting after this break, which has taken a considerably longer amount of time than we had expected?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you wonder what's going on because the break, obviously, is longer than the judge said it was going to be, and that can be anything. They can be talking in the back about issues because we're getting near to the end of the trial and so my but, you never want the jury to wait. So, we'll see if we hear what has happened, but it looks like they're about to reconvene.

We're going to have continued direct examination of Jennifer Crumbley, and this may extend for the rest of the day because her attorney wants to focus on everything.

You know, one thing that I think we have a hold on that we need a little more explaining on is the cable lock for that gun, because we heard from the person that sold that gun at the gun shop that they have to always give a cable lock or another type of a lock for a gun, and a cable lock was given for that gun.

Well, when the gun case was found on the day of the mass shooting, it was found in the master bedroom, on the bed of Jennifer and James Crumbley. It was opened, and James found this when he came home because he came home, and he's the one that called up and turned his son in. And the gun case was open. The gun was gone.

I didn't see a cable lock anywhere around there in the picture that we saw. So, if the cable lock was always on it, had to have a key to open it, then where was the cable lock when it mattered, right? So, we need to hear an explanation for that.

SANCHEZ: A significant question.

She actually testified, Jennifer Crumbley, that she was mortified when those pictures were published of Ethan's bedroom because it was so messy, and that also became an interesting part of testimony to try to ascertain how aware was she of what was going on in his life, what his mental state was. And I'm wondering, Areva, as jurors hear these sorts of details about

him messaging her that their house was haunted, that he reportedly told them that that sort of stuff that he saw in the house only happened when he was alone. It seemed like he was a lonely kid wanting attention from his parents, even based on her own testimony.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely, Boris. Again, Jennifer spent a lot of time this morning trying to convince the jurors that this was a very normal, very happy family, that there weren't photographs of Ethan because he didn't like to take pictures, that they had this really close communication. In fact, she said that the three of them were a very close family.


But yet there are all of these what appear to be disturbing lapses in time when her son is trying to reach her and she's not responding. And despite her efforts to try to downplay this time that she spent on the horses and with this extramarital affair, it's pretty clear, as you just stated, that Ethan was lonely and definitely after his best friend moved away, there were some issues.

And again, I don't want to indict this mother because mothering and parenting is very difficult. But in this era where we see so many disturbed kids, to have a gun in a home where you're not really even sure where the key is, where the gun is, it just begs the question about how in tune she was with her own son and what the foreseeability was in terms of him accessing this gun, either hurting himself or in this case, murdering these four students at this school.

KEILAR: I guess, Areva, a question I have is the unfortunate reality is that there are a lot of children out there who are neglected, right? Or who do not have good parents. And a lot of them do not go and shoot up a school, right?

So, a question I have is, does it come down to that, sort of the bad parenting, or is it really just the access to the weapon and the not cluing the school in when you see a drawing of a gun and then the not getting the mental help at the very moment that the school is telling you to get that and then not securing the weapon clearly as well as it should be?

MARTIN: I think, Brianna, two things can be true at the same time. So, we have a school that clearly could have done a lot more. The school, I think, failed Ethan.

I think his parents failed him. And all of the adults involved in this situation, none of them took the kinds of steps that could have been taken, pretty simple ones, to get him the help that he needed, to get him in a situation were he would not have access to this gun.

So, I think there are a myriad of things that went wrong in this case from the mother being very involved with her extracurricular activities, not really paying close attention to what was going on with her son, and a school where they weren't either communicating with each other, principal and staff, and then with the parents. SANCHEZ: Areva and Jean, please stand by.

Again, we're waiting for testimony to resume in the courtroom. We will await that to get started again go back to you once we hear more from Jennifer Crumbley directly on the witness stand.

KEILAR: Another story that we are keeping an eye on right now.

The embattled district attorney who is overseeing former President Trump's Georgia election interference case is standing her ground.

SANCHEZ: Sources tell CNN that Fani Willis has no plans to step down amid allegations that she was having an affair with the lead prosecutor in the case and benefited financially from that relationship.

CNN's Nick Valencia is outside the courtroom for us in Fulton County, Georgia with these exclusive details. Nick, walk us through the reporting.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris and Brianna, it is very interesting because Fani Willis went after the former president after the 2020 election loss because of his defiance, and now she seems to be taking a page out of that playbook and is being defiant herself, showing no signs of stepping down according to sources that we've spoken to within the district attorney's office.

One of the principal concerns is that if she does resign or step down from this case, that the case against the former president and some of his closest allies, would effectively be over. Not only are they aware of the political and legal challenges of finding another special prosecutor. They believe that any change in their prosecutorial team would just delay the proceedings indefinitely, and the window for them to try to get a trial started before the November 2024 election is shrinking fast.

Look, you know, Fani Willis has not directly addressed these alleged allegations that she had an affair with the man that she appointed special prosecutor, Nathan Wade. But we understand, according to sources, that she is personally involved in this written response to these filings, which is due by tomorrow. That's the deadline that the judge has given her.

And we understand, according to those sources, that she is not going to directly address the affair, but rather point out where she believes the attorneys who are trying to get this case dismissed are wrong in their interpretation of the law.

So major developments happening here in Fulton County. This case just getting more and more dramatic by the day -- Boris, Brianna.

KEILAR: It certainly is. Nick Valencia, thank you for that report from Atlanta.

And we are awaiting more testimony in Michigan in the trial of Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford High School shooter. That trial is in break right now. We are expecting court to reconvene here shortly, and we're going to bring it to you when it does start back up.



SANCHEZ: We want to take you back to the moment as Jennifer Crumbley just walked into the courtroom, and she is back on the witness stand for more of her testimony. Again, she's being charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter as the defense begins to ask her questions.

This case could set a precedent because she's being charged essentially for acts carried out by her son, Ethan. Let's listen in as court resumes with the jury walking back into the courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, you may be seated.



SMITH: All right, go ahead. All right, you ready?




SMITH: We were talking about the meeting at the school, And I think the jury's heard a lot about that meeting. OK, so I'm going to fast forward. You go back to work, right?


SMITH: We saw the exhibit of you walking back in.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

SMITH: OK, we heard Amanda Holland testify about how she gives you some advice. Do you recall her giving you advice?

CRUMBLEY: I don't.

SMITH: Is she somebody you go to for advice?


SMITH: Why not?

CRUMBLEY: We were never like friends outside of work, and she was Andy's administrative assistant, so it was just formalities, really, with her. We didn't really have anything common. Her child was real young. I had a teenager.


All right, I want to go to the time where you heard there was an open shooter. The jury has already heard how you heard about that, OK? And we know you got in your car and you drove up to Oxford, right?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

SMITH: OK, we heard about the description of that caravan. Did you see that caravan?

CRUMBLEY: Yeah, I actually joined it. It was a black SUV, and that was my fastest way to get to school.

SMITH: OK, so you actually were a part of that with all the law enforcement officers all headed up.

CRUMBLEY: Yeah, we just kind of jumped in.

SMITH: What is that, Lapeer Road?

CRUMBLEY: It started on 75. I work at Square Lake and Telegraph, so I got on 75 from Square Lake there, and it was well before the M-24 exit, I would say about a quarter of a mile. The track was backed up.

SMITH: OK. Now, you sent a text, and if you need to see it, let me know. You sent a text to your son that says you can talk to us. Why did you send him that?

CRUMBLEY: After I left the meeting, I knew that he was sad about things, and I just wanted to let him know that he can talk to us about anything. I just wanted to make sure I opened that door. I just wanted to let him know that we're there for him and we love him.

SMITH: OK, and he said he loved you. Do you recall that?


SMITH: OK, was that -- was there anything unusual about that?

CRUMBLEY: Yeah, he's at that age where it was hard to get, I love yous back out of him. For me to open my text and just see him randomly saying I love you was abnormal for him.

SMITH: OK, did you think anything at that point?

CRUMBLEY: No, not right at that point. I think I sent a text back, I love you too, I don't remember. I believe I did, yeah.

SMITH: OK, and later in the thread, you say, don't do it.

So, when you hear there's an open shooter at the school, I want to know in your mind, what do you believe is happening?

CRUMBLEY: Well, my husband had called me when I was still at work, and he said there's an active shooter at Oxford High School and I can't get a hold of Ethan. And that's when I opened my phone and I saw the I love you text. And then I texted him, are you OK? In the process of it, I was getting my stuff and running out the door, letting my boss know that I had to go to my son's school.

It was on 75 when I was trying to get to -- get to the exit that my husband called me, and he asked me where I hid the bullets. And I told him, and then he said the gun was missing. So instantly it just, I'm like, oh, my gosh, he's got the gun.

I didn't actually think he was at the school shooting it. I thought maybe he walked home and got the gun and was in the field by the school. I didn't imagine my son actually going to a school and shooting.

And then when we got more updates, I was like, oh, my gosh, he's a school shooter. He's going to kill himself, because in my mind that's what school shooters have done. They've killed themselves after.

So, I yelled in my talk to text, Ethan, don't do it, because I thought he was going to kill himself.

SMITH: At that point, did you think Ethan had killed anyone?

CRUMBLEY: No, I didn't even think he shot anyone at that point.

SMITH: Well, that was going to be my next question. Did you believe he injured anyone or shot anyone, did anything?

CRUMBLEY: No, no, no. I thought he was going to kill himself.

SMITH: OK. So, you find out the gun's missing. So, you do think he's got the gun, but it's going to turn in on himself.


SMITH: OK. So where did you -- at that point, you went to the substation? I think we saw the video.

CRUMBLEY: Yeah. My husband had called me when I got close to the house, and he said the substation just called, and they want us to come down there. They have my son. And so, I picked him up on the way, and we drove to the substation together.

SMITH: When you say picked him up, picked who up?

CRUMBLEY: My son was in custody, basically, the substation.

SMITH: Right, so who did you pick up?

CRUMBLEY: I picked up my husband, sorry.

SMITH: OK. You picked up James. OK.


What was going through your mind at this point, going from picking James up to the substation?

CRUMBLEY: I don't know. I was just, I asked my husband, I was like, is he alive? And he said, I don't know, we're going down there. I don't really know what to think ...

SANCHEZ: Powerful moments in court as we listen to Jennifer Crumbley give her reaction to learning that a shooting was unfolding at her son's school and that his gun was missing from where it was supposed to be. We're going to keep monitoring important powerful testimony. But for right now we're going to had it over to "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper, which starts right now.