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Today, January 6 Committee Considers Referring Meadows For Contempt Charge; Biden, Xi Speak For Three-Plus Hours Amid Fierce Tension Between Nations; Medical Examiner on the Stand in Ahmaud Arbery Trial. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 10:30   ET



PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: The actual indictment itself articulates the ways in which he could have complied. He could have simply claimed privilege over some of the conversations, communications, documents. He chose not to do that. He has flat-out opposed it and is now enjoying the -- reaping what he has sowed.

Mark Meadows, to your point, is in a different position. He's in a position that's different both because he was actually working for the White House at the time, which actually gives him stronger claims to privilege, but he's in a different position because Mark Meadows is not obviously trying to be the sort of pro-Trump anti-hero that Steve Bannon is. Mark meadows does pretty obviously -- you know, like most people, I think it's safe to assume, he does not want to spend any time in prison, and he is being pressured both by Donald Trump and Donald Trump's allies to not support the January 6th committee at all but at the same time has the actual real pressure of having this official subpoena with which he needs to comply or faces these sanctions.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: Right. So, understandably weighing things differently, as you point out, sort of how they're approaching this differently.

In the wake of the indictment, Congressman Adam Schiff said that he thought without a doubt that that -- what just happened to Bannon was absolutely going to sway other folks to essentially get in line and to start complying. But when you have a Steve Bannon, as you say -- he's enjoying it, he's relishing it, I don't think this is a real surprise to anybody that this is how Steve Bannon is approaching this moment and milking it for all that it's worth. Why do you think Adam Schiff is so confident that this would actually, without a doubt, get others to cooperate?

BUMP: Well, I think at the end of the day, Adam Schiff and members of the January 6th committee, what they're interested in is receiving whatever information they can. They're not interested in dragging this out. They recognize, I'm sure, that if this thing is still ongoing after the 2022 midterms, at which point, it seems quite likely at this point, Republicans will retake the House, that the committee will be disbanded.

So, I think that they are much more happy to have people feel like they can comply to some extent, provide documents they cannot reasonably defend as having been privileged due to conversations with Donald Trump, or whatever it may be, to get as much information as they can from as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, so they can move forward with their work.

Meadows, in refusing to appear his deposition last week, appears, and there may have been some behind the scenes discussions we don't know about yet, but he appears to have been taking the Bannon approach of just simply saying, no, I'm not going to help at all, which will slow this thing down, which is part of the goal, I think, of Donald Trump and his allies, but it also leaves him more at risk for this same sort of sanction.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Is this a seminal moment for congressional subpoena? This would be the first successful criminal prosecution of contempt of Congress since, I think, the 1970s, as you mentioned, quite likely that Republicans take over the House in 2022, when they might want to issue their own subpoenas, right? I mean, for both parties, is the enforcement of these subpoenas -- does it portend a future where subpoenas are more common and, by the way, enforced when they're issued?

BUMP: Yes. I mean, it's a great question. I mean, one of the reasons -- and we saw the exact same sort of refusal to comply with congressional investigations during the last administration, during the Trump administration. But, of course, the Justice Department under Trump was not going to issue charges against Trump allies for not participating in a congressional probe. So, main the change that's happened here is Biden became president and the Justice Department became, you know, a Biden administration Justice Department. But the point is a very valid one.

For years, for decades, the general assumption was that people would act in a good-faith manner to try and help a congressional investigation, recognizing that Congress had this power to launch these investigations. As with so many other things over the course of the past six years or so, we saw that, you know, relying on good faith to get the results that you want to see left you open to people who were not willing to act in good faith, and so it may be the case that now this is the way that they actually have to do these enforcements.

SCIUTTO: Yes, good faith, an endangered species in Washington in the year 2021.

HILL: Right up there with compromise, it seems. Philip Bump, always good to talk to you. Thanks.

This just in to CNN, California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier will not run for re-election next year, her district, which includes a part of San Francisco County.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Speier, quite a voice on the Hill, also known for being one of the survivors of the Jonestown massacre in 1978, she was shot several times then. She was first elected to Congress during a special election in 2008. The congresswoman says it is time for her to go home for now and be, quote, more than a weekend wife and mother, but she is leaving the door open for future office.

HILL: Still ahead this hour, the White House, as President Biden's three-hour meeting with the Chinese president had some, quote, healthy breakthroughs, but were there any accomplishments? That's ahead.



SCIUTTO: Despite rising prices and supply chain slowdowns globally, Americans are still spending. U.S. retail sales beat expectations, jumping by 1.7 percent in October. That, some good news for Joe Biden, who heads to New Hampshire this morning to celebrate one of his biggest legislative victories. He finally signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package into law yesterday. Both Democrats and Republicans, imagine that, at his side.

Today's trip also came after a lengthy virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, this in the midst of rising tensions between Beijing and Washington.


Joining me now to discuss, Evan Osnos, he's a CNN Contributor, Staff Writer for The New Yorker, also Author of Joe Biden, The Life, The Run and What Matters Now, written a couple of books on China too. Evan, good to have you on this morning.

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My pleasure, thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, first, on this very important summit coming in the midst of a difficult time, to say the least, between the U.S. and China. The readouts, and you always have to do a little tea leave reading, when you look at the readouts of these calls, but some of them even the public clips and the back and forth pointed to something of a constructive conversation. And I wonder what your read was of their back and forth.

OSNOS: Yes. I think the key phrase comes out of one of the president's advisers who said, this is steady state, which is to say actually compared to where it's been recently, something that begins to look a little reassuring.

This has been -- as you know, Jim, this has been a really tense period over the last nine months, one of the earliest meetings between the Biden team and the Xi Jinping team was almost, you know, raised voices when they met in Alaska. They didn't even meet in Beijing. So, yes, steady state given the current context is a step in the right direction.

SCIUTTO: No question, I mean, because you have genuine worries about even the possibility of conflict, right, military conflict over Taiwan or the South China Sea. That said, the bigger momentum here is towards moving apart, not together. From an economic standpoint, you have U.S. companies pulling supply chain out of China and many others talking of doing the same. And you have genuine concerns over China perhaps invading Taiwan. Folks in the Pentagon talk about that. I mean, is the relationship stuck on that course, right, the momentum only pushing a part rather than, you know, staying somewhere close to the status quo?

OSNOS: Yes. This is the big tension, is essentially between the long- term trajectory where you have two big powers with very different interests, very different priorities, both of them expecting to play a major role in Asia and the future, jockeying in closer and closer quarters in the South China Sea over territory like Taiwan, for instance.


OSNOS: And I think one of the key questions is actually can they erect the guard rails to prevent competition from becoming conflict? That's sort of the key point.

Over the last 30, 40 years of this relationship, there's always been some level of underlying tension. But it's really just in the last few years that it's begun to feel as if this could slip into what Biden last night called unintended conflict. That is the goal that both sides are hoping to avoid by putting in place some processes to kind of prevent that from happening.

SCIUTTO: Taiwan being the number one potential flashpoint there. And as often happens on Taiwan, it seemed like both parties walked away with their own positive interpretation of this, Taiwan saying, well, Biden endorsed the status quo, which means no China invasion, China saying Biden endorsed the status quo, which means no Taiwanese independence. Is that the takeaway and is that, in some respects, a good takeaway?

OSNOS: Yes. I mean, what you got out of it last night was the unpleasant fact is these two sides do have different visions of the future. China says they want to change the status quo. They want to get basically Taiwan back under or they want to get Taiwan under Chinese control. The United States says, no, no, we stand by the existing rules and arrangements. We want to keep the status quo.

But in the short-term, I think both sides are recognizing that the tension has been rising, and you heard the United States essentially broadcast the idea to Taiwan, to Beijing and to the rest of the world that it's going to maintain its position in trying to prevent this thing from turning into a hot war.

But, look, this is going to be a big issue of our time, not just over the course of the next few months, Jim, but, of course, over the next few years and I think beyond.

SCIUTTO: No question. Xi Jinping, you might say, dreams of reunifying. Evan Osnos, good to have you on.

OSNOS: My pleasure.

HILL: Still ahead, defense attorneys in Brunswick, Georgia, again, uncomfortable with black pastors joining the Arbery family in the courtroom. A lawyer who early on represented Ahmaud Arbery's mother joins us to discuss, next.

(INAUDIBLE) to watch today.



HILL: In South Georgia this morning, the trial of three white men who were accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery is back in session, the medical examiner on the stand right now.

Before though his testimony began, the defense filing a motion this morning again objecting to the presence of black pastors in the courtroom. The attorney claims that their presence may influence the jury.

Yesterday, civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson sat with Arbery's mother leading to this exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many pastors does the Arbery family have?

The Arbery have local family pastors. They also have attorneys. Mr. Arbery, Marcus, has a team of lawyers to comfort him through these proceedings.


Certainly, Ms. Cooper has been adequately comforted by her legal counsel.

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 assaulting a law enforcement officer or corrections officer.

There is no reason for these prominent icons in the civil rights movement to be here.


HILL: The judge, I should say, responded and said that he found the attorney's comments reprehensible.

Joining me now, Attorney Chris Stewart, he represented Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, early on. He is in now close contact with her. I know that she has become a very close friend of yours. Chris, it's good to have you back with us today. There has been so much focus on these comments from the defense attorney, on the judge's reaction, which has been very clear and strong, at each moment. So, I'm just curious, could you tell us in what instance would you imagine that a judge would rule that there would be any reason for there to keep people out of a courtroom, specifically members of the clergy or family members?

CHRIS STEWART, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: There wouldn't be a reason unless someone was causing some massive disturbance. Georgia has an open-court rule. Anybody can go to court and watch a trial, and I mean anyone. It's absolutely ridiculous and it's just an attempt by Mr. Gough to inject racism, in my opinion, into this case.

HILL: Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery's mother, has been there every day. She is right now presumably sitting through this testimony from the medical examiner, which has been very difficult. The attorneys, the defense attorneys, seem to be upset that she, at one moment, got upset in that courtroom at one moment.

I know that you're in touch with her. Can you just bring us inside, let us know what it's been like for her, why it's so important for her to be in a courtroom every day?

STEWART: Yes. First of all, that was ridiculous for them to get upset because someone cried. You all know how strong she's been throughout this entire thing and for a mother to actually shed a tear because she saw how big the hole was in her son's chest? That's ridiculous. If it was their client and their parents were there and they cried or they whimpered, we wouldn't be having this situation. But that's not the bargaining chip that they have, so they're upset because she showed emotion.

It's ridiculous. They're making a trial about a woman that has been nothing but strong, a woman that has to sit there right now and listen to all this testimony, just like the family of George Floyd and the family of Walter Scott and everyone else, and no family should have to sit through that.

HILL: As we're watching this play out, certainly a lot of focus on this nationally. How is the family feeling so far? Are they satisfied with what they're seeing from the prosecution?

STEWART: Yes. Everybody is keeping the faith. But the biggest thing is the anger that the entire country has now with the tactics of the defense. What Mr. Gough is doing, filing all these motions, trying to get a mistrial, they can't win this case on the facts, so they're making it about something totally different.

And I'll give him some advice coming from a lawyer, a trial attorney, and someone who has been voted lawyer of the year for this state, pay attention to your case, Mr. Gough, and not the black people sitting behind you. Then maybe you have a shot. But you will not win this trial.

HILL: There's been a lot made to specifically when the jury was chosen, as we know, and even when it took some time for charges to be filed. What are you seeing play out in Georgia? How is this playing out in Georgia versus what we're seeing on a national level?

STEWART: It's what you do see nationally, I think, when we had George Floyd and all of the other cases. When the black community pays attention to cases like Ahmaud Arbery, that's an issue for lawyers, like Mr. Gough and their clients, because it's not that the pastors are there, it's not that Sharpton and Jesse are there, it's that everyone cares about this young black kid that was hunted. And so that's the issue. When people care, justice comes. And when people don't care, they know they can get away with murder. But it's not going to happen this time.

HILL: Do you think this is changing the conversation specifically in Glynn County?

STEWART: It should change the conversation everywhere, that you can't hunt another human being. That's what this case is about. It's not about all of the silliness that they're trying to do now. You can't hunt another human being, period.

HILL: Chris Stewart, good to talk with you. Thank you.

STEWART: Anytime.

HILL: Thanks for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right after a short break.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Here's what we're watching At This Hour.

Deliberations begin. The jury now must decide what happens in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Was it self-defense, or did his actions provoke deadly violence?