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Iran Targeted U.S. Elections?; President Biden Meets With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Rittenhouse Jury Continues Deliberations; Defendant Testifies in Ahmaud Arbery Trial. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired November 18, 2021 - 14:00   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: All right, Dr. Mather, thank you so much for joining us. We look forward to the film.

It is "The Hunt For Planet B" it premieres Saturday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

And that does it for us today. Thanks for joining us. We will see You tomorrow at 1:00. The news continues right now.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. It is good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to NEWSROOM.

For the second day in a row, jurors heard directly from the man who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery. Prosecutors pressed Travis McMichael over inconsistencies in his account about what happened during last year's deadly encounter in Brunswick, Georgia.

McMichael claims he acted in self-defense.

BLACKWELL: And the defense attorney who has tried and failed several times to ban black pastors from the courtroom, well, he tried again today. And again today, the judge denied his motion.

That's what's happening inside the courthouse. Outside, a large group of prominent faith leaders gathered to support the Arbery family ahead of a planned March this afternoon.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Brunswick.

A lot happening on both sides of that courthouse door. What's the latest?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're right about that, Victor. In fact, as you can hear and probably see behind us is that demonstration that's taking place the rally in support of Ahmaud Arbery's family. And, yes, a lot of black pastors have shown up in response to the words of defense attorney Kevin Gough.

As to what happened today, testimony, so day two, of course, Travis McMichael, the man who killed about Ahmaud Arbery. That's without question. We saw it on tape. It was the prosecution that was going after, as you pointed out, the inconsistencies that he's made on two very specific points.

One, he was admitting on the witness stand in cross-examination that, no, they never did tell Ahmaud Arbery as they were pursuing him through the neighborhood with their guns that they were attempting to make a citizen's arrest. And then the other more dramatic moment came when it was Linda Dunikoski that asked, well, wait a minute.

You told police just hours after killing Ahmaud Arbery that you weren't really sure if he grabbed the gun. Yet, on the witness stand yesterday, you said Ahmaud Arbery grabbed your gun. That is a huge problem for the defense.

Here's the moment.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Detective Nohilly specifically asked you: "Do you remember if he grabbed the shotgun at all?"

And your response was: "I want to say he did, but, honestly, I cannot remember. I mean, we were -- me and him were face to face the entire time."

Do you remember saying that?

TRAVIS MCMICHAEL, DEFENDANT: Yes. And I was trying to think at that exact moment, trying to give him -- like I said, trying to give him as much detail as possible under the stress of all this going on.

It was obvious that he had the gun from what I was saying in here, rereading it, that he had the weapon, the way that I was describing it. But why I said he did not have the gun at that second, I don't know why.

But, yes, that's what I said. I want to say he did, but I honestly cannot remember.


SAVIDGE: I cannot remember if he grabbed the gun. That is a horrible response to give when the whole premise of your defense is self- defense and that he was trying to take the weapon away from you, which has been alleged by the defense team here.

So, a very big moment for the prosecution. The testimony lasted about another 45 minutes after that. Now we're on to people in the neighborhood -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, one of several big moments in the testimony today.

Martin Savidge for us there in Brunswick, thank you.

Let's bring it now CNN senior legal analyst and former prosecutor Elie Honig and Alexis Hoag assistant professor at the Brooklyn Law School.

Elie, we're going to start with you. I said several big moments today in court. This prosecutor, how'd she do?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Victor, that was really a devastating surgical cross-examination.

As Martin just pointed out, she cut out one of the main theories of the defense, this idea that Ahmaud Arbery had grabbed the barrel of the gun. She pointed out that Travis McMichael had said to the police shortly after the incident that he wasn't sure, he didn't remember.

That is a devastating admission, and it totally undermines Travis McMichael's credibility. And as to the other key point, who was the initial aggressor here, the prosecutor, there was no fireworks, but she was meticulous and got Travis McMichael to admit piece by piece.

He never showed you a weapon. You did not believe he was armed. He ran away from you. He was not a threat. And it became, I think, quite clear to the jury that the initial aggressor here was Travis McMichael and the other two defendants.

CAMEROTA: Professor, let's listen to a moment where the prosecutor pointed out the different choices that Travis Michael could have made.


DUNIKOSKI: You could have easily just stepped back to your pickup truck and watched him keep going, right?


So you're telling this jury that a man who has spent five minutes running away from you, you're now thinking is somehow going to want to continue to engage with you, someone with a shotgun, and your father, a man who's just said, "Stop or I will blow your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head off" by trying to get in their truck?

MCMICHAEL: That's what it shows, yes, ma'am.


CAMEROTA: Professor, I think one of the things that came out today was that Travis McMichael had kind of worked himself up in his own mind to such a panic that he was connecting imaginary dots or connecting dots that can't necessarily be connected.

And so when he saw Ahmaud Arbery running, he was worked up in a panic and thought that he was somehow in jeopardy. What were your thoughts as you heard all that?


And the dots that he's connecting are the fact that he believes that black people have a presumption of dangerousness, have a presumption of criminality. And you don't get those dots otherwise. And so to see a black man running unarmed, in the eyes of Travis McMichael, that was a criminal. That was someone engaged somehow in some sort of dangerous behavior that needed to be hunted down with not just one, but two pickup trucks, and a .12-gauge shotgun and three men.

And so those are the dots that Travis with Michael is connecting.

BLACKWELL: Professor, let me stay with you.

The prosecutor also introduced some Facebook postings from the neighborhood group in which they talked about crime that had happened in the neighborhood.

Control room, this is SOT number two, in which they talk about his co- defendant here, Greg McMichael, his father. Let's listen.


DUNIKOSKI: All right, she said: "We have had a lot of trouble with thieves. It just worries me because my daddy is slap old crazy, LOL. He's old as dirt and doesn't care about jail."

And you responded: "That's what this world needs more of. My old man is the same way."

MCMICHAEL: I did say that, yes, ma'am.

DUNIKOSKI: And then the next line is, you said: "Hell, I'm getting that way."

MCMICHAEL: I did say that.

DUNIKOSKI: She said: "Have to make an example of somebody."

You said: "That's right. Hope you all catch the vermin," correct?



BLACKWELL: The value of that in making this case to the jury?

HOAG: That's powerful.

And there's research that Jennifer Eberhardt -- she's a psychologist at Stanford University -- does on basically the sentiment that generates in the sort of neighborhood chat groups. And here you have a community in which they're not accustomed to seeing black people, even black people jogging. And I really want to emphasize that Ahmaud was doing absolutely

nothing unlawful and that he was unarmed. And so these are connections that the McMichaels and their neighbor Bryan -- and it sounds like already, based on some of the testimony the defense has put on, that this was a common sentiment in this neighborhood.

This is powerful contextual information for the state to put on to advance their case and their theory.

CAMEROTA: Elie, you and I were talking earlier about the citizen's arrest law, which is archaic and has now, I think, been outlawed as a result of this trial.

But at the time, it was in effect.But one of the tenets of it is that you have to have witnessed someone committing a crime, and they don't have that here. Am I right?

HONIG: Exactly, Alisyn.

One of the key themes of the prosecution's case here is assumptions, exactly like the professor just said. She said in her opening, the DA said they made assumptions. They made assumptions. And that is not enough under this law, which, yes, Alisyn has now been largely repealed, but the defendants are relying on it. It was in effect at the time.

It essentially says that a person has to witness a crime, be in the immediate vicinity of a crime, or have reasonable cause to think that a felony was committed. But just seeing a man, a young black man jogging and knowing that, a couple weeks ago, there were break-ins, that is not enough. That is not close, in my view, under that law.

So I think the defense is going to fail on that count.

BLACKWELL: All right, Elie Honig, Alexis Hoag, thank you both.

HONIG: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, breaking news. President Joe Biden is meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House right now. Let's take a look at it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's great to welcome back the prime minister. We have been good friends for a while. But it's nice to have him here in the White House.

We have had a lot of meetings around the country and around the world. We have been with each other, what, half-a-dozen times almost so far.


BIDEN: And we -- I know we're both keeping our minds close to the families affected by the storms, flooding in the British Columbia area and the Pacific Northwest. But one of the things we have spent time on is on our global agenda,

is climate change. We have spent a lot of time dealing with that. And we are on the same page as to the need for us to move on it and get the rest of the world to move.

And since our first bilateral meeting back in February, we have met in venues around the world, getting COVID-19 under control, trying to deal with the next pandemic, be prepared for it, as well as meeting infrastructure needs across the developing world.


We see an opportunity not only to enhance the prospects of a better life for people around the world, but we can do it by Build Back Better, a world build back better effort, that we can provide for the health needs as well.

We're contributing a significant amount of vaccines, no strings attached. And we also think we can -- we should be building back in a more significant, more environmentally friendly way.

We're meeting infrastructure needs, as I said. We're driving an inclusive economic recovery together as two nations and meeting the climate crisis and standing up for democratic values.

And so we spent a lot of time at the G7, the G20, the COP 26. And I think we both think we're at our best when opportunity, equity, and justice all coincide, and they're the core values of Canadians and the United States.

And so this is one of the easiest relationships that you can have as an American president, one of the best.

TRUDEAU: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Joe.

It's been a busy year. It is a pleasure to be back here in Washington with you, but, as you say, we have had the virtual bilat. We have had many, many encounters at all sorts of different international fora, where we have been strongly aligned on environment, on fighting COVID, and getting through this pandemic, preparing for future challenges, but also on building back better, recovering our economies in ways that work for the middle class, for people working hard to join it in a way that is inclusive and fair.

And we have got a lot of work to continue to do. The easy work is done here at home, the hard work around the world, making sure we're bringing people along, and that's something that we're always great partners on.


TRUDEAU: I'm really looking forward to this. So thank you, Joe.

QUESTION: Mr. President, can I ask you a question about your tax incentives for electric vehicles that would be assembled in the United States? The Canadian government says that would be a violation of the new

trade agreement we just signed. Are you going to consider a carve-out for Canada, given that fact our industries, auto industries, are so integrated?

BIDEN: We're going to talk about that to some extent.

QUESTION: So, are you...



BIDEN: I said we're going to talk about that. We haven't even -- it hasn't even passed yet through the House. We're about to see that move, and we don't know what will happen in the Senate, but there's a lot of complicating factors. And we're going to talk at length about it, I'm sure.

QUESTION: Sir, do you support a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics?

BIDEN: Something we're considering.


BIDEN: The answer is, I don't know. And I don't know what we're going to be dealing with, quite frankly, when it comes out of the legislation, so we will talk about it then.



CAMEROTA: OK. Let's bring in CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. She joins us now.

Kaitlan, let's start with some of the headlines that have already come out of this. The president was just asked about the Beijing Olympics, and whether or not he was considering a boycott. What did he say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he said that that is something they're considering. It doesn't sound like President Biden has made a final judgment on that, but that is something that we are told is a policy option that was presented to the president.

It is something that he has been considering. And this would be a diplomatic boycott so that would mean no government officials would be going to those Olympics in February in Beijing. Of course, this comes on the heels of that three-and-a-half-hour conversation that he had with the Chinese president here virtually at the White House on Monday night.

And you have seen Democrats on Capitol Hill say that this is something they believe the White House should pursue, because it should be a protest of the human rights abuses that you have seen happen in China, something that the president and his aides say that he did bring up during that conversation with Xi Jinping on Monday night.

But it wouldn't be a full boycott, like some Republicans have called on. That would be one, of course, that would have no athletes from the United States going to the Olympics. That does not seem to be something that is under consideration. But it doesn't appear they have made a final decision on this, though we are told by sources that's the direction that the Biden administration is leaning in.

BLACKWELL: The president there just said that they will get into some discussions about trade issues with Canada.

So what is the president hoping to accomplish in these meetings with the prime minister of Canada, also, the Mexican president?


COLLINS: Yes, well, that provision there that the president was asked about is this buy-American provision, of course, that we know that Canadian prime minister has actually voiced some issues with, saying he has problems with that.

And so no clear resolve on that issue, where they're going with that. It seems to be something that they are going to be talking about this afternoon. And we should remind people, this is a meeting that the president is having with the Canadian prime minister. He's going to be going and meeting with the Mexican president after this.

And then all three of them are going to sit down together later this afternoon. That's the first time in five years that you have seen actually the three North American leaders get together in the same room. These are typically summits that you would see happen every single year. Of course, it is something that was on a pause during the Trump administration amid some tensions between Trump and his two neighbors.

It is something that was also paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now they are getting back together. And there are a lot of topics on the agenda, not just the ones that you saw the president and the prime minister being asked about their, but also energy, COVID-19, climate change.

And, of course, migration is a big one. So there are a lot of topics going on. We should note, though, we will see President Biden again in those two events, just like the ones there were you saw reporters go in the room briefly.

There will not be a press conference, a formal press conference after, though, typically, they have had those at the last eight of the summits between the North American leaders.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

We have some breaking news. The FBI says Iranian hackers targeted the 2020 U.S. elections to sow chaos. We have the details ahead. BLACKWELL: And the judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial boots a major

network from covering the proceedings. We will tell you which one and why.

That's next.



BLACKWELL: It is day three of jury deliberations in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

And the judge just announced that he is barring MSNBC from the building for the duration of the case.

CAMEROTA: So this stems from the arrest of a person allegedly trying to take photos of jurors.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is outside of the courthouse in Kenosha.

Shimon, what happened?


We were all waiting around this morning. The jury has been deliberating now about five hours or so. And so the judge came in, took the bench and said that there was an incident last night. He says that the police told him that a freelance producer, an employee of MSNBC was following the jury van, the vehicle that transports the jury.

And the police say that they believe this person was trying to take photos of the jurors. And as a result, the judge says that he's banning MSNBC from the courtroom and really the entire building. The police issuing a statement in a tweet, saying that they issued a citation that they were investigating this, and that they believe, they believe that the person was trying to take photos.

They say as -- there you see in the statement that the person was trying to photograph jurors. This incident is being investigated much further.

NBC released a statement just a short time ago, where they say they are obviously cooperating, but they deny that this person was trying to take photos. What they say is that last night a freelancer received a traffic citation. While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations and never photographed or intended to photograph them.

They say they regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities. The judge calling this a very significant incident and an extremely serious incident, extremely serious matter that he's referring to the proper authorities, but obviously taking a major step in banning MSNBC from the courtroom.

As for the jury, we have not heard anything from them. They have been deliberating since about 9:00 a.m. this morning, and so far nothing from them.

CAMEROTA: Interesting to hear everything that's going on outside of the courthouse while they continue to deliberate.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

CAMEROTA: Obviously, Shimon, come back to us.

PROKUPECZ: And it's very cold.

CAMEROTA: we can see that. You are doing good work out there, Shimon. Thank you. Come back to us if you have anything.

BLACKWELL: All right, breaking news.

CNN has new reporting now that Iranian cyber actors have targeted the 2020 elections in the U.S. to undermine voter confidence and sow discord.

CAMEROTA: In response, the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on six Iranian individuals and one company.

CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joins us now.

Evan, what have you learned?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, Victor, this is an episode that happened, according to the Justice Department, back in October.

And according to this indictment against two Iranians, who the Justice Department says were well-known hackers working for the Iranian government, what they were doing was -- first, they went after some state voter infrastructure, were able to get the data on thousands of voters.

And then after that, they prepared a couple of different efforts, which were intended to sow disinformation, to sow doubt about the U.S. election. Again, this is about a month before the U.S. presidential election last year in 2021 of them.

One of the efforts had to do with a video that appeared to show people hacking. And, again, it was used to show that it was coming from the group the Proud Boys, of course, who were supporters of former President Trump.

A second effort involved e-mails that were being sent to people again making threats again under the name of -- purporting to come from the Proud Boys. These were things that, according to the Justice Department, were meant to intimidate voters, were meant to sow disinformation and sow doubt about the U.S. election on behalf of the Iranian government. [14:25:21]

Of course, we know that there were efforts done, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, by the Russians in support of former President Trump. We also know that there were some efforts by the Chinese to collect information at around the same time.

This Iranian effort, though, is the first time we have heard these details, again, associated with the group, with this effort by the -- that was reported to be from the Proud Boys.

As you mentioned, as part of this, the Treasury Department also announced sanctions against six people, including these two hackers and an Iranian company. Just an extraordinary picture of what was going on last year before the U.S. election, guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Evan Perez, thank you for all that.

BLACKWELL: So, just one day after GOP Congressman Paul Gosar is censured and stripped of his committee assignments, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vows retribution if his party takes back the House next year.

CAMEROTA: OK, lots going on. Here's what else to watch today.