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Rittenhouse Jury Deliberates; Violence at Belarusian-Polish Border; Taiwan Remains Flashpoint after U.S.-China Summit; Eight Die after COVID-19 Outbreak at Connecticut Nursing Home. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 09:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Good Tuesday morning, I'm Erica Hill.


Just one hour from now, jurors will begin deliberations in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. He is the 18-year old who is accused of first degree intentional homicide as well as four other felonies. The most serious of those carries a mandatory life sentence.

Rittenhouse last year, armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic weapon, shot three men, killing two of them during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

HILL: This morning a panel of 18 jurors will be narrowed down to the final 12. In closing arguments yesterday, prosecutors painted Rittenhouse as an armed vigilante, who provoked the violence, while the defense portrayed him as a frightened teenager, who feared for his life when he shot the three men. Take a listen.


THOMAS BINGER, KENOSHA COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You cannot hide behind self-defense if you provoked the incident. If you created the danger, you forfeit the right to self-defense.

MARK RICHARD, RITTENHOUSE DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle -- one with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with a gun. Hands and feet can cause great bodily harm.


SCIUTTO: CNN crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is outside the courthouse in Kenosha.

The closing arguments are over; there are some procedural steps this morning and then the jury dives into deliberations. Explain how it plays out. SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Right, the first

order of business here, Jim, this morning, is getting those 12 jurors seated, the final 12 jurors that are going to decide Kyle Rittenhouse's fate. That's the first thing the judge does this morning.

As you said, there are 18; they need to pick 12 for the final decision makers. Once that is done, the jury then moves into the deliberation room. They will be handed a verdict sheet, 14 pages. And they will go through sheet by sheet of the charges against Kyle Rittenhouse.

Some of those charges, as you said, having to deal with first degree reckless endangerment charge. The most significant charge here obviously is that first degree intentional homicide, for which he faces life imprisonment.

The judge yesterday agreeing to put two lesser included charges as part of that. That has to deal with the death of Anthony Huber. There is also, of course, the charge that has to deal with Joseph Rosenbaum.

And then the surviving victim, Gaige Grosskreutz, that is that attempted homicide charge. So all of that is for the jury to decide. But the big thing this morning is to get those 12 seated so the deliberations can begin.

It was a long day for the jurors yesterday, the longest day they've had since this trial started. Certainly you can see some of them getting tired, as the defense attorney and then there was rebuttal from the prosecution. Today they come in, all fresh and ready to work -- Jim.

HILL: Fresh and ready to work. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you.

Also with us, Bob Bianchi, criminal defense and law enforcement policy expert, host at the Law and Crime Network.

Bob, good to see you this morning.

As we look at what and listen to what we saw and heard yesterday, who do you think had the stronger closing argument?

BOB BIANCHI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT POLICY EXPERT: Stylistically, the prosecutor did a great job. And I've been very critical of the prosecutors for some ethics in my opinion, violations of (INAUDIBLE) in this case.

But he really put it together well for what he was trying to position. The defense lawyer got out what the defense lawyer needed to get out. But it wasn't stylistically as good. At the end of the day, is the judge instructs the jury.

What the lawyers say in openings and closings is not evidence. The evidence is what came out on the witness stand. But I would like to see the defense do a little bit more with what they had, because they had a lot to work with. One thing he did very well was talking about the rush to judgment. As

a homicide prosecutor, myself, I've never charged so quickly had they didn't have all the evidence, the autopsies hadn't been concluded, witness interviews hadn't been done.

And he used that, we know this as prosecutors, don't give the defense an opportunity to use a rush to judgment as a reason for why the charges were brought. So he was pretty effective in that aspect.

SCIUTTO: Bob, let's talk about the law here. A key argument is this question of self-defense. That is the central argument of his defense attorneys. The prosecution, in the closing arguments, really hammering home this idea you can't hide behind self-defense if you created the danger.


SCIUTTO: If you put yourself there, say, a 17-year old traveling from out of state, but tell us how the defense responded to that argument and where you think the standard lies in this case.

BIANCHI: Great question, Jim. First of all, I don't think the defense responded to it well. But the jury charge that I have in front of me right now does.

What is very clear with regard to this issue of provocation -- and what that means is you can't provoke an attack and then if you are -- if somebody responds to it, you have an opportunity to kill them.

But what this jury charge says is that the defendant had to engage in unlawful conduct that was likely to provoke others to attack him and who in fact does provoke others to attack him.

And on top -- which really aren't the facts of this case. The facts in this case were he was being pursued. The prosecutor wants to argue, just because he brought a weapon, which many people had weapons out there -- and, remember, this is Wisconsin, not like in New Jersey or New York, where the gun laws are so strict -- that that was the provocation.

But then even further in the jury charge, Jim, it says that, even if you're the initial aggressor, if you provoke the attack, if somebody then confronts you with deadly force, you have a right to protect yourself and respond.

So I don't see -- it is good the prosecutor got that in there. But there is a way that the law reads this jury, I don't see it applying to the facts of this case.

SCIUTTO: Bob Bianchi, thanks so much. So many questions to resolve. We'll do what we got to do, which is watch the trial as it plays out.

Also breaking this morning, incredibly dramatic scenes, these unfolding at the border between Belarus and Poland as tensions escalate between migrants and Polish forces. Keep in mind, those migrants pushed there, by many accounts, by the Belarusian government. HILL: CNN's cameras catching the moment at the Polish border, when

Polish border guards used tear gas and water cannons on migrants on the Belarusian side of the border. CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance was right in the middle of that chaos. Take a look.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're being disallowed from getting back -- getting into the European Union have reacted angrily. They've started throwing stones.

Oh, my god, we're being blasted by water cannon from the Polish side; tear gas has been thrown as well. There are flashbangs going off.


HILL: And you see it as it is unfolding there, hearing it from Matthew, Matthew Chance joining us now live, there on the border.

Migrants told you over the last several days they're fighting to stay alive. Walk us through where we stand this morning.

CHANCE: Yes, actually I was just drying myself off a little bit and warming myself up with these migrants here, after the drenching by the Polish water cannons earlier today. That situation has calmed significantly.

You can see the migrants have decided to settle down here outside that border fence on the Belarusian side, settle down for the night. But the violence that ravaged this part of the border earlier today was really, really significant.

You can see there is a hole in the border fence over there, where children are now playing. We're just back from there a few yards. You can see the Polish border guards still standing on patrol, the other side of the fence.

We saw migrants throwing stones, throwing sticks, running toward those Polish guards. It was a kind of anger, frustration that boiled over, after spending more than a week in these terrible conditions inside the camp.

The worst of the violence took place over here, it's the main border crossing, between Belarus and Poland. Here we saw incredible scenes of angry young men, migrants, running toward the barricades over there, which were manned by Polish security forces.

You can see the blue water cannon trucks are still there. They were blasting those people back. So really some quite horrific scenes of violence earlier today.

As I say, the situation has calmed considerably. We have been told by the Belarusian border agency that they're moving to try and sort of separate the refugees a little bit. I don't mean separate families; I mean they're setting up a logistical center, as they call it, where they are moving refugees back. That process, we're told, will start tonight, so they can get medical attention, some food.

The logistical center is indoors, which is a huge upgrade from the conditions in which these people have been living in for more than a week now. But it is also a sign that the Belarusian authorities seem to be moving to calm the situation.

Of course, Belarus has been accused of manufacturing this crisis, to create a humanitarian catastrophe on its borders and to put pressure on the European Union. They deny that, of course. But it is what the U.S. and the Europeans accuse them of doing.


CHANCE: They now seem to be ratcheting down the pressure a little bit.

HILL: We will continue to stay on it, glad you're there and hopefully you can also dry off fairly soon, as you pointed out. Matthew, appreciate the reporting, thank you.

Back here in the United States, dramatic flooding in Washington state, forcing hundreds of people from their homes. Also shut down a stretch of highway, knocked out power to thousands.

SCIUTTO: The Coast Guard rescued 10 people, including four children, from a flooded neighborhood near the town of Forks.

Emergency officials in Whatcom County along the Canadian border conducted search and rescue missions after more than 500 people were told to evacuate their homes. In all, more than 50,000 people are now without power. This morning, 14 counties under a state of emergency.

HILL: That's a lot of water.

Still to come this morning, the judge in the trial of three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery calls the defense attorney's comments about the Black pastors, quote, "reprehensible." We're live in Brunswick, Georgia.

Plus China's president warning President Biden that the U.S. is playing with fire when it comes to Taiwan. Details on what happened during that three-hour virtual meeting.

SCIUTTO: And later, Congresswoman Liz Cheney gets kicked out of Wyoming's Republican Party for opposing Trump. I'll ask about that, the way forward for the GOP, in an interview with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.




(MUSIC PLAYING) SCIUTTO: President Biden will hit the road today to sell his $1.2

trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. He signed it into law yesterday before a rare showing in Washington. That's right, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, senators and members of the House, at the White House.

He will celebrate that victory and promote the benefits of the new infrastructure package for the American people at a bridge in New Hampshire this afternoon. That bridge has been on the state's red list of bridges in poor condition since 2013, one of the many projects they aim to fix.

HILL: President Biden also held a high stakes virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping as tension escalates between the two nations. World leaders spoke for 3.5 hours on Monday, touching on a range of sensitive issues, including trade, human rights concerns and Chinese aggression toward Taiwan.

Joining me to discuss, Max Baucus, the former U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, former senator of Montana, of course, a Democrat.

Good to have you with us, Mr. Ambassador, this morning. As we look at and we learn more about what happened in that hours-long, very high level Zoom meeting, the White House says that President Biden affirmed there has been no change to the one China policy.

President Xi was very clear in saying, and I'm quoting him here in regards to Taiwan, "Whoever plays with fire will get burned."

Very tough talk from China on that; not necessarily matched by President Biden. What does that mean moving forward?

MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, first, I think it is important to realize that the summit talk was three hours. That indicates that a whole range of intricate issues between the U.S. and China, which are so intertwined in so many different ways.

One of the biggest hot buttons is Taiwan, no question. I think the U.S. Congress and to some degree the executive branch has been a little bit hawkish toward Taiwan. That very much upsets China.

Taiwan, for China, is a core issue. When I talked to President Xi when I was ambassador over there, others in China, it is nonnegotiable. It is nonnegotiable for the Chinese. So it is very important for President Biden to reiterate over and over again, our one China policy, meaning, hey, Taiwan and China, really are one China, whatever that means, he decided to interpret that in his own way.

It's very important as well as so-called Shanghai communiques. Our policy of so-called strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan is part of all that. That's very important for Biden to reassure President Xi that that is our policy.

HILL: Important for him to uphold that relationship; you talked about outspoken members of Congress. It is not just members of Congress. There are a number of folks who say this is an issue.

So are you saying that should not be discussed publicly because it could harm the relationship and so, therefore, does China ultimately have the upper hand here?

BAUCUS: I'm saying clearly we have to discuss it, because it is going to be an issue probably as long as we're alive. But it has to be discussed responsibly, carefully, not in a hawkish, adversarial way. If either side gets adversarial, it's going to roil tensions. Our policy is, as I said, strategic ambiguity. That just means we talk about it; we respect each other but we don't get hawkish, either side.

HILL: That issue is not going away, I know. But I want to get your take on a couple of other things. To that point, my colleague, David Culver, in Beijing, noting this morning that this is the first time in a long time he has seen such positive headlines from state media.

What should we read into that?

BAUCUS: I saw those headlines, too. I think that's positive. President Xi wants to stabilize the relationship with the United States.

He wants to focus on his country, on the economy; get more high paying jobs for the Chinese people, address air pollution, water pollution. And he knows that if the relationship is stable, he's more able to accomplish his internal objections (sic).

On the other hand, then he has to worry about hawks in China; he's got to worry about a potential, even military adversarial relationship, which is going to undermine of his efforts to build his economy.


BAUCUS: He wants a stable relationship and that's why we saw those nice sounding words in the press. But the real question here for both sides is, we both heard nice sounding words. But we know that actions mean a lot more than words.

And I am a little concerned that this is -- actions may not follow as quickly as they should.

HILL: And there weren't real concrete actions that came out of this. But it got me to thinking, as we look at this, look at the way the relationship played out over the last several years and where it is headed, President Biden consistently raising concerns about China, it makes me wonder who needs this relationship more, the U.S. or China?

BAUCUS: We both need it. It is clear. China is not going anywhere. It is always going to be there. It is going to have an economy that is, in not too many years, going to be larger than the U.S. We're not going anywhere. We're going to be -- the Americans are going to do the very best job they can with all our values. We need each other. We clearly need each other.

And the more we understand that and try to respect each other and not let either one take advantage of the other, the better off we're going to be. That's clear.

HILL: Max Baucus, thank you for joining us.

BAUCUS: You bet.

SCIUTTO: Next, police say a Georgia paramedic was drunk and high when he crashed an ambulance, killing the patient he was transporting. We'll have details ahead.

And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Dow futures are up after strong earnings reports from both Walmart and Home Depot. Nasdaq and S&P, they're slightly down.

In the last hour, listen to this economic news, we learned retail sales were up 1.7 percent in October to $638 billion. That beat analyst forecasts by a long way, a sign that Americans so far have not slowed down their spending, despite higher prices.





HILL: New this morning, eight people are dead, dozens more have been infected with COVID-19, on the heels of a severe outbreak at a nursing home in Connecticut.

SCIUTTO: It's so sad. It reminds you of the beginning of the pandemic. According to the Geer Village Senior Community, a total of 89 residents and staff, many of whom were fully vaccinated, have tested positive for COVID since late September. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been following.

Elizabeth, we're hearing 11 residents and a staff member still in isolation. I wonder, obviously, vaccination, we know, gives you an enormous amount of protection.

But how protected are these folks proving to be in the midst of this outbreak?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the issue that I think is going on here is that the nursing home hasn't said but I think we can safely assume that these nursing home residents -- and the staff probably too -- were vaccinated pretty early on in the pandemic; January, February, March, sometime in that timeframe, because that's when they were supposed to be vaccinated, was early on in the vaccine rollout.

By then, guess what happens?

We know that immunity wanes from the vaccine. Let's look at the particulars here again. So there have been 89 cases among residents and staff in this outbreak at this Connecticut nursing home. Many of them fully vaccinated.

Eight of those people have died. We have learned from the nursing home that nobody here had received a booster because it was too soon. When the outbreak started, they said the booster wasn't available.

This tells you what happens when you vaccinate people, many of whom probably didn't already have great immune systems, because they were elderly -- you vaccinate people and, nine, 10 months later, unfortunately this is what can happen. The nursing home says the folks will receive boosters soon -- Jim, Erica?

HILL: Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it, thank you.

New this morning, Pfizer says it has reached a deal to allow greater global distribution of its COVID-19 antiviral pill. Generic drugmakers will be able to make that pill widely available to 95 low and middle income countries.

The treatment is greatly needed in many areas, especially as vaccines still not easy to access in many places.

Take a look. More that half of Europe and North America is fully vaccinated. Less than 7 percent, that's the red line there on that chart, of people on the African continent have been vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Just such a stark disparity in the numbers there.

Back here at home, a Georgia paramedic is being held without bond this morning after he allegedly crashed an ambulance, killing the patient who was inside at the time, then tried to get away, wait for it, in an Uber.

Police say 34-year-old Kevin McCorvey admitted to drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, taking Adderall before the ambulance veered off the road and rolled into a ditch. According to investigators, the patient was not restrained in any way in the back of the ambulance and died from his injuries.

A second paramedic who was involved in the crash has not been charged.

Another big story this morning, court is back in session in South Georgia this morning, in the trial for the three white men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. Prosecutors may call the county medical examiner now to testify.

HILL: Yesterday, civil rights leader reverend Jesse Jackson was in the courtroom with Ahmaud Arbery's mother, prompting calls for a mistrial, once again, from defense attorneys. The judge refused that, called the defense's objections to Black pastors being in the gallery, quote, "reprehensible." CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Brunswick.

What is happening today in court?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now the jury is not in, so it is that time when lawyers can begin to argue various things they want to talk about with the judge without influencing the jury.