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Judge Rejects Mistrial Requests; Chris Christie is Interviewed about the Republican Party; Jonathan McDowell is Interviewed about Space. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 09:30   ET



MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They want to talk about with the judge without influencing the jury. It seems right now that the defense wants to bring in information or evidence pertaining to what they say was a crime wave that was going on inside of that community and why that community was on edge. Of course the state is pushing back and saying that that's an overstated argument there. We're still waiting to hear what the judge is going to say in that regard.

But, yesterday, it looked like this case was going to come to this very abrupt and ugly ending as a result of not something that was said on the witness stand, but as a result of something that was seen and heard inside the courtroom. And that was specifically Wanda Jones Cooper, that's the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, she broke down emotionally when she saw a photograph of her son presented in the case. And then, right next to her, sitting there comforting her was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and that's when the defense objected.

Here's some of the exchange between Kevin Gough, one of the defense attorneys, and Judge Timothy Walmsley.


KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your honor, I would submit, with all respect to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, that this is no different than bringing in police officers or uniformed prison guards in a small town where a young black man has been accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer or a corrections officer.

JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY: So then we start getting into what we have now, with individual members -- or individuals coming into the courtroom. I will say that is directly in response, Mr. Gauff, to statements you made, which I find reprehensible.

I'm not granting a mistrial at this point based on these arguments that are being made.


SAVIDGE: So the judge essentially saying there, you're the one that created the problem, Mr. Gough. You're the one now that is going to have to live with this problem. Meanwhile, we do expect the medical examiner today and that could be

some very graphic testimony.

Erica and Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we've heard some vocal judges over the last couple of weeks. That's quite a rebuke there for the defense.

Martin Savidge, thanks very much.

Still ahead this hour, Republicans in Wyoming will no longer consider Liz Cheney a member of the party. It's all over her standing up to Donald Trump, his election lie. Is Trump still owning this party, shaping it in his image? I'm going to speak to Governor Chris Christie about that and the future. That's coming up.



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Steve Bannon will be arraigned this week on contempt of Congress charges after turning himself in to the FBI. The ex-chief strategist to former President Trump was charged after refusing to comply with subpoenas from the January 6th committee. Bannon, vowing to fight the charges.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.

Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One. And we're going to do -- we're going to go on the offense. We're tired of playing defense. We're going to go on the offense on this, and stand by.


HILL: Bannon had cited executive privilege to avoid testifying. President Biden waved those claims. This morning, Bannon's lawyer acknowledged some of Bannon's conversations are not covered by executive privilege but accused House Democrats of politicizing the process.


DAVID SCHOEN, ATTORNEY FOR STEVE BANNON: This ought to be a civil matter, resolved in a court, and Mr. Bannon's lawyer very responsibly told the committee that if a court orders him to answer any of these questions, he will answer them and comply. That's all. Let a court decide. Don't charge someone criminally. Don't politicize the criminal process.


HILL: Each count of contempt of Congress carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail.

SCIUTTO: The Wyoming Republican Party sending a message to Congresswoman Liz Cheney for speaking out against former President Trump. State GOP leaders just voted to no longer recognize her as a member of the party as she works on the January 6th committee investigating the insurrection and pushing to hold Trump accountable.

But she is, of course, not the only Republican who has blamed Trump for the attack on the Capitol. Former New Jersey governor and Trump advisor Chris Christie says it all stemmed from the big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Chris Christie joins me now. We should note, he has a new book out today. It is called "Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden."

Governor, thanks for taking the time this morning.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Thanks for having me, Jim. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: There is a uniform response in today's Republican Party to a Liz Cheney. You see her, in effect, kicked out of the Republican Party. She was already kicked out of the House Republican leadership. The folks who voted for the infrastructure bill, the folks who voted to impeach Donald Trump, they get punished by the party.

I wonder, is there a place in the current GOP for the Liz Cheneys of the world, for yourself, and what is that place?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, you know, I can't speak for Liz. Liz does a good job of speaking for herself.

But what I'll say to you is, I'm all about our party. And this book is all about our party moving forward from where we are now to be an effective contrast to the Democrats and the policies that are being put forward by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

But to do that, we have to be truthful. We have to stop looking backwards. We have to stop, you know, grievance politics and vendetta politics. And what we have to do is talk about the concerns of the American people.

And when the Republican Party did that two weeks ago in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin was elected governor, and came very close to electing another Republican governor in my home state.


But even in my home state, we won seats in the legislature in both Houses by talking about a forward looking agenda, not a backward looking one.

SCIUTTO: OK. And, by the way, right to note the different approaches that those Republican candidates took in Virginia and New Jersey. But the national party is very different. As you know, two-thirds of

House members, the day, the night of the insurrection, still voted to decertify the election. It's become a new litmus test, frankly, for national GOP candidates, particularly in the House, to continue that election lie.

I get the point of your book here, to your credit, saying the party has to move on. It's not, though. So, I wonder, would you stay in the party if it doesn't move on?

CHRISTIE: No, look -- listen, I'm a Republican, Jim. I've been a Republican all -- my whole life. And this is a fight worth having. It's a fight worth having to be a strong, viable counterweight to the Democratic Party.

And I'll just give you a bit of very recent news. In "The Des Moines Register" poll that just came out yesterday, they asked Iowa Republicans -- and you know, Jim, that Iowa Republicans are some of the most conservative Republicans in America.


CHRISTIE: And they asked them, where is your primary loyalty to the Republican Party or to Donald Trump? Sixty-two percent of Iowa Republicans said to the Republican Party. Only 26 percent said to Donald Trump.

And, look, there are many things that you -- as you well noted at the top, I supported the former president.

SCIUTTO: You did.

CHRISTIE: I was the first one to come out and do it. I supported many of his policies. But when we had disagreements, I was his friend for 20 years, and I told him what those disagreements were, privately and publicly.


CHRISTIE: But you look at the "Des Moines Register" poll, Jim, and it tells you something different, we need to win elections again and to win elections again we have to start speaking directly to the concerns of the American people, not about the past.

SCIUTTO: That poll notwithstanding. I should note that national polls still show a large majority of Republicans support Trump as the nominee.

I do want to note that some of your fellow Republicans have taken aim at you. I'm going to note Adam Kinzinger, yesterday he tweeted this, saying that you're playing both sides. He said, Chris Christie tries to pretend to be both anti-Trump and pro-Trump. On Fox News this morning, you said you're still friends with Trump, but you're a friend who tells him the truth.

As you know, Trump is an all in or all out guy. We've seen this with a whole host of folks who pledged loyalty to him, but he, in effect, exiled when they got on the other side of him on even a single issue.

I just wonder, what sort of compromise do you expect to be able to strike with Trump on what exactly (ph)?

CHRISTIE: Well, that -- Jim, that just hasn't been my experience. I've been friends with him for 20 years and we've disagreed any number of times, both privately and publicly, and we've remained friends over these 20 years. And so it's just not my experience.

And, you know, with all due respect to Adam Kinzinger, you know, he doesn't know Donald Trump the way I've known him over the years and he hasn't had the experience that I've had.

In the end, what I'm saying is, that the president -- that the former president needs to understand that the election is over and that exacting vendettas and revenge for people who don't believe that the election was stolen and the facts prove that it was not, that's not the way for us to win elections in the future.

SCIUTTO: But he has not done that.

CHRISTIE: And if he wants that more productive role in the party, then we need to be talking about the issues. And we should be talking about the issues that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are putting forward right now as their prescription for the American people --


CHRISTIE: Because if you look at polls there, Jim, the American people aren't loving that either.

SCIUTTO: I get it. But to your point about Trump, Trump has not given up the big lie by any means. He spreads it every day. Doubles down. And he, by the way, he attacks people. You and he had a very public disagreement just last week when you went before the Republican Jewish Congress and made this same point and he came after you, right?

So my question to you is, if Trump does not change his tune on that essential claim that the election was stolen, will you withhold support for him should he choose to run in 2024?

CHRISTIE: Well, I may choose to run in 2024, Jim, who knows.

SCIUTTO: That was going to be my next question.

CHRISTIE: Well, there you go. So now you've got a two-fer, right? I mean I'm anxious to run in 2024. Who knows what's going to happen.

But let me say this, yes, the president sent out a negative statement about me last week after my Republican Jewish coalition speech, and look at me, I'm still standing, alive and on your program. And so, you know, this is not a death sentence for anybody. It's a disagreement. And I have a disagreement with him on this issue. We've agreed on many more issues than we've disagreed. And that's the way we need to judge politics in this country. We have to stop making it be whether it's any political candidate, or

figure making it this way, or the media making it this way, that you have to be all in or all out. I can tell you, Jim, the only political candidate in my life I've agreed with 100 percent of the time is me. Otherwise, I haven't found one that I agree with all the time. And if that's the litmus test, we're never going to find anybody that way.


SCIUTTO: If you run in 2024, if you -- if you follow through on that, Trump runs, Trump beats you for the nomination, do you support him in 2024?

CHRISTIE: You know, who knows, Jim. Who knows? And, you know, my view on this is --

SCIUTTO: You have fundamentally different views of the party and the country. It's not about tax policy. I mean you have fundamentally different views about the state of American electoral politics. I mean it's a basic question, could you support that?

CHRISTIE: We do -- we do have fundamentally different views. And if we were to ever run against each other again, we would debate out those fundamentally different views.

And what would happen after that, who knows, Jim. I'm not going to sit here and, you know, look into the crystal ball this morning. But I've been very clear in the book and in my answers to your questions today about the issue regarding the election. The election was not stolen. There is no evidence to support that.

And, by the way, I not only said it this morning and in the book, I sit in on election night on ABC after he gave his talk that you cannot say these things without evidence.


CHRISTIE: That's the old prosecutor in me. And what our party needs to understand, and what I'm trying to advocate in this book, is that if we want to do what political parties are meant to do, which is win elections and then get a chance to govern, we've got to speak to the concerns of the American people, stop Republican on Republican violence and talk about our differences with Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and congressional Democrats. We do that, we have a chance to win elections like we won it in Virginia --


CHRISTIE: And like we won legislative seats in New Jersey, two blue states, two weeks ago.

SCIUTTO: To your point, you say this in your book, we need to renounce the conspiracy theories and truth deniers, the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts. Former Governor Chris Christie, the book officially out today, it's called "Republican Rescue." Thanks so much to you for taking the time this morning. CHRISTIE: And thanks for having me, Jim. I appreciate it.

HILL: Still ahead, Russia obliterates a satellite in orbit, creating 1,500 pieces of space debris. We're going to take a closer look at the potential dangers this now poses to the International Space Station and the astronauts there.



HILL: U.S. officials are calling Russia's test of anti-satellite missile reckless after it created this dangerous cloud of space debris, one that threatens both the International Space Station and dozens of satellites currently in orbit.

SCIUTTO: The crew on board the International Space Station had to quickly take shelter in case the station was hit. By the way, that includes Russian cosmonauts. Now there are concerns about space junk could pose a years-long threat.

Joining us now to discuss, Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a space historian.

Jonathan, good to have you on.

As you know, not just Russia, but China, North Korea, and Iran, they have all tested and deployed weapons in space, from kill vehicles, to missiles, to lasers and directed energy weapons.

I spoke earlier this year to General John Raymond, chief of space operations for Space Command about the militarization of space. Here's what he had to say, and I want to get your reaction.


SCIUTTO: Weapons are a last resort from the U.S. perspective?

GEN. JOHN W. RAYMOND, CHIEF OS SPACE OPERATIONS, U.S. SPACE FORCE: We would prefer to remain -- to remain free of conflict. But like in any other domain, like air, land, sea, or -- and now space, we'll be ready to protect and defend.


SCIUTTO: He's raising the possibility there of the U.S., in effect, responding by weponizing itself. I mean are we in the midst of a space arms race?

JONATHAN MCDOWELL, ASTROPHYSICIST, HARVARD SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: I'm afraid we may be. And I'm afraid that the U.S. has really been not receptive to initiatives by Russia and China to ban anti-satellite weapons in the past. And so we're reaping that -- that decision. But, you know, we want to retain our own freedom of action. You know, then -- then you get other people copying you. So, yes, there have been tests of space weapons since the 1960s, but,

fortunately, until now, there hasn't been sort of, you know, deployed operational systems. This thing yesterday, the Russian test, again, was just a test. I -- there's still a slim chance that we can, you know, get some kind of international agreement to not do this kind of thing. It's terrible. It puts the astronauts and cosmonauts at risk. As you say, it puts expensive satellites at risk.

HILL: I do want to talk about that risk, but just in terms of, you know, some sort of international agreement, is there the will, do you think, among these nations to agree to something?

MCDOWELL: I think there's potential. There's been more productive discussions recently in international disarmament forums about rules of the road in space, how you might agree not to interfere with other people's space activities. It's over 50 years since the outer space treaty was signed, which banned weapons of mass destruction in space, but we need to go further than that as space gets more and more crowded and more commercial, so there's a lot more money involved.

SCIUTTO: We've just been showing images that show just how many satellites -- I think folks don't realize how crowded space is and then you throw in all that debris.

How dangerous is it to drop 2,000 pieces of debris into that space traveling at 17,500 miles an hour?

MCDOWELL: Well, it's -- you know, that's going to hurt when it hits you, right? We're tracking about 20,000 objects in -- in space right now, of which about 5,000 are active working satellites. And that's a huge increase over just a few years ago. It used to be just a thousand working satellites maybe -- maybe three years ago. Now it's up to 5,000. There's a huge increase in space activity.


And when you have all of this debris whizzing around in all different directions, there's lots of time spent dodging the debris. The big risk when you have a test like this is in the hours after the test, there's a big cloud of debris that's pretty close together and you don't know its orbit accurately, and that's what put the Space Stations in such danger yesterday.

Now, this event is sort of raising the overall level of debris by probably about 10 percent. So that's -- you know, it's not disastrous, but it's very much not great.

HILL: NASA administrator Bill Nelson telling a AP the astronauts are facing a four times greater risk than normal because of that test.

Jonathan McDowell, great to have you here this morning. Thank you.

In a matter of minutes, a jury will begin deliberating the fate of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.

Stay with CNN. Our live coverage continues at the top of the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)